Tickets for Star Wars: The Force Awakens went on sale on October 19 this year, well ahead of its worldwide release date on December 14. Online booking websites crashed immediately. The movie is expected to smash box office numbers, with profits projected at over one billion USD. The behemoth started with Star Wars (1977), which made so much money back then that adjusted against inflation, it would double the amount the new installment in the franchise is expected to make.
Speaking about the new film, director J.J Abrams said, "We wanted to tell a story that had its own self-contained beginning, middle, and end but at the same time, like A New Hope, implied a history that preceded it and also hinted at a future to follow. When Star Wars first came out, it was a film that both allowed the audience to understand a new story but also to infer all sorts of exciting things that might be. In that first movie, Luke wasn’t necessarily the son of Vader, he wasn’t necessarily the brother of Leia, but it was all possible.The Force Awakens has this incredible advantage, not just of a passionate fan base but also of a backstory that is familiar to a lot of people."
As the film nears its release date, so do the rumours about its contents. Here is a handy guide to The Force Awakens.
All of the shooting took place between May to November last year. The fictional desert planet Tatooine, which was mentioned in the first film, could re-appear in the seventh installment, since some portions were filmed in Abu Dhabi as well as in Ireland.
The plot for the new film is set 30 years after the Battle of Endor and the events that occurred in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983). The synopsis is closely guarded but what emerges from the trailers is: "A mysterious figure finds the Jedi weapon and it winds up in the hands of the Vicar (Max Von Sydow), who contacts the Resistance (the current form of the Rebel Alliance). Pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) shows up to retrieve the item. But then the First Order (the new Empire) shows up."
Harrison Ford reprises his role as Han Solo. Mark Hamill (Luke) and Carrie Fisher (Leia) also appear in the new film along with a multi-cultural star cast that includes John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow.
Director JJ Abrams initially turned down the film, thinking he wasn't up to such a huge task. After a month of meetings, he agreed, also co-writing the film.
A behind-the-scenes video was shown at the Comic Con 2015 in San Diego earlier this year, which gave audiences a preview of the making of the costumes, the construction of key scenes and actor Simon Pegg's experiences on the sets (It is like heaven, he said.) The British actor has starred in both the mega sci-fi franchises - Star Wars and Star Trek.
When the first film in the series was being released, director George Lucas was unsure about how it would be received, so he decamped to Hawaii with his friend, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, instead of attending the premiere.
When Lucas showed some of his friends an early cut, reviews were mixed. Director Brian De Palma is said to have called Star Wars the ‘worst movie ever’. The movie earned pots of money and a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards, but not all critics were charmed. Robert Hatch wrote in The Nation that Lucas "concocted the plot and personages deliberately to put us all in a slack-jawed state of mind suitable for maximum appreciation of his astonishing cinematic trickery."
At the time of writing the script, the first draft of which ran over 200 pages, it seemed to Lucas that the film was coming to him in a flash. That could also be because one of the movies that inspired him was the Flash Gordon (1936) sci-fi serial, told in 13 parts.
The other key influence was Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress (1958). In 2001, when a new DVD version of The Hidden Fortress was released, Lucas spoke about the film’s influence on Star Wars. “I remember the one thing that really struck me about The Hidden Fortress,” he said. “The one thing I was really intrigued by, was the fact that the story was told from the two lowest characters. I decided that would be a nice way to tell the Star Wars story. Take the two lowliest characters, as Kurosawa did, and tell the story from their point of view. Which, in the Star Wars case is the two droids, and that was the strongest influence. The fact that there was a princess trying to get through enemy lines was more of a coincidence than anything else. In my film, the princess is more of a stand-and-fight kind of princess. In the beginning, in one of the first drafts, I did have a little bit more of her and a Jedi, an older Jedi, trying to escape, but then it evolved into the story of Luke.”
A fan-made video shows how a black-and-white Japanese movie about two peasants who transport a princess in disguise through enemy territory influenced Star Wars.
In turn, the success of Star Wars worked for Kurosawa. He was looking to raise funds for his next period movie, Kagemusha (1980) and Lucas’s influence at the 20th Century Fox studio, which produced Star Wars, helped the Japanese filmmaker make Kagemusha. It went on to become one of Kurosawa’s most successful films, also winning the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.