Following the CGI-slathered debacle of George Lucas’s prequel trilogy, expectations are sky-high for JJ Abrams’ new Star Wars movie The Force Awakens.
Here's why we predict the new Star Wars will restore balance to the Force...
1) Han Solo and Chewbacca are back in the saddle
When the second teaser trailer broke the internet back in April, it wasn't the action, the stormtroopers, the lightsaber, the new characters or even the subtle plot clues that caused most excitement. It was that magnificent payoff shot revealing Han Solo (Harrison Ford) alongside his faithful companion Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew). "Chewy," he says, "we're home..." What could be better guaranteed to generate both a warm rush of nostalgia and the confidence that The Force Awakens marks a return to the values that made the original trilogy so widely loved?
Although J.J. Abrams has insisted his film will be more about the new characters, Han Solo and Chewbacca aren't the only old favourites making a return. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher will be reprising their roles as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, while Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker are back as robots C-3PO and R2-D2. Blimey, it's hard to rein in our excitement.
2) J.J. Abrams
If anyone is going to pull this off successfully, it's Abrams. Just look at what he did with Star Trek. Here was another hugely popular space franchise, whose legions of devoted fans are the harshest critics of anyone who misunderstands its nature and appeal.
Abrams' 2009 prequel pulled off what many thought would be impossible, delighting hardcore fans and mainstream audiences alike and becoming the highest grossing Star Trek movie ever made. It was exciting, perfectly cast, respectful of the franchise's history without being cowed by it, and funny without ever becoming smug or too knowing. If he succeeds in bringing the same magic touch to Star Wars, expect box office records to tumble.
3) Goodbye, CGI!
Well, not entirely. But Abrams has made it clear that he's listened to fans' dissatisfaction with the prequel trilogy. Many felt these films were rather soulless and driven by excessive use of CGI. The Force Awakens, which is set three decades after the events of 1983's Return of the Jedi, is being shot on film rather than digitally. We're promised real costumed stromtroopers, plus state-of-the-art model spacecraft and animatronic aliens.
4) There's no terrible Jar-Jar Binks character!
Probably the most hated character in Star Wars history, Jar-Jar Binks popped up in The Phantom Menace and was derided by critics and fans alike. Abrams, by contrast, is already receiving praise for the new astromech droid, BB-8 (see below), whose ball-shaped body moves independently of its head. Many people initially assumed this would be a CGI effect, but it's actually a practical robotic one – possibly driven by gyroscopes.
Human newcomers are equally promising, with veteran Max von Sydow in an undisclosed role and motion capture titan Andy Serkis as the ominously named Supreme Leader Snoke.
5) Kylo Ren is shaping up to be an intriguing baddie
Played by Adam Driver, the charmer from Girls, Kylo Ren exudes mystery. There's that distinctive, much-discussed crossguard lightsaber, for a start. He also appears to be obsessed with Darth Vader, to whom his mask is an obvious nod. Recently, it emerged that Kylo Ren isn't even his original name, but one he adopted when he joined the Knights of Ren. So who is he, and how does he tie in to Star Wars history? We'll have to wait and see.
Over the intergalactic moon with excitement about Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Tweet us @Cineworld and tell us if you think Abrams will do the saga proud.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released on 18th December.