Why You Shouldn't Get Too Excited About 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,' According to Science

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has had its share of disappointing reviews and provoked a mixed audience reaction, but according to a study from researchers at The Ohio State University, your personal enjoyment of the movie may have a lot to do with your expectations, and not just the film itself.

The research, published in the Journal of Media Psychology, was based on viewers' reactions to the 2017 film The Last Jedi, the second installment of the latest Star Wars trilogy—and may influence how people approach the latest (and final) installment, The Rise of Skywalker.

"It becomes a lot less about what is in the movie and a lot more about what you expected it to be," co-author James Alex Bonus, an associate professor in communication at The Ohio State University, said in a statement.

What does this mean in practice? Lower your expectations and try not to go to the cinema expecting to really love (or really hate) a film, suggested Bonus.

"My recommendation would be to have a little more kindness for people who worked on the movie, because your personal experience has a lot less to do with their work and a lot more to do with your pre-existing beliefs," Bonus told Newsweek.

Star Wars Screening
Research suggests having overly high or low expectations of a movie can wreck your enjoyment. A "Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker" screening during "Star Wars" Marathon hosted by Nerdist on December 19, 2019 in Hollywood, California. JC Olivera/Getty

For the study, 441 people were recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk and asked to rate their expectations of how happy, sad and nostalgic they thought The Last Jedi would make them feel three-weeks prior to its release. Their responses were based on a seven point scale. Information relating to demographics and the movie preferences of the participants were also collected, as was their familiarity with the Star Wars universe.

Three weeks after the release date, participants were asked whether or not they had seen the film and to rate how happy, sad and nostalgic it had actually made them feel. They were also asked about their enjoyment and appreciation of The Last Jedi.

The study authors found that people tend to be pretty bad at predicting their reaction to a film (a trend not unique to the cinema). More than half (55 percent) of those surveyed were significantly off when it came to predicting the strength of how happy (or sad) the movie would make them feel. But it was those that came in with the highest expectations who were ultimately the least satisfied by the experience.

While it might not come as much of a shock that overly high expectations might dash a viewer's experience of a film, the impact of overly low expectations on enjoyment was a more surprising result, said Bonus.

"It wasn't really helping people to go in with those low expectations," Bonus said. "The negative bias going in dragged them down and even if they were pleasantly surprised by the movie, they still didn't like it as much as other people did."

Meanwhile, it was nostalgia rather than expected feelings of happiness or sadness that was the best predictor of whether someone actually went to go and see the film, highlighting the important role nostalgia plays for audiences of established franchises like Star Wars, said Bonus.

The Last Jedi was chosen because it is part of an established and extremely successfully franchise that is likely to elicit strong feelings of happiness and nostalgia.

The researchers mention some limitations to the study. As well as relying on self-reporting (which may be biased), it only examined responses to one film. They suggest future research should look at how audience attachments can influence consumption of movies and other forms of entertainment media.

As for his personal opinions on The Last Jedi, Bonus told Newsweek he disliked it when he first saw it—but it has since become one of his favorites of the franchise.

"I've found myself having a similar experience with The Rise of Skywalker," he said. "I've seen it once, and I disliked it. But I imagine my opinion is going to shift over time, when I'm better able to appreciate the film for what it is rather than what I think it should be."

Why You Shouldn't Get Too Excited About 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,' According to Science | Tech & Science