Monday, March 14 at noon on an unseasonably warm for March day in Austin, JJ Abrams walked on stage at the Paramount Theater to introduce "Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey," the documentary about making the best film of 2015.
We were then treated to the full-length documentary that will appear on your Blu-Ray or digital version of "The Force Awakens" when it drops in a few weeks.
In it, we get a behind the scenes look at the history and thought put into this production. First up, some hilarious outtakes of actors asking wht they can and can't talk about. Gwendoline Christie is especially hilarious (and that's true throughout).
Most of what makes this documentary interesting is not so much the how they did everything, but the bloodlines behind the production. So much of the crew, from visuals to sound to the actual crew at Pinewood Studios had family who worked on the other Star Wars films. This helped bolster a storyline in the film itself about continuation, a new generation taking off where the last finished, and a re-awakening of the thing we love so much: Star Wars.
You get to see some really cool bits of how things were done, though. As a practical effect, BB-8 looked like a giant puppet, with big green mechanical arms coming out to be removed later. Lupita Nyong'o in her Maz Kanata motion capture gear was also amazing to behold, as was the training she went through with Andy Serkis to bring this character to life. We also got to see a picture of JJ Abrams' teacher on whom he based the character. It was a beautiful and fun moment.
The emphasis on practical but insistence that you can't get a finished product without digital was unstated and yet ever-present throughout. Yes, we get to see Simon Pegg in his Unkar Plott suit. We get to see what Andy Serkis was doing as Snoke, and how very much like The Wizard of Oz he was.
Just as in the film, your main breakout stars here are Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, and Adam Driver. In talking about their casting, their imethod, their trepidations, their training, we gain so much insight into the character they brought to life. Also, just like in the film, we don't get quite enough Oscar Isaac, who reveals that Poe Dameron originally had a different fate in the film and how they rewrote it.
And yes, we see clips from that first read-through whose pictures almost broke the Internet. Learnign more about their method at this read through made the roles of Luke Skywalker and JJ Abrams as Director so much more interesting and brought an even greater respect to Hammill's and Abrams' craft.
This is a satisfying look at the playground that brought us an amazing film. I think it's unfair to give a making-of documentary the same sort of score I would a feature release documentary, but if I were, this is a solid 7.5 out of 10.
You'll want to watch this as soon as you get your Blu-Ray.
May the Force Be With You from Austin and SXSW.