MOVIE REVIEW #39 / 250 : STAR WARS : RETURN OF THE JEDI

Well, strike me silly.  You wait two weeks for one review, and two come at once.  What a treat, eh?

Alright, alright.  It’s hardly been long since I last trod into the world of intergalactic Jim Henson puppets, but having been left on such a low note from my last review, I felt I needed to get myself a guaranteed kick from somewhere familiar.  I’d rated New Hope as 8, and Empire as 9.  Things can only get better, right?

So, basically, things pick up in Jedi where Empire left off, as you’d hope, really.  The main gang set off to get Han Solo out of carbonite and out of intergalactic crook Jabba the Hutt’s swinging underground lair, and this naturally leads to scenes of chaos, fighting, more chaos, more fighting and talk of the force.  Only this time, it’s final.  The stakes are higher as the dreaded (and more to the point, informed) evil empire begin building their second Death Star, and up the ante on both annihilating the rebellion, and naturally Vader still has unfinished business in wrangling his son Luke to the Dark Side.  This time around, there’s ewoks, too.  Annoying doesn’t cover it.  But, never mind.

It’s kinda sad to draw this saga to a close (before you say it, no.  Check the list.  NO.  Forgot to include them here, but, no.  NO.), but Jedi pulls everything to a suitably dramatic and, of course, explosive close.  There’s even more reliance here upon lengthy action sequences (can’t say too much of this stuff is my kind of thing, but hey, think about what we’re dealing with) than there is in the two preceding films, and it’s definitely more interesting to look at.  What Empire was missing was the weird legion of beasties that clogged up the Mos Eisley cantina in New Hope – fans of rubbery weirdos will be well at home in Jabba’s palace, and the new monsters that are introduced here are fantastic.  Not much gets added to the story nor the saga as a whole other than a climax, though – Jedi is the archetypal closing chapter, so it’s probably a bit late to be wading in with much more on the story front.

What sets this finale apart from any other, though, is that it’s not rushed.  Oh, no.  Not by halves.  The story may be thin, but every last drop is milked – everything that can blow up, does.  It’s not the shaggy dog story of Empire, and nor is it the complete story of New Hope – it’s an all-singing, all-dancing bookend, basically.  I still definitely appreciate Empire more for its contribution to the story and for its character development – Jedi takes this development and, admittedly, doesn’t do much with it – but ensures that there’s still a few tricks up the old plot sleeve.  There’s a few unexpected character twists along the way that bring everything to a really satisfying conclusion.

Ewoks are annoying.

So, yeah.  I really don’t have much left to say about Star Wars.  It’s been a long time coming for me to finally sit down and appreciate all three of the original films (even though the version of Jedi I’ve just watched had HAYDEN CHRISTENSEN show up as a hologram for ten seconds), but I’m really glad I have.  Like I’d said initially when I first sat down to watch New Hope all those weeks ago, I don’t think I’ll become one of those people that dresses up as Boba Fett and shells out £600 to go geek it up with hundreds of people that have analysed how many trees appear in the woodland chase sequence in Jedi… not yet, anyway.

PRO : Visually amazing, brilliant visual pace and variety, great acting, awesome score.

CON : Action sequences milked to high heaven.  Little plot on top of Empire.  Ewoks.

7/10.  I like to think the first two were better, but it’s a great finish.  The end of an era.  I’ve watched the original trilogy, and the end of what has probably been the dullest set of reviews on the whole of the blog.  Right then.  Now what?…

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MOVIE REVIEW #37 / 250 : ‘STAR WARS : THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK’

Aaaand we’re back!

Not just in the land of moviereviewage (for tis a plentiful and prosperous land), either.  We’re back to the saga that’s been the bastion of science fiction for the past three decades, and the reason why autograph conventions exist.  It’s Star Wars!  And this one, word of mouth tells me, is the best of the original three.  In fact, it’s also touted as the best of the entire six.  Because, you know, no Jar Jar Binks.  God.  I can’t believe I made a Jar Jar Binks reference in 2012.  I’m firing these cultural phenomenon out of the barrel quicker than greased dysentry.

But, let’s set aside our revolting similes and dive right into Empire.  ‘Episode V’, as it’s subtitled, sees the returning cast (of whom I was about to name, but really don’t need to – seriously, you can name the six main protagonists off of the bat without seeing any of these movies) leading Darth Vader’s evil Empire on a merry goose chase across the galaxy, as said majesty of almighty doom is obsessively keen to track down young Luke Skywalker following the destruction of his Death Star hub in the last flick.  There’s alterior motives for Darthy heading after Luke though – and I wonder what they might be – and while the protagonists (and indeed some of the baddies) are thickly unclear on what the husky-voiced menace is truly plotting, much of Empire is a shaggy-dog story as Han Solo et al play an epic game of space chess with renegade fleets in a bid to secure the rebel alliance’s liberation.

The story follows two strands shortly after the off, with Luke following a message from beyond the grave to go into further Jedi training guided by a diminuitive green sage with the voice of Frank Oz, and Solo’s rag-tag crew playing cat-and-mouse with hapless Empire redshirts, eventually ending up at the home city of one of Han’s old compadres – however, the game, of course, doesn’t end there.  As I’ve rattled out previously, it’s rare anyone reading this won’t know Star Wars already – but, rules are rules, and if there is anyone yet to see Empire, fear not.  The plot exposition stops here, folks.  What follows is one of the most iconic film twists of all time, and a classic cliffhanger.

In fact, that’s what strikes me most about EmpireA New Hope was a stand-alone film, and it’s obviously framed as such – there’s a clear start, middle, and conclusion – no hanging threads, although the potential universe enveloping the story could allow for a bumload of additional adventures.  Naturally, this is why Empire strides into its story and picks up momentum so well.  Sure, the obligatory gratuituous panning text at the very beginning seals the gap between this movie and its prequel, but the first movie did such a good job of painting the colourful universe these characters inhabit that we barely need to concentrate to get into this one.  And, despite how short my plot description actually is, this one is crammed full of stuff.  I’m pretty sure I could sit through Empire five times at least before I’d be comfortable with having taken it all in.  It’s a basic story of good versus evil, with an unbelievably rich context.  I believe I said similar things in my review of A New Hope.  But, it needs repeating.  Doesn’t it?  Tough.

So, yeah.  Very little I can pick apart here.  Again.  The designs and effects for the late 70s/early 80s when this was produced and released are beyond fantastic.  There’s not a single string out of place.  Sure, the whole thing is cheesy as sin nowadays, but the whole thing is just so unavoidably epic.  Forget your notions of Harry Potter being ‘epic’.  Because I know you have such notions.  Don’t you?  Well, anyway.  As I watch more of the Star Wars saga, I appreciate more and more why it’s so insanely revered and obsessed over.  Again, I’m not likely to hot-foot it to a cosplay event in a Boba Fett costume (though I am to be guilty of attending this in June), but… you know what, it’s been said. Empirebuilds on the first movie as it no longer has a backstory to build up, and despite heavy reliance on long, drawn-out action sequences, it’s one of the most visually and aesthetically interesting films I’ve ever watched.

So, yeah.  That’s another one down.  I can’t tell if this is a shorter review than my last SW recap, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it is.  I think my Jedi review is probably just going to be OMG SPACE I LIKED IT, PRETTY VISUALS, EWOKS ANNOYING.  I’ll be checking into the final chapter of the big three later in the year.

PROS:Great visually, superb story world, well paced.  Well acted, even.  Frank Oz.

CONS: Ehhh… I’m gonna say I think some of the action is gratuitous.  I mean, it’s a sci-fi action thriller, so I’m missing the point here, but… well, if not, C3PO.  He did my head in.  Again.  If that’s the point of his character, well played.  I have half a mind to wager it probably is.

9/10.  An improvement on the original stand-alone, which leads in nicely to further never-ending prancing across the black void.  A great film to come back on.  Bring on some truly awful stuff, I’m ready for it!!

Movie Review #24 / 250 : ‘STAR WARS : A NEW HOPE’

Jesus christ.  What is there to _actually_ say about ‘Star Wars’ that’s remotely original?  How am I to pad out this review with anything remotely insightful, witty, or radical?  Let’s make this absolutely clear – I’m not.  I’m really not.  Absolutely everything remotely communicable about this film, this series, etc, has been whittled down and siphoned off over the past three decades.  It is phenomenal just how much the franchise has enveloped, and impacted, culture and popular fiction.  Even if you haven’t seen the films, you know who the good guys are.  You know who the baddies are.  By god, you even know what The Force is.  This is a cult film, turned franchise, to end them all.  And of course, it’s been the archetypal cash cow, too – but that’s beside the point.

Up until last night, I’ve not sat down to watch any of the original trilogy (I’m keeping the prequels at arms’ length for now).  I have made it to twenty-four years old without having seen Star Wars.  Let that repeat a little.  Some may call it pathetic, others worthy of applause.  But alas, some day, I knew this dubious accolade had to perish.  How could I call myself a purveyor of science fiction without having seen bloody Star Wars?  I couldn’t.  Last night was a rite of passage.  And while I agree with what a few have said in that at my age I’ll probably not draw anything new from the original films, I still found it massively entertaining.

And you know what?  I didn’t think I would.  What’s instantly likeable about this original film is the sheer amount of threads playing out at once.  The cast, while relatively small in its foregrounded main characters, number an absolute bumload in its background creeps.  From the opening mantra onwards we’re thrown into a world full of weird aliens and annoying robots – this storytelling choice may make some films fail horribly, but the accessibility of the characters and the surprising simplicity of the storyline (seriously, I was expecting UBER SPACE JARGON to be flying out me ears) allow us to get up to speed in what’s actually the fourth story of the saga.  There is a massive, silenced story world behind these characters that will obviously come more into play in the following films (and the preceding ones) – and the fact it’s so far removed from our own reality gives this a bit more fascination.

The acting’s mostly great.  Nothing wrong here.  Brilliantly cast (though Alec Guinness would tell you otherwise) and visually superb, you almost don’t realise that next to sod all actually happens.  Pretty much, the Death Star gets destroyed after Luke, Han, Chewie and the bots spring Princess Leia from Darth Vader’s imprisonment.  That’s it.  But it’s well-contained as a story – mainly in part to how bloody well lavish it all is.  This is a fascinating piece of film work – and that’s probably why it rollercoastered into the cash farmyard it’s since become.  Boredom is an awful thing for a film to slip into, and New Hope doesn’t.  It’s one of the least boring films I’ve seen so far.

Enough gushing, though.  I mean, come on.  I stood being exiled into the stratosphere if I didn’t have anything positive to say about SW.  The only things I would criticise would be the over-reliance upon shooty-shooty-lasery-firing bits near the end (technical terms, kids!), and looking back, there is quite a bit of standing around, or standing around trying things out, or standing around waiting for something.  But you don’t notice them when you’re seeing them.  That’s the key.  And this is even with knowing full well what’s going to play out.  I think, despite it having taken very little and having pulled it out to two hours long, the rich backstorying (new word, I made it) at play stops things from slowing down.

But, yeah.  Labouring the point, here.  I liked it.  And I can finally say I’ve seen it.  I wouldn’t say I’d marathon them all in one go and join the whole Greedo debate but, hey.  I feel slightly relieved that I have little to no urge to dive into a cupboard and film myself twirling around with a broom.  God.  What a topical joke.  I’ll start quoting ‘Chocolate Rain’ in a minute.

PROS : Rich story world, strong characters, simple story, excellent wardrobe / effects

CONS : Story is probably a bit too simple, can be slow in places (though never boring!)

8/10 – Doesn’t feel like a nine.  And, as I’ve said, I can’t see myself becoming one of those people.  My thing was Lost.  And look how that ended.  I’m restraining myself from investing so deeply in fiction again for life.  But, I liked it.  This is a very entertaining and accessible film that probably deserves a lot of the fawning it gets.  That ok with you people?  Bring on Empire and Jedi.