‘The Last Jedi’ will be the best-reviewed ‘Star Wars’ film of all time
I have a good feeling about this.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi will screen for the first time, anywhere, at Saturday night’s premiere at the cavernous Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. Social-media reactions will flood out immediately, though critics won’t be able to weigh in with full reviews until a few days later, on Tuesday, December 12 at noon ET.
I predict a 97% Rotten Tomatoes score for The Last Jedi
What that tells us: The best-reviewed Star Wars movie of all time. Yes, better than Empire Strikes Back – and not even with that much difficulty.
From everything I’m seeing, I’m guessing The Last Jedi will fall somewhere between 96% and 98% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes – let’s call it 97% to make it official – making it easily the top Star Wars movie, and definitely among the best-reviewed science fiction films, ever.
Here’s where things stand now:
The Empire Strikes Back: 94%
The Force Awakens: 93%
A New Hope: 93%
Rogue One: 85%
Return of the Jedi: 80%
Revenge of the Sith: 79%
Attack of the Clones: 66%
The Phantom Menace: 55%
Why we’re about to get a new Gold Leader
Back in September I made the case that studios’ timing of review embargoes (relative to the first available public screenings) was a strong indicator of how its Rotten Tomatoes score would shake out. Extra time showed the studios’ confidence in what it had; short turnarounds predict stinkers.
I applied that formula to a couple of big movies since, the first being Thor: Ragnarok – which I predicted could be the best-reviewed superhero movie of all time (it came very close, missing that honor by only 2 percentage points). I also called a very bad rotten score for Justice League based on its very stingy embargo turnaround (and despite its positive social-media reactions).
And I need to be very clear here – the embargo time for The Last Jedi alone does not portend greatness. Disney/Lucasfilm is allowing 2 days, 7 hours between its reviews and the first showtimes. On our loosely-correlated scale, this puts it on par with Atomic Blonde (76%), Rough Night (45%) and Baywatch (18%). With these comps, TLJ would be lucky to beat Phantom Menace’s score.
But as I have learned by wildly missing on my prediction for It, embargo times are just one indicator. There are other clues. You need to look at the bigger picture.
Star Wars is a special animal, one without comparison in this model
For one thing, The Last Jedi reviews are launching on a Tuesday morning, prime web-traffic time (always a good sign, as studios tend to lift more worrisome embargoes overnight). For another, that runway of 2 days, 7 hours is nearly a full day earlier than what Disney allowed for The Force Awakens, which had a turnaround of 1 day, 15 hours, 59 minutes. TFA wound up with a 93% fresh rating, nearly nicking Empire (still tops, at 94%).
What’s more, Disney/Lucasfilm just went and announced a whole new Star Wars trilogy for TLJ director Rian Johnson to play with once the Skywalker saga has concluded. That is an enormous vote of public confidence, the kind of thing Disney might normally wait for reactions and box office returns to announce. Clearly they like – no, love – the hand he’s dealt them with Last Jedi.
And besides, Star Wars is a special animal, one without comparison in this model. Because of spoiler fears, it’s not screened early for press at all; journalists have to do junket interviews without having seen it, and the all-media screenings happen in the days after the premiere. Given the way it handles these films, Disney/Lucasfilm could scarcely set the embargo any earlier than Tuesday morning and still make it fair for everyone.
And finally, I just sense something – a presence I haven’t felt since …
Star Wars reviews are deeply colored by critics’ hopes and expectations, comparisons to previous installments, personal feelings about the franchise, and a million other voices crying out. No matter how much Johnson denies that TLJ is aping Empire, this is our Empire. If Johnson delivers on the promise of making Last Jedi just a shade better than The Force Awakens – and who here doesn’t think he will? – then those reviews are going to break into breathless territory.
For The Last Jedi, rating better than 94% should be … all too easy.