While J.J. Abrams was tasked with overseeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the director wasn’t above seeking out help from different filmmakers as he looked to hone and create the perfect edit for release.
This included celebrated filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who in recent years has directed the powerful Selma as well as the celebrated documentary 13th, and J.J. Abrams admitted that she offered a pivotal piece of advice that he immediately incorporated into the scene.
The scene in question is the climatic lightsaber duel between Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), which Abrams confessed that he altered in the editing and even conducted various reshoots to shape it, too. This included adding some small moments into the scene that added greater emotion to the sequence, and one of them was a shot that Ava DuVernay insisted would work.
— The A.V. Club (@TheAVClub) October 20, 2016
According to Yahoo Movies, J.J. Abrams makes this admission on the director’s commentary track that will appear on the four-disc Force Awakens 3D collector’s edition, which will be released this November.
During the track, Abrams explained, “I showed an early cut to my friend Ava DuVernay, and she had a bunch of great suggestions. One of them was she really wanted to see Daisy, in her attack on Ren, have one really cool moment.”
This led to Abrams pointing out that one of these moments was a close-up of Rey as she dealt an emphatic blow to Kylo Ren.
Speaking of this addition, Abrams insisted, “Boom! It’s a little thing, but it really connects you to her intensity.”
During the commentary track, J.J. Abrams revealed that he had time to film the shot that DuVernay suggested during an eight-week stoppage during production, which unfortunately presented itself after Harrison Ford had broken his leg because of an on-set accident.
That wasn’t the only moment that J.J. Abrams decided to shoot during this break in filming, as he extended a moment in the same lightsaber battle where Rey finally felt the Force. During this key moment, the fight suddenly starts to turn to Rey’s advantage. However, in the original cut, there wasn’t really a pause to appreciate the clash turning to her favor.
Rewatching the scene, Abrams decided to add a simple beat, which he explained saw Rey “take this moment of hearing the Force and thinking about what Maz had told her about closing her eyes and letting it in.”
Abrams continued, “And so she has this incredibly internal moment that is extended in movie time where she basically feels it, accepts it, and is now ready to kick his a**.”
— Heroic Hollywood (@heroichollywood) October 20, 2016
Unfortunately, we didn’t really get to see Rey pummel Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which would have been extremely rewarding because Kylo Ren, who was born Ben Solo, actually killed his own father, and one of the most iconic characters in cinematic history, Han Solo. This then led to Ren and Finn (John Boyega) taking part in their own lightsaber battle, where Finn was badly wounded.
Luckily for Finn, Rey was there to pick up the reins in the battle, and she scooped up the lightsaber to try and fight against Kylo Ren, who, with the killing of his father, has fully embraced the dark side. After some early struggles, Rey starts to use the Force that she only recently embraced and actually starts to defeat Ren. However, a tremor on the planet leads to a fissure that separates the duo, and as the planet starts to implode, they go their separate ways, knowing that they’ll do battle again in the near future.
Hopefully, that will take place in Star Wars: Episode 8, which is being written and directed by Rian Johnson and will be released in December of 2017.
[Featured Image by Lucasfilm]