Will Episode 9 save the star wars franchise?
With The Last Jedi proving to be the most divisive episode to date, the first trailer for the sequel will soon arrive with debate still raging. Will Episode 9 get the haters back onside?
There’s no grey area in the Star Wars universe. It’s a mythology of binary opposites – dark Siths against virtuous Jedis – and when it comes to rating each film, committed fans are equally polarised in their positions. The franchise elicits strong opinions on each side of the divide. Sometimes that divide is massively imbalanced, from the overwhelmingly loved Empire Strikes Back to the almost universally loathed Phantom Menace, but the most recent in the series appears to have split fans right down the middle.
The Last Jedi has attracted plenty of praise, but it has also been subjected to crowdsourced fan theorising like never before. It has amplified the gripes and some of the anger has carried an unpleasant whiff of misogyny, with the film’s more progressive narratives blasted on social media by the same vocal fanboys who lost their heads over the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters.
Other objections appeared more rational. Some of the potential plot threads introduced by J.J. Abrams in episode 7, like the identity of Rey’s parents and the influence of Snoke, appeared to lead nowhere or came to an abrupt ending. While The Force Awakens offered crowd-pleasing echoes of the original, The Last Jedi forged its own twists and turns – an admirably brave choice for many, but a huge disappointment to the nostalgists. Another sore point was the treatment of Mark Hammill’s Luke, which besmirched the Skywalker legacy in the eyes of many.
Much ire has been aimed at the film’s sublot in the high-end gambling resort of Canto Bight. A social media Venn diagram would show plenty of overlap between fans of Star Wars and fans of online casinos, but for many it was jarring sequence which jolted the film’s pacing and disappeared into a narrative black hole – a busted flush in its contribution to the overall story arc.
Episode 9 continues that arc with returning stars Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Anthony Daniels (C-3P0) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker). It promises another mix of fresh faces alongside old favourites as Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) is joined by recent Oscar nominee, Richard E. Grant, who is contractually coy about the details of his character. Carrie Fisher’s death looms large – with Hans Solo at the centre of episode 7 and Luke at the core of episode 8, Fisher’s Leia was reportedly the heart of the latest film before tragedy struck. It required a total script rethink, but the character will still be prominent with unused footage from the previous two films.
Some of the stars have hinted at what to expect from a movie that represents the final installment based around the Skywalker clan. Boyega has referred to “something visually crazy”  in the movie and one of his Instagram posts offered a cheeky teaser:
For all the negative noise surrounding The Last Jedi, it is worth remembering that there are countless enthusiasts on the other side of the divide. For every fan anticipating episode 9 with unease, there will be another (probably younger) fan who can’t wait for the movie to arrive in December. Disney will be hoping that, when this latest trilogy draws to a close, both will be leaving the cinema with a smile.