- "There's been an awakening. Have you felt it?"
- ―Supreme Leader Snoke
Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens, marketed as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, is the seventh film in the Star Wars saga and the first in the Star Wars sequel trilogy. The film was directed by J.J. Abrams; co-written by Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt; and produced by Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and Bad Robot Productions. The film stars Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker reprising their original roles. The original actors are joined by a host of new actors including Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac, among many others.
The story begins thirty years after the events of Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi. The First Order has risen from the ashes of the Galactic Empire and is opposed by General Leia Organa and the Resistance, both of which seek to find the missing Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. In the midst of this search, new heroes rise in the form of Rey, a Force-sensitive scavenger from Jakku; Finn, a stormtrooper who defected from the First Order; and Poe Dameron, the best pilot in the Resistance. They are aided by Han Solo in their search for Skywalker and their mission to destroy the First Order's new superweapon, Starkiller Base, which targets the New Republic and the Resistance for destruction. They are opposed by villains such as Kylo Ren, a dark warrior with a mysterious past; and General Hux, the commander of Starkiller Base. The film's story will continue in Star Wars: Episode VIII and Star Wars: Episode IX on December 15, 2017 and in 2019, respectively.
Despite initially claiming that the Star Wars story ended with the redemption of Anakin Skywalker in Return of the Jedi, and after spending years refuting speculation that there would be another film, Star Wars creator George Lucas began work on Episode VII in 2011 in order to increase the value of Lucasfilm before he sold it to The Walt Disney Company, although Disney would later elect to not use Lucas' story. The acquisition was finalized on October 30, 2012, and Disney and Lucasfilm officially announced Episode VII and the sequel trilogy the same day. Lucasfilm later announced that the film would be an original story not beholden to the continuity of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, which was rebranded as the non-canon Star Wars Legends.
The Force Awakens was released on December 17, 2015 in the United Kingdom, Mexico, Latin America, and Asian countries; December 18, 2015 in North America; and January 9, 2016 in China. Some North American theaters offered special limited advance showings on the evening of December 17th rather than the traditional midnight showing. The film received widespread critical praise upon its release and was a massive box office success, becoming the highest grossing film of all time in North America when not adjusted for inflation. Worldwide, the film is the third highest grossing of all time when not adjusted for inflation. Adjusted for inflation, it is behind Titanic and Avatar. It is currently the highest grossing sequel of all time (beating out Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back). It is the first Star Wars film since Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace to be highest grossing film of its initial release year.
- "We've got company."
- ―Poe Dameron
Approximately thirty years after the destruction of the second Death Star, Luke Skywalker, the last known surviving Jedi Master, has disappeared. Both the First Order, a successor to the fallen Galactic Empire, and the Resistance, a military force backed by the New Republic and led by Luke's twin sister, General Leia Organa, scour the galaxy in an attempt to find him.
Leia sends Resistance pilot Poe Dameron on a secret mission to the village of Tuanul on the desert planet Jakku, to meet with village elder Lor San Tekka, who has obtained a star-chart to Luke Skywalker's location. During the meeting, First Order stormtroopers under the command of Kylo Ren and Captain Phasma attack the village. Poe and his astromech droid BB-8 attempt to flee in their X-wing starfighter, but a pair of stormtroopers disable the engines with their blasters. With no alternative, Poe gives the star-chart to BB-8 and orders the astromech to flee. Poe remains behind to cover BB-8's escape.
After stormtrooper FN-2187 is deployed, FN-2003 is hit with blaster fire by Poe. FN-2187 goes to help his squadmate, but FN-2003's wound proves fatal, and in his final moments, FN-2003 smears his blood on FN-2187's helmet before dying, deeply affecting FN-2187. After securing the area, the remaining villagers are herded into the town square. Tekka is captured and brought before Kylo Ren, who demands to know where the star-chart leading to Luke is. Tekka responds that he knows who Ren used to be, and chides Ren that he cannot escape his real identity. Growing impatient, Ren cuts Tekka down with his lightsaber.
Poe takes a shot at Ren from cover, but Ren casually stops the blaster bolt in mid-air with the Force. Poe is captured, and Ren decides to interrogate him further back on their ship. Before leaving, Phasma asks what to do with the crowd of captive villagers, and Ren orders them all slaughtered. Stormtrooper FN-2187 is horrified as the massacre plays out in front of him, remaining motionless and not firing his weapon.
Return to the Finalizer
- "The Resistance will not be intimidated by you!"
- ―Poe Dameron to Kylo Ren
Returning to the Finalizer, FN-2187 is overwhelmed with emotions because of the death of his squadmate and the massacre of the villagers. He ducks inside an empty shuttle to take his helmet off, breathing heavily, but Phasma notices him and tells him to submit his blaster for inspection, having earlier noticed that he did not fire a shot. Knowing he would be punished and re-evaluated for not firing on the villagers, and with his faith in the First Order severely shaken, he decides to desert. Meanwhile, after failed attempts of torturing Poe for vital information about the star-chart of Luke Skywalker's location, Ren uses his mind probe Force power to pry the information from Poe's mind. Ren learns that the star-charts are located within a BB series droid that fled the village, and informs General Hux of the new information.
Encounter with the scavenger
- "Classified. Really? Me too. Big secret."
- ―Rey to BB-8
Elsewhere on Jakku, a scavenger named Rey traverses the corridors of a downed Star Destroyer at the Graveyard of Giants. Scavenging through the Star Destroyer, she finds a valuable piece of salvage and drops it in her satchel. Rey heads to Niima Outpost, and hauls the sack of salvage throughout the town. She then goes to Unkar Plutt to exchange her scraps for foodstuff, and he offers her a quarter portion for her salvage. After taking the foodstuff, Rey heads to her home, a downed AT-AT, and prepares a meal for herself. After finishing her meal, she watches a starship depart from the planet and then notices a distant sound. She immediately runs off with her quarterstaff to investigate.
There, she encounters BB-8 struggling against being captured by a green-skinned humanoid scavenger named Teedo. She frees the droid and gives it directions to Niima Outpost and sends it on its way, but BB-8 insists on traveling with her. Rey goes to Unkar Plutt to again exchange her salvage for foodstuff, and the Crolute offers to buy BB-8 for sixty food portions; while tempted, Rey declines the offer. Plutt then sends two thugs to steal BB-8.
Escape from the Finalizer
- "You do exactly as I say and I can get you out of here."
- ―FN-2187 to Poe Dameron
Needing a pilot to escape, FN-2187 frees the captured Poe Dameron from his cell, and the two steal a Special Forces TIE fighter. FN-2187 mans the guns, killing several of his former comrades in the hangar, and then disables the Finalizer's turbolasers on the outside of the vessel. During the escape, Dameron asks the stormtrooper his name, to which he explains that he has been raised from birth to be a stormtrooper, and the serial number "FN-2187" is the only designation he has ever had. Not content with calling a man a number, Dameron names the trooper "Finn", from the FN in his name. Finn likes the name, and goes on to use it. Dameron also tells him that the map vital to the Resistance was located within his astromech droid. Before they can continue their conversation and escape, the TIE is hit by a missile fired from the Finalizer, sending it spiraling towards the planet below.
Phasma reveals to Hux that this was FN-2187's first offense of non-conformity. A technician then informs Hux that the TIE fighter was projected to crash on Goazon Badlands, a canyon zone on Jakku. Realizing that Poe and Finn were going after BB-8, Hux sends out a squadron of search teams to the area.
- "What about that ship?"
- ―Finn about the Millennium Falcon
Finn and Dameron eject from the TIE shortly before it crashes, each landing separately some distance from the wreckage. Making his way to the crash, Finn finds Poe's jacket, but no other sign of the man, and the fighter sinks into the sand. Believing Dameron to be dead, Finn begins wandering, discarding his stormtrooper armor along the way and eventually arriving at the nearest settlement, thirsting for water.
While Finn drinks water from a watering hole meant for animals, he notices thugs attempting to steal a BB unit droid, which Finn recognizes as BB-8, from a woman, Rey, but she fends them off with her staff. BB-8 notices Finn, wearing his master Poe Dameron's jacket, prompting Rey to chase after him. Rey attacks Finn, believing him to be a thief. Finn explains that he had met and helped Poe escape the Finalizer, but that Dameron had apparently perished during their crash. The First Order tracks Finn to the settlement, and launches an airstrike in attempt to search for BB-8 and the map. Rey, Finn, and BB-8 manage to escape the outpost in the Millennium Falcon by flying it through the Graveyard of Giants, while Finn fires on and destroys the pursuing TIE fighters. With the TIE fighters destroyed, they escape into space.
Back aboard the Finalizer, Lieutenant Dopheld Mitaka informs Kylo Ren that the droid escaped on a stolen freighter and that it was aided by the deserter FN-2187. Ren activates his lightsaber and lashes out in a rage-fueled tantrum, slashing at an instrument panel uncontrollably. Mitaka tells Ren that they also appear to have been helped by a local scavenger girl. Kylo grows even more livid, using the Force to pull the officer by his throat across the room in order to choke him with his bare hands, and asking him what girl it was.
Reunited with the Falcon
- "Chewie, we're home."
- ―Han Solo to Chewbacca
While Finn and Rey celebrate their escape from Jakku, the Millennium Falcon breaks down. The ship is in major need of repairs, so Finn, Rey and BB-8 begin working to fix it. While they are working on repairs, the ship is caught in a tractor beam by a freighter. Although they initially believe themselves to be captured by the First Order, they soon meet their real captors: Han Solo and Chewbacca, the former owners of the ship. Upon boarding their old vessel, Han and Chewie go about inspecting their ship and find the two stowaways, Rey and Finn, who he assumes were the thieves that had stolen the Falcon. When Rey and Finn explain that they were going to take a droid named BB-8 to the Resistance because it has a map that would reveal Luke's location, Han and Chewie agree to help them.
While Han explores his old ship and meets Rey and Finn, the freighter, named the Eravana, is boarded by two notorious criminal factions, the Guavian Death Gang and Kanjiklub, both of whom want their money back from Solo. Not wanting Rey and Finn to be involved, Han hides both of them in the lower corridors of the freighter while he and Chewie go meet with the criminals, with BB-8 accompanying them. Han tries but fails to convince both parties that he would fix things eventually, with the Guavian Death Gang negotiator, Bala-Tik recognizing the BB-8 astromech droid from a First Order bounty placed on it. They demand that Han hand over the droid and any stowaways he might have on board. As the scuffle continues, Rey accidentally releases three rathtars. The rathtars provide a distraction for Han and Chewie to escape, but Finn is caught by one and dragged around the freighter. Rey finds a control panel and shuts a blast door on the rathtar, freeing Finn. The two join Han and Chewie and successfully make the jump into hyperspace in the Falcon. Bala-tik then orders his men to inform the First Order that Han Solo and the BB unit are aboard the ship.
At Starkiller Base, a planet converted into a superweapon, powered by draining the energy of a star, and capable of destroying star systems, Kylo Ren and General Hux are summoned by Supreme Leader Snoke, who appears as a gigantic remote hologram projection. Hux suggests using Starkiller Base to destroy the government of the New Republic and the Resistance, and Snoke grants him the permission to do so. Snoke reveals to Ren that the astromech droid containing the star-chart now resides in the Millennium Falcon - along with his father, Han Solo. Ren insists that his father means nothing to him, and with Snoke's training, he would not be seduced to the light side of the Force.
Journey to Takodana
- "Want to get BB-8 to the Resistance? Maz Kanata is our best bet."
- ―Han Solo to Finn and Rey
During the travel in hyperspace, the Falcon experiences a problem with its hyperdrive, but Rey demonstrates her knowledge of ships by bypassing the compressor and fixing the issue. Meanwhile, Finn attempts to bandage Chewie's arm, which was wounded while fighting on the Eravana. After fixing the ship, Han questions Finn and Rey, wondering why they are fugitives. Rey explains that the First Order is after the map located within BB-8 and that Finn is with the Resistance.
After BB-8 displays a projection of the map, Han explains that after Luke disappeared, there were many parties that went searching for him. Luke had tried to rebuild the Jedi Order, but an apprentice of his turned to the dark side, destroying all that Luke had built and killing the other padawans that Luke had trained. Feeling responsible and blaming himself for the failure, Luke went into exile. Han also explains that he heard rumors that Luke went searching for the first Jedi temple.
Solo explains that he was able to find the Millennium Falcon soon after it entered space because he and Chewbacca were scanning for its signature. This was also why the criminal gangs were able to track it down so quickly, and meant the First Order could track it as well. In order to bring BB-8 to the Resistance, they needed to switch to a clean ship, which Han says he can obtain from an old friend.
Solo takes Rey, Finn, and BB-8 to the planet Takodana to meet with Maz Kanata at her castle. Han says that she has maintained her castle for over a thousand years, where she runs a bustling cantina. Unbeknownst to all, spies from different sides take notice of the group. GA-97 alerts the Resistance that the BB unit has been located, while Bazine Netal informs the First Order of the same.
The conflict within
- "Forgive me. I feel it again... the pull to the light. Supreme Leader senses it. Show me again, the power of the darkness, and I will let nothing stand in our way. Show me, Grandfather, and I will finish what you started."
- ―Kylo Ren to Darth Vader's helmet
Attempting to seek guidance from his grandfather, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren sits quietly in his meditation chamber. In front of him is the burned helmet of Vader, recovered from the funeral pyre on Endor. With the re-emergence of his father and Snoke's orders to kill him, Kylo feels an internal struggle within himself. He reveals to Vader's burned helmet that the light is pulling him in again and that even Snoke could sense it. He then asks his grandfather to show him the power of the darkness again, to pull him back to the dark side of the Force and help him overcome his future trials.
A call from the Force
- "Rey... these are your first steps."
- ―The voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi during Rey's vision
While Han and Chewie speak with Maz, Finn heads out to make a deal of his own. Finn hires Sidon Ithano and his first mate Quiggold to take him away to the Outer Rim for work. Rey implores Finn not to leave, but to help the her find the Resistance instead. Finn, however, insists on leaving, believing there is no way to defeat the First Order. He also admits that he lied about being in the Resistance and was really a stormtrooper in the First Order, deserting after his first battle because he didn't want to kill for the First Order. After Finn leaves, Rey hears the screaming of a young girl and finds herself wandering deeper into the castle to find the source. She descends to a sub-chamber that is filled with relics of the past. There she is called by the Force to Maz's curio box, an ancient Wroshyr wood chest. Inside, she finds the lightsaber that had previously belonged to Anakin Skywalker and his son Luke.
Upon touching the lightsaber, she receives a series of visions. Suddenly, she finds herself in Cloud City where Luke battled Darth Vader. As quick as she saw that vision, it goes away, and she now sees Luke placing his metallic hand on top of R2-D2 near a fire, at a site presumed to be Luke's burning Jedi Temple. Next, she finds herself lying in the rain at night to see the Knights of Ren surrounded by slaughtered victims, fearing for her life as Ren notices her. Before he reaches her, she sees herself as a child on Jakku watching the departure of her parents, yelling out to them to come back, and being told to quiet herself from Unkar Plutt. Looking to the future, Rey then finds herself being chased by Kylo Ren in a snowy forest. Rey pulls herself out of the vision in terror. After the vision, she finds Kanata standing outside the room. Kanata explains to her the lightsaber's history and that it was calling to her. Kanata then reveals that she herself is Force-sensitive; although she was never a Jedi, she can simply close her eyes and feel the light of the Force within herself, and recognizes that Rey can do this too. Frightened by her vision, Rey refuses to keep the lightsaber, running off into the woods with BB-8. Instead, Maz gives the lightsaber to Finn, telling Han she doesn't have time to tell him how she got the lightsaber.
- "Today is the end of the Republic! The end of a regime that acquiesces to disorder!"
- ―General Hux
After gaining Supreme Leader Snoke's permission to fire the Starkiller Base's superweapon, Hux chooses the Hosnian system, which hosts the capital of the New Republic, Hosnian Prime, as well as the New Republic Starfleet, in order to demonstrate the power of the First Order in an attempt to wipe out the "illegitimate" government of the New Republic in one fell swoop. The test is a success and Hosnian Prime, home of the Galactic Senate, all other astronomical bodies in the system, and an unknown percentage of the New Republic fleet are annihilated by the First Order's superweapon. The destruction of the Hosnian system is visible from the surface of Takodana. This prompts Finn to re-evaluate his choice to leave.
- "I need a weapon!"
"You have one!"
- ―Finn and Maz Kanata
The First Order, tipped off to BB-8's presence, arrives and attacks Maz Kanata's castle. Flying in with TIE fighters and Atmospheric Assault Landers, the First Order swiftly assaults the castle and levels it, killing many of its inhabitants. BB-8 follows Rey into the forests surrounding the castle, and the First Order is unable to locate the droid until a stormtrooper officer reports to Kylo Ren that the astromech had been sighted in the company of a girl.
During the fighting at the castle, Finn wields Luke's old lightsaber to kill one stormtrooper before he is overpowered by FN-2199, a former squadmate of Finn's. His life is narrowly saved by Han, who uses Chewbacca's bowcaster to blast FN-2199 at the last second. Han and Chewbacca also kill multiple stormtroopers, but are captured along with Finn by the First Order. However, Resistance T-70 X-wing fighters led by Poe Dameron, who is now revealed to still be alive, arrive to fight the First Order. A fierce dogfight ensues and results in the destruction of many First Order TIEs and the deaths of many stormtroopers from X-wing strafing runs.
Rey encounters Kylo Ren at the woods, and fires at him with her blaster pistol, but Kylo restrains her using the Force. Probing her mind, he discovers that she has seen the map he's been looking for all this time, and orders the First Order to pull out, saying they had what they came for and no longer need BB-8. As the battle rages on above the castle, the remaining First Order troops board their ships and retreat, and Han witnesses his son carrying an unconscious Rey away. The Resistance is victorious, freeing Finn, Han, and Chewbacca. Han and Leia are reunited, and Han reveals to Leia that he saw their son.
Reunited at the Resistance Base
- "How can I reach him when Luke couldn't?"
"Luke was a Jedi, you're his father."
- ―Han and Leia
Han, Chewbacca, and Finn are brought to the Resistance base on D'Qar. BB-8 encounters the astromech droid R2-D2, who, as C-3PO explains, has been dormant since Luke's disappearance. It is revealed that Han and Leia are aware that their son is Kylo Ren, and that their son's fall to the Dark Side caused them to separate, with Han returning to his smuggling business and Leia spearheading the activities of the Resistance.
Upon finding the location of the Resistance base, Starkiller Base begins draining the power of the sun to destroy D'Qar. Meanwhile, the Resistance plans an attack of their own. Finn gives them the Base's blueprints, which reveal that the base drains the energy of a star in order to charge its superweapon, and that it requires a thermal oscillator, which sustains the energy on the planet, in order to function. If the thermal oscillator was destroyed, it would de-stabilize the planet's core and implode the Base. However, they would need to do it before the Base fully charges its weapon and destroys D'Qar. Finn, Han, and Chewie volunteer to disable the Base's defensive shield from the inside. Before departing to the Starkiller Base, Han and Leia embrace, and Leia pleads Han to bring their son home.
- "You're afraid... that you will never be as strong as Darth Vader!"
- ―Rey to Kylo Ren
Rey is brought to Starkiller Base and interrogated by Kylo Ren, who wants information on the map to Luke Skywalker. Ren takes off his helmet and shows her his face. Initially, Ren is able to see into Rey's mind, mentioning an island surrounded by water. However, the darksider has a difficult time probing her mind, and Rey is even able to push back into Ren's mind. After a mental struggle, Rey announces that she can sense fear in him - fear that he will never be as powerful as Darth Vader. Humiliated, Kylo storms out of the room to seek audience with Snoke.
Left alone and aware of what just happened, Rey realizes it is as Kanata told her: she truly is Force-sensitive. She attempts to use a Jedi mind trick on her stormtrooper guard, to make him release her and leave the door open. It doesn't work, but Rey tries again: this time he walks over and tells her he will tighten her restraints instead of undoing them. Concentrating, Rey tries one last time, and the stormtrooper listens to her demands. She quickly also remembers to have him drop his blaster as he leaves so she can arm herself. Rey then makes her way through the Starkiller Base, honing her Force abilities while using stealth. She also draws on her experience climbing through wrecked Imperial starships to make her way through the bowels of the installation's machinery. Meanwhile, Kylo reveals to Snoke that Rey is strong with the Force but untrained, and Snoke commands Kylo to bring Rey to him. When Kylo discovers that Rey escaped, he throws another fit of rage, slashing at her empty restraint chair.
- "Give it everything you've got!"
- ―Poe Dameron
Han Solo pilots the Millennium Falcon to Starkiller Base accompanied by Chewbacca and Finn. Finn's main objective is to rescue Rey from captivity. Since the Base's shields have a fractional refresh rate, Han pilots through the shields at lightspeed, and the Falcon makes a rough landing at the edge of a cliff. Han, Chewbacca, and Finn sneak into the main base and capture Captain Phasma, who they force to disable the shields before disposing of her in a garbage chute. They reunite with Rey, who had already escaped on her own. With the shields down, Blue Squadron and Red Squadron led by Black Leader Poe Dameron commence their assault. They fire on the base's hexagonal oscillator structure, but fail to destroy it as the First Order sends TIE Fighters to stage a counterattack and throw the Resistance into chaos.
Seeing this, Han, Chewbacca, Finn, and Rey try to create an opening by planting thermal detonators inside the base. Sensing his father's presence, Kylo goes to meet Han. Han then confronts his son, Kylo Ren, calling to him by his birth name, "Ben". They approach each other on a bridge over a large pit, and Han pleads with his son to reject Snoke and return to the light side of the Force. Ben, removing his mask and seeming regretful and scared, hands his lightsaber to Solo, asking for his father's help. Han replies that he would do anything for him, but when he tries to retract the lightsaber from Ben's hand, he resists. Ben then ignites the weapon through Han's chest. Witnessed by Rey, Finn, and Chewbacca, Han strokes his son's face for the last time, before falling to his death. Enraged, Chewbacca, Rey, and Finn start firing at Ren and the stormtroopers. Chewbacca injures Ren with his bowcaster, but Ren chases them out of the base and catches up to Finn and Rey in the forest.
Rey accuses Ren of being a monster for murdering his own father. She then proceeds to shoot him with her blaster, but Ren knocks Rey out by Force pushing her into a tree. A desperate and terrified Finn comes to her aid immediately. Ren then angrily accuses Finn of being a traitor, and Finn pulls out Luke's old lightsaber and attacks him in a rage. Ren is already badly injured, bleeding out of his abdomen, but even so is too much for Finn. Finn manages to deal him a glancing wound, but nonetheless Ren quickly overpowers the former stormtrooper and deals him a grievous injury to his back. Ren tries to use telekinesis to pick up the lightsaber his grandfather built, but it resists his pull and instead flies to Rey, who has awakened from her stupor.
During this time, Chewie detonates the thermal detonators in the base, allowing Poe to lead a squadron of X-wings into the trenches of Starkiller Base. Poe finds an opening in the thermal oscillator and enters, while a following TIE crashed, unable to execute the same flight maneuver. Inside, Poe fires volley after volley of torpedoes into the oscillator, destroying the base's thermal oscillator thirty seconds before it finishes draining the sun to completely charge the superweapon. This causes a chain reaction to go off, which destroys the base and levels the entire planet's terrain - without the weapon to dissipate it, the stored solar energy begins tearing the planet apart from the inside.
Rey and Ren continue fighting: Ren has taken even more wounds, from Chewbacca, Finn, and Rey, but even so initially holds the advantage, drawing on his rage to ignore the pain. Ren becomes so impressed with Rey that he tries to tempt her, complimenting her strength with the Force and offering to complete her training if she joins him. This backfires, however, as it only serves to reassure Rey of her own power: recalling Kanata's words on reaching the light within, she begins to draw on the Force to hone her attacks, and the tide of the duel shifts. Ultimately, Rey is able to overpower Ren and deal him a severe wound to his face while severing his lightsaber in two. By this point, Kylo has taken too many wounds to continue standing, but he still struggles in vain to rise again. Before Rey can move in to finish him off, a large trench forms between them as the base begins to fall apart.
Rey returns to Finn, despairing that Finn was not waking up and that they are trapped on the rupturing planet. However, Chewbacca arrives with the Millennium Falcon to rescue them. Inside the main base, chaos reigns as General Hux has already fled, and the other officers rush to abandon the installation as well. Hux, meanwhile, reports to Snoke, who orders him to rescue Ren and flee the base, so Ren can finish his training. The Millennium Falcon and the remainder of the Resistance fleet manage to escape Starkiller Base as it erupts into a ball of fire. They then enter hyperspace to return to D'Qar.
Locating Luke Skywalker
- "May the Force be with you."
- ―Leia to Rey
The Resistance celebrates their victory while Leia, Chewbacca, and Rey mourn Han's death. R2-D2 suddenly awakens and reveals that he holds the map to Luke's location, with the only piece of the map missing being the one BB-8 was given by Poe. Together they complete the map and reveal the location of Ahch-To, the planet on which Luke Skywalker sought out the first Jedi Temple. As the unconscious Finn recovers in the medical unit, Rey kisses him on the head and thanks him for everything.
With R2-D2 and Chewbacca in tow, Rey leaves on the Millennium Falcon and follows the map to the distant planet, a water world dotted with islands, which she had previously seen in her visions. Rey pilots the starship to a particular island with a large, ancient stone temple on it. She climbs the rock-carved steps to the top of the temple, where she finds Luke Skywalker. Without exchanging any words, Rey presents him with his father's lightsaber.
- "I keep telling J.J. Abrams this is a $4 billion movie. We need to treat this very special. It's an unbelievable privilege and unbelievable responsibility to take a jewel and treat it in a way that is respectful of its past but brings it into the future."
- ―Bob Iger
On October 30, 2012, The Walt Disney Company announced that it had purchased Lucasfilm Ltd., the production company behind the creation of the Star Wars franchise, from its owner, Star Wars creator George Lucas, for $4.05 billion. The acquisition came in the wake of Lucas's announced retirement on May 31, and the subsequent June 1 announcement that veteran film producer Kathleen Kennedy was succeeding Lucas as Lucasfilm's Co-Chair. As part of the merger, Disney revealed that it planned to produce a sequel trilogy of films beginning in 2015, with Kennedy serving as executive producer.
Star Wars: Episode VII had already been in development for several months as of the Disney–Lucasfilm merger, and Lucas had written the story treatments for each of the three upcoming films. Kennedy said shortly after the announcement that the development team was in the process of sitting down with writers to discuss story ideas. Lucasfilm confirmed on November 9 that pre-production had begun on Star Wars: Episode VII, and that screenwriter Michael Arndt would write the script for the film. News outlets first reported Arndt's involvement on November 8, announcing that Arndt had already turned in a forty-to-fifty-page story treatment that reportedly brought the Skywalker family saga to a close in a new trilogy. On January 25, 2013, StarWars.com announced that J.J. Abrams, known for his work on the television series Lost and the most recent entries in the Star Trek film series, would direct the film, with Star Wars creator George Lucas remarking "I've consistently been impressed with J.J. as a filmmaker and storyteller. He's an ideal choice to direct the new Star Wars film and the legacy couldn't be in better hands".
Lucas was initially involved as creative consultant, though he stepped away due to Disney's descision to take the story in a different direction than his original outlines. He later elaborated in an interview with Stephen Colbert: "The original saga was about the father, the children, and the grandchildren. I don't think that's a secret to anybody—that's in the novels—and the children were in their 20s and everything. But they've taken it in a different direction, and I'm excited—they didn't use my story, so I don't know what they're doing."
Initial reports explained that Lawrence Kasdan (who wrote the screenplays for both Episodes V and VI) and Simon Kinberg would co-produce all three films of the trilogy, and share writing responsibilities for Episodes VIII and IX. Kinberg described his role in the process: "I'm like a friend of the court. I consult on the movies. I worked on VII: helped break the story, read scripts, drafts at certain points, and gave my thoughts whatever they were worth." On October 24, 2013, it was announced that Abrams and Kasdan were rewriting Arndt's script.
- "I've learned to be very careful about Star Wars. If I say, 'There will be no skateboards in Star Wars'... that gets headlines."
- ―Alan Horn, Disney Chairman
The Force Awakens began preliminary shooting in April 2014, with second unit work taking place in Iceland and Abu Dhabi. On April 25, Lucasfilm announced their plans for a new continuity that excluded the existing Expanded Universe, and confirmed that Episode VII and its sequels would not adhere to any existing continuity. This was followed on April 29 by the official release of the cast list for the movie. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew and Anthony Daniels would return to reprise their roles as the main characters of the original trilogy, and they would be joined by a number of new actors in leading roles: John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow. Hamill remarked on returning to Star Wars: "Part of the experience of [Star Wars] in my life was coming down from that, putting it behind me. We had a beginning, middle, and an end. And I certainly, in a million years, never expected to return. I thought, even if they do more trilogies, my story is over." Denis Lawson was asked to reprise his role as Wedge Antilles from the original trilogy, but declined, stating that it would have "bored" him.
Principal photography began on May 16, 2014 at the UK's Pinewood Studios. For visual inspiration, Abrams looked at films directed by John Ford, Akira Kurosawa and Terrence Malick. Daniel Mindel—who had previously worked with Abrams as director of photography—returned to collaborate with the director on the film. Reportedly, one sequence was shot with IMAX cameras. Although Peter Mayhew was able to reprise the role as Chewbacca, some scenes had to be shot with a stunt double, due to Mayhew's age and physical health. On June 11, the 71-year old Harrison Ford broke his left leg when a hydraulic door at Pinewood Studios fell down and hit him, and was airlifted to John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. His recovery forced him to drop out of filming for eight weeks. Abrams also sustained a minor back injury when he tried to help lift the door off of Ford's leg. On June 28, actor Andy Serkis confirmed that The Imaginarium Studios would be involved with performance capture on the film, as well as all future Star Wars projects. Serkis also confirmed that the character he plays in the film would utilize performance capture. On July 6, Lucasfilm confirmed that actors Crystal Clarke and Pip Andersen were cast in the film through open casting calls in the United Kingdom. They also revealed that production would take a two-week hiatus in August to accommodate Harrison Ford's leg injury. Afterwards shooting would resume, and conclude later in the fall. Abrams, Hamill, and Daisy Ridley spent three days filming at Skellig Michael in County Kerry, Ireland.
On November 6, 2014, the official Star Wars Twitter account announced that the film had completed principal photography. The post gave the official title for the film as Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and was accompanied by a title card for the new name that, like the original trilogy, excluded the "Episode" subtitle. The film had gone through several titles, including "Shadow of the Empire", similar to Shadows of the Empire.
Michael Kaplan, who had designed the costumes for Abrams' Star Trek films, also signed on to costume Episode VII. Kaplan designed new stormtrooper uniforms for the film, as it was determined that the original costumes would not stand up to modern scrutiny. These new uniforms were inspired by Apple products. The production team built a new C-3PO suit to accommodate Anthony Daniels, while the R2-D2 model was provided and overseen by members of the R2-D2 Builders Club.
Supervising sound editor Matthew Wood brought in former cast and crew members of Star Wars: The Clone Wars to record various background dialogue. Ewan McGregor and Frank Oz also recorded new lines for the scene of Rey's force vision. McGregor's recording was combined with audio of the late Alec Guinness, and pre-existing Yoda audio was ultimately used in lieu of Oz's new recording.
During a concert with the Young Musician's Foundation Debut Orchestra on February 9, 2013 composer John Williams stated that he was hoping to get the chance to write the musical scores for the new trilogy. Abrams made further statements on this at a Star Trek Into Darkness conference on April 29, stating, "Again, for Star Wars, it's very early days, but I believe that, going forward, John Williams will be doing that film because he was there long before I was." On July 27, 2013, a video of Williams confirming he would score the new film was screened at Star Wars Celebration Europe II. On March 21, 2015, Lucasfilm revealed that John Williams would conduct the score for The Force Awakens in Los Angeles. The previous live-action film scores were recorded in the United Kingdom with the London Symphony Orchestra. The sessions lasted from summer through fall of 2015.
- "We're living in such a different age now. It's like a competition to see who can leak information faster than the next guy. I don't get it. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they don't get a copy of the script and leak the whole thing on the Internet."
- ―Mark Hamill
The first teaser trailer—released early due to both fan demand and Abrams' request—was announced via the Bad Robot Productions Twitter account, with a note from Abrams saying fans will see a "tiny peek at what we're working on." The 88-second teaser premiered in 30 theaters across North America and was released online on November 28, 2014. The teaser was shown in theaters around the world beginning in December 2014. Character names were revealed shortly thereafter in online mock collector cards. Earlier that November, JJ Abrams made a cameo on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, in which he could be seen directing R2-D2 on the set of The Force Awakens. When a fish from Oliver's salmon cannon falls on the script that he's holding, Abrams gets frustrated and quits the film.
A second teaser was released on April 16, 2015. The June 2015 issue of Variety featured a cover story on The Force Awakens, with interviews with cast and crew and images from an Annie Leibovitz photo shoot. The August 2015 issues of Entertainment Weekly and Empire also had the film as their cover stories. The Force Awakens had a presence at 2015's San Diego Comic-Con and D23 events. At the latter, it was revealed that Drew Struzan had returned to create poster art for the film, including a poster exclusive to the event. A third, shorter teaser was released on the Star Wars Instagram on August 27. On September 23, Facebook released a 360-degree panoramic video clip of a speeder driving across Jakku. The official one sheet was released on October 18, 2015, while the full-length trailer debuted on October 19 with ESPN's Monday Night Football.
The cast and crew appeared on various TV programs, including Good Morning America, Live! with Kelly and Michael, and 60 Minutes. Abrams, Boyega and Ridley participated in a Saturday Night Live sketch featuring cast members and guest celebrities in a series of fake auditions. Among the subjects parodied were racist reactions to Boyega's casting, Lucas's comments about not being involved, and Abrams's involvement in the rival franchise Star Trek. Abrams and the cast appeared on a Star Wars-themed episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live! on November 23. Harrison Ford spoke about his injury during shooting on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon by destroying a Han Solo action figure.
Some members of the cast and crew also participated in an official press conference on December 5. The film had its red carpet premiere on December 14 at Hollywood Boulevard. The event was streamed live on StarWars.com. The cast (including the droids) participated in an a capella medley of the music from the series with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots on The Tonight Show. Ford and Abrams participated on a sketch on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert depicting what convinced Ford to return: Colbert allegedly almost convinced Abrams to recast the role of Han with him. Later, when he appeared on Conan, he was asked to sign producer Jordan Schlansky's LEGO Millennium Falcon and "accidentally" dropped it.
On May 21, 2014, Disney, Lucasfilm and Bad Robot announced "Force for Change", a charity campaign "dedicated to finding creative solutions to some of the world's biggest problems"; Initially, the campaign was focused on contributing to UNICEF. Each person who donated was entered to win a set visit to and appearance in Episode VII. On August 11, Denver, Colorado resident D.C. Barns was announced as the contest's winner. JJ Abrams later released a YouTube video in which he announced that the contest had raised $4.26 million. In August 2014, several of the film's cast and crew participated in the "Ice Bucket Challenge", an internet phenomenon whereby one pours water onto one's head as a pledge to donate to the ALS association. On April 21, 2015, Abrams appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, where he performed the "Twizzler challenge" with Chewbacca, in honor of Autism Awareness Month. In August 2015, Lucasfilm and HP began a two-month program called "Art Awakens", in which people submit art inspired by The Force Awakens, of which a certain number will be chosen for an art exhibit, the proceeds of which will go to "Force for Change". On November 5, 2015, director J.J. Abrams screened an unfinished version of the film for Daniel Fleetwood, a 32-year-old Star Wars fan with an aggressive form of cancer who was likely to die before the film's release. The campaign for him to see the film was supported by several of the film's stars, including John Boyega, Mark Hamill and Gwendoline Christie. Fleetwood passed away on November 9 or 10, 2015. The film will also be made available for viewing by astronauts on the International Space Station. On November 28, it was revealed that R2-KT, the droid built in honor of Katie Johnson, would make an appearance in The Force Awakens. Albin Johnson, founder of the 501st Legion and father of Katie, had constructed the droid after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. In addition to R2-KT's appearance, a variation of the 501st's logo was featured as a flag outside of Maz Kanata's castle.
Following Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, its "imagineers" began developing Star Wars-themed expansions to the various Disney theme parks. However, Bob Iger halted work on these expansions until The Force Awakens and other future Star Wars films had reached a point in their development so that elements from those projects could be included. On August 15, 2015, it was announced that plans were moving forward for a Star Wars-themed section of the Disney parks, which would include content based on The Force Awakens.
Disney's merchandising campaign for the film began on September 4, 2015—dubbed "Force Friday". Lucasfilm has published a series of books and comics that connect Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. A novelization will be released, as well as a number of other titles directly connected to the film, such as an art book, a character anthology, and Ultimate Sticker Collection. Additionally, content from The Force Awakens will be included in the video games Disney Infinity 3.0 and Star Wars Battlefront. The company has also partnered with eight major brands: Covergirl & Max Factor, Duracell, FCA US, General Mills, HP, Subway and Verizon. Beginning in August 2015, Target stores held a campaign called "Share the Force", which included TV ads, exclusive in-store merchandise, and an online program in which Star Wars fans could submit images and videos that captured their memories of the franchise. Japan's All Nippon Airways announced that some of its airplanes have been painted to reflect elements from The Force Awakens.
The merchandise garnered criticism as it lacked Rey's presence: Hasbro announced it would rerelease its Force Awakens Monopoly set to include her after it excluded her in favor of Darth Vader, who is not in the movie. Abrams said he was not involved much in the merchandising, and that when "I read that she wasn't in the Monopoly game and was quickly making phone calls about this because if it were true — and it is true, and now Hasbro, of course, has said they're going to put Rey in — it doesn't quite make sense why she wouldn't be there."
Theater tickets became available for pre-order on October 19th, with many online retailers experiencing outages due to heavy demand, including top sites such as Fandango. By the time of the film's release, over $100 million in pre-release tickets were sold, bypassing the previous record held by The Dark Knight. Some theater chains chose to set limits on the types of cosplay allowed at screenings of the film. For instance, fans at AMC and Cinemark weren't allowed to wear masks or face-paint, or carry simulated weapons. Some chains also issued a blanket ban on the carrying of lightsaber toys.
The film carries a 93% fresh score at the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, with 323 reviews and average score of 8.2/10. Manohla Dargis of the New York Times stated that "The big news about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is — spoiler alert — that it's good!" and that the film "takes off with a battle and closes on a meaningful moment of quiet." John Wenzel of the Denver Post graded the film at 3 1/2 stars out of 4, calling it a "'masterful symphony" and praising the film's emphasis on "practical effects and honest-to-God sets." Richard Roeper gave the film four stars.
On January 6, 2016, the film broke the record for the highest box office gross for a film in the United States, beating the previous record of $760.5 million held by the 2009 epic science fiction film Avatar by James Cameron. The record was reached after less than three weeks of release. Adjusted for ticket price inflation, The Force Awakens is the most successful sequel of all time narrowly beating Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back.
In addition to the critical praise and box office success, The Force Awakens has been nominated for five Oscars at the 88th Academy Awards, (the largest amount of awards nominations for one star wars movie since new hope), to be held on February 28, 2016. The film was nominated in the categories of Best Film Editing for Maryann Brandon and Mary Joe Markey; Best Original Score for John Williams; Best Sound Editing for Matthew Wood and David Acord; Best Sound Mixing for Andy Nelson, Christopher Scarabosio, and Stuart Wilson; and Best Visual Effects for Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Neal Scanlan, and Chris Corbould.
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Notes and references
- Dyer, James (December 18, 2015). Star Wars: The Force Awakens – The Complete History. Empire.
- Hiatt, Brian (December 2, 2015). 'Star Wars' Strikes Back: Behind the Scenes of the Biggest Movie of the Year. Rolling Stone. Retrieved on December 14, 2015.
- Star Wars: A look back at Year One of the Disney regime - EW.com
- George Lucas Spent a Year Developing 'Star Wars: Episode 7' Before Lucasfilm Sale
- The Walt Disney Studios >> Press Release