After The Last Jedi caused an enormous controversy amongst longtime fans of the series, Disney played it safe with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Like The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams went in heavy on the fan service, bringing back Emperor Palpatine, revealing Rey as his granddaughter, giving Chewie a medal and bringing a ghost Han back for one last goodbye. This fan love-bombing tactic seems to have backfired though, with professional critics not particularly pleased at Abrams so obviously pandering to audience expectations.
As such, the film currently sits at a Rotten 55% on the Tomatometer, though its audience rating is a decent 86%. This means it’s the second-largest disparity between fans and critics after The Last Jedi (albeit that was in the opposite direction between critics and fans).
EpicStream’s Tiny Diapana crunched the numbers for the whole series, which shows the bigger picture, as you can see below:
The Rise of Skywalker – 55% critics vs. 86% audience (+31% gap)
Return of the Jedi – 82% critics vs. 94% audience (+12% gap)
The Empire Strikes Back – 93% critics vs. 96% audience (+3% gap)
A New Hope – 93% critics vs. 96% audience (+3% gap)
The Force Awakens – 93% critics vs. 86% audience (-7% gap)
Solo – 70% critics vs. 63% audience (-7% gap)
Attack of the Clones – 65% critics vs. 56% audience (-9% gap)
Revenge of the Sith – 80% critics vs. 66% audience (-14% gap)
The Last Jedi – 91% critics vs. 43% audience (-48% gap)
But there are a couple of things to consider here when talking about The Rise of Skywalker‘s audience rating. I don’t want to get all tinfoil hat about this, but I wrote about the audience rating ten days ago on December 20th. At that point, it was on 86% after 5,719 reviews and now it’s on precisely the same rating after a massive 70,243 reviews. Given that audience ratings generally decrease over time (as the first people to review are generally the biggest fans), it’s more than a little suspicious that this number hasn’t budged in over a week.
Perhaps accounting for some of this is that Rotten Tomatoes apparently doesn’t factor half-star and one-star reviews into its audience rating in an effort to prevent review-bombing. Given that many people honestly and understandably hated the movie, perhaps these negative ratings simply aren’t showing up. But whatever the case, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is destined to go down in history as a disappointing ending to Disney’s Sequel Trilogy.