How Star Wars menaced Hollywood

Hub Telegram: Are you awakened yet? You must be. The trailers, the early images and the talk keep coming. The Wikipedia entry on Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens currently runs to 9,500 words, including 200 source notes. When the third trailer for the movie was released in October, it got 128m hits in 24 hours. Authorities on such things confirm a state of frenzy. It was added that this seventh Star Wars film had cost about $200m (£130m) to make; its marketing costs would more than double that figure; but insiders felt sure it was going to take more than $1bn in worldwide box office. Or could it surpass $2bn? Anyone for $3bn? The scholarship in such estimates can be sketchy, but the film’s title does say “Awakens”, as if we are encouraged to believe an old force is being revived.

I don’t doubt these forecasts: the world does seem frenzy-ready. And yet, when the predictions cover such a range, I wonder if the hype doesn’t resemble the fuss over that other Star Wars, the Strategic Defense Initiative, the futuristic franchise that once played in the mind of President Ronald Reagan with a far larger budget and more optimistic projections of the good it would do.

Sith was 10 years ago, and it was the third of the second group of three Star Wars pictures. The first trilogy (Star Wars, 1977; The Empire Strikes Back, 1980; Return of the Jedi, 1983) constitutes the turning point in modern cinema – though the turn was so large that the word “cinema” no longer quite applies. This was an entertainment franchise that inaugurated action on the electronic screen. They were shot on film, but the profusion of special effects characterised a comic book adventure come to life. The trilogy spurred the development of video games, many of which were a lot more violent than the Star Wars pictures.

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