I’ve never been a hardcore fan. I’ve watched all the movies up to The Last Jedi. I didn’t like that one, didn’t see Solo, and probably won’t see any future films, at least not until my son is old enough that I have to start taking him. I’ve read most of the Star Wars threads here but only a small amount of stuff about the series elsewhere. I have not seen my particular theory about what’s wrong with The Last Jedi advanced by anyone else.
A few months ago in this thread I noted that almost all blockbusters are about a small band of good guys, outnumbered and outgunned by a massive evil army, fighting heroically and winning in the end. The original Star Wars trilogy does this idea in its purest form. Every action sequence is basically about reckless heroism while outnumbered 5-to-1, or 20-to-1, or 1,000,000-to-1:
You’re on a small spaceship with just three people, two droids, and one wookie. Nearby there’s a moon-size space base with millions or billions of enemy soldiers. What do you do?
Answer: Go into the base, rescue the princess, shoot up a bunch of bad guys, and escape.
A small rebel force is on an ice planet with a massive Imperial fleet hovering overhead. A bunch of skyscraper-sized imperial walkers are on the ground heading right towards the rebel base. What do you do?
Answer: Hop into tiny fighters and fly directly towards the gigantic walkers. Destroy several of them and get enough time for the rebels to escape.
You and all your friends have been captured by a gangster who looks like a 5-ton slug. He’s got the princess chained up in a bikini and is about to have his minions throw everyone else off a diving board into the mouth of a hideous monster. What do you do?
Answer: Insult the gangster to his face, then fight back, kill him and all his minions, and escape.
etc… That’s what the original trilogy is all about, and in my opinion, that’s why its popularity is widespread and has endured for so long. People like to see good guys fighting heroically and succeeding. The reason why most of the other Star Wars movies aren’t so popular with the fans is that they simply don’t capture that spirit. The prequels had a few scenes of heroic daring-do against impossible odds, but mostly they were buried under mountains of CGI, too much plot, and a cast that was too big. The Force Awakens got it mostly right, which is why it was a success.
The problem with The Last Jedi is, I believe, is that when Rian Johnson was given the reins of the project, he wasn’t willing to just make a movie about heroes charging straight towards the bad guys, fighting heroically, and winning. He thought that he was too sophisticated and artistic to make that kind of nonsense, so instead he set out to undermine the very ideas that made the original trilogy great. He did this in two ways.
First, no more pure good vs. pure evil. Instead the Resistance will be riven by internal divisions, and we’ll even have a mutiny, and all this will take up a big chunk of the middle of the movie.
Second, daring heroism will now lead to failure rather than success:
We start with a daring attack by a tiny fleet against a dreadnought, but it gets a lot of Resistance fighters killed and the leader of the attack reprimanded.
Our heroes hatch a daring plan to find a hacker, infiltrate the enemy command ship, and disable the tracking device, but it backfires and get more good guys killed.
Finn attempts to crash his fighter directly into the enemy cannon in an act of heroic sacrifice, but is prevented from doing so.
The point being, the thrill of watching a single-digit number of good guys take out a whole army of bad guys is completely gone, because Johnson chose to deliberately undermine it. That, in my opinion, is why so many fans disliked The Last Jedi.