One Small Change in ‘Force Awakens’ That Complicates the ‘Star Wars’ Series …
‘Star Wars’ sets N. America opening weekend record with $238 mn.
It’s a small line of dialogue that, potentially, exists merely to explain away the existence of John Boyega’s role in the movie — but the fact that Star Wars: The Force Awakens explicitly refers to the First Order moving away from using clone troopers is an interesting choice, to put it mildly. Thus, I feel that using a SPOILER ALERT is probably not necessary, since you’ve either seen the new Star Wars or you’re not going on the Internet until you’ve seen the new Star Wars.
Globally, the latest “Star Wars” space epic raked in an estimated $517 million, Disney said, breaking records for biggest opening weekend abroad in 18 other countries, including Russia and Germany, and second biggest across four nations. Abrams’ movie scores the biggest North American opening of all time in addition to breaking numerous records overseas; ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip’ and ‘Sisters’ escape getting crushed by the Force as overall box-office revenue hits a record high. Grossing an estimated $238 million in the U.S. and Canada, the seventh installment of the George Lucas-created franchise now holds the record for the largest opening weekend of a film ever.
Abrams has opened up about the tough little droid’s story arch, and what follows are spoilers from the film – so maybe save this until after you’ve seen it. Watching General Hux choose to use a collection of Stormtroopers he trained from childhood — in many cases, stealing the children from their families and, it’s suggested, brainwashing them — instead of an army of clones is a momentary distraction. The box office has not seen a performance like this since Universal’s “Jurassic World” opened in June ($208.8 million) and, prior to that, 2012’s premiere of “Marvel’s The Avengers” from Disney ($207.4 million). At the end of the film, R2 suddenly wakes up, and the reason is somewhat mysterious – which has led some fans to wonder what finally roused the droid from his vegetative state. It was a way to add some real emotional resonance to the trilogy — and, perhaps, a way for the rapidly ascending Hollywood superstar to avoid ever returning for another film. (Harrison Ford doing Return of the Jedi = Charlton Heston doing Beneath the Planet of the Apes.) In the fullness of time and the reboot cycle of Hollywood, Ford would return to the franchise that birthed his stardom.
The trio of heroes who appeared in the first of the blockbusters in 1977 — smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), leader of the rebel alliance, and her twin brother Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) — are all back and played by the actors that “Star Wars” first made famous. “Our sole focus has been creating a film that delivers that one-of-a-kind Star Wars experience,” Alan Horn, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, said in a statement Sunday. At a post-screening Q&A for the movie on Saturday, Abrams and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt explained why they sidelined R2 – and why he finally had his own “awakening.” “The whole movie is a series of character introductions,” says Arndt, who help craft the story before Kasdan and Abrams penned the script. “You want all your character introductions to be A-plus. Playing in over 4,000 theaters domestically, “Star Wars” began its massive run with a record-breaking $57 million in ticket sales for early Thursday night showings.
With Greedo, George Lucas famously reedited a scene so that the villain of the piece made the initial aggressive move so as to give the hero something to react against, in order to preserve his honor. Landing in third and also in its debut weekend was “Sisters,” starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as two siblings throwing one last party in their childhood home before it is sold. They’re running to get a ship, it blows up, and you turn and there’s the back-up – the Millennium Falcon.” If an iconic starship gets a scene-stealing moment, then certainly R2-D2 deserved one, too.
By establishing that Stormtroopers are factory-created drones, they become little more than robots, making the high kill-rate of our heroes somewhat less objectionable. It earned $13.4 million. “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2,” the fourth and last movie in the blockbuster franchise that turned Jennifer Lawrence into a Hollywood megastar, earned $5.7 million, falling to fourth place in its fifth week in theaters. The movie’s stunning performance sets a new standard for how much the North American box office can expand when the right movie comes along, and puts even more pressure on Hollywood studios to eventize their tentpoles.
The record holder for the biggest opening during the month was “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which took in $85 million in domestic receipts in 2012. Then Arndt says he got it: R2-D2’s arrival had to be presented as a kind of delayed gratification, building up the audience’s expectation before the droid rolls out and starts beep-blooping. Now, thanks to what is really just a minor change to an earlier softening of Star Wars’ own mythology, that’s slowly becoming as true in a galaxy far, far away as it is in reality.
When they finally see each other, it’s on a catwalk overlooking an eternal chasm: Shades of another surprise father-son pairing, on Bespin, long ago. This was back in 2012.” The trouble was a simple case of upstaging. “It just felt like every time Luke came in and entered the movie, he just took it over,” Arndt said. “Suddenly you didn’t care about your main character anymore because, ‘Oh f–k, Luke Skywalker’s here.
At this rate, there’s no telling how high Force Awakens will ultimately fly in terms of box-office revenue, since films over the year-end holidays can see huge multiples. Additionally, when Disney debuted the final theatrical trailer during a “Monday Night Football” game on ESPN that coincided with the tickets going on sale online, the trailer was viewed 128 million times in 24 hours. The interest of fans led to expectations across the industry that “Star Wars” would drive up ticket sales as October and November box office numbers, compared with last year, are lower. Some of the early MacGuffins of the movie – the thing that drives a movie’s plot – were a search for Darth Vader’s remains, or a quest to the underwater wreckage of the second Death Star to recover a key piece of history about sacred Jedi sites in the galaxy.
When they find R2 beneath that dust cloth, the heroes already have a piece of a holographic map, but they lack the larger section of this uncharted region of space that will allow them to track down Luke. The story group’s thinking went back to the 1977 original movie, when R2-D2 accessed the Empire’s mainframe as the heroes searched for the captured Princess Leia. “We had the idea about R2 plugging into the information base of the Death Star, and that’s how he was able to get the full map and find where the Jedi temples are,” Arndt said. Kylo Ren is now clearly pretty far gone to the Dark Side, although Star Wars being Star Wars, one can imagine that the potential for redemption lurks in his future.
On Twitter, the movie was mentioned roughly 2 million times on Thursday alone, making it the most tweeted-about movie ever, according to social media analytics firm Union Metrics. Much is at stake for the Walt Disney Co., which, in 2012 paid $4.1 billion for production company Lucasfilm, largely for the “Star Wars” franchise. Caucasians made up 62 percent of ticket buyers, followed by Hispanics (15 percent), African-Americans (10 percent), Asians (7 percent) and Native American and other (7 percent), according to PostTrak.
In the Expanded Universe books, they killed off Chewbacca — a “safer” execution, since he’s a beloved character who never talks or really adds anything besides reaction shots. (The Expanded Universe also invented the idea of the son of Han and Leia breaking bad, although there his name was “Jacen” because the ’90s were weird.) On a gut level, it was hard not to feel something, because Han Solo is Han Solo. The setting for his final showdown was resonant — not just to Empire, but to that fight scene between another Ben and another blackmasked bad guy in Star Wars, when that film’s sage old mentor gets struck down. The film also stars Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyong’o and Domhnall Gleeson along with original trilogy stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.
Like, for comparison, I started tearing up during the opening text crawl: When Han died, I found myself wondering why the guy who kept a gun pointed at Greedo under the table walked into a trap so open-armed. This is their first moment onscreen together — and it’s not entirely clear what it was about Han and/or Leia that drove Ren to hating them both so completely. However, Road Chip has a shot at earning close to $100 million all in domestically, since it’s the only new family offering heading into the Christmas stretch. But it seems obvious that Han’s death will be the motivating factor for Rey and Ren in the movies to come — a variation of the Luke/Vader vengeance rivalry that plays out in Empire, before the Big Twist vis a vis Luke’s paternity.
Just as Alvin 4 has the advantage of being a family play, Sisters has the advantage of appealing to females, who made up a striking 76 percent of the opening-weekend audience. He used to not believe in the Force; now, the two young representatives of the Force’s eternal dichotomy will do battle over his metaphorical corpse.
New offerings at the specialty box office included Sony Pictures Classics’ Oscar player Son of Saul, Laszlo Nemes’ harrowing holocaust drama that won the Grand Prix at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. Adam McKay’s The Big Short, another awards player, continued to see good results in its second weekend, grossing $350,000 from eight theaters for a location average of $43,750 and cume of $1.3 million for Paramount Pictures.
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