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What Do We Really Want from a Star Wars Movie, and How Did That Impact Reception of The Last Jedi?

YouTuber Patrick (H) Willems recently posted the above video, which asks what exactly we’re looking for when we go to see a Star Wars film. The easy answer, of course, is “a good movie,” but Willems argues that some fans are actually looking for something a little more specific: the recreation of a feeling, and the reward for years of fandom. And this, he argues, just might explain some of the dissatisfaction with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. 

For the first half of the video, Willems walks through the history of Star Wars fandom, from the release of the first film through to the release of The Last Jedi and upcoming spin-off films. Over the course of those decades, he argues, the fandom’s relationship to the creators, the lore, and the original trilogy shifted fundamentally. Some of this was due to the time gap; some of it due to disappointments like the Special Edition or the prequels. Whatever the many causes, he argues that it resulted in a very specific dynamic.

“I think over the past thirty years, several factors added up to change the way Star Wars fandom works,” Willems says. “… Over several decades, Star Wars fans became Star Wars experts. Fandom became an achievement built on an accumulation of trivia. And these movies they waited their whole lives for were expected to be a reward, something they had earned. When we were younger and watching the original movies for the first time, our priority with each successive film was just to find out what happened next. But now a lot of fans are going into a new Star Wars movie with a checklist, a list of demands: questions they want answered, scenes they want to see, and a strict set of rules the movie must adhere to based on a dogmatic interpretation of the original films. So most of the fan complaints about The Last Jedi are the points where the movie does not connect to the trivia they have learned.”

It’s not that these fans are wrong, Willem says. There’s no such thing as a wrong way to watch a movie. However, he argues, “they’re looking for something they can’t get. They want Star Wars to give them the experience of being eight years old, sitting on their living room couch and wearing out their VHS tapes of the original movies. For many people, Star Wars is less a movie than a feeling. A feeling that new movies, seen as an adult, can’t possibly recreate.”

What do you think of Willems’ argument? And what do you, personally, look for in a new Star Wars movie? As Kaila wrote a few days ago, we’re going to get a whole lot more of these films going forward, so fatigue might set in for some viewers. But for others, the magic of discovering this universe in new ways isn’t going to get old any time soon. Where do you fall on that spectrum?

(Featured image: Lucasfilm and Walt Disney Studios)

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