Ultimately, I found myself not liking the movie nearly as much as the theatrical version. It's not a bad edit, per se. Not at all! It just didn't play to what I would have liked to see changed around. Whereby removing the use of Starkiller until the end gives it an unknown fear, by having it sooner everyone knows what the stakes are-- even if it more closely mirrors A New Hope.
The technical prowess is still pretty great, and perhaps others will like the reshuffled narrative more than I did. Personally, I would have liked to simply seen some edits made to any mentions of Kylo being Han and Leia's son until Han calls out his name on the catwalk, then would mention 'the face of my son' for the first time. It would make you wonder why Snoke was so invested in this former pupil of Luke's and Han and Leia seemed worried about him. It would leave questions like 'is he Luke's son?', 'is he Han and Leia's son?', 'was he a former trusted friend?' until the 'ah ha!' moment later on.
Maybe in another edit! :)
I agreed with every single cut and addition in this edit and I don't have any big complaints. The best part about this cut is that Force Awakens no longer feels like a reboot and remake of the OT. It actually feels like the film can take place in the Star Wars Universe. Like Hal states in the commentary, the simple restructuring of the destruction of the Hosnian system opens so many doors for the film that you can only really feel if you watch the edit itself.
The VFX work done is just plain seamless. With the frame by frame removal of the black time stamp on the deleted scene, the new star destroyer hovering over Takodana, and the charging of StarKiller Base, it really is what the film should have absolutely done in the first place.
The best scene of the edit is the removal of Chewie walking directly past Leia after Han's death.
Watching the edit and listening to Hal's commentary, I felt re-invigorated with the new Star Wars movies and fan-editing in general. It seems I had forgotten that there are other star wars fans with creativity and passion in the community at large. Everything you see nowadays is just so full of hate and vitriol, and this edit represents the COMPLETE opposite to that. To those Fans who feel like there is no hope for the community like I did, you should give this edit a watch. You won't be disappointed...
Hal seems to be mostly under the same impression and his changes are minimal - a gentle restructure as he calls it. Though I've been against the idea of this restructure since I first heard it, it is an intriguing concept. So, since I had some free time for the first time in a while (and was a little down in the dumps and needed a Star Wars charged pick me up), I decided, why not? let's see how this plays out.
Let me just say up front I did not expect the restructure to work AT ALL. The acknowledged errors in the edit aside (Finn saying "they've done it," Kylo's mask continuity error), I just didn't think narratively it would work nor would it in terms of seamless editing. So, while I must say I still think I was mostly right, I will also say I am surprised at how close it came to almost working.
I'll try to go beat by beat and describe what I mean:
- First of all, there's a change that didn't happen that I think needed to - the crawl. For the Base to show it's previously unannounced weapon for the first time in the second half of the film is just a big no no. Doesn't work. If Starkiller Base comes out of nowhere in the theatrical TFA it does so even worse here where it's first mention comes almost a full 40 minutes after it's first mention in the theatrical cut. I understand with the restructure there's not much to be done except for the crawl, which I think would be a real Hail Mary for the Base and establish the threat right off the bat (rather than being an afterthought) and perhaps the First Order's intentions as well (which were a bit hazy in the theatrical and worse here).
- The first big change is the removal of the first Starkiller attack and the subsequent replacement with the arriving First Order fleet. Visually I think it mostly works (shame there isn't some way to fit the shots of Kylo on the Finalizer bridge into this) but the music just kills it. Hearing bits of "The Starkiller" over this just does not fit. The First Order coming is not sad, it's suspenseful and threatening. I think this change could work with a proper rescore but as of now it does not (and I can get pass the misplaced Finn line).
- The second change is the Snoke scene shuffle. Works like a charm and honestly the Kylo mask isn't so noticeable (though still unfortunate).
- The third change - the shifting of the Hux speech - actually works very well and was the biggest surprise to me. It just fits at that point and really gives the film the different, non-ANH vibe that the edit is going for. It makes me really want to believe that this concept is possible because this change makes things make sense that I wasn't sure would (namely the Resistance's reaction).
- The final change is the ultimate placement of the destruction of the Hosnian system. Emotionally it works. The music edit isn't quite perfect but that's not really the big issue. It just doesn't quite make sense, namely, the nonreaction to it. I'm not sure Leia is enough. Part of the issue is by this point we've almost forgotten that the Base is going to fire so when it does it's a little random (could honestly do with some more fire preparations and Resistance base learning it's about to fire). I know it's very tricky getting this to work in there what with the main emotional beat at this point (Han and Ben) taking precedence, but as of this version, I'm not feeling it.
- Finally, another non change that should have been. The X-Wing pilot celebration is trimmed but more needs to be done. Poe with a smile on his face saying their work is done feels so wrong - they failed! Maybe if there was some way to imply that the weapon was about to fire again at the Resistance? Otherwise the trench run feels so hollow and almost pointless. And then, when they get back, there's cheering and clapping. It just doesn't make sense how it plays out now.
Yeah, so in the end I don't think the restructure is really working but I believe this edit is a good starting point; a solid sign that this can be possible. If not now, then maybe soon.
Thanks for the insightful and honest review.
I too hope that this project can be improved upon in the future. If this edit solves 10 problems, it seems like it creates 9 more. But the thing is... those 10 problems were really annoying!
One thing I am convinced of is that the film would have been better if they had shot it with all this in mind in the first place. Less certain is whether it can truly be done well via fan editing.
I would like to have seen more X-Wings attacking Starkiller Base. I always thought it stupid that 12 fighters (yes i counted them) managed to destroy SB when the DS and 2nd DS took a lot more than 12 fighters to destroy. The resistance used more fighters at Takodana than at SB. I would have cut or trimmed the skirmish with Solo, Rae, etc with those two gangs and those CGI creatures, but that is my personal opinion of course.
I only have one thing to point, although i think you wouldn't have been able to alter, i don't know but it concerns Ren, in the last part of the movie, since you reorganize the scenes, we see Ren with his mask talking to Snoke, in another frame he doesn't have anymore, then it has it again, and this also happens when he is scouring SB for Rae with is hood/"cape", in some scenes he has it, in another he doesn't. Just a minor detail other than that, good work. =)))
Truly, this is the edit of Episode VII.
Nonetheless, I must say there are two visual imperfections that brought me out of the movie. After the crawl fades away, the starfield seems to change in size instead of simply brightening and panning without resizing. I don't know If this was an issue in the original movie, though.
The other one is the fact that black bars on the left of the frame appeared every once in a while. I don't know why this happened, but I hope you can fix it before you release a V4, which would be the absolute definitive The Force Awakens edit.
I cannot recommend this edit enough! Well done!