JJ Abrams’ favorite Star Wars fan theory is that one about Jar Jar Binks being …

30 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ director J. J. Abrams wants girls to love movie, too.

While little is known about the upcoming “Star Wars” sequel “The Force Awakens,” it is already getting buzz for being more female-friendly than its predecessors. Abrams believes girls have been under-served with these things from the sci-fi franchise. “Star Wars was always a boy’s thing and a movie that dads could take their son to,” Abrams told the ABC morning show, “but I was hoping that this would be a movie that mothers could take their daughters to as well.” “The idea that Luke Skywalker now nearly 40 years after the first movie came out,” revealed Abrams. “I started thinking he would be as good a myth to people who are 18, 19 years old and the idea of a new group of young people not really knowing who he is and who any of these characters were.

Questioned about whether the prequel would beat Titanic as America’s all-time box-office No 1 film, he dispensed Jedi wisdom: “This is not a contest. Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in the original trilogy, is returning for a reportedly more authoritative role as a “general” this time around. While Abrams wouldn’t divulge in exactly what capacity Skywalker will appear in the film, Hamill recently told Empire that Luke is at a “very different time in his life.” “There are lots of surprises in this movie. That was really the beginning of the idea for this film.” That led to the casting of his two major new heroes — Daisy Ridley’s desert scavenger Rey and John Boyega’s reformed Stormtrooper Finn — who brought a little more gender balance and diversity to the galaxy. “I’m looking forward to kids seeing this movie and seeing themselves in it and capable of doing things that they never could have imagined possible,” said Abrams. And Kathleen Kennedy, one of the film’s producers, has assured fans that the new “Star Wars” films will feature “really strong women.” Director J.J.

The first installment in a new trilogy, “The Force Awakens” also sees the return of other original “Star Wars” trilogy stars Carrie Fisher (Leia), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and Kenny Baker (R2-D2). Regardless of Hamill’s role, Abrams said on Monday that the film has an “extraordinary cast” and fans can expect to leave screenings feeling just as special as the big screen stars. “What I hope more than anything is that it’s something … that tells them that life is full of sort of unlimited possibilities,” Abrams said of younger audiences. “That they feel better when they leave than when they got in there.” But you suspect even he didn’t anticipate the Force-choke of expectation currently tweaking his trachea regarding The Force Awakens’ box-office performance (as if restoring the series’ quality wasn’t enough). If he fails to steal Avatar’s $2.8bn crown as the most successful film ever, Abrams will be given about as sympathetic a treatment by certain entertainment news websites as one of Darth Vader’s spluttering minions. (By the way, Mr Vader, it’s worth considering that no sequel or prequel has ever been the US’s or the world’s highest-grossing film.) Something has happened in the movie world since the late 90s. Spectre has been subjected to similar feverish hectoring about failing to live up to Skyfall, which in 2012 grossed nearly twice as much as the nearest previous Bond movie.

The internet, says Forbes box-office analyst Scott Mendelson, has been the kerosene on this bonfire of the box-office vanities: “It’s the nature of having a bazillion different entertainment news sites that need a consistent flow of content that people will read. Something must be wrong.’” He sensed the SEO knives being sharpened for Spectre early. “A headline like: ‘Why Spectre is a huge hit but won’t make as much money as Skyfall’ isn’t going to get as much traffic as ‘Can the 007 franchise be saved?’” In this rush to feed the anticipation for hits, very few news outlets treat box-office data rationally, in terms of “the ebb and flow of the market”, Mendelson says. Mendelson says that this state of perpetual anxiety kicked off with The Dark Knight in 2008, which convinced mainstream news outlets such as Forbes that there was “money to be made” in covering geek-centric culture. Given that superhero films were spearheading the industry in financial terms, this meant a boom in box-office speculation – fanned by the horde of digital newcomers.

In May 2006, wanting to get publicity for their films on the influential news aggregation site Drudge Report, Sony fed early numbers for The Da Vinci Code to the iconoclastic showbiz reporter Nikki Finke. This, reckons Poland, was the moment when box office data crossed over from the province of industry insiders to internet parlour gossip. “Now people cover it without much awareness of what it is, or how it works,” Poland says.

But, fundamentally, Hollywood is implicated in the wider process. “The studios would prefer this box-office sport not exist,” says Poland. “But given that it’s there, and it’s not going to go away, because you can’t make it go away, they’re working it. And they work it very effectively.” Co-opting a movie’s financial performance for the purposes of publicity is a trick that dates back to the 70s. The Exorcist, Jaws and, most dramatically, Star Wars awakened the US box office from a period of relative dormancy – each busting through the $200m barrier that had seemed impervious since Gone With the Wind took $198.6m domestically in 1939. The dominant mainstream form that emerged was wedded to box office performance, down to the name itself: “There were images in the trade newspapers of people queuing around the block to see them,” remembers Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak. “The box office was manifested in a visual. That’s where the term ‘blockbuster’ came from.” Box office-as-publicity became systematic after Tim Burton’s Batman managed a colossal $40.4m opening weekend in 1989.

But “Batman taught Hollywood that if it had a movie everybody already wanted to see [in advance], you could make so much money, it didn’t matter if was any good”, says Mendelson. The ensuing obsession with putting bums on seats in the first 72 hours of a film’s release created a culture that fixated on and exploited box-office numbers for publicity – especially first-weekend figures. Early reports of a $25m debut established the narrative, says Mendelson, of “Tom Cruise having a flop; or Tom Cruise being beaten by a girl [Shailene Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars]. Which incidentally is a sexist narrative.” The $178m film, which was comparatively innovative for a blockbuster, story-wise, opened weakly indeed ($28.8m) and eventually took $369.2m, only just making its costs back once prints and advertising are factored in. We’ll never know the true financial picture in Hollywood, because it doesn’t want us to. “There are no DVD numbers and never will be,” says Poland. “There are no VOD numbers and never will be.

Since then, another 19 have crossed the mark, with a possible two more (Spectre; The Force Awakens) to do so this year. $1.5bn, as attained by The Avengers, Furious 7 and Jurassic World, is the new $1bn. Much of the growth has been driven by cinema-building in developing markets such as China, Russia and Mexico, but there is no guarantee that this building will continue. Jonathan Papish, boxoffice.com’s analyst for the country, says he can see early signs of a fever there, too: “Tracking is only just starting to develop in China and predicting is still hard to do well. Since every year at the Chinese box office is seeing tremendous growth, records are broken nearly every month.” Perhaps the best soother for Hollywood would be to concentrate on the quality of its output.

Intelligent box-office reporting – spotlighting the complicated set of variables by which a movie sinks or swims, and not making cheap comparisons – can also play a part in moving things beyond opening-weekend mania and towards well-conceived, responsibly budgeted projects. “Box office isn’t poker, it’s blackjack,” says Mendelson. “Movies aren’t always competing against each other, but they are always competing against themselves.”

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