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Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)

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It looked to me like the stormtrooper holding his own against the lightsaber was carrying an energized weapon of some sort, which would put his weapon in the same category as those carried by the IG-100 MagnaGuards in EIII.

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Ah.  Okay.  Something like the electrostaff.

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10 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Nick Alexander wrote:
: Or how James Bond franchise re-invents themselves with every movie . . .

There's a difference between formula, in a franchise dedicated to stand-alone stories that always leave things where they were at the beginning, and lazy recycling, especially in a franchise where each story is supposed to be part of a larger arc.

The James Bond series, as of the last two entries, seem to be quite interested in this larger arc, and in the process are regurgitating plot elements and character re-introductions from earlier Bond films.  Not to mention that you ignored my reference to the non-Brocoli  "Never Say Never Again", an unofficial remake of "Thunderball." 

I still think that TFA had more than enough elements that make it stand apart from episode iv.  Sorry your experience wasn't better.

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RFA had some elements that stand out, but as I said earlier, every time it "passed the baton" to go in a new direction with these elements it ended up just passing it right back and rehashing some more from the originals.  

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I was half tempted to take some time this holiday break to write my own version.  But then I decided that was lame and I'd probably just crank out some billion dollar fan fic like those Twilight and Fifty Shades people, so I went back to playing Nerf wars with my kids.

 

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John Williams (inadvertently?) reveals why this may be the weakest Star Wars score yet:

But George Lucas and J.J. Abrams have very different working styles. With George, who grew up with thirty-five millimeter film… George’s editing was constructed almost like Hitchcock. I mean the edit that I received was the edit we scored.

In the case of J.J. Abrams, he is a young man, still under 50, and he has grown up with Pro Tools and Avid and all the rest of these electronic and technological aids that people have now. And so his editing process is very different. We were making changes up till the very last minute, and because of this, we recorded with the orchestra sporadically through the months of June to November, which we never did with George. With George we always recorded the scores in seven or eight days running. So the process was markedly different in that respect. J.J. made, with great facility, a lot of changes all the time and they were always improvements. And we were glad to see them because he knew what he shot; we did not. We only knew what we had seen.

Oh, and when Williams says "almost like Hitchcock", he knows whereof he speaks. Williams scored Hitchcock's last film, Family Plot, just one year before the original Star Wars came out.

Nick Alexander wrote:
: The James Bond series, as of the last two entries, seem to be quite interested in this larger arc . . .

Actually, the second-to-last entry wasn't interested in the larger arc at all, except perhaps insofar as it replaced one M with another. But the arc-ness of SPECTRE -- and the way it retroactively imposes an arc on all four of the Daniel Craig films to date -- is one of that film's biggest problems.

: . . . and in the process are regurgitating plot elements and character re-introductions from earlier Bond films.

Yes, the Craig films -- especially the two directed by Sam Mendes -- are "fan servicing" in a way that none of the pre-Craig films ever did.

: Not to mention that you ignored my reference to the non-Brocoli  "Never Say Never Again", an unofficial remake of "Thunderball." 

Yeah, I tend not to reply to irrelevant tangents. As you say, Never Say Never Again was an explicit remake and was also not produced as part of the official James Bond series, so it doesn't really apply to this discussion.

Attica wrote:
: RFA had some elements that stand out, but as I said earlier, every time it "passed the baton" to go in a new direction with these elements it ended up just passing it right back and rehashing some more from the originals.

And that will apparently serve as a template for the franchise as a whole from here on. Episode VII will be followed next year by a prequel to Episode IV(Rogue One), which will be followed the year after that by Episode VIII, which will be followed the year after that by another prequel to Episode IV (the "young Han Solo" movie), and so on.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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How many Star Wars actors have also been in Bible movies? Because I'm just the sort of person to ask that sort of question -- and I was asking it before I realized that the first scene in The Force Awakens would feature both a former Jesus and a former Joseph.

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Devin Faraci: In Defense Of George Lucas

 

Quote

Filmmaking is a collaborative art, but it is clear that all of Lucas’ Star Wars collaborators were working to bring his specific vision to life. As mentioned, many people working on the film didn’t exactly understand what it was they were making (Lucas created a simplified outline to help Fox execs wrap their brains around the fantasy world in his head), but beyond that the film is saturated in George Lucas. It is like mainlining George Lucas, featuring everything from his interest in the technical side of filmmaking through his love of hot rods to his fascination with the nature of freedom and tyranny to his own thoughts about the Vietnam War, partially arrived at when he was working on Apocalypse Now (which his pal Francis Ford Coppola would ultimately direct). Nobody but George Lucas could have made this movie, for good or ill. It’s a singular work, one that none of the sequels and prequels could ever match if only because by their very nature a prequel or a sequel can never have the audaciousness newness the original had.

 

Edited by NBooth

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I've always respected Lucas. He's one of a kind. He also deserves more credit for Empire's success than he often gets (the draft of the script he wrote prior to Kasdan's entry is pretty darn close to the finished product; Kasdan mainly did a dialogue polish when it comes to Empire). The attempts to marginalize his influence over his own creation stem more from an attempt to demean the prequels than it does to any level of truth.

But, unlike Nathanael here, I have no love for the prequels. I find them interesting on a conceptual level (the prequels are a collision of endless Big Ideas, even though they don't satisfactorily deliver any of them), but utterly soulless in action. I much, much prefer The Force Awakens.

Similarly, while it's clear these films will lack an overarching auteurist sensibility in the way that the original six films did, it's much too early to play the "At least Lucas had big ideas" card in regards to the trilogy. We don't yet know where it's going, the Art of book testifies to the fact that they did weigh philosophical and religious concepts while mapping out the arc of these new films (there are some interesting suggestions in Alan Dean Foster's novelization as to what that arc will look like).

Also, I only just found this hilarious story about George Lucas and his talent for horrible character names (in this case: BJ Dart, Darth Icky, and Darth Insanius).

Edited by Ryan H.

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1 hour ago, Ryan H. said:

But, unlike Nathanael here, I have no love for the prequels. I find them interesting on a conceptual level (the prequels are a collision of endless Big Ideas, even though they don't satisfactorily deliver any of them), but utterly soulless. I much, much prefer The Force Awakens.

Oh, believe me, I wish I could just wish away my feelings for these movies. But I can't.

Quote

Similarly, while it's clear these films will lack an overarching auteurist sensibility in the way that the original six films did, it's much too early to play the "At least Lucas had big ideas" card in regards to the trilogy. We don't yet know where it's going, the Art of book testifies to the fact that they did weigh philosophical and religious concepts while mapping out the arc of these new films (there are some interesting suggestions in Alan Dean Foster's novelization as to what that arc will look like).

I wouldn't play it in regards to the trilogy, just yet--like I've said before, I'm very interested in seeing where Johnson takes the next installment--but I'm quite happy to hold it against the movie itself, much as I'm quite happy to hold the non-resolution of the erased memory banks in AotC and the under-playing of Anakin's origins in RotS against those movies. The movie should be able to make a case for itself within its runtime--to differentiate itself, to expand its possibilities, etc--and I think TFA (which, again, I liked more than I expected to) doesn't do an adequate job laying all that stuff out.

BTW, I'd be interested to hear what you mean w/r/t Foster's novelization. I thought about picking it up, but most of the reviews I read on Amazon seemed to indicate that it doesn't give that much extra insight into the events of the film; Amazon reviews being what they are, though, I wouldn't be surprised if they're flat-out wrong on that score.

Edited by NBooth

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11 minutes ago, NBooth said:

I wouldn't play it in regards to the trilogy, just yet--like I've said before, I'm very interested in seeing where Johnson takes the next installment--but I'm quite happy to hold it against the movie itself, much as I'm quite happy to hold the non-resolution of the erased memory banks in AotC and the under-playing of Anakin's origins in RotS against those movies. The movie should be able to make a case for itself within its runtime--to differentiate itself, to expand its possibilities, etc--and I think TFA (which, again, I liked more than I expected to) doesn't do an adequate job laying all that stuff out.

I went in to the film expecting a cinematic TV pilot and that's exactly what I got, so I'm not holding that stuff against it. For now.

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18 minutes ago, NBooth said:

BTW, I'd be interested to hear what you mean w/r/t Foster's novelization. I thought about picking it up, but most of the reviews I read on Amazon seemed to indicate that it doesn't give that much extra insight into the events of the film; Amazon reviews being what they are, though, I wouldn't be surprised if they're flat-out wrong on that score.

Ah. Here's a rundown:

No doubt when you saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you were left with a slew of unanswered questions. Some of them pertain to the bigger questions the film left in our minds, such as the identity of Rey and what her true lineage might turn out to be, and a lot of smaller ones (like why the heck did R2-D2 wake up at just the right moment?). As it turns out, a lot of those smaller questions are answered via the Star Wars: The Force Awakens novelization, written by Alan Dean Foster. The novelization was based on an actual script for the film, (though, not the final script. We’ll get to that later), and a lot of the “internal feelings” that were described in the script — but perhaps not conveyed so well via the actors — are described in detail within the Star Wars: The Force Awakens novelization.

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15 minutes ago, NBooth said:

BTW, I'd be interested to hear what you mean w/r/t Foster's novelization. I thought about picking it up, but most of the reviews I read on Amazon seemed to indicate that it doesn't give that much extra insight into the events of the film; Amazon reviews being what they are, though, I wouldn't be surprised if they're flat-out wrong on that score.

The novelization isn't very interesting, but a few pieces of text fit in with passages in the VISUAL DICTIONARY and ART OF books that suggest this trilogy is going to be about challenging and transcending the Light/Dark dichotomy. (Which is, broadly, in keeping with Lucas' plan for the trilogy.)

I'd be more specific, but I can't figure out how to spoiler-box via the mobile interface.

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18 minutes ago, Ryan H. said:

The novelization isn't very interesting, but a few pieces of text fit in with passages in the VISUAL DICTIONARY and ART OF books that suggest this trilogy is going to be about challenging and transcending the Light/Dark dichotomy. (Which is, broadly, in keeping with Lucas' plan for the trilogy.)

His now-scrapped plans for this trilogy? Interesting. The New Jedi Order apparently played with similar ideas with idea of a Unifying Force. I'd be very interested in seeing them go ahead with something like that.

Edited by NBooth

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2 minutes ago, NBooth said:

His now-scrapped plans for this trilogy? Interesting. 

Yeah. Seems like they're playing with similar ideas even though they mostly rejected Lucas' outlines.

The pre-production phase for TFA involved a lot of research into eastern religion for guidance on where to take the whole Force thing.

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1 minute ago, Ryan H. said:

Yeah. Seems like they're playing with similar ideas even though they mostly rejected Lucas' outlines.

The pre-production phase for TFA involved a lot of research into eastern religion for guidance on where to take the whole Force thing.

I can totally get behind that. The Force in Star Wars was always a very awkward mix of East and West, one that doesn't really make much sense under scrutiny. Lucas started walking the dualism back in the PT, what with talk of the Living Force (the EU made the LF into something else, but I'm not convinced that the EU version was what Lucas had in mind) and midichlorians (which someone--Peter? SDG?--pointed out could be a vindication of "crude matter"). Heck, even that much-lambasted line "Only a Sith deals in absolutes!" could be seen as a nudge in this direction. 

Cool. That's something to look forward to.

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So, I just saw it again, this time in Imax.

I didn't find it as entertaining this time around while in the theatre but I did notice a few points which made a few of my earlier problems with the film to be not as problematic.  I mean they still were, but it became not as glaringly so.  

I think that some of the things the film got right it got very right and a person can find snippets of those throughout.  As well, a lot of the world building was very good, I mean not in the sense of the plot, but in the sense of making their locations etc. believable.  Some of this was where the true love for the early films was most apparent.

 

Some predictions.

So far as Chewbacca goes I think they made him more prominent in a few ways, not just the detonation close up.  It seems to me that they are gearing up to make him into a more central figure in future episodes.  I suspect this will be at least related to Kylo Ren, but I wouldn't be surprised if Chewbacca and Rey get their own spin off.  Also, I think that Chewbacca intentionally only wounded Ren.

I had missed this the first time around, but in Rey's "flashback" sequence, it ends with the whispered words "The first Skywalkers."   I'm guessing that she is a Skywalker but that she isn't Luke's offspring.  Rather she is from some other lineage such as from Vader's uncle or the like.  I can't remember enough from the prequels to know if this is possible (I only saw each of the once in the theatres.)  The film does leave us with hints that she still could be Han and Leia's child, or even Luke's, but that just seems too easy and predictable for me, and Han and Leia didn't act quite in accordance to that idea.  I'm betting that Han and Leia knew more about the extended Skywalker family than we realize and that they suspected something but didn't know for sure so it wasn't mentioned.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Chewbacca also suspects something.  There are possible hints for that as well.

 

I thought that most of the ship battle scenes were fairly underwhelming, especially considering what was done before, but the band of X-Wings did make a great entrance while flying over the water.  My favourite scene with the ships was when Rey first started piloting the Falcon.  

 

Oh, and I think that BB-8 was fantastic.  He's easily the best new character followed by Rey (she's a better character overall but BB-8 doesn't have some of her problems - like with how she uses the force) and often stole the show in much the same way as R2-D2 stole the earlier films.

 

Edited by Attica

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10 hours ago, NBooth said:

I can totally get behind that. The Force in Star Wars was always a very awkward mix of East and West, one that doesn't really make much sense under scrutiny. Lucas started walking the dualism back in the PT, what with talk of the Living Force (the EU made the LF into something else, but I'm not convinced that the EU version was what Lucas had in mind) and midichlorians (which someone--Peter? SDG?--pointed out could be a vindication of "crude matter"). Heck, even that much-lambasted line "Only a Sith deals in absolutes!" could be seen as a nudge in this direction. 

Cool. That's something to look forward to.

It's worth noting that midichlorians were part of STAR WARS as far back as A NEW HOPE. Lucas names and explains them in an interview just after the film's release. (That interview might not qualify as canonical, but it shows that midichlorians were not something Lucas imposed on his creation at a later date.)

I suspect all talk of the Force in the new films will be fairly broad (which is for the best, probably; the more detailed they get, the more its flimsy framework comes under scrutiny).

FWIW, the novelization of THE FORCE AWAKENS opens with this poem/prophecy from the "Journal of the Whills." It's too vague to count as a spoiler methinks; I'll post the more spoilery stuff when I'm not on my phone.

First comes the day

Then comes the night.

After the darkness

Shines through the light.

The difference, they say,

Is only made right

By the resolving of gray

Through refined Jedi sight.

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Went to see this again in 3D this time.  This, and the fact that I'd already seen the film made me pay more attention to the composition in the shots.  Many were of course plainly functional and then others purely designed for 3D--there's one shot of a Star Destroyer stretching out into the audience that is particularly 3D-ish.  But some shots, especially when playing with scale on Jakku and on the Starkiller Base were both impressive in terms of visualization but also in terms of character.  The scenes of Han and Kylo Ren were standouts in this regard--even with the assumption that most of the long shots were entirely CGI.  But they spoke effectively of the isolation of the characters and the depth of Ren's lostness.  I very much appreciated the final wide shot of that sequence which held for just a beat.  Very good stuff.

Overall a second viewing benefits the film.  It's still 4th in my mind, behind ROTJ, but for all its annoyances ("The girl I've heard so much about"?  what?), I'm inclined to be positive.  Perhaps it's just nostalgia but I think there's more to it than that.

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Buckeye Jones said:  

 I very much appreciated the final wide shot of that sequence which held for just a beat.  Very good stuff.

-

You mean when a certain character fell?  Yeah that was well done.

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Methinks it's a weak defense of this film to say that the filmmakers *did* consider religious-political ideas and then cut them out of the script.

And I don't place much stock in the books or other supplementary materials. If future films were bound by deleted scenes that found their way into existing novelizations, then Owen Lars would still be the brother of Obi-Wan Kenobi (as per the Return of the Jedi novelization and some subsequent EU merchandise), not the step-brother of Anakin Skywalker (as per Attack of the Clones, released 19 years later).

Attica wrote:
: I had missed this the first time around, but in Rey's "flashback" sequence, it ends with the whispered words "The first Skywalkers."   I'm guessing that she is a Skywalker but that she isn't Luke's offspring.  Rather she is from some other lineage such as from Vader's uncle or the like.

Hmmm. There's no evidence that Shmi (Vader's mother) was Force-sensitive, so I don't know why any other branch of that family would be. But if Snoke *is* Darth Plagueis, i.e. the one who created Anakin and put him in Shmi's womb, then who knows what he may have done with other members of her family.

: I thought that most of the ship battle scenes were fairly underwhelming, especially considering what was done before, but the band of X-Wings did make a great entrance while flying over the water.  My favourite scene with the ships was when Rey first started piloting the Falcon.  

I just wish we'd had a proper space battle. JJ Abrams doesn't seem to *like* space. He always tries to bring spaceships down into the atmosphere (or, blecch, underwater, in the case of Star Trek into Darkness).

: Oh, and I think that BB-8 was fantastic.  

Rod Dreher disparagingly compared BB-8 to the Ewoks for his "Pixar cuteness" (I quote from memory) the other day. It'll be interesting to see if anyone else picks up that vibe.

Ryan H. wrote:
: It's worth noting that midichlorians were part of STAR WARS as far back as A NEW HOPE. Lucas names and explains them in an interview just after the film's release.

Oooh, got a link?

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1 hour ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Methinks it's a weak defense of this film to say that the filmmakers *did* consider religious-political ideas and then cut them out of the script.

And I don't place much stock in the books or other supplementary materials. If future films were bound by deleted scenes that found their way into existing novelizations, then Owen Lars would still be the brother of Obi-Wan Kenobi (as per the Return of the Jedi novelization and some subsequent EU merchandise), not the step-brother of Anakin Skywalker (as per Attack of the Clones, released 19 years later).

It's a very weak defense. But the political stuff, at least, got further than the script. That material was actually filmed. Whether we'll ever see any of it, who knows.

But I've said that this film is only meant to function as a mash-up of reunion special and a pilot for a new series, and on that level, I think it mostly succeeds. It leaves the heavy lifting to the sequels. Whether the sequels will deliver on that or not, who knows, but I do think it's clear that Abrams and company at least had some idea about where the main strands of the story were meant to go.

So I refer to the supplementary materials only as evidence of where the headspace of the production team was at at the time of making The Force Awakens. Who knows what will change by the time we get to Episode IX. But running throughout all these supplementary materials and the books is this recurrent interest in the notion that these characters will somehow have to transcend the Light/Dark conflict.

Spoiler

Both the Visual Novelization and the novelization stress that Snoke has been seeking an apprentice that can combine and balance Light Side and Dark Side influences, and that his attraction to Ren stemmed from the fact that Ren was initially trained in the Light Side. In the Art of book, there are comments that Luke is the superior Jedi because he has already recognized his own Dark Side and accepted it, and additional concept art for an Anakin/Vader ghost that is simultaneously Light *and* Dark, forever flickering back and forth between Hayden's visage and the famous helmet. The novelization hints that Luke went to the first Jedi temple in a way of seeking a way to collapse Light Side and Dark Side.

Whether Johnson will pick up on that with Episode VIII, who can say. Kathleen Kennedy has stated they have a broad idea of where this trilogy is to headed, but a broad idea could mean anything, and that doesn't mean that significant course corrections won't occur later in the game. 

We already know that Johnson asked Abrams to make changes to The Force Awakens to allow him to take certain narrative elements in different directions. The Force Awakens was meant to have more closure than it offers, but Johnson asked that certain narrative reveals be withheld for later in the trilogy.

Re: the midichlorians, I was mistaken; it wasn't an interview with Lucas. It was his notes for Expanded Universe authors (collected in The Making of Star Wars: The Definitive Story Behind the Original Film) that detail the midichlorians, and those notes were written shortly after the release of the first Star Wars.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Ryan H said:  

 It leaves the heavy lifting to the sequels.

 

It's also served to have me quite interested in the sequels and where this universe might be going.  So it has certainly succeeded on that front, at least for me. I can see why others could be turned off enough by the rehashing in this film that they will just expect this with the next films, which is why going in a strange direction with Episode VIII might be so important.  If this was planned all along then Abram's might have gotten a bit a a bad deal creatively speaking in the sense that he isn't given the film that can really stretch its wings.  But then again, maybe he was given this film because it fit with his sensibilities and Johnson was given the next film because it will fit with his.  If the next film is as good as I am hoping for, but also financially successful, then I can only imagine that it could open up some people's eyes to the potential of this series in a fresh way.  I mean maybe there is actually hope for future films as good as Empire, or even, dare I say, better.  Although one of the problems with so many films in an expanding universe (or maybe in some ways a shrinking one) is that there are going to be a growing amount of plot problems to try and untangle.

 

Peter T Chattaway said:  

Hmmm. There's no evidence that Shmi (Vader's mother) was Force-sensitive, so I don't know why any other branch of that family would be. But if Snoke *is* Darth Plagueis, i.e. the one who created Anakin and put him in Shmi's womb, then who knows what he may have done with other members of her family.

 

 

Is there any possibility that Snoke is Shmi's father or grandfather who is still alive because of the powers of the force?  Could Rey have come from another line like say Shmi's brother whereby Snoke had been monkeying around with them as well in similar ways.  Could Snoke have always been behind the scenes pulling strings when it comes to the Skywalker family as part of some sort of diabilical plan to have his family reign supreme in the galaxy, or to find a way to reign supreme through the family once a way was found to balance the light and dark side of the force in an attempt to gain its full power but to still use it for the darkside.

 

Also.  If the series is going into new places, could it be possible that Snoke is some sort of demi-God who knows about the creation of the force (or even created it) and has been involved in certain lineages in order to try and find a way to harness and use it.  Might the series be going beyond the force into questions of even higher powers or deity?

 

I might have to suffer through the prequels again in order to get caught up in my understanding of that universe.

Edited by Attica

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