May 6, 2016
'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Almost Had A Very Different Opening Sequence

The Force Awakens smashed box office records as it brought the Star Wars saga back to the silver screen last December, but the acclaimed movie almost featured a very different opening sequence, which fans are now privy to thanks to actor Mark Hamill.

Earlier this week, Hamill discussed the discarded intro during a Star Wars Day interview with the Sun, noting that the very first thing to come into the frame would have been Luke Skywalker's severed hand, floating through space while still clutching his father's lightsaber. Eventually, the hand would have approached the desert planet of Jakku, entering the atmosphere and beginning to burn away. After the skin and bone incinerated, the audience would have seen Anakin Skywalker's old lightsaber impact the surface of the planet, alighting in the desert sands.

At that point, Hamill revealed that an alien hand would have come into view, taking possession of the ancient Jedi weapon. The actor noted that he couldn't be sure if the hand was intended to belong to Maz Kanata, the thousand-year-old smuggler and barkeep who is revealed halfway through the film to be the most recent owner of the sword. Once the lightsaber was retrieved, the film would have unfolded as it eventually did, turning to a shot of the star destroyer Finalizer eclipsing an ice blue planet.

As with all things Star Wars, fan reaction to Hamill's revelation was decidedly mixed. The Verge favored the opening that was eventually used, noting that the initial shot of the Finalizer represented a distinct callback to the original trilogy (just the first of many in a film that was noted for closely mirroring A New Hope). All of the original three Star Wars films open with the presence of a star destroyer, so J.J. Abrams' decision to make the warship the first thing the audience sees after the iconic crawl was almost certainly intended as a subtle tip of the hat to the previous generation.

Beyond the appropriate nature of the final opening, however, fans have also pointed out that the discarded scene actually made little sense. The last time that Star Wars fans saw Anakin's lightsaber during the original trilogy, it was tumbling through the skies of Bespin, having fallen from Cloud City after Luke's iconic duel with Vader. The city, however, was situated well within the planet's atmosphere, leaving it an open question how Luke's hand and Anakin's lightsaber could have made their way into the void of space, floating at high speed in the direction of Jakku. Even in a universe with magical space wizards, physics alone couldn't explain how that transpired. It also would have been seemingly implausible that the lightsaber would survive re-entry, as encountering a real-life atmosphere is a savage experience that few objects survive.

Exactly how Anakin's lightsaber made its way into the hands of Maz Kanata remains one of the greatest unanswered mysteries to come out of The Force Awakens. Even though the character herself promises that it is a "good question... for another time," it remains to be seen whether the sword's path into the new trilogy will ever be revealed. In the interim, however, fans can content themselves with the knowledge that the opening scene of The Force Awakens could have been very different, but instead brought the new films into being with an intentional nod to the old.

[Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images]