The last Jedi was the eight installment of the Star Wars franchisee which grossed $1.3 billion at the box office. To put that into perspective, Bollywood makes only around $2 billion per year. Yes, that’s like putting all the Bahubali’s , Sultan’s and Dangal’s together and still falling short by half a billion dollars. Now its perfectly fine if you haven’t seen any of the Star Wars movie . Many find the never ending saga overwhelming and farcical. Until recently I had kept myself consciously ignorant about the buzz around Star Wars. And the reason was simple: I did not have the patience to go through the saga and the will to comprehend the characters that looked like fur balls (Chewbacca) and weapons which resemble tube-lights.
But when I learnt about the phenomenal success of The Last Jedi, I finally gathered the will to watch Star Wars (episode IV, 1977). Then I binged watched Episode V (1980) and then episode VI (1983). I felt like I was hit by a brick of mediocrity. George Lucas had transported the melodrama and violence which usually happens on earth to a distant galaxy. The movie lacked sophistication. The plots were wafer thin. You could see aliens made out of cheap plastic playing saxophones to the tune of Jazz. There was no concept of gravity and physics. And the fights were poorly directed and unreal. At first I decided to discount some aspects owing to the period in which the movies were produced and the availability of technology at that time. But the first part (Episode IV) scored 93% on rotten tomatoes. How bad it can be, so I had to pick a bad review which describes it all , as a reviewer describes it:
But Star Wars was not science-fiction, not satire. It was black-suited villains versus the goodies in space. It was battle after battle, aerial dogfight after dogfight, even a spoken “This is it, chaps.” It was stupid humanity carrying on as violently as usual. The creature I liked most in the film was not human. He was Chewbacca, the Wookie, who was a very competent co-pilot of a fighter craft. His hairy face, said to he apelike, resembled an Australian terrier.
There are some awesome space movies produced at the time which not only had the cutting edge effects and interesting plots but were also far more scientific than their contemporaries . For instance, 2001 a space Odyssey (1968) by Stanley Kubrick and Aliens(1979) by Ridley Scott have the effects which standout even today. There are probably half a dozen more space themed productions which are much more critically acclaimed than the Star Wars series. Star Wars simply sucks when it comes to movie making. But in hindsight, no one could create the quantum of fandom which the series offers. Then what makes Star Wars a massive success that it is?
- It is easy to repeat mediocrity than excellence.
Has Lucas made great movies , probably no but quite evidently he has built a great franchisee ; sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts. Lucas offers nuggets of mediocrity sprinkled across four decades. Most movie makers want to create a master piece out of one production, some do it and most don’t but all attempt for it all their lives. But most of those who are able to create a masterpiece are not able to repeat it.And greatness of Lucas is that he built one unifying idea over a period of four decades and monetized it all his career. One more example is Friends, a sitcom. Was it the greatest show , not really. There are 40 more shows on the IMDB list which people have rated as better than Friends. But the creators of Friends have consistently delivered the concept for a decade which makes it the most talked about TV show with the largest fan-base and also happens to be a commercial success.
2. Simplicity wins in the long run
Lucas created a universe in deep space where the fundamental challenges of mankind remained to be mundane. The characters struggled with all banal stuff of good vs evil, relations, grief , and love. But overall, the Star Wars series offers a concept that humans have already established themselves in space and are living with harmony amongst the aliens who happen to be adept at playing saxophones. As a consequence, the fans must have found it easy to connect to the story. In contrast , most of the space themed movies that deal with higher existential questions and offer little hope against the hostile environments and overwhelming aliens. Lucas thus offered simple yet grand imagination of life in a distant galaxy.
To conclude, the bottom-line is people connect to mediocrity and simplicity more than they connect to excellence. We have to accept the fact that mankind will praise excellence but excellence remains elusive to many and is difficult to sustain. Mediocrity prevails and there is nothing wrong with it as long as it is endured to a point where it becomes way bigger than one time excellence.