Can the Rise of Skywalker appease the divided Star Wars fandom?


The second thing you would say about Star Wars fans is that they’re a divided bunch. That comes from having so many passionate, bedded-in opinions about this 42-years-and-counting cultural phenomenon.

That division was never more apparent than when the previous chapter, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, was released in 2017. It became a flashpoint like no other pop culture product that year as legions of fans squared off over what they viewed as the soul of their beloved movies.

Some quarters didn’t like that after Disney bought Lucasfilm, it retconned the wider universe of Star Wars stories out of the canon, or what was perceived by some as a “corporatisation” of their childhood memories.

Daisy Ridley says there’s room for everyone in the Star Wars tent.Source:News Regional Media

Others had legitimate gripes with story and character choices or dialogue, even though The Last Jedi was critically acclaimed and a box office hit.

Then there were the more feral elements of the fandom whose angst was grounded in the fact the new trilogy’s heroes weren’t white men.

“There’s room for everyone,” Daisy Ridley, told news.com.au. “I mean, casting different-looking people doesn’t mean everyone else is cancelled out. It’s a huge universe.

“Literally a huge galaxy far, far away.”

Some of that online trolling drove one of The Last Jedi’s actors, Kelly Marie Tran, to quit social media after she was bombarded with vitriolic comments against her race, her gender and her appearance.

Kelly Marie Tran was driven off social media by so-called Star Wars fans. Picture: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Kelly Marie Tran was driven off social media by so-called Star Wars fans. Picture: Jordan Strauss/Invision/APSource:AP

Some of those same fans have vowed to never go near another Star Wars movie again.

British actor Anthony Daniels has been the voice and body of droid C3-PO since the franchise’s inception 42 years ago and is considered a legend among the fans. He said: “It amuses me when I read tweets or on YouTube, ‘I’m never going to see Rise of Skywalker because it ruined my childhood’ or whatever.

“Of course they’re going to see Rise of Skywalker. It’s the last story. And I’m not being partisan, but it’s excellent.

“I defy them not to go and see it out of interest. Hey, if they don’t want to see it, fine.

Anthony Daniels has been part of the Star Wars universe for more than four decades. Picture: Christopher Jue/Getty Images for Disney

Anthony Daniels has been part of the Star Wars universe for more than four decades. Picture: Christopher Jue/Getty Images for DisneySource:Getty Images

“What does interest me is Star Wars evokes such emotion in people. There are some people who get carried away and a bit aggressive in their criticisms. We can all disagree, we can like this or we can like that.

“Dark side, light side. I don’t care what colour your lightsabre is, just have a lightsabre. You don’t have to battle all the time.”

But a battle is waging, and it will play out on the internet over the next few weeks after The Rise of Skywalker’s release this week. It may even feature some Russian troll farms like it did during The Last Jedi after the Soviets identified the online fight as a wedge cultural issue.

Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, whom some of that toxic fandom has been extremely unkind about, said there “is always going to be the extremist fan that may not connect to what we’re doing”, but she’s hopeful the film will be satisfying to fans.

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Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi was divisive among the fandom.

Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi was divisive among the fandom.Source:Supplied

In the lead-up, some of The Rise of Skywalker crew appear to be distancing themselves from Rian Johnson’s movie. Director and co-writer J.J. Abrams told the New York Times he thought The Last Jedi had a “meta approach and that people didn’t go to Star Wars to be told things didn’t matter”.

Abrams added that he thought The Last Jedi laid the ground for Episode IX with a “story that I think needed a pendulum swing in one direction in order to swing in the other”.

Those comments have stirred fears in other groups of fans who did like The Last Jedi that Abrams and co will have reversed course to appease the same rowdy fans that arced up two years ago, undoing what they view as Johnson’s good work.

Abrams said he understood the difficulty of making a movie that needed to close out a nine-chapter saga with so many invested fans.

J.J. Abrams also directed The Force Awakens. Picture: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File

J.J. Abrams also directed The Force Awakens. Picture: Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, FileSource:AP

“It’s got to be something the fans will respond to but you can’t make something for the fans,” Abrams told news.com.au. “Everyone has their own opinion and there’s no one consensus for much of anything in any way anymore.

“You have to go with your gut, what do you want to see? I think as soon as you’re saying ‘oh, they’ll love this, I’m going to do this for them’, I think you’re probably on thin ice.

“As you can imagine, (wrapping this up) was a lot. And in every direction you look. It has to be its own thing but has to wrap up these nine films. It has to be funny and scary and all that stuff a grand adventure requires. But it’s got to be emotional, it has to be huge and full of spectacle, but it’s got to be intimate.”

Ridley added: “I do think this will appeal a lot anyway because of the Emperor and because of Billie Dee Williams.

“In a general sense, Star Wars has been about hope and a group of people fighting against big, dark, powerful forces. And we all need a bit of hope right now.”

With all that in one movie, surely there’s something for everyone? We’re about to find out.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in cinemas from Thursday, December 19

The writer travelled to Tokyo as a guest of Disney



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