Star Wars: The Force Awakens finally arrived and director J.J. Abrams proved every single naysayer wrong. As suspected, the finished product was revealed to be the greatest fan film ever made – entirely capturing the essence that made the original trilogy such an iconic, beloved achievement in cinema. But, the achievement of Episode VII is not just in the seamless blending of practical and computer generated effects, nor is it just in the perfect balance of high drama and genuine humour. The achievement is also in the fact that almost all of the giant plot revelations remained secret, right up until the opening crawl appeared onscreen.
Prior to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fans made predictions and engaged in speculation – all as a result of the heightened secrecy, combined with fevered anticipation. Why couldn’t Luke be found among any of the promotional materials? Would Leia and Han be found living happily ever after? Who are these youngsters, and where do they fit into the Star Wars universe?
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We know now that some predictions proved correct, and some did not, but the release of the movie – with all its twists and turns – inevitably has us looking toward Episode VIII. It is unavoidable, really. The Star Wars franchise is truly episodic in nature – perhaps more so than any other. Each film begins with an opening crawl, bringing the audience up to speed on what has happened to bring us to this point, and each film ends with a very real cliffhanger – and Star Wars: The Force Awakens is no exception. We know there are going to be next chapters, and predicting what might happen based on the narrative leaps of Episode VII is half the fun.
So – first things first. What do we know about Star Wars: Episode VIII? It will be written and directed by Rian Johnson, of Looper and Brick fame. Daisy Ridley (Rey), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) and John Boyega (Finn) are among those returning. Benicio Del Toro has also been cast in a villainous role. The script is complete, the project will shoot during 2016, and we will not see the finished film until 2017.
Given all those facts, and the plot revelations of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where do we go from here? Proceed for a spoiler-filled discussion.