Star Wars blasted its way into pop culture more than 40 years ago, and it’s shown no signs of slowing down. Many fan boys will tell you the prequel trilogy – The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith – was disappointing, as the films were regarded as pale shadows of the beloved original three. They should know – they saw the movies dozens of times. The prequel films explored the origin of Darth Vader and the rise of the Galactic Empire from the mortally wounded Republic.
Fans reconciled themselves to the idea the saga had run its course with the six films. Dark times indeed, but then a new hope emerged in the form of a powerful corporate empire. Disney decided to buy Lucasfilm for $4 billion dollars. There was a disturbance in the force when the entertainment giant announced its intention to reignite the franchise for a whole new generation of moviegoers.
A new trilogy set 30 years after the events in Return of the Jedi will land in theaters on December 18, 2015 with the release of Episode VII – The Force Awakens.
10. No Jar Jar Binks
The vitriol directed at poor Jar Jar Binks was nearly universal, but in retrospect perhaps we can agree it was a bit over the top. At any rate, the silly orange alien was supposed to provide some comic relief to play off the more serious characters like Queen Amidala and the Jedi Knights. Comedy, however, is hard and Jar Jar fell flatter than C-3P0’s nose.
George Lucas was apparently aware of the negative fan reaction and turned Jar Jar from would-be jester to foil. He is unwittingly maneuvered by a Sith Lord into instigating a senate vote to officially authorize the Grand Army of the Republic. This proves to be a fateful act that starts the Republic down the path to evil.
9. A New Hope for a New Trilogy
People who love the original Star Wars movies are often less than enthusiastic in their praise of Episodes I, II and III. The most common complaint is that they are somewhat boring compared to the roller coaster rides offered in Episodes IV, V and VI. In fairness, Lucas warned fans the prequel trilogy would have more of a “palace intrigue” feel to it. The Clone Wars cartoons were generally well received, but people have been waiting ten years for more movies.
Ever since Disney announced it planned to make another trilogy, the Internet has been abuzz with photos, articles, discussions and posts heavy on speculation. The two trailers released to date have been met with raucous enthusiasm and have provided fans with plenty to sink their teeth into. The wait for a new trilogy will be over 6 months from now when The Force Awakens is released in theaters.
8. Worldwide Appeal
Hollywood has gone through a lot of changes since the 1970s; one of the biggest changes has been the importance of the foreign markets to its bottom line. Today, Hollywood has a death grip on the global entertainment market and has increasingly tailored films to a global audience.
Instead of U.S. opening weekends measured in the millions of dollars, worldwide openings are measured in hundreds of millions. One example is the recent opening of Jurassic World, which made 524.4 million dollars in its first weekend worldwide. Disney is at the forefront of this industry and poised to capitalize on the groundswell of Star Wars fever.
7. What a Piece of Junk
She might not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts! Star Wars fans know that “she” refers to the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s ungainly saucer-shaped freighter that outruns imperial cruisers and dodges asteroids with a certain understated style.
The prequel trilogy gave fans a glimpse of the piece of junk when a ship that appears to be the Falcon can be spotted in several frames in Attack of the Clones. It is only a fleeting shot as a passenger ship lands at a spaceport on Senator Amidala’s home world of Naboo.
The first trailer for The Force Awakens was released over the Thanksgiving holiday and, to the delight of fans, confirmed the flirting is over. The aging freighter, complete with new, rectangular deflector dish to replace the one sheered off in Return of the Jedi, is seen swooping across the screen, executing a wild maneuver to avoid pursuing Tie fighters. The scene is framed by a snippet of an exultant John Williams score for good measure.
6. Imperial Cannon Fodder
Lucas borrowed the term “Storm Trooper” from Germany’s World War I “Sturmtruppens” or shock troops that were deployed in an attempt to break the stalemate of trench warfare on the Western front. These sci-fi incarnations are distinguished by their cool black and white armor and their reputation as the worst shots in the galaxy.
The origin of these imperial soldiers as mass-produced clones was detailed in the prequels, but 50 years have passed since the events in those films. The new trilogy will feature Storm Troopers with slightly modified suits of armor and updated blasters. Still no word yet on whether their shooting skills have improved.
5. The Merchandise Empire
George Lucas proved to be savvy about the merchandising potential of his films. In the documentary Empire of Dreams, he discusses how before the first movie was released in 1977, he launched his own campaign with t-shirts and posters. Lucas was concerned that 20th Century Fox, largely unhappy with the movie, wasn’t going to spend money to adequately market it.
The studio ignored their director’s unusual marketing efforts and when Star Wars became a smash hit, it was quick to change its tune. Lucas, the genius that he is, insisted on keeping the merchandise rights when he signed a long-term deal with the studio. Disney is now in a position to exploit a dizzying array of product tie-ins from clothing and cosmetics to toys and books.
4. The Social Media is With Us
Facebook debuted in 2004 only a year before the third movie in the prequel trilogy was released. Since then, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have exploded across the globe like a jump into hyperspace. Many millions of people log onto social media every day to post pictures and videos, share their lives and to argue about Star Wars – well, the true fans do.
The Star Wars Facebook page has nearly 14 million likes and the Episode VII page has already had more than 288,000 likes. From now until December, millions of fans around the world will be posting and texting countless words and images relating to Star Wars; excitement and traffic will only increase as the release date draws nearer.
As if all that wasn’t a good indicator of its future box office success, the second trailer amassed a whopping 88 million views in its first 24 hours, shattering records. To put that in perspective, Furious 7 held the previous record at 62 million.
Be aware that over-zealous fans may be seduced by the dark side of the force – tweeting and posting spoilers before you have a chance to see the movie for yourself.
3. Disney Rules the Galaxy
The imagination of George Lucas and his talented group of filmmakers made Star Wars an unprecedented phenomenon, but Lucasfilm and its special effects house Industrial Light and Magic, operated on shoestring budgets compared to the behemoth that is the Disney Company.
Spending gobs of money doesn’t necessarily mean a good movie will be made. In fact, a huge budget often gets in the way of important details such as a compelling script. Disney, however, has a long track record of using its prodigious resources to make movies people love. Even if you think Disney is a soulless space slug like the Trade Federation, this is the slug that brought fans critically-acclaimed box office hits such as The Avengers, the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and the Toy Story trilogy.
We trust that Star Wars is in good hands.
2. Return of the Originals
For people who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy, characters like Luke, Leia and Han define the franchise – yes, Chewbacca too. Han Solo’s combination of sarcastic wit and roguish charm were the attributes most sorely missing from the prequels. Fans rejoiced with the announcement that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford and Peter Mayhew would reprise their roles in The Force Awakens.
Details are hard to come by, but leaked information hints that their characters make key contributions to the plot even as the light saber is literally passed to a younger generation of heroes who will continue the fight to rid the galaxy of evil.
1. Enter the Boy Wonder
J.J. Abrams demonstrated his talents first on the small screen with the television hits like Felicity and Alias. His breakthrough came with the success of ABC’s phenomenon Lost.
Abrams quickly made a name for himself on the big screen as well, putting his magic touch on films like Cloverfield, Mission: Impossible III and the Star Trek reboot. Now he is a Hollywood veteran poised to relaunch the biggest movie franchise in history.
If anyone can take the helm from Lucas, and has a legitimate chance of living up to fans’ expectations, J.J. Abrams is that man. Although he directed The Force Awakens, it has already been reported that another director will step in to direct Episode VIII.
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