Last night I finally got around to catching up on the glut of geek culture that came out of last week’s San Diego Comic-Con. So much amazing stuff was revealed and shown off! So much of that stuff was dead to me the moment I watched the official Star Wars: The Force Awakens Comic-Con reel.
I realise that’s a little unfair; there isn’t much in pop culture that can stand up to the juggernaut that is Star Wars at this moment in time. Sorry Batman vs. Superman. Sorry Suicide Squad. Sorry amazingly detailed Hulk Buster toy that moves and even has a Tony Stark inside an Iron Man suit INSIDE the Hulk Buster. You’re cool and all, but the Star Wars Comic-Con Reel had me tearing up. As in, I literally sat there wiping away tears towards the ending.
I’m very manly like that.
I’m one of those Star Wars nerds. I have been for most of my life. When I grew up watching the original trilogy, I had no idea how much it would influence the type of person I’d eventually become. Bit by bit, minute by minute, year by year, as I sat mainlining the movies over and over and over again, the original trilogy began to form part of my identity. By the time I hit high school, I was identifying myself as an unabashed Star Wars geek, despite the repercussions of doing so. This was the mid-to-late nineties, and being a nerd was definitely NOT cool. Being nerdy about a collection of science-fiction films from the seventies and eighties? I may as well have tattooed “Mock This Guy” on my face. It didn’t irk me though; it allowed me to separate myself from the rest of the all-boys high school herd, and carve myself a pretty unique identity for back then.
So saying that Star Wars has had an impact on my life is putting finely.
Which leads me to this Comic-Con 2015 reel that came out of the panel discussions on the upcoming film. It’s a montage of “behind-the-scenes” type of footage, so there isn’t much in the way of plot reveals or final footage. It does, however, provide more proof of how carefully this next film is being made. And it needs to be considering the prequel trilogy that some people choose to acknowledge, and others prefer to think never happened.
When I say “we need to talk about that Star Wars reel”, I really mean “I need to gush about that Star Wars reel”. It opens with a series clapper-board shots from the film’s sets. The first voice you hear is Mark Hamill’s (Luke Skywalker) but unless you’ve watched heaps of contemporary interviews with him, you can’t really tell its Hamill until he appears on screen. “You’ve been here, but you don’t know this story,” he says as familiar Star Wars imagery appears, backed by music that is definitely NOT Star Wars. Clever symmetry there with what Hamill is saying. “Nothing’s changed really… I mean everything’s changed but nothing’s changed.”
“That’s the way you want it to be.”
That’s exactly the way we want it to be. While the prequel trilogy had its place in bringing a new generation of Star Wars geeklings into the fold, the new set of films seems to be aimed very squarely at us – the fans of the original trilogy. And the fact that these next films are deliberately going back to using “out-dated” special effects with physical puppets and full-scale sets, is exactly what’s making this feel more like Star Wars than the prequel trilogy could have ever hoped for.
The Comic-Con reel highlights this. It opens with concept art of a TIE-Fighter crash. That concept art moves to a miniature model, which moves to a detailed miniature, which finally ends with the shot we’ll see in the film. There’s no CGI. In fact, there are very few moments in the reel that show potential for CGI shots; there’s one instance of a green-screen but for most of it we’re looking at real sets, real puppets, real Star Wars. Peter Mayhew sums it up perfectly as he sits in his Chewbacca costume: “Get back to the old days; the old ways of doing things.” Wizened sincerity? Or a subtle jab at the CGI-laden prequel films? You decide.
And it just keeps snowballing: set plans; blueprints for scale replicas of the Millennium Falcon; real-world locations; J.J. Abrahams sitting next to co-writer Lawrence Kasdan (who co-wrote Empire and Jedi but I’m sure I didn’t need to tell you that); a set that’s very reminiscent of the Throne Room in Episode VI; even Warwick Davis (who played the Ewok, Wicket, in Return of the Jedi) pops up and appears to be overseeing a new creature outfit. And by that stage, as masks for Sullastans and Mon Calamari aliens appear on screen, and that familiar, emotionally sweeping Star Wars score starts to play, I’ve pretty much dissolved into a puddle of nostalgia.
Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself. And if you’re a Star Wars dork and you tell me you don’t at the least get instant goose-bumps, then I’ll call you a liar and a “Greedo shot first” patsy.