STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Cinematography by Daniel Mindel
I’m finally back for another edition of The Film Experience’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot series! I was a little too busy to participate for the past month but I couldn’t miss doing it this week for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Hopefully, I’ll find time to participate in other episodes because it really is fun to do. Anyway, when I was picking out my favorite shots from the latest installment of the Star Wars saga, I ended up being most drawn to the ones from scenes that emotionally resonated with me.
The relationship between Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia (Carrie Fisher) is one of my favorite aspects of the original Star Wars trilogy. So seeing them reunited onscreen was deeply affected for me, especially paired with a John Williams’ track that calls back to “Princess Leia’s Theme” from A New Hope. But a lot has happened in the thirty years since we last saw them celebrating the defeat of the Empire in Return of the Jedi. They’ve witnessed even more destruction, and with their only son turning to the Dark Side and Luke going into hiding, it all hits them more personally than before. Now after years of separation, they’re finally facing each other among the ruins. They’re alone in this wide shot only for a few moments, not yet getting into the subject of what drove them apart for so long. Despite the impact they felt as the First Order came to power, the shot shows that they’re only a small part of the devastation spreading throughout the galaxy.
If I was able to decide which of these shots I loved more than the other, it could have very well been my choice for best shot. The set-up of this scene makes it obvious of what’s about to happen, though you hope it doesn’t. But if for some reason one couldn’t tell what the outcome would be, the way the scene is lit shows where the characters are at mentally. Throughout the confrontation between Han Solo and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) on Starkiller Base, the mobile planet is charging for attack by draining a nearby star’s energy. As the star loses more and more of its energy, the blueish light emitting from the sky begins to fade and dark shadows begin to envelop the scene, mirroring where the conversation is headed. At the beginning, Kylo Ren’s face is lit by both the blueish light and red lights from within the base as he’s torn between the Light and the Dark Side. Just as the star is about to lose all its energy, his face is lit by only the red lights, and it’s at this moment when you can read on his face that he’s made his fatal decision.
I could have easily filled this post with only shots of Rey (Daisy Ridley), especially her reaction shots (such as the time she bypassed the compressor, and pretty much anything from her vision and her following conversation with Maz). I decided just to highlight her most powerful reaction shot instead as it’s also the movie’s most visually stunning close-up. There have been many lightsaber duels in the Star Wars saga, with wide and medium shots that focus more on the action than the emotion. But in the climatic scene of The Force Awakens, we are treated to seeing close-ups of all involved, feeling their emotions throughout the battle. During an intense moment of her lightsaber duel with Kylo Ren, in which she looks like she may lose, he offers to teach her the ways of the Force. But this only reminds her that she already has a strong connection to it. She closes her eyes for a moment as she taps into her newfound power, and we watch as she opens her eyes, gaining renewed energy. Now she has truly accepted her fate in the galaxy and takes her place as the hero we’ve been waiting for.
Be sure to check out what others have chosen as their best shot from Star Wars: The Force Awakens here!