‘Star Wars’ Travels Far, Far Into the Product-Branding Galaxy
14 things Star Wars fans will love about The Force Awakens.
The much-anticipated film “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens in U.S. theaters Friday (Dec. 18), and if you’re not already waiting in line to see the very first screenings, you might be worried about spoilers ruining the experience.The summer the original Star Wars came out—the chapter that George Lucas later rechristened Episode IV: A New Hope—I was 11 years old, ostensibly part of the movie’s ideal target demographic. CONTAINS SPOILERS Star Wars simply wouldn’t be Star Wars without John Williams, no matter which Abramsian master of imitation they hired in his place.
I still remember some images with the whoa-that’s-cool awe they inspired at the time: the oblique angle of the words as they disappeared into space in that opening crawl. The seventh episode of the popular sci-fi saga won over fans globally after months of secrecy surrounding the film, billed as the biggest movie release of the year. Luckily, there are two apps that could help fans of “Star Wars”–and other films, TV shows, and even sports teams–avoid unwanted spoiling of details while surfing the internet.
A recent study found that spoilers — or giving away key plot details — may not ruin an experience entirely, but can reduce suspense and decrease overall enjoyment. “Our study is the first to show that people’s widespread beliefs about spoilers being harmful are actually well-founded and not a myth,” the study’s corresponding author, Benjamin Johnson, an assistant professor of communication science at VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, said in a statement. [15 Weird Things Humans Do Every Day, and Why] Johnson and his colleagues asked 412 university students to read several short stories that they had never seen before. The Google Chrome extension Force Block, created by Priceless Misc., was specifically created to remove comments and descriptions of the new installment of the space epic from social media. But even as a middle-schooler, I never quite warmed to the Star Wars mythos, which seemed too schematic and fairy-tale–like with its white-clad princess and black-garbed, mouth-breathing bad guy. Abrams has done an honorable job and steered things away from the those horrid prequels. “The Force Awakens” feels like a genuine “Star Wars” movie, with well-executed battle scenes, light comic touches and a warm feel for its characters.
They’ve even added some more specific keywords to the program, based on info from people who have seen early screenings of the film, that will cause instant blocking. But the new is so good, as well: Rey gets an inquisitive leitmotif, announced on piano, that gives you the prickly excitement of knowing you’ve just been introduced to someone important. I preferred the cerebral sci-fi riddles and intergalactic do-gooder diplomacy of the Star Trek universe (and if we’re being honest, Trek’s Kirk and Spock did more for my incipient libido than either Luke or Han Solo). We were really excited.” The critical receipt to work done revitalising a franchise that began in 1977 and whose latest film came out 10 years ago was a “huge relief”, Kennedy added. “It sort of mirrors what I felt on the set because the atmosphere was so exciting, so loving, so full of fun … it didn’t matter what job anyone was doing, everybody felt good to be there,” he said. “Secrecy is agonising; it’s not fun,” he said. “They’re not trying to tease anyone, they’re just trying to keep the surprises for the movies instead of letting it out all on the Internet.” Newcomer Daisy Ridley, who portrays scavenger Rey, welcomed the reviews, but said there was one audience’s views she was still awaiting.
Spoiler Block, available in the Apple App Store from SynTech Creative, will block whatever keywords you set yourself–so you can use it to avoid everything from the latest twist on your favorite TV show to the score of the Patriots game. The scientists said they were curious to find if their tests would corroborate results from a 2011 study published in the journal Psychological Science.
There’s also another dramatic confrontation on a catwalk, another wise old soul who urges the heroes to return to Jedi ways, a “these are not the droids you’re looking for” moment, another Empire (renamed the First Order), another Emperor (the Supreme Leader), another Darth Vader type (Ren, played by Adam Driver) and a starting point that kicks us back to the beginning of the original film: the Jedi are nearly extinct and the Empire (oops, First Order) is being completely unreasonable. That research, somewhat unexpectedly, suggested that people actually enjoy an experience more, at least some of the time, after hearing spoilers. “What we expected was to see that some outcomes would be improved by spoilers, in keeping with the earlier study,” Johnson told Live Science. “Instead, we surprisingly found that for all the outcomes, spoilers were detrimental.” In the new study, stories that had been “spoiled” were rated as less moving, less thought provoking, and less successful at drawing the reader into a narrative world and providing an immersive experience. Amid all the reunions and warm embraces bringing us back into the fold, there’s a simple moment – it lasts just a second or two – when Leia goes right in for a Chewbacca hug, letting her face burrow down into his fur while he emits one of his great, low, trilling purrs.
Over the next few years, as the sequels (the early, real ones) rolled out, we collected action figures; spun out complementary narratives in novelizations, fan fiction, animated series, and video games; and generally wove the legend of the repressive Empire and the ragtag Resistance into our collective self-image, both as political beings and as consumers of ever more sophisticated entertainment products. Ford gives such a good performance here – leagues above his Crystal Skull comeback – but it helps that the script’s so canny at mellowing the wisecracks.
What else is the famous “1984” Apple commercial—released the year after we said goodbye to Han, Luke, and Leia at the triumphant Ewok hoedown that ends The Return of the Jedi—but a symbolic re-enactment of the victory of the brave, scrappy individualists against the faceless horde of Stormtroopers? The movie is at its best in its class-reunion moments: Fisher and Hamill lend a spark when their characters appear, and Ford gives the movie lots of heart by reprising Han Solo, once again on the run from intergalactic loan sharks.
However, a far greater number of moviegoers are more likely to catch the film over the weekend, or even a couple of weeks after opening, hoping to avoid long lines and sold-out screenings. They never come on too strong or feel crowbarred into the scene: his dialogue’s more often touchingly straightforward, as if he’s realised sarcasm is just unnecessary effort at this age. Passing over Lucas’ three early 2000s prequels in tactful silence (as befits the treatment of the vanity projects of a revered but dotty old uncle), we find ourselves, 38 years after that first blockbuster summer, still living in the pop-cultural world Star Wars built.
Every so often, a touch of the old Han springs up: there’s a brilliantly funny one-two-combo diss where he mocks Finn’s rudimentary understanding of the Force and Chewbacca’s kvetching about the weather, practically in the same breath. Abrams does have some spiffy new ideas, but he doesn’t do enough with them: Having a Stormtrooper turn traitor is brilliant, but Abrams essentially just flips the guy’s good/evil switch. Even carefully limiting Internet use and TV viewing to avoid movie reviews or related articles could be derailed by an unexpected encounter with a social media post or a stray remark that would ruin everything. Honestly, the man could make a hopeless hash of a movie and still break world box-office records, as long as there were lightsaber battles and adorable beeping robots and exploding space stations and plenty of verbal and visual callbacks to the series’ most famous moments. His sweaty panic moments are the first things to hook us concretely into the story; his fumbling curiosity about Rey is adorable; his fibs are winningly see-through; his timing’s off the hook.
The trailer already gave us a taste: but before Han and Chewy are home, Finn and Rey are clambering around inside it, practically holding their noses. It’s been sitting round back of Jakku market gathering luminous mould for what looks like centuries, in the clutches of a trader who looks like he’d sell his mother for a new hyperdrive. Sharing a screen with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill—all of whom come back to reprise their original roles—would be a tall task for any young, relatively unknown actor. Expect audience cheers the first time you glimpse it, and relish the banter between Han and Rey on board it, as they compete to show who – the old smuggler or young scavenger – can jerry-rig this clapped-out unit and get it back to light speed. And fledgling thespians cutting their teeth on Star Wars dialogue have not historically made for a very pretty sight, as those of us who survived Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman’s leaden courtship scenes can attest.
Johnson said they hope to learn how the social networks that accompany viewing experiences may inform viewing pleasure — and increase the chances of encountering spoilers. In fact, the dialogue and acting in this cast-of-thousands saga are pretty stellar across the board, not a sentence I ever thought I would type in a review of a Star Wars movie, where unforgettable performances tend to exist side-by-side with mediocre ones. He said he’ll be making some effort to avoid spoilers, but that he knows if he does run across a revealing tidbit, it’s not the end of the world. “I wouldn’t be upset, but I’m being a little bit cautious!” Johnson said. “I’ve tried to stay mostly spoiler-free in terms of actual plot. Yes, Star Wars fans: while Han Solo will always hold the number one spot, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron is definitely a serious contender for the title of Second Coolest Man in the Galaxy (C-3PO sadly doesn’t qualify because he’s a droid). FN-2187, traumatized by his first experience in battle, escapes the First Order in a stolen craft piloted by escaped prisoner Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who immediately rechristens the young man “Finn” and entrusts him—lack of experience be damned—with the co-pilot seat.
His instability gives him a certain snake-like air of danger( it’s never clear exactly when he’s going to snap) but also provides the film with some sly humour. Whenever Kylo goes into angsty-slashy mode, you get the impression his stormtroopers and crew are secretly having an “oh, god, not again” reaction. The next time around, director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) is getting a crack at Star Wars, and—though it’s doubtful how much freedom this big-bucks operation can allow for individual auteurship—maybe he will take the story and characters down a different, more experimental road. And where the cantina was the first place we met Han Solo, who organises the transport of secret plans held by Luke, Obi-wan and their droid, it’s here that Han and Chewie try to organise crafty cover for the new generation and the droid in their possession. JJ Abrams’s vision of Star Wars sticks quite rigidly to an organic, lo-fi approach, keeping CGI to space scenes and X-Wing/TIE Fighter/Millennium Falcon dogfights.
Director of Photography Dan Mindel and costume designer Michael Kaplan have worked with Abrams several times, most notably on his two Star Trek films. The pair started making films together as children 40 years ago, and Grunberg has at least cameoed in almost every film and TV show that Abrams has made since. The director calls Grunberg his lucky charm, and with good reason; it’s worth noting that he did //not// appear in the disappointing Star Trek Into Darkness. And while Tarkin’s relationship with Vader enjoyed a level of mutual respect, Hux and Force user Kylo Ren are like teenage rivals for the attention of Supreme Leader Snoke, their awful boss.
He has progressed enough that he does, eventually, realise that he’s in the way, but there’s something marvellous in his continuing inability to read a moment. A stormtrooper bursts in on a prisoner who’s being held on a First Order ship …before removing his helmet and announcing he’s here for “a rescue”. After the opening sequence (and that familiar, beautifully evocative scrolling yellow text), the film opens with a shot of space: a deep, wide place, glittering with stars and heavy with the promise of adventure. A large moon looms into sight – and then – with stately, threatening grace – a giant First Order Star Destroyer slowly passes by, blocking out the moon’s glow.
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