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. 

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Luke And Brad: The Two Dreamers Who Had To Unlearn What They Have Learned.

Kylo Ren Is NOT Luke Skywalker. Luke Skywalker Is NOT Kylo Ren.

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“Luke’s just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him” – Aunt Beru.  

When Luke Skywalker trudged wearily out of his uncle’s igloo in the desert and gazed longingly at the binary sunset, a new icon of SF cinema was made. Moreover, seeing the blond mop and the snazzy pyjamas, it was like seeing my reflection on the big screen; this hero was certainly someone to relate to, and root for.

No matter what that scruffy-lookin’ nerfherder boasted about blasters, me and Luke gobbled up everything we could find about hokey religions and ancient weapons. And yes, many times this lil cake-guzzling perisher stared at the sunset, dreaming about escaping to better far-off places…

Now, while the mass frenzy surrounds the Return of Han Solo, my concerns automatically lie with Luke. With a more substantial teaser trailer for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens hitting the internet big time earlier this week, how did Mark Hamill feel about returning to his legendary role after all this time? 

“You know, the security is just crazy,” he remarked incredulously. “When we made the original films, you had the odd reporter hanging around the studio, bribing people to give them stories. Now, do I really have to wear this robe and this hood… to go from the trailer to the soundstage?

“They said: “Yeah, there’s drones.” Seriously! There’s drones flying over the studio trying to get pictures of whatever they can.” 

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“Told you, I did. Reckless is he!” – Yoda. 

A long time ago in a school playground far far away – perhaps because of his gleaming blond hair – Brad would always be chosen to play Luke. Even the other kids could feel the bond between us both. So, blasting stormtroopers? Learning the ways of the force? Taking on the Empire all by meself?! 

Nah…

Half a dozen boys would argue – or fight – over who would play Han Solo, so we never got anywhere. Honestly, the Death Star would have cleared the planet and blown us into smithereens before we knew who was who. A fine Rebel “Alliance” we turned out to be: sheesh!

Both of us had fathers who were legends in their own right.

Luke was led to believe that his father was “a navigator on a spice freighter.”

My father certainly was a mechanic on several planes in the RAF.

“He was the best star pilot in the galaxy.”  

You bet! Still proudly keep his flight gear hanging up in my wardrobe back at my UK base.

“And he was a good friend.”  

Sure was. Took me to watch the original trilogy at the cinema; we often quoted the best lines to each other before he could speak no more… 

Now, me an’ Luke have come so far – fatherless and fearless – and through so much. Most people haven’t got the fuggiest idea what’s happened to Luke in the thirty years since the Battle of Endor; most people couldn’t give a fugg what’s happened to me in the thirty years since reading comics during school hours.

Sure, Luke ended up far far away from Tatooine; this blogger ended up far far away from Taunton.

The Force may have been strong with us once, but our fortunes since leave a lot to be desired. After not hearing anything from him for some considerable time, naturally the anxiety became almost unbearable.    

So it was an absolute joy for me – after all these years – to hear Luke narrating the second trailer, but just before the anticipation grew, rumours spread that he will hardly figure in Episode VII. Suspicions were confirmed last week, when the official movie poster was released. Obviously, his absence from this publicity was the first point everyone noticed.

“I have a very bad feeling about this…”

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“It was certainly unexpected… I thought if they did a third trilogy, we wouldn’t be involved. It is really about the new generation of characters. We are just there to lend our support and grow contractually obligated beards” – Mark Hamill. 

Now, what of these rumours swirling around the internet about Luke having turned to the Dark Side – that Luke and this new villain: Kylo Ren are one and the same? 

Well, no. Absolutely not. 

For a start, we have seen the pic of Adam Driver, sans mask, from the Vanity Fair spread a few months back. Luke had constructed his own lightsabre by Episode VI – even impressing his old man with it. So he would not have produced something as crude as Ren’s jagged crossguard sabre.

During the making of Return of the Jedi, Mark Hamill pitched the possibility of Luke turning to the Dark Side. The idea was swiftly shot down by George [Lucas]. Again, in 2005, on a TV talk show called: Dinner For Five – with J.J. Abrams as one of the other guests! – Hamill discussed the idea once more:

“As an actor, that would be more fun to play. I just thought that’s the way it was going… the pivotal moment. I’ll have to come back, but I’ll have Han Solo in my crosshairs and I’ll be about to kill him or about to kill the princess…” 

Now that would cause a great disturbance…

Whatever his screen-time in Episode VII, Luke should feature strongly, even driving the plot. And his (father’s) lightsabre would appear to constitute an important element of these proceedings. Essentially, the premise here might be: The Search For Luke Skywalker, implying a self-imposed exile of some kind. Whatever fate has befallen Luke, it is likely that this Kylo Ren is directly responsible. 

No matter what lousy opportunities have tripped me up in recent years is nothing compared to what my ol’ buddy Luke seems to have suffered. We’ve only got another eight weeks until we can all find out what happened to the farmboy who destroyed a Death Star.

What will Luke have in store for us come 18 December? Will Brad publish a positive review?

One thing you cannot underestimate about him and me:

You’ll find that we’re full of surprises… 

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“Luke Skywalker… Now, that’s a name I’ve not heard in a long time. A long time…” 

Star-Lord and Laser-Brain: The Phenomenon of the SF Hero

Devised: 8 & 11 August; Revised: 12 August 2014. Uh, everything’s under control. Situation normal.

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^ Hmmm, two galaxies appear to be colliding with each other here…

 

“[What we seek in space] is not knowledge, but wonder, beauty, romance, novelty – and above all, adventure”                                  – Arthur C Clarke.  

Somewhere in the far cosmos, a space rogue named Peter Quill aka Star-Lord leads the Guardians of the Galaxy – an unknown and untried band of misfits against the threat of Ronan the Accuser. With a most urgent task thrust upon him, he had to prove his worth as… a hero. After too-long-a-wait, the SF Hero is back on the Big Screen where he belongs.

One of the most popular staples in the science fiction canon, it was only a matter of time before this Blogger – who has created several such far-out heroes throughout the course of his fascinating and frustrating forays into fantastic fiction – weighed in with what the position entailed. In order to concoct the archetypal galactic hero, a code of certain characteristics needs to be adhered to:

  • They must immediately grab the viewer’s attention, either through badass dialogue or some killer moves.
  • They must be dressed in the sort of garb that you would not feel sheepish to don for some heaving comic-con.
  • And they must have ultracool spaceships.
  • And rad blasters.
  • And maybe a furry anthropomorphic accomplice to interact with, especially if the scriptwriter has lost his/her flow in some seedy bar somewhere…
  • Oh, and an Awesome Mix tape ought to be obligatory (you younglings did ask your parents what cassettes were? Sweet!) Moving on…

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^ Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord – didn’t take him long to become popular…

 

“Traditionally, SF heroes solved problems by application of intelligence and scientific knowledge. These days you can substitute lasers for scientific knowledge. Or swords” – How To Write a Generic SF Novel.    

Sure, the title: Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t ring any bells, but that space rogue looked familiar…

The name: Star-Lord brought a bright spark of recognition as – once upon a time – he may have occupied my long-gone copious comic-munching days. Peter Quill made his first appearance as Star-Lord in Marvel Previews No. 4 in 1976, but it’s more than likely that a short-lived UK weekly comic in the early 80s by the name of Future Tense is where our paths met, so to speak.      

Reasonably intelligent, this “Star-Lord” seems inclined to just drift around the galaxy, until snatching an orb of great significance changes his fate entirelyIn the comics he looked distinctive, but here in the movie he sports some groovy get-up and a not-so-dorky helmet; and his ship: the Milano has a certain flair about it.

Naturally, a film as fun and frothy as this does not dwell on complexities such as plot and characterization, so his background story is still to unfold. The twist (revealed towards the end of the movie) that Quill is only half-human presents the promising prospect of some intriguing plot developments for the inevitable sequel (provided the right material is handled properly!)

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^ Which do you prefer: the Milano, or the Milliennium Falcon?

 

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid” – Han Solo.

Chris Pratt was entertaining as Peter Quill/Star-Lord, but he trails umpteen parsecs behind the definitive space hero –ultimately, Han Solo has become THE iconic figure of SF cinema and deservedly so.

What makes his character so enduring? For one thing, he’s cool, bad… and mad enough to chase a bunch of stormtroopers through their own space station, because – as every seven year old will tell you – a hero gains instant respect if he prefers a straight fight to “all this sneaking around.” He only takes orders from one person (himself) even if he is half-witted.

And never tell him the odds…

Much of this instant appeal was obviously due to the charm and laconic swagger which then-jobbing-joiner Harrison Ford brought to the role. Plus, Han Solo had the Millennium Falcon – one of the most awesome spaceships of all time… and a Walking Carpet as First Mate.

There are certain similarities between these two overwhelmingly popular characters: Star-Lord had to contend with a Raccoon with a penchant for prosthetic legs, and Han had a Wookie with a penchant for pulling peoples arms out of their sockets (only if they lose); while Han had no plan (to rescue the Princess), at least Star-Lord pretended to have a plan (or at least part of one), and so on. And so on…

Ah! but are they worthy?

Well, on paper they sound too dodgy: one’s a thief, the other’s a smuggler. Not so honourable. So why root for them?

They are the antithesis of the more conventional space adventurers such as Flash Gordon (sporting hero) and Buck Rogers (astronaut) but, regardless of background, against all odds, they managed, nevertheless, to (help their friends) save their respective galaxy, defeat the bad guys and, perhaps, get the girl, ultimately ensuring their place in the highest echelons of SF stardom i.e. they would never, ever, get killed off…

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Now, who’s scruffy-lookin’?