However you feel about this movie, there’s at least one thing you cannot deny. From a financial standpoint, Star Wars: The Force Awakens did very well. It released 10 years after Revenge of the Sith, and after the prequel reputation held down a bunch of Star Wars fans, the promise that this movie would return the movie to form got people excited. It helped that Lawrence Kasdan, who co-wrote The Empire Strikes Back, was the lead writer.
Like the last few posts, I’ll be writing this under the assumption that you’ve seen this movie, because I’ve got a lot of thoughts to get through and I don’t want to make this too long. I also won’t be talking about the behind the scenes info too much, because again, it’s worth just watching the documentaries if you’re interested.
The Force Awaken’s initial budget was $306 million, however Star Wars is such a big name that instead of paying for product placement, companies will pay money to get Star Wars on their products. That’s how huge this franchise has become. Despite spending #306 million on the movie’s production, post production and advertisement, the movie only cost Disney $258 million. The movie also generated hundreds of millions in merchandise alone within months of its release.
But the real kicker is how well the movie performed in both theaters and on home media. The movie set numerous box office records, most of which haven’t yet been beaten. It grossed $529 million on opening weekend. It holds the record for biggest IMAX opening weekend, at $48 million. It holds the record for biggest single day IMAX worldwide gross, at $17.7 million. It’s the fastest IMAX movie to earn $100 million, in 12 days. The previous record holder, Jurassic World, took 18 days. It surpassed Avatar as the top grossing movie domestically, and also became the fastest highest grossing film as well, doing so in 20 days. Avatar actually took 318 days to reach that mark, after a 2010 re-release.
On opening week, The Force Awakens broke the daily record for every day of the week but Wednesday. It’s also the fastest ever movie to reach $1 billion worldwide, reaching that mark in 12 days. Overall, it sold the most tickets for any movie since Titanic. And when The Force Awakens released on DVD and Blu-ray, it not only topped the charts, but it outsold the 2nd to 20th spots on the list combined. I could go on, but you get the point.
With all that said, financial success doesn’t make a movie good. If that were the case, than the first four Transformers movies could all be called great movies. And like I said in my first Star Wars movie post, the beginning of a new trilogy isn’t just a movie release; it’s a cultural event. But this movie was received overwhelmingly positive by critics. It received a number of award nominations, including 5 nominations at the Academy Awards. All of which were for either technical aspects or sound, but still. For some reason, it didn’t win the Oscar for Best Visual Effects. It’s actually the only movie in history to earn that award at both Bafta and The Visual Effects Society Awards, but not the Academy Awards.
While I too very much enjoyed this movie when it first came out, my thoughts have changed in the last 2 years. I still like this movie. I like the characters it introduces. In fact, I stand by my post from a few years ago arguing that Rey is not a Mary Sue, which I might expand on a bit when we get to The Last Jedi. I like most of the action – it has arguably the best lightsaber fight since Darth Maul when you consider how overly long the Anakin vs Obi-Wan fight is. But the movie’s biggest problem is that it borrows from A New Hope too much.
Sure, I agree that this movie needed to get back to the classic Star Wars formula to move forward. I agree that it had just the right level of fan service while still focusing on the new cast. But this is the third Death Star type story in 7 movies (you could even argue that the Droid Control Ship from The Phantom Menace is also a Death Star-like battle). While the “cantina” scene had a different feel and tone from the original, it doesn’t help one try to fight the “ripoff” accusations.
As much as John Williams is always brilliant, this might contain the weakest original soundtrack in the episodic movies. Sure, Rey’s theme is fantastic, the Resistance theme is fun, and The First Order’s theme is just the right level of sinister, with its slight off-time feel to match Kylo Ren’s unhinged emotional state. But then you’ve got completely phoned in moments like the rathtar scene. That moment in the soundtrack feels like it belongs in a cheap horror movie, not a Star Wars epic.
I also agree that this movie doesn’t explain nearly enough of what’s going on in the background. In fact it’s my biggest complaint with the movie. We know nothing about the Hosnian system that Starkiller base destroys. Sure, we didn’t see Alderaan before the Death Star blew it up, but you at least cared a little because Leia did. We know nothing about this New Republic. We don’t even know much about the conflict between The Resistance and The First Order. All we know is that the First Order is preparing for some major advancements, and that destroying the Hosnian system is a big part of their plan. That’s not a lot to go on. Even the expanded material haven’t given us all that much about the Hosnian system, why the Republic chose that over Coruscant, or why we should care.
Instead, all we get are these one-off lines that hint at stories that I’m sure are worth telling. We get Rey’s force vision that raises more questions than it answers. We get Maz directly telling Han that she’ll tell him how she acquired Luke’s family lightsaber another time. In some ways this movie feels more like an advertisement of things to come than it does a complete movie. And unless Lucasfilm can plug a good chunk of these holes quickly, that’s going to be a serious problem. The longer Lucasfilm waits to explain these elements, the harder it will be to satisfy anyone.
But I still like this movie. In fact, I think it’s a better movie than Return of the Jedi. The pacing is more even. Its tone is a lot more consistent. Harrison Ford doesn’t feel like he’s phoning in his performance, when it felt like he did in Return of the Jedi. I’m not sure which of these movies I prefer personally, but I’m willing to argue that it’s the better movie from a pure filmmaking aspect despite its flaws.
This movie did make me worry that new Lucasfilm owners, Disney, were going to play it a bit too safe with the franchise. Well, it’s safe to say that The Last Jedi threw those concerns out the window. How do I feel about that one months after release? You’ll see soon enough.
Next up is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Then it’s The Last Jedi, followed by those mystery posts I promised. I’m not trying to hype them up as something special or revolutionary by the way – I just want them to be a surprise.