It's hard to believe that we're less than a year away from seeing the sequel to Return of the Jedi. Yeah, say that out-loud, it still hasn't quite sunk in for me either. Still, for better or worse, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is probably the most anticipated film of 2015.
Thanks to director J.J Abram's "mystery box," there's still a lot that we don't know, but let's take a look at what we DO know as of February 2015. This will only include things that are official, so we won't be talking about that rumor about Sio Bibble returning to the series.
1. The Force Awakens
Before you call me Captain Obvious, let me explain that not only is this the title of the film, it's also a plot point. We know that something is going on with the Force, but what exactly? According to the ominous voice in the trailer, it's something that affects both sides of the Force. So what is it exactly?
Some have speculated that the Force users are now able to use their abilities tenfold. Imagine The Force Unleashed games on steroids (which is something because that game is already The Force on steroids). These abilities could be something that we've never seen in Star Wars; moving entire ships, planets, and moons.
Some have speculated that perhaps it's the living Force, that takes on its own sentience that awakens. Fans of The Clone Wars will no doubt be reminded of the Mortis arc in that series. But while we can only speculate, we do know for sure that something mysterious is going on with the Force in that galaxy far, far away.
2. That Mysterious Voice
Speaking of the voice in the trailer, we do know for sure that while fans have speculated everyone from Benedict Cumberbatch to Mark Hamill, it is actually Andy Serkis. It's unknown whether this character is a villain or a hero, or perhaps something in between, but we do know that according to Serkis, this character has "been through some stuff."
This character may be motion capture, as is Serkis's MO, but maybe not. However, we can put to bed the rumors that Serkis plays more than one character as the actor has revealed that he only plays one. Whatever the case is, Serkis has brought to life some amazing characters to cinema in the past decade, and we're sure that this will be no exception.
3. The Names (sort of)
Shortly after the trailer broke the internet, Lucasfilm revealed the characters' names on digital trading cards resembling the original Topps trading cards from the '70's. John Boyega's stormtrooper armor wearing character is known as Finn. That adorable ball droid is known as BB-8. Daisy Ridley's popsickle driving character is known as Rey. The X-Wing pilot played by Oscar Isaac is known as Poe Dameron.
And of course, the character whose lightsaber ignition was heard throughout the galaxy (or at least the internet) is known as Kylo Ren. What's interesting is that we only know two of the character's last names. Finn and Rey what? Skywalker? Solo? Ackbar? Will this be revealed before the release of the film or will it be an important plot point? While these trading cards may have given us more questions than answers, we have less than one year to get used to the new names.
4. Remnants of a Galactic War
While we don't yet exactly know the circumstances, we do know that both the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire are still around in some capacity in The Force Awakens. In the trailer we see stormtroopers, X-wings, and on Poe Dameron's flightsuit the famous Rebel insignia. This, of course, raises a lot of questions.
Fans may be used to a new Republic being forged after the defeat of the second Death Star, but that's no longer canon. What if the Empire is still in power? Who is the Emperor? Does that somehow undermine the victory that we felt in Episode 6? What does it mean for the Jedi? Perhaps, as some have speculated, there is a New Republic and they've just taken on the symbol of the Rebel Alliance.
Maybe the galaxy is divided into equal territories Alliance and Empire and there's some kind of a peace treaty akin to The Old Republic games. Whatever the case is, we're excited to choose sides (Go Rebels!) this December.
5. George is No Longer Involved
In a recent interview, George divulged his exact role in the new Trilogy. For a year, fans thought that Disney had been using George's treatment and that he was a "creative consultant." However, that may just be an honorary title as recently the creator admitted that "The [story ideas] I sold to Disney, they [made] the decision that they didn't really want to do those, so they made up their own." What does this mean for the story? We had six films that had an intentional narrative that were all helmed from the same creator.
Will this be the start of a new narrative or will it continue what George had originally set out to do in 1977? One thing is for sure, for years to come, fans will continue to wonder what George had in mind for the sequel trilogy and debate if it would have been better than what we actually see on screen.
6. A Return to Practical Effects
One common complaint about the prequels is their overuse of CGI and lack of practical models which made the original trilogy age so well. While I would argue that the prequels DID use a lot more practical effects than they get credit for, that would be a topic for another time.
We do know from various set visits that the Episode 7 crew have built tactile sets that the actors can actually see, rather than using a green/blue screen. Writer/director Kevin Smith reported as much from his set visit last summer.
We've also seen first hand an alien and an X-Wing in practical effects from J.J Abrams's Force for Change videos. Also, in a recent interview with Mark Hamill, the Jedi divulged that the droid BB-8 is a practical effect much to the surprise of fans. Of course, fans would be delusional to think that there will be NO CGI, but it's nice to know that SOME of what we see on screen in 2015 can be touched.
7. Return of the Jedi (and friends)
I don't think I can say this enough: We are getting a sequel to Return of the Jedi next year. Go ahead, do a fist pump. I did. What's even better is that the gang is all returning. Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO and Kenny Baker as R2-D2.
They won't be taking center stage as this will be mainly Rey, Finn, and Poe Dameron's story. However, we can take comfort in the fact that the characters we all fell in love with will be supporting them. Now you may be wondering where Lando is.
Unfortunately, there's no word of his return. Perhaps they're saving it for Episode 8. Afterall, he made is debut in The Empire Strikes Back, not A New Hope as the other characters did. Still, he DID destroy the 2nd Death Star so he does deserve all the respect in the galaxy.
Another thing to get excited about is the fact that John Williams is writing music for the movie as we speak. Even the most cynical of haters have to admit, his music for all six films was fantastic.
So those are just seven things that we know about Episode 7 (as of today). It may not seem like much, but we can expect to see a lot more when the next trailer debuts (which, if reports are accurate is going to come with Avengers: Age of Ultron). If there's anything you can think of that I missed, please leave a comment below. Until then, may the Force be with you.