A review of Solo – meeting an old friend for the first time.

Solo: A Star Wars Story, or Solo (to avoid confusion, I will refer to the movie as Solo and the character as Han), is the second of the Star Wars stand-alone “anthology” films, following 2016’s Rogue One. It is set prior to the events of Star Wars (yes I said Star Wars dammit, not New Hope not Episode Four…), although it is vague as to how far before – movie executives say about ten years. It explores the first adventures of Han Solo and Chewbacca, as well as their meeting Lando Calrissian, and the theft of a type of super fuel to appease a boss of the criminal underworld for an earlier botched train heist.

This is the darkest of the all the Star Wars movies. We see the criminal underbelly of this galaxy far far away. We had hints of this in Jabba the Hut and others (including Lando). But this is murkier, more nihilistic.

I liked it!

If the movie did not have the Star Wars tag, stripped and scrubbed of all Lucasia, so to speak, it would have still been a good movie. Not great, but good. It was too dark to have the sly wit of The Sting or the hipster wink of Ocean’s 11, but it had the same elements. Individual rogues tying to outwit Criminal organizations who themselves are fighting other criminal organizations all avoiding the Empire fighting a embryonic Rebellion. Who is on who’s side? Their own, obviously. Anyone could turn on Han at any time. No one is NOT suspect.

Well, not Chewbacca, obviously.

***

As part of the so-called anthology of non-canonical eight-and-counting movies (that is, not part of the “Adventures of Luke Skywalker (and family)” – I’ll refer to them as the Canon), comparisons to the first anthology movie – Rogue One – is expected and (were I involved in the movie) welcomed! Rogue One was superb but inextricably linked to the Canon. It was a laser-etched final jigsaw piece to the Canon all while maintaining independence from the Canon. Rogue One managed to juggle an original story while still carry the immense burden (or baggage depending on your opinion) of the Canon movies.

Solo does not have as much baggage as Rogue One and is thus free to create new characters and situations (as Rogue One did but even more independent of “what happens next”) – the only burden was making sure Han and Chewy eventually make it to Tattoine and Lando ends up in Cloud City (the movie ends before either destination is reached). You KNOW they aren’t going to be killed off. Whether they will stay loyal to each other in the meantime … remember their first reunion in Empire Strikes Back

But it does have its nods to the Canon. Jabba the Hut is mentioned (not by name but the implication is obvious), but Bossk is (from Empire), we see Han’s home world of Corellia, we find out why he wears military trousers, we visit the Spice Mines of Kessel and why the Kessel run can’t be made in less than 20 parsecs.

A shame – for 40 years I have established my geek cred by arguing that a parsec was a measure of space, not time, making the Kessel run in 12 parsecs was akin to running a mile in 400 feet. Alas, Solo explains (finally) what this means other than it being an un scientific writer’s error …

***

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Alden Ehrenreich did well as Han. His Han’s arrogance was as unproved as Harrison Ford’s in Star Wars, but the audience in Solo knows he is bluffing about his abilities. By the end of both movies, we are as confident as he is about his piloting (and other) skills.

I had a hard time seeing him “becoming” the Harrison Ford version, however. Compare his performance to, say, River Phoenix’ superior young Indiana Jones in Lost Crusade. River emulated Ford’s manner of speech, his phrasing, even his gate while running. I could see him “growing up” to be Harrison Ford. Not so with Alden Ehrenreich.

Which is neither good nor bad, just different. I didn’t want Rich Little, but this Han Solo wasn’t going to be the one I saw in 1977. Less of a bio-pic and more of a reboot.

Compare this to Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian. HE emulated the speech patterns, phrasing and general cool slickness Billy Dee Williams brought (will bring? Damn these time anomalies) to the character.  It also helped that Lando was only in two movies – and only one in which we glimpsed his personality (he was almost an after-thought in Return of the Jedi) – Lando was not as firmly entrenched in the mythos as Han.

***

The villain behind all the treachery, when revealed, was fun and interesting but caused some confusion. No spoilers, but his/her/its (I’m being deliberately vague as to gender) appearance was … an anachronism. How could this character possibly be around at this time? No spoilers, but it would be as if Kylo Ren appeared in a movie about a young Yoda. “Aren’t you not even supposed to be born for another seven hundred years?” or Qui-Gon Jinn appearing alive and well at the end of the ninth Canon movie. “Didn’t you die … seventy-plus years ago?”

***

The rest of the cast? Woody Harrelson surprises as Han’s mentor/frenemy and leader of the one of the criminal gangs. I sometimes forget what a good actor he is. When he was announced as a cast member I was a bit shocked, him being so “serious” an actor – what? Why? Will Sean Penn be in the next Deadpool movie?  Will Robert Duvall play the Whizzer in the next Avengers movie? But as I said, he did very well! The best of the original characters in the movie.

And Emilia Clarke is as indescribably beautiful as ever.

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***

What is next? Another Han movie is likely – likely (and probably unnecessarily) linking Solo to Star Wars. A Lando Calrissian movie is in the cards – Donald Glover says he would enjoy reprising the role. I’m looking forward to any of these movies.

Maybe more so than the ninth Canon movie…

Copyright 2018 Michael Curry

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

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Star Wars: the Last Jedi, a review of the third second Star Wars movie…

It was worse than Empire Strikes Back and better than Attack of the Clones…”

“Well, duh … name one sequel that doesn’t fit between those movies.”

Godfather 2.”

“Well, of course, …”

Star Trek, the Wrath of Khan.”

“I said one sequel…”

“And on the other end, Matrix 2, Speed 2, Stayin’ Alive…”

“Shut up.”

***

Star Wars: the Last Jedi has wonderful professional reviews but was raked on Facebook and other media by fans. Perhaps they are a very loud minority, or perhaps Rotten Tomatoes is not a reliable source for the quality of a movie…

Wikipedia has a fine plot synopsis. I will include it here with my thoughts in italics, which contain no spoilers.

The Wikipedia summary (in regular type) contains SPOILERS, so if that bothers you, just read the italics…

***

Resistance fighters led by General Leia Organa evacuate their base when a First Order fleet arrives.

Oh, god, here we go again, I thought at the time … SW: The Force Awakens was a (albeit good) retelling of Star Wars (and yes I said Star Wars, not Episode 3, a New blahblahblah … and now we have the same plot opening as Empire …?). Fortunately, the comparison stopped there …

Following an effective but costly counterattack led by Poe Dameron, the Resistance vessels jump into hyperspace to escape, but the First Order pursues them using a tracking device. Kylo Ren, Leia’s son, destroys the Resistance support fighters, but hesitates to fire at the lead Resistance ship after sensing his mother’s presence.

Ren’s evolution in this movie is a highlight. In Force Awakens, he was a typical brooding slacker. This point of the movie was an interesting development – he did not hesitate to kill his father, but did not fire on his mother (although never mentioned again). This was a consistent theme throughout the movie: could Kylo Ren be redeemed? He gravitates between redemption and the Dark Side. At no point do we cheer him on, but (even up to that certain point we are sure he made his decision with finality) we aren’t sure how his struggle with good and evil will eventually end!

TIE fighters destroy the bridge of the ship, killing several Resistance leaders and incapacitating Leia, leaving Vice Admiral Holdo in command. Disapproving of Holdo’s passive strategy, Poe, Finn, BB-8, and mechanic Rose Tico embark on a secret plan to disable the tracking device.

Fin, the co-star of Force Awakens its POV character, has a much smaller role in this movie – that is, smaller in terms of import and impact in the plot. In fact, his role is almost incidental and could have easily been cut.  His dramatic moment at the end of the movie was well-done, in character, and late in coming.

Meanwhile, Rey has arrived on remote Ahch-To …

Gesundheit

… with Chewbacca and R2-D2 aboard the Millennium Falcon to recruit Luke Skywalker to the Resistance. Disillusioned by the failures of the Jedi, Luke initially refuses, even after learning of Han Solo’s death.

Mark Hamill has recently told the press of his dislike of this Luke Skywalker. I found his nihilistic views very MUCH in character and one of the quieter – and more effective – parts of the movie! I cared more for Luke’s redemption than Kylo Ren’s…

Unbeknownst to Luke, Rey and Kylo begin communicating with each other through telepathic visions.

This developed an emotional link between Rey and Kylo that showed us the battle of the Light and Dark within Kylo. Any battle with the Dark Side within Rey eluded me. Despite Kylo assurances, I could not see Rey turning to the Dark Side, even at the important juncture (no spoilers) in which we the viewers were not supposed to be sure … that part of the movie failed, in my opinion. At no time did we think Rey would turn.

BUT it DID give us insight as to Kylo. Until his final decision, the viewer had no idea what it would be!

Prompted by R2-D2, Luke eventually agrees to teach Rey the ways of the Force. Luke and Kylo give Rey differing accounts of the incident that turned Kylo to the dark side, with Luke confessing that he momentarily contemplated killing Kylo upon sensing that Supreme Leader Snoke had corrupted him, causing Kylo to destroy Luke’s emergent Jedi Order in retaliation.

Adam Driver did a wonderful job showing the scared little boy within Kylo in this scene.

Convinced that Kylo can still be redeemed, Rey leaves Ahch-To …

Gesundheit

… to confront Kylo without Luke. Luke prepares to burn down the Ahch-To …

Take some Claritin, will ya?

… Jedi temple and library, but he encounters Yoda’s Force ghost, who destroys the temple himself and encourages Luke to learn from his failure.

Holdo reveals her plan to discreetly evacuate the remaining Resistance members using small transports. Believing her actions to be cowardly and risky, Poe instigates a mutiny.

Holdo, played by Laura Dern, is another character whose loyalties are unknown until the “very end” – that is, when we are shown her choice. Is she on the side of the First Order or the Resistance or someone else? Is she on the side of the angels?Readers of the Star Wars novels will have no doubt as to her stance, but the rest of us remained unsure until near the end.

Finn, Rose and BB-8 travel to Canto Bight and acquire the help of the hacker DJ, who says he is able to help them disable the tracking device.

This is, to me, the weakest part of the movie. I am still unsure if the hacker that accompanied them was the hacker they were looking for. They found the hacker playing craps with lovely ladies on his arms (they were looking for a man with a certain flower in his lapel) – the hacker they took with them was a fellow prisoner. Was he the real hacker all along? If not, he was VERY good at what he did … did they establish this in the movie? Did I miss it? I had a piece of popcorn husk stuck between my lower left molars since the previews, was it THAT distracting? Marvel Comics will release a comic about Canto Bight that promises to explain things…

Also, the long escape scene was too long. Although Finn and Rose planted the seeds of rebellion in some of the child laborers, and we learn a bit of about Rose’s past and her hatred of this gambling planet … this entre subplot seems tacked on, overlong and unnecessary.

They infiltrate Snoke’s ship, but are captured by Captain Phasma, though BB-8 manages to escape. Meanwhile, Rey lands on the ship, and Kylo brings her to Snoke, who reveals that he controlled the mental connection between her and Kylo as part of a plan to destroy Luke. Ordered to kill Rey, Kylo instead kills Snoke and works together with Rey to kill Snoke’s guards. Kylo invites Rey to rule the galaxy with him, but Rey refuses. Using the Force, they struggle for possession of Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber, which splits in two.

A recovered Leia stuns Poe, allowing the evacuation to begin. Holdo remains on the ship to mislead Snoke’s fleet as all others attempt to flee to a nearby old Rebel Alliance base on Crait. DJ reveals the Resistance’s plan to the First Order, and the evacuation transports are targeted with heavy losses; Holdo sacrifices herself by ramming Snoke’s fleet at lightspeed to stop the barrage.

The most incredible scene of the film. I was in awe.

Rey escapes in the chaos, while Kylo declares himself new Supreme Leader. BB-8 frees Finn and Rose, who escape after defeating Captain Phasma, and join the survivors of the evacuation on Crait.

As with the beginning of the movie, comparisons in these scenes to the Battle of Hoth in Empire is unavoidable – by placing this base on a “salt” planet the producers once again asked for the Empire comparisons they should be avoiding…

When the First Order arrives, Poe, Finn, and Rose lead a charge with old speeders. Rey draws the TIE fighters away with the Falcon, while Rose saves Finn from a suicide run against the main enemy cannon, which blasts a hole in the Resistance fortress.

Luke appears and confronts Kylo alone so that the surviving Resistance fighters can escape. Kylo orders the First Order forces to fire on Luke to no effect, then engages Luke in battle himself. Kylo strikes Luke with his lightsaber, only to learn that he has been fighting Luke’s Force projection.

Another failed scene, in my opinion, I guessed Luke’s appearance faster than the “secret” of Sixth Sense. That being said, Luke’s reaction after the barrage of fire on him was laugh-out-loud fun.

Luke defiantly tells Kylo that he will not be the last Jedi, while Rey uses the Force to help the remaining Resistance fighters escape via the Falcon. Back on Ahch-To …

Geshun … oh, never mind.

… an exhausted Luke peacefully dies and becomes one with the Force. Leia reassures everyone that the rebellion has all that is needed to rise again. On Canto Bight, one of the children that helped Finn and Rose escape grabs a broom with the Force and gazes hopefully up into space.

***

END OF SPOILERS

***

Sadness permeates this movie – as opposed to hopelessness and bleakness, which is why most fanboys probably didn’t like it. Every scene with Leia reminds us of the death of Carrie Fisher. Leia may or may not die on screen in this movie, but we know it will be the character’s swan song.

Seeing an older and more cynical Luke Skywalker reminds us of the death of Han Solo – which tells us that any character from the old films might not make it to the end. Will this be Mark Hamill’s swan song, too, as Force Awakens was Harrison Ford’s? The question was pending throughout his every scene.

Last Jedi did a wonderful job hiding the ultimate fate of its grey-shaded characters – particularly Holdo and Kylo Ren. Until the very end, we were unaware of which way they would turn (compared to, say, Darth Vader’s overlong and obvious redemption in Return of the Jedi).

And, by the way, the annoying bits (such as the obviously marketable Porgs) were not onscreen enough to be really annoying (c.f. Ewoks and JarJar), despite some eye-rolling moments – although the scene in which Chewbacca tried to eat one gave me a smirk in the midst of the bleakness.

Speaking of bleakness: Empire Strikes Back was, that is very true; but it also held onto the original movie’s sense of wonder and excitement. Last Jedi was bleak and sad, with no hint of the joy and giddiness of Force Awakens.

For all Last Jedi’s exciting fight scenes, wonderful special effects and well-placed bits of humor, it still had a gauze of sadness and despair. For all the dialogue espousing hope, there was not much feeling of it, even at the end.

It made for a quiet movie, despite the flashy lights and epic soundtrack.

Ye gods, Rogue One was filled with hopelessness, but at least in that movie the victory wasn’t Pyrrhic (and we all know what eventually happened). Here the number of surviving victors could fit into the sitting room of a very-well-known piece of junk.

“We will rebuild the Rebellion,” they vow.

“Will you, really?” we ask at the end.

So, as with Empire, the good guys barely got away and will live to fight in a third movie. When the good guys win (which they will eventually … it’s Star Wars after all) it will be a relief rather than a celebration due to the bleak and desparattion-laden sadness of Last Jedi.

It may be a tough sell …

 

 

“Caddy Shack 2!’

“Shut. Up!”

***

About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Copyright 2017 Michael G Curry

 

A Befuddled Father Goes to See Beauty & the Beast

The first movie I saw in the theaters was Walt Disney’s “Robin Hood”.  I’ve been a devotee of the theater experience ever since. Nothing beats a dark theater and a wide screen showing a film you hope will let you escape from the real world.

Sometimes with popcorn; and nowadays a full-fledged dinner and alcoholic drink. Although I miss the days of sneaking in a six-pack …

… or two …

… and I miss drive-ins, too (which is itself a whole other topic)

My daughter is seven years old. This past weekend we took her to HER first movie in a theater. We have been to movie night at the library and have watched movies at home at her own pace. But this was her first real movie experience – popcorn, soda, etc.

It, too, was a Disney movie – the non-animated (I hesitate to use the word “live” with all the CGI in it) version of Beauty & the Beast. For my princess-loving princess, this was a canny choice. She has seen the original many times and will watch anything Disney-princess-related. Sophia the First runs many times on our living room flatscreen.

My wife is also a big fan the original – having many Belle-related dolls in a display cabinet. It’s one of her favorite movies.

Aside #1: my wife’s first movie, by the way, was “Star Wars” which is NOW a Disney movie as well…

Aside #2: the fact that a child’s first movie was made by Disney – especially in the 1960s and ‘70s, is not all that surprising…

When Disney first announced B&B as their next live-action remake, my wife said she wanted to see it. This is a bigger deal than it sounds, as she is not as thrilled by movie-going as I am. And this would be our daughter’s first movie in a theater.

I joked that they could drop me off at the nearest pub on their way. Later I said I would sneak into another movie at the multiplex and meet them in the lobby when it was over.

I kid. I wanted to see it too, grudgingly. Beauty and the Beast was Disney’s masterpiece. I saw it upon release with my mother and sister. I, along with everyone else, fell in love with it. Roger Ebert said, “Beauty and the Beast reaches back to an older and healthier Hollywood tradition in which the best writers, musicians and filmmakers are gathered for a project on the assumption that a family audience deserves great entertainment, too.”  He gave it 4 out of 4 stars – for Ebert, this was a unique grade for a movie that did not show a woman’s nipples.

It was the first animated movie to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture. It is also the only animated movie to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture because the bastards at the Academy changed the rules, saying cartoons would no longer be nominated for Best Picture. And the Academy wonders why they are becoming as relevant as the slide rule …

Beauty and the Beast was a fun movie and did not disappoint. It was not without its flaws, and that is only because of comparisons with the original. Granted, it is not fair to compare ANY movie with the original, but a remake is asking for it.

The new version is Jan to the original’s Marsha. Comparisons are inevitable, expected and never in Jan’s favor. Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.

Were there no original, this version would have been more highly touted.

It. Was. A. Good. Movie.

But when the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performs Mozart, it may be beautiful. Its majesty may bring tears to my eyes.

But it’s not Mozart performing Mozart.

Emma Watson made a pretty Belle, and captured her independence and strength. It was good casting. And that WAS her singing throughout – she has a lovely voice. But it lacked the operatic quality of the opening number (“Belle” – NOT the opening number of the remake) by Paige O’Hara that made one swoon. I fell in love with Belle at that song’s break (“Oh, isn’t this amazing…”). Emma Watson’s singing voice – as marvelous as the rest of her performance was – didn’t have that reach.

During an interview, Ewan McGregor said he did not see the original. His loss. His reasoning was that, therefore, he would not even subconsciously base Lumiere on the performance by Jerry Orbach. Our loss. And his mistake – Jerry’s version outshown Ewan’s in every frame. It was not McGregor’s fault, but how could he possibly compete? First Alec Guinness, now Jerry Orbach …  Marsha Marsha Marsha.

Imagine a clip in this movie where Chip looks up into a cupboard to an older teapot and says, “Good night, Grandma” and the teapot (the voice of Angela Landsbury) says “Good night, Luv.” It would have taken five seconds and audiences would have broken into tears. Did Ms. Landsbury refuse to have any part in the movie (doubtful)? Did the producers not want any part of the original (likely)? It would only have helped – a blessing from the original cast would have helped us purists not be such … purists.

And what harm could have come to allow David Ogden Stiers (Cogsworth in the original) to have just one line … one? Not that Sir Ian McKellen did a bad job. He was a highlight!

BUT – when Cogsworth was on the steps of the entrance and the villagers approached? Just a quick “you shall not pass”?

“Daddy, sit down. Stop clapping.”

Mordant bleu! Even Wesley Eure and Kathy Coleman were given cameos (albeit they are still on the cutting-room floor) in that god-awful Land of the Lost remake vomited upon us some years ago … so shame on you Disney.

My main issue with the remake is simply … why?

BUT … go see it and enjoy it. We did. Then go home and watch the DVD of the original and enjoy that, too

We did.

Marsha Marsha Marsha!!

 

It was 10:00 am on a Saturday morning. 10:00am? Weird time for a movie. But Beauty and the Beast is a huge hit and odd movie-times are not unusual for a hit. As we walked down the hallway of the multiplex to Theater 1 I noticed a sign saying this was a Sensory-Friendly showing.

A what?

 

to be continued …

Copyright 2017 by Michael Curry

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About the blogger:

Michael is an author of fiction and non-fiction, including  …

toddler-tv-cover

Toddler TV: A Befuddled Father’s Guide to What the Kids are Watching

https://michaelgcurry.com/toddler-tv/

A review of Star Wars The Force Awakens (with some slight spoilers)

SW-THE-FORCE-AWAKENS

There are 7.125 billion people on this planet. On Christmas Eve I became the 7,125,000,001st person to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This is a brief review with minimal spoilers.

I was just the right age to enjoy the first Star Wars movie. Now, by first movie I mean FIRST movie, back in 1977, before it was a trilogy, or before that a nine-part-epic, then before that a trilogy, then before that just the one movie… 🙂 . The opening fanfare still brings back floods of memories. Every time I hear it, just for a brief second, just a nano-second, I am 12 years old again.

The only comparable feeling is the smile on my face when I hear THAT portion of the William Tell Overture. People of a certain age can’t help but shouting, “Hiyo Silver!” at just the right part of the song. The opening fanfare of Star Wars creates a logarithmically greater chill.

The archetype of the first Star Wars is well known to anyone who read (or saw) the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the Wheel of Time series, etc.: a strange wizard whisks a youngster and his friends off to fight the forces of a dark lord.

***

The story of Star Wars boils down to this:

The movie opens with the forces of good losing a devastating battle against the forces of evil. One of our heroes has vital information that may finally defeat the bad guys once and for all. To prevent the information from falling into the hands of evil, it is hidden in a droid that is sent to a barren desert world.

After fighting off scavengers, the droid befriends our main hero. We meet the rest of our heroic band who join together to take the droid to the main HQ of the good guys – whilst in the meantime visiting various places in the galaxy including an odd bar filled with bizarre aliens and unusual – yet strangely familiar- music.

We discover that the bad guys have created a planet-size machine that can destroy an entire world in one blast. They discover a flaw that can destroy the machine, but first they have to infiltrate the machine and shut off the shields.

Then the good guys in their space fighters head to the planet’s one weak spot. Can they destroy it in time, before the machine can fire upon the good guy’s home base?

***

The rest is cinematic history: the merchandising of the first movie, the comic books, the Holiday Special (shudder), Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, the Empire Strikes Back, the Han Solo books, the Lando Calrissian books, Return of the Jedi, the cartoons, more comic books, Heir to the Empire, more and more books from the distant past and distant future, the Phantom Menace (slight chill), the other two movies of the second trilogy (shudder), the purchase by Disney … and on and on.

***

And now here we are at Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens.

A brief plot descriptions (with only MILD SPOILERS):

The movie opens with the forces of good losing a devastating battle against the forces of evil. One of our heroes has vital information that may finally defeat the bad guys once and for all. To prevent the information from falling into the hands of evil, it is hidden in a droid that is sent to a barren desert world.

After fighting off scavengers, the droid befriends our main hero. We meet the rest of our heroic band who join together to take the droid to the main HQ of the good guys – whilst in the meantime visiting various places in the galaxy including an odd bar filled with bizarre aliens and unusual – yet strangely familiar- music.

We discover that the bad guys have created a planet-size machine that can destroy an entire world in one blast. They discover a flaw that can destroy the machine, but first they have to infiltrate the machine and shut off the shields.

Then the good guys in their space fighters head to the planet’s one weak spot. Can they destroy it in time, before the machine can fire upon the good guy’s home base?

END OF SPOILERS

***

Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens-poster

I say the above with tongue planted firmly in cheek, of course. The plot of Force Awakens is an homage bordering on plagiarism, yet despite this slight similarity in plot 🙂 , it worked! Force Awakens is a great film!

And leave us not forget that the original Star Wars was itself an homage to old serials of the sci-fi and pirate genres …

It is not a complete reboot ala JJ Abrams’ two recent Star Trek movies, it is a continuation.  We meet new heroes and villains. All are interesting and I cannot wait to see them again. Each seems, again, to be an homage to those-who-came-before: Rey, the main hero from the desert-world whose past remains unresolved, Poe the pilot extraordinaire/lovable rogue (although despite such comparisons to a certain Correllian smuggler, from the first moment of his introduction Poe’s being a hero of the rebellion is never in question), Kylo Ren as the Darth Vader wannabe (SPOILER: when he takes off his mask I whispered to my wife; “Abrams couldn’t get Marilyn Manson?” END OF SPOILER), and even BB-8, the R2D2-spunky-and-cute-droid of the movie.

The most unique starring character is Finn – by that I mean he has no real original movie equivalent – as a storm trooper/deserter. He starts as a coward but his attraction to Rey, and his eventual discovery of his bravery and sense of right and wrong, turn him from the dark side.

By far my favorite character is the Palpatine-equivalent Supreme Leader Snoke, “played” by CGI-king Andy Serkis with a disturbing resemblance to Bill Nighy.

Our old friends are also present. No spoilers here, there are as-yet undiscovered tribes in the Amazon who know that Han Solo, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker are also in the film. As are Chewbacca, C3P0 and R2D2. I heard the voice of Obi-Wan during one intense scene and although I read Yoda’s voice is also heard I must have missed it.

Certain characters (or their alien race) from the second trilogy have been happily omitted. Mesa happy about that.

Most of our old friends appear in vital slightly-more-than-cameos. Carrie Fisher’s Leia gives us more emotion here than she had in all three of the trilogy. She is wonderful in her role.

No spoilers here: I am very pleased to report that Harrison Ford’s Han Solo is more than a cameo – he has more of a roll in the movie than Poe. Captain Grumpy excels in the role that made him a superstar – I loved this Han Solo. Here is he is older and not necessarily wiser. And funnier!! “You’re cold.”

There is much more humor here than in the prior six films, but not enough to lower the movie into spoof territory. The humor comes from the characters and the situations and is realistically done. Poe and Finn especially give us some very canny quips to uncanny situations. “Why are you nodding your head at me while I am trying to talk?”

The Force Awakens is not perfect. No movie is perfect. Okay, Godfathers 1 & 2 are perfect. No OTHER movies are perfect.

But this is close. The only real issues were the deux ex machina of some of the rescues and sudden and coincidental appearances of the cast. But, to be frank, that is expected in this kind of genre, isn’t it?

The direct parallels to the first movie made for a pleasant homage to we old fuddy-duddies and still made for a great story.

The original fanfare opening the movie made me feel like a 12-year-old for that split second. The plot homages helped continue that feeling. An original plot – and remember Phantom Menace, for example, had a very original plot – might not have done so.

Perhaps it might be best Abrams is not involved in the rest of this third trilogy. If only because of his track record of his Star Trek movies: the first, a redo of the original series. The second, a redo of Wrath of Khan. I would worry about his plot of a second Star Wars movie: After a First Order assault decimates a rebel base, Finn & Poe seek refuge at a base they thought was run by an ally, but are betrayed. Meanwhile, (SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT) Rey goes to a swamp world to be trained in the Force by a reptilian Fozzy Bear … (END OF SPOILER)

For the first time since the first movie, I want to see more of this universe. Empire succeeded in doing that. Let’s hope Episode Eight does that, too.

And remember Empire had an original plot. We’ve now known the thrill of knowing this universe we love so much is back, so now let’s move forward instead of looking back …

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry