Coco, your three week reign at the top of the box office is over. Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens this weekend and it doesn’t take a genius to predict that it will dominate the box office over the next several weeks. Every movie in the Star Wars franchise has been the number one movie for the year at the box office except for Attack of the Clones. Last Jedi is going to be the number one movie this year. That’s the easy part. What’s a little harder is predicting whether Last Jedi will be a step up or a step back from Star Wars: The Force Awakens in terms of quality. I have an opinion but first a little history.
The original trilogy was launched in 1977. When it was first released Star Wars: A New Hope was known just as Star Wars. It didn’t have a lot of pretensions beyond that. It went on to become a cultural phenomenon, a monster hit at the box office, and a force at the Academy Awards with ten nominations and four wins. It is the only movie in the franchise to earn a major nomination (Best Picture). The rest is history.
Here are the objective “really like” probabilities for the original trilogy:
|Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope||1977||76.58%|
|Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back||1980||76.58%|
|Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi||1983||74.89%|
While Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back matches A New Hope’s “really like probability”, Empire Strikes Back has a slight objective edge. It has an IMDB rating of 8.8 compared to an 8.7 for A New Hope. Empire Strikes Back also is 94% Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes while A New Hope is 93% Certified Fresh. Return of the Jedi, although a notch below the first two movies, is a worthy cap to one of the great trilogies of all time.
A new trilogy that filled in the history of the beloved characters from the original trilogy seemed like a good idea. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace shows that good ideas can quickly turn into bad ideas if the execution is flawed. Phantom Menace almost killed the franchise. Phantom Menace had a worldwide box office gross of over $1 billion. The next movie in the trilogy, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, dropped to $650 million worldwide despite being a better movie than Phantom Menace. It is the only movie in the franchise to earn a Rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. For me, the introduction of the obnoxious character Jar Jar Binks totally turned me off to the whole trilogy. The objective “really like” results for the prequel reflect the drop in quality.
|Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace||1999||69.51%|
|Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones||2002||71.01%|
|Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith||2005||73.74%|
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith put the franchise back on the path to recovery. It got solid reviews and fan feedback and the worldwide box office recovered its mojo with over $850 million and a number one ranking.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens continues the story of the original trilogy. Many felt it was too derivative. It was too much like A New Hope. Another way of looking at it was that it returned the franchise to its roots. However you look at it, though, it was very well done. Only A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back has a higher Objective “Really Like” Probability.
|Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens||2015||75.26%|
|Star Wars: The Last Jedi||2017||75.93%|
|Star Wars: Episode IX||2019||?|
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is off to a good start based on early feedback from moviegoers and critics. Its objective probability is running a little ahead of The Force Awakens so far.
The second movies of the two prior trilogies both stepped up from the first movies. In each of the first movies there is early success for good over evil. In the second movies, it is the Dark Side that is ascendant. It may be that the rise of evil presents more interesting story lines than the triumph of good.
I try to avoid reviews before I see a movie and so I don’t know where the plot heads in The Last Jedi. I suspect that it will follow the Dark Side ascendant theme. This allows for more interesting plot twists and in the end will raise the movie to a step up from the original in the trilogy. At least, that is what I expect.