Spoiler Alert: This being a spoilcast for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, please do not read on unless you've either seen the movie, you've already been spoiled (the Internet and all) or you don't mind knowing some key plot points before stepping into the theater.
There's still time to turn back!
OK, if you're still reading, enjoy. And for more Star Wars: The Force Awakens content, check out our videos on Filming the Holochess Stop-Motion Scene, Making B-88 Droid Replica and Fabricating the Stop-Motion Holochess Puppets.
Will Smith: Welcome to Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project. I'm Will.
Adam Savage: I'm Adam.
Norman Chan: I'm Norm.
Adam Savage: Good morning everybody.
Will Smith: Hey guys. Star Wars came out on Wednesday or Thursday or maybe Friday, depending on who you ask.
Norman Chan: A week ago and it made so much money.
Will Smith: Is that the important part, Norm?
Adam Savage: The important part is the spoiler alert about Star Wars is that it's good.
Norman Chan: If you haven't seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens, don't listen to this podcast yet. This is going to be a spoiler cast for Episode VII, The Force Awakens.
Will Smith: I think this week, as we usually do, we should take a brief moment and talk in a non spoiler-y way.
Adam Savage: By all means.
Will Smith: I just think we should say: The movie is really good. It's not perfect, by any means, but nothing ever is. I think it's definitely worth watching in the theater. The thing that I was most taken by in a non spoiler-y way, is that, you know in that first teaser trailer, the tracking shot of the Millennium Falcon flying right by the old busted up Star Destroyer that's on the planet surface?
Norman Chan: Yeah.
Will Smith: I found that really hard to watch on small screens.
Adam Savage: Yes.
Will Smith: It was impossible to tell what was going on. It totally works in the theater.
Norman Chan: I'll tell you, if you're going to watch in theaters, I've seen it twice in IMAX now and once in a Sony 4K cinema. IMAX is the way to go. The scene that Will is specifically referring to is actually one of the only IMAX scenes in the movie.
Adam Savage: Oh really? I didn't realize that.
Will Smith: Almost all of the screenings here are in 3D. It's post 3D, right?
Norman Chan: It is post 3D. Actually, about 40% of the income for this movie is 2D screenings. 2D did very well. I will say that if you're not watching in IMAX, 2D is a great way to watch it.
Adam Savage: I saw it in 3D IMAX in Fresno. I took my whole crew to see it last Friday.
Will Smith: Nice.
Adam Savage: I saw it in 2D here at the Alamo Drafthouse on Sunday.
Norman Chan: Which is a great way to watch it, also.
Adam Savage: It was wonderful.
Will Smith: I saw a 2D screening and it was wonderful.
Norman Chan: I have spoilers.
Adam Savage: Just as a side note, if you live in San Francisco, and more specifically, if you're anywhere near the Mission District, your life has just totally changed, because the Alamo Drafthouse opened up in the new Mission Theater on Mission Street between 21st and 22nd. I'm just going to be there every other day.
Will Smith: Hyper local Star Wars.
Adam Savage: Hyper local, wonderful movie theater, with a full bar and full restaurant menu with good food, good people, five different movie theaters, one 90-seat, several between 30 and 40 seats and then one, I guess it's like 300.
Norman Chan: Yeah. The 300 one, that's the one actually playing 2D Star Wars.
Adam Savage: It's beautiful. It's great. The sound is great. I'm so happy.
Will Smith: It's a movie theater for people who love movies.
Adam Savage: Exactly.
Norman Chan: I would even go as far to say it's a movie theater that's better for movies you've already seen, the second-run movies and the revivals and the fun audience engagement events because there's the whole drinking and eating.
Adam Savage: We're delaying the discussion of Star Wars.
Will Smith: Spoilers start right now. I saw the movie on Thursday night. It was nice to go to a Star Wars movie in a theater that I didn't immediately hate.
Adam Savage: Actually, this is a question I got several times on tour: "What are you looking forward to about the new Star Wars movie?" My response was, "I'm really looking forward to enjoying a third Star Wars movie."
Norman Chan: You're such a troll.
Will Smith: [Return of the] Jedi is a good movie.
Norman Chan: Absolutely, it's a good movie. I think even including the Ewoks ...
Adam Savage: It's fine. It's not good. It's fine.
Norman Chan: Jedi has the best space battles out of any Star Wars movie. I would say almost including The Force Awakens, because The Force Awakens actually does not have many space battles at all.
Will Smith: Yeah, there was no space battle.
Adam Savage: Interesting. Yeah.
Norman Chan: It's all low terrestrial battles, which is a very cool thing to do and it allows them to do really cool effects. The experience of watching this particular Star Wars movie is unique because of the Internet. Leading up to Thursday night, one of the reasons not only to want to be first in line to watch one of the first screenings was also so you could embrace Internet again. I stayed offline. Did you guys stay offline before, or try your best to?
Adam Savage: Despite the best efforts of idiots and jerk faces out in the world, I managed to not see any spoilers. By the way, if your life requires you to change your username to a spoiler, that's just like ... yeah.
Will Smith: I got spoiled by Buzzfeed.
Adam Savage: Really? By the comments?
Will Smith: No. By Katie Notopoulos.
Adam Savage: How so?
Will Smith: She tweeted something that had the spoiler. The big one. Han dies.
Adam Savage: How did she do that?
Will Smith: She put a picture and the image was in the pop-up. It doesn't matter. I'm the least spoiler-y caring person in the world. I knew with reasonable certainty that when they announced that Harrison Ford was coming back for another Star Wars movie, based on his previous comments, that if he didn't die, he was basically going to get all of Disney for appearing in the movie. I assumed that they were killing him off in the film.
Adam Savage: I was thinking the could probably make another 20 minutes of the next film just by not having to pay his fee.
Norman Chan: The movie ended up being a lot about him.
Will Smith: It was much more about him than any of the original Star Wars movies, which was great.
Adam Savage: It was lovely. Should we start methodically through this?
Norman Chan: Exactly. Let's preface. We haven't discussed this beforehand.
Adam Savage: We haven't.
Norman Chan: We've held all of our conversations for this, for you guys. There are a lot of things, a lot of details you want to call out, a lot of things about the experience. Let's start off by talking about the things we liked.
Will Smith: I loved the characters. I loved the new characters, specifically. I thought that Rey and Finn and Po ...
Adam Savage: Funny and great.
Will Smith: Even Adam Driver.
Adam Savage: I thought Adam Driver was phenomenal. I thought that Kylo Ren was a good scary villain who still managed from a costume standpoint to feel like a mini Darth Vader. His helmet is slightly diminutive, although reminiscent.
Will Smith: It has the Asian inspiration that ...
Norman Chan: Samurai.
Will Smith: Right, the samurai inspiration.
Adam Savage: Samurai meets Nazis.
Will Smith: I was immediately taken aback when he took off the helmet that first time. I thought, "Oh shit. It's Adam Driver, from Girls."
Norman Chan: Oh, you didn't know that? They made it very explicitly him.
Will Smith: That reaction was, "Oh. Yeah. It's that guy from that thing," and then I immediately forgot about it.
Norman Chan: The characters. Adam? We'll go in circles.
Adam Savage: Okay. I loved that he ... How do I put this? Julia turned to me about 20 minutes into the film and she went, "Isn't this the plot of Star Wars?" I said, "Yeah. Pretty much." Let's be clear. It's hard not to argue that James Cameron might be the best sequel writer ever.
Will Smith: Absolutely.
Norman Chan: James Cameron understands audiences.
Adam Savage: He understands audiences. He understands franchises. He understands what the audience wants from the first film to carry to the second. One of the things that he has done is, he hasn't gone too far off the reservation and the structure ...
Will Smith: You mean JJ Abrams?
Adam Savage: No. I'm starting with Cameron, but I'm going to transfer to Abrams. The thing about Terminator 2 and Aliens that makes them so great is that they very closely follow the structure of their predecessors, while elaborating in some deeper ways.
Will Smith: And adding something really new.
Adam Savage: Yeah, adding something new.
Norman Chan: I'm going to disagree with you on this.
Adam Savage: I felt like I was watching a plot that was as goofy as Star Wars and yet it totally fit.
Will Smith: It was as goofy as Star Wars, because it was Star Wars.
Adam Savage: Right.
Will Smith: It's the same movie.
Norman Chan: If I get what you're saying, you think that what Abrams did here is what Cameron does so well with his films, which is understand audiences, bring the things that people love about the originals and then do something new with it.
Adam Savage: But also follow the structure of: You find some orphaned waif on a desert planet and inject them into a resistance where they meet a bit baddie and some father figure's going to die. Boom. It's pretty much Star Wars.
Norman Chan: Where I disagree and I'll be interested to hear what Will says about this, is I think he does the first part right, but he in no way makes it his own the same way that Cameron made Aliens his own.
Will Smith: That's my feeling.
Adam Savage: I don't disagree with that, but I think that's what Abrams ... I feel like Abrams is almost a conduit at some point. I think 8mm?
Will Smith: No, Super 8.
Adam Savage: Why did he name it something so close to a snuff film starring Nicholas Cage?
Will Smith: It wasn't a snuff film. It was a movie of ... Anyway.
Adam Savage: Super 8. He's bottle fed on Spielberg and he takes that and I felt like he was giving me back my childhood, what I wanted from Episodes IV and V.
Will Smith: That had the twist. That had more of a twist on the ET formula than this does on the Star Wars formula. I think part of the problem with taking the theme and the structure of Star Wars and updating it is that it's the core theme that's shaped this type of cinema for the last 30 or 40 years.
Adam Savage: Yes.
Will Smith: Which is, it's the hero's journey.
Norman Chan: You talk about the two most successful per movie franchises in cinema history, it's Star Wars and Harry Potter. Both of those are the same story. It's the hero's journey, Joseph Campbell, The Hero With a Thousand Faces. If his approach, and this could be his plan on the macro level, where his new trilogy is the idea of taking a myth and myths get reborn, maybe literally, maybe figuratively here, then he has succeeded. This is Star Wars, the myth, reborn.
Adam Savage: Yes. I can't say that I wanted more than that. For Abrams to say, "And then I'm going to put my personal stamp to change this thing ..."
Will Smith: Okay, the droid comes to the desert planet, finds the unknown person who happens to be Force sensitive. You could argue that the Force is driving the whole thing and that the great power in this movie isn't plot, but it's the Force.
Norman Chan: The narrative.
Will Smith: Yeah, the narrative. Exactly.
Adam Savage: With the Hero With a Thousand Faces and all that notwithstanding, I don't think anyone ever held up the screenplays of Star Wars and Empire for being masterpieces of clever cinema writing. To me, it's different. It's more visceral. It's more emotional. It's satisfying on a different level than a Fincher film or something like that ... Or Tarantino.
Will Smith: The dual challenge of The Force Awakens seems to be one, create a satisfying sequel. This isn't just a prequel. This is actually a sequel, which I think is even harder to do than a prequel. A satisfying sequel for the fans of the original, which are a legion. Two, create a new story that for someone who is maybe 6 years old or 7 years old or 8 years old, who is watching this movie for the first time, this can be their "Star Wars," the original trilogy for them.
Adam Savage: And yet, does not pander to a bunch of kids buying toys. It doesn't give us Shia Labeouf as Indiana Jones' son kind of bullshit. Let me just say, when I say paragons of clever cinema, I love Star Wars and I love Empire for two totally different reasons. Star Wars is a hungry little movie. Aesthetically, forget about it. Empire is wonderful. I loved [Lawrence] Kasdan's writing. This is one of the best screenplays he's written in a long time, I think. I loved hearing Han Solo's voice come out of Harrison Ford so well.
Will Smith: The thing to me was, maybe the Star Wars movies that I loved were because of Larry Kasdan. I completely agree with you. There was a lot of the tonality of Empire in this movie. It was very fast in the way that Empire is.
Adam Savage: Rescue now. Escape now, hug later.
Will Smith: The thing that this film didn't have to do that the first Star Wars did is that intense period of world building. If you think about Star Wars, you think about the entire cold open on Princess Leia's spaceship, basically he sets up the entire world. You know who the good guys are. You know who the bad guys are. You know that the bad guy is incredibly evil. Space fascist. The whole thing. This, the cold open I thought was kind of weak.
Norman Chan: I think Adam's mention of Indiana Jones is extremely apt. Star Wars here succeeds in the way the fourth Indiana Jones movie, which doesn't exist, didn't, in that that was a sequel, but didn't do anything to itself. It was pure fan service and did it poorly. Here, The Force Awakens served the fans of the original as a sequel, but then it holds in itself. The fact that you like the new characters so much and you're happy to watch their journey, I think speaks to its success.
Will Smith: The conceit of the fourth Indiana Jones movie is the thing that we're asking for here. Maybe Adam's right. Maybe asking for this is wrong. They took the pulpy adventurous serials that were the inspiration for the original Indiana Jones, moved it forward 20 years and it was a world of science fiction and Russians and it completely fucked up the whole thing.
Adam Savage: Right. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas changed our whole world. In many ways in great ways, and in many ways in some really not terrible ways, but ways that didn't necessarily make for great films.
Will Smith: They kind of were the eagles of film.
Adam Savage: I see Temple of Doom and all I see in the mining cart chase is an amusement park ride. I feel like I'm seeing a direct, "Here you go, spoon-feed me." I didn't feel that in this. The same thing with the pod races in Episode I.
Will Smith: The podraces were there for video games.
Adam Savage: Right. I know. In this, I didn't feel, even though the world in which all of these terrestrial space battles occur, it's very much like the ... What is the Star Wars video games that's out right now called?
Norman Chan: Battlefront.
Adam Savage: Battlefront. I played a bunch of that while on the MythBusters tour. We bought it for the PlayStation on the bus. My son and I played a bunch. It's beautiful, but I didn't feel like the movie was forcing me to go buy that game to live all these moments.
Will Smith: The thing that I said to my wife when we walked out of the theater was there were fewer spaceships in this than any other Star Wars movie ever.
Adam Savage: If I had one thing that I found really slightly lacking in The Force Awakens was I didn't see enough of the ships that existed and that really bugged me.
Norman Chan: No Y-wings or B-wings, not to mention the Republic fleet.
Will Smith: There were fewer species of ships.
Adam Savage: I agree.
Will Smith: Fewer toys to sell.
Adam Savage: But I also say that Star Wars is full of master shots of ships. The full frigate. The medical frigate. The blockade runner.
Norman Chan: Return of the Jedi, when the Millennium Falcon is weaving through the Capital ships during the final assault on Death Star 2, that's amazing, and they did that without CG and here, it's just X-wing. It's just one type of Tie Fighter. No Interceptors. No special ones.
Adam Savage: I didn't mind the lack of the species. I just wanted to see when Han's ship picks up the Falcon, I wanted to see the entirety of his ship. I wanted to see what it looks like. I know that they built the model.
We're talking intellectually, but I'd like to state for the record that I cried like five times during this movie. I got weepy when we saw the Millennium Falcon. I got weepy when we saw the lightsaber. I got weepy when Han and Chewy walked in.
Will Smith: "Chewy, we're home." The first lightsaber fight.
Adam Savage: Yes.
Will Smith: I was like, "This is so good. I can tell what's going on. I like this. This is making me happy to the point of the tears."
Adam Savage: Yes. I got weepy when Han and Leia got together and talked. I thought all of that was pitch perfect.
Norman Chan: The amount of introduction, in terms of it being a sequel for the old characters, it was mainly a Harrison Ford ... Using him as opposed to Leia and Luke. Very smartly done. What the writers said, Michael Arndt, who actually is credited. He did the original screenplay, which was then scrapped, but parts of it were adapted. He said he tried to integrate Luke into the story in one of his first drafts and you can't. They made a Luke a MacGuffin in this movie. The whole point of the movie is finding Luke. The first line of the scrawl is, "Luke Skywalker has vanished," and you don't see him until the very end. It's because any time you introduce an original trilogy character, someone that's important, they take over the movie and it doesn't allow then the new characters to breathe.
Adam Savage: Fascinating. That's a lovely way to think about it.
Will Smith: Do you think the new trilogy is the Han Solo movie, the Princess Leia movie, the Luke Skywalker movie?
Norman Chan: No. I don't think it's going to be framed that way. I think they'll use Carrie Fisher as little as possible. There will be a lot of Luke likely in the next one.
Adam Savage: We were debating, my kids and I, whether the next movie opens post training ...
Will Smith: No, they have to show training.
Adam Savage: Interrupted training. If it starts post training, I guarantee you there'll be flashbacks or you start mid training and it gets broken, just like Empire.
Will Smith: Star Wars has never done flashbacks, has it?
Norman Chan: No. I don't think so.
Adam Savage: That's a good question.
Norman Chan: Only dreams, visions, flash forwards.
Adam Savage: I was talking about all the places I got weepy.
Norman Chan: I heard that. The introductions of the characters. One of the really funny things about watching this, because there's Star Trek 2009, which I still think, and this may be controversial, is JJ Abrams' best work, still.
Adam Savage: I think it's a masterpiece. I think it's one of the great franchise reboots.
Will Smith: Mission Impossible III is real good.
Norman Chan: It is. Absolutely.
Adam Savage: It is.
Will Smith: Star Trek 2009 I will watch any time it's on.
Adam Savage: I will hold that Star Trek 2009 is better, because he takes Kirk and he makes it his own just as Chris Pine does.
Norman Chan: That's right. In relation to Star Trek 2009 and Into Darkness and this movie, those are training movies to make The Force Awakens. There are many shots. The chase of the Millennium Falcon inside the Star Destroyer, that felt like when Kirk and Spock were being chased by the Bird of Prey.
Will Smith: I was going to say, that reminded me of the tracking shot that you mentioned in Return of the Jedi, too.
Norman Chan: I think he was playing an homage to that. When Finn chases after Rey and when she's being kidnapped and there's that long running shot, he practiced that in Mission Impossible III. He practiced it in Into Darkness. That is the Khan moment done right. The most interesting thing, I think, and the thing that almost took me out of this movie is in watching Star Trek 2009, I felt like, "Is Zachary Quinto getting Spock right?" There's a moment of, "Oh my god. Karl Urban got Bones right."
Adam Savage: Yeah. Karl Urban is unreadable.
Norman Chan: You have that moment of, "They got the actors right and they're making it their own," and you run with it.
Will Smith: It's kind of like karaoke, though.
Norman Chan: It is a little bit. In this movie, every time Harrison Ford was on screen, at least in the first time I watched it, I was like, "OK, is he getting Han Solo right?"
Will Smith: Really?
Adam Savage: Oh, no.
Norman Chan: It took me I think a few scenes until ... I think there were moments when he's running down the halls and the way he's running, then I felt into it.
Adam Savage: Actually, I thought that right away when he's like, "I thought it was all a bunch of malarkey, but it turns out it's true. All of it." I thought that was real. I bought into it.
Will Smith: That was a really powerful moment, I thought.
Adam Savage: Yeah. I want to talk about the moment in which Kylo Ren takes off his helmet, because I also had a little bit where I'm hearing Adam Driver's voice and I was like, "Oh, wait ... "
Will Smith: I didn't mind the voice. The voice I thought was good, because I thought the modulation and stuff they did on it was really, really cool.
Adam Savage: The modulation was terrifying of Kylo Ren. It was perfect.
Norman Chan: It was like what they did with Xerxes in 300, where it's the same actor. They didn't use two actors, but you heard him through the voice and it made it menacing and so when he took the helmet, that's when he's interrogating Rey.
Adam Savage: The interrogation of Rey, I submit, might be my favorite scene in any Star Wars movie. I thought that the shift in power that occurs during that scene where she finds the Force and you watch her fear turn to confidence and his confidence turn to fear. Two actors really, really selling that moment so subtly and lovely. I'm going to see the movie again this week, by the way. I'm taking my mom. I'm probably going to see it a fourth time. I'm enjoying the spit out of sitting through it.
Will Smith: Just to be clear, I don't think this is going to show well at home.
Adam Savage: You don't think so?
Will Smith: No. It's too big.
Adam Savage: I'm not sure.
Will Smith: It's got the Pacific Rim problem.
Norman Chan: One of the 3D reasons, there were some lingering shots of Star Destroyers where in IMAX 3D, it is like there's a giant Star Destroyer right in front of you with all the CG detail and it's beautiful.
Adam Savage: I loved that interrogation scene.
Will Smith: I thought that was the pivot for the movie, right?
Adam Savage: Totally. I've read all of the complaints about how the plot is goofy and I submit to you any one of your childhood action adventure films also has a plot similarly as goofy.
Will Smith: I loved the arc that Rey had.
Adam Savage: I totally agree. I thought that Daisy Ridley was brilliant.
Will Smith: So good.
Adam Savage: I love a strong, wonderful directed female character.
Norman Chan: Not a lot of lens flare in this, but I think the way that JJ, just in terms of his direction of action, the ways he made it his own, which I found so much pleasure in, one, X Wings destroying Tie Fighters and Tie Fighters falling apart in pieces. Not just nebulous explosions, but chunks falling off.
Will Smith: Crumbling, yeah.
Norman Chan: Crumbling. That was beautiful.
Will Smith: Yeah. The Finn/Po Tie Fighter crash was amazing.
Norman Chan: There was actually an Avengers long shot. When we say that at the end of Avengers, that huge long sequence? You have the Po shot, where's he's flying. He's sniping Tie Fighters out of the sky.
Will Smith: I cried at that.
Norman Chan: Then hitting the stormtroopers on the ground and Finn says a line that otherwise would be hokey, "Now that's a great pilot." It's like, "Wow, yeah, he is."
Will Smith: That's one of the things. At the beginning of the movie when Kylo Ren had captured Po and he's interrogating him and he says, "Oh. Who knew we had the world's greatest pilot," whatever. I was like, "Oh, man. It's going to be like that. That's not good." Then he earned it.
Adam Savage: Here's where I think, and this is almost classic Kasdan to me, is you have your requirements for the character, like, "Oh, we want the audience to know that this guy is both the hero," so you can say in movies, "He's the hero," and so, "OK, now we know." But you have to also earn those things, right? Po Dameron is going to be a pilot, which means he's not just good at flying, but he's also incredibly smart. The first interaction he has with Finn, where Finn's like, "It's the right thing to do," and Po goes, "You need a pilot." He's, "I need a pilot." It's one of the first laughs of the film, but it's also this great moment, because you realize Po is really smart. He's been tortured and shit's going down. He's smart enough to pick up, "Oh, I see where this is going."
Norman Chan: You're stuck here.
Adam Savage: "You don't give a shit about me. You need a pilot. Cool."
Norman Chan: He's like the rogue leader. I like that he's actually a supporting cast member. You don't get his arc. He's like Wedge in the original Star Wars.
Will Smith: I think he has to end up being a bigger character in the next movie, because he owns BB-8, right?
Norman Chan: I'm sure.
Adam Savage: He was supposed to die in the original screenplay.
Norman Chan: Yeah, he was.
Will Smith: Oh, really?
Adam Savage: In fact, when they cast Oscar Isaac, they told him, "After the crash on Jakku, that's it for you." He was like, "Ah, OK, I'll do it." Apparently just at the same time he agreed to do it, Abrams was like, "He should have an arc through the whole film."
Norman Chan: With his return, when the X-wings come, that is a chilling moment when you see them in the distance. It's the Resistance!
Adam Savage: Also I'm so happy to see Greg Grunberg in this movie.
Will Smith: Who's Greg Grunberg?
Adam Savage: Greg Grunberg is one of Abrams' best friends.
Norman Chan: He's his good luck charm.
Adam Savage: He's been in every Abrams thing since Felicity.
Will Smith: Oh, he's the big guy? OK. Didn't he get blown up, though?
Norman Chan: No.
Adam Savage: He comes back.
Norman Chan: He's in Felicity. He's in Star Trek 2009 and is James Kirk's voice, the stepfather on the, "Bring back my car."
Will Smith: Did you like the Daniel Craig cameo?
Adam Savage: What was his cameo?
Will Smith: He's the stormtrooper that Rey mind-controls.
Adam Savage: Oh, no way!
Norman Chan: You can hear his voice, too.
Adam Savage: I didn't know that.
Will Smith: I was sitting there thinking, "Man, that voice is really familiar to me."
Norman Chan: The other two things, the three action things. One, that. Two, the lightsaber fight. The fighting style of Adam Driver, I think was much less Samurai, much less Kendo than the previous ones. It was way more broadsword. There was a weight to it.
Adam Savage: There was a weight to it. I don't know how much they transferred the lightsaber style that was built for the prequels to this film. I loved how while sitting there waiting, he'd do the waving and how messed up his lightsaber was. Not a clean blade, but sort of ...
Norman Chan: Spitty was what they called it. In the concept art, it's not that way at all. JJ Abrams had a conversation with Jonathan Ive. Jony Ive of Apple was actually the one who inspired JJ Abrams to make it kind of firey and spitty.
Adam Savage: Really?
Will Smith: Is it janky? I got janky from it.
Norman Chan: It is. If you look at the prop, it's one that he hand built himself, because he's not ...
Will Smith: Adam Driver?
Norman Chan: It's that Kylo Ren built it, because he's not a real Jedi.
Will Smith: The Jedis all built their own lightsabers, that's the story?
Norman Chan: He didn't built it right. His training isn't complete.
Will Smith: That was one of the things that I loved about the film is that Kylo Ren, you initially see him and you think, "Oh, he's Darth Vader. He's really a huge bad ass." Then as you watch him fight and you see his spitty lightsaber, you realize, "Oh, maybe he's not so good at this. Maybe he has some work to do, still."
Adam Savage: He is the best guy in his world, but he hasn't been fully challenged.
Will Smith: Right. The mirror to that, another one, is when Rey picks up the lightsaber to fight him, it's the first time she's ever handled one and she's doing stuff that you never have seen done with a lightsaber. You've never seen someone try to stab somebody with the point of a lightsaber before and she does it three, four, five times. I'm just sitting there thinking, "Stop stabbing him."
Adam Savage: She hits him a couple of times.
Will Smith: Oh yeah. That neophyte versus slightly better neophyte was really good.
Adam Savage: Was a wonderful dynamic. I loved that Finn: "That lightsaber belongs to me. Come and get it." Oh, that's great. Also, by the way, full admission, I saw Han's death coming from a way away.
Will Smith: When they signed the contract.
Adam Savage: I saw the lightsaber going to Rey instead of Kylo Ren coming from a while away.
Will Smith: Everybody in the theater knew that it was going to go to Rey.
Adam Savage: I've been reading some comments and people think, "Well, that's bad screenwriting if I saw it coming." I understand sometimes surprises are good, but all you've got to do is watch Strictly Ballroom, which is to me one of the great examples of a film in which every story beat is telegraphed about a half-hour beforehand and it does not matter. It is totally enjoyable all the way through, because story has to do with a contract between the storyteller and the listener. That contract includes beats that sometimes you know are totally going to happen and yet all they need to do is happen satisfyingly.
Will Smith: It's really easy to do some "Got you's" and say, "Oh, no," and make miracles happen from nothing. It's much, much harder to make a believable miracle happen and that's what this movie does. The one thing I thought was ...
Norman Chan: Wait. Hold on. The third action thing I think, also going back to what JJ Abrams did with warp drive in Star Trek 2009, he made warp his own, by making it a violent action. When the Enterprise warps, it's like a bullet. It's not the build up of the old series, of Roddenberry.
Adam Savage: Right.
Norman Chan: He did that to the Force. The use and representation of Force powers when Kylo Ren holds the blaster in the beginning in midair.
Will Smith: You mean the bolt?
Norman Chan: The bolt.
Adam Savage: That was amazing.
Norman Chan: That's a gasp moment. When Rey puts the blaster to him and he swings her arm down and it's shaking.
Adam Savage: In fact, her being held by his Force was violent and intense in a way that the other movies ...
Norman Chan: Exactly.
Adam Savage: I totally agree with you.
Norman Chan: That, I think he made it his own and was a wonderful interpretation.
Will Smith: The other thing I thought he did better than anyone else who has done Star Wars was monsters. Monsters and other sentient characters.
Adam Savage: He did that with a mix of CG and some wonderful practicals, which we'll talk to Frank about in another podcast, because I want to hear his take on that.
Will Smith: The cantina scene, obviously, I couldn't have imagined a better alien bar.
Norman Chan: Maz, the character.
Adam Savage: Maz was wonderful.
Will Smith: I hope we see Maz. Her face, they face capped her.
Adam Savage: Oh, did they?
Norman Chan: They performance capped her.
Adam Savage: Her version of Linda Hunt was wonderful.
Norman Chan: Her first line, "Where's my boyfriend." When she said that, "I like that wookie." That's so great.
Adam Savage: Chewbacca. Chewbacca's all over this movie and it's wonderful to see him again.
Norman Chan: The other guy who played Chewbacca did not get a screen credit.
Will Smith: There were two Chewbaccas?
Norman Chan: Peter Mayhew was in it for many of the scenes.
Will Smith: Sitting and standing?
Norman Chan: Yeah. I don't think Peter Mayhew could have done a lot of the action scenes.
Adam Savage: But that's the stunt double.
Norman Chan: Yeah, I guess that was a stunt double.
Adam Savage: Peter Mayhew was Chewbacca. Let's be really clear.
Norman Chan: Chewbacca's so funny. When he gets the medical attention, "Oh, you're so brave." His nods, his interactions with Han.
Will Smith: The Han, "No, this isn't like the 'Oh, I'll just talk my way out of it.'" That line on the freighter was amazing.
Adam Savage: It was.
Will Smith: The scale of the monsters varied wildly. Abrams used CGI in a really smart way, rather than using it as a, "Hey, let's just have a bunch of dewbacks here," or whatever. The tentacled monsters on the freighter. They were the most JJ Abrams monsters in the movie by a pretty wide margin.
Adam Savage: I didn't mind.
Will Smith: I was fine with it.
Adam Savage: My wife had a comment which I agree with. She said, "You know, in Star Wars, you felt when you moving from Tatooine to other places, the Death Star, etc, you felt like you were moving around a universe that had a geography." In this film, the way they used light speed as a kind of instant subway from everywhere to everywhere, compressed that in a way that took away some of that interstellar geography.
Norman Chan: It was instantaneous. There was no, "We're going to be in light speed for an hour and a half conversation."
Will Smith: Or three days to get from Tatooine to Alderaan.
Adam Savage: It's like that bit in, I think it's Empire, when Leia said, "They don't happen often, but you have your moments," and she gives him a kiss on the cheek. That's this moment of peace while they're waiting to get from one place to another, which helped with that geography. That being said, Abrams takes a lot of moments in Force Awakens and I really appreciated this, to have moments of quiet, which I thought was great.
Will Smith: The kind of up and down. It was a really nice sine wave that built gradually over the whole movie.
Norman Chan: In relation to the geography, I'm really glad he didn't go back to the names of the planets we knew. He didn't do Tattooine, Hoth, Coruscant, even the Republic planet that gets blown up is not Coruscant.
Will Smith: It's not Coruscant?
Norman Chan: It's not Coruscant. It's the Hothian System.
Adam Savage: Is Coruscant not with the hard C?
Will Smith: No hard C.
Adam Savage: Back in ILM, we used to say Coruscant, but maybe the movie hadn't come out yet, so we didn't know.
Norman Chan: It's both Han and Han (long a).
Adam Savage: I get so much shit for saying Han (long a). I said Han (long a) all over my MythBusters Star Wars episodes.
Will Smith: He's called Han (long a) in the movie. Lando Calrissian calls him Han (long a) every single time, "Han, old buddy."
Adam Savage: "Han, old buddy."
Norman Chan: BB-8.
Adam Savage: BB-8. Dude, I had no idea how much I would love BB-8 as a character.
Will Smith: I walked out of that movie and I was like, "Oh, man. I'm going to go buy one of those Spheros now. I can't help it." He's just so nice.
Adam Savage: It's a terrific characterization and a lovely ... First of all, thank you for not giving us too much C-3PO.
Norman Chan: His cameo — I would call it cameo — was perfect.
Adam Savage: Perfect length. BB-8 as an update of R2, a cute robotic character with a real personality.
Norman Chan: A puppy.
Adam Savage: At the point where Finn's like, "Come on. Tell her where it is." She tells him and he gives him the thumbs up and BB-8 sticks out a lighter. So awesome. I tell you, when I make a BB-8 — because I figure that's really a fait accompli, I'm just going to have to make one — he's going to have to have a little lighter thumbs up.
Norman Chan: Oh yeah. Lighter thumbs up.
Will Smith: The thing I love most about BB-8 is that he fixes the design problems with R2. R2 is clearly designed to walk around on metal smooth floors.
Adam Savage: With no stairs.
Will Smith: No stairs, no even steep ramps.
Adam Savage: In the Star Wars universe, there's no paper and no steps.
Will Smith: No guard rails.
Norman Chan: This goes to the puppetry. You have to appreciate the way BB-8 was designed. An elegant form. Two circles, which is when an artist draws a figure, you have basically two circles. A body and a head. The puppetry of BB-8 is amazing, both in the animator on the CG side and also on the practical. When Rey hunts Finn down with a stick and says he's a thief, BB-8 is growling off to the side. That is a real puppet being moved around. When BB-8 rolls down the staircase in Maz's castle, when Rey finds the lightsaber, he's in the background, he or she. I don't know if BB-8's ... He dips down, looks down, and then walks down the stairs.
Adam Savage: He's also using the momentum of his head center weight to change his center of gravity. I've rolled big things down stairs and that was dead perfect. Not like, "Oh, all of a sudden I have rockets in my legs."
Will Smith: The thing that was great actually about the whole film, I knew intellectually what was going to be CG and what was going to be practical, I couldn't tell by looking.
Norman Chan: I think if you compare BB-8 with Wall-E, I think these are two huge achievements in character and personality without having to say a single word.
Will Smith: A lot of BB-8 is Ben Burtt, too. Ben Burtt did the sound for BB-8, right?
Norman Chan: Bill Hader.
Will Smith: Bill Hader?
Norman Chan: Bill Hader did the voice. JJ Abrams had an iPad app hitting buttons and Bill Hader made noises into a voice box. Yeah, Bill Hader did it.
Adam Savage: That's amazing. I had no idea. I love that.
Will Smith: Ben Burtt wasn't involved at all in the sound?
Norman Chan: I'm not sure who the sound engineers were.
Adam Savage: I noticed something about the way Abrams handles CG that I hadn't noticed before. Obviously, for this film, they're creating what you call set extensions. The actors are on a set that extends to about 2 to 3 feet above their head and then the digital CG artists are augmenting and putting the whole world in there. They did a ton of practical sets. The Millennium Falcon they built full scale, for real, in England, etc. But there were some huge CG landscapes in the film. One of the things I think I noticed was that Abrams, when he was giving you a full CG landscape, would often give you enforced perspective right up front, a piece of that landscape in such high, beautiful detail with light falling across it and a textural clarity, that you were like, "Oh, that looks totally real" and then you bought the entire thing.
Will Smith: The shots of Jakku, the AT-AT walker, when it's laying on its side and she's set up camp there, it drops down and you see the whole world behind it, but you ...
Adam Savage: That was one of the places I got misty, seeing her camping in the shadow of an AT-AT.
Norman Chan: The photography, foreground, background worked together. Should we talk about gripes at all? And speculation at the very end, I have one gripe. Captain Phasma completely wasted.
Will Smith: She's set up for sequels.
Norman Chan: I know she's coming back.
Adam Savage: I wanted more out of Captain Phasma.
Norman Chan: I wanted more. I can tell you where I would have wanted more without giving her too much character.
Adam Savage: Do you have some weird fantasy about Captain Phasma?
Norman Chan: I think they built her up.
Will Smith: Does your special lady friend have mirrored stormtrooper armor? Poor Norm. We're bad people.
Norman Chan: In the teaser, it's such a great character design, and even the story when you talk about clones and not clones and she says her troopers are bred from birth and programmed. She could have been one leader or commando of stormtroopers. Make the stormtroopers bad-ass by having her lead them and two, she gets turned into a joke. Her payoff is the trash compacter. Chewy tackles. Make that a fight. Give her some physical presence.
Adam Savage: It could be. I enjoyed that joke immensely, "Is there a trash compacter." "Yeah. Yeah, there is." That was a nice callback to the sanitation room.
Will Smith: There were like maybe 20% too many nice callbacks in this film.
Adam Savage: I disagree.
Will Smith: The planet at the end was a Death Star.
Norman Chan: It was called Star Killer, which is a Death Star.
Will Smith: It was a planet-sized Death Star, instead of a moon-size death star.
Adam Savage: Wasn't Star Killer one of Luke's early names?
Norman Chan: Star Killer was one of Luke's early names.
Adam Savage: I'm going to watch this film again. I have to tell you that for me, the emotional impact of the film turned off most of my critical faculties.
Will Smith: Of course.
Adam Savage: They just didn't hit. As far as I could tell, the first time I saw it, there wasn't a wrong moment in the film. Then I started to think about some of the things that might have been weak here and there, but frankly, goddamn, what a fun ...
Will Smith: My big gripe, and it's a pretty substantial one, is that the relationship between Kylo Ren and Han and when Kylo Ren kills Han, maybe Han helps, it's kind of unclear, totally unearned. I thought that was completely unearned.
Adam Savage: Maybe they're going to earn it in the next film.
Norman Chan: Flashback.
Adam Savage: We're going to see more about how Snoke lured Kylo Ren.
Will Smith: Is Snoke enormous or is that just the emperor's holo projection setting?
Norman Chan: I think he's enormous. I hope he's enormous. That's so cool.
Adam Savage: His face was the one problem I had with the film.
Will Smith: All the jacked up scarring?
Adam Savage: I felt like, and there's a little bit of it in the Lupita Nyong'o character.
Will Smith: She looked a little CG.
Adam Savage: Whenever I'm looking at a fully CG face, I feel like I'm being dragged sometimes into Hobbit-land, into Weta Workshops. There's something about the full animation of a nonhuman face. There's an alien uncanny valley and they hit it a couple of times.
Will Smith: It wasn't uncanny enough.
Norman Chan: Hair is tough to do on those faces. That was Andy Serkis, as Snoke.
Will Smith: Really? Where is Max von Sydow?
Adam Savage: Max von Sydow was in the first ... He's the one who gives the thing.
Will Smith: He has the MacGuffin and hands it to Po.
Norman Chan: There are mysteries in the movie and I'm glad JJ Abrams didn't answer all the mysteries. I'm sure we'll get some at the end.
Adam Savage: Totally.
Norman Chan: When Han says, "Where did you get the lightsaber?" And Maz has a perfect response, "That's a great questions for another time." That's a great way to say this isn't the right time to explain that.
Adam Savage: That could be something in one of the other films.
Will Smith: I'm sure that's an anthology film.
Norman Chan: Max von Sydow. Such a big actor. I don't think he was wasted, but I think there was a lot of mystery there. He was the actor where I thought he was either going to be a villain or some callback. In the opening scroll, it says that the most daring pilot of the Resistance, Po Dameron, is sent to find an old ally.
Will Smith: There's another anthology film.
Norman Chan: Who discovered this key to Luke Skywalker. Max von Sydow has a great exchange with Kylo Ren where he says, and even with Po Dameron. "She's royalty," talking about Leia. "I know where you come from." There is some interesting mystery there.
Adam Savage: Yeah. Totally. I don't mean to say that the animation was bad on Maz and Snoke. It actually was wonderful and Serkis' characterization and the face mapping is beautiful. It's just this slight thing that I think hasn't quite been solved filmically of that alien face.
Will Smith: Snoke didn't bother me at all, because I think the hologram filter that they put on him made me not notice it.
Adam Savage: I love how big it was. I loved the size.
Will Smith: I hope he's huge. I hope he's like 30 feet tall.
Adam Savage: Wouldn't that be the best?
Will Smith: It would be so cool, if there's all of a sudden giants for no apparent reason in Star Wars. The Maz thing, I didn't have a problem with her until she took the glasses off. When she took the glasses off, it became hard to ... That's when my uncanny valley sense tripped.
Adam Savage: "I like that wookie."
Will Smith: She says it so good.
Adam Savage: "That's my boyfriend."
Norman Chan: When there's the action sequence on the freighter, the smuggling freighter, and they have the two guys from the Raid, the movies ... The Raid and The Raid 2. It's just the cameo. They don't do any martial arts. That took me a little out of it, because I was hoping that there would be some space martial arts going on there. Speculation. This movie obviously ends on a cliff hanger.
Adam Savage: It ends on a cliff hanger.
Norman Chan: There's a literally a helicopter shot that's so different than the entire movie.
Adam Savage: Wait, I also want to point out, wonderful work by Domhnall Gleeson. Brendan Gleeson's son who played the admiral next to Kylo Ren.
Norman Chan: What a year for him. Ex-Machina.
Adam Savage: He was terrific. There's something that I thought was really great about Star Wars that doesn't exist in the later films. Vader is not the supreme leader.
Will Smith: The Tarkin-Vader push-pull.
Adam Savage: The Tarkin Vader push-pull was wonderful and he replicated that.
Will Smith: Having just watched those first movies before going into this, I was like, "This is a really important thing."
Adam Savage: Also, I loved Kylo Rens' tantrum, with the stormtroopers turning around and walking away again and then he destroys the whole thing and goes, "Was there anything else?"
Will Smith: That's got to be the joke of the empire. You go serve on Darth Vader's spaceship, pretty good chance you're going to get choked to death, right? JJ just acknowledges it.
Norman Chan: Speculation for next time. There are a lot of theories. What is Rey's origin? Is the connected somehow?
Will Smith: She's Luke's kid.
Adam Savage: I don't think she's going to end up being Luke's kid.
Norman Chan: I think that's the red herring.
Will Smith: You think she's just a Force sensitive from nowhere?
Adam Savage: I think she's a Force sensitive just the same way that Anakin was.
Will Smith: She's a virgin birth, powered by midichlorians?
Adam Savage: That's bullshit. None of that.
Norman Chan: I think it would be too obvious if it was.
Adam Savage: Don't even go there.
Norman Chan: You're right, Adam. They want to make you think that is, but Maz says, "These people who left you behind are not going to come back for you. Look to your future, not your past. Your future is a new family." Luke being a new family, which strongly indicates that it's not. I don't want it to be like Luke is also a deadbeat dad leaving a kid on a planet, like, "Dad grew up on a desert planet, you have to, too."
Will Smith: She's clearly not Han and Leia's kid, because Leia would have known that she had another kid, probably.
Adam Savage: Somebody else pointed out that ... I guess one of the things I was reading was like, "When Kylo yells 'traitor,' he's not yelling at Finn, he's yelling at Rey." Somehow she's his sister or something.
Norman Chan: When Kylo says, "Tell me about this girl," and somehow that peaks his interest. I don't think that is it either.
Adam Savage: It could be legend.
Will Smith: What if Leia was cloned off of Luke's hand?
Norman Chan: Here it goes. I think Obi Wan, the connection to Obi Wan could be really appropriate.
Adam Savage: Yeah. Could be.
Will Smith: You think Obi Wan got kind of nasty with somebody on Jakku?
Adam Savage: Obi Wan's niece?
Norman Chan: A granddaughter or something? That would be a fitting ... Obi Wan trained Luke and that would be unexpected. They did have both Sir Alec Guinness' voice in the vision and Ewan McGregor's voice combined, when it says, "Rey, this is the new beginning." They took a cut of Sir Alec Guinness.
Adam Savage: Alec Guinness is saying the word "afraid" and they they took "Rey" out of that and made it...
Will Smith: I don't know how I feel about that. I don't think that's a good thing.
Adam Savage: Do you think Alec Guinness' family got points for that.
Will Smith: I'm sure somebody got a check.
Adam Savage: At any rate, the one thing I know is that the next film is all going to be, as far as I'm concerned, about Rey and Kylo Ren coming into their full powers.
Will Smith: Maybe something with Finn.
Adam Savage: Yes, obviously.
Will Smith: Finn and Po will be the B arc.
Adam Savage: The third film will obviously be the final showdown between Rey and Kylo. No?
Norman Chan: I think by the end of the second film, Kylo is going to become good.
Adam Savage: By the end of the second film?
Norman Chan: I think he gets the redemption that Anakin never got. I think he is of the right age that they fight a greater evil where he becomes the anti hero, the bad ass that all the kids want to be, because he's on the good side by the end.
Adam Savage: I think this is a fine place to ...
Norman Chan: There's a speculation that I believe Will and I read yesterday and that I am absolutely now enamored with.
Will Smith: Which speculation?
Norman Chan: This is a point where you can turn off the podcast, because it is a D.B. Cooper moment. Remember in Madmen where people thought Don Draper could have been D.B. Cooper? It was so farfetched, but it made sense? This one makes so much sense to me that if it ends up being true, I'm going to be really disappointed that I read it.
Will Smith: Jar Jar was the dark lord.
Adam Savage: Go ahead.
Norman Chan: Someone said that Rey is a clone of Luke, a reverse gender clone of Luke.
Will Smith: Oh, I didn't hear that, but that was one of the things I thought when I saw the end.
Adam Savage: From his hand?
Norman Chan: From his hand and that Snoke is building the new Clone Wars.
Will Smith: They said there's clones. They introduce clones in this film.
Norman Chan: Exactly. Clones were introduced as an idea.
Adam Savage: The clones weren't good enough or something.
Norman Chan: Exactly.
Adam Savage: That was the implication.
Will Smith: I think the idea is that clones don't last long. They have like a 10-year life span or something.
Norman Chan: Since Empire, Snoke as been breeding Force-sensitive clones and this was a discarded one, maybe one that escaped and that literally, she is a reincarnation.
Will Smith: If she's a clone, though, then how do the midichlorians get inside her?
Adam Savage: Just stop with the midichlorians.
Will Smith: That's as good a place as any to leave this one. We'll see you guys next week. Hope you had a good holiday season. Happy New Year. This is our last podcast of 2015, guys.
Adam Savage: The last podcast of 2015. Have an excellent year. Happy New Year.
Will Smith: Happy New Year, folks.
Norman Chan: Bye bye.