March 8, 2018

“I’ve Got a Bad Feeling about This”: Trouble in a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Sam Lurie ‘19

Note: This article contains spoilers for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

December's “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” had Death Star-sized expectations to fill.
It’s predecessor, 2015’s “The Force Awakens” became the highest-grossing film in North America, the fastest film to gross $1 billion, the highest grossing Disney release and the third-highest grossing film of all time, not to mention it’s critical and popular acclaim, garnering a 93 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and five Academy Awards nominations. In hindsight, “The Last Jedi” seemed doomed to somewhat disappoint.    
It the weeks leading up to the release of “The Last Jedi,” box office analysts and statisticians waited with bated breath to see if the newest chapter in the Star Wars saga would be as strong as “The Force Awakens.” All the while, fans carefully dissected the trailers and promotional material, desperate for some sliver of a clue as to the answers of the most pressing questions asked in the previous film: Who is the new villain, Snoke? And who are the parents of the new protagonist, Rey?
“The Last Jedi” opened to incredible box office success, but not at the same caliber as “The Force Awakens.” It had the second-highest domestic opening weekend of all time and second-highest opening day box office gross – both behind “The Force Awakens” – and as of January 14, it is 10th-highest grossing film of all time (“The Force Awakens” is number three).  These supposed shortcomings as well as the new film’s record as the biggest ever sequel to sequel drop off at the box office have led some to call the film a box office failure or disappointment.
While this may be overdramatizing, the film’s performance in China, the country which contributes the second largest box office revenue, is almost pathetic. “The Last Jedi” earned a measly $9.4 million opening day, with a whopping 94 percent drop off the next week. Most Chinese theatres actually started to pull the movie early, in favor of big Chinese hits like “The Ex-File: Return of the Exes” and “Jumanji.”
On the up side for “The Last Jedi,” it has performed very well critically, with a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes.  However, unlike the warm reception that “The Force Awakens” received, “The Last Jedi” has been divisive. While some fans (like myself) praise “The Last Jedi” for its treatment of the characters, unexpected twists, and emotional weight, others criticize it for diverting too far from the feel and in-universe rules of the previous Star Wars films. Many also feel that “The Last Jedi” did not deliver on the promises of “The Force Awakens,” by killing off Snoke before the audience learned anything about him and by revealing Rey’s parents were nobodies, unconnected to any previously established Star Wars characters. These opinions have given “The Last Jedi” a 49 percent audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest of any Star Wars movie.  
Disney and Lucasfilm have undoubtedly become slightly worried or unsure about the future of the franchise based on these reactions, feelings definitely exacerbated by the upcoming Han Solo spinoff movie. For a long time, “Solo: A Star Wars Story” has been troubled.  Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired after filming the majority of the movie due to creative differences with Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. Reports have also surfaced that Solo has an “unworkable script” and that an acting coach had to be brought on for star Alden Ehrenreich, who reportedly “can’t act.”  Even more agitating for Disney is that the release date of potential mega-hit “Deadpool 2” has been moved to a week before Solo, possibly stealing audience members from the space scoundrel.

“The Force Awakens” and spin off “Rogue One” seemed to prove Star Wars as an unstoppable force, but if the problems and controversies like the ones surrounding “The Last Jedi” and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” continue, the force may not stay awake for as long as we thought.  

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