Do movies show Americans in decline? - Glenn Reynolds - MSNBC.com: "So ask something of us, movie-makers. You don't need to demand as much as religion does, but at least challenge us to understand a little science along with the action. Neal Stephenson thinks that Americans are in decline because we've lost our interest in science and that movies simply reflect our decline. But maybe movies are in decline because they've underestimated us."
The comment above stems from the steady decline in movie sales over the last 17 or 18 weeks. Even Star Wars couldn't change this. I think the crucial flaw in the Star Wars movies is not a lack of science but a lack of religion and philosophy. In a nutshell: right action, without right thinking.
The return of the Jedi left me cold because it is so morally confused. The Jedi are to care about no one; but they sure seem to care a lot about the Republic. Why? The Jedi don't deal in absolutes; but they are absolutely sure that the dark side is bad (evil?). The Sith are the "bad" guys but at least they care if their spouse is going to die. Yoda, the ultimate Jedi, should care the least about anything right? Yet he looks awfully pained by all the Jedi who are murdered. Is he a hypocrite or is Jedi philosophy and steaming pile of incoherent nonsense.
I think the first Star Wars film in 1977 was so overwhelmingly popular because it had the advantage of being morally coherent. Good guys vs. Bad Guys. Ever since then it's been mostly cool special effects on top of a ridiculous moral universe.
I think movies have waned in popularity for other reasons as well. Video games and Tivo make movies less important. And let's face it: Movies are expensive. In the age of Netflix, I think more and more people evaluate movies on whether it's worth it to see it in the theatre. There used to be no choice.