Warning: Spoilers for the film “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” are below.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi holds close to the biggest controversial ratings from Star Wars fans of the film series, but for what reason? Why have there been so many different emotional reactions to this film in particular? Reader-Response Theory helps out a lot with the answer for this question, which can simply be stated as everyone is going to react differently based on their past experiences or what they hold value to. In a deeper thought process, we’re thinking something more along the lines of a focus on the independent and personal experience of that audience member in the moment of reading the text or viewing the film.
To open up the discussion of what I might primarily be talking about, fans are divided on whether they liked this addition to the Star Wars saga with some saying it brought them to tears and others reporting that it left them feeling desolate, or not having any strong emotional response at all. For example, fans who grew up watching Carrie Fisher on the big screen may have been emotionally moved and on the edge of their seats because of Fisher’s late passing prior to the release of the movie. This made each scene that Fisher appeared in even more emotionally intense to the viewer as opposed to someone who felt no attachment whatsoever to the death of Fisher and may not have had any knowledge of it in the first place. (SPOILER ALERT) A scene of specific mention would be the scene (30 minutes from the start of the movie) in which Leia Organa/Carrie Fisher is seen thrown from the window of the resistance ship after an explosion and left floating in space. The dramatic music alone made this scene eye watering for those who felt attached not only to the character from the past movies, but for the deceased Carrie Fisher. It was this personal connection between the viewers and the film that made everyone in the theatre begin clapping once the eyes of our long-time heroine opened and she began moving towards safety in the ship with the use of her force powers.
Moving on, there is also the notion of how one’s age may affect their response to the characters during the movie. Older generation Star Wars fans may not feel so attuned to these multiple new characters. They may see Poe and the gang as trying to replace Luke and others they themselves grew up. A younger audience may be perfectly fine with the switch up of the main cast and emergence of new faces. This pattern exists throughout the movie, each viewer reacting to the film in a different way from the person next to them. Based on their own individual interests or personal views, each viewer unconsciously makes the decision of whether or not they liked the movie/novel why. In relation, comments of what they valued from the movie and how they felt at different scenes also arise. The films writer-director, Rian Johnson, brought to the table something each audience member could individually experience, and that’s what movies and literature are all about.