Last week, I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Without going any further, you can already suss out two details about my experience. One, it was the usual awe-inspired magic of every Star Wars Film; and Two, it was deeply divisive. Either I loved it or I hated it.
I don't want to delve into a fanboy argument for or against Rian Johnson's vision for Episode VIII. Rather, I'd like to address the polarization of geek culture as a whole. Namely, why do I have to "love" or "hate" a film?
Let's start with the basics of language. Personally, I do not like to use the words "love" or "hate" when describing media. As an old Marine captain once told me: Words mean stuff. If I whip out the big L or H to paint a picture of a movie, they lose all meaning. When I really hate something, I won't have the proper diction, and that would be the real crime.
How can you even come to conclusion that you "hate" a film? Has the film made your life measurably worse? Has its existence substantially changed the way you live day to day? Did the film kill your dog?
On the other side of the coin, I find it hard to "love" a film. While I may enjoy the heck out of something, even to the point of obsession (we'll talk Firefly/Serenity next week), I can't remember the last time I cared so deeply about a film in my life.
Now, as for The Last Jedi, I'll start by saying this: I enjoyed this film. It contained the magic and majesty of cinema's royal franchise. Seeing Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher reprise their iconic roles filled me with a childlike joy. Watching a cast almost evenly split between men and women (and aliens) gave me a sense of progress in the industry. Watching spaceships explode was just straight fun.
But that is not to say the movie doesn't suffer from flaws. In fact, it is a fairly flawed film, both from a storytelling and execution perspective. There are plot threads that exist only to set up set-pieces, absurd leaps in logic and character action, and an entire Act that could be cut without harming the plot of the movie. There are characters that seem to exist exclusively for exposition, adding nothing to the overall story, action scenes that feel robbed of purpose, and the sudden teleportation of main characters when the script demands it.
In spite of all of that, I still enjoy the film. Hell, I'll probably watch it again just for Laura Dern's hero moment.
Now, I'm not going to argue with you about the film. If you come at me with "This is the best/worst Star Wars movie," I'll smile and pretend I have headphones in. You don't need to convince me of your take. And that's the point of this article.
Why do you need me to see the movie in the same light as you? Why can't I enjoy or not enjoy to my level, and you do the same? Since when is fandom required to hit a certain benchmark of viewing pleasure before it can be considered legitimate?
If you "loved" TLJ, if it is the best Star Wars canon ever (to you), then let it be. Understand that others find it flawed, or possibly even didn't like it at all, and it will still be the same movie to you. Those moments of magic that captured you the first time? They're still around. That's still all in the film, and you can continue to "love it" until Disney releases the next 400 Star Wars films.
If you "hated" TLJ, and you cannot fathom how others could even glean a modicum of pleasure from this mad scramble of tropes and scenes, then please continue to seethe on your own time. Don't try to convince others, because you won't. Like politics or religion, you are arguing for your own sake, and having literally zero effect.
Most of all, we need to be able to have civil arguments about fandom and criticism. No film is without flaws (even Serenity), and attacking anyone who points them out is counterproductive. At the same time, no film is without merit, and panning it completely does a disservice to the hundreds or thousands of people who worked to bring it to life.
You may disagree with the choices in Rian Johnson's film, but audiences around the world are still pouring into theaters to see it. It will go down as one of the biggest movies of the year, rake in at least a billion dollars, and set up the next film as well. So get over it. It's just a movie.
And if you cannot let this go, if you absolutely HATE that people are enjoying something that you don't, then might I suggest a distraction?