The critical reception to the latest Star Wars blockbuster, The Last Jedi, has revealed something frightening.
It is not a bad film – but does it does deserve the unanimous acclaim which it has received? A review in The Guardian called it a ‘an explosive thrill-ride of galactic proportions’ whilst a reviewer in The Times wrote of ‘eye-gouging visual spectacle and entirely unexpected emotional power’.
Newspapers of course have to sell copies. But isn’t the job of the critic to be critical -regardless of what other critics may think? Despite enjoying the film, from a critical perspective I would argue that The Last Jedi is too long, too formulaic and poorly-acted in too many scenes.
Do the critics know something we don’t? They have expertise for sure. The question is whether they are in agreement that The Last Jedi is critically a good film, or whether their independent judgement has been swept aside by a tide of euphoria.
In the online world of social media – a galaxy far far away from the critics – the reception to The Last Jedi has proven far more negative. The hashtags “NotMyStarWars” and “The last jedi terrible” are trending on Twitter; at the time of writing the audience score for the film on Rotten Tomatoes is only 57%.
Just last year the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote stunned the western world. Like The Last Jedi, they revealed the huge discrepancy in opinion between metropolitan “experts” and the general public.
But perhaps of more concern to a society which prides itself on liberal values is the grip of groupthink on “expert” opinion.
The impact of shared expectation, collective experience and physical proximity should not be underestimated – psychologists, political scientists and historians have all looked at the immense power which a crowd can have on individuality. Take the radical fervour of August 4th 1789 which led to the French nobility suddenly and unexpectedly renouncing all of their privileges.
With the case of The Last Jedi – and any film for that matter – is that if film critics all attend the same screening in the same auditorium in the same atmosphere, then individual opinion and expression is seriously hindered.
The same goes for political assemblies, juries and democracy itself. Groupthink is perhaps the greatest threat which liberalism faces.