Peter Suderman on How Star Wars Changed Movies


My latest in Vox is on the many, many ways that Star Wars changed movies. Here's how it starts:

In just a few days, the world will finally get to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the seventh entry in the movie franchise and the start of a new trilogy and new chapter for the series. Disney, which bought the rights to Star Wars from creator George Lucas for $4 billion in 2012, has said that it plans to release a new Star Wars film every yearessentially forever. Given the incredible enthusiasm for the new installment and widespread expectations of an enormous box office (its first-day ticket presales easily broke records; they were eight times higher than first-day presales for any previous film), it's a good bet that the Star Wars franchise will reign over Hollywood for years to come.

So this is a new era for the series. However, it's really nothing new for Tinseltown. The Star Wars franchise — and what you might call the Star Wars mindset — has dominated the movie industry since its debut in 1977, even during the years-long breaks between films.

The original movie and its two sequels were unprecedented hits, and in their success they established the template for the modern blockbuster, serving as the prototypes and inspirations for just about every big-budget, effects-driven action film that's been released since. In the process, Star Wars and its many cultural offshoots laid the foundation for what Hollywood looks like today, reorienting the entire industry around visual spectacle and event films with mass cultural — and mass commercial — appeal. In a sense, Star Wars remade Hollywood in its own image.

Read the whole thing.

And for more on Star Wars, check out the latest issue of Reason, and the recent panel discussion on the movie at Reason's DC office, featuring Sonny Bunch of The Washington Free Beacon, Alyssa Rosenberg of The Washington Post, and myself: 

NEXT: Guess How Many Bias Claims Were Upheld By the LAPD From 2012-2014?

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136 responses to “Peter Suderman on How Star Wars Changed Movies

  1. Suderman, you Sugarfree’d the Vox link.

    1. That’s probably for the best.

    2. Eventually my shadow falls across you all.

      1. Are shadows supposed to be this…sticky?

        1. If they are cast by one who is that bad at metabolizing sugar, yes.

          1. He’s not bad, the rest of us are just privileged. Quit insulin shaming.

            1. His islets of Langerhans are all clogged up with midichlorians.

    3. Nobody reads the Vox links, Hugh.

  2. All the Star Wars hype pisses me off, and in protest I refuse to see The Force Awakens.

    WHO’S WITH ME???

    1. I got kids. Sorry. The Force is strong with them.

      1. Me too – IMAX theater next week.

      2. Yep. She’s going to want to see it, the ex-wife won’t, and since I’m on winter break, I’ll be spending all day with her for two weeks

    2. No one is with you. The rest of us want to see the movie.

    3. nobody x2

    4. No way. I plan to see it in the theater.

    5. I’ll join you if the movie sucks.

    6. Much like how I refused to see Titanic the LOTR movies, I will refuse to see The Force Awakens.

      Unlike the rest of these tedious nerds, I am staunchly on your side.

      1. You’re getting crustier every day.

        1. I find the hype and coverage surrounding the movie to be outrageously tedious (not in this site but in general), and I have zero desire to watch J.J. Abrams direct another boring film.

          It’s just my opinion, man.

          1. You must see it or I will not feel validated

      2. Cutting off your nose to spite your face, eh?

      3. i have to say Titanic on VHS was awesome, you could skip the first tape and go straight to the second which had nudity and a satisfying amount of drowning of terrible characters.

        1. +1 Propeller Guy

        2. Killing Dicaprio took way too long.

          *Jack…. Jack…….. Jack……*

        3. “A Night to Remember” is much better.

          Heck, get the Nazi version of “Titanic”. (Seriously, the Nazis made a movie about the disaster.)

          1. Yeah but in that version the ship was sunk by a guy named Hershel Iceberg.

            1. *narrows sha’ah*

    7. I’ll see it when I can rent it on Amazon for $3.

    8. Ill go see it. Might wait for dollar theater. I do want to see it on the big screen since these movies are all about the visuals anyways. Which is fine. There is a place for that. Star Wars brought nothing new in terms of characters or storytelling. The original brought special effects to a whole new level though.

    9. I’m not on your side. I’m going to see the movie in hopes that J.J. Abrams won’t shit on the movies as badly as he shat all over Star Trek II or as badly as Lucas shat on his on work.

    10. I think I can hold out until it’s on Netflix. Or at least until I won’t have to stand in line for it. To be honest, I have been extraordinarily underwhelmed by the previews, and am only going to see it at all because of the Star Wars name.

    11. Sorry. Free tickets to see it tomorrow night.

  3. Star Wars led to movies like Stealth and Wing Commander, so there was a big downside.

    1. Wing Commander only failed because of cowardly marketing execs that don’t have vision. Have you even seen that movie? it was ahead of it’s time. Stealth sucked.

      1. If wing commander had come out on the sc-fi channel two years ago it would have millions of fans.

        1. Couldn’t save it. Tits might’ve, but they would’ve had to be amazing. Like, a long single-shot scene of just her soaping up in the shower. Within the context of the plot, of course.

    2. Well it lead to the Wing Commander game first, which is a big upside. They even had Luke as the hero.

  4. I stopped reading at Vox.

    1. I saw ‘Suderman’ and ‘Vox’ and stopped right there.

      Of course Suderman is published by Vox.

  5. I thought “Jaws” was the first big summer blockbuster with a wide release, two years before Star Wars.

    1. Jaws was a movie and a book. Similar interest that was given The Exorcist. Star Wars was an event.

    2. It didn’t have a wide release.

      1. Shit, hit the button.

        Jaws was only released in 409 theaters in the US, cut down from the planned 900 by the studio, pretty much at the last minute. Wide release movies we a sign of a low quality movie at the time, as a ploy to get a lot of people to see it before reviewers slaughtered it.

        1. Reviewers slaughtered Jaws? I wasn’t aware of that.

  6. I’ve developed an odd distaste for fiction in general. Don’t really have a desire to watch TV shows, or movies or read novels. Maybe a short story if I could be assured it was well written and light on the “story” part.

    I’m assuming this is bad, but I’m not sure there’s a cure for it. Needless to say, zero desire to see something being crammed down my throat with a hydraulic jack.

    1. There is nothing wrong with you McCracken. As a kid I was a voracious reader of fiction but sometime in the middle of college I quit and only read non-fiction. Well, with the exception of this site.

    2. I’ll be the brave one here. You are a horrible person. Even worse, you are a horrible person with no imagination. And you’re probably bad at math.

      1. Guilty as charged on all counts.

        1. Speaking of fiction, how come you got cut from Moneyball?

          1. Unsympathetic character, I guess.

            Maybe Jonah Hill is a composite character and my contribution was body type, but since I’m thin now (and taller than him) that doesn’t really work anymore either.

  7. Somehow I’m actually more tired of Star Wars than I am of Trump.

    1. How? Star Wars stuff has been optional since the day after Phantom Menace came out.

    2. Trump/Skywalker 2016, Make the Empire Great Again

  8. I did what I could to avoid the hype. But the reviews are in, and its apparently far from a train wreck. I’m all in.

  9. Disney is a genius for marketing. I’ve seen perhaps two actual previews of the movie on tv commercials, but every other company out there from Dodge to Target has been doing so many Co-Commercials that Disney has gotten tons of marketing picked up by other companies.

  10. Spoiler warning: your childhood memories will be spoiled.

  11. Several years ago I read that when Lucas originally brought the idea to execs they thought it would never sell and planned to show it in installments as Saturday morning kids’ entertainment. I’ve never tried to track that story down to see if it was true.

    1. I’ve read that Lucas was inspired by old fashioned serials, like The Lone Ranger and wanted to do something like that with Star Wars.

  12. The first trilogy I have seen countless times and, of course, love. They lost me with the second. I didn’t even see the third one, and cannot remember much from the second.

    1. The second trilogy was nothing more than fx porn

      1. And that’s bad? The only trouble with that is that the FX loses a lot even on a big screen TV. Seeing III in the theater made up for the otherwise lackluster quality of the movie itself.

        1. No. Dear god, no. The best effects that could possibly be made cannot excuse Jar Jar

          1. Well, he wasn’t in III, anyway, which was the only one I got out to the theater to see.

            On a related note, I would recommend getting the Rifftrax for the prequels. It makes them bearable at least.

          2. +enormous midichlorian count

        2. No, it’s not. Which is why I will go see this one. Just calling it what it is.

    2. The third prequel was actually good.

      1. This. The third is the best of the prequels. The first one, however, is not only terrible, it is unnecessary. You can view the entire story so far without viewing the first one, and you’ll be completely satisfied.

    3. I found that if you go into the first trilogy with the proper mindset then it’s actually pretty decent. If someone better than Christensen had been chosen to be Annakin it would have been much better.

      1. NO.

        It is just bad. All of it. Self-indulgent masturbatory moviemaking.

        I’m skeptical of this film because reviewers are dishonest as fuck. I know this because I took the time to read reviews of the prequel travesty and everyone loved the stupid shit. Today everyone knows Lucas collossally fucked it all up and walked away with fistfuls of cash for his efforts. But looking back, well, everyone was retarded. At least I have the excuse of being too young to know better.

        1. And you probably didn’t like the second or third Matrix movies or the last Indiana Jones movie, just like the rest of the cool kids.

          As I said, if you hated the first trilogy it’s because you went into it with the wrong mindset. It happens all the time.

          1. or the last Indiana Jones movie

            Hey! Connery was aweso…… oh, shit… yeah, I forgot about that disaster.

          2. Nah, the Matrix movies were fine. It’s not like the original was more than a one-trick pony. I skipped the Indiana Jones and the Space Aliens movie. I’ll admit, Mr. Plinkett has done a far more exhaustive dissection of Star Wars than anyone will ever and I agree with him completely. I also watched the Plinkett reviews before watching the prequels as an adult. As a teen when the prequels came out I thought they were just kinda meh.

            1. With this comment, I see what has gone wrong. I don’t think you should continue to blame George Lucas or the Star Wars franchise for your misplaced expectations. You might want to consider joining Episiarch’s auteur club where you can discuss serious filmmakers like Paul Verhoeven and David Cronenberg.

              1. There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about something completely meaningless, sparky. I like highbrow movies. I liked that there was a deeper intrigue available in the original trilogy on top of the fun space opera romp. It’s okay to have, like, opinions, man.

                1. It’s fine that you’re passionate about your George Lucas hate, plenty of others share that passion. I just always find it a little strange that people get so worked up about such small things. I’m constantly baffled by people who can’t seem to enjoy something fun because they’re expecting more from it. People who throw their noses into the air because some bit of entertainment didn’t live up to their standards. And so I like to pick on those people, it’s like a hobby.

                  1. Perhaps Lucas hate is its own reward? I mean the Plinkett reviews are art and have forever enhanced how I enjoy movies.

      2. Christensen’s not at fault. George seems to have no idea how to direct actors, at least not any more. He wants them to hit their marks and mouth the corny dialogue, and that’s it. Anakin was written to be a moody, annoying brat, and not even a more naturally charismatic actor could have improved that.

      3. The trade dispute framing was lame.

        Lucas could have used either raiders attacking systems throughout the galaxy with parts of the galaxy trying to solve the issue on their own and secede from the Republic. Senator Palpatine would then lead a clone army to defeat the raiders in part of the galaxy while the Senate debates the issue. On his hero’s return to Coruscant, he would be elected chancellor with the mandate of restoring the Republic and seizing power that way ? similar to Julius Caesar.

        And you could provide a believable reason for the destruction of the Jedi Council by having them stand up to Palpatine’s attempts to end the raids as a vigilante action against the wishes of the Senate and the laws of the Republic.

        That eliminates Lucas’s misunderstanding of economic theory which get worse in The Clone Wars (the Senate removes caps on interest rates and so interest rates go through the roof).

        Before Lucas sold the rights to Disney, I expected someone to “reboot” Star Wars without the lame portions and clean up the contradictions from Lucas changing his mind about the direction of the story. Now that Disney owns it, I expect them to maintain the copyright forever.

  13. Can we please not have anymore Star Wars articles? I’m looking forward to the next Trump article. At least maybe a puppycide or weed article? Bored! How about an article that has Trump, weed, puppycide, and a side serving of Rand all in one?

    1. You forgot buttsex and mexicans. Sheesh.

      1. I thought those were automagical.

  14. It is your duty as an American citizen to see Star Wars.

    1. Don’t try to ruin it, dude.

      1. I am going to wait a few days/weeks. Hate crowds.

        1. I’m planning to go after Christmas. I’m taking some extra time off work so I should be able to get in a fairly sparsely packed viewing.

        2. I was probably going to see a matinee on New Years day, but I just learned that my dad actually wants to see it, so I may wait even longer and see it with my folks. Trying to see it this weekend would be nuts.

    2. I saw the first showing of the first movie. I was a kid and it blew me away. The special effects were like nothing anyone had seen before and I knew I was witnessing the beginning of a new era in movies. It really was an event. Everything after that was just a movie. The only reason I saw the last three were because my wife insisted. She loves SciFi / Fantasy stuff. Me? Not so much.

      Sorry Francisco, telling me it is a duty probably ensures that I won’t see it until my wife watches it on the teevee.

      1. The prequels may as well not exist. The few lines of exposition Obi-wan gives in the first movie are really all that is needed to establish the Anakin-Vader transformation. I’m glad there is an effort to stop allowing Lucas to rape my childhood with shitty storytelling.

        1. *points cell phone at waffles*

          PEW PEW!! PEW PEW PEW! PEW!

          1. Yup. South Park understood this perfectly.

      2. I was in my mid-teens and it was the first movie I had seen that I wanted to go back and see again the next day.

  15. I’m going to spoil Star Wars for you and explain how JJ Abrams would unfuck the series if we lived in a perfect world.

    We never got to see the real ending to Return of the Jedi. Where Lucas force-fucked a bunch of stupid CGI scenes of celebration into the special edition we would instead see Luke wandering into the sunset akin to the Lone Ranger. Han would have died destroying the second Death Star. Leia would have to come to grips with leading the new republic. JJ will stay true to this and the mysterious leader of the evil faction in the new movie will be Luke. There is no other way to make this movie work for me. I have searched my feelings and I know this to be true.

    1. This is why you fail.

  16. Do you see how good this is?

    This is why I have faith JJ will successfully unfuck Star Wars.

    1. Nice Desmond reset! My sister thanks you…

    2. As terrible as his movie writing has been, that’s all Lindelof, baby.

  17. I was obsessed with the original series when I was 6 or 7 years old. Like most of the rest of the movies I was obsessed with when I was 6 or 7 years old, I’m over it. The old flicks are a fun nostalgia trip, but I mean, they’re not exactly towering feats of storywriting or acting. I think George Lucas probably summed it up best:

    There is a group of fans for the films that doesn’t like comic sidekicks. They want the films to be tough like Terminator, and they get very upset and opinionated about anything that has anything to do with being childlike. The movies are for children but they don’t want to admit that.

    1. Explain to me how any of the plot or content of the prequels is appropriate for children. The lion king was for children too. But it used a protagonist and traditional story arc. Lucas said fuck it to storytelling and just shoved CGI in our faces.

      I mean, I am over it. But this is the one week of my life where it is fun to pretend to care about this movie franchise.

      1. Yeah, this reminds me of how pissed I was after seeing PM. And then I had to see it again later the same day.

        That sucked.

    2. Lucas still deserves utter and complete ridicule for that Jar Jar abomination. Childlike or not, it was beyond stupid.

    3. Children LOVE movies that contain extensive scenes of legislatures debating trade policy.

      1. Fuck cartoons! Saturday morning CSPAN!!!

        When you become so big that no one has the balls to be your editor, you usually wind up having to try and explain away all the dumb things an editor would’ve told you to fix.

  18. More like the farce awakens am I right everyone?

    1. You are right, Fist!

      More like “Let them FORCE this on you”, right?

      1. That doesn’t make any sense.

  19. OT: I rec’d two letters from Derpetologist – He’s in the Army Now!

    Will post something for either PM links and or AM links when hopefully we’ll have traffic.

    Remember – he stands on guard for thee. Wait, no – that’s someone in Canada….

    Anyway, will post Derpy’s input later. THAT IS ALL! DISMISSED!

    1. Thanks, Almanian. Looking forward to that. Please tell him hello from me if you reply.

      1. He’s not gonna reply.

    2. You’re saying he’s in the Army now?

    3. OT: I rec’d two letters from Derpetologist – He’s in the Army Now!

      That should be good for a few chapters in the book of Derptology.

      1. I’d buy that book.

  20. If anyone wants to defend Lucas I have one word for you. Midichlorians. That’s how you ruin Star Wars. To suggest that the force isn’t something we all can tap into destroyed the magic of the movie. As a child I believed that through faith and force of will I could do anything. Later on Lucas would shit all over my childhood with that single abominable concept.

    1. Yo, fuck the concept of midichlorians.

    2. It sounds to me more like George Lucas took a shit then you picked it up and smeared it all over your childhood out of spite.

      1. It’s hyperbole. Kind of like sports. It doesn’t really matter what this or any of these movies turn out to be for me or anyone else. But it’s fun to get all huffy about it. May the force be with you.

        Hah, just reminded me that we used to say that in Catholic mass during the sign of peace. Now I gotta go find a back alley midichlorian transfusion so I can predict tonight’s lottery numbers.

    3. Don’t despair. You could still get bit by a radioactive spider.

      1. I’ve tried this. They really needed a “results not typical” disclaimer during the movie.

    4. Check your Midichlorian privilege.

    5. Meh, it’s just the biological explanation for “He is strong in the Force.” Some sort of exclusivity has always been implied.

      It was completely unnecessary and opened up huge plot holes. If they think the Senate is being manipulated by a Sith, why not test the blood of every senator and their staff?

  21. At least John Woo isn’t directing.

  22. The discussed ending of the film that Kurtz favored presented the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone “like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns,” as Kurtz put it.

    Kurtz said that ending would have been a more emotionally nuanced finale to an epic adventure than the forest celebration of the Ewoks that essentially ended the trilogy with a teddy bear luau.

    Kurtz! The horror, the horror.

  23. I love how the Jedi can knock people out with a simple neck pinch.

    1. Though the Cylons are immune to that.

      1. And the Daleks don’t even have to be bothered by it.

  24. I want a Golan-Globus/Cannon films version of Star Wars. Something that delves into the shallowest desires of teenage boys a la Ninja 3: The Domination or Lifeforce.

  25. I thought of a line that just has to be in this movie but alas, probably won’t be. It would bring the house down.

    You have Han, an old man reminiscing about his glory days. He says, “I used to shoot first and ask questions later. Now I just react to events happening around me…”

  26. It would be really cool if someone made a movie about a video game that is actually a tryout to become a real pilot in an intergalactic war.

    1. You’re stepping on Mr. Lizard’s turf

    2. Well, they already made a movie about a kid playing a computer and actually becoming a real thermonuclear button-pusher.

  27. The Star Wars “dramatic” story is well known to every kid who went to a Saturday Matinee to watch the next episode of a Cowboy serial. And of course the feature film.

    I went to the first Star Wars on a Saturday Matinee. Everyone stood up and cheered when the Falcon went to light speed.

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