A new Star Wars movie comes out today, and, while I haven’t seen it yet (no spoilers, please), I can predict a couple of things about the movie pretty confidently: The fan base will be divided about whether the movie is the “best” or “worst” movie ever, and the truth will, most likely fall somewhere between the two extremes.
“Best” and “Worst” are words that are overused in today’s society, and, even more so in geek culture. Fans of franchises like Star Wars—and by no means exclusively star wars—are enthusiastic about their fandom, and, therefore, it seems, they need to express that enthusiasm with hyperbolic statements about the quality of their movies (or TV shows, or comic books, or novelizations, etc.) to the point where it becomes nearly impossible to have a reasonable, intelligent conversation about the things about which we are all so passionate.
Discussions about Star Wars (and Marvel movies, Harry Potter, Doctor Who, etc) become reduced to two versions of the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, with one side yelling, “Best. Movie. Ever.” and the other side, responding with “Worst. Movie. Ever.” followed by a pissing contest about who knows more about the minutiae of trivia relating to the series, leaving everyone angry, and preventing many from enjoying the very things they claim to love.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I have yet to see Rise of Skywalker yet, but I have a hard time believing that it will be better than The Empire Strikes Back (or any of the original trilogy, for that matter) or worse than The Phantom Menace. Is there a chance? I guess there has to be a small one, but the far more likely outcome is that it will fall somewhere in between. There is plenty of room in between those two extremes for the movie to be good, bad or, mediocre.
Recognizing the middle ground is important for a few a reasons: First, it makes it more likely that you as a viewer and as a fan will enjoy the movie. If you go into every movie expecting it to be the best, you will, in most cases be disappointed. Hoping that the movie will be good will let you enjoy it (assuming it is, indeed, good) without it needing to reach the nearly impossible bar of being the best. Conversely, if you go in expecting the worst, and the movie exceeds your expectations, that does not make it, automatically, the best.
Second, if we call everything “the best” and “the worst”, those terms lose meaning. When something arises that is truly great–or truly awful—we will have no language with which to describe it. Once everything is the best or the worst, nothing is.
Third, this type of binary analysis leads to the militant extremism so present in nerd culture (and in wider society, but this is not the venue for that argument) which has arisen in the age of social media. People break into factions, Star Wars or Star Trek; Marvel of Dc; 10 or 11; and end up arguing, and sometimes even ruining friendships, over things about which they should, essentially agree. Subtlety and nuance are lost, and it becomes impossible to have intelligent conversations about anything. To see an example of what this could look like, look at the reaction to the previous Star Wars Movie, The Last Jedi.
So, when you go in to the theater to see The Rise of Skywalker, try to do so not only with an open mind, but with the expectation that it will likely fall somewhere between the two extremes, neither the best, nor the worst, but somewhere in between.
And please, no spoilers. Those are, truly, the worst.
May the force be with you.