SPOILERS FOLLOW. Please don’t read until after you have seen The Last Jedi.
Even as a lifelong Star Wars fan, I absolutely adored The Last Jedi. Its pace, self-reflective humor, incredible action set pieces, evolved performances and the surprising fates of Snoke, Luke and ‘broom boy’ were all rewarding in their unexpected nature, which hint at new directions while freshly transitioning away from the legacy that came before. I had issue with moments such as Leia’s Mary Poppins revelation and some of the Finn/Rose journey, but overall appreciate how the first recognises Leia’s innate force sensitivity and the latter helped to establish the ‘class war’ nature of the battle that is sure to take place in Episode IX. Other long-time fans, however, appear to have been deeply offended by how Rian Johnson and team handled Luke’s personality, Rey’s rapid force mastery, Snoke’s identity, Rey’s parentage, Rose’s role and other aspects of the film. While it’s fine to be critical, many have expressed their anger with a sense of vitriol.
Why is it that some fans have responded this way, and driven the Rotten Tomatoes’ fan score for the film into territory that differs so greatly from the ultra-fresh score it acquired from film critics? The video below attempts to uncover what elements of the film triggered such an emotive, divisive fan response, and looks into whether this was fully justified, or could be indicative of an early over-reaction.
The following news report provides a beautifully whimsical insight into the buzz surrounding the original release of Return of the Jedi, and what Lawrence Kasdan and George Lucas had revealed at that point about their future plans for the saga. As someone who was lucky enough to attend a 1983 screening of the third (at that point, possibly the final) Star Wars film, I recall the palpable excitement that precipitated the film’s release. Now part of a well-oiled marketing machine, the merchandising, supporting stories and media buzz about the film was something rarely experienced at the time and it truly felt as though fans were part of a worldwide cultural phenomenon.
A number of interesting sights and tidbits appear within this report, including Harrison Ford suggesting that he was happy to permanently hang up Han Solo’s outfit, an uber-fan queuing up in a rare “Revenge of the Jedi” t-shirt, other fans hinting at the desire for prequel films and early talk about the nine-film story arc that had been drafted in rough form by that stage.
This is a lovely flashback, that will take older fans back to their childhoods and provide newer fans with some understanding as to how significant the Original Trilogy was in the popular culture of its time.
Many of the most iconic pieces of pop culture from the 1980s sprang from the vivid imagination of George Lucas. Those who grew up in that era were no doubt heavily influenced by the original Star Wars trilogy, by Indiana Jones and perhaps even George’s smaller fantasy works, such as Willow.
If the following video is any indication, however, it seems that George is still reeling from the hammering he received from fans upon the release of the prequel trilogy. Those films, while visually spectacular, suffered from a lack of charm, heart and evocative performances, so it’s understandable that fans of the original series felt that the saga had lost some of its magic. At the same time, it’s unfortunate if the lack of love shown towards Jar-Jar Binks is what has deflated George’s passion for the Star Wars Universe.
The latest installment of the Star Wars saga – The Force Awakens – has been well received by critics and fans alike. Achieving that balance could not have been as easy task for Lawrence Kasdan, JJ Abrams, the old and new performance crews and new owners of the franchise, Disney.
In reclaiming much of the magic of the original trilogy, The Force Awakens has managed to excite three generations of moviegoers. This multi-generational appeal and the huge word of mouth attraction generated by a series that has become a major pop cultural artifact has the movie on track to become perhaps the biggest box office success in cinema history.
While box office receipts still put classics such as Gone With the Wind on top when adjusted for population and changes in currency valuation, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, James Cameron’s Avatar and Titanic currently rule the roost in the first and second positions. There are still only 24 films that have ever exceeded $1 billion in worldwide box office receipts, with Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace previously the best performer of the Star Wars franchise, in position #21. The Phantom Menace took in $1.027 billion in total.
Amazingly, The Force Awakens has already blitzed past all other Star Wars films and is close to cracking the top ten, with $1.086 billion racked up so far. What’s most impressive about this is that it accomplished this figure within just 12 days of debut, and without having launched in China (the world’s most populous nation) as yet. No other movie has ever exceeded $1 billion in 12 days – through Jurassic World made it there in just 13.
Given that Jurassic World nestled into position #3 on the all-time box office rankings after its strong run, there is a very good chance that school holidays, the China release, and continued positive press will propel The Force Awakens above that position. It would need to bring in $1.7 billion to do so, but an epic $2.8 billion would be required to topple Avatar from the top spot – which that film achieved largely because it was such a bold pioneer into the 3D cinema experience space.
No doubt Disney executives and investors are feeling a sense of deep relief that their $4 billion investment into acquiring Lucasfilm was money well spent. Fans are also no doubt feeling the love, given that this film has shaken off the shackles of the mixed reception that the prequel trilogy attracted.
We wish the film all the best in securing its position towards the top of the all-time box office list in the weeks to come.
Luring the classic stars of the “original trilogy” back for a triumphant return in The Force Awakens was always going to be a challenge. While the Star Wars films had largely defined the careers of Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford’s extensive experience as a leading man in the thirty years since Return of the Jedi and his reluctance to continue his smuggler role likely made his return a more tenuous proposition.
Episode VII would never have achieved quite the level of fan satisfaction that it has if Chewie and Han Solo were written out, so Harrison’s involvement is something that needed to be secured at any cost – and that appears to be exactly what transpired. While his performance in A New Hope reportedly netted Mr Ford something in the vicinity of $10,000, his fee for The Force Awakens is said to be in excess of $34,000,000, an could rise as high as $50,000,000 depending on the film’s box office performance; since he is taking home a 0.5% slice of the film’s profits on top of his appearance fee.
Given that the film is on track to bringing in a cool $1 billion in the 12 days since its release, this hefty investment was arguably both wise and necessary. The significance of Han Solo’s defining role in The Force Awakens cannot be understated, and his presence has helped to bridge the generational gap between the Lucasfilm era and the universe’s revitalization under Disney.
The roles occupied by Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher were less significant in this episode. They each netted between $1-$3 million, while the leading newcomers Daisy Ridley and John Boyega are said to have taken home only about half a million each. With their stars well and truly on the rise thanks to the success of this film, no doubt they will command a larger slice of the pie as the tale continues in the years to come.