Star Wars: The Last Jedi is one of the top-rated movies on Rotten Tomatoes, according to critics, but scroll down the movie’s page a little further and audience testimonies tell a different story.
There’s a gaping disparity between what critics thought of the movie (certified fresh) and the feeling a majority of moviegoers walked away from the theater harnessing. How could a movie so universally applauded by critics not have the same resounding effect on general moviegoers?
It’s hard to discern whether reviews of the movie are genuine or, as some outlets have reported, generated by bots or organized attacks from 4chan. One Facebook group, “Down With Disney's Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys,” which aligns itself as a pro-DCEU community, announced on Facebook that it had generated trolls to help review-bomb The Last Jedi’s score on Rotten Tomatoes. (Review-bombing is when a horde of negative reviews with low ratings are left on an entities page in protest.) The page defines itself by its anti-Marvel and anti-Disney stance as a pro-DCEU fan page.
“Thanks to friends of mine who taught me a thing or two about Bot Accounts, I used them to create this audience score through Facebook accounts created that subsequently logged into Rotten Tomatoes who rigged this score and still keep it dropping,” the post reads.
Questions about 4chan’s influence on the score have also been raised, but a thread on 4chan’s infamous politically incorrect forum, /pol/, has a number of site users claiming that 4chan wasn’t involved. Some 4chan users suggested it was a /pol/ attack because the audience rating is sitting at 56 percent, which could allude to a 2015 meme that /pol/ participants in Europe and the United States used. The term “56” has become notable among 4chan for a keyword used during organized attacks; when the score for The Last Jedi hovered at 56 percent, people thought it was a sign that 4chan was behind the review bomb.
One /pol/user noted that, “even if /pol/ could muster up 10,000 people, which would be like 2-3 times the amount for popular strawpolls posted more than once, it wouldn't be enough to change it to 56% and be able to keep it there.” This sentiment was echoed on the thread, with many /pol/ members claiming they wish it had been an organized attack, but downplaying any involvement in it.
Some of those comments have been screencapped and can be read below.
Just because 4chan claims to not be behind the review bomb doesn’t mean everything is fine. Many of the reviews being left on The Last Jedi’s page call out the film for its inclusion of “SJW” concepts, criticizing the movie for its forced inclusion of race and powerful female figures. Among those reviews, a large portion are from accounts created that day and have only left comments for The Last Jedi.
If you like stunning visuals, superficial character development, a choppy, incoherent, illogical plot, plot holes, SJW concepts such as capitalism is bad, animal abuse is bad, "make love not war", every bad guy being a white male, and neutering every positive protagonist male in this movie, or you are only a casual fan of Star Wars, you'll probably like this movie.
There are countless other reviews like this one that go back to Dec. 14, when the first public screenings for The Last Jedi began. When asked by Polygon whether Rotten Tomatoes was worried about attacks on The Last Jedi, a representative for the company said the website is closely monitoring the situation.
“Fans can rate a movie several ways,” the representative said. “They can rate it ‘want to see’ or ‘not interested,’ add a score from .5 to 5 stars as well as post a written review with the score. Similar to other movie sites, we’re currently experiencing a high volume of fan activity around Star Wars: The Last Jedi. We’re closely monitoring all user review activity to make sure it’s valid.”
For Rotten Tomatoes — and for general audiences — it’s important to note the difference between illegitimate and legitimate criticism. The Last Jedi, just like any review, is subject to people’s opinions, and all legitimate opinions should be heard. In one opinion piece, we called out the movie for its lack of direction heading into Episode IX, saying “a middle act should not leave so much ambiguity,” adding that we couldn’t see “one clear purpose coming out of The Last Jedi.”
Frustrations over how nostalgia is used in the movie, the use of exaggerated comedic bits and the quick dismissal of Snoke as a character are all valid criticism points. Many people walked away from The Last Jedi feeling unsure about how it sits in the universe created by George Lucas 40 years ago. The issue, as many critics have pointed out, is the reactionary response online. When people are burning their Star Wars shirts and calling out for bots to raid review sites as a way of getting disappointment across, that’s when questionable attacks come into play.
The last Jedi was quite simply insulting to every Star Wars movie before it. pic.twitter.com/Z4nL2SYVVO— Carson Juhl (@carson_juhl) December 15, 2017
With more than 100,000 reviews of the movie, most people are convinced that something is amiss — especially after predominant polling sites like CinemaScore gave the film an “A” after collecting survey data from the movie’s opening night. The backlash to the movie, which is unprecedented for a Disney film in recent years, led to Dave Hollis, Disney’s president of theatrical distribution, issuing a statement to Deadline about the situation.
“Rian Johnson, the cast, and the Lucasfilm team have delivered an experience that is totally ‘Star Wars’ yet at the same time fresh, unexpected and new,” Hollis told Deadline. “That makes this a ‘Star Wars’ film like audiences have never seen – it’s got people talking, puzzling over its mysteries, and it’s a lot to take in, and we see that as all positive, that should help set the film up for great word-of-mouth and repeat viewing as we enter the lucrative holiday period.”
Despite the negative reviews flooding Rotten Tomatoes — a number of which, Polygon confirmed just from reading through 15 pages of reviews, contain phrases like “SJW” or “diversity” in their description — Star Wars: The Last Jedi is still one of the year’s most successful movies. The film is projected to have surpassed $220 million during its opening weekend, joining Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Avengers and Jurassic World as one of four films to cross the $200 million line.
As critics have pointed out, this has nothing to do with whether people liked The Last Jedi, but when looking at reactionary comments on sites like Rotten Tomatoes, which allow users to post their reviews with little oversight, it’s important to read the language being used in those descriptions. As cultural critic Peter Coffin said on Twitter, “if you only looked on Reddit (or Rotten Tomatoes user reviews), you’d think the world hated Star Wars: The Last Jedi.”
Polygon has reached out to Rotten Tomatoes for more information on whether the audience score is expected to change in the coming days or if it’s expected to hover around 56 percent. If it stays the same, it will be one of the only movies “Certified Fresh” by critics and “Certified Rotten” by audiences.
Update (Dec. 21): After reports of the attack being organized by a right-wing group began to circulate, a Rotten Tomatoes representative told Polygon that its security team and database experts “haven’t determined there to be any problems.” Rotten Tomatoes’ full statement can be read below.
The authenticity of our critic and user scores is very important to Rotten Tomatoes and as a course of regular business, we have a team of security, network, social and database experts who closely monitor our platforms. They haven’t determined there to be any problems.
For Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we have seen an uptick in people posting written user reviews, as fans are very passionate about this movie and the franchise. The number of written reviews being posted by fans is comparable to Star Wars: The Force Awakens.