In its opening weekend, J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens shattered box office records with a worldwide take of more than $500 million. Most assumed that the film would do stellar business, given the series’ built-in appeal and years of anticipation surrounding the franchise’s first release since Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012. Still, it remains to be seen if the “galaxy far, far away” is strong enough with the Force to usurp Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all time.
As it stands, the Star Wars series ranks as the third highest-grossing film franchise unadjusted for inflation, behind only the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Harry Potter series. Domestically, both the 1977 original Star Wars and 1999 entry Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace sit in the top 10. Meanwhile, The Force Awakens already ranks No. 96 after just one weekend of release. With critical praise and a warm response from fans, the film could be up to the task of topping Avatar, but a more interesting point to consider is whether it deserves the title.
Since its inception in the late 1970s, Star Wars became an instant pop cultural phenomenon, and even in the ensuing decades, the film and its sequels/prequels continue to inspire generations with larger-than-life characters, mythic adventure, and exhilarating spectacle. The franchise has always been one of the most accessible to moviegoers of all ages, tapping into the child within all of us and transporting us to another world. If only for a couple of hours, fans are right there with heroes like Luke Skywalker and The Force Awakens‘ Rey as they battle their inner demons in the never-ending struggle between good and evil.
Sure, film is a medium that can be used to elicit a wide range of emotions and make a great many statements about the human condition and the world around us. However, at its most basic level, cinema is about storytelling, reflecting larger themes in a fictional way that broad audiences can connect to both emotionally and on a more visceral level. Star Wars accomplishes both by packaging an unforgettable fantastical tale with ground-breaking visuals and sheer technical proficiency on virtually every level, from John Williams’ score to the art direction of the many worlds our heroes (and villains) visit.
Never has this perfect storm been quite so well encapsulated as it is in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The film is more than simply the next chapter in the story. It is a celebration of the franchise itself, one that has inspired generations of moviegoers to follow their own destiny. Even Abrams himself has named the original Star Wars a major inspiration on his work prior to helming the new film, and while The Force Awakens may not be a perfect movie, the series’ place in cinema history and pop culture in general cannot be topped.
With two of its predecessors already so close to the top of the all-time charts, it’s clear that history is on Star Wars‘ side. If one were to view the all-time top grosser as the embodiment of all that film has to offer on a grand scale, there’s no denying that a Star Wars film deserves to hold that position. So with the tremendous anticipation and resulting appreciation for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, its destiny becomes clear. Search your feelings. You know it to be true.
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