Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens was 'little more than a remix'
As the film ends its run at the cinema, the critics start picking over the remains of JJ Abrams's reboot
As the dust begins the settle on The Force Awakens, many critics and fans are starting to argue that while there was plenty to enjoy in JJ Abrams's film, the plot itself didn't offer much that was truly new.
In fact, says Washington Post writer Sonny Bunch, Star Wars 7 can be seen as "the apotheosis of remix culture. It's logical end point".
Meanwhile, in his new video Everything is a Remix, filmmaker Kirby Ferguson claims the film's fatal flaw is its regurgitation of past episodes.
"The Force Awakens clearly is a remix, but so is everything else," Ferguson says. "For as long as humans have been creating, we have been copying, transforming and combining. The issue isn't the remixing in the [The Force Awakens], it's that it's heavy on copying and lighter on transforming and combining."
The film intentionally borrowed from lots of other stories, "because we love the familiar", he says. But Wired argues that "while most films are retellings of previous tales, the ones that truly hit a nerve – like, for example, the original Star Wars – are the ones that combine familiar elements with novel ones".
If The Force Awakens comes up short, Ferguson continues, it is because it does too much that is familiar and too little that is novel.
Of course, this hasn't stopped the film from performing strongly at the box office. Star Wars 7 officially ended its cinema run this week and has secured its place as the most successful film ever released in North America.
The Force Awakens has a box office total of $936.6m (£648.6m), "way ahead of its nearest rival, 2009's Avatar," Collider notes. James Cameron's sci-fi epic took $760.5m (£526.6m) during its run.
Star Wars 7: Ultimate Studio Edition merchandise offers 'perfect replicas'
Here's the dream collectible for anyone who's ever fantasised about battling the First Order as plucky heroine Rey – or brutally suppressing a Jedi uprising in the footsteps of Kylo Ren.
Lucasfilm's new 'Ultimate Studio Edition' range features detailed replicas of iconic props seen in The Force Awakens – for a price.
"Brazen marketing can be considered a core value of the Star Wars franchise", Karl Puschmann wrote earlier this year in the New Zealand Herald, and it's true that fans have good reason to be wary of yet more merchandise. Sci-fi junkies can already buy "everything from lightsaber chopsticks to a Death Star waffle maker", notes The Times.
Manufacturers are clearly hoping to win over the more discerning Star Wars fan with the new items, each individually crafted by artists and made to order.
"The designers worked from the original digital models and scanned items actually used in shooting to create the perfect replicas," says Geek. Lucasfilm claims the models would be "interchangeable on set with the real things".
So what are the highlights of the collection? For $1,250 (£860), you can own Kylo Ren's lightsaber hilt or Rey's fighting staff (although a non-Star Wars fan might mistake it for a stick).
At the other end of the scale, a melted Darth Vader helmet comes with a price tag to make you Force-choke: $3,500 (£2,400). Also on offer are other iconic props, like Chewbacca's bowcaster and a blood-stained Stormtrooper helmet like the one worn by Finn.
The melted Vader masks and Stormtrooper helmets are ultra-limited edition – only 500 have been produced. Lucasfilm will be hoping that the limited availability, as well as the unprecedented level of craftsmanship, will be enough to wrest money from fans' pockets.
Star Wars 7: Daisy Ridley opens up about Han Solo's death
Star Wars actor Daisy Ridley has spoken about the dramatic climax of The Force Awakens, in which the much-loved character Han Solo, played by Harrison Ford, dies at the hands of his own son.
In an interview with The Big Issue, Ridley, who plays newcomer Rey, said she understands why many Star Wars fans were so affected by the scene.
"People die so awfully every day that if you experienced every grief the whole world would be a dark, dark place. So many awful things happened last year and Han Solo dying, which was one of the last moments of the year, is some weird way of people experiencing that," she said.
"People are weighed down by awful things that are happening and what they see on the news. If everybody puts a piece of themselves into Han Solo and Han Solo dies – in the cinema, where it's dark – you can express it and it alleviates some of the pain. His death is obviously not as important as actual lives that are lost but people probably use it as some kind of carrier for the grief.”
Ridley has just finished filming the as-yet-unnamed sequel to The Force Awakens in Ireland and is on her way to the next location, Star Wars News reports.
Star Wars 7 was meant to open on Luke's severed hand, says Mark Hamill
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was meant to begin very differently, according to veteran actor Mark Hamill.
In the original cut, the first scene featured his character Luke Skywalker's severed hand clutching a lightsaber and floating through space, the actor said in an interview with The Sun. The Jedi weapon then crash-landed on the surface of the desert planet Jakku before being picked up by an alien, who may have been Lupita Nyong'o's character, Maz Kanata.
"I can tell you now that in the original opening shot of 7, the first thing that came into frame was a hand with a lightsaber, a severed hand that enters the atmosphere," Hammill said. "And then the hand and bone burns away and goes sticking into the surface of Jakku. And this alien hand comes in, don't know if it was Maz but it was an alien hand who takes the lightsaber way, and then the movie proceeds as you see it."
According to Screen Rant, "there's no explanation provided for why it was cut, meaning that even after the movie's release, there's still plenty of hypothesising to be had. Ideally, the mystery of the lightsaber will be solved in one of the upcoming films".
Nyong'o is currently filming Star Wars 8, which is being directed by Rian Johnson, so all may be revealed when the next instalment is released in December 2017.
Star Wars 7: Daisy Ridley 'doesn't care' who Rey's parents are
Cliffhanger endings are, by their very nature, designed to titillate audiences leaving them with unanswered questions and unresolved plot points. By which measure, the ending to Star Wars: The Force Awakens was perfectly pitched, bringing the film's new heroine, Rey, face to face with the original trilogy's great hero, Luke Skywalker, and paving the way for the next two instalments of the long-running space saga.
Some things in the film wrapped up neatly, of course. We now know how Kylo Ren connects to General Leia and Han Solo, we have seen the budding relationship between Rey and Finn and the Resistance has scored its first major win against the evil First Order.
But one matter remains very much unresolved: the question of Rey's parentage.
Warning: possible spoilers ahead.
Many fans believe Rey is Luke's daughter, but quite who her mother might be is a matter of some conjecture. Some suggest she might turn out to be the silver-clad stormtrooper Captain Phasma, while others say she will be revealed as Jyn Erso, the star of the forthcoming spin-off film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
This week, Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, weighed in on the debate, by suggesting she doesn't find the answer to the question to be all that important "because what matters for Finn and Rey isn't where they've been, it's where they're going", CinemaBlend says.
"I think the amazing thing about [The Force Awakens] is that Finn and Rey don't come from anywhere and they find a place," Ridley said, during the MTV Music Awards. "So to me, it's funny that people think it's so important because I don't really think it is."
All will (most probably) be revealed when Star Wars 8 is released in cinemas in 2018.
Star Wars 7: Watch Daisy Ridley's audition for the role of Rey
Daisy Ridley may have been an unknown when she was cast as heroine Rey in The Force Awakens, but a newly-released clip of her audition video proves that her talent is unmistakable.
A preview from the special features on the upcoming DVD release delves into the casting process for the space blockbuster and includes a previously unseen clip of Daisy Ridley auditioning for the part of Rey.
The audition comes from the moment in the movie where Rey is tormented by villain Kylo Ren. Ridley shows her dramatic mettle in the clip, taking on the gruelling, emotional scene multiple times, while responding to cues from director JJ Abrams, who said her performance was "unbelievable."
Like co-star John Boyega, the young British actress was far from a household name when she was cast as heroine Rey in the much-hyped reboot of the Star Wars franchise. With a career mostly consisting of one-off roles in rite-of-passage shows like Casualty and Silent Witness, Ridley did not expect to land one of the most coveted parts in Hollywood.
"I was kind of used to things not happening, so I just felt the whole way, 'I'm going to lose the job. They're going to find someone better than me,'" she told the Hollywood Reporter.
Since being cast in Star Wars, Ridley has become one of the film industry's hottest properties. As well as reprising her role as novice Jedi Rey in at least two more movies, Ridley has recently confirmed rumours that she is ready to take on another franchise getting a dust-off. Fifteen years after Angelina Jolie played the improbably busty explorer Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, Ridley is in talks to play Lara in the new movie based on the latest video games in the series.
Star Wars 7: First reviews of Lego's The Force Awakens
Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens is still three months away but a new gameplay trailer has given a tantalising look at what's in store.
A lucky handful of gaming journalists were also given an exclusive look at three demo levels from the game, which isn't set to go on sale until 28 June. So what can fans expect to see?
The Guardian's Keith Stuart lays out a basic rundown of the structure – 18 levels and five "hub zones" revolving around the events seen on screen. As in the film, the player starts out guiding scavenger heroine Rey around the junkyards of Jakku before meeting up with Finn and taking on the villainous First Order.
However, "it's the incidental stuff that's proving most charming", such as the Lego Stormtroopers trying on straw hats at a market stall in the background of one level.
As well as letting gamers relive their favourite scenes, the game also features other missions expanding on the film's plot – how did Han and Chewie get those Rathtars, for instance?
As for the gameplay, Stuart notes Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens includes all the classic Lego game ingredients – innovative puzzle-solving, meticulous replicas of the source material, and the mixture of smart humour and slapstick that made The Lego Movie a hit with adults as well as children.
Improved game mechanics, including the ability to take cover and flight combat levels where the player takes control of the Millennium Falcon, ensure the game has plenty of replay value.
Most importantly for Star Wars fans, the game "captures the authenticity and the excitement of the film", says IGN UK – aided by new dialogue recorded by The Force Awakens' stars. Its "cute and clever" take on the film features a wealth of hidden details and references to the franchise sure to test even the most dedicated megafan.
Star Wars 7: How did Rey defeat Kylo Ren?
One of the most thrilling set pieces in The Force Awakens was heroine Rey's desperate one-on-one struggle with Kylo Ren in the forests of Starkiller Base.
Despite the fact that Rey had only just discovered her Jedi powers and was a novice with a lightsaber, she was somehow able to fend off Ren, a powerful and highly trained warrior.
As exciting as the battle was, many viewers found Rey's natural flair for lightsaber duelling implausible. Some fans even accused the film's writers of making Rey a "Mary Sue", a nickname to describe an impossibly perfect character with apparently limitless skills.
So how did Rey manage to pull off her impressive victory over Ren? Perhaps it isn't so farfetched after all…
For one thing, argues Emma Lord in Bustle, Ren is already seriously injured when he engages Rey in their woodland showdown. Chewbacca reacts to the death of his beloved companion Han by blasting Ren with a bowcaster, a weapon that has previously been powerful enough to kill with a single blow.
More importantly, Ren clearly has the upper hand when the fight begins, but for unknown reasons he chooses not to press his advantage. When given a chance to finish Rey off early in their encounter, he uses the moment to try and tempt her to the Dark Side instead.
Besides, adds Erik Kain in Forbes, the film has already established that Rey is far from an ordinary young woman. Only a "combination of innate skill and force of will, as well as latent Force abilities" could have saved her from starvation or slavery as she grew up on Jakku as an orphaned scavenger. With her remarkable talent for survival, it's not too much of a stretch to believe that Rey's instincts gave her a crucial edge in her battle with Kylo Ren.