On December 18th, one of the most awaited movies of the decade will debut at theaters across the nation. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the seventh film in this timeless series. Anticipation has been building for months, heightened by sneak peeks and movie trailers. Tickets have already been on sale and odds are many fans will be camping out dressed as their favorite character, some even brandishing lightsabers or dressed in Wookies coats (on sale at Target, believe it or not).
Even though movie-goers had experienced the world of space in theaters with films like Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, Star Wars formulated a universally appealing blend of good versus evil that occurred in far-away worlds and whose characters were strange and fantastical. For the 38 years since the first Star Wars movie hit the big screen, it has taken on a life of its own, striking a cord with millions, both young and old.
Writer and director George Lucas’s script for the original Star Wars movie was turned down by Universal Studios and United Artists but thanks to the head of 20th Century Fox, Alan Ladd Jr., the saga of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leigh was given the green light. Ladd told Lucas, “I don’t understand this [script] but I loved American Graffiti [Lucas’s first film based on his life as a teenager in Modesto, California] and whatever you do is okay with me”.
To create the spectacular world that revolved around the Skywalker family, George Lucas launched two additional corporations, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) that delivered on the ground breaking special visual effects and Skywalker Sound to produce the untold number of unique sounds effects for his “space opera”. He also waived his director’s fee in exchange for retaining the rights to the picture, a move that has led to his becoming a very wealthy man.
Despite Fox’s decision to allow Star Wars to come to fruition, it ultimately felt the movie about ‘spaceships, robots and Wookies’ would ultimately fail at the box office. But when the first movie debuted in 1977, it was an instant success and to date, there are more than 500 million Star Wars fans around the globe and the films have been translated into over 40 languages. Five out of the six films are among the top 50 grossing films of all time.
After the extraordinary popularity of the original, two sequels were released shortly thereafter, episode V, The Empire Strikes Back in 1980 and episode VI, The Return of the Jedi released in 1983. The prequel trilogies, Episodes I, II and III-The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith-hit theatres in 1999, 2002 and 2005 respectively.
Lucas’s Star Wars created an unprecedented empire that includes not only the films but an amazing array of auxiliary products including toys, clothing, and video games. Retaining the integrity of this dynasty is the responsibility of San Francisco-based LucasFilm founded by its namesake in 1971. George Lucas relinquished his position as studio head in 2012 when the company was sold to The Walt Disney Company for $4.06 billion.
There are two types of Star Wars projects in the works according Kathleen Kennedy, Lucas’s handpicked successor at LucasFilm. The Anthology films provide ‘opportunities to explore fresh characters, new storylines and a variety of genres inside the Star Wars universe.’ The Saga films shadow the Skywalker family and Episode VII, The Force Awakens, takes place 30 years after The Return Of The Jedi when Han Solo and his allies face a new threat from Kylo Ren and his army of Stormtroopers.
Ten years after the last film, Revenge of the Sith, was released, the continuing story of Star Wars and its engaging characters connects with people worldwide and across multiple generations. The Force Awakens will include both new characters as well as those that started it all. Produced by J.J. Abrams it has most definitely rekindled the excitement this enduring story has to tell.
The movie will be playing on December 18th at Redwood City’s Cinemark Theatres and the Redwood Downtown as well as movie houses big and small through the Bay Area. Visit your local theatre or Fandango to find out movie times and how to purchase tickets in advance.