Monday , October 23 2017

‘Force Awakens’ plot still a mystery – Curtain rises on first ‘Star Wars’ film in a decade

In this Dec 10 file photo, Director J.J. Abrams (third right), and actors, John Boyega (second left), Daisy Ridley (third left), and Adam Driver (second right), pose for photos during the Japan Premiere of their latest film ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ in Tokyo. (AP)
In this Dec 10 file photo, Director J.J. Abrams (third right), and actors, John Boyega (second left), Daisy Ridley (third left), and Adam Driver (second right), pose for photos during the Japan Premiere of their latest film ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ in Tokyo. (AP)

LOS ANGELES, Dec 14, (Agencies): Hollywood rolls out the red carpet Monday for the premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the first film in the epic space saga in a decade, and fans are frantic. The star-studded screening of the most anticipated movie of the year will be followed by a global release starting Wednesday. It officially hits US theaters Friday.

“When we finished shooting it felt like ‘Oh, it’s so long until it comes out — and now we’re here,’” Daisy Ridley, who plays the scavenger Rey, told AFP as the clock ticked down.

The 23-year-old British actress, in her first big screen role, is among the fresh faces joining the latest installment of the sci-fi smash hit that has a huge following around the globe.

Others include fellow Brit John Boyega who plays Finn, portrayed as a renegade stormtrooper in the trailer, as well as Oscar Isaac who slips into the skin of pilot Poe Dameron.

Much to the delight of millions, beloved veterans of the original blockbusters — Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher — will once again play Han Solo and Princess Leia.

Culture

“Star Wars” has attracted generations of loyal fans ever since the first film arrived in 1977, creating a signature moment in the history of pop culture.

It turned Ford, Fisher and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) into stars overnight.

“You could say it’s the themes, it’s the Force, it’s the lightsaber — there’s just something in this that touches people, and I don’t think you can summarize that,” Ridley said.

Director J.J. Abrams had the awesome task of taking the intergalactic tale created by George Lucas forward while trying to meet the high expectations of fans eager to .

“The Force Awakens” — Episode VII in the franchise — takes place 30 years after “Return of the Jedi.”

But its plot remains a mystery.

“Everyone knows we keep it secret for the right reasons,” Ridley said. “Even the people that really want to know about it, they want to see it in the film.”

The secrecy has sparked much speculation, with Abrams promising it won’t be a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Will the hero of the first trilogy, Luke Skywalker, be back? And could Rey, whose last name hasn’t been revealed, be linked to the Skywalker dynasty?

As for Darth Vader, is he really dead?

“The Star Wars saga is a lot about family, the preservation of the community, and another strong theme is purpose,” another new face of the franchise, Lupita Nyong’o, told AFP.

The Oscar winner plays Maz Kanata, a motion-captured character who plays a pirate whose castle is packed with smugglers from across the galaxy.

“The Force Awakens” cast counts more women than previous renditions. Aside from Fisher, Ridley and Nyong’o, there’s also Gwendoline Christie who made a name for herself in “Game of Thrones” and personifies Captain Phasma, one of the film’s villains.

“The fabric of ‘Star Wars’ is diversity,” Nyong’o said.

Amid the massive hype ahead of the movie’s release, excited fans are counting down the hours, many with tickets already in hand.

Those without may be disappointed on opening night in the United States, with many theaters already sold out.

Anticipation for “The Force Awakens” has been building steadily for months, with Disney unleashing a well-orchestrated advertising campaign of trailers and interviews with cast members that left fans wanting more.

Escaping

There is no escaping The Force in grocery stores, restaurants — and just about anywhere else.

Experts predict that products tied to the film could bring in up to $5 billion in revenue for Walt Disney Company, which paid $4 billion for Lucasfilm in 2012.

 A half-mile section of Hollywood Boulevard has been closed to traffic and a giant opaque tent now lines four blocks of the famous thoroughfare. Fan bleachers are up and spotlights are everywhere.

Could the Academy Awards be coming early to Hollywood? No, bigger: On Monday evening, three theaters will roll out red carpets for the world premiere of the hugely anticipated “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Many of Hollywod’s top stars will join hundreds of costumed fans at what could be the largest Hollywood premiere ever. One of the participating theaters  the iconic TCL Chinese  hosted the premier of the original “Star Wars” in 1977.

Los Angeles Police say extra vehicle patrols and more officers on foot are being assigned to the area.

Lawrence Kasdan isn’t afraid to play favorites. For him, Han Solo is it.

He didn’t create the scruffy-looking smuggler. He hadn’t even heard the lore that George Lucas partially based Han on Francis Ford Coppola. But it was Kasdan who helped fully realize “Star Wars’” favorite scoundrel when he stepped in to write “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi.”

“He’s reckless, he’s feckless,” Kasdan said in a recent interview. “He’s cynical. He’s tough. He’s pragmatic. He’s not that smart. I like that. He’s the most fun.”

In fact, it was the character of Han that made him consider coming back to the world of “Star Wars” in the first place. When Kathleen Kennedy called him up in 2012 to tell him that she was taking over Lucasfilm and that they were planning to make more “Star Wars” films, Kasdan took the meeting of course, but wasn’t certain he wanted to rejoin the franchise.

Yet for Kasdan, 66, a four-time Oscar nominee who wrote “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and wrote and directed “The Big Chill,” ‘’The Accidental Tourist” and “Grand Canyon,” the shadow of “Star Wars” loomed large.

“It’s always been playing in the background of my life. The movies were so big,” he said. “They never go away.”

At Skywalker Ranch, Kennedy, Kasdan and George Lucas talked about plans for a new trilogy and a number of spin-offs, including one about a young Han Solo.

“I said, ‘Oh, that’s interesting,’” Kasdan recalled. So he signed on to write the young Han anthology movie with his 36-year-old son, Jon Kasdan, and agreed to consult on “The Force Awakens,” which Michael Arndt (“Toy Story 3”) was writing.

Kasdan had been consulting for nine months on “The Force Awakens”  coming in once or twice a week while also writing the Han movie  when they asked him to take over the script with director J.J. Abrams.

“There were issues that were coming up and there was enormous pressure to get the thing done, recalled Kasdan. “People were being hired. Stages were being rented…when everyone decided that J.J. and I would write the script, there was no big adjustment. We were already really getting along. Then, we just started again.”

While the specifics of what exactly “The Force Awakens,” out Friday, is about are being treated like state secrets, fans have been able to glean a few things from the trailers and promos. In the over 30 years since the events of “Return of the Jedi” Han Solo, for one, has changed his tune about the force, which he once dismissed as a hokey religion.

“(Hans is) older and wiser. But wiser is only worth so much,” Kasdan teased. “We don’t get any smarter. What we call wisdom is really just the accumulation of experiences. But when you do have a lot of experience, it gives you perspective. You think about your life in terms of, do you want to continue to do the things you’ve always done or do you want to break it up somehow? … Are you stuck now or is there still a possibility of change? And I think those are the issues, not just for Han, but for everybody.”

If that sounds like a lot of philosophizing and soul-searching, don’t worry, Kasdan promises Han is still funny, too.

“Harrison is sort of beyond belief in this movie,” Kasdan said. “He’s absolute gold. It’s like Spencer Tracy.”

Ford’s legacy and iconic embodiment of Han is why Kasdan understands keenly how difficult it will be to find an actor to play a young Han. Directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (“21 Jump Street”) have seen thousands of actors as they try to fill those twentysomething shoes.

Pressure

“Harrison is one of a kind. He’s a one-off,” Kasdan said. “There is going to be a lot of pressure on anyone who tries to be that (younger) character … He’s got to be a believable antecedent.”

But beyond finding that perfect person, Kasdan has just been enjoying the chance to work with his son on the script  even if it’s been trying at times.

“Collaborating with anyone is challenging. But when it’s your son, now there’s this additional thing of like, ‘Dad, do you know what you’re talking about?’” Kasdan laughed. “But ‘Star Wars’ is all about that  fathers and sons.”

After the Han film comes out in 2018, Kasdan said he will really be leaving “Star Wars” behind this time.

“That’s enough,” he said with Han Solo definitiveness. “I’m done.”

 The Force — and the surprise — is strong with this one.

Harrison Ford sneaked into an Australian fan event for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and almost went unnoticed, according to Australian outlet Bmag.

An already exciting event for fans, a select group of Australians were treated to ten minutes of the upcoming sequel at the IMAX Theatre at Sydney’s Darling Harbour. Little did they know that Han Solo himself was among them.

Hidden

Ford managed to stay hidden throughout most of the event, sneaking in during the preview, and once it was over, he “stood up out of his seat,” says the report. “As if by magic, a spotlight hit the actor, who promised the audience that there was plenty more where that came from, and asked us to keep our lips sealed.”

“Let’s make a deal – don’t tell your friends what you’ve seen here today,” Ford told the audience.

The plot of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has been kept largely under wraps, with even trailers and marketing material revealing little of the wildly anticipated movie. Still, the cast, including Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, along with Ford, has been busy on the press tour in the past few weeks.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” hits theaters Dec 18.

Here is a brief description of the main characters in the saga that takes place in a fictional galaxy.

* Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill): Orphaned farm boy who overcomes his humble beginnings to become the greatest Jedi in the Galaxy. His role in “The Force Awakens” is unclear.

* Han Solo (Harrison Ford): In the original “Star War” trilogy, Han plays a smuggler from the planet Corellia who becomes one of the great leaders of the Rebel Alliance. Ford is coming back to play the role 32 years later and will portray an older Han Solo.

* Princess Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher): One of the Rebel Alliance’s greatest leaders and sister of Luke Skywalker. Fisher is also returning to the screen to play an older Princess Leia.

* Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew): A gentle furry character and Han Solo’s partner in crime.

* Yoda: Legendary Jedi Master known for his wisdom and skills with the light saber. He dies in “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi”.

* Darth Vader: Villain and one of the most recognizable figures on “Star Wars”. Though he died in the last episode, there is speculation he might appear in some form or another in “The Force Awakens.”

C3PO (Anthony Daniels): Droid programmed for etiquette and protocol and accomplice of R2-D2 in the saga.

R2-D2 (Kenny Baker): resourceful and eccentric droid known for his whistles and beeps. He has served as a mechanic for the Skywalker family for many generations.

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