'The Force Awakens': What Can Be Learned From the New 'Star Wars' Title

J.J. Abrams on set Star Wars: Episode VII - H 2014
<p>J.J. Abrams on set Star Wars: Episode VII - H 2014</p>
Now that we know the title, it's time to speculate what it tells us

So, now we know that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the real title of the movie formerly known as Star Wars: Episode VII — but what can we glean from that title? It’s not as obvious as Attack of the Clones ("Some clones will be attacking!") or The Empire Strikes Back ("The Empire? It'll be striking back"). But what does The Force Awakens actually tell us about next year’s return to a galaxy far, far away?

The most obvious thing to note is the suggestion that the Force has been asleep in the first place. This may come as a surprise for many Star Wars fans, as the previous assumption — backed up by spinoff material now officially removed from canon — was that Luke Skywalker’s victory in Return of the Jedi heralded a second Jedi Order, with the Force resuming a position central to society as seen in the prequel trilogy. But if the Force is only awakening now, clearly that hasn’t been the case.

The title also suggests that the Force will be central to the new movie, something that isn’t likely to be the greatest surprise to anyone — what would a Star Wars movie be without a lightsaber battle? — but it's worth pointing out, nonetheless. To date, we’ve had a trilogy about the fall of the Jedis and rise of the Sith, and a trilogy about the rise to power of a character who was supposed to “bring balance to the Force.” Does this title hint that the new trilogy’s overarching theme is what happens after that balance has been recovered? Is the “awakening” brought about by Luke Skywalker?

Read more 'Star Wars: Episode VII': 5 Lessons to Learn From 'The Empire Strikes Back'

Also significant is the lack of “Episode VII” in the title now. Considering the amount of focus J.J. Abrams and his team have put on the original trilogy as an inspiration for the new movie, that’s again unsurprising — we didn’t have any episode titles in the original releases, either. Additionally, Star Wars: The Force Awakens just sounds like the beginning of something in a way that Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens doesn’t. The immediate response to the latter is “Wait, do I have to watch the earlier six?”

(Not to mention, removing “Episode VII” also removes a subconscious link to the much-derided prequel trilogy, while allowing the spinoff, nontrilogy movies Disney and Lucasfilm are working on to seem like projects of equal standing. There are many reasons to ditch the episode number.)

Most importantly, Star Wars: The Force Awakens really does fit into the pattern set by the earlier movies — the first installments of each trilogy to date have had these vague titles that don’t really tell you anything for sure, but let you speculate to your heart’s content. The Force Awakens isn’t any less confusing and meaningless than The Phantom Menace or A New Hope, when it comes down to it, and its selection leaves the possibility open for a second title that’s far more descriptive of the plot — and then a third that features the words "Return of the" or "Revenge of the" in there somewhere.

For now, all we know for sure is that, come 2015, the Force’s nap is over. And for the fan base, that’s probably more than enough to get them excited.

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