The Big Issue : Edition 499
the franchise, we can now expect a new Star Wars movie every year, starting with The Force Awakens in December. It’s the start of a new sequel trilogy, with instalments released every second year, while (in the in-between years) there will be stand-alone films set in earlier periods. So this time next year we’ll be getting Star Wars: Rogue One, a heist film about how the rebels stole the plans for the original Death Star. The new factor in the future of Star Wars is that Disney is in a different business to Lucasfilm. Where George Lucas had to keep coming up with new reasons to keep people interested in his characters – in theory, other companies could grow tired of Star Wars and stop stocking the merchandise, as happened after the original trilogy – Disney has enough clout and owns enough outlets for that not to be a problem. Disney is expert at exploiting existing franchises: when was the last time Mickey Mouse did anything interesting? That doesn’t stop Disney making a lot of money off him every year. To make money from toys and licensing you have to keep characters consistent, to ensure people know what they’re getting. So while the prequels were full of strange new stuff that old fans didn’t really want, trailers for the Disney- made Force Awakens have everything fans desire. The Star Wars universe is again looking beat-up and run-down, the stormtroopers are still bad guys, the evil threat looks just plain evil and there are even glimpses of Darth Vader’s old helmet looking worse for wear. Yes, all this could just be canny marketing to get the fans onside. Still, the film itself may be as strange and compelling and thrilling as the original seemed back in 1977. Or it could be yet another feature-length commercial for toys. Disney has already made a fortune selling Star Wars merchandise during the recent launch. Further toy sales, worth billions, lie ahead. That’s the kind of money that could cause a real disturbance in the Force. » Star Wars: the Force Awakens is on screens from 17 December. UNLIKE MANY FANS – who can tell you the exact time, place and probably what they were wearing – I cannot remember when I first saw a Star Wars film. I can hazard a guess that I was about eight or nine, and it would have been at home on VHS (we had the Vader helmet box set). I am, however, pretty certain I didn’t see them in order. My earliest memory is the Ewoks and how cute I found them. Classic kid! I certainly enjoyed the movies as a child, but I didn’t really connect until I revisited them as a young adult. That’s when my real obsession with Star Wars began. My favourite is the original. As an adult, I was able to appreciate the filmmaking aspects of it, as opposed to just enjoying the characters and story alone (still special in their own right). Star Wars made the sci-fi genre accessible. It had something for everyone and (unlike other films in the genre) didn’t take itself too seriously. This winning combination continued on through Empire and Jedi. It represented a revolution in filmmaking and three incredibly beautiful movies. As I’ve gotten older, my thoughts and feelings haven’t changed. I still get the same joy out of watching the films: strictly original trilogy here; call me a traditionalist, but I am a sucker for practical/low-budget effects and Han JENNIFER SPEIRS CARRIES MANY GOOD MEMORIES IN HER YODA BACKPACK. will always have shot first. They have aged wonderfully and I am yet to see any modern sci-fi action film to match them. As for being part of the Star Wars “fandom”, I don’t think too much about it. I collect some merchandise and have read a few books. But I’ve met fans who know every detail of every film and every character, who have read all the extended material and played all the games. Sometimes it feels like a competition. Who knows more? Who’s the bigger fan? As a woman, it can feel like you are expected to prove yourself as a “true” fan. This is unfortunate. But I try not to get caught up in the negative side of something that brings me so much joy. Having said that, I will argue anyone under the table if they try to tell me that Lando Calrissian (who debuts in The Empire Strikes Back) is a bad person. I cannot wait to see The Force Awakens. I am keeping an open mind and trying to avoid predictions or rumours. I’ve teared up watching the trailers and have my tickets for an early morning screening on release day. I’ll be there in my favourite T-shirt, with my Yoda backpack, alongside hundreds of other fans, eager to hyper-speed into the next chapter and fall in love all over again. » Jennifer Speirs is a lover of books, music, pop culture, tea and naps. THE BIG ISSUE 27 NOV – 10 DEC 2015 17 PHOTOGRAPHBYDAVIDJAMES/LUCASFILM REY AND BB-8 AWAKEN.