Rogue One was trending recently. This is probably an evergreen statement. Rogue One trends every 15 days or so. And while James Gunn’s tweet wasn’t the cause of the trend (no one ever knows the cause of the trend) it certainly became the heart of the discourse.
I don't know why Rogue One is trending, but I'm glad it is, as it's the most underrated Star Wars anything.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) April 7, 2022
James Gunn is smart, articulate, and a brilliant filmmaker and generally, you should listen to him; you’ll learn a lot. But he just said that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is underrated. I’m sorry everyone, Rogue One is not underrated. Rogue One took over $1billion at the global box office. Of course, that means nothing when it comes to critical consensus. Box office is for accountants you might say, but it also matters for reasons I’ll get to in a minute.
So, when it comes to ratings, what did critics think? I hate to cite Rotten Tomatoes, but I suppose for these purposes, it’s fairly useful being an aggregator. Rogue One has 84% on the ‘Tomatometer’ (it felt dirty just typing that) from 461 reviews mirroring the audience score of 86%. The other Star Wars Story, Solo, only gets 69% from critics and a 64% audience score, while the most critically lauded Star Wars film of the sequel trilogy, The Last Jedi, has a 91% critic score and a 42% audience score.
So essentially, based on the data, audiences and critics really rate Rogue One. But that really doesn’t matter in this equation. It is literally impossible for a Star Wars film to be underrated. It is too mainstream. This film made over a billion dollars at the cinema alone. How many more people saw it on shiny disc, on digital download, on TV and on Disney+? It has been widely seen and it has been widely loved. There are people, probably hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions, all around the world who think this is the best Star Wars film. This was someone’s first Star Wars film. This was the one that finally made it click for someone. God knows how many times I’ve seen that Vadar clip shared on social saying it’s the best moment in Star Wars. It trends on social media because people think it’s really good and they enjoy talking about it. You might ask on your social channel, or even in a room: ‘is it just me who thinks this is great?’ You will get so many people agreeing with you. Some guy might even say: ‘Finally someone is brave enough to say this!’. This person is the worst.
Now, of course there is not consensus on what is great. Why would there be? It’s impossible for any fandom to have consensus. But I’d argue, given there are 11 Star Wars films, that all of them are someone’s favourite. Not a single one is underrated. You will find positive ratings everywhere. Little corners of people who think they’ve found their people because of how meaningful they find Attack of the Clones.
So, what am I saying? That mainstream culture can’t be underrated? That essentially you have to shine a light on unloved gems or arthouse films if you are to find something truly underrated? I think you’re getting closer if you say that, but underrated implies that something has been seen, evaluated and not given enough love. I think when it comes to Star Wars, it has all been seen, it has all been loved and it has been given more attention in the discourse than it could possibly warrant.
I live in the mainstream. My tastes are uncomplicated. I’ve reached a point in life where I value comfort viewing of being challenged (no one said my viewing habits were healthy). So this is my home. But underrated just irks me. It’s nonsense. You don’t need validation. It’s in the same territory as guilty pleasure. Like what you like. If people tell you that you’re wrong, well, that’s their problem. It’s not really worth doing a scene by scene break down to try and change their minds.
And who are we looking to for this approval? Critics? Fans? Some deity who at the end of our lives will tell us we were right because we thought Rise of Skywalker was actually pretty decent. Engage in conversations about what you love, but don’t foist your taste on others. Especially when it comes to Star Wars. I mean, come on. It’s Star Wars. It’s the most beloved property in modern culture. None of it is underrated. None of it is overrated. It is consumed, it is watched and one piece of it will mean more to someone than you can understand. And you don’t have to understand either. Let it be theirs and let them love it on its own terms for the context they saw it, who they were when it spoke to them and how it brings them back to that place, every time they watch.