Ever since we first saw the initial teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, hopes have run high. Honestly, who can blame fans? The prequel trilogy of the early ’00s hasn’t withstood the test of time, and people are clamoring for some redemption. Disney’s $4 billion buyout of Lucasfilm marked a new era for the franchise, ushering a host of new canon in the form of books, comics, and an additional animated series. The assumption when they tagged J.J. Abrams as the director for The Force Awakens was that the days of George Lucas’s flat, heavy-handed approach were at an end.
Because Episode VII represents the first Star Wars film in 10 years, the expectations are sky high. Until recently, we haven’t been truly able to quantify the extent of this. Thanks to a Variety poll though, we now know just how out of control things have gotten. The poll tells us that upwards of 63% of fans expect The Force Awakens to be the best Star Wars movie ever made, an astronomical number when you consider the fact that we still don’t even know the story or plot points.
Can we say with some amount of confidence that the new Star Wars will be markedly better than Lucas’s prequel trilogy? Early returns say yes, but to hope for the best the franchise has ever given us only sets audiences up for disappointment. Without knowing anything of the plot, characters, or even feel, it’s hard to make predictions on anything outside of sheer hope. The prequels went a long way toward setting the bar low; now, it would appear as though we’ve kicked the bar up into the stratosphere.
Interestingly enough, 36% of fans in Variety‘s poll are most excited for “more advanced CGI.” The main issues surrounding the prequel trilogy were rooted in the excessive use of green screens and special effects. To show a commitment toward a movement back toward the more practical effects of the original films, the studio even released a behind-the-scenes video at San Diego Comic-Con promising as much. It makes it that much more peculiar that the same fans who think The Force Awakens will top the Star Wars mountain, are the ones hoping for the same elements that doomed the prequels.
What’s important now is that we temper our excitement in the midst of Star Wars mania. Disney and Lucasfilm have gone out of their way to build hype to a boiling point in the months leading up. Every month, something new surfaces, whether it’s a series of new toys and product tie-ins, or yet another addition to the new canon novels. It’s a marketing strategy made to send fans into a frenzy, and for all intents and purposes, it’s working like gangbusters. That being so, it’s OK to be excited about The Force Awakens. But maybe, just maybe, it would serve us all well to send expectations down from “THIS WILL BE THE GREATEST THING EVER MADE” to “I expect this will be a fun, enjoyable two hours of my life.”
Establishing a reasonable baseline can in turn help us as fans evaluate The Force Awakens on a scale that makes sense. Instead of trying to determine whether it or not it outstripped The Empire Strikes Back, we can talk about what made it a truly good film independent of its source material. We can first answer the question “Was this a good movie?” before moving on to the expectation that this will be the greatest thing to come out Lucasfilm in over 30 years. There are plenty of reasons to be excited for the new Star Wars. Just be sure to set the bar somewhere that won’t have us all disappointed in the end.
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