An entire fandom imploded in on itself following the release of the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Millions tuned into Monday Night Football to catch it during halftime, following soon thereafter by the official release of ticket sales. The demand then became so high, that virtually every major seller, including Fandango, crashed for hours. Needless to say, a lot of people want to see this movie, and it’s been a long time coming. Many fans even see it as an opportunity for the franchise’s redemption, especially in the face of the largely disappointing prequels.
With all this, it’s clear that the stakes are high: A stellar movie proves the potential for a series of films that many say peaked with The Empire Strikes Back. A flop sets the tone for Disney/Lucasfilm’s entire slate of planned films. Even amidst the excitement over the full-length trailers, many have cautioned against optimism, citing the similar feeling we all had pre-Phantom Menace. Deadspin went so far as to publish a couple thousand words on the subject, positing the question, “What if the new Star Wars sucks too?”
Two great movies, one mediocre one, and three of the worst major motion pictures ever made. The odds are against The Force Awakens. Minimum bet is the cost of one movie ticket, and I kinda feel like a sucker already. But I’ve already bought two.
It’s a solid point to make on all accounts. A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back were sci-fi classics, Return of the Jedi less so, and prequel trilogy was wildly underwhelming. From a sheer numbers perspective, Deadspin is right: The odds are stacked up against the new Star Wars.
But it’s not simply a numbers game. Deadspin’s article neglects one important factor: George Lucas. He started out as a filmmaker who had nothing but some broken models and a pretty cool space story, and from that artistic struggle came three of the most influential sci-fi movies ever made. It’s worthwhile to note that Lucas started out as a talented filmmaker, and slowly but surely got worse and worse at his job. That’s not the fault of the Star Wars story as much as it is Lucas’s own late-onset hackiness.
“Remember how the prequels sucked even though you were excited?” is definitely a cautionary tale, but also a false distinction to draw. People were excited for the prequels because two-thirds of the original Star Wars movies were brilliant, and then the prequels were bad because George Lucas spent 30 years slowly but surely getting rid of all of the people who challenged him to be better creatively. We can feel optimistic for the new trilogy not just because of the awesome new trailers, but because a skilled sci-fi filmmaker is at the helm, and because the studio in charge has made a concerted effort to honor the original spirit of A New Hope and Empire.
In the face of many fans already declaring The Force Awakens the best of the Star Wars saga without even seeing the film itself, it would still serve us to temper our expectations. Small parts of what made the prequels so disappointing were our sky-high expectations, and bringing our Force Awakens hopes down to a more realistic level would serve us well. Yes, the numbers seem overwhelmingly against the possibility of redemption. But in the words of Han Solo, “never tell me the odds.”
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