As audiences begin to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker for themselves, we're beginning to understand that there is a great disturbance in the Force. Critics were very divided on what director J.J. Abrams has done with Episode IX, which serves as the finale of the Skywalker saga. However, based on the early reactions to The Rise of Skywalker, it seems like general moviegoers are enjoying it quite a bit, which raises questions about the future of the Star Wars franchise.
As of this writing, the Rotten Tomatoes critical approval rating for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is 58 percent based on 308 reviews, making it "rotten." But the Audience rating is far better, currently sitting at 86 percent with 9,420 reviews counted. Needless to say, this is yet another example in the modern blockbuster movie landscape where critics and audiences simply don't seem to agree. And this certainly isn't the only time in the recent history of this franchise, specifically, that this has happened.
Fans are surely aware at this point that The Last Jedi proved to be something of a divisive entry in the series. At present, it looks to be the exact inverse of what we're seeing with The Rise of Skywalker. Director Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi holds a 91 percent critical approval rating based on 456 reviews, but the audience score sits at a very poor 43 percent with more than 200,000 reviews counted. While there is a vocal minority that would have people believe The Last Jedi is the worst thing to happen to the Star Wars franchise ever that doesn't represent the whole, it's quite clear there is something of a divide here, which presents problems for Lucasfilm moving forward.
While the Skywalker saga is done, Lucasfilm does intend to make more Star Wars movies after The Rise of Skywalker. Currently, they have dates planted for December 2022, December 2024 and December 2026. Those were originally intended to go to the trilogy that was being developed by Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. However, they recently departed, leaving the future of the franchise largely in doubt. Disney and Lucasfilm have big decisions to make. With the fandom seemingly divided, where do they go from here? How do they try to unite the critical community and general audiences? There are no easy answers.
For what it's worth, critically speaking, the only movie rated worse is 1999's The Phantom Menace, which holds a 53 percent approval rating. The highest-rated movie in the franchise is 1980's The Empire Strikes Back at 94 percent. Another interesting point of note; the animated series Rebels, which ran for four seasons from 2014 to 2018, has an unblemished 100 percent approval rating. So fans looking for something to watch after Episode IX may want to consider going down that road, if they haven't already. No one know what the future of Star Wars movies holds, but one this is certain: everyone will continue to keep their eyes on Rotten Tomatoes scores. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now.