Star Wars: The Hype Awakens | *Updated November 7*
Welcome to week two of my running journal covering the marketing, anticipation, and overall fandom leading up to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on December 18, 2015.
For an explanation of what this blog is about, see week one’s journal here. Short explanation: I love Star Wars a lot, and I’ll be posting here on PorchDrinking every day until the new movie comes out, sharing whatever I do each day to build my excitement. I hope you’ll keep coming back.
Sunday, November 1
It’s November. Not just no-shave November, or Movember, or whatever dudes are calling their facial hair trends this month. This year, November means more than Thanksgiving and the rollout of Christmas music.
As of today, I can really say that Star Wars comes out next month.
I know there’s still a long way to go (47 days, but who’s counting?!), but the hype really is continuing to build.
Quick video, I promise. People hate on George Lucas a lot for his direction (the dialogue sounds clunky, especially when it’s about romance), which is why many were relieved that J.J. Abrams would be handling The Force Awakens, not Lucas.
But if the actors themselves didn’t like George Lucas, they certainly weren’t saying so back in 1980 when Empire came out. Watch Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford answer the question of what’s different about Irving Kirshner as a director:
Monday, November 2
My girlfriend asked me if we could watch Star Wars together. She hasn’t seen any of the movies since Revenge of the Sith came out, and I think she’s looking forward to sharing the experience with me.
When we first started dating, the fact that she said she’d seen Star Wars was a relief. The fact that she allowed and understood my Star Wars references was grounds for “keeper” status. Because it’d be hard for someone like me to date someone who doesn’t like those movies.
I’m obligated to share this with you. I don’t relish this.
There’s a fan theory that Jar Jar Binks was secretly an evil genius who conspired to make the dark turn of the prequel trilogy possible. It’s floating around the internet, affectionately dubbed the “Darth Jar Jar” theory.
Take a look for yourself. I won’t dignify this lunacy with a breakdown, however snarky. This creature is not a genius, evil or otherwise:
The problem with being an adult is that no parents are around to tell you that things like this are a terrible, awful, no good, very bad way of ruining savings and getting fired for not showing up to work.
Yes, it’s true. Air France will give you free tickets to a screening of The Force Awakens two days before it’s released in the United States, for the mere price of an international airplane ticket.
Worth it, right?
Now, because I’m a researcher (and not at ALL because I want to know for my own sake), I dug a bit to figure out how much this would cost and to what extent the whole trip would be worth it.
• Roundtrip airfare to Paris on Air France flight 65 (LAX to CDG) would cost me $2,441.49 assuming I didn’t check any bags.
• I would land at 11:35AM Paris time (2:35AM in Los Angeles) on December 16.
• Let’s assume it takes awhile for the plane to get back to the terminal – I’d leave the airport terminal in Paris no earlier than 3:00AM Los Angeles time.
• Give it another couple hours to take the airport transfer (included) to the cinema, get my tickets, and find my seats in the theater. Best case scenario, Air France would have me in a theater seat at 5:00AM Los Angeles time, or 2:00PM their time (my efforts to find out what time of day Air France’s showings take place were fruitless).
• Popcorn and a drink would cost me another $15, bringing my total cost to $2,456.49
• I’d now get to see The Force Awakens at 5:00AM PT December 16, as opposed to my current tickets for 7:00PM PT December 17. I’d have given myself a head start of 38 hours.
• Price per hour of heads-up: $64.64.
That’s right. Is it worth an extra $65 to see Star Wars an hour earlier? Maybe! Is it worth $130 to see it two hours early? Ehhhh…
I admit, Air France is a wonderful airline. I’ve enjoyed flying with them on a few occasions. And their Star Wars promotion is a stroke of brilliance — for people who can afford it or are already planning European travel.
For me, I think I’ll wait until 7PM Pacific on the 17th.
Enjoy your flight, diehard fans. Thank you for flying Air France, and may the Force be with you.
Tuesday, November 3
There are so many Star Wars products out on the market, it can be overwhelming. Target has been dedicating an entire aisle to Star Wars toys, and every age group from infants to senior citizens can find branded products.
I am perhaps guilty of over-indulging in the consumer side of the Star Wars universe. In future posts here, I may share photos from the nerd-museum that is my apartment. Here are a few items in my ‘collection’ that come to mind:
• Han Solo & Stormtrooper pillowcases for couch throw pillows
• Print of this street art. I’m sure there’s a commentary against the film & TV industry, but since I work in TV I just figured it combined two things I love.
• R2-D2-shaped plush bone dog toy (for my dog, obviously)
• Unopened black-robe-Jedi Luke action figure from Return of the Jedi (incidentally, the only unopened action figure I possess – it’s not worth very much, but it’s the only self control I have exercised all these years)
The list goes on. I’ll share more over time. But even despite my addiction, there are some Star Wars branded items I don’t think I’ll be ordering for myself. And if any relatives/roommates/friends are reading… NO, you do NOT need to get me Star Wars stuff for Christmas this year. I’m good. Really. So even though these things are kinda cool, I only harbor the faintest impulse to buy, but I DO NOT need them. Capiche?
Put your cynicism on hold for the next paragraph or two. I use the term “nerd” loosely on this site, partly because I think its definition has moved to celebrate those who love pop culture. And though some disparage people whose affinity for Star Wars transcends normal fandom… there’s something deeply human about the story of Daniel Fleetwood, who is finding hope, support, and purpose in the final days of his life.
Daniel has only weeks – or maybe months – left to live. There’s a strong possibility he will pass away before The Force Awakens comes out. In addition to a GoFundMe page to help pay the bills for Daniel’s treatment, there’s a movement to push Disney to screen the new movie for Daniel before he passes away.
This isn’t a story that just makes me happy that Star Wars fans and cast members are supporting a fan. It makes me happy that human beings can be excited about fulfilling the wishes of another human. Good for everyone who has given to Daniel’s wife and sent their love – not because he likes the same movie as them, but because we can all understand the feeling of wanting to experience what we love in the time we have in life. God bless, Daniel!
Wednesday, November 4
I watched a making-of video and it made me uneasy.
The top comment on this video is right. It really is like watching an autopsy.
Just watch starting at about 54:40… that’s when you watch George Lucas realize that Phantom Menace is not a good film. A few takeaways, since hindsight is 20/20:
- I don’t even blame the actor portraying Jar Jar for how bad Jar Jar is. The direction he was given was awful. He’s a bumbling idiot. He’s the worst kind of bumbling idiot, because he directs your attention away from the action (and what inscrutable plot you might otherwise have a prayer of understanding).
- If anyone can polish a turd, it’s John Williams. I had forgotten that a lot of the musical themes of the prequel trilogies – including that ghost-like chorus – were new in Episode I. And they work; the score for the three-way lightsaber battle is pretty incredible.
- At its surface, the scene from this making-of right after the rough cut screening (about 56 minutes in) might look like a bunch of producers frustrated and disappointed in their product. But it actually plays like a bunch of people trying to cheer George Lucas up and convince him that this thing won’t bomb.
- I actually don’t think Phanton Menace gets enough credit for the things it does right. For example, I kind of want to defend the podracing scene. It has a lot of the elements of the Death Star trench scene in A New Hope or the speeder bike chase in Return of the Jedi. And watching the special effects team work, it’s clear that they did use some practical effects, and a lot of the CGI eggs were put in this basket. Yes, the screen was inundated with computer-generated aliens and landscapes, but for 10 minutes, this movie made me believe podracing was a thing. But, with that said…
- … I was nine years old when this movie came out. I was way more forgiving in 1999 than I would be now.
- Dunno why people were worried about the movie bombing. The Phantom Menace made $431 million in 1999, which would be closer to $600 million today, adjusting for inflation.
- Despite the temptation to worry about what this means for The Force Awakens – we were all hyped 16 years ago, and this one could disappoint us too – I’m really not worried. I will probably get into the reasons for that in future posts, but the short explanation is that I really do just trust that Disney, Abrams, Kasdan, Kennedy, and the actors – including the original trio!!! – will do right by audiences.
Disney released these today. Graphic designers may have beef with the hyper-photoshopped, super-focused images with closeups of 5 of our characters holding weapons (or standing behind a screen, in Leia’s case) and covering one eye, for whatever reason. But graphic designers would also have a problem with the terrible job I did of slapping these 5 images into 1 single off-center, poorly-pasted collage.
Read into it now, fandom! Why no Luke? Why no Poe (Oscar Isaac)? Why no droids or Chewbacca? Did they just not have anything cool for C-3PO to hold in front of his right eye? Can you see Jar Jar behind Han Solo? (you can’t)
Posters don’t do much for me, honestly. A trailer that shows an X-Wing in attack position firing on a TIE fighter — that gets my heart racing. And these posters will be nearly ubiquitous for the next 6 weeks, so I’ll have plenty of time sitting in traffic to check them out on billboards and those weird fences they put around construction sites.
Thursday, November 5
It’s time for you to meet Wookieepedia.
This is exactly what you think it is. This is Wikipedia for Star Wars nerds. (For those who really don’t get the Wookieepedia pun… Wookiees are the alien species of which Chewbacca is a member. If you don’t know who Chewbacca is, I can recommend any of the many AWESOME articles on PorchDrinking and wish you a nice day).
Wookieepedia has been my go-to source for Star Wars knowledge. It’s where I go whenever I try to remember the name of that dude who Vader force-chokes after the Milennium Falcon escapes (Captain Needa, by the way). It’s where to find out where Dantooine is, or how Han & Chewbacca met, or what the formal name is for those chicken-walker things.
It’s also loaded with details from all the comics, books, and video games that takes place outside of the six Star Wars films. That’s where my fandom starts to wane a bit. I’m the kind of Star Wars nerd who knows that lightsabers are made using special crystals, but couldn’t for the life of me tell you what planet those crystals come from.
Wookieepedia is the place for that.
A few years ago, there was a disagreement among my friends Jake, Tim, Lang, Amir, and myself over whether or not Darth Vader could really technically be called a Sith in the original trilogy, given that the word “Sith” is never used and there’s no indication he underwent any formal training.
We were all single at the time, by the way.
We found Wookieepedia to settle the argument. I think one of us even tried to edit Wookieepedia to make the article match our own answer. We did the same thing when Tim tried to convince us that there was once actually a trailer for Revenge of the Sith that used the awful pun “Sith Happens.” Tim was right, unfortunately.
Anyway, yes, I’ve been reading Wookieepedia recreationally. I’m sure I’ll eventually tackle the issue of Extended Universe canon. In other words, now that Disney is writing what happens to Han, Luke, and Leia after Episode VI, we can forget about their stories from books. Can we also forget about the stuff other books told us about the Star Wars universe? And how seriously can I take what I read on Wookieepedia about The Force Awakens stuff, like who the heck Kylo Ren is?
I dunno. But now you can do research along with me, if you want.
This is how you do trailer remixes properly…
Whenever a highly-anticipated movie comes out, there’s inevitably a wave of people doing their own home edits. The Lego version of the Hunger Games trailer. The Jurassic World trailer audio over clips of Guardians of the Galaxy. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection is capable of making these. And not all are great.
This one is great.
Keep in mind this footage is all 30-40 years old. And yet when stitched together, I see it and go, “I would definitely see that movie.” It’s a testament either to how great the score/format of the Force Awakens trailer is, or to how great the footage of the original trilogy is. In either case, it shows that the themes present in the first three Star Wars films are being strategically echoed in the new film.
THIS is effective hype. And it even has me excited for my re-watch of Episodes IV-VI.
Friday, November 6
STOP WHATEVER YOU ARE DOING. THERE’S ANOTHER TRAILER.
This just came out. Ignore the Japanese subtitles. I’ve already watched this three times, and I’m only stopping before my fourth viewing to post it here.
Impressions: BB-8 is talkative. The stormtroopers have some pretty cool new gear (and that TIE fighter in the sunset shot is gorgeous). Threepio has a new arm. Kylo could really hurt Rey there! Also, not sure how Rey’s staff is any match for the other weapons in the universe. Chewy blows some stuff up. Someone is really hurt there, but Lupita Nyong’o says there’s hope.
On Tuesday, I wrote about Daniel Fleetwood, a Star Wars fan in Houston who wanted to see the new film before passing away from his terminal cancer diagnoses. The social media reaction was fervent, and Disney heard. Daniel’s wife shared this update on Facebook:
Happy to hear that Daniel got his wish. Like I said, it’s really hard to be cynical about this story. Good work by Disney and all the Star Wars fans who promoted this cause.
Saturday, November 7
What’s the order of Star Wars movies from best to worst? I’ve had a couple occasions to think about this lately. First, I saw this video of Mark Hammil where he’s asked for the proper order in which to watch the six films.
Luke Skywalker’s response? He doesn’t watch the movies. Because it’s too easy to become self-critical. I get that. The man LIVED the Star Wars – no need to watch them as obsessively as a lot of us.
But then my roommate Allyssa (hi, Allyssa!) was watching Empire Strikes Back with her friend when I came home last night. Same roommate who was being shown Star Wars for the first time last week. And we got into a discussion about how Empire ranks among the original trilogy. For me, there are really three points in time from which I can rank the movies.
From best to worst:
- First time seeing them: VI, IV, V – Empire seemed too dark, gritty, not as neat
- Adolescence: V, IV, VI – The campiness of Jedi wore off, and goodness gracious, Empire is a well-done film
- Including prequels: V, IV, VI, III, II, I – The prequels are clearly inferior, even if they got better as they went along.
Interestingly, though, I think A New Hope is kind of the most complete as a stand-alone movie. There’s a beginning, middle, and end. And of all six movies, I think the narrative arc of the first Star Wars films is the most complete and satisfying in the genre of sci-fi western that George Lucas set out to create. I’m being reductive here, but this is how the plot goes on each of the six movies:
- New Hope Beginning: Farm boy wants to get away and do something epic. Middle: Farm boy finds himself in the middle of a rebellion against the forces of evil. End: Farm boy helps his friends beat the bad guys, and embraces his destiny as a hero.
- Empire B: The bad guys are back with a vengeance. M: Our hero trains, while his friends unwittingly fall into a trap. E: Everyone’s screwed. Also, take it away Family Guy clip…
- Jedi B: The hero rescues everyone who was screwed. M: A re-hash of the same threat from the first movie. E: YOU get a happy resolution! YOU get a redemption! YOU get a teddy bear dance number
- Phantom Menace B: Socio-economic and political peek at the universe. Really. M: Hijinks with Jar-Jar and podracing. E: Quick and heavy-handed exposition for the whole Obi-Wan/Anakin friendship
- Clones B: Forced romantic tension. M: Fan service (clones, Boba Fett…) E: A wedding.
- Sith B: Some fighting and lots of talk about the dark side. M: More dark side, and then we meet Luke & Leia as babies.
Oh, yikes. It kinda looks like I’m being negative about the movies there. I’m not. I just want to point out that once the complete narrative arc of New Hope was complete, all the movies that came after filled in pieces of the mythology that made us curious or left us with questions. And in that ever-expanding universe, I think Empire did the best job of standing on its own as a movie.