By Hugo Harris
It would be an understatement to suggest Star Wars: The Force Awakens has generated a fair amount of hype. In the aftermath of the film’s final trailer being released, pre-sale records have been tumbling. IMAX disclosed that it generated $6.5m in a single day, whilst the Odeon website in the UK crashed last week compelling the company to apologise for its booking system not “returning to normal force levels” sooner. Has anything inspired quite the same level of hype? The sad truth of the matter is that a film has indeed inspired that level of hype and the film that inspired that hype was Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
Now, to get it out in the open, I have a profound sense of nostalgia for the first of the prequels. I grew up not only tearing up as Liam Neeson succumbed to the powers of Darth Maul – something that seems unthinkable even now after the Taken series – but spending idyllic hours mimicking Obi-Won Kenobi’s lines and practising my own Jedi fighting style. RIP Qui-Gon, forever in our hearts. However, the simple fact of the matter is that, in the cold light of day anyway, the film’s flaws are overwhelming. Everyone can recall the first time they saw George Lucas’ most infamous creation, Jar-Jar Binks. Everyone can also recall the moment they finally realised that Watto was a borderline racist reference to American Jews. So, in many respects, J.J. Abrams, the director of the seventh instalment in the series, can’t really fail, at least to the same extent.
Yet, it is clear as we edge closer to the film’s US premiere on December 14th that, in making all the right noises, Abrams is very much making a rod for his own back. Much to the delight of the series’ ‘super-fans’ the CGI that so greatly plagued the prequels is taking a backseat this time round. Moreover, although theories sprawl the internet, the film’s trailers have offered so little actual plotline that a great deal of anticipation has been generated regarding who is going to carry the Skywalker baton into the new era. All in all, the Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ marketing campaign has been so effective that expectations are probably greater than they were in 1999 before The Phantom Menace ‘graced’ the silver screen. Disney, who bought the rights to Star Wars for $4 billion in 2012, surely couldn’t be happier when box office analyst Phil Contrino projected that “The Force Awakens will hit $1 billion without blinking”.
To be honest, I am not entirely sure what the overriding point of this article is. I suppose the best way to summarise my thoughts are ‘be prepared’. Be prepared for the fans in Dark Matter, be prepared for the hysteria and be prepared for the dulcet tones of John Williams’ score to infiltrate your student living room over the next few months. Those TV spots will definitely be continuous, but what is perhaps even more assured: if Star Wars had ever lost its force-chokehold on the public imagination, it has recaptured it for the moment. Star Wars awakens on the last day of term: December 18th…