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May the Force be with you, again

Here's everything you need to know – and quite possible already know – about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

The film opens with showings at 7 p.m. Thursday, but if you can’t make it opening day, don’t worry: On Friday, including the 3D version, it will have more than 30 showings at some local theaters. Showtimes start at 9 a.m. Friday.

Advance ticket sales have surpassed $100 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter. So it should be no surprise that at the AMC Maple Ridge in Amherst, which recommends that patrons buy tickets online, seven of the 10 showings on Thursday were sold out by noon Wednesday.

Where is it showing locally? The better question might be where isn’t it showing locally? Everyone from major cineplex chains – Regal, AMC – to local chains – Dipson’s FLIX – to neighborhood moviehouses – The Palaces in Hamburg and Lockport, the Aurora – will have
it on at least one screen.

You don’t have to sit in a theater to see it: The Transit Drive-In is still open and will start showing the film Thursday. On Friday, it will have five showings starting at 5:30 p.m.

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• If you’re hoping to replicate the exact experience you had seeing Star Wars when it opened locally in 1977, you’re out of luck; the film premiered at the Boulevard Mall and Holiday Six, both long since closed.

• The budget for the original “Star Wars” was $11 million. But that was “a long time ago”; the budget for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is estimated to be $200 million and may be even higher.

• Why are so many fans gung-ho over J.J. Abrams directing the movie? Two words: track record. Abrams is the brains behind some of the most successful and beloved TV shows including “Felicity,” “Alias,” “Lost” and “Fringe.” He’s creatively rebooted several languishing franchises with fresh, big-screen redos including “Star Trek” and “Mission: Impossible.” To many, there was no one else who could direct “The Force Awakens.”

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RELATED: News critics review the original three "Star Wars" movies (in 1977, 1980 and 1983)

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• The last “Star Wars” film released was “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” in 2005. Ten years later, we have “Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” For anyone who might be asking where episodes IV-VI are, we need to have a talk: The original film was simply titled “Star Wars.” Though he denies it today, “Star Wars” creator George Lucas had talked about “Star Wars” being the middle trilogy of a nine-picture series. After the success of the original film, the sequels were given the green light, hence “Empire Strikes Back: Episode V” and “Return of the Jedi: Episode VI.” On its 1981 re-release, the original was retitled “Stars Wars: Episode IV.” Then came the “start” of the series with the release of the much-maligned “Episode I: The Phantom Menace” (1999); followed by “Episode II: Attack of the Clones” (2002); and “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” (2005).

• A lot of things change in the “Star Wars” universe but the man behind the music is as reliable as a bad Darth Vader imitation in the ticket line this weekend: The composer John Williams, a multiple Academy Award winner, has scored all seven films in the series.

• Never saw anything after 1977? Don’t worry. Based on early reports, you will recognize – at least – Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2. What about Luke Skywalker? That’s why they make you buy a ticket.

Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) in a scene from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." (Lucasfilms photo)

Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) in a scene from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." (Lucasfilms photo)

Critics offer a tease

The film had its premiere in Hollywood earlier this week, and some of the nation’s critics already have had their say.

“ 'The Force Awakens' strikes all the right chords, emotional and narrative, to feel both familiar and exhilaratingly new. Filled with incident, movement and speed, dusted with light layers of tarnished ‘used future’ grime, it captures the kinetic energy that made the first film, from 1977, such a revelation to filmgoers who marveled at Lucas’ mashup of B movies, Saturday-morning serials, Japanese historical epics and mythic heft.” – Ann Hornaday, Washington Post

“The big news about ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is – spoiler alert – that it’s good! Despite the prerelease hype, it won’t save the world, not even Hollywood, but it seamlessly balances cozy favorites – Harrison Ford, ladies and gentlemen – and new kinetic wows along with some of the niceties that went missing as the series grew into a phenomenon, most crucially a scale and a sensibility that is rooted in the human. It has the usual toy-store-ready gizmos and critters, but it also has appealingly imperfect men and women whose blunders and victories, decency and goofiness remind you that a pop mythology like “Star Wars” needs more than old gods to sustain it.” – Manohla Dargis, New York Times

“… Minus the Ewoks, the gang’s back. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ opens to the American public Thursday evening. And it is good. Not great. But far better than “not bad.” Solidly, confidently good.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

 

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