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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …’

So the wait is nearly over. Disney announced way back on October 30, 2012, that J. J. Abrams would helm what would become the most anticipated movie of the decade (there is no argument there surely?) and come December 17, 2015, when Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens, the world will be able to judge the fruits of his labours.

We have been treated to a stunning trailer, teaser trailers and a teaser of the teaser, all of which have only served to add to the excitement – scratch that – hysteria surrounding the film. Disney have been exemplary in releasing just enough so as not to spoil things. Harrison Ford, returning as Han Solo, was asked recently what he thought the film would deliver to which he replied, “… a great ride.”

Sounds great to us!

The ‘space opera’ that George Lucas released in May 1977 was dismissed by naysayers as an adolescent fantasy and yet Star Wars: A New Hope became one of the most extraordinary film successes of all time. It proved to be a troubled shoot. Some of the more grizzled film veterans working on the film were openly mocking, disdainful of the script, of Lucas as a director and of the sets that had been built. Surrounded by those who believed in his vision (such as his production design team who had revelled in creating a war-torn and dishevelled world), Lucas carried on but recalled the filming at Elstree London as being ‘desperately unhappy’.

However, due to lack of faith from studio bosses at the initial footage shot and the rather lacklustre onset reports, Lucas managed to secure the rights to the sequels, licensing and merchandising. The control he coveted was now his. 

The first public screening of Star Wars took place on May 1, 1977. To maintain secrecy, the invitation-only screening was billed as the world premiere of ‘Alaska’ and despite the sound mix not being complete, the preview proved to be a huge success.  Word began to spread. Something remarkable was happening. Six days after the official opening, the box-office returns were $2.5 million. Queues were forming and the headline in Variety that opening week summed things up ‘STAR WARS HEADS FOR HYPER SPACE: FIRST DAY BOX OFFICE: $255,000, HOUSE RECORDS TUMBLE’

Studio head, Alan Ladd, a long-term supporter of Lucas’s when others were calling for his head, recalled those early screenings many years later, “As the first spaceship went across the screen they started applauding. I didn’t expect that, it brought tears to my eyes.”    

Lucas had created a phenomenon. The film and its sequels, and then prequels, were box-office bonanzas. This is the world that J. J. Abrams has stepped into. His obvious enthusiasm for the original films, more than anything, quickly cemented him as a firm favourite to take over as guardian of the Star Wars flame. Abrams has promised us that he has stripped it down and gone back to ‘a simpler, more elegant time when there was just the Empire and the Rebellion’, which is music to the ears of any fan of particularly the original Star Wars trilogy: A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and The Return of the Jedi (1983).

Of course there has been much talk here at Showcase of our favourite Star Wars moments and lists have been compiled of our favourite characters; in short, Christmas is officially coming early this year: The countdown has begun!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released at Showcase Cinemas on December 17.

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