'Star Wars' fans: The Force returns December 2015

NEED TO KNOW
  • Studio sets December 18, 2015, release date for ‘Star Wars: Episode VII’
  • That could be either good news or bad news for fans
'Star Wars' fans: The Force returns December 2015

Like Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, there's a good side and a dark side to Thursday's huge announcement about the hotly anticipated new "Star Wars" sequel.

Disney -- which bought Lucasfilm from "Star Wars" creator George Lucas last year -- revealed Thursday that "Star Wars: Episode VII" will be released on December 18, 2015. In a statement, Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn says the release date "will not only anchor the popular holiday filmgoing season but also ensure our extraordinary filmmaking team has the time needed to deliver a sensational picture.”

This comes as great news to "Star Wars" fans, who are already buzzing about this on Twitter. There had been speculation that “Episode VII” -- which will be directed by J.J. Abrams (of "Star Trek" fame) and may include appearances by original "Star Wars" cast members Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill -- might not be released until the summer of 2016. For "Star Wars" fans who've already gone eight years without a "Star Wars" movie, 2016 seemed like a galaxy too far, far away.

But while the earlier release date may satisfy fans, some critics feel that it just might hurt the movie. According to a bombshell article in The Hollywood Reporter last week, "Episode VII's" producer and most of its creative team wanted the 2016 release date to allow them more time to complete the project, which is already experiencing some pre-production hiccups (the movie's screenwriter bailed last month, and the script reportedly isn't anywhere close to finished). But Disney, perhaps wanting to make its likely billion-dollar gross sooner rather than later, reportedly insisted on the 2015 date.

That makes Thursday's announcement no big surprise. And with "Star Wars: Episode VII" officially The Most Anticipated Movie of 2015, the big question now is whether the filmmakers can deliver a quality movie with less time. Or will the finished product be a rushed disappointment? Looks like we'll have to wait a little more than two years to find out.

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