“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has grossed USD $ 1.2 billion worldwide. That is an incredible feat, or so you would think. Weirdly enough, many still consider “The Last Jedi” to be a box office disappointment. Some even call it a box office failure. Initially, it seemed like the only ones spewing nonsense on Social Media, were DC fanboys, who kept comparing it to the so-called Box Office ‘success’ that is “Justice League”, and also Star Wars fans who hate the movie — “I told you this movie sucks! Look, it didn’t make money.”
Then Rob Cain of Forbes published an article, comparing “The Last Jedi” to other ‘biggest losers’ of Hollywood like “X-Men: First Class”, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales”, “Jurassic Park: The Lost World”, “Ice Age: Collision Course” and “Transformers: The Last Knight”.
The article brings up an interesting fact, in that “The Last Jedi” is the biggest ever sequel-to-sequel plunge. But Cain also made a bunch of bold statements that are far too simplistic and perhaps even, inaccurate. Here’s a couple of
bold ridiculous statements he made in his article:
- “The Last Jedi” a “record holder for global box office mediocrity.”
- It’s as if Disney invested a huge amount of money to get Albert Pujols in his prime, and after a 47 home run season, the next year he hit 28. Sure, you could argue that for most players, 28 home runs would be great. But for Albert Pujols in his prime, it stinks.
- Disney didn’t pay hundreds of millions for production costs and marketing to make a movie that will earn nearly 40 percent less than its predecessor.
Here’s why he’s wrong.
Did Oxford change the meaning of ‘mediocrity’?
As of right now, there are only 32 movies in the entire history of cinema that are part of the prestigious, sometimes outrageous — seriously, “Minions”? — billion-dollar club. “The Last Jedi” is currently in 13th place, with a very high possibility of it placing in the top 10 by the end of its run.
Has the meaning of the term ‘mediocrity’ changed? Nope, just checked. It hasn’t. If there are ONLY 32 movies that have grossed $US 1 billion worldwide and (currently) ONLY 12 movies have made more money than “The Last Jedi”, how is that a mediocre achievement?
There are experts who say that a movie needs to make twice its production budget before starting to see actual profits. Using that logic and assuming “The Last Jedi” has a production budget of $US 300 million (“The Force Awakens” had a production budget of $US 250 million), “The Last Jedi” has already made a $US 600 million profit. How many movies in history can brag that they’ve made that large a profit? That alone proves that the eighth episode of the Star Wars franchise isn’t box office mediocrity.
The Force Awakens isn’t the standard bearer, it is an anomaly.
Here’s a sports analogy to counter Rob Cain’s. Imagine Manchester United buying Neymar to score 30 goals in a single Premier League season, only to see him score 50. “The Force Awakens” came and conquered. It smashed box office records. It is one of THREE movies that have grossed $US 2 billion — the other two being “Avatar” with $US 2.7 billion and “Titanic” with $US 2.1 billion.
If you expected “The Last Jedi” to make as much money as “The Force Awakens”, you’re unrealistically optimistic. “The Force Awakens” didn’t gross $US 2 billion because it’s a great movie (though that definitely helped). It grossed $US 2 billion because it had EVERYTHING going for it.
The legend of Star Wars –
It had been 32 years since the last, GOOD Star Wars movie — “Return of the Jedi” hit the big screens (“Return of the Jedi” came out in 1983); it had been 10 years since we got ANY Star Wars movie at all. And whether you’re a Prequelist or not, there’s no denying that the prequels divided fans.
Eventually, Star Wars slowly faded away from the forefront of Pop culture. Everyone still knew of Star Wars, but it had turned into something of a legendary once upon a time, rather than something that is relevant right now. It had become the Muhammad Ali or The Rock, of movies. Hardcore fans still talked about the once revered BEAST. But there’s a whole generation of folk who only knew of Star Wars by name and by the tales they heard.
When Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, it got people talking again. It was mere whispers at first, but fans begin wondering and speculating and theorising. The beast is stepping into the ring once again, after 10 years. What would it be like? Will it still have the flair and gravitas it did 30 years ago?
When Disney announced a new Star Wars movie to be released in 2015 with the classic actors and characters from the original trilogy returning, fans started to get really excited. This excitement spilled over to non-fans too. Parents wanted to take their uninitiated children to watch the NEW STAR WARS movie. Then the first trailer hit. Chewie, we’re home? We lost our minds! Then came the enormous marketing campaign.
Suddenly EVERYONE was talking about Star Wars. In our minds, “The Force Awakens” became this divine piece of creation moulded by God himself. And then the movie came out. Everybody went to see it. Even if you’ve never watched a single Star Wars movie in your life, you went to see it. If news broke that Jesus Christ himself is descending the heavens to meet humans, whether you’re religious or not, wouldn’t you go and see him? That is how “The Force Awakens” grossed $US 2 billion at the global box office.
But here’s the thing. People walked into “The Force Awakens” expecting an otherworldly experience. What they got, was a movie. It may be a great movie and to some, it may even have been life-changing. But it is a movie that had absolutely no chance of reaching the expectations we had created in our minds.
“The Last Jedi” isn’t able to hit the numbers “The Force Awakens” did because the Star Wars myth has been stripped away. This isn’t Michael Jackson rising from the dead and stepping onto the stage for the FIRST TIME anymore. This is the second outing and the novelty is gone. The fact that “The Last Jedi” still managed to gross $US 1.2 billion worldwide means that even without the novelty factor, Star Wars is still relevant in pop culture, just like comic book movies are.
“The Force Awakens” had no competition.
“The Force Awakens” was the only blockbuster movie that was released in December 2015. Among other movies released in December 2015 were “The Revenant” and “The Big Short”. But casual audiences aren’t running out to catch those. “The Force Awakens'” biggest competition was the critically shat on “Daddy’s Home”.
However, in December 2017, the star-studded “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” was released in cinemas a week after “The Last Jedi”. While “The Last Jedi” did ultimately come out victorious — “Jumanji” grossed $US 524.9 million globally — there’s no denying that “Jumanji” was very good counter-programming, especially considering its half decent critical reception.
Look at it this way. In 2015, if you already caught “The Force Awakens” but wanted to catch something with your family on Christmas or New Year, you would watch “The Force Awakens” again. But in 2017, you can take your family to watch “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” if you’ve already caught “The Last Jedi”.
Sequels don’t always do as well as their predecessors.
Rob Cain of Forbes wrote, “Disney didn’t pay hundreds of millions for production costs and marketing to make a movie that will earn nearly 40 percent less than its predecessor.”
But does that take into account the predecessor overachieving?
That aside, the very same Forbes article does state that “among the nearly 100 major studio sequels I reviewed, 57 percent earned more than their predecessor.”
57% isn’t very high. It’s just slightly more than half. And when you look at the culturally relevant movies in the billion-dollar club, it becomes even more apparent. “Fate of the Furious” made less than “Furious 7”. “Transformers: The Last Knight” (didn’t gross $US 1 billion) made less than “Transformers: Age of Extinction”. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” made less than “The Avengers”. And if we choose to count “Captain America: Civil War” (which has most of the established Avengers in it, plus Spider-Man), it made even less than “Age of Ultron”.
The Harry Potter franchise fluctuated — “Sorcerer’s Stone” is the 33rd highest grossing movie of all time, “Chamber of Secrets” is the 51st, and “Deathly Hallows Part 2” is the EIGHTH. And do we realistically expect “Avatar 2” to make more money than “Avatar”? Nevermind, scratch that last bit. James Cameron is crazy.
This is especially true when it comes to the Star Wars franchise.
- “Star Wars: A New Hope” – $US 775.3 million
- “Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back” – $US 538.3 million
- “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi” – $US 475 million
- “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” – $US 1 billion
- “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones” – $US 649 million
- “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith” – $US 848.7 million
“The Last Jedi’s” 40% plunge would’ve been worrisome, if “The Force Awakens” grossed $US 1.3 billion. But “The Force Awakens” overachieved. I go back to my sports analogy. Imagine Manchester United signing Neymar to score 30 goals in a single season. Except in his first season, Neymar scores 50 goals. And in his second season, he scores 22. Would that make Neymar a failure?
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