The Force is strong with 'The Last Jedi,' critics say
Fans who have lined up for days to see "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" could have told you so, but critics' reviews that began pouring out after an embargo lifted Tuesday also reveal a lot of love for Walt Disney Co.'s latest film in the space adventure saga.
Of 43 reviews from top critics, including those at the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, 95 percent were positive, according to Rottentomatoes.com. That beat the 89 percent score for the extremely successful "Force Awakens," which became the biggest U.S. movie of all time in 2015.
While loyal "Star Wars" fans always turn out, the positive word of mouth from reviewers will boost box-office sales and help Disney draw in a new generation of fans in the U.S. and beyond. The consensus among critics is that the movie "honors the saga's rich legacy while adding some surprising twists," according to the site.
"The Last Jedi," which opens in several Asian and European markets on Wednesday and on Dec. 15 in the U.S., is the eighth film in the series created by George Lucas. For Disney, it's the second installment in a new trilogy and the third "Star Wars" film, including last year's spinoff "Rogue One," since the entertainment giant bought series producer Lucasfilm.
Burbank, California-based Disney is anticipating that "The Last Jedi" could reach $200 million on its opening U.S. weekend. That's more than "Rogue One" but less than the record-setting $248 million weekend of "The Force Awakens."
For international markets, Disney isn't providing a forecast. "The Force Awakens" holds the current record for opening-weekend sales outside the U.S. with $281 million, followed by "Avatar" with $164.5 million and "The Hobbit 1" with $138 million, Disney said.
The movie opens in more than a dozen countries, including France, Italy, and Indonesia, on Wednesday, followed by more than 30 markets on Thursday. On Jan. 5, the film will debut in China, a country of 1.4 billion people and a crucial part of Disney's campaign to attract new enthusiasts to the franchise.
Chinese audiences haven't embraced the saga as much as those in the U.S. and Europe, where fans have created a sub-culture spanning generations watching "Star Wars" films and buying related merchandise. While the original trilogy from the 1970s and 1980s created a loyal fan base in western countries, the movies weren't widely available in China and never attracted a following.
While "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" and "The Force Awakens" topped the U.S. box office in 2016 and 2015, "Rogue" ranked 33rd and "The Force" 13th in China on the years they debuted in the country, according to Box Office Mojo.