Speaking of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this week’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot over at The Film Experience concerned J. J. Abrams’ entry into the franchise, and last night on Twitter I belatedly chose this image as my favorite from the film:
It’s part of my favorite sequence in the movie – the one introducing Daisy Ridley’s Rey. Following the opening action, these are the film’s first quiet moments, in which we get to see Rey’s routine of scavenging, cleaning, and selling Imperial scrap to maintain a hardly glamorous living on the desert planet Jakku.
Accompanied by John Williams’ lovely “Rey’s Theme,” few words are spoken throughout the sequence (none by Rey herself), instead the character and her surrounding circumstances are introduced to us through the visual. We learn of her routine, but we also quickly grasp that she doesn’t belong on that barren planet, and that she has aspirations far greater than selling garbage for food.
Like Rey, her makeshift home, the rusty, run-down insides of a broken down Armored Transport, is given depth by showing us small, tangible details that serve not only to give depth but also ground this fantastical story (we’re on a desert planet in a far away galaxy, after all) in a reality we can relate to. It’s not all lasers and spaceships and strange creatures. For Rey, at least, it’s also a flower – withering, maybe, but not dead, yet – in an improvised flowerpot.
J. J. Abrams did something very similar a few years earlier in that other franchise reboot/sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness. Again following the hectic opening action scene, the tone shifts one hundred eighty degrees to a quiet, slowly paced montage of a married couple waking up in their very much un-futuristic London apartment and visiting their terminally ill daughter at the hospital. Without any spoken exposition, the images and Michael Giacchino’s beautiful score alone tell us everything we need to know about the Harewood family’s desperate situation, and why the film’s villain, introduced at the end of the sequence, is able to use it for his own evil scheme.
We only spend a few minutes with them, but like Rey in The Force Awakens, we can relate to the Harewoods because amid all the science-fiction and fantasy elements, they feel like real people. People decorating their houses with flowers. Or people who, like some of us, have to get up at 5:00 in the morning.