Star Wars The Force Awakens starkiller base 3

Other than transitions, is there anything else you’ve noticed?

When you’ve watched a movie more than 20 times, your attention is free to wander, because you’re no longer subject to movie magic that’s forcing you to look at this spot or that spot. Sometimes you’ll see a ship going through the background. I noticed one of the new AT-AT walkers walking way off in the distance in one of the snow shots. I just noticed that on my 20th viewing. It’s nice that there are little tiny things going on in the background.

But at the same time, one of the beefs my friends and I had with the prequels is that it felt as though there was too much being jammed into every frame. Or maybe, they were being jammed in a way that wasn’t allowing us to focus during the first viewing, and then, of course we never got to a 20th viewing. It started to feel overwhelming. There’s a fine line between putting in Easter eggs, and overwhelming the viewer with visual stimuli.

What drives you to keep seeing this film over and over again?

Other than the promise I made to myself to not stop going until I stopped crying — although I guess it’s more of a dare than a promise — part of it really is that right now I’m in the transition period into hopefully getting another project going myself after having made my first film. And I am reaching for inspiration, and the fire to be excited. My next movie isn’t going to be a space opera but I think the excitement I feel coming out of a movie that I like, and thinking about the characters and the themes, and about my own life in relation to those, that’s really good.

This year, I tried to make a commitment to see one movie per day in theaters. Honestly, that is pretty hard because there aren’t that many movies in theaters that I’d even want to see twice. The last time I went to see a movie like this over and over again was In Bruges. Same deal, that one also made me cry. But it’s not just the tears. It’s also the excitement. In this case, seeing a fantasy world being brought to life in a believable way is really inspiring. So, as a filmmaker, I only have so many sources of excitement. I try really hard to see a wide range of things, but when I land on one that is repeatedly exciting me, I guess I have to keep going and investigating that and trying to figure out why. Why did this do this to me?

No matter how many times I see this movie, I may never be able to answer the nostalgia question. How much of the magic of The Force Awakens is based on the stories that came before it? And even if the answer is “a lot”, does that necessarily lessen its value as a work of art?

Regardless, there’s no escaping the fact that the movie has healed my feelings about the Star Wars universe. I enjoy talking about it again. I hum the score when I walk down the street. I look up the vintage toys on eBay, and remember what it was like to play with them. Thanks to this movie, works of art that moved me so profoundly in my youth are now recovered territory. For that I’m very grateful.

I assume watching it over and over on Blu-ray or home video would not be the same for you?

No. I have a projection screening environment at home and surround sound, but a huge part of it is being with the audience at the theater. 23 different audiences over time. In the beginning, the theaters were packed, so when a joke landed, 50 people laughed or 100 people laughed. That was really gratifying. Now, I’m in a theater with five people or two people, and it’s interesting to me to witness which jokes create a laugh, which jokes don’t? Sometimes I’ll sneak a peek at the audience and see if people are reacting the same way when it was a crowd of 500. Even if there’s just one other person there, I still get a lot out of it.

How many times do you think you’ll continue to see this film in theaters?

Trust me, I am shocked that I still continue to moved by this movie. At this point, it doesn’t really seem like there’s an end in sight so I’m going to keep going until it leaves theaters.

Have there been any unusual reactions that people have?

I think my favorite is the children. In a lot of other movies, I hate it when kids pipe up or start making noise or whatever. But for this, I think because I was a child seeing Star Wars, when I hear a child getting really excited and saying “Oh my gosh, there’s Rey!” it’s totally touching because I think, well hey, there’s me some years ago. And I love it.

Any other thoughts?

Supposedly Orson Welles’ only preparation for making Citizen Kane was to watch John Ford’s Stagecoach 40 times. Even in film school, I thought, “That’s ridiculous!” But I actually think if a movie is magical enough, it’s hard to penetrate why it’s working, because the illusion is so good and the magic is there. For me, it’s extremely valuable to watch a movie that I love over and over and over again, because it does allow me to start peeking behind the curtain and say, “Oh wow, the transitions are helping smooth this,” or “Actually, I didn’t notice that the music right there is touching back to this other moment in the movie. No wonder I feel so much right here.”

I feel like those observations don’t come that easily when you’re being blasted by this mystical experience that movies can be sometimes. For filmmakers, I’d definitely recommend, maybe not this movie, but a movie you like, watching it as many times as you can.

Bradley Dean King is a writer/director living in Los Angeles. You can find his film Time Lapse on Netflix.

 

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