“Chewie, we’re home.”

Han Solo’s words ended the newest “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailer (and brought tears to the eyes of more than one of the thousands packed into the convention center here at Celebration Anaheim).

But they represent more than a good line for Harrison Ford’s Solo as he once again stepped into the Millennium Falcon. It represents a change of philosophy on the part of director JJ Abrams.

Think of it as “Star Wars” going back to the future.


Abrams is undoing much of what “Star Wars” creator George Lucas relied on with the (over)use of computer-generated graphics. Instead, Abrams focused on building real sets that actors could actually walk on and interact with rather than impersonal green screens.

That sentiment alone drew applause from the audience.

The authentic touch – if such a phrase can be used when discussing a sci-fi fantasy series – struck a chord with Abrams from the time he first saw the first “Star Wars” movie when he was 11.

“You couldn’t deny it,” Abrams told the crowd. “It’s ‘Star Wars.’ There are always going to be an enormous number of effects. But we needed a standard. You needed to know these people were real.”

So real X-wing fighters and a Millennium Falcon? Check. Real actors working on real locations like Abu Dhabi? Check. Even the new ball droid, BB8, is astonishingly real, not computer generated. Abrams and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy rolled out the new addition to the cast, much to the amazement of the fanboys and fangirls.

With Lucas’ prequel trilogy, the green screens made the stiff dialogue that much harder to the actors – and the results showed. Abrams and his cast promise the use of real wood and Styrofoam will make all the difference when we see the sequel on the silver screen.

The enormity of the task is not lost on Abrams, who turned down Kennedy’s initial offer to direct. He admits to still having “moments of sheer horror.”

“The reality is I’ve never had more fun in my life than anything,” Abrams said. “The opportunity far exceeds the risk.”

In eight months, we’ll see if the risk pays off.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens nationwide Dec. 18, 2015.