The 5 WORST on-screen kisses (TGBOL)

This week’s prompt for TGBOL is for our favourite on-screen kisses… not a topic that’s particularly designed for me. So with my usual disregard for the rules, and tongue (my own) firmly in cheek, I will instead give you my Top 5 worst kisses… because Hollywood absolutely has to cram some “romance” into even the most ridiculous of situations!

Drum roll please!

5Howard the Duck and Lea Thompson… in her bikini panties, on the bed, no less…

4 – Tom Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins in Big… it’s a beautiful farewell kiss, tender and loving… and then you remember that he’s a 12 year old boy in a man’s body

3 – A little more anthropomorphic bestiality for you… it’s Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes, awkwardly kissing scientist-ape Zira goodbye

2 – It’s Lea Thompson again! This time, kissing her son, Marty McFly, in Back to the Future. This at least had the grace to try and play it for laughs, but still…

And the undisputed number one…

1 – it’s family relations once again, in The Empire Strikes Back. A peck on the cheek from Leia in Star Wars becomes something a little more full-bodied in Empire, when she grabs (her brother) Luke by the lips… with Han and Chewie watching on too. Remember her line when Luke tells her they’re related at the end of Return of the Jedi – “somehow I’ve always known”. Really?

So, now I suggest you take yourself off to the other participants’ blogs for some mind bleach, and an altogether more romantic take on this challenge 🙂

Until next week!

 

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The Force Awakens… in a nutshell

The twitter-short version:
Old, sleepy robot dreams of past glory. Wakes, decides to catch up with old friend.

The slightly longer blog version: (spoilers)
All those blogs complaining of plot holes and the like in The Force Awakens? They’re way off track. The explanation is so simple. The whole film, bar the last ten minutes, are just a dream that R2D2 has. He’s remembering a bunch of stuff that happened years ago, but as is the way with dreams, some of the details have got a little mixed up, and the dream characters are much better-looking than the reality (in my dreams, I’m always played by John Cusack from High Fidelity-era… stands to reason). Instead of John Cusack, R2 imagines he is BB-8 in this dream. He’s a few pounds lighter, some might say better-looking, definitely more agile…

Just be grateful the directors cut that scene with R2-She2…

So, R2 has a merry dream about the good old days, fighting the Evil Empire, blowing up Death Star things and the like. He then wakes up, and decides it’s time to have a little catch-up with his old friend Luke Skywalker, especially now that stinky Dagobah is out of the equation.

It all makes perfect sense!

The alternative is explained at some detail in the following link – http://www.outerplaces.com/science-fiction/item/10850-r2-d2-s-role-in-star-wars-the-force-awakens-explained , but involves a string of convenient plot devices, fortuitous timing, dull dull dull defragmentation of hard drives or somesuch, and Force-y Worce-y logic.

I know which my money is on.

But that’s ridiculous! I hear you cry, indignant fists bashing into your smartphones. No top rated entertainment show would be so crass as to use the “it’s all a dream” approach. Really?

Exhibit ADallas – Bobby Ewing, and a shower. Everyone knows this one. (So, Han fans, do not give up hope yet.)

Exhibit BNeighbours – this fine Australian daytime soap (previous home to Kylie Minogue, Guy Pearce, and Russell Crowe, among others) actually based an episode around the daydreams of a dog… Bouncer’s Dream. (This is not a joke. See #10 on this list – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-31914133 .)

Exhibit CLost – this must have all been a dream, right? It just doesn’t make sense otherwise…

So, you heard it here first. “The Force Awakens” is simply code for “R2 Awakens“.

TFA

Treasures from Childhood (The Great Book of Lists)

Judy mentioned on Edwina’s Episodes – http://edwinasepisodes.com/2016/01/05/blog-event-the-great-book-of-lists/- that she was going to give this challenge a try for this year, and I thought it sounded fun too! It might also provide some useful material for future poems or stories.

Every week, there will be a prompt on a different theme for you to make your list. The prompt for the first week is “treasures from childhood” – see here: http://laduchessederat.com/2016/01/05/the-great-book-of-liste-chapter-1-1-treasures-from-childhood/

Now, I don’t remember a great deal from my own childhood. I don’t know whether this is typical of most people, whether my memory has failed me for whatever reason, or even just that it was a reasonably happy, “boring” childhood, without getting overly sentimental about specific objects. So, I’m going to list three items that I remember, and three random memories.

Items:
1 – A Millennium Falcon toy… my Dad said I could have one for Christmas when I was 7/8(?), if I could spell it. So I did! (I wish I still had this, for my sons… yeah, okay, maybe for me too)

2 – Fighting Fantasy gamebooks. These were Dungeons & Dragons-style games, which I played with three friends, as well as reading the “choose your own adventure” books on my own. I have very happy memories of these FF evenings, especially when we used most of that time playing garden cricket instead.

3 – Atari computers… anyone else remember typing in hundreds of lines of code from magazines to make a blob move around the screen a bit, with no fancy graphics or sound? From there to here…! Then there was the “Atari vs Amiga” debate slightly later on at school, when games like Elite and Xenon 2 were the big sellers. (I can still “hear” the music from Xenon 2 – it was such a great mindworm track.) I also remember seeing Chaos Engine on the Amiga, and being blown away by it. That ended the debate for me, although true nerds would still claim the Atari ST was great for writing music (something which I did not do!).

Memories:
1 – the simple pleasure of being sat up on the counter at Danny Dyke’s fish and chip shop in Gloucester, and being given two (impossibly hot) chips on a wooden fork to eat while we waited for our order. Bliss.

2 – accompanying my Dad to endless local games of football (he played, then managed a team for many years). I don’t think I ever watched more than five minutes of a game, although I’d sometimes watch the crowd, and enjoy some of the non-age appropriate banter/sledging. I’d spend most of the afternoon exploring the edges of the fields, just wandering around, not bored, but investigating… I remember discovering the “motherlode” at the edge of one playing field, where some houses backed onto the field, with only a handful of trees to divide them off… someone had left all of their Star Wars toys out, on a muddy mound beneath those trees. I played with them for ages! I have to admit, I do need to send an apology back through time to the owner of said toys. I was unable to resist taking the Wampa toy. If it’s any consolation, I played with it a lot on your behalf, and it often bested my Luke toy in combat…

3 – I also remember following in my father’s footsteps early, by “managing” our playground football team when I was 8 or 9. We would play “our year” versus “the next year up”. I managed to persuade two older boys to defect, and then bored anyone who would listen that these two would “really strengthen our defence”… I think I remember it so clearly because I bored myself saying it!

Do you have any childhood treasures – either memories or items – that you think fondly on? I’d love to hear them in the comments, or for you to join this challenge too. 🙂

 

The photo below is me… I cropped off the budgie smugglers!

 

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Star Wars Deleted Scene Rap Battle (SPOILERS!)

The story of Ben Solo’s turn to the Dark Side… Deleted scene.

Exterior. Playground. A rap battle between C-3PO and Ben Solo is in progress

Your mother kissed your uncle
Did she do it with the Wookiee?
Everyone’s seen those bikini pics
Is that why sir played hookie?

Your dad can’t say “I love you”.
He’ll only say “I know“.
Still no reason to act out
This teenage tale of woe.

Swishing ’round that bright red sword
You’re full of so much rage.
Who will fix that damaged console?
Start acting like your age!

You are strong in the force, that’s clear,
But there is always someone stronger.
I could tell you how you’re related…
But that will wait a little longer.

 

C-3PO drops the mic, high fives R2-D2, and kicks BB-8 across the asphalt. End scene.

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Picture credit: flickr.com/photos/rohit_saxena/23660346205

 

The Force Awakens…

The Force Awakens has been out for a couple of weeks now. I hate the obsession with spoiler warnings on everything (people need to take some responsibility for their own internet click-choices, especially once things are on general release), but because such a big thing has been made about spoilers with this film, I’ll make it clear. Here There Be Spoilers!

 

I’ve been resisting writing up my thoughts on The Force Awakens since seeing it… For many, including friends of mine, it is THE Star Wars film they’ve long dreamed of, especially for those in their 30s/40s who have formative memories of the original trilogy as a cornerstone of their childhood. I get that. I really do. This is what we all hoped of the prequels… (Those hopes were cruelly dashed, whatever some Lucas apologists may now claim.)

And yet…

TFA has much to love.
– The new characters are interesting and (mostly) believable (Rey in particular is a highlight… Finn is interesting, but relies on “heavy breathing/shoulder-heaving” too much to show inner torment… remember that next time you watch!);
– there are some great (funny) lines of dialogue. With BB-8, they have cracked the challenge of the comic sidekick, without being naff;
– the special effects are (mostly) fantastic;
and it all just feels right. Star Wars-y.
Chewie… We’re home” indeed.

I made a mental note after the first scene that it gave us two characters that we care about, and at least one other that we’re interested in. This is about as much as any opening scene can do, for any film. There has even been some discussion about coded meanings behind the first line “This will begin to make things right”, as if Abrams wanted to insult George Lucas… seems unlikely to me, but this is in a different league to the prequels, and if this is the aim of the film, it delivers.

And yet…

The main bad guy, Kylo Ren, gets a bunch of screen time, showing us both his power and his vulnerability… Yes, there is the danger of some seeing this as Darth Tantrum (there is already a twitter account for “Emo Kylo Ren”, with thousands of followers), but the reality is more nuanced, more dangerous than that, his ragged lightsabre pulsing in tune with his anger. His lightsabre battle in the snow with first Finn, then Rey at the end, is amazing… especially the moment where Kylo tries to force pull the ‘sabre to his hand, only for it to fly past his face and into Rey’s outstretched hand, her powers in the ascendant. That is a fine cinematic moment, for any film.

And yet…

There’s something rotten in the state of Denmark.

This feels too much like a fan-made reboot of the original Star Wars for me to love this as a stand-alone. This is not just a case of setting this within the Star Wars universe, or the standard “hero’s journey” arc that begets familiarity. Apologists who point to the way that the original Star Wars painted its references on its sleeves (Flash Gordon, WW2 cinematic dogfights, Seven Samurai, etc) are missing the point – that took a RANGE of influences and melded them into one whole. It did not look to ONE reference point and remake that with bells, whistles, nods, winks, and a more diverse cast.

When we learn about Starkiller Base, and the plan to destroy it in a decidedly-Death Star-style, I was thinking “didn’t we just leave this party?

I loved the start of the film, introducing us to Poe, Finn, and Rey… and then Han Solo turned up, doing exactly what he was doing thirty years ago. Would you watch Ferris Bueller’s Midlife Crisis, with Ferris acting exactly the same as he did thirty years ago? It could work as a tragedy, but not a comedy… and yet here we are in Star Wars, playing the same beats. Han is also too old to be a believable action hero (Harrison Ford is older than Alec Guinness was in the original Star Wars), sneaking around Starkiller Base without so much as a support team this time ‘round.

Would you watch Ferris Bueller’s Midlife Crisis, with Ferris acting exactly the same as he did thirty years ago?

Han is central to the film, and his death provides the “gasp” moment that the spoiler-averse are trying to protect (his death is telegraphed, yet it still hits you in the gut), BUT the amount of screen time he is given means that the focus is taken off the new generation, to the film’s detriment. He is also central to by far the worst scene in the film, where the rathtars are accidentally set loose on the Falcon… this brought to mind the prequels, and not in a good way. A splurge of pointless CGI, a convenient way out for characters… and no feeling of genuine threat to the characters (the rathtars kill everyone immediately, except for Finn).

Still, this does distract from the fact that Han managed to find the Falcon the moment it took off from Jakku, despite having been apparently searching fruitlessly for years before. Ah, those beloved SW plot holes… I suppose that is consistent with the originals too…

There are narrative problems with the film, too, that get glossed over… I can’t claim to understand the magnitude of what was destroyed by Starkiller, or how the New Republic worked, or whether the First Order has further resources elsewhere in the galaxy, or how big the Resistance is, or why in a galaxy of billions the Resistance seems to be made up of about fifty humans and a token handful of aliens, or even why Maz had Anakin/Luke’s lightsabre (in an unsecure box)…

There is always a balance between exposition and explosions, but a bit more context would have been nice…

Not to mention other problems, like Chewie being completely ignored by Leia after Han’s death, and Chewie just walking off to hang around with other pilots at the edge of the screen, as Leia hugs Rey (who, for all we know, only met her five minutes ago).

The internet has been working overtime since the film, making links, filling in plot holes, coming up with ridiculous explanations for each character’s back story. Congratulations, Abrams, you’ve got a lot of people in a frenzy, and all the speculation, sensible and wild, will only help with the marketing of future Star Wars films. I understand this, but still think there could have been a place to tell a more cohesive, less derivative story, rather than an extended set-up for the sequels. Ironically, this is something that A New Hope did really well…

This is not tall poppy syndrome, or trying to be ‘cool’ by not liking the biggest film of all time, or being critical for the sake of it. This is the genuine regret of someone who loved Star Wars, until this film. (As blogged at length previously: https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/star-wars/ ). Now, despite one last night together with some amazing fireworks, I can see that we are heading in different directions. Maybe I’ve just grown, grown up, changed, gone respectable… but this is a goodbye from me.

Yes, I’ll still watch the coming onslaught of Star Wars films, but I won’t be queuing desperately to see it within days of release… I might even wait for the DVD. I will enjoy it, I’m sure, but a large part of that enjoyment will be the parental thrill of seeing the joy on my son’s face. This is his to love now.

So long, Star Wars, and thanks for all the lightsabres.

 

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For those who just can’t get enough of The Force Awakens, there are a number of links below that you may be interested in. I don’t agree with all of these articles, but all are worth a quick read.

If you are in the 5% who didn’t enjoy the film, for whatever reason, you’re not alone:
http://www.theblaze.com/contributions/fans-divided-over-star-wars-the-force-awakens/?utm_source=facebook

http://movieweb.com/star-wars-force-awakens-everything-wrong/?page=11

Salivating for more? These are questions that need to be addressed in VIII and IX:
http://io9.gizmodo.com/33-questions-we-desperately-want-answered-after-star-wa-1748953034

http://movieweb.com/star-wars-force-awakens-unanswered-questions/

Another way of viewing “questions that needs answers” is that they are plot holes… :
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-abramson/40-unforgivable-plot-holes-in-star-wars-the-force-awakens_b_8850324.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-abramson/20-more-plot-holes-from-s_b_8856844.html

Kylo Ren is everything that Anakin Skywalker should have been, and other prequel comparisons:
http://io9.gizmodo.com/kylo-ren-is-everything-that-anakin-skywalker-should-hav-1749606647

http://now.howstuffworks.com/2015/12/28/10-times-the-force-awakens-nods-the-star-wars-prequels

Remake, or not? I disagree with this one (it seems to confuse a shot-for-shot remake with a remake/re-boot, for one thing):
http://mashable.com/2015/12/23/force-awakens-is-no-remake/#j2ugCj2KZsqQ

This one goes too far, but it does make some interesting points about the “Disney-fication” of Star Wars (anyone remember Winnie the Pooh?), and the drum beat of “money, money, money” behind it:
http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-star-wars-the-force-awakens-stinks-20151226-column.html

FWIW, this review most closely matches my own views (and how much would I have loved to see Han in a t-shirt saying “You’re damn right I shot first”!):
http://www.theverge.com/2015/12/18/10543196/star-wars-the-force-awakens-a-new-hope-nostalgia

May the Force be with you, whatever your view of The Force Awakens!

 

TFA

 

Star Wars countdown – Return of the Jedi

So, this week brought the final part of our Star Wars countdown, re-watching all the films in preparation for seeing The Force Awakens later today. It feels so close now… In fact, by the time you read this, I’ll either be FREAKIN’ THERE in the cinema, or trying to find people that I can finally have spoiler-y chats with!

The Return of the Jedi came out when I was five/six years old. It is the first Star Wars film I remember seeing, and along with ET and Indiana Jones, forms one of the three legs of the chair of my childhood. My father owned a small chain of video libraries back in the day when people had to actually leave their homes to access films. I helped out in those stores, went on delivery runs with him, and knew every film on the shelves, even if too young to watch them. Films were intrinsic to our every day lives.

I know I should hate the Ewok teddy bears, for consistency with my Jar-Jar hate if nothing else, but I was six when first exposed to them. The force is weak in this one. They are possibly the most memorable, defining feature of my childhood at home too, from toys (I loved the Ewok village, oh and also that speeder toy with the operationally questionable self-destruct button) to spinoff films – Caravan of Courage, anyone? – to animated TV series (Ewoks, and Droids). When that ewok tries to move his just-killed friend… I am six all over again, complete with a tear in my eye.

So, when I say that films defined my childhood, I really mean it. Perhaps Return of the Jedi defines it best of all. My father’s video libraries closed down in the mid-90s in a saturated market as the trend for owning films grew, and I similarly moved beyond childhood into teenage awkwardness. An era was over.

Yes, as a film it is inferior to the previous two, re-hashing the best beats from the previous film (another Death Star! Leia says “I know!” More hokey shield-shenanigans!), but to lesser effect. This is all irrelevant to me.

It’s my son’s favourite Star Wars film at the moment. He is also 6. At this age, things get locked in amber for all eternity. I am even less able to judge this film objectively than the original New Hope. I can pretty much quote the dialogue along with the actors (especially Lando, for some reason). The ewoks don’t bother me, working their child-bewitching magic before my adult cynicism had a chance to question the role of teddy bears in this rebellion.

So, some vaguely chronological thoughts:

– Look at the size of those helmets of those staff on the new Death Star… And Vader is looking extra shiny… Interesting to see the Empire’s priorities while building a new Death Star. Spaceballs had an easy target for humour… “I see your Schwartz is bigger than mine”

Ay wanna wonga? Makes me chuckle every time, for some reason, even despite being (over) referenced in the prequels.

Jabba’s a great, and repulsive, villain. For once, we have an alien who is not just a man in a suit. Easy to forget that in these days of wall-to-wall CGI.

– Very slow start to the film… Atmospheric, but a bit dull as all the pieces left separate at the end of Empire are reunited.

– I love the bounty hunter language based solely on the word “yoto“. Was tempted to write this blog post in the same way. Yoto. Yoto.

Boba Fett nods a lot in Jabba’s palace. Certain friends of mine worship the ground he walks on… They obviously subscribe to the less is more approach. Unlike, for example, George Lucas.

– Speaking of which, the gold bikini just doesn’t do it for me, despite being such a fanboy staple. I saw this when I was 6, remember. Leia might as well be wearing a cloth sack.

Luke’s plan to defeat Jabba relies entirely on R2-D2 being in the right place on the skiff, and being able to make that impossible shot of firing the lightsabre to Luke… What if Jabba had just sold him on, or used him for parts?

– “When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not”. So wise…

Yoda told Luke he wasn’t ready when he left… Now he says he doesn’t need any more training. Also, that he will only become a Jedi after facing the second most powerful Sith in the galaxy. Not exactly a fair final exam from Jedi school.

– “Many Bothans died to bring us this information…. “Has ever a planned spin-off been based on less information in the main source? Also, does the fact that the Emperor let them escape diminish their sacrifice?

The Forest Moon of Endor… So, is that a moon called Endor, or a moon around the planet Endor? This has always bugged me. Happy to be enlightened!

– What possible reason would there be for taking C-3PO with them onto a forest moon to attack an imperial base? You know, when everyone’s in stealthy forest mode, and he’s a useless, irritating, shiny GOLDEN robot. Who can’t shoot. Even R2 is a stretch.

– “You know, fly casual.” I love this line. There’s not enough of Han in this film (in his defence, that’s probably because he starts the film as a wall decoration in Jabba’s palace).

– “I see you have constructed a new lightsabre” Darth Vader says to Luke… When did that happen? Did he knock one out while rescuing Han? Are they as easy as making daisy chains?

– re the final 3-part conclusion – ie in the Death Star, in space, and on Endor – did this film set the template for so many great action films that followed (and Phantom Menace)? Do any film buffs know if this device ever got used before?

– The make-up on the Emperor is better in this than in Revenge of the Sith. This isn’t a rose-tinted memory, but the reality from what I’ve just been re-watching. (Although his eyes do seem to have a little Morticia Adams-style lighting around them.) And where’s his lightsabre gone? Or his penchant for unnecessary twirling?

– Why does Vader saving his son’s life count as redemption for all the lives he has taken? I remember the younglings…

– Why does the destruction of the second Death Star result in galactic celebration? They’re still controlled by the Empire, even if the Emperor himself is dead, along with some of his key ships/stations. Why is this time different to the first Death Star being destroyed? Did that huge fleet watching the action around the Death Star get routed, or did they all just fly off, quit, and settle down to raise a family and a farm on a backwater planet?

– Why have your shield generator on a moon, rather than, ooh, within the structure being shielded?

– Wouldn’t the exploding Death Star have rained destruction down on Endor?

Ewok heads are tougher than stormtroopers armour. Fact. The white armour seems to be made from paper. Presumably following the metal shortage caused by building yet another Death Star, and significantly extending the helmet lengths of desk staff.

– Does the Emperor’s plan – to risk the safety of the new Death Star and the Empire itself to trick Luke into turning to the dark side – make any sense at all? Really? Anakin was seduced to the dark side, never tricked.

– Luke does seem awful comfortable (not to mention much better with a lightsabre) channelling his darker, angry side against Vader. “Once you start down the path to the dark side, forever will it dominate your destiny…” Wonder if Yoda’s right. Better go find out 🙂

Must dash. There has been an awakening….

 

rotj

Star Wars countdown – The Empire Strikes Back

As part of my countdown to the release of The Force Awakens, this week it was time for The Empire Strikes Back. (We’ve tickets to see the new film on Sun 20th, so will be timing our countdown to watch ROTJ on the Saturday night before that.)

ESB is many people’s favourite Star Wars film… I prefer the narrative clarity of A New Hope over this. ESB just doesn’t work as a stand-alone story, despite all the (many) things in its favour.

So, some random thoughts/questions, and then I’ll get onto that structural point.

– Why does the opening scroll say that it’s a dark time for the Rebellion? They’ve just won a major victory. I have to doubt the quality of their strategic leadership… Plus, have you seen this? http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/35008095/star-wars-experts-calculate-cost-of-death-star-and-its-destruction The universe should be in an economic depression of galactic proportions at this stage.

– How does a massive, hairy Wampa sneak up on a Jedi wannabe? There is a lack of natural cover on Hoth… Then, when Luke does free himself and he chops off the Wampa’s arm, why does he not finish the job, and stay in the relative warmth and comfort of its icy home, rather than fleeing out into the (supposed night) cold?

– Where does the Wampa buy his Jedi-foot-glue? That stuff’s amazing! Is there a little corner shop/ general store somewhere outside the Rebel base?

– This is sci-fi world building at its best… Hoth, Dagobah, asteroid fields, a city literally in the clouds…

– We are introduced into this film via Han Solo, and some great action scenes. Straight into the action, without too much boring exposition this time ‘round. Han does a lot of the heavy lifting in this film, and his charisma is one of the reasons why this is many people’s favourite.

AT-ATs can only fire forwards, and lumber around at a glacial pace… So why do the Rebels keep circling and putting themselves in harm’s way? (Just fly behind them and blow their legs away!) What are these Rebel shields that can resist bombardment from space, but are vulnerable from the ground? There are massive inconsistencies in the use of shield technology throughout this scene – both in when it works, and when it fails…

– Ever been tempted to go off the grid and live in the wilderness on your own for years? Yoda may put you off that idea. He’s like an old cat lady who’s lost her cats…

– The training scenes with Luke and Yoda are amazing… possibly my third favourite example of the training montage. Imagine how much my other two favourites – Rocky training on a Siberian mountainside in Rocky IV; Nic Cage doing handstand push-ups as he narrates a letter to his young daughter in Con Air – would be improved by having a Yoda-in-a-bag upon their back…

– (In fact, Nic Cage’s character in Con Air was Cameron Poe. There is a character in Force Awakens called Poe Dameron. Coincidence?)

– Does that asteroid have an atmosphere, comfortable temperature, and gravity? How does the asteroid creature feed? Breathe? Reproduce? It must be so lonely and hungry…

– Am I not giving Luke enough credit in these films? He can fly an X-wing with literally no training, and a couple of days with Yoda and he can take on Vader… Imagine how strong he’d be with, ooh, a full week of training. This does beg the question: what exactly did the Jedis do with the younglings for all their years of teaching?

– Does the Empire have a fast-track recruitment and promotion scheme to replace all the senior officers killed by Vader?

– When Yoda says to Obi Wan, “there is another” – is this evidence of

(a) Obi-Wan having forgotten all about the second of the Skywalker twins, despite having been present at the birth;
(b) Obi-Wan being a massive misogynist;
(c) Obi-Wan fearing that there was insufficient time to train Leia to face the growing threat posed by Vader (really?);
(d) George Lucas making this stuff up as he goes along.

– This is by some distance the most quotable Star Wars film, between Han’s put-downs and romantic replies (“I love you” – “I know”), Yoda’s wisdom (“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”), Vader’s polite barbarism (“Apology accepted“) and Boba’s minimalism (“He’s no good to me dead.”)

– The inconsistency of Han being bound when put into carbonite, then being frozen with his hands held up in front of him, irks me every time…

– Why the theme park funride of death in Cloud City? What possible purpose does that serve? And another health and safety nightmare walkway (see my comments on A New Hope)

– Oh look, the Falcon’s engines have failed… Again. Yawn.

– Why does Leia kiss Luke and Han so much? Is she French?

– Leia definitely kisses Luke on the lips this time, despite the “there is another” hint to her parentage. Ew. Also, ew to everything Lando says when they first arrive, the sleazy little man.

The structure thing

As I said at the outset, this film does not stand alone. You can watch, and enjoy, this without having seen A New Hope, but to see the resolution you have to watch Return of the Jedi. I do not like any film that refuses to give me closure in such a blatant way, and the ending of this film is a definite anti-climax. It starts so energetically with drama on Hoth, has an interesting mid-section on Dagobah, then fizzles out at the end in Cloud City, with the heroes scattered, and the battle lost.

(For me, the film takes a noticeable downward turn once Han is on Cloud City, despite the Luke-Vader showdown.)

The midpoint of the film is Luke’s vision in the dark side cave, which holds up a mirror to his greatest (as yet unspoken) fear – that he will become the thing he is battling against, and give in to the power of the dark side. This resonates with the end of the Vader-Luke showdown, with Luke literally throwing himself to this potential death rather than joining Vader, and also foreshadows that great “I am your Father” revelation… BUT as a midpoint it doesn’t actually change Luke’s behaviour in the second half of the film.

The ever-whingey, “it can’t be done” proto-Jedi decides to bail on his training, against the advice of his mentor, to rush to aid his friends, even though he’s not ready to really help them, ie by defeating Vader. He is again taking the easy path. He hasn’t changed at all.

How much more daring would it have been for him to have stayed on Dagobah, and really knuckle down in a focused way, knowing that the clock was ticking against him, rather than rushing off at the first hint of trouble. Imagine the increase in tension that could have been built in by this. Sure, rushing off makes him a great friend. But it also makes him an idiot, and not someone worthy of the label “Jedi”. I’ve spent longer writing this post than he’s spent learning the ways of the Force!

Overall, ESB is a compilation of “scenes we’d like to see” from the Star Wars universe, rather than a film /story in its own right.

  • Space battles? Check.
  • Lightsabres? Check.
  • Revelations about parentage? Check.
  • Training montage? Check.
  • Quotable dialogue? Check.

And yet…

Still, at least it doesn’t have little furry Ewoks in it, solely to shift some merchandise. Next week, Return of the Jedi!

 

Photo: flickr.com/photos/randar/14430050919

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Haiku – "Balance"

#1
All work and no play,
With no time for your loved ones:
Life’s balance all wrong

#2
Jedi prophecy:
Between the light and dark side,
One will bring balance

#3
Stood on life’s tightrope,
With Hope’s pole to guide along.
Balance is crucial

Haiku Horizons prompt “balance”

haikuhorizons

Star Wars Countdown – A New Hope

As part of my family’s weekly countdown to seeing The Force Awakens, I’ve been blogging about each episode of Star Wars. This week, it was the turn of Star Wars itself, or A New Hope as revisionists would call it (wrongly 🙂 ).

This is a film that has defined so much of my life, that I grew up with (I still have the original pillow case from my childhood, although sadly not the toys)… it’s impossible to write anything about it objectively. It is not a perfect film, but I would still place it in my favourite “Top 5” of all time (alongside Goodfellas, Godfather Pt 1, Shaun of the Dead, and Finding Nemo seeing as you asked). That list may change a little over time, but Star Wars has been a constant. Hey, even the revised header for my blog (“A Certain Point of View”) is based on a Star Wars quote.

So… what are the best of the best bits for me?

1 – Universe-building
From the opening scene, giving us the scale of the Imperial Star Destroyer as it takes an age to scroll across the screen, to the twin suns on Tattooine, to the Cantina scene in Mos Eisley, to the wonderful names (Grand Moff Tarkin, Death Star, Darth Vader, Wookiee) that stay just the right side of silliness (Porkins excepted), to the scruffy charm of the Millennium Falcon (down to the dice hanging in the cockpit), to the sterile, mechanical interior of the Death Star… this is a rich, immersive, fantasy experience, set a long time ago and far, far away, but utterly recognisable at the same time.

2 – The action
The second half of the film is pretty much action-packed, squeezing in lightsabre fights and space dog-fights that have set the template for the space/fantasy genre.

3 – The music and sound effects
John Williams has given us so many amazing film scores in his time… scoring Jaws or ET alone may have been enough for an ordinary mortal… but his work on Star Wars is incredible. It papers over the cracks in the clunky dialogue, and keeps raising the tension throughout. And all this without the Imperial March yet (which comes in with Empire Strikes Back).

The sound effects deserve mention too. This is all part of the world building, but the thrum of the lightsabre is so embedded in culture now that it’s hard to remember that there was a time before. Plus, some of the sound effects of things as simple as Obi Wan shutting down the tractor beam… in one of my early jobs, whenever I turned the power on in the backroom, I would try and imitate that exact sound effect… I still do now from time to time…

Now, in the interests of at least attempting objectivity, here are the three worst facets of the film (NB – I watched the special edition, and simply skipped over the pointless added Jabba scene… as should you):

1 – Luke
Are we really supposed to be rooting for this whiny farm boy? Give me the piratical charm of Han Solo (who definitely shot first, and would do it again in a heartbeat) anyday! “It just isn’t fair!”… give me strength. Also, why is he more upset about Obi Wan’s death than the death of his adopted parents? Not that he really grieves for either. I’m not getting into that incestuous business of fancying his sister, either. Lucas clearly made up the story as he went along…

2 – Plot holes
These are legion, and tend to be forgiven as “part of its charm”, but as a writer setting out on my path, given numerous pieces of advice about how to structure a story, and checking for logical consistency… it’s tough to swallow this sometimes when you can see how successful some have been without paying any heed to those demands.

– “Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.” Really? There is no evidence of this elsewhere in the film…
– “Execute her immediately”… and yet there Leia is, distinctly not executed, when Luke and Han eventually get to her, some time later…
– Why did the Stormtroopers not simply lob down a grenade into the garbage masher, once they knew all the heroes were down there? They just ignore them, and assume that activating the mashing mechanism will do it. Sloppy.
– “I’ve already tried that, it’s magnetically sealed”… when did this happen? There was a gap of about three seconds between you each diving down…
– Why are there so many platforms and unguarded walkways around the Death Star? I appreciate the Evil Empire may not be big on health and safety, but it still seems needlessly dangerous, especially when the Death Star’s planet-killing death ray fires straight past some workers in a side tunnel, making them cower for their own safety…
– Why do they not separate their waste on the Death Star? Surely some of that metal could have been recycled…
– “They’re coming through!” Er, they’re not. Well, not when this was said anyway.
– If Leia believed that their escape from the Death Star in the Falcon was too easy, and that the Empire let them go, then why fly immediately to the hidden base that she’s been resisting attempts to unveil throughout?
– Is it really possible to fly an X-Wing into a planetary life or death situation without so much as 5 minutes instruction? (And is it appropriate to compare making an all-or-nothing shot on the Death Star with TIE fighters trying to kill you with “bulls-eyeing wamp rats in your T-16″… what is a wamp rat anyway? why do the young people of Tattooine fly around taking potshots at them? poor wamp rats…)

3 – Characterisation
The central characters are based on tropes, rather than rounded people. The wizard, the princess, the pirate… When we first meet each of them, they can be described as “spiky” (Leia), “cocky” (Han), and “whingey” (Luke)… they are the same at the end. Sure, Luke shows some ability with the Force (and I will allow that he is slightly less whingey), and Han shows he’s not just about the money, but would it be too much to ask for a proper character arc? Or even more rounded characters, with flaws and competing motivations? I think this is why Star Wars obsessives like me cling to the “Han Shot First” theme, because this is the only hint we get of any of our central trio having a hint of a darker side, or something “non-linear” about their character. The fact that George Lucas tried to airbrush this out of history in the special edition speaks volumes for the way that he lost the plot after Return of the Jedi…

So, on to Empire Strikes Back next week – many people’s favourite instalment in the franchise. I’ll be casting my critical eye over that in similar fashion. I’d love it if you’d join me 🙂

 

 

 

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Star Wars countdown… The Revenge of the Sith

This is the second in a series of blog posts as I re-watch the Star Wars films with my 5 year-old son in the build-up to The Force Awakens hitting the cinemas in three weeks’ time. I was away at a SCBWI Conference last weekend, having a fantastic time, so missed Attack of the Clones (a bullet dodged). This week it’s the turn of Revenge of the Sith.

There is much to enjoy in this one, and it almost works as a film on its own merits (leaving aside the last ten minutes when they try to join every last dot with the original trilogy). One of the main reasons for this is that the “comedy” has been largely cut. Jar Jar and 3-PO barely appear in the film, to keep it darker, edgier. BTW, if all this Star Wars talk has just whetted your appetite for more, check out this blog post: http://www.avclub.com/article/star-wars-prequels-dont-deserve-your-hatred-226732 . Needless to say, I disagree with this, but it is well worth a read!

Some thoughts…

War! The first word of the opening scroll promises much, especially compared to previous set-ups (although I’ve at least found one fan of a good historical trade dispute through this). BUT then we’re straight into another space battle that feels like a cartoon. Everything’s too busy. And if you’ve got buzz droids at your disposal now, why do they disappear in less than twenty years? Continuity (both forced, and failed), and consistency, are two of my biggest overall criticisms of the prequels.

General Grievous is a great idea for a bad guy – collecting lightsabres! four arms to use them! – ruined by that over-used trope, comedy emphysema.

R2 flying… Did George Lucas get amnesia about what this astromech droid can do? It’s stupid and unnecessary. This is Exhibit R in the “case against” the prequels.

– The Dooku fight is well-staged, both in terms of choreography and showing Anakin’s descent. Also, the way Obi Wan says “Dooku” makes me think of “doo-doo”, every time.

– The opera scene is Machiavellian brilliance. Wonderfully acted, paced, scored and with visuals beautiful and original. Palpatine tells a story of the power to defeat death. Anakin is hooked. “Is it possible to learn this power?” (A pause) “Not from a Jedi.” The best acted scene of the prequels, by a mile.

– Then, “Exhibit S” in the case against… Obi Wan riding that lizard thing around… Ropey effects, tonally wrong for the film. Just wrong, and stupid. Honestly, was George trying to add crap into the film to make the other bits seem better?

– At the writing conference last week, I attended a workshop on story structure. There we talked about the midpoint of the film, whereby the central character is not the same again. Well, one hour and ten minutes into a two hour twenty minute film, we have Anakin defending Palpatine against the Jedi (Mace Windu in particular), then pledging himself to Palpatine. “Henceforth, you shall be known as Darth Vader…” Cue John Williams theme… Great stuff, but all this analysis of structure is in danger of ruining movies for me!

– The Jedi temple attack, and Order 66 is a wonderful sequence, taking in a host of different worlds and tragic deaths for the unfortunate Jedi. And when Anakin lights his lightsabre in front of the younglings with murderous intent, it brings a lump to my throat every single time. So dark, and sad.

Yoda’s dialogue is overdone, to the point of parody. “Not if anything to say about it, I have…” My son’s reply, reasonably, was “what does he have?” This line made everyone in the cinema groan first time round, and it made me wince this time.

– The fight between Obi Wan and Vader should be the emotional climax of the prequels, and there is some great work from Ewan McGregor with the material, but… it doesn’t quite work. The lightsabres (both blue) are not distinguishable, the movement is too fast (contrast the Obi Wan – Darth Maul sequence, which is fast but believable), and you just get the impression of a lot of twirling rather than a fight to the death. When they start leaping around on ridiculous platforms over the molten rock… it takes it all too far. It adds complication, when it needs simplicity, to strip everything back to these two brothers fighting to the death.

– Interesting contrast between the births of the twins and Vader. Why does Obi Wan need reminding in the original trilogy that “there is another”. Why does Leia remember her mother? When the droid says that Padme has just “lost the will to live”, there is a part of me that says “I know the feeling…”

– The Vader Frankenstein moment is horrible, painful, naff, comically awful… The single worst moment in the prequels (and yes, I haven’t forgotten Jar Jar). Honestly, you’ve got the coolest bad guy in the history of the universe, and then you all but make him drop to his knees and cry. “Exhibit T”

– How come the Death Star takes another fifteen or so years to be finished, when it’s gone from design to shell in a couple of years? Contractor problems? How do they keep it secret for that length of time? It’s almost like this stuff’s being made up as they go along…

Having got to the end of the prequels, it is unlikely that I will watch them again. They are a mixed bag of great moments and awfulness. If they didn’t have the Star Wars name attached, I would have watched and forgotten them already by now, and perhaps that is how they should be judged. The original trilogy though, I can see me dipping into those on rainy bank holidays forever. So, onto A New Hope (as my son calls it), or more accurately (as I see it) Star Wars, next week 🙂

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