To the shock of no one, there is already a second Star Wars: The Force Awakens Blu-ray, coming out on November 15. (This is what Star Wars has always done and Disney is apparently keeping up the tradition of unlimited home video releases.) There’s a 3D version of the film included (if you have the right equipment for that, which I do not), some extra bonus features, and most importantly, a director commentary from J.J. Abrams.
Earlier on Wednesday I watched The Force Awakens again in its entirety, this time with Abrams’ commentary on and… it’s pretty good! Abrams, who is famous for his secrecy before a movie comes out, is actually extremely forthcoming about pretty much everything after the movie is released. (Though, it would kind of been funny if he just refused to comment on anything while the movie is playing, dismissing the finished movie as one big spoiler.) Abrams starts out the commentary by saying he hates commentary, but he’s selling himself short, because he’s pretty good at it.
Anyway, while watching I learned a few things. And, below, I’m going to list out hat my favorite parts of the commentary were. Now, there’s a good chance some of this information isn’t new. “Oh, he said that a long time ago.” Great! But my point is I hadn’t heard it before and thought it was worth noting here right now. So, here we go:
– In the opening scene with Kylo Ren and Lor San Tekka, Abrams said he cut a line in which Kylo Ren references his mother and father. Abrams felt it was just too soon in the film to start alluding to Ren’s relationship with Han and Leia.
– One of the stormtroopers that is holding Poe later in this scene is played by composer Michael Giacchino, who later composed the score for Rogue One.
– Abrams says that casting Adam Driver was all Kathleen Kennedy’s idea. The trick was prying him away from his duties on Girls. Abrams gives a thanks to Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham.
– Abrams calls the dialogue between Poe and Finn, when Poe tells Finn the color of BB-8, “blatant exposition.” It was only there so Finn would recognize the droid later. I’m listing this because the commentary is filled with little moments like that, showing some of Abrams’ humility, which is nice.
– Abrams says that the TIE Fighter exploding after it sinks into the sand on Jakku was the idea of Steven Spielberg.
– Yes, as reported many times, Poe was supposed to die during that explosion. Here, Abrams gets into much more detail about that, including the fact that Oscar Isaac wouldn’t take the part unless Poe lived, citing he’d already been on four movies in which he died in the first act.
– Abrams explains he reshot the scene where Rey and Finn first meet. In the original, Rey had never heard of Luke Skywalker. Abrams said he could never quite buy that, considering she did know Han Solo and also grew up idolizing the Rebellion.
– Abrams says he borrowed a trick from George Lucas of characters separating and reuniting. And this is true. It’s kind of crazy in The Empire Strikes Back, Han Luke and Leia are together about maybe three minutes, yet that’s the movie that works the best. And I bet we see this used in Episode VIII as well.
– The whole playful scene of Rey and Finn trying to fix a leak on the Millennium Falcon was done during Harrison Ford’s injury. Abrams decided the two characters weren’t quite clicking – originally Rey was much more antagonistic to Finn – and decided to rethink their relationship and started with this scene.
– Abrams decided that when we meet Han Solo again, he wanted to portray Han as “at the end of his rope.” Basically, after all these years, this is the situation he’s in now and he has nowhere else to run.
– Luke’s lightsaber had a much longer backstory. As has been mentioned before, Luke’s lightsaber was supposed to be the first shot of the movie, floating through space. Abrams had a long backstory planned for how it finally gets back to Finn, but instead just decided to explain it with one line by Maz Kanata.
– And in the vision that Rey has when she touches the lightsaber – Abrams refers to this as a “forceback” – originally Rey was supposed to see Luke and Vader fighting on Bespin, but he decided to cut that and keep the focus on Rey.
– In the scene where our heroes are watching the other star systems being destroyed, Abrams acknowledges that, yes, the critics are correct and that’s not how it works. In real life they wouldn’t have been able to see it from so far away. And adds, “The Force Awakens is not a science lesson.”
– Abrams mentions that Rey will have “a very interesting relationship” with Kylo Ren moving forward. On its own, yeah, of course. It’s just the way Abrams says that. He just stresses it so much that it got my attention.
– Abrams points out the look on Kylo Ren’s face right after he kills Han Solo. Abrams says at that moment Ren already regrets what he just did.
– I didn’t expect to hear Ava DuVernay’s (Selma) name during the commentary, but there it was. Abrams said he showed DuVernay a rough cut of the fight between Rey and Kylo Ren and DuVernay suggested a specific shot to do during that fight to show off Rey’s intensity. (You’ll of course have to watch the commentary yourself to see that specific scene.)
– And Abrams admits he wishes he could reshoot the “controversial” scene at the end between Leia and Chewie. Or, more specifically, remove Chewbacca from the scene entirely because Abrams admits that does trick the viewer into thinking this will be some grand reunion between two old friends who just lost someone, but it never happens. (I guess this is where Abrams doesn’t borrow a trick from Lucas and just go ahead and do that then pretend it never happened.)
Mike Ryan lives in New York City and has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and New York magazine. He is senior entertainment writer at Uproxx. You can contact him directly on Twitter.