Expectations Are High For Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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 few 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.

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.

 

IMDB Can Be a Trivial Pursuit

Recently I watched Lethal Weapon 2 for the second time. After rating a movie, I like to read a critic’s review, oftentimes a Roger Ebert review, and click on the trivia link on the IMDB sidebar. The trivia link is a good way to gather some behind the scenes information about the movie.

Recently I watched Lethal Weapon 2 for the second time. After rating a movie, I like to read a critic’s review, a Roger Ebert review if available, and click on the trivia link on the IMDB sidebar. The trivia link is a good way to gather some behind the scenes information about the movie. From the Lethal Weapon 2 trivia link, I learned that Shane Black’s original screenplay was darker and resulted in Martin Riggs’ (Mel Gibson) death at the end of the movie. Both Warner Bros. and Richard Donner, the Director, refused to kill off Riggs which would have meant the end of the profitable franchise. Shane Black, however, refused to change the script and left the project. He went on to screen write Iron Man 3 and is working on the remake of The Predator scheduled to be released in 2018. The Lethal Weapon franchise went on to produce Lethal Weapon 3 & 4, which took in a combined worldwide box office of close to $600,000,000. It isn’t the first time, or the last time, that the art of making movies lost out to the business of making movies.

Here is some additional trivia from some of your movie favorites:

  • The Shawshank Redemption, which is the number one movie on IMDB’s Top 250 Movies list, took in only a very modest theater box office of $28,ooo,ooo before becoming one of the all time leaders in the video rental market.
  • Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro are the only actors ever to win Academy Awards playing the same character (Vito Corleone) in two different movies (The Godfather, The Godfather Part II)
  • Christopher Lee, who played Saruman in the Lord of the Rings trilogy read the Lord of the Rings books every year from the year they were published in 1954 until the year he died in 2015.
  • In the Star Wars movies, Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia) had to stand on a box for many of her scenes with Harrison Ford (Han Solo) because he was 6’1” tall and she was only 5’1″.
  • For the movie Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks agreed to not take a salary to help control the production costs of the movie. Instead he agreed to percentage points which netted him $40,000,000.
  • When the Wachowskis were pitching The Matrix to Warner, they proposed a budget of $80,000,000. Warner would only agree to a budget of $10,000,000. The Wachowskis spent all $10,000,000 on the 10 minute opening scene with Carrie-Anne Moss and went back to Warner and showed them the first ten minutes. Based on those 10 minutes, Warner approved the entire $80,000,000 budget.
  • In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, the script required George Bailey’s future wife, Mary Hatch played by Donna Reed, to break a window by throwing a rock through the window. Director Frank Capra hired a marksman to shoot out the window on cue. To everyone’s surprise, Donna Reed threw the rock through the window on the first take. Capra didn’t realize that Donna Reed was an accomplished baseball player in high school with a strong arm.
  • For Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg cast Matt Damon as Private Ryan because of his All-American looks and more importantly because he was a relatively unknown actor. A few months before the movie opened in July 1998, Spielberg’s unknown actor won an Academy Award for Good Will Hunting and became an overnight A-List actor.
  • The iconic scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where the flamboyant swordsmen starts whipping around his sword and Indiana Jones pulls out his gun and shoots him, wasn’t in the script. Harrison Ford was supposed to knock the sword out of the swordsmen’s hand with his whip. Because a virus had infected Ford and much of the crew, they were having trouble executing the stunt. Finally Harrison Ford suggested “shooting the sucker”. The result was a scene that is ingrained in the memories of film fans ever since.

If you’ve had some fun with these trivial movie facts, visit IMDB and try out the trivia link for your favorite movies. Or, you can just wait for the next time that we play Trivial Pursuit with IMDB on this site.