The M Interview: JJ Abrams is unleashing the fORCE
Expectations are high for reboot, but director J.J. Abrams just wants to tell a good tale
Imax pre-sales were shattered, with US$6.5 million (S$9 million) in revenue.
Ticket site Fandango crashed.
There were more than 17,000 tweets a minute after the first trailer aired.
It is not inconceivable that the latest Star Wars movie will gross more than US$2 billion at the box office, with more earned in merchandising and ancillary sales.
And in the centre of Star Wars fever is J.J. Abrams (below), anointed successor to George Lucas.
He was handpicked to direct Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which opens here on Dec 17, after successfully rebooting the Star Trek franchise.
Stars from the original trilogy include Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) and Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), who is the only one to appear in all seven films.
They are joined by new cast members John Boyega and Daisy Ridley, who play Stormtrooper Finn and Jakku-dwelling scavenger Rey respectively, Adam Driver as new villain Kylo Ren and Oscar Isaac as X-wing fighter pilot Dameron Poe.
In keeping with his desire to be close to the spirit of the original trilogy, Abrams built real sets, props and vehicles. Very little green screen was used and CGI was employed mostly for ships and extensions of sets.
Locations included Pinewood Studios in London, Abu Dhabi, Wales, the island of Skellig Michael in Ireland, and Gloucestershire, England.
One would expect an exhausted man to stagger into Los Angeles Convention Center last week, but the boyish-looking 49-year-old was full of beans and ready to talk.
So we asked him for his take on the need for a seventh film.
HOT FAVOURITE: Anthony Daniels, who plays C-3PO (right, with R2D2), is the only actor to appear in all seven films.
He told M: "One of the amazing things about what (US filmmaker) George Lucas created was a sense of possibility and unlimited opportunity.
"The extended universe proves there are many, many more stories to tell beyond the six films.
"The idea that the fight of good versus evil would continue is already clear in the Star Wars legacy.
"And the idea that that would suddenly stop entirely after Return Of The Jedi felt disingenuous.
"It was incredible fun coming up with Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren, and understanding what has happened to not just the characters that we know but also to the remnants of the Empire and what has become of the Republic."
That The Force Awakens, reportedly made for US$200 million, is going to be a colossal hit is a no-brainer, but how successful does it have to be for Abrams to not be disappointed?
"I have never read more articles that make me go (makes a scoffing noise), where I see a projection that is impossible and I see numbers that are preposterous," he says.
"None of that feels real or possible, or frankly applicable to the reason that we have been working so hard to make something that hopefully will be rousing entertainment.
"So what I would love would be to go to a theatre and see people laughing, screaming, crying and cheering, going through these emotions that are the reasons we made the movie.
"We sat down in the beginning of the process and wrote down: What do we want people to feel?
"And if we can elicit those responses, then that is more important than any dollar number."
We then asked why no screening or preview footage was made available in advance to the press and why the cast were instructed to not answer any questions about the storyline.
(Rumours abound that Hamill, who is absent from every trailer, was not at this press junket because the role of Luke is so super-secret and mysterious that it was better no one asked him any questions at all.)
The reason, according to Abrams, is to keep the surprises for the audiences to discover without learning anything from the press.
After all, for most movies, press coverage is used to build awareness, something The Force Awakens doesn't need.
"I have heard personally a number of times people saying, 'thank you so much for not ruining this movie'," he said.
"'Thank you so much for not showing us everything. And thank you that I get to see the film and not feel like I have seen it already.'"
At the end of the day, what Abrams wants most is for fans and audiences to continue the communal experience of going to the cinema.
"The experience of doing it together, especially in this day and age, is profoundly powerful, " he said.
"That is what movies do and, I hope and believe, always will."
One of the amazing things about what (US film-maker) George Lucas created was a sense of possibility and unlimited opportunity. The extended universe proves there are many, many more stories to tell beyond the six films.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams