ROLLING STONE – It is a bleak time for the Republic. It is a period of great struggle for the entire planet, and not only is the dark side winning, it’s no longer clear any other side even exists. Seriously, you guys – Earth is messed up. Just ask a polar bear, or an almond farmer, or a GOP debate moderator. Or maybe check in with Luke Skywalker.

“The world is so horrible,” says Mark Hamill, Luke’s closest earthly representative, sitting in the shadow of swaying trees in his rather pleasant Malibu yard. At 64, Hamill is older than Alec Guinness was in the first Star Wars, and is in the process of regrowing a distinctly Obi-Wan-ish beard. “Between the Middle East and gun violence and global warming and racism, it’s just horrible. And people need this. It’s therapeutic.”

The “this” in question is Star Wars: The Force Awakens, out on December 18th and directed by geek hero J.J. Abrams, fresh from rebooting the Star Trek franchise. It is the seventh Star Wars movie, and the first not under the control of the saga’s gnomic creator, George Lucas, who let it all go in 2012, selling Lucasfilm and its franchise to Disney for $4 billion. The Force Awakens will return to the Star Wars galaxy three decades after the events of 1983’s Return of the Jedi, launching what Disney intends to be an endless series of movies.

Jedi ended with what appeared to be a total defeat for the evil Empire, capped with what Harrison Ford called a “teddy-bear picnic” of dancing Ewoks, complete with smiley Jedi ghosts at the sidelines. The Rebel Alliance might as well have pinned a “Mission Accomplished” banner to a tree on the forest moon of Endor.

“With any movie that ends with going off in the sunset and a celebratory moment, you can ask, ‘Well, what happened the day after?'” says Abrams. “Then decades go past. We were literally asking, ‘Well, what happened to the disbanded Empire? What happened to the Republic?'”

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The cast of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ covers another magazine for December and this time it is for Rolling Stone Mexico. Scans have been added to the gallery!

Magazine Scans > 2015 > Rolling Stone Mexico (December)

THE NATIONAL – “Who are you?” asks a mysterious figure as a desert scavenger walks towards golden dunes. “I’m no one,” is the whispered reply.

She isn’t no one, of course. She is Rey, played by 23-year-old unknown British actor Daisy Ridley, one of the new, young characters in what is the most eagerly awaited film of the year – and possibly all time – Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

But the irony of Rey’s response is not lost on Ridley.

“Obviously there are a lot of people saying, ‘Who is this girl and why was she chosen?’” she says. “But with Star Wars, well, you feel like you’re standing on the shoulders of giants.

“I was terrified before we started filming and it was a wonderful thing to work with people at the top of their game.”

In a way, Ridley’s journey is the story of the new Star Wars film in microcosm. When director JJ Abrams announced that original stars Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill would appear, there was the fear that the seventh instalment of this iconic space opera would be a nostalgia trip into homage.

But, in the same way he successfully revitalised the other bg global sci-fi franchise, Star Trek, he seems to have avoided the pitfalls of tired rehashes by melding convincing new characters with the established Jedi vs Dark Side mythology of Star Wars, all while maintaining a sense of earthy reality.

It doesn’t look, if the trailers are anything to go by, like a story made on computers, populated by overpaid Hollywood stars.

The film was partly filmed in Abu Dhabi last year – with the sand dunes standing in for the desert planet of Jakku, a world not previously seen in the saga – and this, says Ridley, really helped to achieve that organic feel.

“This was a place that had everything people said they wanted from this Star Wars – the desert has this real, tangible dirt and grit and dust,” she says. “Pardon the pun, but for me it was like a baptism of fire, the perfect place to begin telling this story – not least because Abu Dhabi represents Jakku, which is Rey’s home planet.

“In the trailers you will have seen us running away from explosions in the desert. Those explosions were real, it was 50 degrees and we were running after a truck with a camera on it.”

The “we” she refers to includes fellow Brit John Boyega, who plays Finn, a stormtrooper that the trailers suggest is reformed and in search of redemption.

“Yes, it was boiling hot” in Abu Dhabi, he says. “But it did really help with the scenes, in terms of getting across the intensity and the fear of the character – you’re in the same environment, rather than a studio with hot lights.”

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SCREENDAILY – Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is set be released in China on Jan 9, 2016, the Walt Disney Company has announced.

The JJ Abrams-directed entry in the blockbuster franchise will have its North American premiere on Dec 14 and its London premiere on December 15.

It will then open in several smaller European, MENA and Asian territories on Dec 16 and 17, before opening in North America and the UK on Dec 18, and India and Pakistan on Dec 25.

John Hsu, general manager of Disney’s Chinese studio, said: “We’re excited to be rolling out our marketing campaign and to connect with new fans in China through Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

This week, Ridley Scott’s Sci-Fi The Martian landed a strong $50m five-day opening in the China market, taking its international total to $326.9m to date, making it Ridley Scott’s biggest international release.

Disney will be hoping that The Force Awakens can repeat the success of 2015’s biggest international releases in China, which saw Jurassic World, Avengers: Age Of Ultron and Fast and Furious 7 all make it into the territory’s top ten highest grossing films of all time, with the latter grossing over $390m on its way to grossing $1.5bn worldwide.

The film’s Chinese poster has also been revealed.