Tag Archives: Star Wars

Star Wars And Me

There is a new “Star Wars” movie coming out this week. I should be more excited, but I’m not.

Pretty much all of my enthusiasm for the latest “Star Wars” trilogy died when that goth loser Kylo Ren shoved a lightsaber in Han Solo’s chest and let him fall into blackness.

Yep, I should be more excited about a new “Star Wars” movie but I’m not.

It wasn’t always that way.

A long time ago

The year was 1977. My brother drove my sister and me to the Tower theater in Springfield to see this new sci-fi space adventure, “Star Wars.” Words cannot describe. I walked out of the theater wanting to walk right back in.

I feel nothing but a great swell of pity for everyone who never saw “Star Wars” for the first time in a movie theater in 1977 when it was all pristine and new. If you experienced “Star Wars” for the first time via videotape, DVR or TNT — you have my sympathies. You simply can’t imagine what life was like before “Star Wars.” Science-fiction space adventure movies were crap. It was as if a whole new universe had been opened up for us, thanks to George Lucas.

A few weeks later we went to Columbia to pick up my other sister from college and we saw it again. It was even better the second time. Keep in mind we were poor country folk, we rarely went to the movies at all. Let alone the same one twice.

star_wars_hildebrandt_artI was 15 years old at the time — the prime age for the merchandising machine that would follow. I bought the poster to hang on my bedroom wall (the Hildebrandt version is still one of the all-time great movie posters) and the soundtrack album (which I didn’t listen to much because, you know, it’s just instrumental). I got a watch for Christmas.

I loved “Star Wars” but it didn’t become an obsession. I didn’t buy any action figures, I didn’t bother with the comic books, I didn’t read the novels. The movies were enough.

Like all right-minded people, I believe “The Empire Strikes Back” is As Good As It Gets. The perfect mix of drama, humor, special effects, character bits, Yoda, the giant worm in the asteroid, surprising revelations, Lando, and those giant Imperial tanks that look like dinosaurs.

Sitting through the third film I started to feel that, yeah, maybe it is time to wrap this up. They’re taking down a Death Star — again? Why are trained Imperial stormtroopers being taken down by walking teddy bears? Why teddy bears? Getting a little tired of the Emperor going on and on about “the power of the dark side…”

A Bad Feeling About This

Lucas claimed early on that the plan was for three trilogies and the next one would be a prequel to the original. It took so long to get around to making the prequels that I began to think it would never happen. When “The Phantom Menace” finally showed up some 16 years after “Return of the Jedi,” the expectations were high. The disappointment would take a while to sink in.

starwars-02I don’t need to recite all the ills of the prequels, but let’s go over the major ones:

  • Darth Vader, one of the great villains of cinema, is reduced to a precocious child and a whining adolescent. I’m sure Hitler was a precocious child and a whiny teenager, but I don’t want to know about it.
  • The Jedi Knights, once thought of as samurai cowboys wandering the galaxy fighting evil, are reduced to clueless politicians sitting around debating what the hell’s going on and never figuring it out.
  • Ridiculously complicated plots involving trade federations and clones and the machinations of Palpatine.
  • The worst love story in the history of film.

You’re probably wondering why Jar Jar Binks isn’t on this list, but I think the hatred of JJB is overblown. He’s just another witless comedy relief character. He serves the same role as C-3PO but nobody complains about him.

The prequels do benefit from superior special effects, but here is where I learned that there is more to “Star Wars” than awesome FX. All the pretty planets and weird aliens and exciting space battles don’t mean a thing if you don’t care about the characters. And I just didn’t care about anybody in the prequels — except Obi Wan. And maybe Mace Windu, but even Sam Jackson was wasted in these films — and when you’re wasting a talent like Samuel L. Jackson — you’ve done something seriously wrong.  (I also liked Qui-Gon, but they kill him off in the first film).

For me, “Star Wars” isn’t about lightsabers, odd hairdos or the Millennium Falcon (although those are all important) — it’s about Luke, Leia and Han.

There is Another 

With the tepid reception to the prequels, and anger over Lucas tinkering with the originals, it seemed unlikely we would ever see that third trilogy. Then Disney bought out Lucasfilm and the next thing you know — Everything’s Star Wars.

starwarsjpg1445279779When I learned that Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford had signed on for the new movies — I was excited about “Star Wars” for the first time in a long time. Oh sure, they’re older and they’ve been through the wringer, but then, haven’t we all? I just wanted to see Luke, Leia and Han all back together, cracking wise and fighting the dark side, one more time.

And then that f—king Kylo Ren shoved a lightsaber in Han Solo’s chest and let him fall into blackness.

I mean, seriously? Han Solo and Princess Leia have a son and it’s this loser? We go from the great Darth Vader to this loser? I’d be more scared of the offspring of Jabba the Hut and an Ewok than I am of Kylo Ren.

The rest of the additions are fine but I’m not in it for them. I want The Beatles, not New Kids on the Block. Which leads me to my next great analogy.

Let’s say The Beatles announce they are planning a reunion concert (I know two of them are dead — work with me). You’re excited, right? You mortgage your home to buy a pair of tickets. You show up at the concert hall. The curtain goes up and there are Paul, George and Ringo playing all the hits. You’re enjoying the show, but at the same time you’re thinking “Where’s John?” Intermission. Act 2 begins and there’s John! with George and Ringo. But now Paul’s missing. You’re enjoying the show, but at the same time you’re thinking “Where the hell did Paul go?”

In the end, you did see The Beatles, but not all four together like you were hoping and expecting. Still a good show, but still somewhat disappointing.

And that’s where I am with “Star Wars.” I suppose they could bring Han back somehow but there’s no bringing Carrie Fisher back, so I’m not going to get what I really wanted.

At any rate, I’ll be sticking with “Star Wars” to the end (although now that Disney is in charge, I doubt there will ever be an end). I am excited to see Luke again and see where he fits into this strange, new galaxy. And I need to know what happens to Leia. And I am pretty fond of Rey. Maybe there is hope.

But I’d still like to see the Fab Three again.

 

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On Stage: The Trial

Weird.

It’s not a word one usually associates with opera. “Pompous,” yes. “Overblown,” certainly. “Pretentious,” often. But – weird? Opera is usually anything but that.

But weird is probably the best one-word description one could give for “The Trial.” I mean, that’s exactly what The Wife said to me when she turned my way at intermission. And she’s the expert.

1478829066_pvmjf_1478548478_qoyzt_1471542607_vklhv_blogposttrialWhile one usually thinks of operas as musical theater written during the Renaissance, they are still being written in the 21st century. And every year Opera Theatre Saint Louis puts at least one modern show in their program. “The Trial,” a comic (their word, not mine) opera in two acts, was written by Christopher Hampton and Phillip Glass and opened on a London stage in 2014. These performances marked its American premiere.

“The Trial” is based on a story by Franz Kafka, which should’ve been a red flag right there. I haven’t read any Kafka, but I’m culturally aware enough to know what kafkaesque means. And “The Trial” is very kafkaesque.

We arrived early enough for me to wade through the two-page plot synopsis in the program.

“Uh, have you read this?” I says to The Wife.

“No. Should I?”

“I can’t tell.”

“The Trial” is the story of Josef K (Theo Hoffman) a nondescript fellow who wakes one morning to discover he’s being arrested. He’s allowed to go on with his life and the charges against him are never spelled out.  But the rest of his life pretty much revolves around his legal troubles. He goes to court and gets the run-around, he meets with a lawyer who is no help, he has sex with the lawyer’s maid, there’s an odd bit with the Court Usher’s wife, he gets legal advice from a painter, it all ends badly for K.

Now, when I say “The Trial” is weird, I’m not saying it’s bad. It was actually strangely compelling and it seemed to move much quicker than most operas. The music was not Mozart. It had a quirky, haunting quality that nicely fit the show. The staging was stark and relied heavily on shadows and lighting — very effective. The cast performed admirably.

It was just so freaking weird. But then, maybe opera needs more weird.

 

At The Movies: Rogue One – A Star Wars Story

I think maybe I’m losing interest in Star Wars.

Probably not what Disney wants to hear. After all, they paid a pretty penny to buy the franchise from George Lucas, with plans to pump out new movies on a regular basis.

And that’s fine, but they really need to come up with new stories to tell without cannabalizing the original trilogy or they’re going to lose me. Not that it matters, of course. Disney could make a movie with a farting robot, slap the word “Star Wars” on it, and people would still line up for blocks to see it.

Which brings us to “Rogue One,” the first in a series of movies set in the Star Wars universe but not as part of the nine-film (Is it still nine?) space saga that Lucas launched in 1977.

We know this isn’t one of the “real” Star Wars movies because it doesn’t start off with John William’s rousing score, or a chapter heading, or that famous narrative scroll rolling out into infinity. But everything else is pure Star Wars.

Unless you’ve been living in the swamps of Dagobah, you know that the original “Star Wars” film is about how a group of rebels destroyed a moon-sized, planet-killing spaceship thanks to another group of rebels who stole the blueprints for that spaceship and got them to another spaceship where the plans were downloaded into a droid who had to escape the spaceship and wound up on a desert planet where he was bought by a farmer who’s adopted son would turn out to be a great Jedi knight and…well… just go watch the movie.

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6“Rogue One” tells the story of how that first group of rebels stole the blueprints for the Death Star (that’s the name of the moon-sized, planet-killing spaceship).

Felicity Jones stars as Jyn Erso, a spunky loner who gets caught up in the rebellion against the Evil Galactic Empire — not to be confused with Rey, the spunky loner from the most recent Star Wars film.

Jyn is the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), one of the architects of the Death Star. Galen had second thoughts about building a planet-destroying spaceball, so he left the project. He gets dragged back to finish the job, and in return he makes sure the Death Star has a tiny design flaw.

Jyn is joined in her rebellious ways by a multi-diverse cast (because this ain’t your father’s “Star Wars”) that includes Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), of rebel intelligence;  Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), former Imperial pilot now working for the other side; Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) as the guy with big guns; and Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) as the blind warrior and closest thing to a Jedi this film has to offer.

And since you can’t have a Star Wars film without a droid, they’re joined by K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), a former Imperial enforcer droid who switched sides once his mind was wiped by Andor. K-2SO is a welcome addition to the franchise, as he’s a droid who speaks English that isn’t C-3PO. He’s more sarcastic than prissy; more Jarvis than 3PO.

And since it’s tied so closely to the first film, you can expect appearances by certain Star Wars alums. Creepiest of them all has to be the return of Grand Moff Tarkin, played by Peter Cushing, who died in 1994. I shouldn’t be surprised that in a world where movie technology can make the old look young again or the young look very old, that the dead should come back to life. But just because you can do a thing, doesn’t mean you should. Tarkin sounds like Cushing, and looks like him, but there’s something off about him. And the effect is chilling.

The movie runs a little over two hours with the first half spent introducing characters and moving them around, with lots of talking. The story gets to the point in the second half, as the rebels decide to steal the Death Star blueprints. But don’t come in expecting some kind of cleverly thought out heist. This is Star Wars, after all. Instead, they rehash the last half of “Return of the Jedi” (without the Ewoks and the lightsaber battle) with bits from the Luke-and-Han-and-Chewie-Rescue-The-Princess scene from the first film.

I get that almost everybody hates the prequel trilogy, but at least Lucas was doing different things. The people in charge of these new Star Wars films seem to feel like they have to keep remaking the originals but with a hip, new cast.

If you don’t mind the repetition, “Rogue One” will probably fill your Star Wars needs until the next installment. The special effects are still first-rate and the cast is engaging — just don’t get to attached.

 

 

The Pointless, Worthless List for 03.30.11

Five Worst Star Wars Characters

1. Anakin Skywalker

(Worse than Jar Jar because he almost ruins Darth Vader)

2. Jar Jar Binks

(no explanation necessary)

3. Boba Fett

(what did this guy ever do to rate a following?)

4. C-3PO

(face it — he’s the Jar Jar of the original trilogy)

5. Salacious Crumb

(I found his name by typing “Jabba the Hut’s sidekick” into Google.)

The Pointless, Worthless List for 03.23.11

Top 10 Star Wars Characters

1. Han Solo

2. Luke Skywalker

3. Darth Vader (not to be confused with Anakin Skywalker)

4. Princess Leia

 

 

 

 

5. Obi Wan Kenobi

6. Chewbacca

7. Yoda

8. R2D2

9. Mace Windu

10. Jabba the Hut