A long time ago, around about 1986, in a town far, far away (okay, Bunbury to be precise) the world was three years past experiencing the original Star Wars Trilogy, and a young child had been born. George Lucas and his empire, Lucasfilm, were now household names and Harrison Ford had been catapulted into a future as one of Hollywood’s A-list megastars. Star Wars captured the imaginations of people around the world, and redefined the expectations of science fiction cinema. Not even Lucas himself would foresee the legacy he had created. Fast forward to 1993, to a small mining town in north-east WA, where that now 7 year old boy was putting on the VHS tape of A New Hope that his mother had recorded the night before. I had no idea what to expect and to what extent that tape would impact my life in the following years. I could not comprehend that I’d watch those tapes at least 3 times a year, buy nearly every Star Wars video game, read nearly every Star Wars novel, collect innumerable Star Wars memorabilia and, on one fateful trip to Canada, have Han Solo and Chewie emblazoned in ink on my shoulder.
Nearly 40 years and 6 Star Wars films later, the world is on the cusp of continuing the stories of Luke, Han and Leia, and being introduced to an all new trio of heroes fighting the good fight against the Sith in The Force Awakens. As with Lucas casting relatively unknown actors in the respective roles for A New Hope, director JJ Abrams has taken a similar approach with casting John Boyega as Finn, Daisy Ridley as Rey and Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron. Even antagonist Kylo Ren is played by a veritable unknown, Adam Driver. According to Abrams, the puppets, life-size props, and on-location filming are back for The Force Awakens over the spectacular, though ultimately flawed CGI that characterised Episodes I-III. This criticism is perfectly exemplified in a line from the 2009 film Fanboys, “You gotta keep the flaws. Crappy effects, real puppets. That’s what makes it so good, ya know?” The hype over the notion that Abrams, a ‘true fan’ of the movies was intent on bringing back the magic of the original trilogy has possibly reached tipping point. The initial scepticism, at least what I noticed, about a Disney-backed Star Wars VII seems to have dissipated. Even I felt chills hearing Mark Hammill echo his famous line from Return of the Jedi in the teaser for Episode VII; “The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power, too”. It may seem like I have been suckered in by false Disney promises, but as it stands, Darth Vader wouldn’t find my lack of faith disturbing.
I am, however, not the only Star Wars fanatic in Perth. I wanted to find out exactly how others, both old fans and new, were planning on spending December 17, 2015, the opening night of The Force Awakens.
The last Star Wars opening night I attended was 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, where I attempted to ‘Jedi Mind Trick’ the candy bar staff into giving me a free ice-cream and admired the levels of authenticity of the numerous Jedi robes and Sith cloaks.
I spoke with Kerrie Fulker, a local cosplayer who has recently watched all 6 movies in succession. “I’m super excited for this movie. I’m actually really new to this fandom and only watched the movies in the last 6 months. But I easy went from a 0 to 110% fan. Now I’m into the books and comics. I’m really excited to go see the movie with all the other Star Wars lovers and be a part of the hype!” As a long-time fanboy, it gladdens me to hear that the movies still can inspire and draw newcomers in. I expected Kerrie may even dress up for the occasion too, “The 6 of us plan to dress up and I will be making Mara Jade. Even though she won’t be in the movies (Luke’s wife may be a bit old by then haha) I still think she’s awesome.”
When Disney took over the Star Wars franchise they null-and-voided all Expanded Universe characters and storylines, including that of Mara Jade Skywalker. What surprises me most about the modern Star Wars fans, especially newcomers such as Kerrie, is that they’re happy to recognise all characters, canon or not. I suspect that following the premiere of The Force Awakens we will see many more Rey and Finn cosplayers. In terms of what to expect, I will admit to having been hooked by the trailers. I am, however, trying to remain objective. I don’t want to expect too much, just in case.
Who am I kidding, I cried watching the trailer and I’m sure I will love the film no matter what. But I am wondering, why isn’t Luke in the trailers…Is he missing? Do they have to find him? Is he chilling with Yoda?!” Kerrie says. I am with her on this; where is Luke Skywalker?
The fans are clearly prepared, but what of the venues? I approached Event Cinemas Innaloo to see how they were faring with the advent of The Force Awakens. Tickets to the midnight screening were sold out within minutes of me purchasing my seat. The official media release for Event cinemas, statewide, reads “After a few hours ticket pre-sales for Star Wars: The Force Awakens have eclipsed all previous pre-sale records at Event Cinemas. 1,200 tickets were sold in the first minute growing to 10,000 tickets in 10 minutes with 30,000 tickets sold to date”.
Amalgamated Holdings Limited managing director David Sergeant says “We anticipated the ticket sales for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to break records, however the pace in which this film has achieved this is remarkable”. In comparison, ticket sales on the first day exceeded those of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows Part 2 by over 3000 tickets. In just 4 hours, sales for The Force Awakens tallied more than the entire pre-sale campaign for The Avengers. The figures aren’t entirely surprising; Event Cinemas Innaloo alone is running 8 midnight screenings and another at 3am. I have to hand it to those that will be exiting the cinema around 6am.
So, how will I be spending December 17? I will be at Event Cinemas, armed with a lightsaber and a camera, wearing a blatantly over-the-top fanboy t-shirt and attempting to mind-trick punters into a photo for Lost Magazine. May the Force be with you.