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In 2005 it looked like the Star Wars saga was officially over. Lucasfilm and Twentieth Century Fox released Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, which completed the prequels trilogy and tied the story back to the first film in the series. It was done, finished, kaput, and ended.
But then along came Disney. In October 2012 the studio brokered a $4.05 billion deal to buy Lucasfilm, and with the deal came the announcement that they would be starting production on a whole new trilogy of Star Wars films that would keep the epic story going for years and years to come. Naturally, fanboys started to foam at the mouth with anticipation. What would the new movies be about? Would they bring back classic characters or merely focus on new ones? Would there be new stories set outside of the trilogy?
Watch the latest trailer here:
Thanks to all of these questions, we here at Cinema Blend have been sorting through all of the rumors trying to sort out exactly what we know about the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and we’ve constructed a handy guide to help sort out all of the facts and fictions. Read on below for the latest info and the previously released trailer...
Now, what else have we learned about J.J. Abrams' sequel?
The TitleWe spent years solely referring to the new chapter in the Star Wars saga as simply Star Wars: Episode VII, but those days are over. History will now forever remember the new movie as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This name has received a bit of flak from fans, as some are confused by the idea of The Force going to sleep, but it’s also not super hard to interpret the larger meaning, as the film is basically the reawakening of the franchise after a decade-long sleep.
The ProductionIt lasted for almost a full six months, but production on Star Wars: The Force Awakens has been completed and the film now finds itself in post-production in advance of its December release date. Principal photography on the movie began on May 16, 2014, and ended in the first week of November in 2014. While some location shooting was done in places like the Abu Dhabi desert and the Irish island Skellig Michael, most of filming was done at Pinewood Studios in England (which was actually expanded to ensure that the movie had enough room to work).
There were some complications encountered during shooting, with incidents involving leaked photos and plot details, but the biggest setback involved Harrison Ford sustaining an injury aboard the Millennium Falcon. Schedules had to be changed and production was put on hiatus for a spell, but the situation was resolved without the need to delay the film’s release date.
To get a sense of what it would have been like to be a part of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens production, watch the San Diego Comic-Con 2015 reel below:
It truly must have been an amazing experience to be a part of that project.
The TimelineIt has been confirmed that the Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens plot will be set 30 years after the Battle of Endor and the events portrayed in Return of the Jedi. This makes complete sense, given that the film will once again feature the likes of Luke, Leia and Han from George Lucas’ original trilogy. In order to pull this off realistically, Episode VII, would need to factor in the age of the actual actors, and it appears that’s exactly what’s being done.
The DirectorThough he initially declined the job, J.J. Abrams is not only going to be the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but also one of the co-writers. The filmmaker has had plenty of experience working in science-fiction, directing both the last two Star Trek movies as well as the Spielberg-esque Super 8, and has long said that he is a life-long Star Wars fan. Will that experience and fanhood lead to a great sequel? We’ll just have to wait and find out.
The ScreenplayOscar winning screenwriter Michael Arndt was one of the first people to be hired to work on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, signing a deal to pen the script for the film only about a week after the film was first announced in 2012. But his involvement ended months before the start of production, and the script was put the hands of J.J. Abrams and Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan. While plot details have not yet been officially revealed, insiders have said that the film will have a young female protagonist and that the plot will be sparked by the discovery of Luke’s hand and a lightsaber.
FinnPopping on to the screen wearing a Stormtrooper uniform and no helmet, John Boyega’s Finn was actually the first of the new characters we got to "meet" from Star Wars: The Force Awakens - but sadly the actor is still trying to keep his role in the movie as secretive as possible. As described by Boyega during the Star Wars Celebration panel, the character begins the story finding himself in incredible danger. This fact winds up changing his life completely, and "launches him into the Star Wars universe in a unique way." That’s not much to go on, but it was finally confirmed that the character does indeed start the movie as a Stormtrooper.
An interesting detail that has come out is that we do know that at some point Finn gets to handle a lightsaber - which we know thanks to that short clip that revealed he is the one facing off with Kylo Ren and his raggedy cross-guard lightsaber in the snow-covered woods. While some have speculated that he’s a Jedi (if anyone is a Jedi, we still believe it will be Rey), the most recent reports we’ve heard indicate that, as part of their training, the First Order stormtroopers are taught how to wield the traditional weapon of the Jedi Knight in what could amount to a kind of hand to hand combat training. We’ll have to see how adept he is with it, but Finn will definitely handle the weapon at some point. This also appears to be Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber, the one he lost at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, which is rumored to be the starting point for The Force Awakens.
BIG SPOILER AHEAD
An advertisement for a The Force Awakens puzzle on Amazon may have revealed how Finn fits into the larger Star Wars universe, as the product description refers to him as Lando Calrissian’s son. We’ve also learned that his generation has been brought up on a steady diet of First Order propaganda, teaching kids to hate the Rebels, including Luke Skywalker. They see them as villains while viewing the Empire as the victims and good guys, which is why these kids become stormtroopers in the first place. In an attempt to strip them of all personality and individuality recruits are just given a number as identification, and Finn’s is FN-2187, which is where he derives the name Finn in the first place.
ReyThe Star Wars franchise doesn’t have a particularly healthy history when it comes to its female characters (you can count the notable ones in the original trilogy on one hand), but it appears that J.J. Abrams will be throwing that stupid tradition out the window for the future of the series. There are multiple incredibly talented actresses on the cast list for The Force Awakens, but seemingly leading the pack and playing a key role in the new adventure is Rey, played by newcomer Daisy Ridley. At Star Wars Celebration, the British newcomer spilled a bit about her part. Contrary to rumors that were spreading around, she is not actually from Tatooine, but instead from a different desert planet altogether – a planet called Jakku. She described herself as a scavenger who lives in a ship graveyard, and as being self-sufficent and solitary, but "meets another character" and sees her adventure begin. We also know that she has one seriously cool looking speeder, and we’ve heard many rumors suggesting that she makes a home inside a busted AT-AT walker from The Empire Strikes Back.
Rumors floated around that indicated she had been left on Jakku by her parents years ago for safe keeping, and that she is a loner, keeping to herself, scavenging, and awaiting their return. These have been confirmed in that massive deluge of EW reveals, and leaked photos (and that battery commercial, which provides dubious support) indicate that she may possess an aptitude with the Force, though that’s one of the biggest questions surrounding The Force Awakens.
Kylo RenWith Darth Vader still considered by many to be one of the greatest cinematic villains of all time, J.J. Abrams and his crew certainly have their work cut out for them in terms of creating an antagonist who can live up to that legacy – and we’re all very curious to see if the mysterious Kylo Ren can fill those shoes. There has been a great deal of suggestion saying that this is the character who will be played by Adam Driver in the movie – expected to be the new heavy of the new Star Wars saga chapters for years to come – but while that hasn’t been confirmed by Disney or LucasFilm yet, we do know a bit about his look and the weapon he will yield. As seen in the image above, he is not only a big fan of the black cloak look, but also a connoisseur of interesting lightsaber designs, wielding what may be the first ever version with a laser crossguard above the handle. While many originally thought he was a Sith, we recently learned that he is a member of an order called the Knights of Ren which sprang up after the Battle of Endor. Patterning themselves after the Sith, they take the surname Ren much like their predecessors took the moniker Darth. Kylo Ren is also more of an on-the-ground type of villain.
Poe DameronGiven his incredible talent as an actor, Oscar Isaac is easily one of the most exciting new additions to the Star Wars franchise for The Force Awakens, and he too delivered some key information about his role as "Poe Dameron in the film at Star Wars Celebration. Isaac revealed that Poe is "the best fricken pilot in the galaxy." Rather surprisingly, it was said that Poe’s role in the plot comes from a mission that he is given from "a certain princess" (who we can probably all assume is Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia. It’s while doing this mission that he winds up coming across John Boyega’s Finn, and while it wasn’t really teased what we can expect from their relationship together, Isaac offered that "their fates are forever intertwined." He is, or becomes, the leader of a cadre of X-Wing pilots called "Black Squadron."
Luke SkywalkerThe cast of Star Wars: The Force Awakens features a large number of actors new to the legendary franchise, but the series’ original heroes will be definitely be back as well. Of course, while we know Mark Hamill will be back playing Luke Skywalker, it’s not exactly clear exactly what his role in the plot will be or how big it will be. Rumored script details say that the movie will feature characters like Rey and Finn on the search for Luke, which suggests that the legendary Jedi will be playing an incredibly important role in the story, but may not get a ton of screen time. In previews, so far we have only heard his voice and seen his robotic hand reaching out to touch R2-D2.
Some have speculated that Luke has become a villain in The Force Awakens, that he’s the one truly seeking to fulfill Darth Vader’s mission. Though we don’t really buy that, we’re curious to see how it plays out. We do know that he’s being kept out of the marketing intentionally, and apparently Mark Hamill is contractually obligated to keep his big secret under wraps, like he loses a crap ton of money if it comes out before December 18, so you know he wont’ be saying a damn thing.
Princess LeiaWhile Carrie Fisher has been confirmed to return as Princess Leia Organa in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, practically nothing is known about what her role in the movie will be. Rumored plot details have given us some insight as to what we can see from Luke and Han, but where she fits into the story remains a complete mystery, with zero leaked details coming to us from insiders. It sounds like she will be giving Poe Dameron his mission, but doing what we do not know. Did she wind up marrying Han? Did she go through training to become a Jedi like her brother and father? How does she fit in with all of the new characters? These are all questions we are dying to know the answer to.
One thing we do now know about Leia, however, is that no one calls her "Princess" anymore, as her preferred moniker has become "General." How exactly this came down, we don't know yet, but given her position of authority and command in the Rebel Alliance, and the New Republic that followed, eventually becoming "The Resistance," this is a much more appropriate title.
Han SoloEveryone’s favorite space smuggler will be back in full force in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (though don’t be surprised if he is limping around in some scenes due to Harrison Ford’s aforementioned on-set injury). So what will Han Solo be up to in J.J. Abrams’ chapter of the sci-fi franchise? According to various reports, he – along with Chewbacca – will be helping Rey and Finn on the search for Luke after the Jedi’s lightsaber and severed hand lands on a desert planet (that may or may not be Tattooine). While we expect that Han will eventually get back being the wheel of the Millennium Falcon in the movie, it’s been said that it won’t be what’s he’s flying at the start of the Episode VII (and this is seemingly confirmed by the previews).
One things that hasn't changed about Han over the years is that he is still a rogue at heart, and Harrison Ford has said that the character still sucks at being an adult and at taking responsibility for his own actions. We don't know how this will manifest in the movie, but it's easy to see how this could have complicated some of his interpersonal relationships, especially with Leia.
ChewbaccaIf Han Solo came back for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and Chewbacca didn’t, then I could guarantee that there would be riots in the streets. Thankfully, this is not a reality that any of us will have to deal with, as Chewbacca – like many of his other original trilogy co-stars - has been confirmed to return for the J.J. Abrams’ directed seventh chapter. Peter Mayhew, the 7’3" British star who starred in Episodes IV through VI as well as Episode III, will be wearing the Wookie costume once again for the movie, keeping the spirit of the original trilogy alive.
R2-D2Representing for all of the droids out there, R2-D2 will definitely be in the next chapter of the Star Wars saga and was actually the first character to be confirmed to return. This news shouldn’t surprise all of the die-hard fans out there, as he is one of only four characters who have been in every movie in the franchise. Lee Towersey and Oliver Steeples, members of the R2-D2 Builders Club, built the new R2-D2, and it has been confirmed that Kenny Baker – who has been inside the little droid for all six features so far – will be back for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens as well. So far, the trailers have hinted that R2 may be chilling with Luke, but his part in the plot of the movie is unknown.
C-3POYou didn’t really think that they were going to include R2-D2 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and not C-3PO, did you? The characters have one of the greatest love-hate relationships ever portrayed in cinema, and it would just be cruel to fans to separate them this late in the game. Fortunately, it has been confirmed that Anthony Daniels will be back to play everyone’s favorite protocol droid. How he has changed over the last 30 years is still up for speculation. Will he still have the universe’s biggest stick up his ass, or did the destruction of the second Death Star allow him to relax a little bit? We’ll just have to wait and find out. He also has a sweet new red arm, and we'll find out how he got it in a comic that precedes the movie.
John WilliamsIf Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens didn’t have a score written by John Williams, it would be hard to consider it a real Star Wars movie - but the good news is that we don’t have to worry about that. While doing international press rounds for Star Trek Into Darkness back in 2013, J.J. Abrams confirmed that the multiple Academy Award-winning composer would be back to write the music for the next Star Wars film. We expect something bold, airy, epic, and all-around awesome, and we’ve already been getting wonderful tastes of it in the trailers.
The First OrderAt the end of Return of the Jedi, the Death Star was space rubble and with both Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader dead, the leadership of the Empire was in shambles. While it was a decisive strike, it wasn’t a deathblow; the Empire was far too expansive to be dismantled in one step. In the power vacuum left behind, the various Moffs and officers struggled to fill those vacancies, and we now know that The First Order is at least one of the factions that arose out of that contentious mess. Whether they’re the only one remains to be seen, but we know that they will be the main antagonist in The Force Awakens. They’re the ones running stormtroopers and TIE Fighters, they have a battle station called Starkiller Base, and they generally appear to be up to no good. At the head of this all is the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke.
General HuxFrom early on, we’d heard that Domhnall Gleeson plays a high-ranking military officer in the First Order, the new version of the Empire, or at least what the Empire has become. At San Diego Comic-Con, we learned that is true and his character is named General Hux. Dressed head to toe in black, in an outfit almost reminiscent of Darth Vader, he certainly looks like the big man in charge, exuding authority and a sense of menace. We don’t know how far this power extends, if he’s just in command of his specific base or, if like Emperor Palpatine, he’s the big threat looming in the background, pulling the strings of those around him. It’s also possible he fills a similar position to the Moffs, kind of middle management, with power in some regards, but limited in others. However great his reach, we do know that he is in command of Starkiller Base. While Kylo Ren will be on the ground, mixing it up in battle, don't expect to see General Hux in that capacity, he is more of a large-scale villain, hanging back and pulling strings, orchestrating from the background.
Starkiller BaseThose of you well-versed in Star Wars lore will be familiar with the name Starkiller, as Luke Skywalker was, in earlier drafts of the script, originally known as Luke Starkiller. Whether or not this has any connection to Luke remains to be seen, though it seems likely that the moniker is just a nod to the history of the franchise. Aside from the fact that General Hux is the commander, and that Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) hang out there, we don’t know much about the facility or its role. Domhnall Gleeson let its existence slip at Comic-Con when he wasn’t supposed to. Early rumors indicated that the Empire, which we now know as The First Order, will be working on a weapon of mass destruction that will put the Death Stars to shame, and for a device like that, Starkiller Base is certainly a fitting name.
Practical EffectsSince early on in the process, director J.J. Abrams has been talking about employing practical special effects as much as possible in The Force Awakens. He even used those Star Wars Force For Change videos as an opportunity to reveal bits and pieces. At San Diego Comic-Con, they unveiled an impressive video that showed off a ton of what they did. There are massive sets, creatures of all kinds, both puppets and people in suits and prosthetics; you’ve got intricate model work, 2D forced perspective matte paintings to give the illusion that corridors are longer than they are, and tons more. What this accomplishes is to make these fantastic places and other worlds feel much more tangible than the ubiquitous green screen from the prequels. They tried to film everything as in-camera as they could, using the techniques George Lucas employed in the original trilogy, and that provides a level of continuity between films, even across a 30-year gap.
Supreme Leader SnokeThere isn’t a ton to know about Supreme Leader Snoke at this point, aside from the fact that he’s the big villain in The Force Awakens, and probably beyond. Andy Serkis plays him in motion capture, and it’s his sinister voice that we hear in the first trailer, you know, the one that sends shivers up your spine. From what we’ve heard, he is the one pulling the strings at the head of the First Order, and it’s easy to imagine him in a similar role to Emperor Palpatine, looming over everything, casting a long shadow. At the end of the new Star Wars novel Aftermath, a mysterious character pops up who some suspect is Snoke. He’s a chilling presence, even to his underlings (perhaps especially to them), who is never named or described, but he has grand plans of rebuilding the Galactic Empire, or at least some semblance of the thing, only fixing all of the problems that caused its downfall. While it remains uncertain if this is actually Snoke, it certainly is possible and wouldn’t be a huge shock to find that he serves as a direct link between the post Return of the Jedi galaxy and The Force Awakens.
No one really knows what Snoke looks like, and that included Andy Serkis before filming started. There had been some concept art, but much of his performance, voice, and mannerisms went into the creation of the aesthetic over time. We do now know that he's large, like huge, like 25-feet-tall, and scared and disfigured. Though he has a mammoth physical stature, he's not going to spend much time throwing down hand-to-hand. He is definitely more the man with the plan than a foot soldier.
Drew Struzan PosterMuch like how The Force Awakens brought iconic composer John Williams back into the Star Wars fold, so too did they bring in poster artist Drew Struzan. Though he’s had a long, illustrious career as a visual artist, Struzan is most widely known for his Star Wars posters. He designed those iconic one sheets for the original trilogy, as well as the prequels, and much like how it wouldn’t feel like a Star Wars movie without a John Williams score, it wouldn’t feel like a Star Wars movie without a Drew Struzan poster. He was actually coaxed out of retirement to do the poster for The Force Awakens, which made its public debut at D23 a few months back. Stylistically, it is very similar to his earlier work for George Lucas, a throwback to the serials of old (he also did the Indiana Jones posters). While it shows an aged Han Solo, the bulk of the space is devoted to the new guard, to the future, and shows a stern looking Rey, and both Finn and Kylo Ren brandishing their respective lightsabers. It’s really one piece in a larger puzzle that makes The Force Awakens truly feel like a Star Wars movie.
The Force Awakens May Not Screen Ahead Of TimeLucasfilm does not plan to screen The Force Awakens early to qualify for many critic groups’ end of the year awards, though one, the American Film Institute, delayed their voting deadline, which many presume is so the members can see the movie when it premieres. There have also been rumors that it won’t show in advance for members of the press. Usually, that’s a sign of poor quality in a movie, but in this case, it makes sense. There is so much hype going into December 18, and as most, if not all, early showings are already sold out, the movie doesn’t need the added push. By that same logic, those planning to wait to see how the reviews are, are likely already shit out of luck on opening weekend tickets and won’t be able to check it out until later anyway.
Run TimeIn addition to having to arrive early to ensure a decent seat, sitting through an extended number of previews, including for X-Men: Apocalypse, and staying through the very end for a rumored post-credits scene, this is going to be quite an outing. Not to mention, the finished cut of the movie is reportedly 135-minutes-long. This places The Force Awakens smack in the middle of the pack length wise, preceded by A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and The Phantom Menace, at 121, 124, 131, and 133-minutes-long, respectively, and followed by Revenge of the Sith and Attack of the Clones at 140 and 142. Between fitting in 30 years of life in that far, far away galaxy, catching up with familiar faces, and introducing new characters, we expected something even more robust, though this is still a lengthy film.
Maz KanataOne of the characters we haven’t learned much about is Lupita Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata. J.J. Abrams said the entirely motion captured character would remain hidden during the build up, and she mostly has. We suspect she’s the owner of the small arm handing over a lightsaber to Leia in one trailer; we heard her wise, matronly voice in the most recent trailers; and we caught a peek at her on one of The Force Awakens posters that dropped a while back. She’s a thousand-year-old space pirate who has been running an out-of-the-way watering hole that caters to smugglers, outlaws, and riff raff of all sorts, which is likely how she knows Han Solo, who takes Rey and Finn to her lair at some point. Aside from the fact that she wears goggles and has some insight into this universe—she obviously lived through many previous incarnations of both good and evil in her millennium of existence—details are sparse, though her story will reportedly unfold across multiple movies.
The Jedi Have Faded Into MythIn the recent "final" trailer, Rey remarks that she’s heard stories—of the Rebellion, of the Jedi, of the Force—and Han Solo assures her that it’s all true, all the tales of the light and dark sides. There weren’t many Jedi left by the time the original saga rolled around, and most of those who survived were in hiding, like Obi-Wan. Even after the Luke’s appearance, they weren’t exactly commonplace, and in the 30 years since the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi, the once prominent protectors have become the stuff of myth and legend. It’s easy to imagine this, as there weren’t a ton to begin with, so most people never encountered a Jedi first hand, only hearing the same stories as Rey. Also, this is a wide, vast galaxy full of numerous planets and systems, and there’s not exactly a CNN that everyone tunes into to get the same information. News travels slowly and in spurts, and we saw in the novel Aftermath how slowly reports of the Empire’s defeat spread. And even when information is available, many don’t believe it, or it is suppressed or twisted, like how the First Order uses propaganda to brainwash recruits into thinking the New Republic is the enemy. In an environment like this, it’s not difficult to envision the Force and the Jedi fading from the collective memory over time.