Posts Tagged ‘R2-D2’

An overly long, overly critical yet ultimately satisfying review of Star Wars Crapisode 7

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Chewie Crispy 2

This innocuous bag of snacks sums up Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens perfectly:  a character named CHEWIE on a bag of CRISPY chips.  Doesn’t make sense, doesn’t have to.  The Disney Factory prospered and the masses were fooled.  The only losers were the millions of fans who wanted a good story.

 

There’s nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.  Erma Bombeck

       That was then, Erma.  The new nothing-is-sadder is being an adult, watching a ‘new’ Star Wars movie.

       It hurts me to say it, but Star Wars Episode VII:  The Force Awakens should have been better, a lot better.  It’s not terrible like the prequels but doesn’t come close to the originals. 

        The two major reasons why TFA fails to be a timeless classic are the story and Harrison Ford.    

HarriSolo vs. HAN SOLO

       The whole movie I kept waiting for Harrison Ford to be (or at least become) Han Solo; he never did.  Ford is on record saying he wished Han had died in ROTJ and that the character wouldn’t have lived to see old age.  Ford has a right to his opinions but sadly this time around his opinions affected his work.  I suspect Jar Jar Abrams, in awe of Ford, was too timid to really direct him.  Because Ford did a half-assed job, we’ll call his character in TFA HarriSolo. 

        The Han Solo we love is a badass at ANY age and a 73-year-old Solo should be more dangerous than ever.  While he doesn’t move as quickly, he knows every rule of smuggling and warfare and when to break them.  It’s damn near impossible to corner or con him.  Not counting financial gain from marrying Leia, as a hero of the Rebellion he should be loaded, or at the very least have an excellent pension from his time as a general.  If we are to believe Han returned to smuggling (for the weakest of reasons) shouldn’t he at least have been a high-level smuggling boss ordering others around? 

       Still, Han Solo is embattled.  Being a legend with a name known across the galaxy has made him a high-value target of criminal scum and the evil First Order alike, hunted as much as Luke, and that’s on top of family problems, having lost Leia and as we later discover, a Force-sensitive son. 

       This is the awesome Han Solo we should have gotten:  slightly less cocky, wiser, grizzled with a touch of the old arrogance, someone who acknowledges the Force but will happily settle for good luck.

       But TFA doesn’t feature Han solo.  Instead we got HarriSolo.  HarriSolo is weak and feeling his years, an old security guard on the cusp of retirement.  While no one is expecting a wind sprint, he barely moves, and when he takes action it’s never done with a sense of urgency.  He’s learned nothing new in 30 years and has even managed to lose the Millenium Falcon, something as ridiculous as Batman losing the Batmobile.  When HarriSolo is introduced he’s still smuggling for crumbs and being chased by goons, with the excuse that post-Leia (and Dark Side son) he just went back to what he’d done before.  He’s not wrong there:  doing what has been done before is the essence of TFA.

       HarriSolo doesn’t teach Rey anything, just gives her his blessing—for audience benefit—that she knows how to improvise in a tough situation and take care of the Falcon.  (I was traumatized when Chewie got shot but later realized it was just so Rey could be the co-pilot for a driving test.)

       Han Solo would have already been resigned to having lost his son to the Dark Side and would have had a thermal detonator (or three) in his jacket pockets to kill Kylo Ross, especially if he was going to meet on a rail-less rip-off of the Cloud City catwalk.  But again, Han Solo isn’t in this movie.  We’re saddled with HarriSolo, slow, sentimental and easily sucker punched.  When HarriSolo met his destiny I realized just how badly Ford phoned it in:  couldn’t die as he was never really alive.  (Stupid side note, what was the deal with HarriSolo suddenly popping a boner over Chewie’s bowcaster as if he’d never seen it before, even though Chewie’s been carrying it for 40 years?  Never mind, it’s because Chewie shoots Kylo with it later.  The bowcaster shoots [per Wookiepedia] ‘metal quarrels enveloped with energy as ammunition’ which cause bloody wounds, thus all-black wearing Kylo Ross sheds a few blood drops in the snow to illustrate injury.)

       The rest of the shit—aka the story—we can lay at the feet of Jar Jar Abrams.

ABRAMS TANKED

       Abrams makes well-paced films with good visuals, but he is neither a visionary nor storyteller.  Instead he takes memorable moments from older series and (re)creates something that is entertaining in the moment but ultimately nonsensical beyond forgiveness. 

       TFA fails is because it began its life as a PowerPoint bullet list of icons and moments referencing scenes in other SW movies rather than an original story.  The story we’re presented with is missing vital information from the start. 

Here’s the mid-section of the opening crawl:

With the support of the

REPUBLIC, General Leia Organa

leads a brave RESISTANCE.

She is desperate to find her

brother Luke and gain his

help in restoring peace

and justice to the galaxy.

       Okay, wait, there’s a REPUBLIC?  Of how many planets?  Do they have a fleet and if so, how many ships?  Why hasn’t the REPUBLIC declared war against the FIRST ORDER, or is the FIRST ORDER so weak the REPUBLIC thought an understaffed RESISTANCE led by Leia could handle it? 

       TFA shows the First Order (since rehashing is everywhere, why not call it the New Empire?) as having one Star Destroyer, a largish fleet of TIE fighters and a Death Planet wearing a belt buckle.  Despite these toys, it’s never explained how powerful the Order is or how large a stranglehold they already have on the galaxy.    

       The new rag-tag good guys are called the RESISTANCE which is a misnomer.  A Resistance implies a small force within occupied territory working to bring down an enemy.  This wasn’t that.  Leia’s mission to find Luke using Republic resources is more along the lines of a Special Operations Task Force. 

       TFA should have started with the First Order already ruling the galaxy, or the Republic and Order at war, with the plot of TFA being one story of the larger picture.  Another way to do it would have been to begin the movie with the Death Belt Buckle blowing up the Republic planets.      

Abrams makes the same mistake Lucas made with the prequels:  having one character as the focus of an entire trilogy.    

STAR TREK III WARS VII:  THE SEARCH FOR SPOCK LUKE

       I love Luke Skywalker.  He is, of course, a supremely important character:  galaxy-famous, hero of the Rebellion, ace pilot, the last Jedi.  He is a great asset to the Light Side, both as leader and symbol, but he’s still just one guy in a galaxy of trillions.  The slapdash reason TFA offers for his disappearance (or self-exile) is as unbelievable as Han losing the Falcon.

       The original trilogy superbly balanced Luke’s personal quest against the larger story.  TFA begins off-balance by making Luke the MacGuffin (as it turns out, one of two).  If Luke is to be the Key to Everything, the story should have been told from his perspective from the start.

       We’ve seen how poorly the script has treated both Han and Leia, does anyone think a CG Luke, bouncing around like Palpatine in Sith) is going to be any better?

       The Resistance killed the Death Belt Buckle and Rey seems to be half-way to becoming a Jedi in 20 minutes (forgivable, since the dumb global masses required a lightsaber battle.)  So tell me, why do we need Luke?  Everyone seems to be kicking ass just fine without him.   

2015 IS THE NEW 1977

       Moving along, it’s surprising with all of the people involved in TFA’s creation, no one realized rehashing one of the plot points from Episode IV—a vulnerable droid having to hand-deliver vital information recorded on portable hardware—is obsolete.  It made sense in 1977, but now?  Whole fleets of ships move faster-than-light, yet there is STILL no internet? (It exists in the expanded SW universe as the ‘Holonet’).  The info can’t simply be beamed back to the Resistance, so we have entire armies fighting over a fucking THUMB DRIVE.  Not just any thumb drive, mind you, a drive that can only be accessed by one particular droid in the whole galaxy.  This is our most desperate running time. Help me, Screenwriters, you’re our only hope.

       I wanted to love this movie and see it over and over.  But when TFA isn’t referencing better SW movies it’s weighed down by plot holes you could fly a Star Destroyer though without scraping the sides.

 MAZTO CHIBATA OF TACO DONNA

       Let’s pause here to remind ourselves that the reason TFA exists is to make money.  Lucas likes money too, but he started with a story rather than a business plan. 

       You and I care, the makers of this dreck do not, because they don’t have to.  TFA will easily top 2 billion.  We will all dutifully see Episode 8.  

       Jar Jar Abrams has succeeded in his mission of getting asses (both meanings) in the seats.  He threw enough shit at the screen that stuck to appease most nerds and the real target audience: people who during the opening crawl, bark, “I DID’N COME TO NO MOVIE TO READ!”  Fans who question any of the illogical plot will not be heard above the cash-counting machines Hollywood and drug dealers use.  We will all dutifully see Episode 8.

       Watching a morning showing in a partially-filled theater, I had mostly tuned out by the time HarriSolo, Rey, Finn and BB-8 journey to yet another planet.  Han Solo, age 73, would not be running like a dope to some more powerful character, by then the galaxy should be running to HIM.   But no, same old shit.

       The sell-a-movie purpose for our crew to go to Takodana is to provide more nerd-nip:  show off practical effects and have a mini-battle to set up the obvious ending. 

       The story justification for going to Takodana is, “The Falcon needs new spark plugs and only the Autozone on this one planet has them.” George Lucas, sitting in the theater, was probably thinking All right!  Finally these White Slavers stole an idea from the PREQUELS! 

       Leia has a base somewhere with repair bays, security and weaponry.  Why not go there? 

       Nerd-nip.  Action schlock.

       So what does happen on Takodana?  Our heroes (and HarriSolo) seek out Maz Kobata, a Yoda-analogue and not-unpleasant CGI turtle with glasses.  For the less studious butter-drinkers in the audience, it has to be explained that Maz is, ‘over 1000 years old.’  In case they missed that, Maz also wears eyeglasses, so millenials will understand Maz is a literal millinerian. 

       Speaking of eyeglasses in the Star Wars universe:

  • Faster-than-Light travel
  • Anti-gravity vehicles
  • Ability to absorb entire star within a planet
  • Lightsabers and other energy weapons
  • Replace whole limbs with perfect replicas
  • Laser eye surgery No, not yet.

 

       I enjoyed seeing the creative aliens in Maz’s cantina/castle, but it didn’t make up for HarriSolo not being smart enough to know that spies frequent smugglers’ dens (Indiana Jones knew to conceal his face in the Nazi-controlled desert of Raiders.) 

       The Force calls Rey to the castle’s basement so she can find Anakin/Luke’s lightsaber.  How it ended up there will probably be explained in a $27.99 hardcover ($32.50 Canada) later on, but for now, who cares, it’s not important if Rey found it in some wreckage on Jakku, in Leia’s possession (the most logical place) or Toys“R”Us. 

       Rey touches the saber hilt and experiences a ‘vision’ which helps explain things to the illiterate/global audience, flashing trailer snippets from Episode 8.

       Maz the Wise Turtle then offers standard boilerplate about the Force.  (Obi-Wan Kenobi was able to explain the Force matter-of-factly, without Luke having a seizure.)

       The ensuing Takodana mini-battle using a handful of stormtroopers and a few TIE fighters and X-wings in the sky was weak.  We’ve seen these battles thousands of times in every format imaginable and we’ve been playing video games for decades where we fly these craft ourselves.  How about something ORIGINAL beyond the Original Trilogy?  We know Poe wasn’t going to be killed here, and no one cares about uncute alien species (like this fucker named after a Beastie Boys album) dying in X-wings.

       Maz has the same disease as HarriSolo:  she’s just dumb.  Forget how experienced an ancient alien would be in all things (the screenwriters did), with just the interest accrued from a modest savings account over 1000 years, Maz should own the whole planet, not just an unshielded, vulnerable castle; when the Order attacked she should have hit a button which turned the whole planet into a giant cannon, except we already have one.  

       The battle at Takodana is just prep for the fight on and over the Death Belt Buckle.  Here Finn is challenged by the one stormtrooper out of 100,000 in the Order who:

  • recognizes him without a helmet
  • brandishes a hand-to-hand weapon which also happens to block lightsaber blades.

       This action sequence shows how Finn is tough, but not quite there yet.  Rey does a little better but still gets kidnapped by Kylo Ross.

       I left to piss just before this battle, and was gone long enough to miss Chewbacca ripping that dude’s arm off and a firefight between Mr. Scott and aliens.  It must have been brief, since by the time I returned there were no cool-looking aliens running or taking up arms against the Order, a missed opportunity for the toy-sellers.     

       FINALLY, after all that, all the heroes except Rey (and HarriSolo, who isn’t one) meet up at the Resistance base, where Leia warns Han, “It’s the same ending as Episode IV.”

       I was disappointed by the movie’s treatment of Leia, we see so little of her it’s a letdown.   To explain some of what’s been going on the last 30 years, politics and such, Leia would be the one to tell it. 

       Both Leia and Han are the LAST characters who would be ‘devastated’ by their son turning to the Dark Side, especially with Vader being Leia’s father.  In the novels (I know, I know, the ‘Expanded Universe’ never happened and is now ‘Star Wars Legends’) Leia slowly develops her Force powers over 30 years, until she’s a competent Jedi in her own right.  In TFA, her only power seems to be feeling others in the Force, only from further away. 

       It would have made the story so much better to see her wielding a lightsaber, maybe taking out a small patrol of stormtroopers who happened upon the Resistance base.  Such a scene needn’t be over-the-top, just enough zing to thrill the old-timers but not ‘spoil’ the coming Luke-mania (which is certain to be a letdown.)  I keep imagining a round-table of assholes at Disney watching dailies of Carrie Fisher, shouting, “No one wants to see an old woman!  We’re losing millions of dollars every minute she’s on the screen!”

       Meanwhile the new Mad Max—a superior filmfeatured a whole tribe of geriatric women as brave, experienced warriors. 

KYLO ROSS

       The problem with being an old(er) fuck is everything reminds you of something or someone else.  Adam Driver gave a fine performance with the material given but his mannerisms and certain lines reminded me of David Schwimmer from Friends, thus:  Kylo Ross.

       The problem with Kylo Ross is he’s a character doomed from the start to fit a mold, only instead of being frozen in carbonite he’s imprisoned in Lazy Writing.  We are made to think he’s “complicated” and thus “real” but his character fails the simplest of logic tests, for example…

       We are told Luke trained Ben Solo who later became Kylo Ross.  Kylo idolizes his grandfather Darth Vader.  So I guess at no time OVER YEARS did Luke sit Ben’s ass down and explain Vader returned to the Light, reappearing as Force-ghost Anakin, so there’s no Vader listening in the burned-out helmet, Ben bought on eBay.

       During Episode IV, Darth Vader hung out at the Death Star because he didn’t really have anything else to do.  The Jedi were all extinct (so he thought) and the Empire was large enough they could complete the first Death Star without interference from those meddling kids.  Going after The Stolen Plans was probably the first time in a long time Vader got to stretch his robotic legs, but other than being intimidating he had no tracking skills:  the Empire was going to have to dredge the galaxy for The Plans whether he was around or not.

       Kylo Ross is young, healthy and lives in a completely different era, even though it’s a reboot of Ep. IV.  He wasn’t needed to defend the Death Belt Buckle (we have no idea if he’s even a pilot) and while his personal entourage had it easier with him on point, there seemed to be enough stormtroopers around to get any job done without him.  Since he’s not hunting Luke directly, he would really only come into play once Luke SkymacGuffin was found.

       We’re told by Snoke that Kylo’s training isn’t complete, yet at the start Kylo freezes a blaster bolt in mid-air, something not even Vader could do.  Lazy writing. 

THE FIRST ORDER…OF FRIES

       Nothing and no one in the First Order was scary or evil at all.  The massacre of the remaining people on the Camping Planet by stormtroopers is implied but not shown.  Anyway who gives a fuck, it’s the beginning of the movie.     

       General Ginger Hux’s rousing speech to the assembled First Order was rather lame (red hair and a stupid hat, you’re not scaring anyone, dude) but hey, he’s more convincing than obozo pretending to fight ISIS. 

       The multicultural stew of knuckleheads working the controls of the Star Destroyer (and later Death Belt Buckle) looked like telemarketers, or maybe art was copying life and they were H1B foreign replacements of the original First Order, as Disney (the true evil Empire) enjoys betraying and murdering their fathers, er, employees. 

       Remember those scary fuckers on the first Death Star with those eyeless executioner helmets who had no hesitation firing the superlaser that blew up Alderaan?  It was surprisingly easy for the First Order Call Center to flip the switches which “killed” billions of extras.

WHERE THERE’S SNOKE THERE’S BOREDOM

       “Snoke.”  That’s the best, most terrifying name for an evil character they could invent?  Why not Screech?  At least we know what the fuck a screech is, and that a screech is at the very least unpleasant.  

       We’re stuck with Snoke, unless he proves to be a Wizard of Oz-type hologram for a more badass character (not likely).  Snoke (hologram only) looks and sounds like an eloquent British Gollum; ’tis no wonder since it’s the Gollum-actor of this CG puppet playing him. 

       Like Kylo Ross, Space Gollum is trapped in a mold.  He has to be mysterious and behind-the-scenes, even though his résumé is well-known across the galaxy.

       From a story-perspective, not a Script-101-for-foreign-markets-perspective, Snoke should be commanding (or leading in person) all the Knights of Ren, not just Kylo.  Ten or twelve Dark Siders running around the galaxy causing chaos, perhaps training others, is more of a reason to find Luke.

       If Snoke were a better character, he wouldn’t risk Kylo hanging around and lingering on the Light side, instead tasking him with something difficult if not impossible, like hunting Luke down alone or with these other purported Knights (again, the weak script is kept “safe” from questions because we have no idea if these other Knights are even around.) 

       Kylo has something more valuable than an implausible map, he’s trained with Uncle Luke and knows how he thinks.  Let the stormtroopers hunt down the soccer ball:  if they find it, great, he’ll return.  Right now Kylo has more important shit to do.  Or should.

       The new villain should’ve been a beautiful woman (or gaggle of women) as they cause plenty of trouble without even trying.

FORD REDUX

       Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee, but nobody really doesn’t like Harrison Ford.  Some dislike his silly arch-liberal politics but in 4 decades I’ve never met anyone—anyone—who ‘hated’ or even disliked him.  

       If there’s such a thing as a sweet spot for universal likability, Harrison Ford is its epicenter.  

       Two Ford movies I never planned to watch but stumbled upon, Sabrina and Regarding Henry, he made palatable, if not enjoyable.  His presence has saved many a mediocre film. 

       I stand by my opinion Ford didn’t make any real effort with TFA’s Han Solo.  I recently saw 2011’s Cowboy and Aliens, a good if overly long epic, and Ford was spot-on as The Colonel, an angry, grizzled (that word again) Civil War veteran and wealthy cattleman.  The Colonel was closer to the real Han Solo than HarriSolo. 

Ford was about 68 when Cowboys was filmed, and then as in TFA, no one expected him to be doing parkour off of buttes and cacti.  He wasn’t even the star, but his character had more depth than usually found in a sci-fi, Western action film.      

 

A FEW MINOR COMPLAINTS

       I predicted Abrams would have to blow up a planet (or two) to outdo Star Trek, not exactly a Nostradamus-level feat.  Instead he blew up FIVE planets and I couldn’t care less about those foolish-looking extras. Whomever originally said the following about the Boston Massacre is disputed, but the idea is clear:   “There ought to be no less than three or four killed so we will have martyrs for the Revolution. However, there should be no more than twenty, because once you get beyond that number, we no longer have martyrs, but simply a sewage problem.”

        One planet (or two) equals martyrdom, five is a sewage problem.  In TFA there was no equivalent to a horrified Leia watching Alderaan blow up.  Why would the Order destroy all five worlds?  Make an example of the one with the fewest resources and seize the others.  Watching the surviving Republic planets surrender like chickenshits would have been more desperate and meaningful.

 

SCENE FROM A PLAY WITH NO NAME

        FRIDAY NIGHT.  Two nerds, Pear and Crewcut, drink whole milk and role 20-sided dice.

PEAR:  TIE fighters being held down by bicycle cable locks?  IT IS TO LAUGH. 

CREWCUT:  Clearly that was a power cable.

PEAR:  AS YOU WELL KNOW, TIE fighters are powered by “wings” made of solar panels.  But say you’re correct, as you so rarely are, and they require trickle charging.  Why doesn’t the ‘power cable’ attach and detach via magnetism like the power cord on an Apple laptop?  That way they could immediately scramble in the event of an attack.

        A long silence, then crickets.  The kitchen clock strikes 8pm.

CREWCUT:  I withdraw my argument.  (dropping die into Pear’s milk.)  For now.

FIN (not Finn)

A MOMENT WITH JAY J. ABRIMMS, A NO-ACT PLAY  

Hack  #1:  JJ, we have a billion dollar budget.  Why don’t we hire the most successful and popular Star Wars novelists of the past 25 years and have a roundtable where they can give us all sorts of ideas for a brand new story?

Hack  #2:  Yes, or at least hire one or two as consultants.

J-brimms:  Are you shitting me?  That billion is earmarked for coke whores and a few puppets!  (Holds up script for A New Hope) We already have the script for Episode 7, motherfuckers.  You two should be glad I keep you around!  HAIL SATAN!

Hacks: (in unison) HAIL SATAN!

 

Special thanks to GCM for his insights in writing this review.

 

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Robot with Red Arm, A One-Act Play

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

A.A. Jabrams, director of the new Space Wars, sits with his creative team made up of three toy sellers.

Jabrams: So what the hell do we do with 3-CPO? Lorge Gucas made him “naked” in The Spectral Harasser, he was black and soot-coated in Advance of the Duplicates and finally shiny in Avengement of the Dark Robes. What’s left?

Toy 1: Well, let’s see, he’s introduced in Space Wars, Episode 4, taken apart for scrap in Payback of the Authority and treated as a “funny god” in Revisit of the Sword-Knights.

Toy 2: A.A., your new Space Wars:  The Potential Wakes Up has the same sand planet just with a different name. 3-CPO is WORTHLESS on desert planets, the sand is coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere in his circuits; he’s shiny like a signal mirror, the evil Authority can see him from space!–and his translation skills are next-to-worthless. Hell, if San Holo can understand the Warkees without a droid translator, and Suke Lywalker knows what 2D-2R is beeping, what good is P-3-OH anyway?

Jabrams: The fucking soccer ball has made a MINT aleady! Fans snatched his ass up; didn’t even wait to see if he’s an annoying, scene-ruining asshole like Bar Bar Jinks.  FIFA-1 was a stroke of my genius!

Toy 1:  But boss…that still leaves the problem of 3-CPO.

Toy 3: Well…we could…make one of his arms red?

Jabrams: … That’s bucking frilliant!

Toy 1: But how do we explain the arm?

Toy 2: Who gives a shit? We’ll pay some monkey with a laptop to make something up.

Jabrams: Fuckin’ NERDS are going to LOVE this!

Toy 3: AND buy it. Even if they paint their old reaction figure’s arm red, they wouldn’t get the cool new packaging!

Jabrams: I love the movies! HAIL SATAN!

Toy people: (in unison) HAIL SATAN!