Remembering Star Wars: Rogue One

rogue oneWhen Disney acquired Star Wars from George Lucas, they decided to release one movie each year at Christmas. This started with Episode 7, The Force Awakens. In addition to the main movies (the “episodes”), we would also get movies that touch up more on the mythos of the franchise. Rogue One was just the first of these. Because it is the most recent Star Wars movie released, I have chosen it to end my retrospective. I don’t think I’ll be able to see The Last Jedi before the end of the year, so I will wait for the DVD.

Rogue One takes place before the very first Star Wars movie and follows a team of rebels attempting to retrieve the plans for the first Death Star (because Return of the Jedi has a Death Star too).

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Remembering 40 Years of Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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When I heard that a new company had taken over Star Wars from George Lucas, I had mixed feelings. He was 100% involved with the prequels, and while I liked them, I still came to the same conclusion that most people did: less is more. When he did the originals, he had other people telling him what they thought worked, which was part of the reason he wanted 100% involvement in the prequels. He felt we weren’t getting his full vision. But now, Disney would have very little of Lucas, even less than the originals did.

Then I found out JJ Abrahms was directing. I was still wary. You see, I do like what Abrahms did with Star Trek, but my main problem with his version is that he doesn’t want the movies to be their own thing. He kept relying on Nimoy to come in and play future Spock, instead of creating his own thing. JJ Abrahms is a great producer, but he’s much better when he’s playing with his own toys, like in Lost, Cloverfield, or Super 8. (I never watched Alias, by the way) So I wasn’t sure. But I decided to do what I always do, give the new guy a chance.

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40 Years of Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

attack of the clonesThe Phantom Menace, despite what people said about it, actually did well at the box office. This is why I say Star Wars can do no wrong. They can make a movie that is almost universally considered one of the worst movies ever, and it can still make great returns.

In the original trilogy, Empire Strikes Back was darker than A New Hope. Temple of Doom is the darkest of the Indiana Jones movies. That pattern continues here as well. And it seems George Lucas learned from his mistakes in The Phantom Menace. I could see why he wanted total control over these movies. Even though his name was still associated with the original trilogy, Lucas had people that would tell him if his ideas didn’t work. Here, he doesn’t have to worry about that. I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but I’m saying I can see his reasoning.

One thing I like about this movie is that Jar Jar Binks is barely in it. He’s not the overbearing klutz he is in the previous movie  He still makes mistakes, but it’s more frightening because Emperor Palpatine doesn’t even have to use Jedi mind control to coerce him. In fact, a lot of the deception that Palpatine weaves is done through his own charisma, not mind control. That’s why he’s such a great villain. He knows when to use his powers and when not to.

I like that the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin has matured to the point where they’re now trading witty banter. I especially love the scene where Kenobi laments to Anakin “Why do I have the feeling you’ll be the death of me?”

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Film Freak: Star Wars 40th Anniversary: The Phantom Menace

phantom menace

The prequels are often considered the worst part of the Star Wars saga. In fact, many fans would like to pretend they don’t exist. As I said in my review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, fans don’t get to decide what’s canon. The films exist and it’s time someone said something positive about them.

Let’s get the negatives out of the way because they’ve been said to death. Was Jar Jar Binks annoying? Yes. Was Jake Lloyd bad? Yes, but so was everyone who treated him so badly afterward. Hate the film, that’s fine. but don’t tear down a kid like that in the process. Were the midichlorians a bad explanation of The Force? Yes, actually I would’ve preferred no explanation at all. The Force is magic, and magic isn’t cool once you explain how it works. It ceases to be magic at all.

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Film Freak: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

fantastic beasts

Back when JK Rowling was originally writing Harry Potter, there were often gaps between books because the books got longer with each volume. During one of these gaps, she wrote two books that supposedly could be found in Hogwarts’ s library: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (writing as Newt Scamander) and Quidditch Through the Ages (writing as Kennilworthy Whisp) Although I wondered what these two “writers” were like, I never thought they’d be a subject of a movie. But here we are, with a new set of prequels for the movies. The movies were a mixed bag as adaptations go, but how would these people fare with an original script?

Some might even wonder why Rowling has gone back to the Harry Potter universe again. My theory is that it’s because The Casual Vacancy, her attempt an adult novel, bombed. So why not use something that actually did make money to pay the bills? And unlike the more hipster-ish fans out there, I don’t think it’s bad that she’s making money again. However, I was among the many that didn’t like Cursed Child. So what about this?

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Celebrating 40 Years of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

jedi

Return of the Jedi was meant to be the end of an era. For the most stubborn of the Star Wars fans, it is the end, as some want to pretend the prequels never happened. It is the conclusion to Luke’s journey and the closing of an epic tale.

This is my favorite movie in the entire saga, yes, including the prequels. While I admire the risk taken by revealing that Darth Vader is in fact Anakin Skywaler, to me Jedi is better because it is the next step. Having a big reveal is one thing. What is an even bigger risk is going forward with that reveal and letting it alter the course of the story.

There are drastic changes as a result of the story. Lando Carlrissian, a former friend of Han Solo, has now joined the Rebellion. Apparently in the time between Jedi and Empire, Lando wanted to make amends for sacrificing Solo for the sake of allowing Cloud City to remain neutral. Seeing his friend encased in carbonite causes him to realize he cannot sit idly by and hope that someday the Empire will be overthrown.  He spent the last half of the movie helping Leia to escape Cloud City. He takes the next step in his atonement and joins the rebellion.

Han Solo is no longer neutral either. There were hints early on that Solo wanted to join the rebellion like the rest of the heroes. However, he couldn’t as long as Jabba the Hutt was alive and threatening his life. He’d be endangering his friends because every bounty hunter would be gunning for him. But when Leia murders Jabba, that threat is lifted and now Solo can be the hero he was meant to be.

Yoda is now close to death when Luke meets him once more. The once courageous and eccentric mentor is now no longer needed and he faces death with dignity, as Obi-Wan Kenobi did before him. But before he passes away, he tells Luke the truth. Obi-Wan explains that they did not keep the truth from Luke because they felt he could not handle it, but because they didn’t want him to make the same mistake Anakin did. Even if he is doing a good thing by confronting Vader, if he lets his emotions cloud his judgement, it will be all the more easier for the Emperor to manipulate him. And he almost succeeds.

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Film Freak: Fantastic Planet

fantastic planet

I’m a lover of animation and surrealism, and I learned of one of the best examples of both from a friend, Fantastic Planet. (or as it’s titled in its original language, La Planéte Sauvage, literally “The Wild Planet) It was released in 1973 and is based on the is based on the 1957 novel Oms en série by Stefan Wul.

The animation is reminiscent of the kind used in Monty Python’s Flying Circus. It’s nice to look at. There is some nudity here and there, so I wouldn’t recommend it for children. Plus, it’s pretty disturbing.

The story takes place on an alien world. The opening scene right away shows us how nightmarish this world is. A woman is seen running and carrying her baby. She is stopped by giant blue hands. One picks her up and she drops the child. She is dropped to her death, and then we meet the aliens, the Draags. These are blue-skinned aliens who live in prosperity. The humans–which they call Oms–have it worse. They are kept as pets and some of the Draags regard them as vermin. They look at the humans like a scientist would look at a mouse. A curiosity for experiment and entertainment for children, but not much else.

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