Bradley Brighter

What things were you excited to be feeling from seeing the film?

I catch a lot of flack from my friends for seeing this movie so many times. One of the things they give me grief about is, “Oh, well, you’re just feeling nostalgia.”

To that I say, “Well, why didn’t I feel nostalgia for the prequels, if that’s all it is? If it’s just seeing Star Wars stuff.”

I mean undoubtedly nostalgia is happening. But beyond that, the performances affected me. I think anytime John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, or Harrison Ford are on screen, I’m interested. I’m in. I want to watch them. They probably could’ve been doing dishes for some of those scenes and I would’ve been riveted. But the performances were really good and the arcs worked for me in the movie. I cried. I cry every single time, in fact.

That was the deal I made with myself. I would stop going when I stop crying. And I have yet to not cry at a screening of this movie.

What parts do you cry at?

Certainly, I cry when we see the Millenium Falcon for the first time. When Harrison Ford comes on screen, when he dies. Rey and her arc, I think even just when we’re introduced to her — seeing her inhabit this world that is populated by the relics of my childhood, all dusty and laying in the desert and forgotten, and seeing her engage with this world and get sucked into it and get to interact with Han Solo and the Millenium Falcon and all that stuff in a way that as a kid I always dreamed — obviously that was part of J.J.’s plan to try to do that. It worked wonderfully. It really activated that part of my imagination and excitement.

Do you usually watch it by yourself or go with others?

Usually by myself, but I have taken a few people. I’m kind of careful now to take people who either already actively like it or I think might enjoy it, because I’ve already had all the arguments about what’s working and what’s not working, or whether things are being rehashed to much or whether this or that aspect works. Now, because I’m going for my own edification, and to study it and study my own reactions to it, I don’t want to take someone who wants to go just to complain about it afterwards.

Do you have a preferred theatrical experience? Do you go to different theaters?

The more I watch it the more I am experimenting with the experience. I’ll go one time and just study the shots. “Let me see if I can figure out what lens they were using in all these shots.”

One thing this has done is gotten me into a bunch of different theaters, because of course it’s been leaving theaters one by one. When I first started going, I saw it at the Dome at the Arclight in 3D a couple times. Then I saw it at the Dome in 2D. Then I had to go to Mann’s Chinese Theater, because of course that’s where Star Wars began way back in the 1970s. I saw it there several times, and then I saw it at the Capitan, where Disney always does a little opening, like a laser light show before the movie, and that was fun.

I’ve been seeing it at the Grove, mostly because that’s now where it’s still playing. It’s left most other theaters. Over time, I started seeing it in smaller and smaller theaters.

I did walk out of one screening because of the nature of how it was presented was so atrocious, I had to leave. Nothing against the theater — it was Regal Cinemas in Downtown Los Angeles and they had this thing called 4DX…

We had a segment on the /Filmcast about that!

You know all about it then! I knew nothing. I had heard about the one with the rumble seats, but this was a whole other level. The seats are on a gimbal, and you’re getting blasted with air and water. I think smell too? Or maybe the air just smelled bad.

The parts that really got me were the strobe lights in the theater. The director obviously spent a lot of time and money trying to make the light look beautiful in this movie, and you’re going to add strobe lights to this experience? I thought that was absurd.

What really got me out of the theater was, you know those little arms in the seats that are kidney-punching you occasionally during action scenes? After about 15 minutes of that I had to leave. I couldn’t handle it.

You mentioned using each screening to study a different element of the film. What are some things you’ve noticed in recent screenings that you didn’t notice in your first few viewings?

Last night I was studying transitions between scenes. Basically how the last shot of a scene lined up with the first shot of the next scene. The director has a lot of vital jobs, but arguably that’s one that’s not just important for smoothing the audience’s transition from one scene to the next without losing them, but also it’s interesting to study the art of it and how sometimes, you have a transition that’s thematic and there’s an idea sliding you from one scene to the next. But sometimes it’s a shot matching up with another shot in the next scene. So yeah, yesterday was all about that.

What is a specific transition that really struck you and why?

An easy one to that everyone might even remember is when John Boyega is back on the Star Destroyer at the beginning of the movie and he’s taking his helmet off and he’s kind of freaking out. Captain Phasma comes up and gives him grief about it and asks him “Who told you you could take your helmet off?!” And so he puts it back on. And then we have a match cut basically to Rey — same proportions, her head just about as big in the frame, staring right at us the way John Boyega was. She’s wearing a helmet or a mask apparatus that she’s cobbled together from old stormtrooper parts, so the eyes especially are from an old stormtrooper helmet. It’s a really smooth interesting cut and we sort of finished our introduction to John Boyega’s character and we’re sliding into meeting Rey.

I think even the first time I saw it, I thought, “Oh wow, that was a neat transition.”

But then there’s more subtle ones. Like later in the movie when the planet is about to implode, and I think some of the guys in the control center, they’re watching TIE fighters blow up and fire outside the window. One of them starts to abandon his post, and someone yells at him, “Don’t abandon your post!” And then he says “We’re never going to survive!” and he runs out the door.

And then we cut to General Hux running into the chamber where he’s talking to the supreme leader giving him orders. It’s really simple but kind of subtle where your eye isis following this one guy out the door, and then you cut to this scene where someone is coming in a door, and they’re positioned physically in the same spot on the frame. So your eye doesn’t have to wander or leap across the screen. Especially when you’re in a really big screening environment, you almost have to turn your head to go from one side of the screen to the other. So, it just sort of facilitates smooth continuation of attention. It’s not really in your face, but it’s not meant to be. It’s just sort of meant to keep you moving in what is a fast series of cuts, in terms of what’s happening in the movie at that point.

Continue Reading The Guy Who’s Seen ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ 23 Times in Theaters >>

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