It is being hailed as the biggest film of the year. Here’s what you need to know about the latest Star Wars movie! 

The first trailer took our breath away. A menacing voice tells us “There has been an awakening.” A black-cloaked figure moves through a forest and stops suddenly and with a flick of their wrist they produce a red lightsaber.

“The dark side,” the voice mutters, as we wonder who or what the figure might be. “And the light,” the voice adds, as the Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s beloved spaceship, bursts into view.

Since then the suspense has been palpable. Two more trailers have been drip-fed and excitement has reached fever pitch, especially since much of the plot and details of the characters has been kept secret by the filmmakers.

But there’s something adding to the excitement, and, like ‘the Force,’ the mysterious energy that permeates the Star Wars universe, fans can somehow sense it.

The new film is estimated to be the highest grossing movie ever

Star Wars reborn

Certainly for the Star Wars brand there has been “An awakening.” It’s been 38 years since George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope offered us something extraordinary and kicked off the much-loved saga in 1977.

Episode VII will be the first live action Star Wars film to come from the Disney stables after the multibillion dollar company bought the rights to Star Wars production company Lucasfilm in 2012.

Disney has thrown its full weight behind the film and expectations are high. Recent estimates indicate that it may even be the highest grossing movie ever, with ticket sales expected between US $1.7 – $3 billion globally.

Much loved heroes are back

Much of the hype around the new film is due to a sense of nostalgia created from trailer scenes featuring Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. The pair have reprised their roles as Han Solo and Leia Organa, to the delight of Star Wars aficionados.

“We’re home Chewie,” Ford’s character says to his beloved hairy pal Chewbacca from inside the Falcon – it’s a line imbued with double meaning for Ford, 73, who returns to the role that catapulted him to stardom all those years ago.

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Fans are excited to see Harrison Ford return to his role as Han Solo

In another scene, Solo addresses new characters, junk scavenger, Rey (Daisy Ridley), and Stormtrooper turned resistance fighter, Finn (John Boyega), confirming the stories they have heard about times past.

“It’s true: all of it – the dark side, and the Jedi. They’re real,” he says.

From this we can gather that the feats of Solo and his companions have become somewhat of a myth in a Star Wars universe set 30 years after the events in Return of the Jedi (1984).

In another scene from the trailer a grey-haired Leia is embraced by Solo, an image that made some fans shed tears. And we can understand why. It’s as if something from our past, that we loved, has endured, like that moment we realise our grandparents really do still have a spark of affection after all those years of bickering.

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Leia is no longer a “Princess” in the new film

But making a Star Wars comeback has not been without challenges for the veteran actors, now dubbed ‘legacy characters.’

According to his publicist, Ford broke his leg on the set of the Millennium Falcon in June last year when a hydraulic door closed on him during filming, halting production for eight weeks. Luckily he made a quick recovery and was able to resume filming in August, even doing running scenes.

We can only imagine the pressure Fisher now 57, must have felt to live up to the figure she had when she donned her iconic gold ‘slave’ bikini for scenes with Jabba the Hutt In Return of the Jedi.

Speaking to Mario Lopez on Extra, her mother, Debbie Reynolds, says Fisher rose to the filmmakers’ challenge to get into shape. “She’s lost 40 pounds. She looks fantastic,” says Reynolds.

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No, that's not R2-D2. It's new droid BB-8

Where exactly is Luke Skywalker?

Mark Hamill, 64, will once again play the role of Luke Skywalker. Surprisingly, Hamill’s image has been mysteriously missing from the trailers and posters, leading to much speculation about his part.

Has Luke gone to the dark side? Is he lost or imprisoned? Fan sites are rife with theories.

Ford, Fisher and Hamill have been tight-lipped about their roles, Ford even doing funny spoofs about the secrecy surrounding the film in his interviews.

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The film has been tight-lipped ever since there were rumours of a new film arising

On talk show Conan, the veteran actor accepts a mock US$1000 bribe from host Conan O’Brien to reveal spoilers, but says nothing worthwhile about the film.

In another mock interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Ford tells Kimmel that he can’t answer any questions about Star Wars, only to be questioned by audience members wearing Star Wars costumes and trying very hard not to ask anything about the film. “Are you hungry?” is all a male fan dressed as princess Leia manages to ask.

What’s new?

Joining new protagonists Rey and Finn is Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) – a pilot for the Resistance (formerly the Rebellion), and a rolling droid robot named BB-8.

They are fighting against a group named The First Order formed by the remnants of the defeated Galactic Empire.

New powerful foes are Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) of the First Order and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a mysterious disciple of the dark side who wields a red, hilted lightsaber.

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While the trailer and teasers went viral online it did not reveal too much about the film 

The A-team

There’s no denying the pedigree of talent in the filmmaker’s camp. Director J.J. Abrams of Lost and Mission Impossible fame, is writer and director.

This is Abram’s Star Wars debut and it seems like a good fit considering everything he touches turns to cinematic gold. It’s even more exciting when we consider Abram’s co-writer for the screenplay is the legendary Lawrence Kasdan (Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi).

In an interview with Vanity Fair, Abrams describes the one mandate the pair had to recapture the magic of the original trilogy.

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Are you excited for the new Star Wars film?

“To me the thing I liked about the very first movie was it couldn’t have been bigger, more epic, more vast, but it was remarkably intimate, it was remarkably emotional, it was remarkably focused on these hearts and characters; these relationships, these friendships.”

“So for me and Lawrence Kasdan it was really about: How do we get that feeling back, of the people we love, that make us laugh, that make us feel in a world that is jaw dropping?” he says. We have no doubt they’ve achieved that goal. After all, the Force is with them.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits cinemas December 17.

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