“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is stirring much discussion within the Star Wars fan community. | Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is stirring much discussion within the Star Wars fan community. | Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The start of a new sequel trilogy, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will be released in theaters Dec. 18. Ten years after “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” we will once again go to a galaxy far, far away. A sure blockbuster, “The Force Awakens” will be the first of the sequel trilogy, chronologically set after “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.”

Unsurprisingly, there is a great deal riding on this newest entry in the Star Wars Universe.

The original Star Wars trilogy is a space opera that spawned a world phenomenon. Originally created and directed by George Lucas as an homage to old science fiction shows such as “Flash Gordon,” Star Wars started as a movie with a budget of $11 million that no one really expected to be big. Upon release in 1977, it became a critically and financially successful sleeper-hit. Filled with ground-breaking special effects, it was a cultural juggernaut that revolutionized cinema and changed people’s perception of movies. The public realized that space movies, despite the vast and unknown nature of what’s beyond Earth, can be fun and fast-paced. Star Wars transformed the movie-going experience to one filled with adventure beyond the cosmos. It influenced popular culture in countless ways and, overall, is considered one of the greatest franchises of all time by critics and audiences alike. But this was only before the dark times. Before the prequels.

I’m just kidding. Unlike the majority of Star Wars fans, I don’t mindlessly hate the prequels because they are not as good as the originals. But there are reasons for the prequels’ infamy: convoluted, nonsensical plots, stilted, awkward dialogue, characters who make inane decisions and an overall failure of an attempt to surpass the original trilogy. Through further examination, you could see the prequels failed in the narrative by trying to mold an unlikeable Anakin Skywalker into Darth Vader, focusing too much on mindboggling politics and interplanetary relations, portraying human relationships as wooden and boring and shoving an obscene amount of special effects into the films that take out the risk factor and our emotional investment in the film as a consequence. Even though the movies had their share of great moments, the fans’ expectations were let down. That’s why the public’s reaction to the sequel trilogy is so widely enthusiastic, yet also cautious.

The story of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is set 30 years after “Return of the Jedi” and “Fall of the Empire.” There is a dearth of information on the movie; what we do know comes from the mini-teaser released in November and news reports. “The Force Awakens” is directed by J.J. Abrams who is known for his work in “Lost” and “Star Trek”. With Abrams in charge, we can expect to see a myriad of differences from the prequels, which were directed by Lucas. The shots of X-wings skimming across the water and the Millennium Falcon looping upside down in mid-air already show a change in the aesthetic. The trailer also reveals several exciting points to look for, including the character Finn in a Stormtrooper outfit in a desert locale, a soccer-ball droid called BB-8, new designs for Stormtrooper armor and a Sith figure activating a lightsaber with a crossguard. In addition, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher will be returning as Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia, respectively.

Even if it were to be poor in quality, there is no doubt that “The Force Awakens” will be incredibly successful at the box office. Regardless, it’s exciting because Disney seems to be revving for an expanded Star Wars Universe by announcing three spin-offs. This is not to say that they will strictly use the Expanded Universe; in fact, Disney has already started recruiting directors and actors. One of the spin-offs will be directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) and will star Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything). Scheduled to hit theaters Dec. 16, 2016, this movie will be based around intergalactic bounty hunters, including Boba Fett. Another spin-off will be directed by Josh Trank, the director of the Fantastic Four reboot and Chronicle. If The Force Awakens is successful, this could mean a whole new direction for the franchise because it can even bring the possibility of a Star Wars cinematic universe like Marvel, a notion not too far-fetched, seeing how Disney owns both companies.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” will be one of the highest grossing movies of the year, maybe the highest if it does well in critical reviews. It’s not certain what direction that J.J. Abrams and Disney will go with this, but hopefully, it will preserve the magic and wonder of the original trilogy by celebrating its rich mythos and introducing an engaging plot and memorable characters. May the Force be awakened so it can be with J.J. Abrams on opening day.

-By Jake Choi, Contributing Writer