The excitement levels for Star Wars: The Force Awakens are at fever pitch, with pre-sales outselling the previous record holder, The Hunger Games, by quite a huge percentage. There are many people saying this will be the first Star Wars film to (easily) pass $1 billion worldwide, with numerous other reports saying it could become the biggest film of all time, passing record holders Titanic and Avatar.
The plot is still a bit of a mystery, and it will stay that way as it was revealed earlier this week that Disney and LucasFilm will not be screening the film to critics prior to release. To be honest, what difference will reviews make, half the planet are wanting to see it regardless of what critics say.
Holding back on the early screenings also means the film will miss out on awards from the New York Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, and the Screen Actors Guild.
Director JJ Abrams is clearly a wanted man for interviews, and people are desperate for him to reveal some secrets, but he won’t. This is a good thing, and I am so pleased the strategy is to keep the secrets hidden right up until the film is released. However, in an interview with Wired, Abrams has revealed his passion for the film, and he comes across like a real fanboy, and almost like the ultimate Star Wars geek. Based on the following comments, Star Wars is in good hands.
First up, he revealed how he wants Episode VII to play like Episode IV: A New Hope, in that you come into the story part way through, with events having happened prior, and the fact that these events will become clear as the story moves forward:
“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. We’ve been able to use what came before in a very organic way, because we didn’t have to reboot anything. We didn’t have to come up with a backstory that would make sense; it’s all there. But these new characters, which Force is very much about, find themselves in new situations—so even if you don’t know anything about Star Wars, you’re right there with them. If you are a fan of Star Wars, what they experience will have added meaning.”
He discusses how he, and especially writer Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back), worked hard to get the story right in order to set up the new trilogy. He then talked like a real lover of Star Wars as he explains how The Force Awakens is the beginning of a trilogy, and that there is an ending planned:
“As a fan of Star Wars, I can look at those movies and both respect and love what they’ve done. But working on The Force Awakens, we’ve had to consider them in a slightly different context. For example, it’s very easy to love “I am your father.” But when you think about how and when and where that came, I’m not sure that even Star Wars itself could have supported that story point had it existed in the first film, Episode IV. Meaning: It was a massively powerful, instantly classic moment in movie history, but it was only possible because it stood on the shoulders of the film that came before it.
There had been a couple of years to allow the idea of Darth Vader to sink in, to let him emerge as one of the greatest movie villains ever. Time built up everyone’s expectations about the impending conflict between Luke and Vader. If “I am your father” had been in the first film, I don’t know if it would have had the resonance. I actually don’t know if it would have worked”
Abrams continues to geek out:
“For example, when we were on-set and we were shooting a scene, it was always amazing to me to see Harrison Ford dressed as Han Solo. Or, wow, there’s a guy—a stormtrooper!—and he looks exactly like a stormtrooper. Remember the feeling of the villain stepping off his ship? Or the sound of the TIE fighters when they roar past you? We’ve all seen TIE fighters roar past us now for nearly 40 years; what makes that interesting? The point is, these scenes aren’t good just because those characters or things are there, even though it’s the greatest eye candy in the history of time”
Abrams then explains a little about the existing Star Wars characters, namely Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and how they behave decades after Return of the Jedi:
“It was important that Han Solo be Han Solo but not feel like he’s playing a 30-year-old dude. When you’re 70, you will have lived a different set of experiences. That has to be apparent in who he is. Harrison was required to bring a level of complexity that a 30-year-old Han wouldn’t be required to have”
In a separate interview with EW, Abrams reveals that Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is no longer known as Princess, and is instead General:
“She’s referred to as General,” says director and co-writer J.J. Abrams. “But … there’s a moment in the movie where a character sort of slips and calls her ‘Princess.’”
He then lovingly talks about how Fisher brought warmth to the often trying shoot:
“[The shoot] wasn’t without incident; it wasn’t without difficulty; it wasn’t without tears shed and bones broken and things that could never have been anticipated happening,” Abrams says, referring to the on-set accident that sidelined Ford on only his second day in front of the cameras. “But with everything in the aggregate, it was a truly joyful experience, and I think that that has to do with the fact that people as funny as Carrie Fisher were simply there.”
In the same interview, Fisher reveals that things are not exactly peachy for Leia:
“Not easily,” Fisher says, describing Leia as, “solitary. Under a lot of pressure. Committed as ever to her cause, but I would imagine feeling somewhat defeated, tired, and pissed.”
Andy Serkis was also involved in this EW interview, and he revealed some interesting details about his mo-cap character Snoke. Serkis explained:
“It’s the first time I’ve been on set not yet knowing what the character’s gonna look like. I mean talk about secrecy! When we first started working on it, he had some rough notions of how Snoke was gonna look, but it really hadn’t been fully-formed and it almost came out of discussion and performance,”
Serkis couldn’t reveal too much about his character, but he did reveal a small amount of new information:
“Supreme Leader Snoke is quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful,” Serkis says. “Obviously he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage. As I said, there is a strange vulnerability to him, which belies his true agenda, I suppose. he scale of him, for instance, is one reason. He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design – you couldn’t have gotten there with prosthetics. It’s too extreme. Without giving too much away at this point, he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone structure and facial structure. You could never have done it [in real life.]”
Earlier this year Abrams hinted that Snoke was quite an important and dangerous character:
“Kylo Ren is not a Sith. He works under Supreme Leader Snoke, who is a powerful figure on the Dark Side of the Force.”
Serkis continued to explain a little about Snoke’s backstory:
“No, he’s a new character in this universe. It is very much a newly-introduced character,” Serkis says. “He’s aware of what’s gone on, in the respect that he has been around and is aware of prior events. I think it’d be fair to say that he is aware of the past to a great degree.”
Abrams revealed a little more about the idea behind Snoke:
“That all came out of conversations about what would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again?’” Abrams reveals. “What could be born of that? Could The First Order exist as a group that actually admired The Empire? Could the work of The Empire be seen as unfulfilled? And could Vader be a martyr? Could there be a need to see through what didn’t get done?”
Lupita Nyong’o stars in the film as Maz Kanata, another character still a bit of a mystery, and a fully CGI character. In the EW interview, Abrams also reveals some details of her character, a role that Nyong’o was onset for everyday, and that motion capture was used to ensure he personal acting skills were brought to the screen:
Abrams explained: “Her history is that she was a pirate for a long time,” he says. “She’s lived over a thousand years. She’s had this watering hole for about a century, and it’s like another bar that you’d find in a corner of the Star Wars universe.”
She lives in a castle alongside a number of other “misfits and miscreants”, but Kanata brings a certain mysticism to The Force Awakens in that her eyes have special powers:
“I had some specific ideas about how she would work and what she would do,” Abrams says. “I had this pitch about these goggles that she wore. Her eyes are an important aspect of her character, and you’ll see how it plays out.”
The character was not always planned as a CGI character, as Abrams explains:
“I wanted to do the creature as a puppet originally, but once we figured out the things that she was required to do, it felt like [performance capture] was the way to go,” Abrams said.
He continued: “Maz needed to look and feel and be just like one of those creatures. And given her mobility, and given the role that she played, it became clear that that was one creature where we should use the tool of CG,” he says. “But the performance was all Lupita. She was there on set, and we did capture sessions afterwards as well, and I can’t say enough about working with her.”
Now, after taking in all that information, we have some brand new images to share: