There are many reasons why the Star Wars franchise could last forever, but its ability to tell a story that continues to connect with fans of all generations is perhaps its most prominent one.
Before it’s even been officially released in theaters for the public, The Last Jedi is already a hit, becoming Fandango’s top ticket seller for the year, and having mostly positive reviews from critics so far. Of course, there was never really any doubt that it would be a hit. At this point, the thought of a Star Wars film in this day and age being a flop is hard to imagine. And so long as Disney’s in charge we’ll be getting a new Star Wars-related film every year for the foreseeable future. But how does a franchise continue to remain a hit that only seems to get more successful as time goes on?
There’s a number of factors that contribute to this, but probably the main reason is captured in Gwendoline Christie’s response at a press conference for The Last Jedi last week when asked about the differences between this installment versus other Star Wars films. She says:
I was delighted by the film and what I was surprised by was that Star Wars has always been – I think the reason why it’s resonated with us all so deeply is that it’s our foundation story of good against evil, and where that balance is, and how we see elements of characters we’ve never seen before, things that can be unexpected. But there is something about this film and I think it’s because the world that we live in is a changing and evolving place, that it retains the simplicity of those elements, but it really resonates with what it is to follow your own human dark narcissistic tendencies, where that will take you, and I love that, and it’s done so beautifully aesthetically too.
In pointing out aspects unique to The Last Jedi, Christie’s answer also shines a light on what connects the films and makes them feel so relevant to different generations. And thinking about the Star Wars franchise as a whole that’s a pretty accurate way to view the series. It’s not that we’re getting something completely different with each new film that makes us want more, it’s the fact that the series is able to stay familiar and comfortable in some aspects while feeling like a new story with a refreshing perspective in others, that draws us back to the theater every time. At the heart of each Star Wars film is also a theme that the majority of people, no matter what age, can get behind, and it’s been consistent.
Something Lucas did years ago that provides such longevity for the franchise is this simplicity in theme. With each of the films, there is a clear story between a protagonist and an antagonist, with some nuance in between. It’s classic storytelling at it’s best and no matter how much the world changes, a story about good versus evil will always remain relevant.
So, it’s clear that its timeless theme combined with its ability to feel unique to each generation are both factors that contribute most to the franchises long-term success. The way the Star Wars series works so successfully now is that the newer films are able to appeal enough to the older generation who grew up with it while handing the baton off to a new generation at the same time. Ultimately, making young audiences feel as if they aren’t necessarily tacking on to their parent’s love for a film, but are indeed starting fresh with their own love for the Star Wars films of their time while being able to love the original trilogies as well.
But, even if some did feel they were joining in on a piece of “old” pop culture, many actually probably wouldn’t mind that feeling either. A classic is a classic for a reason, and nostalgia is a feeling too difficult to deny at times. And some people love Star Wars primarily for nostalgic reasons, whether they saw it in real time as a kid, teen, or adult, or whether they were introduced to it in their formative years at a much later time than the original premiere. A recent Fandango survey reported on by Variety found that out of more than 1000 ticket-buyers for the Last Jedi, 96% are excited to see Carrie Fisher, 94% are looking forward to learning more about the connection between Ridley’s Rey and Hamill’s Luke Skywalker, and 83% were intrigued by the Porgs, which shows that audiences are just as excited to see the return of beloved characters as they are to see newer characters. And of course, this is the case. So much of the fun is being able to jump back in with familiar, loved characters while seeing their interactions with new ones as well.
Other factors to consider when wondering how Star Wars has managed to remain successful for what appears to be an endless amount of time is its success with transmedia storytelling, meaning its ability to translate well to so many different media platforms. From video games to toys, to TV shows, to books and comics, there are practically an infinite amount of Star Wars stories being told for all types of media consumers. As people come up with more ways to tell the story, there will be more ways for audiences to engage with it as time goes on.
For now, estimates project The Last Jedi to bring in $425 million globally during its opening weekend, placing it not too far behind The Force Awakens total if the projections prove correct, showing a love for the series that remains strong.