Now that the Star Wars ennealogy has been concluded with The Rise of Skywalker, people are solidifying their opinions of the newest trilogy of films, as well as the franchise as a whole. But the opinions of those who went to see any one of the Star Wars films in theaters aren’t necessarily dependent on the content of the films. On the contrary, according to a study recently published in the Journal of Media Psychology, it seems that the way people perceive the Star Wars movies has a significant impact on how they feel about them, especially when it comes to high versus low expectations, as well as intensity of nostalgic feelings.
Ben affleck said it best, BvS was judged on theme/expectation rather than execution. Where The Last Jedi seems to have benefited from the oppositie. Rian and Co were applauded for what they attempted to do rather than how well they executed.
— Ashes Over Saigon (@MartyMcTweet) December 12, 2019
According to the study, which comes via the New York Post, participants, who were asked to rate on a seven-point scale how nostalgic, happy, and/or sad The Last Jedi would make them feel, gave predictions that frequently turned out to be inaccurate; meaning they often overestimated or underestimated what kind of emotional impact the film would have on them. Subsequently, those who had the highest expectations for TLJ, but were the most disappointed by it, experienced the least amount of enjoyment, while those who had the highest expectations and felt like the film delivered on those expectations experienced the most enjoyment. And even though these findings may fall under the “water is wet” category of news for you, there were some notable surprises found in the research.
A second viewing of The Last Jedi drastically turned my opinion around on it.
I appreciated it so much more without the weight of expectation.
— Joe Juba (@Joejuba) December 19, 2017
One co-author of the study, James Alex Bonus, an assistant professor of communication at The Ohio State University, said in a statement that out of the 441 people surveyed for the study, those who had low expectations for the film, but were pleasantly surprised by it, didn’t experience the most enjoyment—a result that seemed to go against what the authors had predicted would be the outcome of the study. “The negative bias going in dragged [viewers] down and even if they were pleasantly surprised by the movie, they still didn’t like it as much as other people did.” Bonus noted that, ultimately, “It wasn’t really helping people to go in with those low expectations.”
On top of that unexpected finding, the study also revealed that forecasted nostalgia, rather than forecasted happiness, was the main driver of whether or not an individual went to go see the movie. Which presumably means that what may be the most critical factor in terms of audience turnout, especially concerning long-standing franchises like Star Wars, is simply the urge to reconnect with a story or characters that remind people of the past, rather than an expectation that the film will actually be a quality product.
Finally saw #RiseofSkywalker Went in with low expectations and came out balling. JJ did a great job salvaging what Rian did to The Last Jedi. It ranks up in my top 3 favorite Star Wars movies ever. #Reylo was perfect. But #BenSoloDeservedBetter His redemption was beautiful…
— 🍃Elyssar🍃 (@adunedainranger) December 31, 2019
Bonus claimed that the study shows that “We are really bad at predicting how future events will make us feel,” a finding that falls in line with other research demonstrating the same phenomenon. Taking this into account, Bonus said that the success of movies like the latest Star Wars films “becomes a lot less about what is in the movie and a lot more about what [viewers] expected it to be.” Which may mean we all need to work on our Jedi precognition skills so we can, at the very least, save some money on movie tickets.
What do you think about this study’s findings? Are you surprised to hear that people with low expectations but high satisfaction are not the ones who enjoyed the Star Wars movies most, or is all of this research old news for you? We have high expectations for the opinions you’ll leave in the comments section!
Feature Image: Lucasfilm