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


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2 hours ago, Attica said:

If future movies are all corporate products then they might be well received but it will be the demise of Star Wars standing apart as anything special.  Which I believe it still does.  This would possibly also lead many to forget that the original Star Wars (at least the first two i'd think) were anything *but* corporate product, and indeed the studio just didn't really know what to make of it.  That would be tragic, and that is part of the problem with what is potentially going on here.  If they continue to play so hard on people's nostalgia, what was so special about those films that lead to the nostalgia in the first place, could be lost.  The franchise could end up devouring itself, if you will.

But these new films are all corporate products designed to meet a multiple on whatever NPV calculation Disney performed three years ago.  The hope for me is that the corporation decides it's best bet is to find real artistry.  But in a risk intolerant world with quarterly earnings reports, that hope is leavened with a boulder sized grain of salt.

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Can I just say that I have no particular expectations for Episodes VIII and IX at this point? I admire Rian Johnson, and I especially admire his girlfriend (who once thanked me for mentioning her in a list of my five favorite blogs), and I have basically positive feelings about Looper, but apart from that... well, my vague recollection is that my feelings were a little mixed on Looper (I was positive about it, but not ecstatic, if memory serves), and I vaguely recall thinking that Brick was more clever (as a genre mashup) than entertaining, per se. (I never saw The Brothers Bloom.) Add to that all the Disney-corporate-overlord stuff (as exemplified by the JJ Abrams film, in particular) and I honestly have zero idea what to expect, zero idea as to whether it's something to look forward to or not.

Attica wrote:
: If they continue to play so hard on people's nostalgia, what was so special about those films that lead to the nostalgia in the first place, could be lost.  

A friend of mine was really excited by the idea that the standalone movies would expand the Star Wars universe and show us things we'd never seen before. Then he heard that the first two standalone movies were basically both A New Hope prequels: one about how the Death Star plans got to Princess Leia, and the other about the young Han Solo. He was disappointed.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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57 minutes ago, Buckeye Jones said:

But these new films are all corporate products designed to meet a multiple on whatever NPV calculation Disney performed three years ago.  The hope for me is that the corporation decides it's best bet is to find real artistry.  But in a risk intolerant world with quarterly earnings reports, that hope is leavened with a boulder sized grain of salt.

 

Oh.  Yes, I understand that no matter what it's coming from corporation, because that's largely what Hollywood is right now.  I guess where I was going was something similar, that they would decide that real artistry would be the best fit for the franchise and that they would understand why this would be so.

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Ryan H. wrote:
: When you refer to the "Disney-corporate-overlord stuff," I'm not sure what film elements you're referring to, since we would probably have gotten this exact same film from JJ even if Disney wasn't involved.

Well, JJ Abrams' film work consists almost entirely of franchise perpetuation -- every single one of the movies he has directed is a sequel, except for Super 8 (which was a nostalgia pastiche in its own right) -- so I guess I don't see a big split between JJ's sensibilities and that of the corporations.

But my larger point was that Rian Johnson is ultimately serving the Disney corporation, more than any personal vision he might have. The fact that Johnson's going to be passing the baton to the director of Jurassic World -- itself a dumb and disappointing but hugely successful exercise in franchise perpetuation -- kind of just underscores the point.

Rushmore wrote:
: I'd say the best reason to expect good things from Rian in Episode VIII is Breaking Bad.

That's one of the many, many acclaimed TV shows I have never watched, alas.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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6 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Well, JJ Abrams' film work consists almost entirely of franchise perpetuation -- every single one of the movies he has directed is a sequel, except for Super 8 (which was a nostalgia pastiche in its own right) -- so I guess I don't see a big split between JJ's sensibilities and that of the corporations.

Exactly, so we don't really have a sense for what level of control Disney is exerting on these films.

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Caught this again over the weekend. It really does improve on a second viewing--even the political stuff is more apparent, though it's all blink-and-miss. The middle section, when the mandatory reject-the-call stuff shows up, is a mess (seriously--the character motivations make very little sense here), and Starkiller base is even sillier the second time around. And the movie is incredibly claustrophobic--the settings all feel small, even when they're planet-sized superweapons

But it's pleasurable and the characters are good. And the Big Spoiler Scene actually works far better on the second go-round. 

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37 minutes ago, Ryan H. said:

Yeah, I noticed that on first viewing.

That's an Abrams thing, methinks.

Given how claustrophobic the globe-trotting M:I:III was, I'm inclined to agree.

It just occurred to me that there's one area in which Starkiller Base can be defended, and that's in its thematics. Assuming that the new trilogy is going to be dealing with this whole question of how the Force can balance (and this idea of Light and Dark coexisting in every character, etc), Starkiller Base is a concrete visualization of such a union of opposites: a snow planet with a sun inside of it: fire and ice bound together in an uneasy harmony. It doesn't make the thing any smarter on a plot level, but it does tap into some mythic dimensions.

Speaking of which, I'm wondering if anything can be done with eyes in this movie. There's quite a bit of attention paid to them, from the cut between Finn and Rey early on to the whole character of Maz (who herself gets a brief speech on eyes while magnifying her own). And then there's all that publicity with characters covering one eye. At least one inhabitant of Reddit has noticed the symbolism, but doesn't really do anything with it. I'm not saying there's a hidden Illuminati significance to it, though that's an entertaining little conspiracy-theory (see video below). [I would, for what it's worth, be delighted if someone could produce an occult reading of TFA that actually hangs together--but I don't think it's a sturdy enough movie for that]. 

[And, no, my curiosity about the eyes has nothing to do with the fact that, between my viewings of TFA, I re-read Wise Blood and decided that Kylo Ren is essentially Hazel Motes. It's something I picked up on the first time through]

This video is very silly. Posting it is not an endorsement:

ETA: Here's an interesting post on TFA:

It’s very important, in this respect, that Force Awakens incorporates a giganticised neo-Death Star (this time escalatingly and in-jokingly called the Star Killer) which does what the original does to Alderaan all over again, this time to about five planets at once. One of the conscientious ways Force Awakens tries to replay aspects of the original story but with an added ethical awareness (see later episodes of this series) is to show us inhabitants of these victimised planets experiencing confusion and terror moments before their deaths. This is something Star Wars never does with Alderaan, consigning any subjectivity on the part of these murder victims to a throwaway line from Ben Kenobi. Alderaan haunts Force Awakens in structral form, i.e. as a necrotic but attendant part of its structure, as a recycled and inflated plot beat, as gothic history-repeating, as muted ethical reproach, etc. There is something a little too glib about the word ‘pastiche’ by itself.

 

Edited by NBooth
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Re-reading Timothy Zahn's trilogy and counting the times characters and planets happen to be in conveniently the same locations as other characters even when on completely separate missions  and it's all throughout. Which is why as I argued above I'm pretty sure shrinking world or galaxy syndrome is just a part of space opera period, but certainly has always been a part of Star Wars.

Edited by Justin Hanvey

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

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Ryan H. wrote:
: Is Disney trusting Kathleen Kennedy to steer the ship or are they micro-managing everything?

It's so weird to see this franchise in the hands of someone who has expressed virtually no personal attachment to it. The first six films were driven by Lucas's passions. The seventh film is driven by Abrams' fanboyishness. But Kennedy... what's *her* personal stake in all this, apart from the fact that she's been working with Lucas, Spielberg, Milius and the gang going back to the late 1970s?

Someone wrote:
: This is something Star Wars never does with Alderaan, consigning any subjectivity on the part of these murder victims to a throwaway line from Ben Kenobi.

Well, and then there's the reaction of Princess Leia, who actually *lived* on Alderaan prior to its destruction. She might not have heard the millions of voices crying out in terror, but she did watch her home planet get destroyed.

Justin Hanvey wrote:
: Re-reading Timothy Zahn's trilogy and counting the times characters and planets happen to be in conveniently the same locations as other characters even when on completely separate missions  and it's all throughout. Which is why as I argued above I'm pretty sure shrinking world or galaxy syndrome is just a part of space opera period, but certainly has always been a part of Star Wars.

I think you're misunderstanding the concept of "shrinking world syndrome". The concept has less to do with "everyone's so close together on Google Maps" and more to do with that old saying "it's a small world", meaning that everyone seems to be connected to everyone in ways that sometimes get ridiculously coincidental.

"Shrinking world syndrome" has to do with the fact that Luke, Leia, and Vader all came from different families in the original film. And then the second film said Vader was Luke's father. And then the third film said Vader was Leia's father too (which Mad magazine mocked by saying that R2-D2 had also been the family's garbage can or something... and wouldn't you know it, but the fourth film said that Vader was basically C-3PO's father, too).

"Shrinking world syndrome" has nothing to do with the fact that Han Solo could somehow fly from Hoth to Bespin even though his faster-than-light drive wasn't working.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Well, whatever Nbooth was talking about in reference to feeling claustrophobic

Either waydoesn't sound that different than most trilogies that have twist reveals about people as part of the ongoing story. Never really saw it as a negative trope

"The truth is you're the weak, and I'm the tyranny of evil men. But I'm tryin Ringo, I'm tryin real hard to be the shepherd." Pulp Fiction

Justin's Blog twitter Facebook Life Is Story

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The Zahn reference doesn't fit what I was talking about. "Claustrophobic" in this context means that the settings don't seem to be particularly open. They feel constricted, bound down to the size of a room (with exactly one notable exception--some of the early stuff on Jakku); this is quite independent of the idea of "shrinking world" or the ease with which characters run into each other. It's purely an observation about how space (in the sense of "area") is handled.

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54 minutes ago, NBooth said:

The Zahn reference doesn't fit what I was talking about. "Claustrophobic" in this context means that the settings don't seem to be particularly open. They feel constricted, bound down to the size of a room (with exactly one notable exception--some of the early stuff on Jakku); this is quite independent of the idea of "shrinking world" or the ease with which characters run into each other. It's purely an observation about how space (in the sense of "area") is handled.

I think this goes back to the "practical vs. digital" issue, which is more significant than some might say. Abrams used a lot of tight and medium shots filmed on location. Lucas did the same in the prequels, but then he peppered in a lot of wide panoramic shots that were obviously NOT on location, but digitally created. These CGI shots certainly give a larger sense of scale, but I think these kinds of shots also generated the criticisms that the prequels were too dependent on digital fx. Abrams avoided these kinds of shots for the most part, except for that "Nazi rally" scene on the starkiller planet, which looked very prequel-esque.

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Yep. With the caveat that many of those "digital" shots in the prequels were actually scale models, not CGI. In any event, the result is the same: the Prequels have a sense of scale to them that TFA clearly doesn't (with the exception I noted above). But that's not the only reason: the shots with spaceships--which are probably entirely CGI, even in the new movie--also feel much less open than corresponding scenes in any of the Lucas films (of course, as Peter has pointed out, Abrams doesn't seem to actually like outer space). So I don't think it's only down to what kinds of effects are used; it has everything to do with the fact that Abrams doesn't bother opening up the worlds he visits. Which, y'know, is totally his choice, since he's the director and that's presumably his intention. But these choices do make the movie feel far smaller than any Star Wars flick since A New Hope (and possibly smaller than ANH as well).

Edited by NBooth
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33 minutes ago, NBooth said:

Yep. With the caveat that many of those "digital" shots in the prequels were actually scale models, not CGI. In any event, the result is the same: the Prequels have a sense of scale to them that TFA clearly doesn't (with the exception I noted above). But that's not the only reason: the scenes with spaceships--which are shots that are probably entirely CGI, even in the new movie--also feel much less open than corresponding scenes in any of the Lucas films (of course, as Peter has pointed out, Abrams doesn't seem to actually like outer space). So I don't think it's only down to what kinds of effects are used; it has everything to do with the fact that Abrams doesn't bother opening up the worlds he visits. Which, y'know, he can totally choose to do, as the director. But it does make the movie feel far smaller than any Star Wars flick since A New Hope (and possibly than ANH as well).

Agreed. I'm primarily thinking of things like these contrasting images from Episode 2. The first would fit in Abrams' movie (minus the digital toad, maybe), the second, whether a model or a painting or CGI, is not the look he was going for, although it certainly gives a bigger sense of scale.

Episode-II-Return-to-Tatooine-anakin-and

the_dune_sea_and_jundland_wastes03.jpg

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Weirdly enough, the only shots in TFA that do have that sense of scale are on Jakku, the Tattooine of the movie. And they're lovely:

NEgwo4VGhfUwjo_1_b.jpg

 

22.jpg

--so it's less a matter of Abrams being unable to open up the world and more a matter of him not choosing to do so. Which--again--is his right as the director. Perhaps he wanted the world of TFA to feel more cramped, in which case he succeeded.

Edited by NBooth
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One reason for that difference, I think, is this: the aesthetics of the Prequels are recognizably indebted to wuxia films in a way that the OT isn't. Compare:

Hero (2002)

I0b3ZqYToIJt2p5gVyAOPwkitLm5QM2z_640x360

AotC (2001)

screen-shot-2012-02-18-at-21-11-07.png

--while TFA is taking its cues from ANH. But even in that case, I find the new movie cramped compared to its obvious model; the respective films both feature cantina scenes, for instance, but the one in ANH bustles while the one in TFA seems overstuffed (granted, it also occurs at the weakest point in the movie, where the demands of Doing The Hero's Journey For Everyone forces the filmmakers into some really bizarre contortions).

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morgan1098 wrote:
: Abrams used a lot of tight and medium shots filmed on location. Lucas did the same in the prequels, but then he peppered in a lot of wide panoramic shots that were obviously NOT on location, but digitally created.

Not sure how wide you're thinking, but the original Star Wars certainly had those shots on Tatooine, and The Empire Strikes Back had those aerial shots on Hoth (some of which used actual aerial background plates, others of which used miniature *models* of the Hoth landscape as part of the stop-motion animation), and Return of the Jedi took us back to Tatooine. (I don't know if any of forest shots on Endor would count as "wide", given that the trees obscure our view, but anyhoo.)

I think the Hoth example is particularly pertinent here because, as noted, at least some of those shots were actually effects shots (albeit "practical" effects rather than "digital" effects).

And then there are all the matte paintings in the original trilogy, or the forced-perspective shots (think of the scene in which Vader cuts off Luke's hand; the background was nowhere *near* as far away as it looked).

Point being, the use of effects to create a greater sense of space doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the "practical" versus "digital" debate.

NBooth wrote:
: But these choices do make the movie feel far smaller than any Star Wars flick since A New Hope (and possibly smaller than ANH as well).

Can I quote that Max Landis line again, about how there are only X-wings and TIE fighters in this film, and not A-wings or B-wings or Y-wings or TIE Interceptors, etc.? There's more than one way in which this movie feels smaller than its predecessors.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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There weren't all that many X-Wings either.  During the film when the pilots where interacting we saw their different styles of helmets (presumably according to the squadron they were in) and then heard them talking to each other about the various different squadrons.  I found myself thinking that there would only be 2 or three fighters in a squadron.

Compare that to the final battle in Jedi.

So, does this all mean the the resistance is just starting out and is a smaller operation than before?  It kind of makes one wonder whatever happened to all of those other ships?

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