ENTERTAINMENT
08/03/2018 05:11 pm ET Updated Aug 05, 2018

A Shadowy Fan Campaign Is Taking Credit For 'Star Wars: Episode IX' Announcements

But what's really going on?

A group of fans who believe they can convince Disney to remake “The Last Jedi” is taking credit for the company’s recent revelations about the upcoming “Episode IX” in the “Star Wars” three-trilogy saga. But the Force is not with them.

You may or may not recall Remake The Last Jedi, the mysterious organization behind a confusing campaign to remake “Star Wars: Episode VIII,” that became the butt of “Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson’s (and other celebrities’) jokes back in June.

Well, the group is back. And in a press release sent to HuffPost this week, it claims to be the reason for Disney’s recent “Star Wars” announcements.

According to a press release from Remake The Last Jedi (hereafter referred to as RTLJ), Disney “listened to us and [has] taken our advice.” Among the developments the group claims it is responsible for are the rumored return of George Lucas to consult of the script for “IX,” the reprisal of Luke’s role and the use of footage of Carrie Fisher in the upcoming film.

The release continues, staying true to the campaign’s name:

[Disney has] written themselves into a corner and will have to make bold decisions to get out of it. Trying to use the finale of the 9-part Skywalker saga to fix the problems from The Last Jedi is a mistake. Going back and remaking The Last Jedi is the only way to save the franchise. We’ve been right about everything so far and they’re listening, so don’t they owe it to themselves to listen to us one more time before they take the next step?

So, is Disney listening? Well, the multinational conglomerate declined HuffPost’s request for comment, but there’s probably more truth to the theory that BB-8 is the secret love child of R2-D2 and the Death Star.

Sure, Disney recently announced plans for “Star Wars: Episode IX,” but it’s unlikely that unhappy anonymous fans were the impetus, even with RTLJ’s claim to have accrued $400 million worth of pledges supposedly from fans who want to see “The Last Jedi” made over.

Because that number is a bunch of malarky.

RTLJ claims in its press release to be collecting pledges in order “to draw attention to the fact that it is not a small minority of racist and misogynistic fans that were disappointed with ‘The Last Jedi,’ but a majority of fans who have settled in disinterest.” Much of the backlash to detractors of “The Last Jedi” centered around the idea they took issue with the more diverse racial and gender makeup of the cast.

The group’s website displays a pledge total of more than $400 million, supposedly from fans who want this remake to happen. Seems impressive, but if you take a closer look at the numbers, that argument falls apart. So let’s put this intergalactic schtick to bed.

Screenshot from RemakeTheLastJedi.com
Remake The Last Jedi
Screenshot from RemakeTheLastJedi.com

The primary problem with RTLJ’s pledging system is that its website doesn’t ask for any financial information from its pledgers.

In order to make a pledge online, you need only select an amount of money (up to $10,000) from the site’s drop-down menu, and, after providing an email address, promise to contribute a hypothetical sum with no means of backing it up.

That’s it. 

You can also pledge multiple times with the same email, which makes the site more susceptible to spammers or pledgers with no intention of backing up their promised money. Essentially, there’s no way of telling whether or not a “majority of fans” have taken to the site, or just a minority of angry trolls or bots, which could have been the case when the website received millions of dollars overnight (yeah, actually overnight) in late June.

For everyone wondering, no, this is not how crowdfunding works.

We checked with some crowdfunding experts, who explained to HuffPost that their sites won’t accept a pledge unless the donor supplies credit card information. A representative from Kickstarter told us a number of safeguards the company implements; it requires creators be “verified” and pledgers sign up for an account with credit card information before donating. Moreover, an integrity team monitors Kickstarter projects to make sure there are no rule violations.

In contrast, RTLJ has no safeguards. Rather than a silly old identity verification system (so lame, right?), it operates like a shadowy group of so-called producers who refuse to be identified. 

Using the same email address, I submitted multiple “donations” to the site in late June ― with no banking or credit card information to back it up ― without ever even receiving a confirmation email in response.

We originally reached out to representatives for the RTLJ campaign last month to ask about its donation process and its lack of confirmation. The campaign initially responded to our email, but neglected to answer any questions at that time.

A month after my first donation attempt and contact with Remake The Last Jedi, I tested the system again. This time, I did receive a confirmation email. But after submitting multiple donations using the same email address, I noticed that the total pledge amount displayed on the website (at the time, $409,735,110) increased by twice the amount I submitted. When I donated $10, the total increased by $20.

The total before my $10 pledge.
Remake The Last Jedi
The total before my $10 pledge.
The total after my $10 pledge.
Remake The Last Jedi
The total after my $10 pledge.

RTLJ claims to have a mysterious producer signed on who has promised to “match every dollar raised” by the campaign. Perhaps this is why the doubling occurs; the campaign is already accounting for the alleged producer’s contributions. But this isn’t mentioned on the site at all.

In a legal disclaimer, which describes the video on its website where Johnson’s face is Photoshopped onto Rey as “parody,” RTLJ insists that it will offer all of the money, pledged and matched, to Disney and Lucasfilm for the sole purpose of a remake. But, of course, there is no money. 

Despite RTLJ’s claims that its pledge count reflects the sentiments of a “majority of fans,” it’s highly unlikely that’s the case. Take, for example, the fact that its Twitter account currently has only about 7,500 followers. There’s no “majority” there.

When asked for additional comment on the press release this week, RTLJ did send a statement that managed to dodge many of our questions.

Rather than identifying its members, the campaign claimed to be composed of “funny people who love Star Wars that also happen to be producers.”

Rather than explain the questionable processes behind its pledge system or the doubling effect, RTLJ said, “As stated in our press release, we plan to cover the budget [of the movie] but, ‘you can pledge an amount to have your voice heard.’” Whatever that means.

RTLJ reiterated that its criticism is not based on gender or race of the film’s stars. It also said again that the video is “parody” but the campaign itself is not, and that “our goal is to remake The Last Jedi.”

Criticism is not a crime, but the campaign’s inflated sense of influence over a Disney franchise smacks of the same faulty fan mentality that drove “Star Wars” star Kelly Marie Tran off of social media, or fueled the alt-right group that took credit for tanking “The Last Jedi” Rotten Tomatoes score. 

At best, RTLJ is just an elaborate joke, which would finally explain a lot. At worst, it’s another case of bad-faith fandom feigning power at the expense of a fan community that should be a safe haven for everyone in the galaxy.

You can read the full statement here:

You wanted to know who we are, well, we are funny people who love Star Wars that also happen to be producers.

The most recent Star Wars movie was the first movie to post a loss for the most lucrative film franchise in cinematic history.  No other Star Wars movie has even come close to losing money. There have also been declining merchandising sales across the board for Star Wars.  Also, Blu-Ray sales are down in an already declining industry. Let’s compare Star Wars to its modern day rival, Marvel. Each Marvel movie tends to build momentum for the next one and they find a way to make 19 movies and not lose money on one of them. So, why did Solo lose money? Why is Star Wars trending in a declining direction?  Our answer lies with The Last Jedi.

Our goal is to remake The Last Jedi. That is the fork in the road for a lot of the fans. That is why Disney is losing money as a whole on Star Wars. This core group of fans that were disappointed with The Last Jedi are the ones that did not see Solo and will not see Episode 9.  

We also noticed that there were a lot of fans who did not like The Last Jedi and tried to reasonably voice their discontent, but were put down.  It is silly to lump in the majority of people who have valid criticisms about a movie into groups of people who express hate based on race or gender.  Star Wars is unlike any other franchise in that it is open to everyone regardless of age, race, or sex. Aliens are respected as part of this universe and by defacto all other human races and genders.

A lot of your questions seem to be about the logistics of pledges and money.  As stated in our press release, we plan to cover the budget but, “you can pledge an amount to have your voice heard.”  It is really about participation and showing that it is not just a handful of people who severely disliked The Last Jedi.  If you want to see these fans that we speak of, look at the money that is not being invested into the Star Wars franchise by the fans. No one can question the legitimacy of the financial losses that Disney has taken after The Last Jedi was released.

In regards to things that need addressing about The Last Jedi, hyperspace weaponry challenges the logic of the previous 8 movies as well as makes it very difficult to incorporate that into new Star Wars movies.  Force ghosts interacting with the natural world changes the nature of death in this universe and makes us question the previous movies as to why force ghosts were not more active. Making an entire movie exist as a stagnating chase scene isn’t compelling and disrupts the character arcs.  

Trying to use the finale of the 9-part Skywalker saga to fix the problems from The Last Jedi is a mistake.  Going back and remaking The Last Jedi is the only way to save the franchise.

CONVERSATIONS