I feel the conflict within you

Age of the Geek: We're a good month removed from the release of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" I think we're in safe enough territory to finally talk about it.

Or, at least talk about the reaction to it. I'll keep spoilers to a minimum, but reader beware.

Episode VIII has been divisive, to put it mildly.

High praise from critics was immediately contrasted by middling reviews from general audiences once the movie came out. Unlike The Force Awakens or The Phantom Menace, both of which enjoyed a honeymoon of universal praise before the hype faded away, negative reaction to The Last Jedi was immediate.

Jaded movie-goers are nothing new. In a series as beloved as Star Wars, passion is bound to amplify criticisms. If there are still die-hard defenders of the Prequel Trilogy out there, it was inevitable that at least a percentage of the fan-base would reject Episode VIII, no matter what happened.

What's been unusual about The Last Jedi isn't the negative reaction, but the reaction to the negative reaction. Rather than acknowledge the movie's faults, defenders have been quick to blame the tepid response on the usual suspects: Angry fanboys, internet trolls, and, of course, the alt-right. It's been a bizarre experience seeing people completely lose their minds over the concept that somebody didn't like a movie as much as they did.

Over at Forbes, two writers have been playing to both sides, cherry picking box-office numbers to paint the film as either a blockbuster success or a commercial disappointment that should encourage LucasFilm to adjust course.

Of course, using box office numbers as a measurement for quality is an iffy prospect, particularly when it comes to a franchise like this. Among my friends, one of the more vocal critics has already seen the film a half-dozen times. Such is the power of Star Wars.

Even Mark Hamill himself has found himself embroiled in the debate. He has very publically pronounced his disagreement with how Luke Skywalker was handled in the movie, but those criticisms have been laced with praise for the end result. So what do you believe? That Mark Hamill vented his frustrations but came around when he realized the bigger picture or that he's still not a fan of how the movie turned out, but feels obligated to not throw the people that sign the checks completely under the bus?

But as easy as it is to blame the 49% Rotten Tomatoes score on bots, it's impossible to deny that the movie hasn't received the universal praise some would like you to believe.

Go anywhere on the internet and ask people to rank the Star Wars movies. You'll find a few common elements in most of the lists. Empire Strikes Back will almost always be in the top three. Attack of the Clones will almost always be in the bottom three. The Last Jedi, however, could be anywhere. For some it's their favorite movie in the series. For others, it's the worst thing to happen since Jar Jar Binks.

Personally, I fall square in the middle. The movie has a phenomenal cast acting their hearts out, compelling personal conflict, and bar none the most amazing cinematography the franchise has ever produced, which is saying something for a series as visually spectacular as Star Wars.

But the movie is also chock-full of sloppy storytelling. The b-plot hinges on seemingly intelligent people making pointlessly stupid decisions, the themes of the story are often immediately contradicted by the plot, and Rian Johnson seems to have outright contempt for the expectation that he answer the unresolved questions leftover from J.J. Abrams' Episode VII.

I suspect I'm far from the only one to feel the same way, but what may be a silent majority has been drowned out by two camps bent on picking a side.

Ironically, The Last Jedi is almost a complete mirror of another divisive film that came out just a month before, "Justice League."

Both movies are a hot mess. They both suffer from conflicting visions as a new director shifts direction from a previous director's work. And they both suffer from being the middle child of a series, expected to follow up on previous installments, set up future installments, while still telling a story of its own.

Where The Last Jedi was met with high expectations, received high praise from critics, and tepid response from the general audience, "Justice League" was met with low expectations, thrashed by critics, but was generally a crowd pleaser.

I'm sure there's something to be gleaned from that comparison.

At the end of the day though, both movies were okay. Not flawless, not even great, but enjoyable enough. But that's just my opinion. It's okay if you felt differently.

Travis Fischer is a news writer for Mid-America Publishing and, unlike the Sith, doesn't deal in absolutes.