Force Wars: A Star Awakens

The new Star Wars movie. Let’s talk about it.

*Some spoilers*


Hands down one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time (ago in a galaxy far, far away). This movie has everything needed to make a lasting impression on the film industry: Solid acting, incredible camera work and image quality, sound design and mixing that basically floored me, and a fulfilling story that still leaves things open ended. The title of this blog will make sense I promise.

Once in awhile films will come out that you just have to see in theaters, this is one of them. It’s the type of art that has the audience applauding, laughing, and crying all at the same time.

First, I want to dive into things I personally noticed and loved about the movie. Then don’t worry tech nerds, we’ll go into the cameras and lenses they used after that.

Force Wars

My wife and I binge watched all six of the previous Star Wars films in a week in preparation of going to see this movie. We had seen them plenty of times, but never watched them with such attention to detail. One thing that caught my eye when watching Episodes I-VI is that the force seems…belittled. That will probably get a few people upset, but hear me out. The ability we have with visual effects and sound design these days allows the force to be captured in such a raw capacity. The first display of the force when we see when Kylo Ren stops a laser blast mid air had my jaw dropped. Between that and when he stops Rey in her tracks, the power of the force was truly represented well in this film in a way that didn’t happen before.

The scene where Poe is in the interrogation chair has to be brought up too, it's super intense and struck me right in the feels. This shows a force we've never dealt with before. 

The other force moment that has to be mentioned is The Force War, that’s what I call the interrogation scene with Kylo Ren and Rey. Huge kudos to the editing and acting of that scene, with zero words it was completely portrayed the feelings and struggles happening within these two characters. Confidence, pain, fear, and a back and forth attack and defense of the force. EXTREMELY well done.

A Star Awakens

Daisy Ridley, Rey, and John Boyega, Finn, blew me away. Yeah, yeah it was good seeing Ford, Fisher, and Hamill, but new stars were born with this film.

As the saga continues I think they will become beloved characters we as a generation will get attached to. In particular, Ridley’s performance I feel is worth mentioning twice, she is a powerhouse on the screen and comes off completely believable. We aren’t given much background of her character and I’m hoping as the movies progress some gaps will be filled in, but I would definitely call her a star for the future.

Tech Stuffz

Nerd alert, in case you have access to my blog but not IMDB, here are some interesting things about the cameras and lenses at play. In summary, this movie is totally killer and I encourage all of you to go see it.

 Budget estimated $200 Million

Worldwide Gross (as of 1/7/16) $1.5 Billion

Shot on:

Imax Msm 9802, Hesselblad Lenses

Panavision Panaflex Millennium XI2, Panavision Primo, C-, E-, G- Series, Atz and Awz2 Lenses

Beating an undead horse

Mild Spoiler Alert

If there's one thing everyone and their mom can agree on it's that it is a post-apocalyptical obsessed generation. Not just in the aspect that everyone is prepared for the zombie apocalypse, but it has flooded our shows and movies with the foot-dragging, flesh-hungry undead.   I fall right into that target audience. There is something fascinating about the idea that civilization as a whole falls apart with a matter of minutes to months, and humanity is left to survive with nothing but primal instincts and a shred of luck.

I'm not going to point fingers at the bad shows (maybe I'll do that later in another post) but I would like to commend one specific series for how they're doing it, and doing it well: AMC's Fear The Walking Dead. Take a walk with me and let's break the first two episodes down as a whole from story composition to technical aspects and see why this show is killing it, and doing it differently than every other zombie infused network show.

Audiences this day in age have a short attention span, it's not a secret, although I do believe it's getting better and people are starting to look for a more story driven dynamic in what they watch. FTWD does a great job of opening up and basically cutting the crap. Opens up beautifully with a drugged up junkie finding the first infected person eating someone. There is no explanation who this character is, where he's located, or if he's important or not. The opening sequence has just enough "wow factor" and mystery so that by the time the opening titles come up it's a hook, line, and sinker. No one is turning the show off at that point.

A lot of times shows like this are started after the infection has spread to worldwide pandemic, or at least that the governments of the world already know what's going down and they are underway to stop it. Sometimes they start up after the world is destroyed and characters are left trying to rebuild a life or merely just survive. The Walking Dead is a good example of this type of show and again, they kill it. Absolutely love that show but I'm going to stay on topic here and keep talking about the Spinoff Series of that show, Fear The Walking Dead.

Here's why it's different:

FTWD starts with the city of LA thinking that there's just a bad flu virus that's going down. Kids are calling in sick for school and life as they know it is continuing on. Within these first two episodes you see the chaos that starts to ensue as an unaware city witnesses police having to gun "innocent" people down in the streets that are just "sick". Riots start, fires and protests in the street, and the question in the majority of the city "Why are they doing this?" Police at this point don't even know what's happening, they just see sick people walking towards them to attack and are having to load them full of bullets to take one down. It's an extremely realistic representation of how actual people would react if this was happening. Some would start hoarding water and canned goods, some would need a finger to point blame, some would turn violent at protest just demanding answers. We all know the government wouldn't be keen on cluing us in, mainly because they themselves wouldn't know what's going on, but also would want to keep widespread panic from happening.

One thing that shines in The Walking Dead is character development, and I expect nothing less in Fear The Walking Dead. The story centers around a cliche television family with specific roles. The stepfather/teacher who is trying to gain respect of his step children, the wise one from the beginning seeing that something is off with the sickness and shootings. He suspects there's something linking the two. The mother of those children who is guidance counselor at the same school the stepfather teaches at, she also suspects something's off but wants to have faith that everything will be fine and the government will give fair warning if something is wrong. The teenage daughter who rolls her eyes at everything, but still does the right thing when it comes down to it. Lastly, the college age son who has thrown his life away and become a drugged up junkie. All these characters have open doors to grow as far as their development goes, and I can't wait to see where the show takes them.

From a technical aspect, beautiful at every angle.

Shot on a few different cameras but the one I'd like to point out is the Arri Alexa XT Plus. Allowing the base format to be shot 2K and giving the editors and colorists the ability to make these episodes as beautiful as they are.

Scenes are lit and shot based off the mood, giving subtle representation of how you should feel about what's happening. Overall the show starts with things for the most part fully lit, bright and normal, representing all is fine in the world. Then as time goes on, things are revealed that this sickness going around could be something more, scenes become more and more backlit. This causes the foreground to be darker and more ominous. This causes beautiful silhouettes and glowing edges around our characters and scenes, all the while not taking away from the information presented in the scene. The camera moves are tastefully designed and used. Handheld when necessary but not overplayed. Also props to the steadicam operator, smooth and perfect horizon normally, but if it's a high tension moment horizon is broken just a bit. To the viewer this allows the feeling that something isn't right, and that's exactly how they want you to feel. In a nutshell the soundtrack is on point. The opening title and the sound behind it is beautifully terrifying, and throughout the show it's never overplayed but fits the scenes perfectly. Below are some examples:

To sum up, this show is awesome. I love it. AMC sure knows what it's doing with their series lately, and FTWD has all the pieces of a puzzle to create an epic series that will keep viewers crawling back just like The Walking Dead has. Selfishly when it does end I would love for it to lead up to the point that Rick Grimes wakes up in the Pilot of The Walking, I just think that would be the perfect way to end this series as a prequel. But hey, we'll see where it goes from here, can't wait.