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10 things you should know: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"

Writer: Casey Lee


Did you know about these 10 things about "The Force Awakens"?

This is it. We are now just a few days away from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", and Disney has not failed in reminding us of it throughout the year. Earlier this year, we've come up with a list of things that we have known about the 7th episode, but months have passed since then with new snippets and events that have happened in between then and the release date.

While we don't want to add 10 more things that would spoil the movie for anyone (and anyone who does deserve to be Force-choked), we are adding some snippets to let you appreciate how far the movie has come since the very first announcement that there would be an Episode 7 three years ago.

No more George Lucas

When George Lucas had agreed to sell his rights to the Star Wars property back in 2012, he had also sold along with it a guideline that he had created for the 7th episode. Although the understanding shortly after the sale was that Disney and its newly acquired LucasFilms would continue to engage George Lucas as their creative consultant and walking encyclopedia on all matters related to the universe, it has been recently revealed that George Lucas did not have any hand in the making of "The Force Awakens".

His guidelines for Episode 7 and the draft script written by Michael Arndt had been rewritten by J.J. Abrams and "Empire Strikes Back" screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, and Lucas had not spoken with Abrams during the entire pre and production process.

Whether that is a good or bad thing would highly depend on the outcome of "The Force Awakens", but knowing that hereon in Disney is firmly taking the reins in driving the "Star Wars" franchise, with or without any input from George Lucas.

J.J. Abrams could not have directed "The Force Awakens"

It has been known for some time that J.J Abrams had refused the offer to direct "The Force Awakens" when he was first approached by LucasFilms , but little is known of what had made him change his mind in the end.

Even though Kathleen Kennedy went to directors from Matthew Vaughn to Brad Bird (both who passed because they had their own projects), she eventually went back to Abrams to be the one to bring back the franchise that had been cinematically dormant for 10 years.

In a recent interview, Abrams had explained that it was the new direction of exploring the (new expanded) universe through the eyes of a new generation of characters, 30 years after "Return of the Jedi", that was what had finally made him agreed to take the helm.

While many may have opinions if Abrams is the right man for the job based on his revival of the "Star Trek" franchise, but even for someone who has much experience of playing in the franchise sandbox, "Star Wars" is a both a tremendously huge opportunity and burden for any blockbuster filmmaker to take on.

Injured on set

Accidents on set are not uncommon, especially with a set as immense and practical effects driven as "Star Wars". While "The Force Awakens" has been extremely lucky when one of its major and elder leads, Harrison Ford, suffered not only one, but two, accidents during and after production without any major injuries (or worse), Ford was not the only one who was injured during the shoot.

It was recently revealed that during the accident on the set of the Millennium Falcon where Ford's ankle was injured by a hydraulic door, director J.J Abrams broke his back trying to lift the door.

That's no moon

For its capability to destroy an entire planet in the blink of an eye, the Death Star is one of the most iconic images that puts the fear and might of the Galatic Empire in the original trilogy. While the Empire has been defeated and its most powerful weapon destroyed (twice) by the Rebel Alliance, The First Order that is formed as the remnant of the Empire has inherited more than just the name.

Seen a few times in the trailers where the army of The First Order are assembled, it has been revealed on Force Friday, that that is not the home planet of the Order, but a moving base known as Starkiller Base. While older fans may recognise that name as the original name of the Force-gifted family before it was changed to Skywalker, the name clearly hints the capabilities of the base that is as dangerous as it sounds on the label.

No Midi-Chlorians

"The Force Awakens" takes place 30 years after the events of "The Return of the Jedi", which means all the laws of the universe up to the sixth movie of the franchise are official. This would mean that among those accepted as canon is the existence of Midi-Chlorians; the biological component that determines how attuned one is to The Force as explained in "The Phantom Menance". That explanation hasn't sat well with some fans, especially for those who are familiar with the now unofficial Legends universe, where Midi-Chlorians became the basis for a major threat in the universe in a later story arc that were immune to The Force.

The setting up of this new threat won't appear to be the direction that the new Lucasfilm is heading towards, as far as "The Force Awakens" is concerned. J.J. Abrams has given an affirmative 'no' in acknowledging or addressing the existence of Midi-Chlorian in his instalment to the franchise and that should be assuring to those who didn't like the idea, but whether that would change in future movies remains as a possibility.

The Knights of Ren

When Kylo Ren was first introduced, many were more interested in taking issue with his cross-lightsaber than to his identity and origin, but recent reveals that Kylo Ren is not his true name has added depth to this mysterious villain. In EW's coverage of "The Force Awakens", Kylo Ren is revealed to be a member of a new order who call themselves 'The Knights of Ren', where the title 'Ren' is given to its members just like how 'Darth' is added to every Dark Side user.

Abrams has kept most details about the order a secret, possibly to be expanded in later movies, but it is believed that the Knights of Ren are dedicated followers of Darth Vader and are on a mission to finish his legacy of reviving the Dark Side. There are also questions as to whether the Knight of Ren are fully fledged Force users who uses the Dark Side, though we believe that question is one to be answered in the future.

Where is Luke Skywalker?

Other than a short glimpse of what can only be presumed to be the hand of Luke Skywalker petting R2-D2 in the trailers, his absence in the presence of the older generation of heroes in "The Force Awakens" is notable. While the search for Luke Skywalker has been pretty much confirmed to be the basis for Rey and Finn's journey throughout "The Force Awakens", J.J. Abrams has teased that once they have found the missing Skywalker, it will have a game-changing impact to the universe, which will eventually lead into "Episode 8" where he has been confirmed to appear.

R2-KT

There a few characters more lovable in the "Star Wars" franchise than the round and rolling droids, and now a new upstart is set to create a new rivalry of who is the most lovable droid of them all; R2-D2 or BB8.

While fans might be interested to learn that the design of BB8 was actually one of the initial designs of R2-D2 during the production of the original trilogy and scrapped due to unavailable technology at the time, there is one other droid that may hold more sentimental value to the fans who have loved droids all their life.

When the founder of the 501st Legion, Albin Johnson, got the news that his daughter, Katie, was dying of a brain tumour that was too late to be removed, he had requested the R2 Builders Club to build her a working R2 droid to spend with for her last days.

The builders set to work on the droid named R2-KT and although they couldn't finish in time before she passed away, R2-KT has since been a key component in Star Wars events, fundraisers and visiting hospitalised children in Katie's name. When word of R2-KT's existence reached the ears of Hasbro and Disney, they decided to give R2-KT a part to play in "The Force Awakens". It has been confirmed that R2-KT has made it in the final cut, so keep your eyes out for a pink droid, and know that it represents a fan who has touched lives.

PG 13

"Star Wars: The Force Awakens" has been given a PG-13 rating by Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). This is only the second time that the franchise has been given this rating, out of its six movies, the first of which was given to the last Star Wars installment, "Revenge of the Sith". Malaysia is most likely to give its similar P13 rating to "Force Awakens", but we would hardly imagine any child under 13 won't be seeing it without their fanboy fathers.

The Most Expensive Star Wars

Among the biggest hopes of "The Force Awakens" is its return into using practical effects like in the original trilogy rather than a soulless CG spectacle that the prequel trilogy is so often criticised for being. That wouldn't come cheap when more talents and prep work is required to design, build and transport each piece of these practical effects onto locations and sets, which means that it won't go easy on the budget as well. Topping at USD$200 million in production cost, "The Force Awakens" would be the most expensive installment yet, outpacing its digital heavy predecessors from the prequel trilogy that cost about USD$115 million apiece, and standing on a different scale altogether when compared to the original Star Wars ("A New Hope") that would only cost USD$45 million today, when adjusted for inflation.

While there is hardly a chance that "The Force Awakens" would fail to make back its production cost (its advance sales has already rocketed past USD$50 million and is looking on track to break the opening weekend record set by "Jurassic World" this year at USD$208 million), but know that Disney is sparing no expenses to keep the fans happy and getting their money's worth each time they go to see "The Force Awakens", or any future installments in the franchise.

Cinema Online, 13 December 2015


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