Tag Archives: Episode 7

In Defense of a Darker, Grittier Star Wars

War, war never changes. – Narrator, Fallout

War has changed. – Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid V

Earlier this week, the teaser trailer for the new Star Wars movie released.

SWTFAII

No. Not that one.

The other one. The rogue one.

rogueone

There we go. The teaser trailer for Gareth Edwards’ ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ just dropped on Wednesday. It was the first glimpse of what Disney has planned for the new ‘Star Wars Cinematic Universe’: the first in a series of spin-off films that supplement the main Episode I through XI (and almost certainly more) storyline.

The trailer, which you can view here, if you haven’t already seen it 20 times, features Jyn Erso, a hypercompetent badass played by Felicity Jones. She’s apparently recruited into the Rebellion by Mon Mothma to engineer the most dangerous heist of all time: stealing the plans for the first dreaded Death Star.

What follows is a flurry of in-the-trenches, shaky-cam action sequences which provide us with a look at what a realistic war in the stars might look like. A far cry from the swashbuckling antics of farmboys, space pirates and crazy wizardmen. To use the vernacular, it’s a “darker, grittier” Star Wars than we’ve ever seen before. Aside from the shots of Star Destroyers, and the Death Star, it feels like a wholly different sort of film. And I, personally, don’t know exactly how to feel about that.

I don’t particularly like the idea of Star Wars veering away from its pulpy science fantasy roots. Part of me would love it to remain an adventure film series with joyful, exciting overtones, rather than succumb to the trend of grim realism that’s been on the rise for years. Even when the series goes ‘dark’, like in The Empire Strikes Back, it still does not lose its fantastical tone.

But at the same time, based on the trailer alone, Rogue One just looks… great. In every sense.

And I love it.

Yes, the same guy who railed against Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Everything Wrong With the World and who wrote a whole essay about why Superman needs to be a joyous dreamer again instead of a dark, tortured soul, is completely on board with a Star Wars movie full of dark grit.

Why? Because Rogue One looks like it’s going to be done right.

Although the realism has been toned up (as much as you can in a galaxy far, far away) to a level consistent with Jason Bourne style action…

JBaction

“I have this giant gun… maybe I should run at her and punch her with it.” – Stormtrooper

…it still looks to be entertaining and fun. With faithful callbacks and references to the movies we’ve seen hundreds of times before.

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This place looks just like it did back in 1977!

And although there are dreary heavy-handed monologues…

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“Jyn Ersa, what will you become?” “I don’t even know what that means.”

…there’s no overarching nihilistic philosophy being pushed here. *ahem*

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“Superman was never real. Just a dream of a farmer- no I can’t even finish this.

Furthermore, since this is a side-story, none of the characters from the original trilogy will be tarnished in any way. Unless you’re really angry that they’ve retconned Mon Mothma into only having one piece of wardrobe.

MonMothma

This dress was a family heirloom.

And even if other Star Wars characters appear (you may believe the rumors of a certain asthmatic burn victim returning) they will most probably be consistent in their characterization with the rest of the films.

Rogue One is dark and gritty done right. Giving us a look at the more grounded aspects of the Star Wars universe without being depressing and overly grim. It may not exactly be the Star Wars I remember, but it could still be great. It’s exciting and it’s different, without falling prey to ridiculous excesses. You know the ones I’m talking about.

do you blled

“DO YOU BLEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDD? YOU WILLLLLLLL.”

-G.M. Nair

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Wrong Reel – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Based on my incredible bonafides as an obsessive Star Wars nerd/lackluster media personality, I was invited back on the podcast circuit for Episode 99 (so close) of Wrong Reel, where we discuss Star Wars: The Force Awakens! (Not to mention the time I waited on line for Star Wars Episode III)

If you like movies, sci-fi or not, be sure to check out the other episodes of The Wrong Reel Podcast. And follow them on twitter: @WrongReel, @TheKaradimov, @ColeBrax.

Without further ado, here’s us talkin’ shop about Star Wars.

 

-G.M. Nair

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“Coming Home.” – A Personal Star Wars Retrospective

Not surprisingly, I wrote a (spoiler-free) review of The Force Awakens. However, I’ve preceded it with a more personal piece: a 20-year retrospective on my experiences with the Star Wars movies.

It’s a bit long, so if you want, you can absolutely skip straight to the review. But this is definitely a chance to see a man(child) who reacts to everything with a sarcastic wisecrack open up about a subject that’s very dear to his tiny, little heart and it contains no spoilers.

***

A long time ago, I was 8 years old – the prime age for this sort of thing – sitting on the couch at home. We’d just gotten cable, so I had been obsessed with that new development for the past month. In my desire to inundate myself with as much hot premium content as possible, I rapidly flipped through channels. Eventually, after something on Nickelodeon involving slime, I stumbled across an advertisement.

“If you’ve only seen it this way, you haven’t seen it at all!” it claimed. I didn’t know what the hell they were going on about. Whatever it was, though, they were right. I hadn’t seen it at all. But what was it?

Then they showed it to me: a spaceship came flying out of the screen, followed by a rich cavalcade of bright lights, colors and action sequences with explosions and aliens and more spaceships and robots and god-knows-what attacking each other and flying around and did I mention there were explosions? Then the logo came up in big, shiny blue-silver letters: “Star Wars Trilogy: Special Edition”.

SWTrilogySE Logo

Most people purport to have had their minds completely blown upon their first exposure to Star Wars, but my response was surprisingly more measured. After sitting quietly for about 30 seconds, I simply shrugged my shoulders and said aloud, to no one in particular: “Hm. That looks interesting.” Three words and a grunt of curiosity. That was about it. I was, and still am, a weird kid.

I got up, waddled my pre-tween butt into the kitchen and tugged on the blouse of an immigrant woman who really couldn’t give a crap about the struggle of a Rebellion in a galaxy, far, far away. “Mummy, there’s movie called Star Wars coming out. It looks cool. Can I see it?”

I’m sure she’s regretted her response ever since.

***

Have you ever seen a movie that changed your life? I’ve seen three in rapid succession. It’s generally frowned upon to hitch your entire self-actualization to a movie (especially from the sci-fi/fantasy genres), but you know what? I’d be lying if I said otherwise.

Of course, being an 8 year old child, the Star Wars Trilogy was appealing for its action. Its adventure. Its excitement.  A kid craves all these things. And it gave it to me in spades.

SW trilogy SE video

Then I watched them again, and again, and again so many damned times that I went through about three or four sets of VHS copies. The repeated viewings allowed me to appreciate more and more things about the films. The structure of the story, the characterization of the principal cast, the internal philosophy, (not to mention John Williams’ incomparable music score) and exactly how all of these various things gelled together into a well-oiled fiction machine.

SW Concept art

Ultimately, the story of Star Wars is a simple one, and therein lies its effectiveness. It’s essentially a standard adventure story with wizards and knights and pirates and magic. And at the core, there was a philosophy of hope and struggle and love wrapped in an archetypal hero’s journey that’s as old the concept of storytelling. It’s something that speaks to all of us, regardless of race, creed, gender.

It was simple. It was beautiful. And, in the end, whether you are a die hard fanboy or a casual moviegoer, it was about what Star Wars made you feel.

Pure. Unadulterated. Joy.

It was a story that showed you a fairy tale world full of hopeful optimism that you desperately wanted to live in. Then it invited you inside and allowed you to share in it.

But that was before the dark times. Before the Prequels.

***

I wasn’t first in line to see Episode I in 1999, but I certainly wanted to be. The trailers for that were, and, frankly, still are, amazing. It was a whole new world of Star Wars expanding upon everything we’d seen before. It was going to be great!

Then I watched the film.

And, y’know what? I loved it.

It was great. There was a bunch of explosions and more aliens. And a high-octane racing sequence. And Darth Maul? How could you not like Darth Maul? He was a devil-man with a double-bladed lightsaber. What the hell was that? It was just loaded with awesome moments and concepts.

Maul

Then, like with the others, I watched it again, and again, and again. But this time, my VHS copy didn’t fall apart. Because something was off. And it wasn’t just Jar Jar Binks.

It was that there was no soul to these movies.

The original three movies had a strong story that built up and sometimes destroyed characters. Characters you cared about. Good vs. Evil. Love vs. Hate. Something you could easily pick up and identify with no prior knowledge.

Compared to that, Episode I (and the other Prequels) were a clumsy and random complement to the elegant structure of the originals. Episode I in particular was a mishmash of concepts and off-kilter dialogue hung on the dubious premise of a story that I’m still not entirely sure I understand. Taxation of Trade Routes? Is that what we’re fighting? In Star Wars, we were fighting guys who could destroy an entire planet, and now you want us to ratchet the stakes down to taxes? And all of this presented in a world of computer generated technical wizardry which, while impressive and relatively easy to produce, lacked the caring human touch of the practical effects from the originals.

All those things aside, the most damning criticism I can levy against the prequel movies is that they didn’t make me feel joyous. They didn’t make me feel anything.

***

I want to say I hated Episode II when it came out as well, but I didn’t. I loved that too. Sue me, I was 12. But ultimately, it fell victim to the very same problems Episode I did, but with the added bonus of even worse acting.

By the time Episode III rolled around, I was too tired to put up a fight. I was older and more jaded. I figured, even if it was bad, it wouldn’t be as bad as the others. At least there’ll be some cool fight scenes. And to its credit, Episode III delivered on those supremely lowered expectations. And it was going to be the last Star Wars movie ever. So I enjoyed it for what it was. But there was no doubt that much of what I had believed in was gone.

The next few years saw me slipping out of Star Wars. I still enjoyed it, but there wasn’t much to hold my attention. I even passed on The Clone Wars animated series (which, seeing it now, is actually worth a watch), because I didn’t see the point. Star Wars was pretty much over and it was time to move on.

Everyone has to move on sometime. Right?

Right.

***

In October of 2012, Disney announced that they’d bought Lucasfilm. And that they were making a new Star Wars movie. I met this news with a raised eyebrow. Another Star Wars movie? I’d been burned three times before. So I was cautious. Interested, but cautious.

Slowly, news and other bits began to trickle out about the movie, but I held fast and did my best to avoid almost all of them. I knew they were going to get the original cast back, but that was it.

Then last year, they released the first trailer. Everything looked interesting. There was a new droid with a neat design, a sweaty John Boyega Stormtrooper, and a guy with a lightsaber claymore. Great. That’s cool looking. Kind of a Darth Maul style reveal. I guess it’ll be okay, at least.

Falcon

Then the music swelled and the Millennium Falcon burst out of the screen with a few maneuvers.  And seeing that old piece of junk absolutely killed me. Because, for the first time in a long while, I felt something.

Pure. Unadulterated. (pun intended) Joy.

A presence I hadn’t felt since… since I was a kid.

Now you don’t have to tell me twice that the quality of a movie’s trailers is not necessarily representative of the final product. I know that more than most people. And from a certain point of view, you could even make the argument that this new trilogy is a carefully and brilliantly engineered marketing ploy to pander to the coveted 18-34 demographic. Because Darth Vader had it wrong. The Death Star isn’t the ultimate power in the universe. Neither is the Force. No, that crown belongs to nostalgia. And if you can tap into that, the world will be your oyster.

So, yes. Maybe it’s just another soulless attempt to cash in on the Star Wars name, like the Prequel trilogy. And maybe it is. Maybe it absolutely is.

But this is what I know:

When you’re a kid, everything is bright and shiny and new and amazing. You’re yet not burdened with any of the garbage that comes later. And, if you’re lucky, you get to grow up with a bunch of friends who you’re close to, who you love and who also think everything you like is bright and shiny and new and amazing. And everything is So. Much. Fun.

Then time passes. You get older and the weariness starts to set in. Your friends feel it, too. And then, some of them leave. They move away, or you get different jobs and responsibilities and you just don’t see them anymore. You might’ve even had a terrible fight. Things happen. Real life happens. And real life isn’t so much fun. You get worn out and maybe even a bit depressed.

Maybe sometimes you take a look back at your old pictures of friends long gone and reminisce about the ‘good old days’. But it’s not the same. It’s never the same. And so it goes.

Everyone has to move on sometime. Right?

 

 

 

Weeeeelllll…  if you’re really, really lucky, your friends come back. And it’s like they never left. Everything just sort of falls back into place. All your world-weariness is gone for a while and, even if just for a moment, everything is bright and shiny and new and amazing again, like a fairy tale. It may not last forever – nothing does – but that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying it.

So what’s wrong with a little nostalgia? Even if it is part of a a huge multi-billion dollar cash-machine/marketing ploy, it doesn’t diminish the reality of the happiness you take from it. Just let it in.

Werehome

Because a long time ago, some of my best friends went far, far away. But now they’re home. And we’re going to have So. Much. Fun.

-G.M. Nair

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – One Fan’s Review Awakens (No Spoilers)

star-wars-force-awakens-official-poster

So… this is it, huh? The most anticipated movie of the year and possibly the biggest single release of all time (so far). A movie saddled with almost 40 years of history and the baggage of towering expectations of super-fanboys who’ve been burned harshly three times before. I’m going to keep this completely spoiler free (so I’ll keep it short).

The obvious initial question is: Is it good? But the more important question is: Is it Star Wars?

The answer to both of those questions is a resounding ‘yes‘. J.J. Abrams has absolutely created a joyous, modern Star Wars film. I was on the edge of my seat and grinning practically the entire time.

The cast and crew have brought their A-game to this film. An extra special shout out should go to both Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, who have knocked it out of the park and given us brand new characters who are just as good (and maybe even better) than the big three (and Lando) from the originals.

And it’s surprisingly funny. The Force Awakens is so full of jokes it should win the Oscar for Best Comedy. And every bit of it works and does not feel forced (haha) in any way. Even the references to the old films are lovingly inserted in a way that will make you smile.

There are also things that made me upset, but I can’t go into those yet for the sake of the people who haven’t seen it. But let it be known: it was a good upset and it was earned.

The verdict is: watch it. Then come back to me and we’ll talk about it in greater detail. And I desperately want to talk about it in greater detail.

 

The next burning question is: Is it the best Star Wars movie ever made?

The answer to that is a resounding ‘no‘. Because it never will be! Not for me and not for any old school Star Wars fan.

Why? Because, even if you go to the fanciest restaurant in the world and have the most delicious meal, nothing will ever beat home cooking, and it is unrealistic to expect that. And the Original Trilogy is what we will always come home to.

It was a realization I came to while watching the movie. The Force Awakens was different. It wasn’t the Star Wars I remembered. It was faster and more intense and I missed some of the slower moments I had been used to . But, unlike watching the Prequels, at no point did I feel Force Awakens detracted from the originals. Nothing was ‘ruined forever’, only added to, and by people who clearly knew what a Star Wars film should be. It was a good movie and it was a good Star Wars movie.

And I’m sure, as the hype wears down and we watch it over and over, we’ll find something to criticize and nitpick so we can knock Force Awakens down a peg, just below the pedestal of the originals. But, really, that doesn’t matter.

The bottom line is, The Force Awakens is an entirely worthy successor, bringing the Star Wars Saga into the modern age of blockbuster Sci-Fi. For many kids, this will be their first Star Wars movie and, given how it captures the soul  of the originals, it deserves to be people’s first Star Wars movie, which is the highest praise I can give it.

The baton has been passed (quite literally), and, while the new movie will never be as good as the original trilogy we remember, it is definitely and unabashedly Star Wars.

Because that is what The Force Awakens is: not the last of the old, but the first of the new.

-G.M. Nair

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