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 Prequel Blog-a-thon: The Phantom Menace [Week 1]

Star Bores I: A Spent Force… 

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“I’m sure this one will do fine…” – George Lucas.  

Always gratifying to expunge one’s demons, so they say. So it is with the wretched Star Wars prequel trilogy. 

As part of a blog-a-thon devised by Ashley over at boxofficebuzz, these much-maligned prequels have come under scrutiny, and she gladly accepted my participation.

Back in 1999, the hype for a BRAND NEW STAR WARS MOVIE(!) was phenomenal. George Lucas was ready to come out of his directorial hiatus and tell us how Anakin Skywalker – the Jedi apprentice of Obi-Wan Kenobi was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force and became Darth Vader. So, what did Brad make of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace? 

Let’s just say it was a trip to the cinema he will NEVER forget…

This Post follows boxofficebuzz’s What works/What doesn’t work format, although – let’s face it – the latter is going to be a significantly longer section…

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“I was apprenticed to the most powerful being in the galaxy once. I was destined to become… so much more” – Darth Maul.

What works:

  • Darth Maul: by far the standout element of Episode I. 

As a fan of aliens/villains in hooded cloaks, it’s difficult not to be mesmerised by the spectacular choreography of Ray Park. The extraordinary makeup is both devilish and distinctive. And hell, he’s everyone’s fave Dathomirian Zabrak ‘cos of his supercool dual-bladed sabrestaff. Strangely enough, this Sith apprentice was the very first aspect of preview images to catch my attention. Remember thinking at the time: we’re in for one helluva good cinema trip…

Rather than inevitably load up that lightsaber duel scene itself – still amazing after 17 years – this featurette is worth a look: 

  • The Pod Race

Admittedly, this was fun the first time we watched, and the only sequence not including Darth Maul worth extra viewing. Sebulba is a particularly dastardly figure, and the ensuing carnage makes for compelling viewing. Obsessed with Tatooine’s Tusken Raiders, watching them twenty years later taking pot-shots at the pods was a joy. But please, leave out the two-headed commentator (speaking English?!)

  • John Williams triumphs with the music score. As always. 

Undoubtedly the most outstanding track here is Duel of the Fates. Could you imagine the lightsaber battle without it? 

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“How does it feel to see my designs out in the world? All you can do is sit back and watch in amazement” – Iain McCaig.

  • The conceptual designs of Iain McCaig:

One of my favourite SF/fantasy artists is Iain McCaig. It was a really exciting day when news broke that he was working on Star Wars: Episode I. He was the artist solely responsible for creating the terrifying look of Darth Maul, and designing the outlandish costumes worn by Queen Amidala. 

Although some of his concepts – such as the most reviled alien in the universe – did not make the transition to the big screen so well, his exceptional artistic contribution should be honoured as one of the prequel trilogy’s scant saving graces.

  •  The J-type 327 Nubian Royal Starship:

Super-sleek, covered in chromium, this vessel carries more class and sophistication than any of the dialogue or acting. Such a wonderful design, it does not belong in such a below-average blockbuster. 

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“Phantom Menace is, ultimately, so extraordinarily objectionable… Nothing has the right to bore and disappoint us this much” – Peter Bradshaw. 

What doesn’t work (where do we begin?!):

At the beginning, of course…

  • The beginning: is so lame and monotonous. 

“Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.” 

Really? Who gives a monkeys? Suddenly, John Williams’ oh-so-familiar perpetually-stirring theme tune feels incongruous when set to this mind-numbing scrawl. Honestly, this is the intro to a NINE-PART SAGA, and that is the best you can come up with, George?! Remember the opening scene of Episode IV? Yeah! NOW THAT is how you begin a blockbuster! 

  • The taxation of trade routes:

How was this needless attention to economics and politics supposed to engage with the infant cinema-goers?

  • The script: NONE OF THIS RUBBISH MAKES ANY SENSE.

More than the original trilogy, the inanity of the dialogue is called into question; you can’t call any of these figures “characters” because they are never fleshed out/explained. There is no reason/motivation for these figures to stick together, just as there is no reason/motivation for them to travel from one side of the set/planet to the other and – most of all – there is zero character development, so nobody comes out alive (literally).

  • The CGbloomin’I 

Those aliens aren’t real; that droid army certainly isn’t real; fx over here – fx over there – fx every-frickin’-where. And it’s all so tediously obvious. Thus, the screen is beset with absolutely no sense of wonder. And the magic – that endeared the original trilogy to millions – is depressingly absent.  Look, George, it would have been a whole lot easier melting my retinas staring at a video game for 133 minutes instead…

And while we’re on the subject:

  • That droid army: What a bunch of fragile, useless, near-sighted scrap piles!

It’s far too easy to destroy them. The old phrase: “Could knock them down with a feather” could not be more apt. Nothing to fear then, especially during:

  • The Battle of Naboo:

As a fan of SF battlefields, this should have rocked. Instead, the droids – and their battle-tanks – are assembling on the opposite hill – so what? Everybody has seen how ineffective they are – therefore there is no tension, no trepidation for the battle to come; as for the Gungans, by this point, everyone in the cinema is rooting against them, so it’s such a wasted opportunity. Again, more worthless CGI to sit – and yawn – through. Speaking of yawning…

  • Natalie Portman: seems to be a byword for lousy acting.

Cringing in my cinema seat thinking with dread: Shit! We haven’t got to put up with her in the next two episodes, have we…?

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  • Qui Gon Jinn:

Apart from sounding like he was named afer a bottle of Korean alcohol, WHO THE HELL IS THIS GUY?! The original trilogy was quite specific: Yoda trained Obi Wan. So to learn that this “Qui Gon” fella was not only training the young Obi Wan, but ready to train Anakin as well, annoyed me immensely – ’twas an affront to my supposed status as All-Knowing Star Wars Honcho. Without any character development whatsoever, there is absolutely no audience reaction to his death.

So long, Qui Gon – didn’t know/care much for ya anyway. 

Liam Neeson obviously signed up under the impression that he was going to be part of something special… as did: 

  • Celia Imrie: What was she doing?!

She’s one of the finest TV actors in the UK, so upon discovering she was to join the Ep I cast, it seemed perfectly logical that she would be playing Anakin’s mum, thus providing the right gravitas and emotional intensity required – but no. Bloody typical: overwhelmed to be involved with Star Wars she wrangled her way to big screen mediocrity by appearing instead as one of the fighter pilots. Honestly, her gain was everybody’s loss…

  • Ewan McGregor: He does NOT save this movie, despite so many protestations to the contrary.

He just sleepwalks and drones his way through, only “coming to life” during that confrontation with Darth Maul. And cut that lame pony-tail off! Bad, padawan, bad! And hey! He’s responsible for the oh-not-so-cool: 

  • Death of Darth Maul:

Why kill off the coolest asset of the trilogy in the first Episode?! Maul’s duel with Qui Gon on Tatooine ended with the latter jumping onto that sleek chromium ship. It would have been really clever to end the Obi-Wan/Maul saber-scrap in a similar fashion, with the Sith somersaulting onto an escape ship, leaving the Jedi to watch helplessly as it blasts high into the sky, knowing that this Sith must be hunted down in the next episode... But then again, no one listens to a word Brad says… hello? 

Last, and by all means least:

  • THAT ALIEN WE ALL ABHOR!

Don’t need to mention the lanky, goofy one by name – everyone knows who it is, and enough antipathy has been hurled in his direction since 1999. There is just one more thing to add here: was this figure deliberately intended to look, sound, move and act as derisory as he did? If so, WHY?!

Having blotted out this confusing but colourful mess of a movie from my mind, it was hoped that this would be a mere unforseen one-off misstep, and George would get his mojo back in order to deliver a darker, more dramatic, Episode II.

Besides, the signs were favourable: we were promised less of the lanky, goofy one; the legend that was Christopher Lee was rumoured to appear(!) and the return of Boba Fett looked more likely than ever. 

Really, how could it possibly go wrong?

They couldn’t fuck it up a second time!

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…Could they?

Rey Of Light: Who’s That Girl?

The Scribe Scrutinizes The Scavenger

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“People are getting tattoos! Of my face! Already! It seems insane to me” – Daisy Ridley.

“…The movie has a major problem in this central character. [Daisy] Ridley can barely act at all.” 

Eh? Come again?

“Her facial expressions are limited and repetitive, her interactions with her fellow stars unconvincing, her physical repertoire – running, fighting, shooting – awkward…”

So writes the obviously disgruntled film critic for the London Evening Standard who – like just about everybody else – awarded it four stars. Everybody knew that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was going to obliterate box office records around the world; some fans fretted over whether it would fail to satisfy their expectations; but hardly anyone – after this weekend – is none the wiser as to who Rey, the staff-wielding scavenger, really is.  

Finding out about Daisy Ridley is easy.

This 23-year-old Londoner – whose previous appearances include just bit parts in UK TV dramas such as Mr. Selfridge and Casualty – may have seemed like an ordinary bookworm and “Speed Garage enthusiast” up until last week, but now, of course, she has suddenly become one of the most famous women in the world. Also, she swears like a Stormtrooper, which makes her a natural successor to Carrie Fisher. 

By the way, major plot points will be included; but seeing how the latest widespread box office records indicate that everyone in the US, UK and the Outer Rim Territories have seen the movie, there is no longer any need to worry about dropping spoilers.

As my review pointed out, The Force Awakens is an undeniably exciting spectacle, and yet – as the days go by – key plot points and a rising pile of questions just baffle me even more, making me reconsider whether it is an episode to embrace wholeheartedly.    

Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do: who is Rey?

“Well, Rey starts alone – and I did not mean ‘Solo’ when I said ‘solitary’,” she laughs.

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“I said: ‘Don’t go through the crew like wildfire.’ I also told her not to take any advice from me” – Carrie Fisher.  

“You start thinking: give her time, she’ll loosen up, it’ll get better. It never does.” 

Grief, this fella’s starting to annoy me…

“And she’s the heroine, the very heart of the film. So that doesn’t work.”

Yes, it does, dullard! Just take a look at all the other reviews: Ridley has instantly won over critics and fans alike. From the first few (captivating) moments we saw Rey, she was intriguing – we wanted to know her story, especially as her surname has been deliberately withheld. 

“People naturally assume that I am Han and Leia’s daughter,” Ridley has remarked, which – the more you read it – seems to imply that it is a misleading assumption… 

In the movie, SF’s most famous couple fret over their son, now ensconced in the First Order; tellingly, neither of them acknowledge Rey in any way to suggest that she is their child as well. Instead, should we be looking to the other Skywalker to discover her parentage?

As the film progresses, it is quite evident that there is more to this mere “scavenger” than meets the eye… Her skills are apparently limitless: just for starters she can climb (and rappel); not only can she pilot a ship, she can fix it as well! The most obvious giveaway that she is Han’s daughter is that she’s good with a blaster, but – hang on – on the other hand, she defeats Kylo Ren in a lightsaber duel and plays a faultless Jedi mind-trick on poor, unsuspecting Stormtrooper TK007 😉 which would suggest that she’s Luke’s girl…

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“The Force, it’s calling to you. Just let it in” – Maz Kanata.

Look at one of the movie’s best moments: Kylo Ren tries to summon Luke’s lightsaber – incidentally, how on Earth Takodana did such a revered artefact come into Maz Kanata’s possession? – but it whisks straight past him and into the hands of Rey. As the script notes reveal, Anakin/Luke’s lightsaber: “calls out to [Rey] wanting her to become its new master.” 

Moreover, that beloved overweight glob of grease: R2-D2 only powers up once Rey arrives at the Resistance base…

Expect Luke’s monologue from the second trailer (unused in the film, did you notice?) – most likely spoken to Rey – to form a vital crux of Episode VIII’s dialogue…

Ridley’s resistance to the media mind-probe these past few weeks has been particularly strong. She just emits that huge, full-beam, brilliant-white grin: “Is she an orphan? Who’s to say?” 

[cue coquettish wink]

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“[Rey] is an ordinary girl, in extraordinary circumstances” – J. J. Abrams. 

“This was the first day! And I honestly wanted to die. I thought I was gonna cry, I couldn’t breathe.”  

Why?! What happened?

“JJ probably doesn’t remember telling me that my performance was wooden,” Ridley explains. “And there was so many crew there… It was so hot… It was… awful.”

No worries: overall, she did a great job: “My experience has been incredible. I’ve felt supported and respected the whole way through.”

Seeing how it took only seven months and five auditions to win the role of the newest New Hope, it’s only fair that Daisy should get the final say:

“First and foremost for me, I want people to enjoy the film and think that I did a good job…”

Absolutely: “you have that power too.” 

“Beyond that, I don’t know… When I actually first heard about the job, it was months before I auditioned. And I got a funny feeling in my body.”

Ha, pun intended?

“It felt like the whole time – even though I thought I was doing a shit job in the auditions – there was something pushing me on, telling me this was going to happen. So it kinda feels like the wheels continue to turn.”  

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  • The first spinoff: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, currently in production, is set to hit theaters on 16 December, 2016;
  • Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII is slated for release on 26 May, 2017;
  • Star Wars Anthology: Han Solo Movie arrives on 25 May, 2018;
  • Star Wars: Episode IX opens sometime in 2019;
  • Lucasfilm is also developing a Third Star Wars Spin-Off Movie, which is presumably set for release in 2020.

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“Classified? Me too…” – Rey ___??

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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. 

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…” 

Yet Another Chance To Pick Up Power Converters At Tosche Station!

What a desolate place this is…  

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“We’d come a week after Jesus of Nazareth had filmed, and it just seemed so odd to be in such an antiquated environment doing something that was meant to be futuristic” – Mark Hamill.   

Before the sensational introductory glimpses of Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) from the Star Wars VII trailer engulfed the worldwide net last November, exciting legions of fans around the world, it seemed quite obvious to me that we will be going back to Tatooine.

In our first view of Rey, there is a gaffi stick (only used by Tusken Raiders) attached to the side of her speeder. It should be said that Tatooine is one of my favourite planets in this or any other galaxy, certainly one of the more intriguing worlds belonging to the Outer Rim Territories. 

With the funny Jawas, those cumbersome Banthas, awkward Dewbacks and the in-house entertainment of the Cantina which everyone (except for George, of course) loved, at Mos Eisley spaceport, this desert planet in a binary star system made an indelible impression on many of us; it was – most likely – the first alien world we were ever transported to through the magic of cinema. 

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“The Sand People are easily startled, but they’ll be back, and in greater numbers” – Obi-Wan Kenobi.

One of the most inspirational factors of the original 1977 movie came undoubtedly in the archaic form of the Sand People, otherwise known by their more dynamic moniker: Tusken Raiders. 

Sure, loved the diminutive Jawas, same as everyone else, but these unruly nomadic ruffians of the Jundland Wastes struck such a significant chord with me. Maybe it had something to do with their creepy googly eyes and those crazy tube-things that stick out of their cheeks (please excuse the technical jargon), not to mention that blood-curdling war-cry. The amusing sight of them taking potshots at podracers was one of the ultra-rare satisfying moments from Episode I. 

When the opportunity came to select my Star Wars mask – many moons ago – the choice was instant and obvious. Also wrapped in a beige-coloured blanket from the cupboard under the stairs, and a long stick from the garden that freakishly resembled a gaffi, those unfortunate souls who dared to visit the row of shops at the top of our road would be “terrorized” by this mini-Tusken on several evenings. Ah, happy times…

Probably why that pathetic pile of pap: Episode II remains the biggest disgrace to this legendary franchise is because Anakin Skywalker slaughters a whole camp of Tuskens. Reprehensible! 

It would be really great to see them again (and in greater numbers) this December, but we‘ll just have to wait… 

and wait…

The Force Awakens seems so, er, far far away…

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“Luke, I didn’t come back to just say goodbye… I made some friends at the Academy; when our frigate leaves for one of the Central Systems, we’re going to jump ship and join the Alliance- quiet down, will ya?! You’ve got a mouth bigger than a meteor crater…” – Biggs Darklighter. 

Some of the most important plot-lines for the franchise are revealed on Tatooine, even those we never got to see. Among various accumulated SW trivia were intriguing stills of Luke with best buddy: Biggs Darklighter, the moustachioed adventurer who was going to join the Rebellion and implored Luke to come with him. It is arguably the best of the fabled deleted scenes.

When Luke cries frustratedly: “Biggs is right, I’m never going to get out of here!” in a later scene, he refers to this absent conversation, rendering this line meaningless (and yet it still made the final cut?!). When news of a Special Edition to mark the 20th Anniversary was announced, it meant only one thing: the reinstatement of that scene! Instead of savouring these prized nuggets my crestfallen senses were, inexplicably, served abhorrent splodges of shoddy CGI tampering…  

Admittedly, some of Episode IV’s deleted scenes do spoil the flow of the continuity, but the more you look at it, this one in particular was so integral to the plot. It does, however, appear in the novelization and the radio adaptation… so, George, what say you? 

One of the key distinctive lines in the original 1977 movie – taking its own hallowed pedestal in the folklore of the franchise – is Luke saying that he wanted “to go to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters.” This power distribution centre was originally intended to make a prominent appearance in the movie, but also ended up on the cutting room floor. Although Merl Tosche established the place, it was managed primarily by another of Luke’s buddies: Laze “Fixer” Loneozner, whose scenes never made it into the finished film either.

It’s amazing, isn’t it? Perhaps this goes some way to explaining the enduring appeal of Star Wars. To think that the movie so many of us (think we know so well and) love unconditionally also offers so much more to explore…  

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“If there’s a bright center to the universe, you’re on the planet that its farthest from” – Luke Skywalker.

Of course, there is a very poignant reason why any analyses of the new Episode VII  material have not featured in this blog until now. My father took me to watch the original trilogy at the cinema. Initially under the impression that he would have to sit through irritating juvenile hogwash, he was swept along just as much as the rest of us bright-eyed gawping moppets.

For the next thirty years, he would never hesitate to remark how fortunate we both were to have shared the right quality entertainment at the right time. Of course, one of this franchise’s superior aspects must surely be John Williams’ epic soundtrack, which strongly captivated us both.

This Post has been published on the Anniversary of his passing, six years ago. As a mark of remembrance, here is his all-time favourite movie scene – can still hear him whistling this even now…

Here’s to you, Dad: