Like so many new additions to the pop culture landscape these days — everything from Netflix’s new series The Witcher to various Apple TV+ shows, and more — the latest big-screen installment of the Star Wars movie franchise has sharply divided critics and fans. This time, it’s the critics who have by and large panned this new film, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, while a large amount of praise has been garnered from fans.
Look no further than the current Rotten Tomatoes scores for the film, which as of the time of this writing show a 56% critics score (from 376 reviewers) and an 86% score derived from more than 39,000 audience member ratings. Of course, the lukewarm critical response certainly didn’t stop the movie from banking a solid amount at the box office over the weekend — $175 million, by one opening weekend estimate. Meanwhile, though, director J.J. Abrams has this to say for critics who thought the film didn’t push the franchise far enough along.
First, here’s a selection of reviews from critics who were not impressed:
From The New Yorker: “The hermetic logic of the plot is as impeccable as it is ridiculous. It’s a drama crafted with robotic insularity for the consumption of viewers being rendered robotic at each moment of the soullessly uniform spectacle.”
FilmWeek: “You sense in this film, J.J. [Abrams] shrinking that world… Everything in this franchise feels like a take back.”
And GQ: “It whiffs on its biggest emotional moments.”
Vanity Fair caught up with the director and asked him whether critics like those and any nonplussed fans have missed something. Whether they, in fact, got it wrong. Funnily enough, Abrams concedes the point: “No, I would say they’re right.” But then he immediately adds one more crucial point, insisting that “The people who love it more than anything are also right.”
Wait, what? How does he reconcile those two statements? Like this — “We knew starting this that any decision we made — a design decision, a musical decision, a narrative decision — would please someone and infuriate someone else,” Abrams continues. “And they’re all right.”
Worth noting: While the opening weekend box office haul for The Rise of Skywalker is certainly a sizeable figure, it happens to be the lowest opening weekend box office total for its two predecessors. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, for example, scored a nearly $248 million opening weekend, while Star Wars: The Last Jedi brought in $220 million.
You can watch Abrams respond directly to criticism of the movie here: