The Second Coming of Star Wars

The Second Coming of Star Wars

Thanks to the Sequel Trilogy, Star Wars is in a renaissance, unlike the times of the Prequel Trilogy.
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It's no surprise that I'm a big fan of Star Wars. Have been since I was a little kid, the movies inspired me to write and be interested in filmmaking, and there's the annual pilgrimage to the theater to go see the next one (getting there far too early too). This was not always the case though, and just five years ago, we weren't even sure if there would be another Star Wars, let alone a movie a year like the MCU. Since the buildup to the release of The Force Awakens, there has been a massive resurgence in the popularity of the series, not unlike the impact the Original Trilogy had on the public in the 1970s and 1980s. We are in a Star Wars renaissance, and if they keep it up, this could go on for long enough that there will be major generational overlap between this era and the next of the saga.

When the first film, A New Hope was released in 1977, it was an immediate success, becoming the highest grossing movie of the year, was one of the biggest Oscars upsets when it lost Best Picture, and firmly made its place in the popular culture of the next few years. Toys, comics, shirts, even a disco album and a television movie – the infamous Holiday Special – were everywhere following the movie. Even by the time The Empire Strikes Back hit the big screen in 1980, the brand had not faded away like so many do. Rather, each sequel brought on more to the series, new worlds and creatures and stories. However, once Return of the Jedi had been on the top of the world, it quickly went back down, and by 1987, Star Wars was barely in the mindset. Children had moved on to other things like G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Transformers, whereas adults had grown tired of the science fiction genre that re-emerged after Star Wars. The excitement returned with the announcement of the prequel trilogy in the 1990s, which promised to show us how Darth Vader became the man in the mask. And then The Phantom Menace came out, and the love of the series became targeted to the Original Trilogy, considering these new films were definitely more focused on the ability to sell toys and show off what digital effects can do (while there were countless models, many of them were given CGI overlays). After Revenge of the Sith in 2005, the brand became more focused on the Clone Wars cartoon series, which became successful in its own right, but never as big as the first three movies were.

In 2012, after the announcement of the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney and the production of a seventh film, slowly, people began to revisit the series. As more news about it came out, trailers and clips and marketing, and the title – The Force Awakens, it was back to being a major phenomenon. Tickets for the movie sold out almost as quickly as they went online. People watched the previous six films just so they could go see this one with their friends. Almost overnight, Star Wars was back to being the most anticipated movie of the year. Even hose “too cool for this” crowds were getting back to the series they grew up with. This is likely due to nerdy/geeky things being considered “cool” now, thanks in part to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the rise of Internet culture (looking at you, Reddit). You don't get weird looks anymore wearing a t-shirt with Chewbacca on it, rather, there's probably somebody else wearing one too. Upon release, The Force Awakens made over two billion dollars in a matter of months. The Star Wars Story movies are just as big, with Rogue One crossing the billion dollar mark and more films being commissioned, including an entire spin-off trilogy. The upcoming The Last Jedi has also already made several million dollars, and that's simply off of pre-release ticket sales.

Of course, maybe it could just be that the current era of Star Wars is just a little jump in popularity, and it will go right back down just as fast. But until then, this is a time where once again, Star Wars rules over the world's culture. Audiences around the world gather together to see the films, and continue to express their fandom via cosplay, collecting, online groups, anything you can imagine. This is the second coming of Star Wars, after the Dark Ages of the prequels – though I'll admit, I do like that trilogy. We are in for years of new movies, and with that, new fans. This is a rare series that continues to produce content that is accessible to all, and every release becomes a major event. Star Wars isn't going anywhere, and even if it does fade, it will return for a new generation.

Cover Image Credit: Lucasfilm/Disney

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