The Force Awakens is the first film in the planned Star Wars sequel trilogy announced after the Walt Disney Company's acquisition of Lucasfilm in October 2012. It is produced by Abrams, his long-time collaborator Bryan Burk, and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy. Abrams directed the film from a screenplay he co-wrote with Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of the original trilogy films The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). Abrams and Kasdan rewrote an initial script by Michael Arndt, who also wrote the story treatment. John Williams returns to compose the score, and Star Wars creator George Lucas serves as creative consultant.
The Force Awakens is produced by Walt Disney Pictures, Lucasfilm and Abrams' Bad Robot Productions, and will be distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. Second-unit filming began in April 2014 in Abu Dhabi and Iceland, with principal photography taking place between May and November 2014 in Abu Dhabi, Ireland and Pinewood Studios in England. The Force Awakens was released on December 17, 2015. Filming began in April 2014 in Abu Dhabi and Iceland, with principal photography also taking place in Ireland and Pinewood Studios in England.
The Force Awakens premiered in Los Angeles on December 14, 2015, four days before its release in North America and more than ten years after the release of Revenge of the Sith, the last live-action Star Wars film. Critics compared it favourably to the original trilogy, praising its action sequences, characters, acting, special effects, musical score and emotional drama, though some criticized it as derivative. Disney backed the film with an extensive marketing campaign; it has broken many box office records, including the highest-grossing worldwide opening of all time and the fastest film of all time to reach $1 billion. The film broke various box office records and became, unadjusted for inflation, the highest-grossing installment in the franchise, the highest-grossing film in North America, the highest-grossing film of 2015, and the fourth-highest-grossing film of all time, with a worldwide gross of over $2 billion and a net profit of over $780 million. It received five nominations at the 88th Academy Awards and four nominations at the 69th British Academy Film Awards, where it won the award for Best Special Visual Effects.
Approximately 30 years after the destruction of the second Death Star, Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi, has disappeared. The First Order has risen from the fallen Galactic Empire and seeks to eliminate Luke and the Republic. The Resistance, backed by the Republic and led by Luke's twin sister, Leia Organa, opposes them while searching for Luke to enlist his aid.
Resistance pilot Poe Dameron meets village elder Lor San Tekka on the planet Jakku to obtain a map to Luke's location. Stormtroopers under the command of Kylo Ren destroy the village and capture Poe. Poe's droid BB-8 escapes with the map, and encounters a scavenger, Rey, at a junkyard settlement. Ren tortures Poe and learns of BB-8. Stormtrooper FN-2187, refusing to kill for the First Order, frees Poe and they steal a TIE fighter to escape; Poe dubs FN-2187 "Finn". They crash on Jakku, and Finn loses Poe. Assuming that Poe had died in the crash, he travels to the village where encounters Rey and BB-8, but the First Order tracks them and launches an airstrike. The three flee the planet in a stolen, rundown ship, the Millennium Falcon. Rey can manage to pilot the Falcon while Finn takes control of the turrent and they work together to destroy the two pursuing TIE fighters and leave the planet.
The Falcon, however, is later captured by a much larger ship, piloted by Han Solo and Chewbacca, who reclaim their former vessel. Han explains that Luke tried to rebuild the Jedi Order but went into exile after a student turned to the dark side and destroyed all that Luke had built. Gangs seeking to settle debts with Solo board the ship and attack, but the five escape in the Falcon. The criminals inform the First Order of Han's involvement. The Falcon crew view BB-8's map and determine it is incomplete. They travel to the planet Takodana and meet with cantina owner Maz Kanata, who can help BB-8 reach the Resistance, but Finn wants to flee on his own. Rey is drawn to a vault and finds the lightsaber that belonged to Luke and his father Anakin Skywalker before him. She experiences disturbing visions and flees into the woods after refusing Maz's guidance to the force. Maz gives Finn the lightsaber for safekeeping.
At the First Order's Starkiller Base, a planet converted to a superweapon capable of destroying star systems, Supreme Leader Snoke orders General Hux to use it for the first time. It destroys the Republic capital and its fleet and Hux declares the end of the Republic. Snoke tells Ren that to overcome the call of the Light Side of the Force, Ren must kill his father, Han Solo. The First Order then attacks Takodana. Han, Chewbacca, and Finn are saved by Resistance X-wing fighters led by Poe, but Rey is captured and taken to Starkiller Base. Ren interrogates Rey, but she resists his mind-reading. Discovering she too can use the Force, she escapes her cell with a Jedi mind trick.
Leia arrives at Takodana with C-3PO and reunites with Han and Chewbacca. At the Resistance base on D'Qar, BB-8 finds R2-D2, who has been inactive since Luke's disappearance. As Starkiller Base prepares to fire on D'Qar, the Resistance devises a plan to destroy it by attacking a critical facility. Leia urges Han to return their son alive. Using the Falcon, Han, Chewbacca, and Finn infiltrate the base. They force Captain Phasma to lower its shield before disposing of her in the trash compactor, find Rey, set explosives, and encounter Ren. Han confronts Ren, calling him by his birth name, Ben, and implores him to abandon the dark side. Though conflicted for a moment, Ren kills his father. Enraged, Chewbacca shoots Ren in the side and sets off the explosives, allowing the Resistance X-wing fighters to attack and start a chain reaction that destroys Starkiller Base.
The injured Ren then pursues Finn and Rey to the surface. Finn battles Ren with the lightsaber, but is overpowered and badly wounded in the struggle. Rey takes the lightsaber and fights Ren, overpowering him with the Force before they are separated by a fissure. Snoke orders Hux to evacuate and bring Ren to him to complete his training, while Rey and Chewbacca escape with Finn in the Falcon. On D'Qar, the Resistance celebrates while Leia, Chewbacca, and Rey mourn Han's death. R2-D2 awakens and reveals the rest of the map, which Rey follows with R2-D2 and Chewbacca to an island on a distant planet. She finds a cloacked figure who reveals to be Luke Skywalker. Rey then presents him with his father's lightsaber as the credits role.
- Daisy Ridley as Rey, a scavenger on the desert planet Jakku. Ridley said: "She's completely self-sufficient and does everything for herself, until she meets Finn and an adventure begins."
- John Boyega as Finn, a redeemed First Order stormtrooper. On receiving the role, Boyega stated that he learned he obtained the part "over a nice breakfast in Mayfair" where he stated Abrams exclaimed, "John, you're the new star of Star Wars." Boyega stated: "When we find Finn, he's in incredible danger. And the way he reacts to this danger changes his life, and launches him into the Star Wars universe in a very unique way." Of Finn, Boyega has stated: "He's been taught about Luke, he knows about his history. For him it's like joining the army and then learning about one of the great enemies of your country." He is in possession of the lightsaber that once belonged to Luke Skywalker, and to Anakin Skywalker before him.
- Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, a dark warrior strong with the Force, originally a member of the Knights of Ren, and commander of the First Order.
- Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, a Resistance X-wing pilot. Isaac said: "He's the best freaking pilot in the galaxy... He's been sent on a mission by a certain princess, and he ends up coming up across Finn, and their fates are forever intertwined."
- Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker . Regarding Luke, Han and Leia, Abrams stated: "They'd be as old and as mythic as the tale of King Arthur. They would be characters who they may have heard of, but maybe not. They'd be characters who they might believe existed, or just sounded like a fairy tale."
- Harrison Ford as Han Solo. Of Han, Ford has stated that: "He does not aspire to the position of Obi-Wan, nor do I aspire to be some New Age Alec Guinness. His development is consistent with the character, and there are emotional elements which have occasioned his growth," while too adding that, "There's a lot of the rogue still left in Solo. Some things don't change."
- Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa. She is referred to as General Organa, rather than Princess Leia. After the events of Return of the Jedi, she is described as "being a little more battle weary, a little more broken hearted." Fisher herself describes Leia as "solitary. Under a lot of pressure. Committed as ever to her cause, but I would imagine feeling somewhat defeated, tired, and pissed", while Abrams revealed: "The stakes are pretty high in the story for her, so there's not much goofing around where Leia's concerned [...]"
- Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca.
- Anthony Daniels as C-3P0. Daniels communicated that the piece was open to experimentation from the actors, to which he stated, "Abrams made a field, a playpen where you were allowed to take your time and suggest things [...]"
- Kenny Baker as R2-D2.
- Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke , Kylo Ren's master, leader of the First Order and a powerful figure of the dark side. Serkis describes the being as "[...] quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful". Of Snoke's appearance, Serkis added: "He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design – you couldn't have gotten there with prosthetics [...] Without giving too much away at this point, he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone and facial structure."
- Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, leader of the primary First Order base, Starkiller Base. While describing Hux, Gleeson stated: "He's pretty ruthless. A strong disciplinarian would be a mild way of putting it." Gleeson continued by juxtaposing Hux with that of Driver's Ren: "He's kind of opposite Kylo Ren. They have their own relationship, which is individual and unusual. One of them is strong in different ways than the other. They're both vying for power."
- Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma, an officer in the First Order
- Lupita Nyong'o as Maz Kanata, a pirate on Jakku. Nyong'o has stated of Kanata: "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."
- Maisie Richardson-Sellers as Korr Sella.
- Tim Rose as Admiral Ackbar.
- Kiran Shah as Teedo, a scavenger on Jakku who rides a semi-mechanical Luggabeast
Additionally, Max von Sydow, Christina Chong, Greg Grunberg, Billie Lourd, Maisie Richardson-Sellers, Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Cecep Arif Rahman, Amybeth Hargreaves, Leanne Best, Jessica Henwick, Warwick Davis, Pip Andersen, Miltos Yerolemou, Crystal Clarke, Simon Pegg and D.C. Barns are cast in unspecified roles.
George Lucas turned over his story treatment for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX to Disney chairman Bob Iger when Lucasfilm had a deal with Disney in October 2012. The first screenplay was written by Michael Arndt. David Fincher and Brad Bird were approached as directors, but Bird was committed to Tomorrowland. Guillermo del Toro was also considered, but was busy with his own projects.
In January 2013, J. J. Abrams was announced as the director of Star Wars Episode VII, with Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg as project consultants. The production announced the exit of Arndt from the project on October 24, 2013 and Kasdan and Abrams took over script duties. Abrams cited time concerns over the change of writers, and expressed relief that the release date was announced for December 2015 instead of a previously discussed summer release. He said the key for the film was to return to the roots of the first Star Wars film and be based more on emotion than explanation.
As creative consultant on the film, Lucas's involvement included attending early story meetings; according to Lucas, "I mostly say, 'You can't do this. You can do that.' You know, 'The cars don't have wheels. They fly with antigravity.' There's a million little pieces... I know all that stuff." Lucas's son Jett told The Guardian that his father was "very torn" about having sold the rights to the franchise, despite having hand-picked Abrams to direct, and that his father was "there to guide" but that "he wants to let it go and become its new generation." Among the materials turned over to the production team were rough story treatments Lucas developed when he considered creating episodes VII–IX himself years earlier; in January 2015, Lucas stated that Disney had discarded his story ideas.
In January 2014, Abrams confirmed that the script was complete. In April 2014, Lucasfilm clarified that episodes VII–IX would not feature storylines from the Expanded Universe, though other elements could be included as with the TV series Star Wars Rebels.
Casting began around August 2013, with Abrams meeting with potential actors for script readings and screen tests. Open auditions were held in the UK, Ireland and the United States in November 2013 for the roles of "Rachel" and "Thomas". Casting began in earnest in January 2014, due to changes to the script by Kasdan and Abrams. Screen tests with actors continued until at least three weeks before the official announcement on April 29, 2014, with final casting decisions being made only a few weeks prior. Actors testing had strict non-disclosure agreements, preventing them, their agents or publicists from commenting on their potential involvement.
Though Lucas intimated that previous cast members Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Mark Hamill would return for the new film as early as March 2013, their casting was not confirmed until over a year later. Saoirse Ronan, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong'o auditioned for new characters; industry publications reported Jesse Plemons was considered, possibly for Luke Skywalker's son; Adam Driver for an unnamed villain; and Maisie Richardson-Sellers for an unknown character. In March 2014, actor Dominic Monaghan said that Abrams was looking for three unknown actors to play the leads in Episode VII and that rumors of bigger-name stars were untrue.
Daisy Ridley was chosen for the film by February 2014, and by the end of that month a deal had been worked out with Driver, who was able to work around his Girls schedule. By March 2014, talks with Andy Serkis and Oscar Isaac began and continued into April 2014. In April, John Boyega began talks after dropping out of a Jesse Owens biopic. Denis Lawson, who played Wedge Antilles in the original trilogy, was asked to reprise his role, but declined, stating that it would have "bored" him.
On April 29, 2014, the cast was announced with a photo of the first table read of the script at Pinewood Studios near London, picturing director Abrams with Ford, Daisy Ridley, Fisher, Peter Mayhew, producer Bryan Burk, Lucasfilm president and producer Kathleen Kennedy, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Hamill, Serkis, Oscar Isaac, Boyega, Driver, and writer Lawrence Kasdan. Not pictured but included in the cast are Max von Sydow and Kenny Baker. The announcement was originally planned for May 4 (Star Wars Day), but announced early due to fears of media leaks. More casting is expected, including a major female role. Variety reported that Driver would play a Darth Vader-type villain, Isaac's role would be like Han Solo, Boyega would play a Jedi, and Ridley could play the daughter of Han and Leia. On June 2, 2014. Lupita Nyong'o and Gwendoline Christie were announced in the cast.
To prepare for his role, Hamill grew out his beard and was assigned a personal trainer and a nutritionist at the request of the producers, who wanted him to resemble an older Luke. Fisher was also assigned a personal trainer and a nutritionist to prepare for her role. The production team built a new C-3PO suit to accommodate Daniels. In May 2014, Fisher's mother, Debbie Reynolds, stated that Fisher had already lost 40 pounds in preparation for the film.
During May 2014, Abrams announced a donation contest for UNICEF from the Star Wars set in Abu Dhabi; the winner was allowed to visit the set, meet members of the cast and appear in the film.
During October 2014, Warwick Davis, who played Wald and Weazle in The Phantom Menace and Wicket the Ewok in Return of the Jedi, announced that he would appear in The Force Awakens, but did not reveal his role. In November 2014, Reynolds confirmed that Fisher's daughter, Billie Lourd, is in the film.
Oscar Isaac's uncle, a huge Star Wars fan, was cast as an extra in the film at the invitation of Abrams upon visiting the set.
In February 2014, Abrams said filming would begin in May and last about three months. Sources told Hitfix that filming would wrap in September 2014. The official announcement came on March 18, when Disney and Lucasfilm announced that principal photography would commence in May and be based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, England. In March, it was revealed that pre-production filming would be taking place in Iceland prior to the start of official filming in May, consisting of landscape shots which would be used for scenery in the film. On April 2, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn confirmed that filming had begun, filming in secret in the U.A.E. emirate of Abu Dhabi by a second-unit. Later that month, it was revealed that in addition to 35mm film, segments of the film were being shot in the 65mm IMAX format. On July 8, Bad Robot reported on Twitter that the film would be at least partially shot on IMAX cameras.
In early May 2014, the studio posted a selfie taken by Iger with Chewbacca. Iger stated the photo was taken while visiting Pinewood Studios two weeks earlier to discuss the shoot "which was just about to start" with Abrams, Kennedy, and Horn. Principal photography began in Abu Dhabi on May 16, 2014. Abrams and members of the cast went to Abu Dhabi in early May, where large sets were built at the location, including a shuttle-like spacecraft, a large tower and a big market, and explosives were used to create a "blast crater". Cast members were spotted practicing driving vehicles that would be used during filming. Production moved to Pinewood Studios in June.
On June 12, Harrison Ford fractured his leg while filming at Pinewood after a hydraulic door fell on him, and was taken to a hospital. Production was suspended for two weeks to accommodate Ford's injury. Ford's son Ben stated that Ford's ankle would likely need a plate and screws and that filming could be altered slightly, with the crew needing to shoot Ford from the waist up for a short time until he recovered. Jake Steinfeld, Ford's personal trainer, said in July that Ford was recovering rapidly.
On July 29, 2014, filming took place over three days at Skellig Michael island off the coast of County Kerry in Ireland with a cast including Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley. Production was halted for two weeks in early August 2014 so Abrams could rework shooting in Ford's absence, and resumed with a fully healed Ford in mid-August. In September 2014, the RAF Greenham Common military base in Berkshire, near Pinewood Studios, was used as a filming location and featured set constructions of several spaceships from the Star Wars Universe.
Principal photography ended on November 3, 2014.
On November 6, the official title of the movie was revealed: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, without "Episode VII". Previously, a possible title had been of "A New Dawn".
Box office projectionEdit
With an estimated budget of $200 million ($423 million including marketing, printing and advertising costs, and making and distribution of home videos), The Force Awakens is predicted to be a major box office success. Reports in April 2015 from The Hollywood Reporter and Amboee Brand Intelligence predicted the film would earn up to $540 million worldwide for its opening, breaking the record for the biggest worldwide opening (held by Jurassic World with $524.1 million in June 2015), as well as breaking the record for the biggest U.S. opening (also held by Jurassic World, with $208.8 million). They also believed that The Force Awakens would have the widest release ever, across 4,500 theaters in North America (a record held by The Twilight Saga: Eclipse with 4,468 theaters). Box office analyst Phil Contrino likened the film to Avatar (2009), which opened to $77 million in North America and went on to earn $2.8 billion worldwide, saying The Force Awakens would earn $1 billion "without blinking" and could cross $2 billion. In August 2015, Deadline.com predicted an opening weekend of $615 million worldwide could be possible, including a $300 million opening in North America. In November, Deadline reported opening weekend projections were at $185–210 million. In December, capital analyst Barton Crockett suggested that the film will be the first to gross over $3 billion worldwide at the box office.
As of January 3, 2016, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has grossed $740.3 million in North America and $770.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $1.510 billion, against a budget of $200 million. The film is currently the third highest-grossing film of 2015, the highest-grossing film released by Walt Disney Studios, the second highest-grossing film in North America, and the sixth highest-grossing film of all time. It was the 24th film in cinematic history to surpass $1 billion worldwide, standing as the fastest film to surpass the mark, doing so in 12 days.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens received nearly universal acclaim from both critics and audiences. The only dissenting voices were those who criticized the film's safe plot (with many original trilogy assets reused) and those who criticized the film's pacing. Apart from such considerations, the reception has been highly positive. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% approval rating, based on 316 reviews, with a rating average of 8.2 out of 10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series' former glory while injecting it with renewed energy.". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 81 out of 100, based on 52 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale; women, under-25s and under-18s gave it an "A+", while 98% of audiences gave it an "A" or "B". Caillou Pettis of Caillou Pettis Movie Reviews scored the film an "A+" stating "It was definitely my favorite movie of 2015".
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