Star Wars : The Hype Awakens | *Updated November 21*
Check out week one, week two, or week three of this blog if you haven’t yet. They sort of explain what’s going on here. But the long story short is this: I love Star Wars. And every single day between now and the release of The Force Awakens, I’ll be writing on PorchDrinking.com to explain my passion for the franchise and share in all the excitement leading up to the new movie’s release.
Sunday, November 15
Late entry here today. I was in a beautiful place called Big Bear, California this weekend enjoying some rest & relaxation with friends. Big Bear is about 2 hours outside of Los Angeles at an altitude of nearly 7,000 feet. This time of year, it’s 30-40 degrees colder than most of LA, and the mountainous landscape looks like something out of a Bob Ross painting.
My adventures in Big Bear were mostly of the giant-pancakes, rum-and-hot-cider, wearing-slippers-by-a-fire variety. Not much internet browsing, which is nice. But even in this remote location with all mom and pop shops and tranquility, the hype is strong.
The mug’s tagline, for those who are unable to make out the low-res photo, is as follows:
May the Forest be with you.
Yes, this is incredibly cheesy. Yes, I know this is cheap tacky tourist schlock. And yes, despite temptation, I did manage to resist buying any Star Wars inspired Big Bear goods.
But I’m all rested and ready for a week of hype (and, oh yeah, work).
Monday, November 16
So, I think I’ve reached a crossroads on new footage.
Oh, right… MORE NEW FOOTAGE
The TV spots for The Force Awakens continue to steadily stream out. There have been half a dozen or so in the last couple weeks. And here’s the latest one, which has me tapping the brakes on revealing more about Star Wars.
Again, skip these couple bullet points if you are spoiler-averse, because I’m about to list the things I saw which left me wishing I’d saved their reveal for a few more weeks:
- Rey in the Falcon, Finn on the guns, no Han in sight; it’s beginning to look like they stole the thing in the beginning of the movie
- The castle we’ve seen Han & Finn walk into… getting blown to smithereens.
These aren’t just cool shots. They’re plot. I don’t really love that. The full trailer’s shot of an X-Wing blowing up a TIE fighter (below) was awesome. Because it was eye candy. It was a classic Star Wars shot that could mean anything and didn’t give anything away. It was a visually appealing shot that resonated emotionally because of what the Star Wars films have meant to me. And it got me excited to see the story. The shot itself was not the story.
The latest TV spots reveal story. Which is problematic for me. I don’t particularly want to know before December 17 which character is destined to become a Jedi, or whether Kylo Ren survives, or what has happened to Luke Skywalker over the last 30 years.
Which brings me to JJ Abrams, who is at the fulcrum of Star Wars fandom lately.
In 2007, JJ Abrams delivered a TED talk about his idea of the “mystery box.” Full video below, followed by my own reactions for anyone who doesn’t have 18 minutes handy:
Mystery is the catalyst for imagination…. at times, mystery is more important than knowledge.
Yup. Star Wars is a universe that sparks the imagination and leaves gaps unfilled. It asks questions (Who are the Jedi? What is the Force? How are all these star systems connected?) that it doesn’t necessarily answer. That’s why the prequels disappointed people who didn’t even LIKE getting answers – we don’t want midichlorians to be the answer that explains the Force. That same concept – inviting mystery – is why JJ Abrams is a great fit for the galaxy far far away. This is the guy who invented the island from Lost, after all.
JJ Abrams is someone who believes you should experience movies NOT knowing what you’re about to see. He wants his movies to confound you, surprise you, and along the journey raise questions in your mind. He thinks a curious audience is better than a jaded audience.
I really believe The Force Awakens is going to be one of my favorite movies of all time. And because of that, right now I am a dream audience member for JJ Abrams. I have things I hope will happen, things I’m afraid will happen, and a general feeling of uneasiness about what I’m going to experience. And personally, I find that exciting. Why would I want to give that up just to gain some knowledge about which characters – if any – might die during this movie.
Watch JJ’s TED talk. Sometimes hype means NOT trying to find out every morsel you can.
The fine folks over at the AV Club are also pretty keen on dissecting hypotheticals relating to the minutiae of Star Wars. There’s a headline on their site today: “What’s the better Star Wars vehicle for the suburban teen: podracer or landspeeder?”
They even had their graphics people work up a nice picture for those nerf-herders who don’t know what podracers and landspeeders look like.
I can’t hate on this article at all. They are overlooking one fact, however. At the time of The Phantom Menace, little Anakin Skywalker claimed to be the only human who could pilot a podracer. So as a human, I can’t help but feel that landspeeder was my best option.
Which Star Wars vehicle is your teenage dream? https://t.co/xPQvX8ksaP
— The AV Club (@TheAVClub) November 16, 2015
This is as good a time as any to recall this fond memory from my childhood…
Growing up, one of the most sacred places on earth to me was my grandfather’s workshop in the basement of his house. Popper (short for Pop-Pop) has a very impressive wood shop where he has made cabinets, designed play sets for his grandkids, fixed decks, and crafted furniture which adorns his house.
When I was six, having freshly seen A New Hope, I wanted my Popper to make me one of the ships from Star Wars in his wood shop.
Popper made me a landspeeder (well, his own modified version of Luke’s landspeeder). It was awesome. Plenty of Star Wars action figures cruised around my bedroom in that speeder on adventures of my own making. Despite all the plastic models and officially licensed merchandise in my collection, the hand-made wooden landspeeder was always one of my favorite Star Wars toys because Popper made it for me and no one else had one.
So, AV Club… I’m voting landspeeder.
Tuesday, November 17
I mentioned the AV Club’s fun would-you-rather yesterday. Turns out, it’s Star Wars week there, which means they’ll be churning out Star Wars essays, roundtables, and other content all week. What I’d give to be a part of those pitch meetings. And though I promise not to just shamelessly steal their content all week, I do want to share some of the especially noteworthy posts on AV Club.
Today’s offering includes a list of 18 pitches for Star Wars spinoff movies. Some are absolutely absurd — there’s a suggestion for a dance movie based on the green-skinned dancers in Return of the Jedi.
Other ideas are a bit more plausible and maybe even good pitches. For example, wouldn’t it be cool to see a gritty Western-style movie about bounty hunters who aren’t Boba Fett? Haven’t you always wondered what Obi-Wan was up to on Tatooine in the decades between trilogies? I’d see those movies.
You know how comic book superheroes have rules against killing? Batman has a vow to just punch people out, not kill them. Superman doesn’t kill people (except when he does). Well, Luke Skywalker doesn’t have that problem. Our heroes in Star Wars kill bad guys.
One fan has even gone back and compiled a super-cut of all of Luke’s kills.
This is why my parents were so reluctant to buy me a toy lightsaber when I was a kid. They didn’t want me to turn into a laser-sword-wielding, space-station-exploding, blaster-happy rebel and bringer of death for 369,470 souls.
For all the talk of whether or not Luke Skywalker will have turned to the dark side in The Force Awakens, maybe we ought to consider how light the light side of the force really is.
(No, not really. Go Luke!)
Wednesday, November 18
The Force Awakens comes out in theaters December 18.
You know what’s really crazy? So do a few other movies. Believe it or not, three other motion pictures are premiering on the same day as the new Star Wars movie. It’s almost enough to feel bad for any movie that has to compete with what may become the largest film opening of all time. So who are these unfortunate few films?
Mojin: The Lost Legend
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip
I don’t think any of these poses a real threat to the box office numbers for Disney. I like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I’ve seen Baby Mama and Mean Girls and even Admission. I’ll probably suggest a Redbox viewing of Sisters at some point in the future. But I’m not going to see it opening weekend. You know what movie I’m going to see opening weekend? The Force Awakens.
It’s not an enviable position to open opposite Star Wars. Millions of dollars will pour in through the theaters next month, and several movies are going to have to just hope to get ticket sales from kids, Tina Fey diehards, and people who got to the theater & found out The Force Awakens was sold out. I ran some numbers on other films that have opened the same weekend as Star Wars movies. It’s not a happy story.
May 21, 1999:
- The Love Letter starring Ellen DeGeneres & Jack Black makes $2,693,000.
- Star Wars: The Phantom Menace makes $64,820,000.
May 17, 2002:
- About a Boy starring Hugh Grant makes $8,557,000.
- Star Wars: Attack of the Clones makes $80,027,000.
May 19, 2005:
- Dominion starring Stellen Skarsgard makes $140,000.
- Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith makes $108,435,000.
Good luck, Tina & Amy!
I love this fan re-creation of the trailer.
Its cheapness is endearing, and belies the considerable effort obviously put into getting these shots. Yes, it has a lot of construction paper, cardboard, and old football pads. But it is a shot-for-shot remake. And there’s humor in how silly some of the effects are.
It reminds me of this awesome project called “Star Wars Uncut” where the entire movie (New Hope and Empire) is cut together using nothing but 15-second clips submitted by fans. The result is a mish-mash of styles, accompanied by varying qualities of acting, costume, special effects, and set design. Jump around a bit. It’s worth checking out, especially when you really feel like watching Star Wars but can’t find your DVDs.
Thursday, November 19
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes Star Wars would be the massive success it is without the music. John Williams composed the score for A New Hope, and everything from the opening fanfare to the Imperial march theme has become so ingrained in our understanding of those movies. Think about Darth Vader walking toward you — this is what you hear:
In a prior Hype Awakens post, I even showed video of George Lucas joking about how audiences are willing to suspend disbelief and forgive the use of CGI because they’ll be too enamored of the music to care.
For Star Wars fans, news that Williams was returning for The Force Awakens was (forgive me) music to their ears. Even John Boyega and Daisy Ridley could barely contain their excitement when they were present to witness Williams conducting his orchestra.
Just how important is John Williams’s music? Check out this video from Auralnauts which re-creates the audio from the end of A New Hope without the score from John Williams. The results are hilarious and uncomfortable. 35 seconds in (and then again at 1:35), the Chewbacca impression is my favorite Chewbacca impression of all time.
But what I REALLY want to talk about here today more than anything else… is the Cantina Band song. You know the one. Here’s 10 hours of it.
As soon as you hear this song, it will be stuck in your head all day. And then you’ll find yourself in a YouTube worm hole of every single parody, cover, remix, and fan-created version of the Cantina Band song. But before we fall down that wormhole… did you know that the Cantina Band song actually has a NAME?!?!
George Lucas wanted to have a musical number that sounded the the jitterbug. John Williams came up with this song, basing it on Benny Goodman music. Lucasfilm actually gave the song a name – “Mad About Me” – and has official backstories for the Cantina Band. The band is actually called Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes. The aliens playing those instruments are known as the Bith race, and that clarinet-lookin’ thing is called a Fanfar.
Have I mentioned how much I love Wookieepedia?
Now, without further ado, join me for a slew of “Mad About Me” (aka Cantina Band song) videos…
Family Guy’s “Blue Harvest” episode…
College Humor gives us Cantina Band auditions, including a great Reggie Watts performance…
Perfect synchronicity with LMFAO, believe it or not…
Obligatory Drake reference….
The Noize Tank remix…
Hand farts only…
Paul F Tompkins and Scott Aukerman a capella, from “Comedy Bang Bang”…
I have watched all of these. It’s time for me to take a break. Enjoy having that song stuck in your head for the rest of your day.
Friday, November 20
Let’s talk about Jabba.
Since his creation, Jabba the Hutt has been the epitome of George Lucas’s unfortunate tendency to meddle and re-tool his creation with universally bad results.
When I first saw Return of the Jedi, I was simultaneously grossed out, scared of, and impressed by the giant slug called Jabba the Hutt. He looked life-like; the texture of the gunk on his skin was a nauseating detail that just added to his menacing character. I bought that he was a despicable and ruthless gangster who people feared throughout the galaxy.
It’s an impressive visual effect accomplished not through computer wizardry, but from expert puppetry and materials engineering. Here’s a photo that my girlfriend shared with me (hi!) recently, showing how Jabba was given motion, personality, and a really gross tongue on set.
But then when my family got me the Special Edition VHS tapes, I was surprised to see that Jabba showed up in A New Hope to threaten – and then be bullied by – Han Solo.
This is awful. Nothing about Jabba looks real here. His coloring looks like someone spray-painted him. His facial expressions look unnatural. Han’s movement as he steps on Jabba’s tail defies plausibility (and physics). He’s small in stature. His personality is considerably more mild and passive than his 1983 counterpart in Jedi.
Why on earth did this scene get inserted into the Special Edition VHS release?
I then realized very recently that back when Harrison Ford filmed that scene for A New Hope, Jabba wasn’t a giant slimy slug. He was a giant human, dressed like one of the Night’s Watch from “Game of Thrones.”
It’s a big departure from what I had always known of Jabba the Hutt. The behind-the-scenes story goes like this, according to Wookieepedia:
In Declan Mulholland’s scenes as Jabba, Jabba is represented as a rotund Human dressed in a shaggy fur coat. George Lucas has stated his intention was to use an alien creature for Jabba, but the special effects technology of the time was not up to the task of replacing Mulholland. In 1997, the “Special Edition” re-releases restored and altered the original scene to include a computer-generated portrayal of Jabba.
I really don’t think the special effects technology of 1997 was up to the task, either. And since 1997, my impression of Jabba the Hutt has been marred by the really awful-looking appearance in the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi. There was even a CGI-heavy dance number added.
That song even has a name – “Jedi Rocks.“ The band has a name, too – they’re the Evar Orbus and His Galactic Jizz-Wailers. No, that is NOT a typo. Their lead singer is Sy Snootles. This dance number replaced the song from the original, which was written by John Williams’ son. The lyrics to “Jedi Rocks” are available. Sing along, everybody!
Koo nee tang, na’ na’ na’, ah lawah. Koo nee tang!
Cha tung ee-ma chay-choo raun ta-nee-ee-choo.
Ee-ma chay-choo raun.
Ko-nee nan-kee chong noy khan chay-chee-kum, oooh. Chee ka koo-ja oo pa-pa chee-ka-nang kee hey.
Chee-ka nang kee hey.
You bang ris-pa ka may wang pee-ya nay. Yeeaa!
Oo-la-wang choo koo-chee-kee-pa-tie tan-ga ris-pa ta ya lee oh. Yo! Ahh! Yal-lie!
Ee-ma tsa-ka-moo nan-kee say yal-lee oo ya see, poe no!
Chun-kee sal-la ma-na na-too pa.
Zai ya la.
Hay koo-ma zai ya la.
Do koo chee.
Hoy hat-chi doo-ka!
The meddling CGI alterations George Lucas made in re-releases are at their worst when it comes to Jabba. And it hasn’t gotten better with time. Jabba’s Presence in The Phantom Menace – released in 1999 – was not much of an improvement.
What I’m really trying to say here is that I really hope there aren’t any Hutts on Jakku or any other planet in the new trilogy.
Oh, right. Just remembered this is a craft beer site. So it’s only fair to post this:
I love when brands use Star Wars references for humor, not phony “branded” content to capitalize on marketing potential.
Saturday, November 21
To get hyped today, I took a trip down memory lane and watched the trailers for the original trilogy of Star Wars movies. Once upon a time, Star Wars was not an international cinematic, marketing, and merchandising empire. It was a movie. And this is what the studio released to promote the very first Star Wars film:
Maybe it’s the nearly 40 years of video conversion or the complete lack of color correction, but this does look like the trailer for a very campy B-movie. The slowly-approaching “STAR WARS” graphic that then explodes before our eyes belies the amazing special effects offered up by ILM.
At this point, though, Star Wars was brand new to EVERYONE. The whole world was just like me at age 6, wondering what the heck this space movie was. Consider, then, that once A New Hope became known and beloved in 1977, the pressure was on for The Empire Strikes Back to match that fervor in 1980. Here’s the trailer for that movie:
Clearly, this trailer is trying to show off that it has amped up a lot of the action. Many people have commented that the lightsaber battle in A New Hope was kind of lame. The Empire trailer loudly declares that it has intense dueling, and a lot of shooting. And a lot of explosions. This is an action movie trailer: it gives away no plot details, and yet it makes you REALLY wanna see that movie. Especially since you thought maybe you’d get to see C-3PO’s whiny butt get destroyed permanently.
Finally, in 1983, the trailer for Return of the Jedi promised wrap up the series.
This trailer just says things that are in the movie. There aren’t even full sentences, just thoughts. I love it. It’s like the guy making the trailer is phoning it in because he KNOWS the entire planet is going to see the movie no matter what. And did they really re-use the “aliens thousand worlds” line?
Poor people back in 1983 didn’t have the option to re-watch trailers over and over on YouTube, pausing to pick up tiny little details.
Speaking of which….