the force awakens alternate opening

About a year and a half before Star Wars: The Force Awakens hit theaters, months before the arrival of the first trailer, a pretty wild rumor stampeded across the internet. According to a report, the film would feature an oddly macabre opening shot, with the camera panning away from the table-setting crawl to reveal the severed hand of Luke Skywalker, still clutching the lightsaber he lost in his duel with Darth Vader on Bespin, floating through space.

Of course, the finished film has nothing like that and the rumor was gutted left and right, becoming a bit of a joke amongst some Star Wars fans. But now, months after the release of the finished film, Mark Hamill has loosened his lips: yep, that was the original opening of The Force Awakens.

Speaking with The Sun, Hamill explained that the initial report, which originated over at Birth Movies Death, painted a completely accurate picture of how the film initially opened:

I can tell you now that in the original opening shot of 7, the first thing that came into frame was a hand with a lightsaber, a severed hand that enters the atmosphere, and then the hand and bone burns away and goes sticking into the surface of Jakku. And this alien hand comes in, don’t know if it was Maz but it was an alien hand who takes the light saber way, and then the movie proceeds as you see it. […] One website had the first 15 minutes of The Force Awakens totally accurate.

Naturally, Birth Movies Death shared this news and you can taste the vindication in every word. If you were called a liar for well over a year, you’d take a moment to gloat, too.

For the record, here’s the initial description from July 2014 that got all of this going in the first place. As you can see, large pieces of it are on target (other than the severed hand), even if the timeline is different than that of the finished film:

Imagine the standard Star Wars crawl, and when it ends the camera pans up to the stars. But instead of a spaceship zooming into frame we see… a hand! A severed hand, tumbling through space. A severed hand gripping a light saber.

That hand falls onto a desert planet, where it is discovered by characters who will be our heroes. One is Daisy Ridley. The other is John Boyega, who is playing someone trying to change his path in life (again, I’m keeping it vague here). They recognize the light saber as a Jedi relic and decide to return it to the proper people.

Their quest takes them off world, and they meet up with Han Solo and Chewbacca, who aren’t flying around in the Millenium Falcon anymore but are piloting… well, that could be a spoiler. I’ll leave it. Anyway, Han and Chewie recognize the light saber as Luke’s, and they say they haven’t seen their friend in thirty years, since the events of Return of the Jedi.

So begins a quest to find the missing Jedi Master. Meanwhile, on an ice planet, nefarious forces are building a super weapon, one capable of destroying not planets but entire solar systems…

What most interests me at this point is why this opening sequence was modified. Is this a case where J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm decided to change things because the details were revealed on the internet or was Birth Movies Death only privy to this information after the creatives decided to chuck it? I honestly don’t expect we’ll get a truly honest answer about this anytime soon. Like with so many major movies, all of the truly great stories will take a few years (or a decade or two) to start emerging.

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