Project Analysis: Star Wars Episode VII

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens was released on December 14, 2015 and is the seventh mainline film in the famous Star Wars franchise. The film marks the beginning of a new trilogy of films that will include Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, to be released in December of 2017, and the as-of yet unnamed Episode IX. The Force Awakens takes place some thirty years following the previous episode, and introduces a new cast of younger stars that appear alongside favorite characters from the original trilogy.

The film begins with the introduction of a new protagonist, Rey, who shows signs that she is sensitive to the force in much the same way that the original film’s protagonist, Luke Skywalker, showed in Episode IV: A New Hope. Within the setting of the film, the Empire and Rebellion are still in conflict. When Rey comes in contact with a droid that is being sought by the Empire, she is picked up and recruited by the Rebellion, consisting of previous characters such as Luke, Han Solo, and Princess Leia. The main antagonist of the film is Kylo Ren, who is the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia and one-time protege of Luke Skywalker, but who has now turned to the dark side of the force. As the plot unfolds, Han Solo is killed by Kylo Ren, and a lightsaber battle ensues between Rey and Kylo Ren resulting in a standstill. The film ends with Rey seeking the guidance of Luke Skywalker, now a Jedi master, in the hopes that he will train her in the ways of the force.

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The Force Awakens is notable for being the first film in the franchise following the sale of Star Wars from Lucasfilm to Walt Disney Studios. Previously, Star Wars films had been produced and twice directed by George Lucas, who created the franchise in 1977. The director of The Force Awakens was J. J. Abrams, who is also given producer credit alongside Kathleen Kennedy, who produced famous films such as E.T. and Jurassic Park, and Bryan Burk, who produced the recent Star Wars reboots (Variety, 2015). The screenplay was co-written by J. J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, who is notable for co-writing what is often considered by critics and fans alike to be the best film in the series, The Empire Strikes Back (Variety, 2015).

The Force Awakens was distributed by Walt Disney Studios, and was announced as a project soon after the sale of the Star Wars franchise to Disney. Public interest in the project was extremely high, as the previous trilogy was a prequel series that did not involve any recurring cast members from the original trilogy, and also considered by many to be a disappointment. The Force Awakens was designed to be a direct sequel to the original trilogy, and therefore involved beloved characters who had not been seen by audiences in over thirty years. Disney capitalized on public interest by launching a massive promotional campaign, with Episode VII being promoted on billboards, magazine covers, and trailers for the film achieving viral success on sites such as YouTube (Grauso, 2015). Trailers for the film also appeared on popular network programming such as Monday Night Football. Much of the promotion for the film was essentially free for Disney, by fans excited about the prospect of seeing favorites such as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo appearing on the screen (Grauso, 2015). Speculation on the plot was rampant on podcasts, film industry sites, pop culture or science-fiction publications and websites. Disney also timed the release of a Star Wars themed video game, Star Wars Battlefront, to coincide with the film’s release and generate excitement.

The Force Awakens was first premiered in Los Angeles on December 14, 2015, with releases in other territories taking place over the following week. Europe saw the release of the film on December 16th, and the film was released to the North American public on December 17th. The film was also presented in an IMAX version (Box Office Mojo, 2016). Many theaters offered midnight screenings the day the film was released to the public, with tickets being sold out minutes after they were first made available.

Critical and audience reception for the film was largely positive. The film was heralded by many reviewers as a return to form, as many had been lukewarm on the previous trilogy of Star Wars films. The film was essentially able to cater to two primary audiences: those who had grown up familiar with the original trilogy and wanted to see the continuation, and younger audiences who were eager to see the latest blockbuster film. The one notable criticism levied at the film was that its plot was too similar to the original film, A New Hope, with Rey simply being an updated version of Luke Skywalker. Nevertheless, the film by and large received critical acclaim by audiences and fans alike. The Force Awakens also received several notable nominations in technical categories at the Academy Awards, although it failed to win any, losing in many categories to Mad Max: Fury Road, which was also released in 2015.

Financially, The Force Awakens was a tremendous success. The film had a budget of $306 million, with an additional $175 million being sent on promotion and advertising (Box Office Mojo, 2016). After being released for only twelve days, the film was able to see a return of over $1 billion, with worldwide totals currently over $2 billion, making The Force Awakens only the third film in history to reach that mark, alongside Avatar and Titanic. The Force Awakens was the highest-grossing movie of 2015, and remains the highest grossing film of any Disney property (Box Office Mojo, 2016). The success of the film shows that Star Wars remains a highly popular franchise nearly forty years after it was first created, and Disney has capitalized on the film’s popularity by producing spin-off films such as Rogue One, video game adaptations such as Star Wars Battlefront I and II, and the similarly anticipated Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, which will be released in December of 2017. The Star Wars property remains one of Disney’s most lucrative franchises, and the success of Episode VII is credited as being largely responsible for introducing newer and younger generations to the famous franchise.

  • Box Office Mojo. (2016). Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Retrieved from boxofficemojo.com
  • Grauso, A. (2015). In hindsight: How ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Ran a Great Marketing Campaign. Forbes. December 28, 2015 Edition.
  • Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. (2015). Dir. J. J. Abrams. Walt Disney Studios (film).
  • Variety. (2015). Star Wars Episode VII. Retrieved from http://variety.com/t/star-wars-episode-vii

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