When I was a kid, the original Star Wars trilogy had ended years before my birth. When the new prequel trilogy was announced I, like everyone else, excitedly gasped and hoped for a new trilogy to have as being part of their own generation. Well, we all know how that went. When a new Star Wars movie is announced, it’s hard not to get excited. It’s Star Wars! But, so much disappointment has been commonplace.
The Force Awakens has a lot to live up to, and whether it lives up to that hype is irrelevant because there’s a new spectacle that awaits us, and we just hope that it engages our imagination.
J.J. Abrams put a lot of work into this upcoming film and after seeing the latest trailer, we have more than a glimmer of hope that The Force Awakens will be a damn good movie, perhaps even the inter-generational Star Wars masterpiece we’ve been praying for.
1.The Force Awakens Was Shot On Film
Digital technology has come a long, long way and consumer products like DSLRs and prosumer products like the RED cameras have taken digital cinematography to great heights previously only dreamed of only ten years ago. But even with these beautiful achievements in technological advancement, nothing comes close to film. In a theater-going experience, a 35mm film reel is going to make any 4k digital presentation look inferior. And a huge, movie-going experience like Star Wars deserves the best of the best.
The last two entries, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith were an experimental playground to test the limits of digital cinematography and their presentation certainly showed it.
2. Star Wars Episode 7 Will Use Practical Effects
A large part of the charm of Star Wars, in its glory days, was seeing an actual, realized world in a different galaxy. The special effects didn’t necessarily look like special effects, they looked like the landscapes and spacecrafts of a world that’s been lived in. Some of the ships were dirty and had rust showing—hell, some of the ships barely even functioned at all. And the best part was that it was all real and it was all filmed with objects and models that existed in reality. It helped us buy into the illusion that George Lucas & Co. were selling us. They showed us that this world was alive with creation and asked us to take part in it.
While I’m sure there will be an abundance of digitally-created effects and wholly CGI scenes, the behind-the-scenes photos have shown us actual ships and actual creature costumes. CGI is a brilliant tool for filmmakers, but an effect that exists on-set and in-camera is going to look a hell of a lot more believable because it’s REAL.
3. JJ Abrams Is Using Real Sets
If an in-camera effect inspires awe just by being there and being real, an actual set—not a digital concoction created in post, replacing a green screen—is a warming welcome to our imaginative flight of fancy. There’s something about fake sun bleeding through a fake window and creating an artificial glow on an actor’s skin. It looks alien, but not in a good way. This isn’t like seeing Hoth or Dagobah, alien worlds that hold mystery and wonder. Digital sets look alien in a grotesque “uncanny valley” sense… something displeasing to the eye–something so close to mimicking real life, but missing a certain je ne sais quoi.
When actors engage each other in a world that’s been constructed around them to be interacted with, something magical happens. A movie’s importance is equal parts direction, writing, performance and visual (not to mention sound, obviously). When a performance isn’t being hindered by a phony lighting effect or hindered by having nothing to see in reality, it is allowed to grow and take on a life its own.
4. A Self-Imposed Limitation On Past References
For the sake of storytelling, JJ Abrams has decided to keep references to other Star Wars entries to an absolute minimum. As much as we, the loving audience, adore references to past works within the same set-universe, too many references can take you out the moment. It gets to a point where… you know, when it comes to references to past works, the Internet’s got that covered. When we go to a new movie, we want to see new things.
According to JJ Abrams:
“So there are, of course, references to things, and some are very oblique so that hopefully the audience can infer what the characters are referring to. We used to have more references to things that we pulled out because they almost felt like they were trying too hard to allude to something. I think that the key is—and whether we’ve accomplished that or not is, of course, up to the audience—but the key is that references be essential so that you don’t reference a lot of things that feel like, oh, we’re laying pipe for, you know, an animated series or further movies. It should feel like things are being referenced for a reason.”
Although, if we’re lucky, it’s been hinted that we might see a quick glimpse of Jar-Jar’s skeleton! So, there’s that!
5. Emphasis is on Original Trilogy, NOT Prequel Trilogy
I don’t want to keep harping on the prequel trilogy—rarely justified trolls have beaten that horse into compost. That’s not what I want to do at all. What I want to do is encourage excitement for the newest Star Wars movie, and the best encouragement that I can think of is that it has less to do with the 1999-2005 movies and much more to do with the 1977-1983 movies. Characters who were our first guides to the universe and helped us love it are coming back. These are the guys we care about. Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie (and apparently Lando, hopefully, down the line). When you close your eyes and think Star Wars, the original trilogy has the first memories to appear: The sounds—that John Williams score, the swish and hum of a light saber, Chewbacca’s growl. The sights—the desert landscape of Tattooine, the towering Walkers attacking the base on Hoth, Darth Vader’s terrifying mask.
Audiences loved Star Wars because there were so many stories to be told. It wasn’t just about this and it wasn’t just about that. It was about the mystics and the scoundrels. It was about the outlaws and the plucky fish-out-of-water. It was about seeing ourselves up there on that screen in a galaxy far, far away and wondering who we would align with if we were there ourselves.