5 Ways to Prep - Star Wars: The Last Jedi
By George Rose
December 14, 2017
What hasn’t been said already about the biggest franchise in Hollywood history? When smaller movies come out, it’s easy to come up with clever quips that feel unique and that (hopefully) the reader finds entertaining. When a juggernaut like Star Wars comes out, everyone already knows everything, has heard everything, is thinking everything and is ready for anything. We all already know Disney bought Star Wars and turned The Force Awakens into the biggest opening weekend of all time ($248 million), the biggest domestic earner of all time ($937 million) and one of the biggest global hits ever (over $2 billion worldwide). We know they turned their first spin-off, Rogue One, into a blockbuster of lesser proportions but one that all the other kids on the playground still wish they were after earning over $1 billion. We also already know most expectations for the new film are sitting squarely between the two latest entries; a $200 million opening, $750 domestic total and $1.5 - 2 billion worldwide total. Considering the box office storm that’s coming, things actually seem rather calm on the silver screen seas.
Maybe that’s because, as expected, the new film is earning great reviews (currently over 90% positive). Is it just me or does anyone else remember the time when studios other than Disney also made great movies, when predicting box office earnings was more of a challenge and when people seemed more concerned with the possible world domination that the “evil and corrupt” Disney had seemingly been planning for decades? Now it’s 2017, nobody trusts anything that doesn’t have Disney branded at the top of the poster, and EVERYTHING the Mouse House does is both a financial jackpot AND a critical darling. Though the tides have turned, I’m just here on my little tug boat enjoying the waves. As long as someone, ANYONE is making good movies that are earning money and keeping cinemas alive than I’m happy. If that happiness is the result of a corporation taking everyone over (cough cough 20th Century Fox), then I’ll just keep swimming with smiles as I pretend not to hear the terrifying screams of their victims.
Good movies are hard to come by. Movies worthy of a 100 foot screen are hard to come by. I can watch an Oscar-caliber drama while three feet away from my TV and get the same effect, because people don’t laugh or cheer during a drama. For almost $20 a ticket I want it big, I want it good and I want a theater full of fans. Star Wars has given us that for decades and promises it again now. The time has finally come. You know the movie that’s coming and you know the history of the franchise… but do you know how to prep for Star Wars: The Last Jedi?
#1 - Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
I only allow myself to recommend one previous film from the franchise being discussed. With Star Wars, we have seven prior “main saga” films and one spin-off. Since this is Star Wars we’re talking about, you’ve probably seen them all and already know what’s going on. For the uninitiated, if you have time for only one movie before seeing The Last Jedi then you should see the entry that most immediately precedes it, especially since Force Awakens is the start of a new trilogy and Last Jedi is part two. Again, with this week probably giving you a bit of Star Wars overload I’ll keep this part of the article short. The Last Jedi is Episode 8, go prep with Episode 7 and you’ll be fit as a fiddle. Let’s move on to the recommendations that you may not necessarily be expecting since it’s the only non-Star Wars info you’re likely to digest this week.
#2 - Looper (2012)
One of the few unknowns at this point is The Last Jedi’s director, Rian Johnson. Disney has a way of taking untapped talent and sucking all the creative life force from them to make great movies. This is a brilliant tactic since they can get a director for cheap, retain most of the control and don’t have to deal with an experienced veteran trying to derail their plans. Though this seems as if Disney is acting more like Big Brother than a Fairy Godfather, you can’t argue with what’s worked. Joss Whedon directed one movie (Serenity) before assembling Marvel’s finest and it earned only $25 million, then Avengers earned over $600 million and stellar reviews. Granted, he is a TV and comic book mastermind, but he had no movie experience. There are plenty of other examples of unknowns turning in top-notch work (The Russos with Captain America, Kenneth Branagh with Thor and Cinderella, Taika Waititi with Ragnarok, etc.) and it pleases me greatly that the trend has successfully continued here with The Last Jedi.
The newest member of Disney’s Island of Misfit Directors is Rian Johnson. His list of credits is short but meaningful; he directed a few episodes of Breaking Bad (which everybody loves) and Looper, one of the most shockingly unexpected good movies of 2012. As a newer director in town, it’s surprising that a movie about time travel was trusted into the hands of an amateur. Newbies usually have to prove they can manage a crew, a basic script and getting actors to speak the right dialogue before they are handed a mega-franchise or a complicated storyline. Well, not Rian. He tackled time-loops, intense action, meaningful drama, and big name celebrities (Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt) with ease and turned in a film that ended up 93% positive. To explain more of the plot might give away spoilers, so I won’t, but I will say that The Last Jedi is also currently 93% positive. What’s the moral of the story here? In Disney we trust! And, as it would seem, in Rian Johnson we should trust as well.