I genuinely don’t get why Star Wars is so popular. Out of 9 movies, 2, maybe 3 of them are good.
Why do people like things I don’t like?
I actually agree with you. I only find the first two movies to be good. But people have different tastes is what it boils down to.
When the first movie came out, there really wasn’t anything like it to that point. The special effects were amazing for their time. The dog fights had never really been seen on screen for space ships before. Etc.
Space Odyssey 2001, had a similar reaction at first. The production of that movie took Sci-Fi to another level in movies.
It’s called “relentless marketing.” Apparently it works.
Star Wars is popular due to demographics. I saw the first movie (at a drive in) when I was a tyke. It was very visually different from anything I’d ever seen. The story is easy to understand and uses basic archetypes. It was marketed heavily - I’ve seen a claim that at one point 30% of the toys sold were related to the movie (which I disbelieve).
Going years without more movies triggered a situation where fathers were eager to show their kids the movies and indulge in nostalgia. The story is interesting, if repetitive. But the characters and settings are iconic. Seeing the later movies really emphasizes just how much they were able to do cheaply and with limited technology to achieve a distinctive look.
And laser-focused marketing, at that. They knew if they marketed to children, they could keep milking them for the next 50+ years.
Of course it helped immensely that the original products, i.e. the films, were actually good, and something new at the time.
For a few data points, my nieces and nephews, all around 8-10, they know about Star Wars, they might have seen one or two of the movies, they might have seen some of the shows, they probably even own a few toys, but they are just as or more interested in Ninjago or Harry Potter or Beyblades or whatever else kids are into these days. It’s just not super exciting to them, and at least one of them used the words “old stuff.”
Depends what you mean by “popular”.
Did I go to every single Star Wars movie, and even watched the Holiday Special on its first broadcast, on the strength of how good Star Wars (ANH) was? You betchya. That’s me. That popular?
Or popular by staying power? Would I go to see any one but ANH in the theaters, were they to have a revival? Not at all.
Like their cousin Star Trek movies, I give each one a chance, on the strenth of their best example, which were truly ahead of all their competition (ANH and TWoK). But both franchises have disappointed me with nearly every movie.
So from the studios’ business standpoint, they are polular with me. But I don’t go around recommending them to anyone. And I won’t subscribe to a service just to watch more (possibly bad) TV series.
It really helps that the two best ones of the series were the first two. A lot of what’s come since then has been inertia from them (inertia which I think is running out). If the first two had only been as good as some of the later ones were, the later ones would never have gotten made.
It’s timing was the key to it’s success. Around that time if you wanted a good fun story set in outer space you got something that took itself either waaay too seriously and almost ventured into arthouse territory or you got cheesy schlock with cardboard sets and 70s funk music.
Star Wars took the fun of a kids space serial adventure and actually put some production value behind it.
I give Lucas all the credit in the world for not inventing something new but merging a whole lot of past influences into something new. Serial style story, orchestral score, war movie style dog fights, etc.
Probably a minority opinion, but here goes…
I saw the first film in the theater when I was ten years old. I thought it was the greatest movie I had ever seen, and looked forward to later episodes. I was puzzled by Empire Strikes Back, though, and by the time Return of the Jedi came out I was in high school. The first half hour of that film was good, but it was clear that it was about marketing toys-- the silly, care bear ewoks had no appeal to me–and I lost interest in the franchise. I didn’t watch any of the films on video or TV in the years that passed, though I still had a soft spot for the first film
So when the 20th anniversary edition of Star Wars was released in 1997, I went to see it. Watching the movie with adult eyes was a tremendous let down. It was awful. The direction was clumsy, the characters wooden, the acting poor, the dialogue ridiculous. Strip away the special effects and action sequences, and you have a picture of overwhelming banality, much like the old Republic serials that were Lucas’s inspiration. I usually keep quiet about my opinion, as it seems to upset people–really angers them, usually men of a certain age–and I don’t want to get punched.
That should have been enough to warn me off, but I gave in when my friends wanted to see The Phantom Menace. That did it. I haven’t seen any of the other pictures since. I rewatched the other two original films, and I now recognize Empire as far and away the best picture of the lot. Still can’t stand the ewoks, though.
Except that I was 17 when original Star Wars was released, this is exactly me.
But that’s where you & I diverge. You’ve continued a little ways after that while I’ve never seen any after that first 3. I just have no interest.
At each successive movie release the hype seemed heavier and more focused on the “everybody’s doing it!1!!” (now called FOMO) meme that’s affirmatively off-putting to my taste. If the only thing you have to recommend your product is that tired refrain, your product is vaporware at best.
And the importance of the toys and other marketing tie-ins just kept growing. Which is fine as a money-making device; greed is good (or at least greed is what makes the commercial world go round). But toys & tie-ins are increasingly unappealing to somebody who’s kept getting older every year since SW came out. If I was still 12 I might feel differently.
When a couple (few?) years ago I saw Star Wars themed Campbell’s soup I figured it had to be that elusive flavor: Jumping Shark soup. Stick a fork in 'em; they’re done.
Color me actively anti-SW at this stage. Not worked up over it, but definitely not sellable on the onging wonder of it.
Right now it coasts entirely on nostalgia and momentum alone but it is very hard to overestimate how much BETTER Star Wars was than absolutely anything else when it first came out. That’s the feeling every other Star Wars has failed to capture ever since the originals, and frankly it would be ridiculous to expect it to.
Really? Are you thinking of just science fiction, or all films? There were several films from the early and mid seventies that are MUCH better than Star Wars. Off the top of my head, I’d say the first two Godfather movies, Taxi Driver, Nashville, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Annie Hall are all better movies. Hell, I think Close Encounters is a better science fiction film.
That was the problem with Star Wars–you had all these directors trying to make great films, but afterward they were just going for blockbusters and marketing tie-ins.
This is the reason. It has nothing at all to do with marketing, lot of films got marketed to death, marketed really effectively, and had massive box office returns. Few of them are cultural touchstones the way Star Wars is.
Star Wars, the OG movie, was SO good and SO revolutionary and SO resonant that it didn’t just become a part of our media or a part of our culture, it become modern American mythology. You can’t try to understand this in terms of movie making, you need to think about it like language or religion.
Another thing that may have helped A New Hope in particular: the fact that it was a movie that you could take your family to. The 1970s in general were the absolute nadir of family entertainment. New Hollywood was mostly interested in highly adult, shocking material that wasn’t exactly safe for the kiddos. Star Wars was a well-produced movie that offered fun for everyone.
It’s a triumph in world-building. It’s an excellent combination of taking the familiar and twisting it in just the right ways to make it new. And it has characters you love. Every story-telling franchise that stands the test of time, be it movies, books, TV, comics, etc, does these things well.
It’s not the spaceships and aliens, it’s not the toys and games, it’s the storytelling. It established a wide universe with a mysticism and a compelling history worth exploring in multiple ways.
See also Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, King Arthur for more of that same complex world-building potential.
I suspect that this was a significant part of the original film’s success: it was a film that pretty much everyone could enjoy.
As you note, in the first half of the 1970s, Hollywood was making some great films, but they tended to be serious, dark, and definitely not for kids (see the list that @gnarator included in their post). Disney had lost its way in the years after Walt had died, and most of its offerings in the 1970s were forgettable live-action comedies.
Star Wars probably wasn’t the first modern summer blockbuster (two years earlier, Jaws dominated the box office, and the social space, in sort of the same way), but it laid out a blueprint for how to do it.
I also think that part of what continues to make Star Wars successful is that it’s something that appeals to kids, but which isn’t entirely a kids’ franchise*. And, it’s something that adults, who had been fans of the older films when they, themselves, were kids, can share in with their kids.
*- That said, IMO, one of the reasons that the Prequels lost their way was that, at that time, Lucas himself had kids, and he put too much focus on appealing to kids (particularly in Phantom Menace).
I guess George Lucas’ kids must have been heavily interested in bland points of parliamentary procedure; that would explain the extreme focus that Phantom Menace paid on that.
I was more referring to things like Jar-Jar, fart jokes, and a nine-year-old protagonist who said “yippee!”
All good films but besides maybe Close Encounters but would you take a pre-teen or even many teens to any of those? Star Wars didn’t have to beat out other films for it’s target audience because there were no other films for this audience. Superhero movies didn’t exist at the time until Superman came out the following year. Disney offered cartoons and Herbie. If you were 15 years old in 1977 and loved the idea of going to the movies for a good time, you didn’t just go see Star Wars once. You saw it repeatedly. There was nothing else.