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Tuesday, 29 March 2016

EVENT REVIEW: 'SECRETS OF THE FORCE AWAKENS: A CINEMATIC JOURNEY' (UK GALA SCREENING)

John Boyega at the Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey event in London. All event images by James Gillham/StingMedia.co.uk for DISNEY UK.

Today (29th March, 2016), Scott Weller/STAR WARS AFICIONADO was kindly invited by DISNEY to attend a special one-off cinematic screening of the upcoming feature-length Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey documentary. This evening bar/screening event, held at the trendy PICTUREHOUSE CENTRAL in Piccadilly, London, saw a beaming and enthusiastic John Boyega introduce the documentary (which he himself hasn't seen yet!) and have fun with the fans, doing a special selfie with the entire seated audience, and teasing about the new addition to the EPISODE VIII cast: Kelly Marie Tran.

The First Order has arrived.
John Boyega has fun.
Getting another major selfie!

Produced by first choice documentarian to Steven Spielberg (and now, it seems, J.J. Abrams): Laurent Bouzereau, Secrets is an interesting and nicely crafted documentary that certainly has lots to enjoy, though with very few actual secrets to spill, and is split into four easy to follow chapters. Here's my guide to each one:

The Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey – Trailer - YouTube

PART ONE: We see the sell-off of the STAR WARS franchise to DISNEY by George Lucas (far too glossed over and quickly out of the way, with no mention of the "scriptment" he originally concocted, nor any mention of how critical he was in getting the original classic cast back on board), Kathleen Kennedy assembling her new creative team, including J.J. Abrams, and first writer Michael Arndt (who isn't talked to), the development of the new/old universe after the events of JEDI by the production designers and artists, and the need to recapture the "used universe" magic that made the original three films so striking; the discovery of Daisy Ridley (interrogation scene screen test footage- all too brief), and her and John Boyega's first interviews, plus the return of Lawrence Kasdan as a vital creative force to the LUCASFILM family.

Casting Rey | The Force Awakens Bonus Features - YouTube

The now incredible first cast read-through of the script.

PART TWO: The intense start to filming in the desert of Abu Dhabi, the introduction of BB-8 (and how Ridley (worried about her performance at the start of filming) asked J.J. for more interaction with the droid), John Boyega's first scenes (and numerous screen test clips) and his all-round enthusiasm, Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, the set building of the Millennium Falcon (down to every last meticulous detail, plus the stop motion chess game) and the sequences all being filmed at Pinewood (including the introduction of Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron (originally to have been killed off on Jakku but spared, at the request of Isaac, after having died early on in four previous films!)), the return of Harrison Ford to the role of Han Solo and the giddyness of the other cast and crew with his arrival, plus the two Chewies!

PART THREE: Filming the scenes at Maz Kanata's Castle (though nothing on the subsequent battle and stunt work), the introduction of Maz and her realization, Andy Serkis filming on high his scenes as Snoke, the return of Princess Leia, C-3PO (and Abrams's reasoning for the new red arm), and R2-D2.

PART FOUR: The passing of the Classic Trilogy torch from one hero to another: the end of Han Solo (filmed amid lots of green screen and secrecy, plus his somber farewell behind the scenes) and the return of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, filmed at the striking location of Skellig Island.

Getting ready for posed photography in Abu Dhabi.

Highlight scenes from across the documentary:

Kathleen Kennedy's first production meeting confirming J.J. Abrams as director, and her later deciding she wanted Captain Phasma in the movie, based on the painting and maquette she saw.

Costume make-up test footage of Rey and Finn before going to Abu Dhabi.

The now iconic first full cast read through (including Mark Hamill narrating the script- watch out for a different description of the rebel planet D'Qar), and some mild nervousness from Harrison Ford in an afterword interview about whether this new film would be a success.

Female Stormtroopers in action at the Jakku opening attack.

Deleted scenes: Han putting up the die in the Millennium Falcon cockpit, some additional rehearsal dialogue between Han and Leia about Kylo Ren, rehearsing Maz Kanata's lightsaber scene with Leia on D'Qar).


A big thanks from J.J. to Gwendoline Christie.

VANITY FAIR legend Annie Leibovitz photographing Captain Phasma and troopers at the entrance to Maz Kanata's wrecked castle at Pinewood.

Motion capture genius Andy Serkis working with Lupita Nyong'o on developing her character.

Mark Hamill having fun watching filming of the various alien creatures at Maz Kanata's castle.

Carrie Fisher's early nerves on the first day of filming, helped along gently and encouragingly by J.J. Abrams.

John Boyega enjoying seeing the Millennium Falcon prop with J.J. Abrams at Greenham Common airfield, London.

Harrison Ford's gentle hug with Chewbacca at the end of his filming.

Apart from Domnhall Gleeson and Max Von Sydow, pretty much all the main cast are interviewed. Sadly, that also includes the nauseating, Prequel-unfriendly Simon Pegg.


"Ben!"

Documentary disappointments: Material obviously being saved for additional featurettes: nothing on the Rathtars sequence or the finale lightsaber duels, the lack of any real examination of the post production phase, barely a look in at ILM and its state of the art CGI effects since 2005, and little on John Williams superb work, past a brief interview and some music conducting shots. But the most disappointing aspect: absolutely nothing on that Harrison Ford injury sustained on only his second day of filming. It didn't need to be anything sensational, but the lack of mention of that part of the filming history is a major disappointment- and it was something other audiences members watching found conspicuous by its absence, too.

Filming at Skellig Island.

AFICIONADO RATING: Back in 2001, the EPISODE I DVD set had a brilliant 60 plus minutes documentary, The Beginning, which genuinely proved a surprising and often warts-and-all look at the film's making, brave enough to show the times during the 1997-99 production process when things didn't go smoothly for George Lucas, especially during the editing. Secrets is a worthy time capsule successor to The Beginning, and a fine addition to the upcoming April Blu-ray/DVD set for EPISODE VII, but its also family friendly, legally friendly, and has a manufactured and soft feel to it, lacking its predecessor's bite - you have to admire Lucas even more now for letting people see what happened back in the day, and then approve it for outsiders to see- the kind of scenario I doubt you'll get with any future STAR WARS movies behind the scene material. 3.5 out of 5

With thanks to DISNEY UK



Get hold of THE FORCE AWAKENS on Blu-ray here: Star Wars: The Force Awakens Limited Edition Dark Side Artwork Sleeve Blu-ray + Bonus Disc 2015: Amazon.co.uk: Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Mark Hamill, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong'o, Kenny Baker, Gwendoline Christie, J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Kathleen Kennedy: DVD & Blu-ray

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