China's mixed goodbye to the Star Wars saga

By Zhang Rui
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 20, 2019
Stormtroopers from the 501st Legion Chinese Garrison walk into the Walt Disney Grand Theatre at the Shanghai Disney Resort, where the Chinese premiere of "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker" screened on Dec. 18, 2019. [Photo courtesy of Walt Disney Studios]

However, nearly half of the critics didn't like the finale film. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 57% based on 351 reviews. The website's critics consensus reads: "'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' suffers from a frustrating lack of imagination, but concludes this beloved saga with fan-focused devotion." On China's movie review aggregator, the film had a score of 6.6/10 based on the reviews and ratings from nearly 26,000 users.

Ironically, many fans complained that the critically acclaimed, boldly innovative and even subversive "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" (2017) by Rian Johnson broke the formula. They said that in some ways it did not even look like a Star Wars movie, especially when it turned the franchise's main hero, Luke Skywalker, into a bitter old man. Disney listened to the feedback, ousted Colin Trevorrow who had creative differences with producer Kathleen Kennedy and hired J.J. Abrams back to direct the last installment.

Abrams said to The New York Times recently that "The Last Jedi" is "full of surprises, subversion and all sorts of bold choices." But he also noted, "On the other hand, it's a bit of a meta-approach to the story. I don't think that people go to 'Star Wars' to be told, 'This doesn't matter.'"Director Johnson defended his approach during a recent interview on the "Swing & Mrs." podcast on "I think approaching any creative process with [making fandoms happy] would be a mistake that would lead to probably the exact opposite result."

"'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker' spent so much time correcting the course of 'The Last Jedi,'" Lin Jiandong, a Chinese film industry veteran, told after watching the film. "This saga should have had a much grander ending, but it is regrettable that it concluded abruptly when everything seemed to be on a positive upswing."

Whether or not the new film will truly please fans, it remains clear that the franchise is still struggling to attract broader Chinese audiences. When George Lucas' original "Star Wars" debuted in 1977, China had just ended its Cultural Revolution and hadn't yet opened up to the world. Decades later, 20th Century Fox eventually got the prequels, Episodes 1-3, to screen in China around the new millennium. "The Phantom Menace" (1999) earned $5 million, "Attack of the Clones" (2002) took in $7.2 million and "Revenge of the Sith" (2005) grossed $11.7 million in the Chinese market. 

After the Walt Disney Company acquired Lucas film for $4.05 billion in 2012, they expanded the Star Wars universe and achieved new milestones in film history. "The Force Awakens" became one of the highest grossing films of all time and its performance in the Chinese market hit a new peak. The movie grossed 810 million yuan ($124 million) in 2016, due to the audience's curiosity and massive marketing campaigns and stunts, such as the lighting up of the Star Wars logo on the Great Wall of China.

But the follow-ups of each of the new titles have witnessed diminishing box office returns in China. To create more affinity with its Chinese fans, the critically claimed "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" added two heavyweight Chinese actors, Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen to the cast, but the film only grossed 477 million yuan ($74.32 million) in 2017. "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" hit a low in early 2018, with a total gross revenue of just 267 million yuan($41.6 million). "Solo: A Star Wars Story" grossed just 106 million yuan ($16.5 million).

<   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   >  

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:    
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from