The Force Awakens

It’s finally here…”YEAHHH!” he screams, my first look at the new Star Wars. The teaser trailer runs 88-seconds long and here’s all you need to know: it looks frackin awesomesause. The trailer gives us a first glimpse at a lot of the new and returning stars, but it also shows just how great a job director J.J. Abrams’ appears to have done in putting back together the Star Wars universe. A great score from John Williams elevates that even further. This isn’t much for now, but it ought to get fans like me’ hopes way up…and it does.

“There’s been an awakening. Have you felt it?”

…Trailer Analysis

What a dark sinister opening voiceover for the new Teaser Trailer for Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens, as we see our first real scene lingering on the desert, which I’m presuming is Tatooine. But who was it doing the voice over…Benedict Cumberbatch or Max von Sydow? for me it sounded like Benedict…which is so bodacious on a geeky level.

Then we see John Boyega, clad in a Stormtrooper outfit, looking very panicked, especially with the ominous sound of some imperial probe in the background. But who is Boyega’s unnamed character, springing from out of shot at the beginning of this 88-second teaser, and why is he wearing stormtrooper armor? Is he an Imperial deserter? Or has he pulled a Han Solo and borrowed a set of the iconic white coverings to pass as a member of the military? Script leaks have suggested the former, but that raises the question of his birth. Republic troops in Star Wars Episodes II and III were clones. But in Episode IV it suggested that had changed, and new troopers are recruited from the populace, and is Boyega’s character is one of these recruits, how did he end up on this desert planet that’s probably Tatooine? Are the new stormtroopers in the shuttle shown in the other shot chasing him? …so many questions

And checkout the cute new little rolling astromech Ball Droid, or Football Droid as it’s been named on the NET. All I can say is…that’s something every kid will want next Christmas, and definitely something LucasFilm Merchandising will be glad of its addition…A Star Wars Football maybe?…keerching…££$€¥

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens MilnersBlog New Star Wars Football Droid
New Star Wars Football Droid

Then we see that chunky speederbike, driven by The Force Awakens new star Daisy Ridley, which looks closer in appearance to a flipped landspeeder, but it has quite an industrial Tug/Loader look to it. And what about Ridley, who looks to be playing a Skywalker-esque figure called Kira, trapped on a desert planet and yearning for excitement and adventure, which it looks like she’s just found with the way she looks and her hastened departure towards the Ralph McQuarrie designed desert town.

Stormtroopers!!?

How do stormtroopers still exist? The end of Return of the Jedi a montage of the ‘New’ celebratory shots signaling the apparent end of the Empire. After the emperor’s death at the hands of angry daddy Darth Vader, are stormtroopers still Imperial stormtroopers? Have they been co-opted into a new government’s military structure? If so, why did they not change their super-evil hats? You’d think those would be the first things to go with a regime change. Perhaps some remnant of the Empire clings on, and that the Rebel Alliance’s victory in the Endor system was not as absolute as they would have had us believe… Yet again, so many questions.

Lets hope these troopers are better shot than the previous ones 😉

X-Wings

Oscar Isaac at the helm of an X-Wing, callsign unknown, but I bet its a Red Squadron.

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens MilnersBlog X Wings Attack
X Wings Attack
Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens MilnersBlog X Wings Attack
X Wings Attack

My next question is compounded by the Rebel logo still plastered on the X-Wing pilots’ helmets. This shows that the Rebel Alliance is still a going concern some 30 years after the destruction of the second Death Star, with battles to fight that require the deployment of starfighters — starfighters, it should be noted, that are three decades old. Why is the organization that unseated the Empire flying around in aging tin cans? And why can’t its pilots afford new helmets?

Here we get our first glimpse at what appears to be the Sith Lord villain of the piece. Considering the height of the man carrying it — the long limbs and notable stoop could show that this is actor Adam Driver, that’s what the Smart money is suggesting, as he angrily stumbles through that snowy forest. But who is he looking for? Or what? And now let’s talk about the new ‘Star Wars’ lightsaber

“An elegant weapon for a more civilized age”

That’s presumably a Sith wielding a distinctive (and already much-mocked) lightsaber. The black robes and red saber color give the game away, but note also the length of the hilt. It’s long enough for the wielder to grip with two hands, giving them the powerful swinging style used by Darth Vader. As that new lightsaber ignites it’s big, sort of flickers in a flame sort of way, and it has a crossbar.

Some on Twitter have taken to calling it a laser claymore.

Immediately, speculation began on twitter and the net about the possible wisdom or stupidity of this design. On one side, there are saying this is terrible design, and will cut your hand off, To which the other side responded: It solves a big lightsaber design problem, which is blades sliding down and cutting your hand off, like Anakin did to Count Dooku in Revenge of the Sith… You can’t win

The best explanation I’ve heard points out that the crossbar beams look unfocused and that maybe this guy is an old Sith “reawakened,” and that he has an early model lightsaber, which points to whether is could be Max von Sydow….More flaming questions!!

TIE fighters & The Falcon

Remember the dish that was knocked off the Millennium Falcon in Return of the Jedi? It’s still missing here, replaced by a rectangular box, which some leaked ‘GIF’ footage showed, although it wasn’t the scene we thought it would be in the trailer, which makes me think it was fake.

Star Wars Episode VII The Force Awakens MilnersBlog Tie Fighters attacks the Falcon
Tie Fighters attacks the Falcon

I’ve got to say, the Millennium Falcon really does bust some stomach-churning moves to escape from TIE fighters over the surface of a desert planet that’s probably Tatooine.

I especially like it when the Falcon goes vertical… you can almost hear Han Solo shouting ‘Well, we can still outmaneuver them’

While this is only a short glimpse at The Force Awakens, this is the first look that we’ve all gotten, Disney has been incredibly secretive about the production of Episode VII, but it’s also for a much simpler reason: the movie still isn’t done. Filming wrapped on Thursday the, 6th of November 2014, but the movie is still a long way from completion. That’ll be especially true for its special-effects shots, which are likely far from complete at this point, and hopefully been done at the new Industrial Light & Magic Studio in London .

I think this teaser is more about getting us fans excited and putting Star Wars back on everyone’s geek radar, which it certainly does. There’s a lot more to see, the Main Trailer, International Trailer — and we certainly will in time — but there’s still a long long ways to go before the film comes out next year on December 18th… Anyone got a DeLorean? 🙂

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The McQuarrie Influence

It seems even after his death; Ralph McQuarrie’s visionary concept art from the original Star Wars saga is influencing a whole new generation of Star Wars film makers, especially the latest movie J.J.Abrams is working on (Star Wars VII The Force Awakens) with unused X-Wing designs and architectural visions from the LucasFilm Archives.

The early X-Wing design had a split single on each wing, until it was changed to the two-cylinder engine option on each side, but recent leaked onset imagery and J.J.Abrams special video message from the set of Star Wars: Episode VII, he announced the creation of Star Wars: Force for Change, a brand new Star Wars initiative from Disney and Lucasfilm, in collaboration with Bad Robot, dedicated to finding creative solutions to some of the world’s biggest problems. The first Star Wars: Force for Change campaign got fans to pledge funds to campaign and awareness for UNICEF’s Innovation Labs and its innovative projects benefitting children in need. By doing this one lucky Star Wars fan from Colorado  who contributed got to visit the set. What the video does confirm is the reusing of Ralph’s single wing engine design.

The other exciting resurrection of his work is the Silver Lightsabre wielding StormTrooper, which again has been seen in ‘more’ leaked on-set images, I wonder if the much talked about DarkTropper will make an appearance.

It also seems his early architectural concept art has made it into the film, as you can see from his concept and on-set photos show.

I wonder what other unused Ralph McQuarrie concept art will be used, the forest Jedi temple? the emperors cave temple? I guess we’ll have to wait a year to find out, but until then we can gracious in the fact the old masters work lives on.

Star Wars also released a five part video ‘Ralph McQuarrie, Star Wars Concept Artist: Tribute to a Master (Part 1)’

The Ann Skinner Collection

If you’re not living in a Star Wars fandom world (like me) you’ll be saying who the blimey is Ann Skinner?  …well in the geeky photography circles she had one of the most enviable jobs in geekologie history, that was as the continuity supervisor for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. She had her own personal ‘The Star War‘ script along with a Polaroid camera and endless amounts of film to record/capture all the scenes in the film for continuity errors. These rare ‘never seen before’ Star Wars photos have such a raw beauty and quality to them, which only instant Polaroid film produces, they even include the lovely little side notes she adds around the borders.

To celebrate the British Film Institute’s amazing new exhibition ‘On-Set – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope’ they have been given her exclusive script pages and the Polaroids from the film which include scenes that were never filmed and snapshots of the cast behind the scenes on this immortal sci-fi classic of so love.

All Image Credits: BFI National Archive/© & TM Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Transcript from the BFI

In the spring of 1976, shooting began on Star Wars, a film described by its writer and director George Lucas as a modern fairytale set “a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away”. Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) dreams of becoming a space pilot and escaping his mundane life as a farm boy on the desert planet of Tatooine. His wish becomes reality when he’s plunged into the civil war between the evil Galactic Empire and a band of daring rebels, led by the beautiful Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher).

Star Wars was filmed on location in Tunisia and at Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire. Its innovative special effects were created in California by Lucas’s company, Industrial Light &Magic. Artist Ralph McQuarrie produced early visual concepts which were developed by the film’s American and British crews. Joe Johnston led a team of artists and designers in the US, while British personnel in key visual roles included production designer John Barry, costume designer John Mollo and cinematographer Gil Taylor.

As continuity supervisor on Star Wars, Skinner needed to have a thorough understanding of every part of the script. It was her job to ensure that scenes shot days or weeks apart would seamlessly come together in the editing room. Skinner describes her role as being that of “the editor’s agent on the studio floor; the intermediary between the director and the editor”. She kept a detailed record of the film as shot, so her copy of the script – now held as part of the Special Collections of the BFI National Archive – is crammed full of detailed annotations as well as unique Polaroid photographs taken on set.

Continuity was by Ann Skinner whose impressive CV also includes Far from the Madding Crowd (1967), Darling (1965) and Oh! What a Lovely War (1969). Continuity (also known as script supervision) is a hugely important role but is often overlooked when writing about filmmaking. Continuity supervisors have an extremely demanding job which necessitates a sophisticated understanding of all aspects of film production and film grammar. They also need to have a strong eye for detail and be able to notice and record any changes or discrepancies that would stop a film cutting together. Historically it’s been a role that has frequently been taken on by women (although this is now becoming more gender balanced) and for many years the continuity supervisor was known as a ‘script girl’ or ‘continuity girl’.

Skinner’s first job upon receiving the script in pre-production was to go through it to time the expected running length (to keep producer and director informed of the film’s expected overall duration); to check the running order of scenes to ensure days and times of day were consistent and followed a logical progression (continuity mistakes can often be introduced during rewrites); and to make notes on particular props that would need to be used across particular scenes.

The pages below are from the opening scene of the film, as Princess Leia’s ship is attacked by an Imperial Star Destroyer. The evil Dark Lord Darth Vader believes the rebels have stolen the plans for the Death Star, a new space station designed to become the Empire’s most deadly weapon. You can see the first notes Ann made to her script in pre-production in red and green pen. The note “U.S.A.” means that this scene consists of special effects and is being created at Industrial Light & Magic in California. Other notes highlight more localised effects (the explosion and smoke) and the props that are needed (Luke’s utility belt, electrobinoculars and rifle).

Because films are rarely shot in sequence, the slate number also enables an understanding of when during production a particular shot was taken. The lower the number, the closer to the beginning of the shoot. This page contains both studio and location scenes. Shooting on Star Wars began in Tunisia (representing the desert planet Tatooine) so scenes taken there have lower slate numbers than those done later at Elstree (83/84/85 as opposed to 735-747).

An enormous amount of information has to be captured within a short amount of time, so Polaroid photos provided a quick visual reference for details such as the positions of characters and props, and intricacies of costume. These were stapled into the script alongside the relevant scenes, and are generally accompanied by copious notes adding more information.

Capturing information about different takes and dialogue changes is a central part of the continuity supervisor’s on-set work. The images below show rehearsal and different take positions for the scene in which Luke goes in search of the droid Artoo and is attacked by Sandpeople (aka Tusken Raiders). At the end of each day, Ann would type up continuity sheets, using her script as reference. This would include information for the editor including which takes director George Lucas wanted to use.

Some scenes presented particular challenges in continuity terms. After Luke, Han Solo and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) rescue Princess Leia from her Death Star prison cell, they attempt to escape via their only possible escape route, down a garbage chute. They land at the bottom and the walls of the garbage masher begin to close in, threatening to crush our heroes.

Skinner took a large number of Polaroids in both colour and black and white to record the position of the walls and debris at different stages in the scene, often linking these stages to lines of dialogue (such as Han’s sarcastic response to Leia’s orders: “yes your worship”).

Skinner’s script also includes scenes that were shot but which didn’t make it into the finished film. The shooting script has more action on Tatooine as we see Luke meeting up with his friends The Fixer, Camie and Biggs (who we meet again later in the film as one of the rebel fighters who joins the assault on the Death Star).

Skinner’s script was an essential tool of the production of Star Wars, created to aid the immensely complicated task of shooting a film. Viewed now though, it serves as an incredible visual record of the making of a legendary film. Through its notes and images, we get a sense of what was happening on set, and how location, studio and special effects work meshed together in post-production.

We even get to see actors relaxed and out of character and/or (partly) out of costume. Two of my favourite such images show Darth Vader (David Prowse) sans helmet, and Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin (described in the script as a “thin evil man”) breaking into a decidedly out-of-character smile.

The exhibition On-Set: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope runs in the Atrium, BFI Southbank until 4 January 2015.

Star Wars GIF’s

Star Wars At-At Walker

Awesome Star Wars AT-AT ‘All Terrain Armored Transport’ animated GIF from DKNGDan Kuhlken and Nathan Goldman’ who commissioned the incredible Down the Street Designs to animate their original work.

I also is the Star Wars GIF he first footage from Episode VII The Force Awaken?Star Wars Episode VII Millennium Falcon Teaser

The GIF was originally spotted and uploaded at Making Star Wars. There are no details on where it came from, or how they got it. All they are implying is that this could be a cut from the much whispered-about Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer that has been rumored to premiere sometime before the end of the year. In fact Slashfilm is now reporting from “good sources” (Mr J.J. Abrams) that the teaser trailer will be shown in a limited number of theaters during the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend, although it will only be shown in America… WHAAAAAAT!

But until then, we must speculate. The appearance of this GIF on-line coincides with the rumour (from Badass Digest) that the first Star Wars: Episode 7 teaser trailer would end with the Millennium Falcon “firing blasters, coming right at the camera.” And that is exactly what this GIF is. Then again, a GIF like this would be very easy to fake. The lens flare feels almost too obvious and the CG looks a little “meh,” so I’m leaning towards no, but it would be cool if it was the real deal. Then again, again, as Making Star Wars points out, the creators of this mysterious footage did get the radar replacement dish right, so these people know their stuff.

Autumn at Temple Newsam

…Sunny Autumn Sunday

…Sunday in the Rain

…Misty morning