We've all been talking a lot about Star Wars: The Force Awakens over the last few days, weeks, months, and even going back to when it was first announced shortly after Disney purchased Lucasfilm about three years ago. The movie is a cultural phenomenon, a box office juggernaut, and without question a success.
It is also wholly unique, and we'll never see another movie like it, ever again.
When you look at the Hollywood landscape, it seems to come in three categories: franchises, oscar-bait/prestige, zany comedies. Those are the films most people will talk about, anyway. Franchises are the record-setters. They're the movies that we, naturally, cover the most here and other entertainment sites tend to focus on.
But the fervor around The Force Awakens cannot and will not ever be duplicated. The movie was a perfect storm of unique moments. It had been over thirty years since the movie it is a sequel to, Return of the Jedi, was in theaters. There were relatively disappointing films in the franchise (according to both critical and popular opinion), three of them, and they were prequels, in the interim. Two animated series helped keep the franchise alive for fans, but they're still not the same thing, the big thing: the live-action movies.
The changing of hands from George Lucas to Disney, Kathleen Kennedy, and J.J. Abrams made a huge impact, as well. This was the first Star Wars movie without George Lucas directly involved, and it's the only time we'll be able to say that.
The anticipation of thirty years is something we'll never experience again, for Star Wars or really for any franchise film. There are two or three Marvel movies planned for every year for the forseeable future. There are at least two DC movies a year in that time, two Pixar/WDAS movies, new films on the way in the Star Trek and Jurassic franchises, at least four more Transformers films, two or three X-Men movies, and yes, there's going to be a new Star Wars movie every year from now on. In fact, with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story out next December and Star Wars: Episode VIII out in May 2017, then including The Force Awakens we have three new Star Wars movies in eighteen months.
That's why Star Wars: The Force Awakens was so important, to Disney, Lucasfilm, and fans. The movie needed to play to three decades of expectations, it had to assuage fears of the new continuity, and make people forget about their disappointment from a decade before. But it had another job, too. It had to setup the future, and the new world of a Star Wars movie every year going forward.
The next Star Wars movie, Rogue One has its own unique challenge, now. With minds of fans firmly entrenched in the era of Episode VII and the coming sequel, Disney and Lucasfilm have to get people to think about 35-40 story years earlier, for a story they want to be less of an "interim" and more of a universe-expander. After that, they have Episode VIII, which instead of thirty years of build-up, will have one and a half.
But Star Wars: The Force Awakens was an experience that will never be duplicated, and never replicated, by another Star Wars film or by any other franchise.