‘Force Awakens’ is a clinic on marketing

Published 7:01 am Sunday, September 6, 2015

Last week, I searched online for the latest news about “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the reboot of the popular “Star Wars” franchise. I found two excited articles announcing that two new characters were revealed: Asty and Sarco Plank, thanks to teases for upcoming toys.

Frankly, neither character looks like a major or even a supporting character. They reminded me of the random bounty hunters standing by Boba Fett in “The Empire Strikes Back” — characters with no speaking lines that still make good toy options.

But the avid online response to these minor characters just further proves one thing: “The Force Awakens” has been a success. It’s a clinic in marketing.

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Yes, it’s September. The movie comes out Dec. 18. For all we know, the movie could be a colossal failure from a thematic point — though most of us hope that’s not the case. But the film’s gargantuan success to date has nothing to do with speculations about the quality of the final movie product or whether it will live up to everyone’s lofty expectations.

This is about tipping our caps to director J.J. Abrams, Disney and Lucasfilm for their marketing campaign. The trailers alone have felt like mini-cultural events upon their release. It’s all been part of a highly calculated, intense plan to generate and sustain the buzz about the movies.

They’ve nailed it by taking one of the most anticipated films in recent history and slowly but surely stoking the fires of anticipation and taking an already much-anticipated film and making fans go giddy over every detail.

Though the folks behind “The Force Awakens” have been loud about the film, they really haven’t said that much. Spoilers? Nada. Plot points? A few, but they’re sparse. Each week they release a small nugget of information without really giving much of anything away. To date, we know Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, C-3PO, R2-D2 are returning to join newcomers like Adam Driver (baddie Kylo Ren), John Boyega (Finn), Daisy Ridley (Rey), and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), but there’s not lots of plot information after that.

But the Web goes somewhat rabid with each detail. A few weeks ago, a 15-second Instegram trailer showing Boyega’s Finn wielding a blue lightsaber and appearing ready to fight Driver’s Kylo Ren set the Internet ablaze with speculation about the scene, the plot and whether it was Luke’s blue lightsaber he lost in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Part of the success has to do with the nature of “Star Wars.” It’s popularity and the nature of the highly-anticipated reboot makes a drawn-out publicity campaign possible. It’s doubtful even Marvel’s “The Avengers” series — also owned by Disney — has earned that level of widespread popularity and familiarity.

On top of that, “Star Wars” movies and spinoff media have expanding the “Star Wars” universe beyond the first two trilogies. While the films allude to events not yet seen on film, countless authors have followed that lead, as have video games and TV series, to expand the “Star Wars” universe into one big galaxy where everyone has a story.

Remember those bounty hunters I mentioned from “The Empire Strike Back?” They all have a back story in “Star Wars” canon, whether it’s come out in books, comics or video games.

In a universe where everyone has a story, the public’s interest will only grow until it watches this next story in the space saga.