“Everything’s changed but nothing’s changed”

So this past weekend the San Diego Comic Convention happened. Some people like to call this event SDCC, while others refer to it as “ComicCon”. It’s considered to be the biggest and most prestigious of all the dozens of Comic Conventions that happen in North America every year. That’s sort of like saying Wendy’s is the type of fast food that is least likely to do damage to you if you eat it all the time. It’s still fast food, people.

Starting in 1970 with not more than 100 attendees, it has now grown to a mutli-day event with thousands of people filling the halls to see exhibits, listen to panels, see sneak previews, meet cast members, authors, celebrities of every geekish stripe. There may even be a bit of cosplay that happens. Fair warning.

So anyway, back in April I wrote about the release of  the second trailer for the Star Wars movie. I think people are calling it “Trailer 2”. At that time I wondered aloud whether I would remain ignorant of any more information about the movie or would I go ahead and devour up every last factoid I could garner.

Well Friday night was my first test. J.J Abrams had the main hall (“Hall H” to those in the know) booked for his Star Wars panel. I can’t actually remember what I was doing Friday night, but it feels like I was multi-tasking. Maybe watching baseball? At any rate I walked the line between knowing and not knowing because I didn’t (and still haven’t) watched the footage of the main panel. I DID keep tabs on people’s twitter feeds though, and I couldn’t help but retweeting some of the more excellent details. Like this: JJ Abrams brought out his producer Kathleen Kennedy, who had a hand in just about every excellent thing in the last 35 years, including E.T., Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, and this little gem that I love love love: Young Sherlock Holmes, and JJ’s screenwriter, Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote a little something called “Raiders of the fuckin’ Ark” and “The Empire Fucking Strikes Back”. What more do you need? Well, I’ll tell you: he then brought out the so called “Heroes” of the new movie and talked to them for a bit, then the “villans”, and then as a lovely treat out came Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and yes: Harrison Ford, his first public appearance since he crashed that plane back in the spring.

The three amigos.

The three amigos.

It was a lovely moment to see these three together again. I never thought I would.

At these events it is usually customary to show a new trailer, or some footage, or something to “wet” the “whistles” of the collective fandom.

But J.J. Abrams did something even cooler.

He assembled a sort of “behind the scenes” montage on the making of the movie. And it focused not so much on the technical wizardry, but more on the experience of the actors and the designers going through the process. It’s brilliant, and I watched it through twice that very night (as soon as it was leaked) and I watched it again the next morning about 3 times with my daughter who wanted to see it again and again. If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is:

It’s not quite four minutes long, but it really captures the feeling that must have permeated the sets through all of principle photography. You get to see a very Star Warsian desertscape, and then a shot of the interior hallways of the Millennium Falcon, as comforting as it is nostalgic, then our first shot of R2D2 followed quickly by a shot of the newly designed Stormtroopers, The old and the new. The darkness and the light.

They stress a couple of times in the clip that even with all the digital technology available to movie makers, many of the shots were based in practical locations. I love the sequence of showing the production painting of the crashed tie fighter (McQuarrie tribute!), followed by the model, followed by the full scale set burning out in the desert somewhere. Even Mark Hamill himself says that “everything’s changed but nothing’s changed” in terms of the film-making process. And did that shot show that they were actualling filming on “film”? Is that what we saw?

I love how the younger cast members can hardly seem to keep from geeking out that they are in a Star Wars film, and then it shows the shot of JJ addressing the cast and crew on the first day of filming and the sound of his voice almost breaking.

I also love the fact that it seems like so much of the film ties back to the original trilogy, and we see shots of Harrison Ford and Anthony Daniels with looks of almost incredulity and awe on their faces that this is, in fact, actually happening. We get to see Carrie Fisher in full costume and I just HOPE TO GOD that she gets to take someone or something out with a lightsaber at some point. Isn’t is sweet how she takes JJ’s face in her hands at one point?

I love the designer who said that it’s not every day you get to build an x-wing or the Millennium Falcon and that he came to work smiling.

I love that Simon Pegg (Peggy to his friends!) is in this, apparently as some random alien, maybe. And that he seems to be having the time of his life.

I love that they had to replace the Chewie costume frequently because whenever anyone saw Peter Mayhew in it they just wanted to give him a hug. I love that they HAVE Peter Mayhew in the damn costume, and that you get to hear him make a little “Chewie” noise in this clip.

And I love that the last shot is of Harrison Ford settling into the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, along with Daisy, a new character, with JJ looking on from the front. If one single shot could say everything that needed to be said about “passing the torch” to a new generation, this would be it.

I think JJ was so smart to show us how people are feeling about this project, rather than release another trailer. I’m sure we’ll get another full trailer before December, and yes: fanbase, I will probably blog about it. We certainly don’t NEED another trailer, though. I think this movie will do JUST FINE on its own at this point.

Showing us the human element in some way absolves JJ and crew of turning out perfection, because let’s say it right now: this movie will be a disappointment on some level. People’s expectations are such that even if they produce a solid next chapter that bridges the gap between the original trilogy and this next generation, we will still find things lacking. It’s just the way fans are. But if they fail, it will be failure with all the right intentions, and I can’t fault anyone for trying. (Plus, I have this thing for JJ Abrams. I just love him and what he’s all about.)

If we can go by what we see in this clip, this production has a totally different feel to the cold, antiseptic look and feel of the prequels. Rather than have an actor stand in front of a green screen and talk to a mop, it looks like actors are actually out in the desert interacting with each other (and with puppets.) That’s what we want to see, right? Real interactions, real sunburns, real hair blowing in the real wind, real man/puppet action (or lady/puppet action, if that is your particular cup of tea). Or as real as you can make it, considering it is just a movie.

I mean, it’s still just a movie, right?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to ““Everything’s changed but nothing’s changed”

  1. I might even go see it,

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