A regiment of 500 Imperial Stormtroopers briefly overran the Great Wall of China last night. They were not searching for some droids or a fugitive princess, but looking to drum up some support in China for the latest edition in the Star Wars saga.
The pint-sized Stormtrooper mannequins handed out blue and red lightsabers on top of the wall to tourists. Disney is hoping to use the force of the event to get more Chinese people to see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” when it hits theaters.
The film is set for a much-anticipated December release in the U.S., but doesn’t have a release date for China yet.
When it does make it to Chinese theaters, Disney hopes that it will be a blockbuster, the likes of which this universe has never seen, despite the fact that not so many people in China are familiar with a galaxy far, far away a long time ago. It was just this year that the original trilogy was screened in China for the first time at the Shanghai Film Festival. All six of the films have been made available to be streamed online via Tencent.
Still China has a small group of dedicated Star Wars superfans and they were invited out to liven up the festivities. The Wall Street Journal spoke to one of the Jedi in attendance.
Among them was Mr. Ding, who discovered the movies when his father brought home a videotape one day. He is a member of the 501st Legion, a Lucasfilm-approved fan group that dresses like the villains in the films. “We organized a fan costume gathering on the Great Wall before because we love to have our gatherings at as many of China’s famous geographic spots as possible,” said Mr. Ding, who was holding a marshmallow on a stick decorated to look like a Stormtrooper helmet.
Mr. Ding said he dedicates most of his spare time to “Star Wars”-related activities. According to the 501st’s website, Mr. Ding – known to the group as “Dio” – has built Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, Clone Trooper and TIE Fighter pilot costumes. One costume kit can cost $1,000 to $5,000 and it can take several years to find the most authentic-looking parts and best-fitting armor.
“There is no other story told like this,” Mr. Ding said. “There are conflicts, affection, imagination, along with the symphonic presentation. I can’t tell you how astonished I was when I first watched this movie as a small boy and immediately fell in love with it.”
The Wall Street Journal also spoke to a Belgian graphic designer living in Beijing who had handmade a Chewbacca costume using 120 fake-hairpiece packs bought off Taobao and glued together by hand.
We will see if this new film can inspire that level of devotion in Chinese viewers.
In case you’ve been hiding inside a tauntaun for the past week, here’s the official trailer:
[Images via Sina]