Taking the Wall by storm

It did not take a wise green dwarf with big ears and a quizzical construction of English to surmise the nefarious reason 500 enemy Stormtroopers appeared on the Great Wall of China on Tuesday night.

Their target? To capture the dollars - yuan, rather - of a new generation of fans in the world's second largest economy who missed out when the first movie debuted in 1977.

Star Wars was the movie that changed movie-watching but for China, it might as well have happened on another planet.

That year, the sleeping giant was itself awakening. Mao Zedong was dead and a leader, Deng Xiaoping, had emerged who would take the country on a far different course.

That the force is now strong in the East was clear at the premiere of the official Chinese trailer for the next episode in the long-running franchise on the outskirts of Beijing.

As the iconic Stormtroopers appeared by surprise in the event organised by the Walt Disney Company, four Chinese characters - "yuan", "li", "jue", "xing" - shone from the four beacon towers along the Juyongguan section of the wall, and were greeted by cheers and applause.

The meaning of the words? The Force Awakens. Of course.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2015, with the headline 'Taking the Wall by storm'. Print Edition | Subscribe