At the time of writing this, Star Wars: the force awakens: the seventh entry into the Star Wars franchise has made over 1.6 billion dollars at the international box office and it is expected to pull in more cash-with the coming weeks.
Some box office pundits/analysts expect it to topple the 2.7 billion dollars mark; figures which put James Cameron (Avatar) as number 1 at the international box office. However, despite this alarming figures and its record breaking run at every turn-there seems to be less surprise as it was well expected.
The numbers were accurately predicted by analysts as well as fans few weeks before its released-little wonder, there is a slight or virtually no surprise with its profits. You might say it’s because of its marketing and critical acclaim on Rotten Tomatoes with a tomato meter of 93%, but while the market angle can be clarified with ease, it’s still worth noting that the least critically-accepted film in the franchise: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace or Episode 1 still crossed the one billion dollar threshold, albeit with a lesser acceptance from fans and critics. Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (Episode 2) and Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Episode 3) failed to reach such heights, but still recorded monetary successes while it played at the Cineplexes. And prior to Episode 1, 2, and 3, Episode 4, 5 and 6: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi set a benchmark-in an earlier time period, which the later entries passed with ease.
Objectively, this article is going to address some of the factors that have helped this almost-forty-years-franchise retain its spot on the list-of-box-office-achievers.
THE GOOD/EVIL, LIGHT/DARK THEME.
The plot of the film takes place in a galaxy far, far, away and details how Luke Skywalker and the rebels battle against the Republic with figures like Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine at its helm, while the prequels delve into before-hand events highlighting the story of Luke Skywalker’s father, Anakin Skywalker and how he converts to the “dark side”. Noticeably, wherever there is a dark side, we can equally assume that there will always be a “light side” or the “light”.
Though this is never mentioned in the film with the Jedi and Sith representing both light and dark, the setup of the plot and characters posits individuals on both sides with infrequent cases of grey personalities or anti-heroes.
This theme of good and evil, hero and villain, even if well-trodden in many films is one of the central points which warms its way into the heart of viewers-having characters clearly on both sides. And it is not as if it just stops there, it evolves.
We see occurrences and personal struggles in which our heroes and villains are tempted to the other side and rare cases of redeemable defining points-all of which mirror our personal opinions and moral standing regarding our outlook to life in addition to how we overcome temptations thereby firmly sticking to our values.
THE UNDER-DOG STRUGGLES TO VICTORY
Tim Maleeny of fortune.com wrote “The basic idea is that timeless stories create feelings of empathy, turning the protagonist into a populist hero we can all relate to-making the hero’s quest our own.
That’s why the hero always encounters obstacles and sudden setbacks along the way-we may not be fighting a gorgon anytime soon, but our morning commute is bound to include some heroic challenges”. The above quote brings up the question: who doesn’t like an underdog story: one in which a hero claws above the rubble of near-defeat to a sky of absolute victory. The Star Wars franchise presents a basic premise of Rebels versus The Republic, in which the former is expected to lose: odds are against them. But a hero is conjured up in the person of Luke Skywalker and along the way he meets memorable characters like Obiwan Kenobi, Han Solo, Chewbacca and leia: other heroes, who all set out on a journey to defeat the republic.
It isn’t a one way ride without bumps- with several setbacks and unfortunate incidences on their mission-mostly threatening to thwart their efforts and once-in-a-while success. But with each impediment, there is always a comeback to be relished-quenching fears of all-they-have-fought-for-is-for-nothing. I don’t need to be clearer on how this parallels real life scenarios of failure and success. There is always a challenge with passing an exam, adapting to a new environment-more so with little things like picking the right dress for an outing or even writing this article, but the greater the challenge, the more relishing of the victory when it comes. Life comes with demanding situations, which we will ultimately conquer with the right amount of fortitude. The Star Wars franchise subtly preaches that!
IT IS A FRANCHISE.
Thirdly, the success of the Star Wars Franchise can be attributed to it being a franchise with a story that over-arcs through several films piquing viewer’s interest to see the end result and fate of adored characters. Investopedia.com listed Star Wars as the third most successful franchise with revenue of 4 billion dollars (excluding the seventh entry: Star Wars: the force awakens).
Though not a thing during the time it was released (The Franchise thingy), but by every definition the Star Wars is a core example of it with seven films currently in its portfolio. Some film stories require that they not be told in just 2 hours of film time, but stretch out during different entries-each entry beginning with the ending point of its predecessor except for the first. It started in 1977 with A New Hope, 1980 brought forth The Empire Strikes back and in 1983, Return of the Jedi. And given the achievement of these, the prequels were visited upon albeit critically less received-The Phantom Menace in 1999, The Clone Wars in 2002 and Revenge of the Sith in 2005.
Star Wars: the force awakens is the latest entry-and draining people’s pockets. It all goes to say that a franchise can be very successful if done well and box office wise, it means each film is a guaranteed profit (even for stinkers like the Transformers franchise).
Ask me who my favourite character in the Star Wars Universe is. My reply would be Master Yoda. If you ask me why-I would tell you because he is the best swordsman in the Star Wars Universe-he embodies everything a Jedi should be: all wise, all knowing , and lest I forget, the way he speaks: “Into exile I go” or “In him, the force is strong” while tilting his wrinkled green face upward-eyes closed. Well, that’s just me. Ask other Star Wars fans who their favourite characters are and the answers will vary from one individual to another.
The reason is not far-fetched because a galaxy far, far away presents an interesting array of characters, personalities and individuals, which an avid fan would compare to him/her self or hope to become. I am not a dwarf, I am not green and it’s not as if my I.Q is in the top most range, but given a chance to exist in that universe, I would choose to be Master Yoda because of the aforementioned traits. With each film and apart from the main characters of Luke, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, Darth Vader, C3-PO and R2-D2 (Which are quite likeable already), there is always an interesting personality that this galaxy far, far away presents, which usually strikes a chord with film goers be it a protagonist (Lando Calrissian, Obiwan Kenobi), antagonist (Darth Maul, Boba Fett), the droids: BB-8, R2-D2 and C3-PO or even other sentient beings (Jabba the Hut) in that universe.
The possibilities are just endless for this franchise. I am quite sure that even the much loathed Jar Jar Binks has his willing followers.
This is a franchise that kicked off in 1977 with Star Wars: A New Hope and its seventh film is currently showing at the cinemas: Star Wars: the force awakens-already having broke several records at the box office. Each paragraph above digs deeper why this will always remain beloved in the heart of fans. Of course, some other reasons like marketing, merchandising: toys and co, or even the light saber duels and its space aura can also be ascribed for its success, but all wouldn’t have been possible if the first film wasn’t given a chance by an objective audience.
Moreover, the journey to its pop-culture and revered status in society hasn’t been all triumph as most fans can’t seem to quell the bitter taste the prequels left in their mouths. Nevertheless, there were still devotees who stood behind it-during its sunny and stormy weathers. This article doesn’t take into consideration the prequels, but the original films and why it struck a chord with its audience.
The latest film, both critically and financially is successful-thanks to the director incorporating those features which made the first film successful and treasured by the Star Wars aficionados. And if the next 5 planned movies in the franchise stick to its winning formula, then a time might come when we will just shrug off at news of it crossing the 3 billion dollars mark at the box office.