Is Star Wars in Trouble?

Tyler Rains, Writer

On Dec. 14th, 2017, Star Wars the Last Jedi came out in theaters. It was the much anticipated sequel to Star Wars the Force Awakens which came out two years prior. It is the second movie of a trilogy planned by Lucasfilm’s owner, Disney. However, the movie has had an awkward response.

Critics, who are professionals and usually foretell fan reactions, gave the movie high marks in every category. It got a 90% on Rotten Tomato which was similar to the Force Awaken’s 93%. This score is determined by taking many critics score’s and combining them into an average.

The problem with the response wasn’t the critics, it was the fans. Audiences gave the Last Jedi a 50%, which is 40% less than the critics and is a crazy low score for a Star Wars movie. The Force Awakens, for example, had an audience score of 88%.

What adds even more confusion is that CinemaScore, a website which gauges fan reactions based on live-interviews conducted straight after the movie, found the average grade given to the Last Jedi to be an A. This fan reaction score is a lot different to the 50% shown on Rotten Tomato. So why is Rotten Tomato’s fan reaction so low?

There have been some concerns that bots have been intentionally used to submit poor reviews in order to tank the movies audience score. Unlike their critic score, Rotten Tomato doesn’t require any way to validate a person, meaning it is relatively easy to make multiple accounts for example. When taking into account fan discussions on other websites, it seems clear that there are plenty of people who don’t like the movie. It is generally agreed upon, however, that the number of people who didn’t like the movie is no where near the 50% reported on Rotten Tomato.

What seems to have happened is that the hardcore fans (which make up a minority of movie-goers) seemed to dislike the movie more than casual fans. Casual fans seemed to love the movie. However, as is with most things, those angered are usually the loudest. It seems there is a vocal minority.

This doesn’t mean their opinions are wrong and they are more than welcome to share them, but on this front, it doesn’t seem Disney is as in big of trouble as it looked like on first glance. They do have to be careful though. All of this negative backlash, even if not the majority, will still damage the Star Wars brand long-term. It is after all, the hardcore fans who buy the most merchandise and follow everything closely. If Disney loses them, they are in trouble.

This all leads us to Star Wars’ next movie — Solo: A Star Wars Story. This Han Solo standalone has accidentally become one of the most important movies in Star Wars history. If it flops, it could be the beginning of the end. It isn’t looking great either.

To start, almost no one was asking for this movie. Fan’s were much more hoping for a Obi Wan Kenobi or Boba Fett standalone. It is also tough because this is the first time that Harrison Ford won’t be playing the legendary character. Instead, a relatively unknown actor will step up to the plate. It is big shoes to follow, especially for one of the most-loved characters in cinema history.

On top of this, the movie has had technical issues. Halfway through production, the movie changed directors. This is never a good sign for how well a movie will turn out. It is reported that they may have had to do up to 80-90% of the movie as reshoots. For Disney, this means their budget for the film may have almost doubled. That makes earning a profit off of it tough.

There has also been no marketing or even a teaser trailer to come out yet. It is already January and the movie is set to come out on May 25. That is only five months away and there has been no promo. The casual fan, who seemed to like the Last Jedi the most and makes up the majority of the audience, doesn’t even know this film exists.

To make matters worse, Solo comes out only two weeks after the most anticipated movie of the year: Avengers Infinity War. When a casual fan goes to the theater on May 25, they may decide that Avengers is more interesting to watch than a Han Solo movie without Harrison Ford. This all spells bad news for Disney. Casual fans make up the largest audience and hardcore fans are still angry about the Last Jedi.

If this movie is bad, faith in the franchise might be lost. If Solo doesn’t make more than $600 million world-wide, Disney is in massive trouble. If it makes $800 million then that is good enough to hunker down 18 months until Star Wars Episode IX. If the movie is amazing and makes $1 billion, then it is clearer than ever that the phrase “Star Wars” alone carries box office weight.

Ultimately, no one knows how this will turn out. It is also hard to judge how good the movie looks without a trailer or even teaser. Until that releases, the bad headlines and anxious waiting will continue.

All of the merchandise sales and a new theme park opening up in Disney parks means that Star Wars should be good for a little while. One more mistake, like a box-office or critical flop, and luck could change real quick. It looks like everyone will just have to wait until May 25 to see what happens. Let’s hope the beloved franchise isn’t in deep trouble.