Star Wars – Xmas cheer from Disney stables

This escapist dream film will take us on a journey away from our world of daily political bickering as we travel far away on forgotten galaxies in the company of some of Hollywood’s brightest stars

This week will usher the premiere of the latest Disney block buster – The Force Awakens – which takes place 30 years after the original trilogy. The cast – Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) – are all back.

This escapist dream film will take us on a journey away from our world of daily political bickering as we travel far away on forgotten galaxies in the company of some of Hollywood’s brightest stars. For those of us who remember the original Star Wars actors, we can recall names such as Daisy Ridley as heroine Rey, John Boyega as stormtrooper Finn, and Oscar Isaac as X-wing pilot Poe Dameron.

Then there’s Adam Driver as the big bad, Darth Vader-like, crossguard-lightsaber-wielding Kylo Ren. (Not to mention the veteran actor Max von Sydow).

By sheer use of modern digital technology filmgoers can now enjoy better props such as light sabers that lit up and interactive lighting (these were not possible in the original Star Wars versions). Fans of the film, the first version of which was screened almost 30 years ago, can now feast their eyes on such digital wizardry complete with powerful lightsaber props that would allow scenes complete with interactive lighting.

The improvement in film technology and the use of 3D filming equipment has enhanced manyfold the pleasure and entertainment of fans and others who simply come along to be among the enlightened clan of Galaxy explorers. Can anyone refuse to sit at cockpit of the Millennium Falcon?

Fans have waited three long years to welcome the advent of the seventh Star Wars film “The Force Awakens”, which will be screened in a premiere viewing on 17th December.

Although not fit for young children under 13.years, it is definitely a pleasure for the family to see and comes wrapped with tinsel much like an early Christmas present – but so, so much better. Readers may like to know that the world premiere will be held in Los Angeles, and stars including John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford will be attending. As can be expected, in order to be eligible to purchase a pair of tickets for the first public showing of the film, you must spend at least 24 hours in the queue.

The film is directed by JJ Abrams, a lifelong Star Wars believer who, after reinventing Star Trek, is now chosen to direct one of the most discussed new films of all time – replete with fantastic musical scores written by composer John Williams.

As a director of the film Abrams owed a grave responsibility to the fans not to disappoint them with the new trilogy. To not disappoint, he took the hard way by embracing physical sets and shooting on 35mm film as he tried to live the dream of  past episodes, and, naturally, bringing back memories of a new sequel that matches and aims to supersede the original.

Fans may wish to know that “The Force Awakens” is the first of six new Star Wars films commissioned by Disney after in 2012 buying the franchise from George Lucas for $4 billion. The deal proved to be very lucrative and the film will be screened worldwide and boldly marketed in thousands of screens.

While Star Wars obviously went on to become a global phenomenon, back in 1977, excitement wasn’t quite so high even as this was an effort by pioneer film maker Lucas film’s which according to Charles Lippincott, later revealed that the filmmakers were lucky to get a spot in a top Hollywood location.

But the magic of Disney and many millions poured into the exquisite digital props and clever editing, combined with an exciting musical score, have all yielded a rich harvest. The producer has kept the original team including the principal characters of Han Solo and Princess Leia – now older and wiser ever since they acted in the last Star Wars film.

The new version cost about $200 million but is expected to bring in more than this amount in its first run, apart from millions in sales of merchandise and later on from sales of  dvds and TV rights. It is rumoured that it may surpass the takings from the film “Jurassic World” which set a $208m record this summer.

Disney has played its cards well and hopes to breach the record of Jurassic World, aiming to boost sales of tickets to exceed $250m globally.

All this hype is exacerbated in China, where next year one expects to see the rolling out of vast numbers of IMAX screens and they may surpass the USA as the world’s largest movie market.

Disney has been aggressively marketing the film for over a year to build viewer expectations and aims to overtake the best seller 3D film Avatar – which previously amassed $2.8 billion in 2008.

The principal actors, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, and the rest of the film’s cast have featured heavily in a smart trailer for the film which was premiered on ESPN.

This is a testing time for Disney – a bold adventure to embark on such an ambitious theme (previously run by independent film producer George Lucas) given the volatility of viewer loyalties. Unlike in Malta, where so far there have been no formal announcements to cinema goers not to wear fancy gear at the premiere this week, viewers in the UK and United States have been warned not to wear any fancy costumes  which cover their faces or carry any replica weapons, amid concerns that cinemas  could become ISIS targets.

In the shadow of terrorist attacks by Muslim Jihadists on a huge crowd attending a rock festival in Paris last month one cannot be too careful. In fact, security levels in UK have been heightened and cinema chains such as Odeon, Vue and Cineworld have told theatregoers that such dress code and props could be confiscated. A spokesman for Odeon said that while the chain was looking forward to some “amazing costumes”, it was asking people to “be sensible” and not bring anything which resembles a gun or a light saber.

By sheer contrast, after the attacks by two Isis sympathisers who killed 14 victims in San Bernardino, California – cinema goers in USA were advised not to carry imitation weapons or cover their faces in masks (like storm troopers) otherwise they would be barred from entry.

Fans like to wear Star Wars costumes and dress as stormtroopers, but they had to remove their helmets, masks and face shields and put down their light sabers as they lined up to go through the many security checks in USA.

To conclude on a light vein, one appreciates how every opportunity is taken to be creative when promoting new films and this includes design of refreshments that can be enjoyed during the premiere of the film. Thus we note how in conjunction with Disney, ice cream company Ample Hills Creamery have prepared two flavours to capture the passionate chocolateness of the dark Side and the more tranquil, ultimately rewarding marshmallowness of the light side.

With less than a fortnight to Christmas, grab a ticket this week at a cinema near you and relax in 3D scenery to enjoy a long awaited sequel of Star Wars – drain away your sorrows and forget the stress of bumper to bumper traffic – on the contrary  build up  adrenalin in the battlefields of the Empire striking again... all wrapped up in a fantasy world nestled in a galaxy far away.

Merry Christmas to our readers.