Star Wars has most certainly returned to the forefront of minds and media in 2016 (and, yes, a bit before it). The year started with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a box office juggernaut, entering its third week in theaters. During the movie's run, it would break more than thirty box office records, a staggering feat - but still not one of the top five stories of the year.
Whether it's funny fandom, the new standalone films, the return of an old threat or the loss of one of the most cherished members of the Star Wars family, these are the headlines that dominated for Star Wars in 2016. May the Force be with 2017.
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The poster child for Star Wars fandom, for fifteen minutes of fame, and that facebook used to promote their new live videos, Candace Payne aka Chewbacca Mom posted a video of herself trying on a goofy Chewbacca mask from Hasbro, and how it made her laugh and laugh and laugh. The video went unbelievably viral, and she and her family most certainly had fun with it all. While some have gotten cynical about the viral sensation, ultimately, this was the story of a fan having a laugh - something we could have probably used more of in a difficult year.
Han Solo Star Wars Story Cast Takes Shape
It's hard to believe, but going into this year, we didn't know who would be in the upcoming Han Solo standalone movie. In fact, while rumors and casting scoops dropped earlier in the spring, nothing was officially confirmed for the film until July at Star Wars Celebration Europe in London.
Alden Ehrenreich will play the lead role of a young Han Solo, and Donald Glover is playing a young Lando Calrissian. Emilia Clarke has been cast in an unknown lead female role, as well. The Han Solo Star Wars Story film is being written by Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back and his son, Jon Kasdan, and will be directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. It's expected to start filming in February, so there should be more news on the film hitting then.
The First Star Wars Story is a Hit - Even to George Lucas
There was a lot riding on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the firs standalone film in the series and an experiment of sorts to see if a movie in the Star Wars universe without the Skywalker family or Jedi as the stars could succeed. Well, two weeks in the film is approaching $700 million at world wide box office, likely on its way to a $1 billion overall gross, and has largely been a hit with critics and fans. It took a very different approach to Star Wars but that seems to be appreciated.
Perhaps most important, at least to director Gareth Edwards, is that George Lucas, the creator of the franchise, asked for a screening of the film, and "he loved it." Lucas called Edwards during the press weekend for the film and the two talked for half an hour about the movie. He also had earlier visited the set and expressed his excitement.
Darth Vader Returns
Darth Vader is back, baby. The Dark Lord of the Sith made his big screen return in 2016, after a 2015 that saw him featured in comics, novels, and on the Star Wars Rebels animated TV series. When he was confirmed as appearing in Rogue One, fans went wild. Then it was confirmed that James Earl Jones would voice him again, and they went crazy. Then they saw his scenes (though his screentime was limited) in the movie, and well, we're all still freaking out about it.
It's nearly impossible to see a future where Darth Vader is not in another Star Wars movie after his huge resurgence this year. At least we hope.
Carrie Fisher, Forever Our Royalty, Passes Away
Carrie Fisher, who embodied the role of Princess-then-General Leia for four decades, died just this week. Her loss has been felt across the galaxy, as fans, celebrities, other actors in the films, and basically anyone around has been giving tribute to the actress. Further tragically, her mother actress Debbie Reynolds passed away less than 36 hours after.
Fisher was more than Leia, too, of course, and the additional focus on her writing (as a screen writer, script doctor, and book author), her advocacy for mental health awareness, and her candid love of life have been revelatory for some fans, and full of love for all.
Carrie Fisher is irreplacable, and is already, and will always be missed in the Star Wars community and beyond. Actress, writer, advocate; to us, she's royalty.