Star Wars: The Hype Awakens | *Updated December 2*
This is week six of The Hype Awakens, PorchDrinking.com’s Star Wars-centric journal of one passionate nerd who’s very excited for The Force Awakens to come out. If you’re new to the blog, you can catch up here:
And if you just want all the latest stuff, skip ahead here:
Sunday, November 29
Thanksgiving and Black Friday made it clear: ’tis the season for Star Wars.
This week, it’s officially socially acceptable to start playing Christmas music. Thanksgiving is over, the temperatures continue to drop, December is within grasp, and it’s the holiday season. You know that co-worker or friend who has been listening to Christmas music since before Halloween, though? That’s me when it comes to Star Wars. It’s three weeks until the big holiday, and I’ve been decorating for a month and a half now. Maybe not an apt metaphor, but you get the picture.
In any case, the day is fast approaching. And with it, the merchandising and marketing is only getting more intense. On Black Friday, there were entire shelves and floor displays of The Force Awakens stuff. There were toys, beer koozies (if anyone on the PD staff wants to do a gift exchange, you know what to get me), and even hoodies. By the way, it’s kind of weird to me to see kids wearing Kylo Ren tank tops. Until I’ve seen the movie, that just looks to me like an Adam Driver tank top.
And along with all that merch, expect spoilers. Good luck to anyone who doesn’t see The Force Awakens opening weekend. No office water cooler will be safe. That’s what the Hollywood Reporter is speculating, anyway. Spoilers will abound. Not here, though. I haven’t decided the fate of this little journal after the December 18th release – Do I review the movie? Do I quietly go away? – but I can promise that at no point will I be spoiling the movie.
To three more weeks of hype! May the Force be with us all.
Monday, November 30
I went to Disneyland again. This isn’t going to be a weekly thing, really, but it just so happens that a Disneyland opportunity presented itself again. And who am I to turn that down?
Really quickly, here’s a couple beats on Disneyland. Firstly, there’s something called Star Wars Launch Bay. It’s an extensive exhibit showing off props, costumes, and models from the Star Wars movies. I went full tourist and snapped a picture of Han Solo’s blaster and the Skywalker lightsaber. I did not, however, buy the $4,000 Darth Vader replica costume available for purchase. Or the $45 personalized cell phone cases they 3D-print on-site.
Secondly, I admit that the sight of First Order troopers got me excited. They have pre-programmed recordings they play out to freak kids out. “I know you don’t support the Resistance, because if you did, the First Order would have to crush you,” for example. They chose kids to pull out of the crowd (have I mentioned how crowded Disneyland has been lately?!) to pose with. They did not choose me. This is the disadvantage of being a 25 year old man and not a little kid.
And thirdly, there’s a “Path of the Jedi” featurette. It’s basically a 10-minute video showing an overall synopsis of the Star Wars franchise so far, followed by the full trailer for The Force Awakens. It’s not an especially amazing edit of the key moments of Star Wars, but it’s the first time I’ve seen the original Star Wars trilogy in a movie theater since the special editions in 1997, and the first time I’ve seen any of The Force Awakens in a theater. I had a grin on my face the entire time. It’s really exciting… I’m going to be doing it for real in less than three weeks.
Oh, and I also got a BB-8 sippy cup.
Thanks, Disneyland, for giving me a taste of that feeling of sitting in a movie theater and being amazed by Star Wars. I’m really excited for December 17th!
Another story, much like #ForceForDaniel, that makes it very hard to be a cynic. Star Wars fans are passionate, and their enthusiasm often manifests in ways that catch the attention of the people who actually make Star Wars.
Today’s heartwarming story of fandom with heart: 11 years ago, a fan named Albin Johnson discovered that his daughter Katie had terminal brain cancer. Fellow fans worked together to fulfill Albin’s vision; they developed a replica R2 droid to keep Katie company as a Star Wars companion while she underwent treatment. R2-KT, a pink droid who looks a lot like R2-D2, was loved by Katie until she passed away in August of 2005 at the age of 7.
Since then, R2-KT has been the symbol for charitable causes supporting Star Wars fans. She (yes, this droid is a “she”) has been to hospitals, conventions, and hospice visits for sick fans. And she’s even found her way into some Star Wars stories. She’s even been on adventures with R2-D2 in the “Clone Wars” television series.
Today, it came out that R2-KT will be in The Force Awakens (to an unknown extent; it could be as little as a cameo in the background). It’s a touching effort by Disney and Lucasfilm to honor Katie Johnson and the symbol of hope for sick fans. So when you see The Force Awakens, don’t be surprised to see the pink astromech droid. She’s already done a lot of good in our galaxy.
Tuesday, December 1
It’s finally December. This is the month when The Force Awakens comes out. Not that I’m counting or anything, but at the time when this post is published on PorchDrinking, I’ll be less than 392 hours away from seeing a new Star Wars movie.
In the spirit of the Christmas season and in the tradition of counting down, I’d like to present a great way of counting down to the approaching holiday. Nothing in the world exists anymore without an officially-licensed Star Wars product attached, and Christmas is no exception. While you’re calculating the seconds until you get to see The Force Awakens, you can also count down to Christmas with this nifty Advent calendar from Lego:
For a mere $65.90, you or a loved one can receive a calendar-like set-up with 24 slots – one for each day of December between now and Christmas. Each morning, open a slot and get the tiny
choking hazard toy of the day, which you can build in celebration of your Savior. I suggest expedited shipping, as it’s already December 1st. You can use my Prime account if you want.
I don’t worry at all that Star Wars is stealing Christmas’s thunder. There are similarities in the sort of nostalgic anticipation, joy, and eagerness to be delighted this time of year. But the holiday season by far supersedes the galaxy far, far away. Heresy, I know. But for the next three weeks, I’ll be listening to Frank Sinatra holiday radio on Pandora, not John Williams. I’m going to Christmas parties in green & red, not Jedi robes. I’m shopping for gifts to give loved ones that don’t have Disney logos branded on the corner. And I’m flying home to see my family in Cincinnati, not to Paris to see an advanced screening of The Force Awakens (HEY, a callback to week 2 of PorchDrinking’s hype journal!).
Of course there’s room for both. My Christmas tree will have a Boba Fett ornament, for example. The holidays aren’t mutually exclusive. But today is December 1st… the Christian church is officially in the season of Advent… 103.5FM is playing holiday music here in Los Angeles… There’s a lot to celebrate.
JJ Abrams was on Howard Stern, and I had a bit of an epiphany regarding what to expect from the new movie. I had heard JJ say that he was drawn to direct/co-write The Force Awakens when he considered the question of “who is Luke Skywalker?” I had misunderstood that question and its implications until hearing this latest interview. (Full interview below, but you can also just to the next paragraph where I clumsily synthesize it)
The question of “who is Luke Skywalker?” isn’t some artistic question of what motivates Luke or a contemplation on his nature. “Who is Luke Skywalker?” is what our new characters have to say about the entire Star Wars legacy. The discovery of the Force and the rise and fall of the Empire means nothing to Finn and Rey; it’s been 40 years, and they know nothing of who Luke is.
That’s a pretty cool way of looking at the galaxy in The Force Awakens. We know who Luke is and what the Millennium Falcon is and why the Emperor was evil. The people we’ll meet in The Force Awakens don’t know any of that. I know more than they do about Luke Skywalker. And I look forward to finding out along with them what has happened in the last 40 years.
Apropos of nothing…. (click the play button)
JJ also did Fallon last night, and announced that The Force Awakens will have Cantina music! From the guy who did the musical “Hamilton!”
Yes, I’m hyped. This sounds like it could be fun. Maybe even Oscar-worthy, if the “Best Song” category is a little light. And this gives my Star Wars-agnostic but Hamilton-obsessed roommate Beth one more reason to be excited to see The Force Awakens. But I can’t help but worry about the worst case scenario:
Wednesday, December 2
In Episode IV: A New Hope, shortly after we meet Han Solo, we see him confronted by a green alien bounty hunter named Greedo. Greedo demands that Han pay back his debt to Jabba the Hutt. Han does some slick talking about being on his way to pay Jabba. Greedo insults Han for dumping his smuggled cargo when he was nearly caught, costing Jabba money. As the two continue their discussion, we see each readying their respective blasters – Greedo’s above the table, and Han’s below. Han says he’ll pay over his dead body. Greedo says he’s been looking forward to that. Suddenly…
…Well, that’s a point of contention. In every release of A New Hope, Greedo gets shot by Han, and burnt to a smoldering crisp. Han tips the bartender and apologizes for the mess. But who shot first – Han or Greedo?
Here’s how the scene looked from the time of its release until 1997. Han utters his quip, we see a flash from under the table, and in the next shot, Greedo’s dead. Han looks like a cowboy – the kind who’s quick to the draw and drops his nemesis before the other guy can get a shot off.
Then something happened – George Lucas went soft. As he explained in a recent profile in the Washington Post (a great read, by the way, for WAY more than Greedo/Han beef), he felt that it was hard to reconcile the cold-blooded killer version of Han with the lovable softie who wins Leia’s heart later in the trilogy.
“Han Solo was going to marry Leia, and you look back and say, ‘Should he be a cold-blooded killer?’ ” Lucas asks.
So in the 1997 Special Edition and subsequent releases, George Lucas made Han’s killing of Greedo an act of self defense; now Greedo fires off a shot (and misses) a moment before Han.
For a better view than GIFs can offer, here’s a video comparing the shots. Skip to about 55 seconds if you’re just into the carnage.
I think it’s a silly thing for fans to bemoan; the newly altered shot is certainly more visually plausible than the awful Jabba scene in A New Hope I’ve griped about before. And whether Han shot first (and is hence heartless) or second (and is hence being softened by George Lucas), the scene still shows us a key aspect of Han’s character – he’s really good at getting out of sticky situations, and is the kind of slick cowboy who shouldn’t be messed with. It doesn’t matter who shot first.
But since George Lucas went off and doubled down on his decision in the Washington Post, fans are once again upset. I’ve been linked to the story a few times in the last couple days, and I’m ready to take a stand beyond just “it doesn’t matter.” I think Han shot first, I think it was justified, and I think it makes Han a better character.
One, it’s obvious Han shot first. He spent 20 years of unadulterated Star Wars mythology as the guy who shot first. If Greedo had shot first, it would’ve been in the 1977 cut. We even know from that awful Jabba scene that Han shot Greedo.
Next, let’s deal with the fact that Han shooting Greedo was totally fair; he doesn’t have to be a cold-blooded murderer to have shot first. Let’s go to Wookieepedia. Greedo was an easily excitable newbie in the bounty hunting game. He had a chip on his shoulder after his family was blown up by Imperials shortly after a confrontation with Han. He had dangerous accomplices and acquaintances, including Boba Fett (who later attended his funeral). And Greedo was pointing a blaster in Han’s face, talking about the price on his head. Han had every reason to think he was about to get shot. Why wait for Greedo to shoot first?
And finally, I think it’s fine that Han shot first. I disagree with George Lucas’s claim that Leia couldn’t fall in love with a guy who had shot someone in a bar. Let’s not forget that Leia becomes a bit more ruthless throughout the trilogy. She goes from calling Han a scruffy-looking nerd-herder to telling him she loves him over the course of one movie; she busts Han’s balls in the next movie when he tells her he reciprocates those feelings.
It’s almost patronizing of Lucas to pretend Leia could only fall for a Boy Scout. The fact that he’s a scoundrel is part of what makes their romance compelling. And he does soften his attitude over the course of the trilogy, and that’s good character development. By going back and changing the order of those blaster shots, George Lucas doesn’t make Han more likable… he makes him wimpy. Leia’s affection for Han isn’t possible only because he acts in self-defense; her affection is interesting because we know she and Han come from such different backgrounds and mindsets.
So does it matter who shot first? No. But I prefer to think Han shot first. Our badass cowboy pilot was slick enough to know he needed to take Greedo out, and our princess fell for a bad boy. And as for Greedo, he had it coming. He was a punk even when he fought Lil’ Vader back in The Phantom Menace: