Non-Spoilericious Notes On THE LAST JEDI
The Last Jedi is not doing nearly as well as Disney hoped / expected.
This is not the result of bad word of mouth.
Rather, people just don’t want to see the picture.
At least not in movie theaters.
We’ll see how it fares on
VOD / streaming / home video.
Part of the reason is that The Force Awakens was an unknown, and as such audiences came to it with a much higher sense of anticipation.
I mean, Lucas’ three prequels were dreadful, despite their big box office nobody really liked them.
They only came to the prequels because most fans had given up all hope of seeing new Star Wars films by that point.
But the bitter disappointment of the prequels gave The Force Awakens an eager audience: People who wanted to se more Star Wars…
…just so long as George Lucas wasn’t involved in it.
The Force Awakens, while not great, was a vast improvement over the prequels and felt like a worthy successor to the original trilogy (and by “original trilogy” we mean the original Han shoots first version of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and the Jabba the Hutt scenes in Return Of The Jedi).
But The Force Awakens wasn’t a smash hit with audiences. Killing Han Solo was not a good idea (especially since Carrie Fisher passed away). Rogue One looked technically proficient but ended up as a massive downer with some CGI fan service thrown in.
So now that audiences know what the new Star Wars creative team is capable of, they’re not as enthusiastic.
They don’t hate it…
…they just don’t love it.
Add to that the problem of overkill:
Not only are we getting a major Star Wars movie every year, we’re also getting TV shows and video games and novels and toys and tchotchkes and all sorts of crap aimed at squeezing every last fart out of the buffalo on the back of the nickel.
And there’s competition from Star Trek and Orville and Valarian and inexplicably from Disney competing with its own damn self via the Guardians Of The Galaxy and the more cosmic Marvel movies and you pretty much hit the saturation point where audiences go, “Y’know, I don’t have to see another space opera for a long, long time…”
Happened with spy movies in the 1960s.
Happened with Westerns in the 1950s.
Disney is killing the goose that lays the golden eggs by force feeding it growth hormones.
I can’t think of an ongoing theatrical film series that changed out the cast of characters and kept going.
I’m not talking rebooting / recasting / reimagining / remaking movies with previously existing characters ala Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan, James Bond, Batman, Charlie Chan, etc., etc., and of course, etc.
I’m talking about a series of films that tells one lengthy story but cycles out the original characters for new ones.
(The old movie How The West Was Won did so in a single film by showing a multi-generational family story set against the history of the American West, but audiences knew that going in; they weren’t disappointed that Jimmy Stewart didn’t make it to the end of the movie since the story covered more than half a century.)
Audiences have a lot of emotional investment in the original Star Wars characters: Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, R2D2, C3P0, even Obi-Wan and Yoda and Darth Vader. Killing off core cast members is perfectly acceptable -- but the story has to end at that point.
Carrying on with the descendants of the original characters almost never works (and Son Of Frankenstein isn’t nearly as good as the original Frankenstein. [Bride Of Frankenstein works because the original doctor and monster survived to be in the sequel.]).
Historians -- film / pop / political -- are going to be analyzing the Star Wars films for generations to come.
There is no question there is a tight correlation between the Star Wars movies and current American political events.
The question is whether the Star Wars movies reflect American political tides or if they influenced them in any fashion.
It’s easy to be dismissive of a flashy popular story, but that’s the way really profound messages get delivered to mass audiences.
Did Star Wars co-opt current political concepts, or did current politics co-opt Star Wars concepts?
The Last Jedi doesn’t have “rebels” but rather a resistance.
No, strike that -- it has THE Resistance.
It’s the most political of all the Star Wars films, and it lays the blames for the ill of the galaxy squarely at the feet and pseudopods of an economy where the wealthiest exploit the rest by constantly stirring up conflict.
(That could also be a contributing explanation to The Last Jedi’s lackluster box office: Too many Star Wars fans also belong to the alt-right.)
Don’t be hasty to overlook the impact of seeming casual lines and scenes in popular entertainment drastically affecting the society as a whole.
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier’s “Why does God need a spaceship?” probably got more people to start thinking seriously about their religion that any scholarly tome.
It got them to question the pat, unsatisfactory, and self-serving answers organized religion dishes out to anyone who challenges the status quo.
And when organized religion’s answers didn’t satisfy them, millions of people started voting on religion with their feet.
The Final Frontier didn’t change anybody’s mind…
…but it sure made it easier for those minds to change.
© Buzz Dixon