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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Star Wars - The Saga Is Back

There is much anticipation for the new episode in the saga - Episode 7; The Force Awakens.
Much has been written.
A lot.
A complete smorgasbord of information about the making of the film not to mention the theories about the story and the characters.

At the end of April 2014, we were treated to this black and white publicity shot, as the cast were announced.  This was the first time we officially found out that Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill would be reprising their roles - and the excitement was palpable, as you could see them here, with the new generation of Star Wars cast.

The cast announcement of Episode VII - The Force Awakens

It was in a cinema, far far away (OK, the Gaumont Cinema in Bournemouth) when I first saw Star Wars, Episode IV, A New Hope, when it was first released in 1977.  I remember seeing it as a 9 year old and I totally remember the opening scene, as the Star Destroyer entered overhead.  The sound was startling and so were the images.  I, along with millions of others, were witnessing the birth of something special.

Ever since that day I have been fascinated with the technology used, not only in those early days, but also how they achieve the effects in the latest films.  I don't just mean Star Wars; but cinema as a whole.

I remember reading about how the lightsabers were created, how blue screen was used to shoot models of the various vehicles and the stop motion animation used too.  Compared to today, it was so antiquated.

Star Wars was a turning point in cinematic technology.  Indeed, Industrial Light and Magic; the special effects company, was created especially for Star Wars - it has since gone on to be a powerhouse in movie magic.
In fact, much of the technology was invented to make Star Wars.  The computer controlled camera, that allowed for multiple runs, to rehearse, the sequences.  There was the matt-painted glass, amongst others, the scene where Obi-Wan was turning off the tractor beam - in reality he was just a few feet off the ground; quite unlike the supposed metres high that it appeared in the film.

One thing I haven't been too keen on is the various versions of Episode IV that have been updated.  The first cinematic release didn't have an Episode title; that came later.
As did additional elements that were digitally super-imposed - such as the creatures as Mos Eisley spaceport.  All added when the technology became available.  Call me a purist - but that kind of ruins the sentiment made of the original.

The more recent episodes (1 - 3) were less "real" and made using almost pure green screen.  That is, much of the scenery was digitally imposed after the main shoot was over.  Personally; I think this was a shame.  Whilst there should always be room for creative licence; asking the actors to work in a plain environment I think somehow hurts them.  The same can be said the the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.  Epics in their own right, it adds extra pressure on the actors.

However; notwithstanding all this technology; I also concede that without it, we wouldn't see the spectacular space dog-fights and effects that are so entertaining.

The Force Awakens is the 7th episode; continuing 30 years from the end of Return of the Jedi.  We know that Han Solo and Chewbacca are back, as are Leia and Luke (although they haven't featured too much in the trailers).  The scene is set for an explosive return for one of the most famous soap space operas of all time.

I, for one, am very excited...

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