Good! Let The VIII Flow Through You!: First Impressions Of The Last Jedi

Breathe. Just Breathe. Now Reach Out.

What Do You See?

Green Greedo: “I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.”

Han Solo: “Yes, I bet you have...”

“When I read VIII, I told Rian, ‘I fundamentally disagree with virtually everything you’ve decided about my character’,” Mark Hamill said before embarking on filming Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Although Mark swiftly changed his mind and had a blast resurrecting the character with which he will always be associated with, immediately, this statement turned out to be the most worrisome aspect of this latest instalment. If it was “shocking” for Mark to read what Rian had written, then how is it going to make us feel?!

Personal reservations about new characters and contentious plot developments for established characters – not to mention unease concerning where the last two episodes will lead – have somewhat lessened the eager anticipation which so many fans have revelled in and blogged about these past few months.

Nevertheless, it is thrilling to have NEW Star Wars magic within our grasp once more and, obviously, both of you are itching to read what this first generation fanboy has to say about it, so, away we go…

“It was incredible! The perception of these films is that they’re all planned out on a secret sheet of paper in advance, but that’s just not the case. I wasn’t given an outline of where it goes or even a list of things to hit. It really was just, ‘Okay, what’s next?'” – Rian Johnson.

“Who is Luke Skywalker now?” asked Rian Johnson as he set out to fulfil a dream and write the script for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

“I grew up with an idea of who Luke was, so the real question was why is Luke on that island? Luke’s no coward… so there must be some reason he’s there that makes sense to him. That was the first nut to crack. The seed for the whole story was inside that shell. I just had to get to it.”

Caught up with Looper (2012) earlier this year, to get acquainted with Johnson’s directorial style. Fortunately, it is an intelligent and fantastic time travel SF thriller, and assured us that Star Wars VIII looked to be in more-than-capable hands.  

From a certain point of view, The Force Awakens was great fun, even though, yes, we didn’t need the rehashed New Hope tropes of another Death Star and “vital information” placed in a droid-unit etc. etc. Unfortunately, the film’s main hindrance lay in JJ Abrams direction. Solo’s demise seemed inevitable, but the whole confrontation between Han and Ben sorely lacked the dramatic heft it deserved.

And although John William’s score was suitably moving as Rey clambered up Skellig Michael to find Luke, this pivotal sequence still looked too bland. This former Archaeology student realised the problem – he instantly recognised the locationAdd an extra planet in a sky that maybe should have been tinted a wildly different colour. Maintain the impression that we are indeed in a galaxy far, far away and not just off the coast of Ireland, please… 

 

Also, savour again this classic, endearing moment from The Empire Strikes Back:

“Where’s my boyfriend? I like that Wookie” – Maz Kanata.

Let’s face it, Chewie would have stampeded up those Skellig steps faster and more enthusiastically than Rey – not mope around outside the Falcon! Half-expected him to do so, as well! How long is it since he last saw Luke?! Besides, he had just lost his scruffy-lookin’ best buddy, but Abrams NEVER allowed him the screen-time to grieve! 

Would not be surprised to discover that our fave Wookie will be similarly underused in The Last Jedi. 

Come ON – let the Wookie scene-steal!

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Thankfully – judging from early reviews, this movie seems to be a positive upgrade, but just poses so many questions: 

Will Rey turn to the Dark Side?

Will Kylo learn the difference between right and Ren? 

Will General Hux really get the most laughs?!

Will this episode answer ANY of these questions (and plenty more too innumerable to type)..?! 

Hello… …?

“Episode eightgosh… The first film didn’t even have a number…” – Anthony Daniels. 

 

“It’s the first time I’ve been on set not yet knowing what the character’s gonna look like. I mean, talk about secrecy!” – Andy Serkis.  

For me, it has reached the point where speculation surrounding “Supreme Leader” Snoke supersedes everything else, including that other Starkiller-sized mystery of the galaxy: Rey’s parentage. There is an overwhelming urge to suss out who this creep is – and where he came from. 

Presumably, he is very ancient, very powerful. One thing is certain: the name is bogus. Has to be. 

In The Force Awakens, listening to characters as diverse as Leia and Nux saying “Snoke” with a straight face was something else. 

However, does the REAL villain of this Episode lurk elsewhere..?

It is telling that Rian Johnson has mentioned how Snoke is the (ahem) snokescreen for where the true drama – and shocks – lie… 

The above poster is included here to emphasise the following point. Notice here how Luke is bathed in red: traditionally associated with the Empire. With evil. Also, see how large he looms, as Vader used to do on the OT posters…

Dark Side or not, what intrigues me the most about this episode is learning additional details about the background story of Luke’s quest for the first Jedi temple, and how he lost his padawan – his nephew – to Snoke, thus compelling our hero to retreat in shame(?) to a remote sector of the galaxy.

Tell me, OLD Luke, what brings you out this far… …? 

“Oh baby, would I love to play my own evil twin…We could watch this guy undermining the good guys secretly, maybe even killing a supporting character… And then, of course, the good Luke shows up” –  Mark Hamill. 

“Are they puffin-like? Are they pug-like…? One, in particular, befriends Chewie. I won’t spoil it, but if you think the ones you’ve seen in the trailer are cute, you have not seen anything yet” – Neal Scanlan. 

Difficult to see, the plot is. 

When you consider how Star Wars is now Disney property, it’s all too easy to fear the worst. Your correspondent, regrettably, can see it now: Jedi Master Luke and his plucky porg posse break into Snoke’s Throne Room. 

Epic lightsaber duel ensues.

(Hopefully it will NOT be as inspid and seven hours too frickin’ long as that soulless saber-swingfest from Episode III).

Just when the Leader looks to be too Supreme for his own good(bad?) Luke extends his robot hand and Force-propels Snoke back; at the last minute, the villain trips over a wall of porgs, and – like Maul and Sidious – hurtles to his doom down one of those expensive, albeit superfluous, CG-chasms.

Later, as the hangar explodes and disintegrates all around them, and they must go their separate ways, Porg Chief Berni Two-Socks (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, of course) looks up with those ubercute oversized black eyes, tears a-swellin’, and chirps:

“Gee, Mr. Luke, not bad fer a Longshanks! The boys are gonna miss ya, an’… aww shucks, Ah’m-a gonna miss ya too…”

Trust me, there will NOT be a dry eye in the (full) house…

Uff, typical Disney fluff! 

On second thoughts, methinks mayhap this grizzled ol’ nerfherder should DELAY his trip to the local popcorn parlour this week. And wait to be seriously disappointed in the comfort of his own Sanctum Sanctorum when XIII starts “streamin’ on Nitflex” (or whatever the younglings call that dashfangled gogglebox-contraption)…

“The Last Jedi felt more visceral. The first film felt like a dream” – Daisy Ridley. 

Before hitting Publish, it would be fitting to finish with a nice little anecdote from – oh yes – a long time ago when ONLY TWO Star Wars movies existed, but for me and my gang of mates, we were just DAYS away from the release of Return Of The Jedi. 

At the time, a British magazine called Voyager – concentrating on movies, model kits and space/astronomy news(!) – published an invaluable article discussing The Genesis Of “The Star Wars.” Reckoned it would be a great service to proclaim that instead of three movies we could – one day – enjoy all NINE episodes of The Journal Of The Whills.

They all looked at me as if Admiral Motti had just dissed The Force. 

Bumfluff growled and hissed bitterly: “Jeez, Brad, you’re so full o’ Bantha doo-doo it’s unreal!”

True story…

It would also be lovely to round off this post by stating that as we all prepare to watch The Last Jedi, it’s nice to know that Brad will be having the last laugh.

But will it – can it – really make for a joyous cinema experience? Yet again, yours truly just can’t bring himself to describe how difficult ’twill be to sit through the late, great Carrie Fisher’s last-ever screen performance.

Definitely, there are grim tidings ahead. Having lost Han Solo in VII, we must prepare for Leia’s fate in this episode, but also – although one does not like to dwell on such disconcerting matters too much – Luke will probably not see the end of IX…

 

WAIT a moisture-farmin’ minute here… 

What if Luke gets killed off in VIII?!?! 

What ELSE can account for Mark’s misgivings and the “considerable risks” rumoured to have been taken by Rian with this far, far away material?

Who else has a bad feeling about this?

We must be cautious…

Breathe. Just Breathe… …

 

“What a piece of junk!” – Luke Skywalker. 

How fitting that Episode VIII should be released in the year of Star Wars’ 40th Anniversary. 

Is it really FORTY YEARS since the world we thought we knew changed forever…?

“…A script arrived on my dressing table. When I opened it and found that it was science fiction I thought: oh crumbs, this is simply not for me…

“The dialogue was pretty ropey, but I had to go on turning the page… That is an essential in any script…” – Alec Guinness.

 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Bradscribe Review

Episode VII: Luke Skywalker has vanished… 

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“The idea of being involved in it frankly felt dangerous” – J. J. Abrams. 

“Come on, baby, don’t let me down!” growls everyone’s favourite nerfherder during one of the many exhilarating moments in this record-smashing latest installment of the galaxy’s greatest saga. This perfectly sums up the expectations – not just of my humble self – but millions of fans as the weeks, then days, till release were agonisingly counted down.

No worries; fortunately for all of us, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a triumph, and deservedly so. J. J. Abrams has crafted a superior space fantasy, offering so much more than just a fanboy pastiche – embellishing this blockbuster with plenty of brand new and intriguing delights, forging the franchise in a bold and promising direction. Give him a film project with ‘Star’ in the title and – yay – he will work wonders…

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“I’ll tighten those restraints, scavenger scum” – Daniel Craig. 😉

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“People were like: ‘Oh my God, you’re Rey Solo’ – this is what people do, they just assume I’m Han Solo’s daughter, it’s not even a question any more” – Daisy Ridley.

It’s fantastic to see the new generation of Wars stars: Ridley, Isaac and Boyega – and, what the heck, BB8 as well – establish themselves firmly and convincingly in this beloved galaxy. 

As the central character, newcomer Daisy Ridley more than holds her own as the resilient Rey. Most curiously, when we first see her, she is merely a scavenger, searching for scrap from the now-legendary Battle of Jakku (and selling it to Simon Pegg! 😉 and – bizarrely – squatting in the shell of a fallen AT-AT. Pretty soon, she’s – what the-?! – not only flying the Millennium Falcon, but perfectly adept at the Ways of the Force. Blimey, Charley! She’s just too good to be true…

In Finn (John Boyega), we have a completely different type of character: a stormtrooper who – after a change of conscience – wants to defect to the Resistance. Through a compelling plot development, he helps the escape of star-pilot: Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). The time is right for Star Wars to have a new cocky young flyboy, and Dameron certainly makes the grade. 

Must – at this point – express what a delight it was, at last, to meet the wonderful, yet enigmatic, Maz Kanata. She reminded me a lot of the old dears who sell jasmine garlands in downtown Bangkok. Her “castle” is the sort of blissed-out, rad dive this blogger would have loved to frequent during his college days.

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“I feel there’s a recklessness about him that’s maybe not normally associated with the Dark Side. You normally think of order, and structure… he’s just a little bit more unpolished” – Adam Driver. 

For me, by far the best, most tantalising new addition to the cast is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). He not only looks right, but – by Jove! – he sounds menacing enough. Black-robed and badass: that’s how we dig it around here! Could it get any better? 

In time-honoured tradition of Star Wars – with his ragged crossbeam lightsabre and disconcerting mask – he has captivated and freaked out the entire fanbase in equal measure. 

Hey,  don’t mean to brag, but his true identity was sussed on this blog months ago. And what he does towards the end of this episode – with Rey, Finn and Chewie looking on in horror – actually came as NO surprise. At all. 

Before moving on: let it be known that Supreme Leader Snoke was superb and sufficiently sinister – another unforgettable contribution from Andy Serkis.  

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“I didn’t have the imagination to recognise the future potential for the character. I was only going to do three of them, so I wanted to use the character to supply some bass notes, some gravitas” – Harrison Ford.  

It was just amazing to see that wondrous piece of junk – not Han Solo, ha ha! – but his eternally supercool Corellian freighter which – inexplicably – just happens to be standing neglected on Jakku AND in the exact area from which Rey and Finn must make their escape?! How opportune… 

There is no dramatic build-up to the entrance of Han and Chewie together, but the lump in the throat is still inevitable. Funnily enough, after all these years, Han is STILL moody and obsessive over the Millennium Falcon, forever quick to remind anybody that it’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 14 – sorry! – 12 parsecs. 

But when General Leia first steps into view after 32 years, quite frankly my tear-ducts burst. SO GOOD to see Carrie Fisher in a Star Wars movie again. 

As a HUGE fan of the X-wing Fighterit was, after all, my very first Star Wars toy – the sensational sequence featuring a whole squadron of them skimming the surface of that lake was irresistibly stupendous. The ensuing dogfight offered an enticing spectacle. This movie also honoured one of this franchise’s more stirring trademarks: TIE fighters chasing our heroes through ever-narrowing tunnels of vast installations.

Just can’t get enough of that wrecked Star Destroyer embedded in the sands of Jakku. 

Impressive. Most impressive.

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“In the street, they call out: ‘Hey, Princess!’ which makes me feel like a poodle” – Carrie Fisher. 

Yes, there are a few quibbles:

  • Having been enthralled at the prospect of Captain Phasma: a female stormtrooper, we looked forward to finding out what she would do. Bah! A couple of forgettable lines and nothing else hardly seems worth the bother…
  • Been waiting on tenterhooks to hear the new score by legendary composer John Williams. Don’t know about you, but there were no discernible epic tunes here.
  • The movie ends on Skellig Michael, a World Heritage site off the coast of County Kerry, Ireland. That’s the problem: without any CG tinkering whatsoever, it looks exactly like it was filmed… off the coast of County Kerry, and NOT in a galaxy far, far away…  
  • Seeing Joseph Gordon-frickin’-Levitt all greened-up, supposedly as Yoda? (!) at the Hollywood premiere on Monday night. Jeez, what a prat… 

Let’s not deny it: Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a successful re-engagement with the myth and magic that has made this the best-loved and most durable franchise.

Despite being several notches down from the glorious masterpiece that was The Empire Strikes Back, this is still a Magnificent Seventh Episode in its own right. 

And – oh yes – the Force IS strong with this one! 

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© All Rights Reserved

Any scum and villainy who dare swipe any of this stuff for their own nefarious ends shall be cut down by my crossbeam lightsabre!

Grumble, grumble, disturbing lack of faith, etc, etc. 

Venus Ascending: Which SF Heroines Should Return?

Posted: 17 August 2014

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“I’m no Ripley. I had doubts that I could play her as strongly as she had to be played, but I must say that it was fun exploring that side of myself. Women don’t get to do that very often” – Sigourney Weaver.  

In th the far reaches of the universe, “where no one in their right mind would go,” undeniably the strongest female character in SF – Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley – will return for one last time, insists Sigourney Weaver, the actress who portrayed her so memorably across four different movies. She believes that one last story about this bold and daring character deserves to be told, reiterating that by no means should it be set on Earth.  

Considering how Ripley was killed off at the end of dreary Alien 3, and its lacklustre follow-up: Alien Resurrection did not add anything consequential to this waning franchise, the prospect of having the legacy of this great Power Loader-operating and flame-throwing heroine tarnished further does not sound so appealling.

And yet there are numerous strong and feisty females in SF, who – despite the genre for decades being predominantly the reserve of young white males – have thrived regardless and won their own fanbases. Even my own sciency-fickety scribblings are brimming with stern and headstrong women because – let’s face it – they were the ones always rejecting me in real life.  

This Post will explore – in this bland and bloated age of sequels, prequels and reboots – which SF heroines of yesteryear should be brought back to the big screen… plus those who shouldn’t.

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“Fifty-seven years ago I did his little Star Wars film… George is a sadist, but… wearing a metal bikini chained to a giant slug… I keep coming back for more” – Carrie Fisher.  

In December 2015, Princess Leia will return – whether we like it or not. Sure, the original trilogy will always be fondly remembered, but those prequels were an abomination which can never be expunged, let alone forgiven.

Of course there is some curiosity as to what it would be like to have her back, alongside Han and Luke, but really…. it should all have ended back in 1983. So it is with a very heavy heart that this forthcoming trilogy will be regarded with an inevitable and uneasy sense of dread.   

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“Gort… Klaatu Barada Nikto” – Helen Benson.

Patricia Neal, as Helen Benson in Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) provided a strong and striking performance at a time when actresses in B-movies of that era were usually “required” to do no more than scream at any frightful thing that lumbered into view (usually from behind.) She was charged with saving the Earth from Gort, should anything happen to Klaatu (Michael Reeve).

Okay, so she did yell and carry out the ubiquitous horror cliche of stumbling over a deceptively flat piece of terra firma at a crucial stage during the suspense, but otherwise she was a remarkably confident woman – thank goodness – at the right time. She is certainly the sort of determined individual to have in the next Earth-threatening drama.

Hang on! Only just remembered!

A monumentally useless remake popped up in 2008 featuring Jennifer Connelly as Helen Benson. This affront to cultural sensibilities just serves to remind us that that heresy can be avoided if you have a decent script – not to mention a talented leading lady…

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“I’m a New York City girl. Things are a little too quiet around here for me!” – Dale Arden.

Flash Gordon was one of the great influences of my early years, with the amazing Alex Raymond strip and the Universal serials from the 1930s, not to mention the immensely enjoyable (and endlessly quotable) 1980 feature film, but throughout his manic meddling on Mongo,  he wouldn’t have got far without the doughty Dale Arden.

Is it time for a Flash reboot? Hell yeah!

But this time, there would be a tremendous opportunity to enhance the strong elements of Dale’s character and give her a hard-edged and courageous 21st century makeover.

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“Have you ever retired a human by mistake?” – Rachael.

Whatever happened to Sean Young?

As Rachael the replicant in Blade Runner (1982), her soft demeanour provided a tender contrast to the other two violent artificial femmes.   Somehow, in this perpetually dark and soggy dystopia of 2019, she brought an incongruous, yet oddly affecting, 1940s look to the film.

It’s too bad she won’t live, said Gaff, the origami guy in the fedora, yet it would have been so intriguing to see more of her. As rumours of a sequel gather pace, it is alarming to learn that Rachael somehow won’t have a part in it…

The number of times (mis)spent sitting through dull and uninspired SF movies and you wish someone as stylish as her could just glide in and brighten up proceedings…

…but then again, who does?