Star Wars: The Last Jedi, now available to stream on NEON and Justice League (coming to NEON later this month), continue to inspire wildly off-base internet chatter long after their theatrical runs.
As Tony Stamp details below, in this lovely piece of content brought to you by NEON, it’s pretty nuts.
It’s a pretty sweet time to be a film fan. The internet gives us more insight and access to the filmmaking process than ever before, like the ability to fire off a question to tentpole directors such as Christopher McQuarrie or Rian Johnson, and know that they might answer. What a resource!
But there’s a subset of internet-users weaponising this access, both for shits and giggles, and uglier political purposes. We’re all still acclimatising to the veil of anonymity the web affords us, but I reckon we need to suss out a few things if we’re going to move forward as a species.
So let’s talk about The Last Jedi.
You may have heard about the campaign to remake Rian Johnson’s entry into the Skywalker saga, drummed up by an Extremely Online bunch of dudes trying to correct a perceived aberration. They claimed to have raised millions of dollars. It was all very murky, and unsurprisingly fell out of the public eye as soon as the derisive laughter had died down.
And in general, the grumbling on social media has died down. I mean, some people didn’t like the film. I get it. (Although I often want to scream ‘BUT THE PREQUELS!’) It’s just that the level of vitriol was really awful.
I say this as someone who earns part of his income reviewing films: Dudes, it’s just a movie.
Star Wars is always going to be ridiculously over-scrutinised, and blockbusters in general will attract Takes like bees to a hive. But the relationship between movies and the general public has gotten downright weird.
I didn’t used to feel sorry for extremely well-paid actors. But watching Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran get hounded off social media was really, really gross.
Online “fan” art
And we shouldn’t discount the vile, misogynist, racist thinking that underscores the loudest complaints. Post-GamerGate, similar tactics became apparent: here were armies of faceless Twitter-users, mobilised in 4Chan, berating Rian Johnson and his actors. They can’t complain about diversity (in public), so “bad writing” became the clarion call.
It’s all pretty exhausting, and pathetic. And in 2018, with demagogues popping up around the globe using nationalist rhetoric, kind of terrifying!
Which brings us to another bizarre instance of fans getting carried away: The mythical Snyder Cut of Justice League.
If you weren’t aware, director Zack Synder left DC’s first big team-up movie after he suffered an unthinkably awful family tragedy. Joss Whedon stepped in to finish the film and helmed some reshoots that apparently altered the tone of the movie into something more cheerful and comedic. The Snyder Cut theory posits the existence of a version of the film that is pure Zack.
Online fan “art”
What a lot of people seem to have missed is that Whedon was already involved, having been brought on board to punch up the script during shooting. And prior to THAT, DC had flown journalists to the set specifically to reassure them that Justice League would be more lighthearted than dour old Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
Regardless of all that, The Wall St Journal reported Snyder’s representatives and Warner Brothers confirming that, outside a very rough cut completed after principal photography, a Snyder Cut does not exist.
Snyder devotees weren’t impressed. Objective facts have somehow become part of an elaborate conspiracy theory aimed at them and their favourite director (who himself has stayed way the hell out of this nonsense).
Meanwhile certain movie sites keep throwing the idea around to garner cheap clicks.
There’s a lot of stock given to the notion that Snyder treated these characters as they deserved: proto-fascist gods who begrudgingly rule over humanity. And I mean, I think that’s silly, and a bit disturbing, but I understand that people get attached to certain properties.
Online fan art
But again: Dudes, it’s just a movie.
It’s this idea of ownership that’s a relatively new one. That with enough willpower and numbers fans can erase films they don’t like from the canon and create new ones.
That’s not how things work! And the campaigns don’t seem motivated by a love of filmmaking. They’re more like the internet equivalent of throwing a tantrum because someone played with your toys.
There’s also the uneasy sense that what people really didn’t like about The Last Jedi is its suggestion that anyone can access The Force, regardless of their bloodline. Snyder’s superhero films kind of make the opposite case (super-people are our rightful overlords, deal with it). And the folks whipped into a frenzy by this stuff tend to be very noisy, much like the men who complained about Mad Max: Fury Road’s feminist leanings. Remember that?
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It’s not just movies and games, of course. It’s everything. Recently anti-diversity sentiment aimed at the comics industry spilled over into hostility, and comicsgate was born.
This new dynamic between creators and fans reached its nadir when James Gunn was fired from Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3, after some old edgelord tweets (that he’d already publicly apologised for) were dredged up by an internet personality so vile I’m not going to mention his name. It was clearly a response to Gunn’s criticism of Donald Trump.
It’s a very bad precedent that sends a signal to public figures to watch themselves, to think twice before they criticize the administration, or these trolls with apparent aeons of free time will comb their online presence looking for ammo.
Who knows how this will all play out. I suspect public figures will just stop using social media, and retreat to their ivory towers. And that’s a shame. Filmmakers interacting with fans can be a beautiful thing. But humans have a habit of ruining stuff.
And for the record, I loved The Last Jedi. Bloody loved it.
Luke used the biggest Force power we’ve ever seen in these films, and people complained. Leia used her power and people complained. The film dared to criticize the rich and elevate the powerless and people complained. And so on. I was thrilled by it all, and never once felt that Rian Johnson was subverting expectations ‘for the sake of it’.
Plenty will disagree. Aggressively, I assume. Maybe in the comments section below.
But I mean, damn, dudes. It’s just a movie!
This objectively awesome piece of content is brought to you by NEON, where The Last Jedi is now available to stream, and (the actual cut of) Justice League streams from Sept 22.
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