Star Wars: The Force Awakens revisited a once-glorious universe, years after it was ruined through mismanagement, neglect, and overdrawn politics. I am speaking, of course, of the fictional setting of Star Wars, and not at all about what three poorly written prequels did to the franchise. In this new concept art from Industrial Light & Magic, we get a glimpse into the vision of the world at its creation.
The Force Awakens begins with a quest and a gunfight, but we’re not really brought into the world until we spend time with our protagonist Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, who ekes out a living selling scraps for fractions of food. Scraps from what? Oh, the last war, of course. We meet her as she explores a wrecked Star Destroyer on the surface of Jakku. Here we see the cavernous interior of a space weapon, filled with other ruins, from the fallen-over AT-ATs to the jumbled TIE fighter parts. Every part of this conveys the long war, the passage of time, and the galaxy still in ruins.
Before a shot is fired in The Force Awakens, we learn that Luke Skywalker is missing. The rest of the film is the arc of that search, with a world-ending weapon thrown in for good measure. With the immediate threat gone, and with some of her newfound companions tragically departed, Rey takes the Millennium Falcon to complete the last step of that journey. Or, well, almost the last step. The scene, filmed on Ireland’s Skellig Michael is mostly a climb up many, many, many stairs of this abandoned 7th century monastery.
It is hard to make a villain as iconic as Darth Vader. The original sith lord, whose fearsome presence and penchant for violence made him instantly iconic, exists only in The Force Awakens as a charred skull in a broken helmet. Kylo Ren is his cinematic replacement and cultish devotee, and as such, he needed to have some form of terrifying face mask. None of these are it, with the designs evoking Rick Moranis as Darth Helmet in “Spaceballs” as much as anything else. Design E is the closest, but as the film reveals, it’s really Adam Driver without the mask who conveys pure terror.