November 5, 2015

BERKOWITZ | #ForceforDaniel

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It’s a moment many of us have been waiting for. Ever since The Walt Disney Company announced a new trilogy, starting with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, fan excitement has been mounting, reaching a fever pitch last month when the full trailer was released. Now, we are almost one month away from Star Wars gracing the big screen yet again . Without a doubt, people of all generations will don their best Jedi and Stormtrooper attire and take to the big screen to bask in J.J. Abram’s newest addition to the epic saga. However, there is one super fan who will likely not be in attendance on opening night. His name is Daniel Fleetwood, and it’s becoming more and more likely that he will die before the movie is released.

Daniel has been a huge fan of Star Wars ever since he was 8, when his dad shared the original films with him. Since then, he has watched the movies countless times, written fan faction and says he even dreams about the movies. Daniel learned last July that he has Spindle Cell Sarcoma, a form of cancer in soft tissue such as muscles, nerves, fat, deep skin and more. Cases of Sarcomas are rare, accounting for only .72 percent of new cancer cases in the United States this year. In Daniel’s case,  despite going through surgery and chemotherapy, and even a trial study, he was told in September that he had roughly two months left to live, and has since focused his little time left on enjoying the company of his wife, Ashley.

Daniel’s dying wish is to see the new Star Wars film before it’s too late. Ashley, hoping to turn this miracle into reality, has since embarked on a journey to give her husband this one final joy.  She started spreading the word about her husband’s wishes to see the new film, and it has since gained substantial traction on social media. #ForceForDaniel has been a calling card for tens of thousands of people across the world who wants to see Daniel get his dying wish. Additionally, actors Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker),Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca) and John Boyega (Finn) have all stepped up to show their support.

With fans and Luke Skywalker on board, this seems like a slam dunk Disney magical moment. So why hasn’t it happened yet? There are likely several factors in the mix. First and foremost, the movie is probably not yet complete.  According to Episode 7 producer Kathleen Kennedy, the movie will be ready approximately three weeks from October 19, which means it will be completed roughly early next week. And these three weeks are mostly, if not exclusively, for post-production-related adjustments such sound mixing, editing, visual special effects and score developing. To be fair, Star Wars, a science fiction space opera, is reasonably one of the few films where the story itself would not suffice on its own, and the post-production is absolutely integral to delivering the full experience, equipped with lightsaber sounds and John William’s thunderous score.

Another, perhaps bigger, factor for Disney to consider is the economic factor. The production budget for The Force Awakens is estimated to be $200 million, not including tens of millions of dollars likely spent on marketing. This does not include the $4 billion Disney spent to acquire the rights to make the films in the first place by purchasing LucasArts. Suffice to say, Disney has a sizeable sum invested in the successful continuation of this storied franchise. With that being said, Disney has been keeping specifics of the movie close to their chest in the months leading up to the release. Since releasing a teaser last November, many questions have mounted pertaining to the plot of the new movie. Based on the record-breaking views for the theatrical trailer which released last October, and the record shattering pre-sales for opening night tickets, it is clear that people are as excited about having their big questions answered as they are about seeing the film. Disney is clearly hoping to cash in on this drummed up curiosity at the box office.

Releasing the film early, even for a single individual, presents a considerable amount of financial risk for Disney, who used extensive protocols during production to prevent plot leaks. Anthony Daniels (C-3PO) spoke of the protocol for reading scripts: Scripts were printed on black paper with dark red ink, in order to eliminate the threat of photocopying. However, Daniel’s request is not unprecedented. In fact, J.J. Abrams, the director of the other major “Star” series, Star Trek, made arrangements to see Star Trek: Into Darkness, five months before it’s release. Daniel can sign binding legal contracts to ensure the integrity of the films release is kept intact. Yes, the cynical side of the world can look at the fact that not even legal agreements can physically stop Daniel from spoiling the film, but to that I say, have a shred of faith.

I remember the first time I saw a Star Wars in movie theaters. It was Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith. I saw it with my brother and my dad. It was the day my grandma died. To this day, I think I still underestimate the importance of seeing it in terms of how much joy it brought to my dad, my brother and myself on a day full of grief. Movies can have this transformative power to provide safe haven, offering an escape from our daily lives, even just for a brief amount of time. For Daniel, who has gone through more than his fair share of hardship since his diagnosis, Star Wars already is one of the few joys in his life. Let us hope he gets to have his dream realized by seeing Episode 7. May the force be with Daniel.

Ethan Berkowitz is a senior in the College of Industrial and Labor Relations. Views From the 14853 appears alternate Fridays this semester.