The Force Awakens
This remains a good solid space adventure that did an excellent job of relaunching the cinema franchise after the second trilogy turned out to be pants. It ditches the cod-philosophising in favour of the Force we all know - the Light Side, the Dark Side, they should be in balance, some people can use the Force to for telekinesis and coercion, enough said. The acting is good, with Ridley, Boyega, and Driver engaging as the leads, and Harrison Ford not phoning it in. There is undoubtedly an element by which it is fanfic of the original, but it carries it off with enough of the familiar to breed affection, and enough difference in the details to keep it interesting. That said, I'm not sure it's a trick that can be repeated, so I'm interested in reports that The Last Jedi, which I won't get to see until next weekend, does it differently.
A reasonably entertaining evening, but from the reviews I recall, an over-rated film. It's essentially a Star Wars heist movie and it's at least half an hour too long (do we care about that battle? No, we do not.) This is kind of fanfic that slips in lots and lots of missing scenes with references to the original, but does it so much that its own story doesn't have room to stretch. The ideas that it has that could make it different - what does it mean to be an unwilling collaborator, what does it mean to be part of a violent resistance movement - are merely lip-service to the concept of a more character-driven plot that doesn't exist here.
Unfortunately CGI Peter Cushing is a bit weird and CGI young Carrie Fisher is really, really weird. Both of them, along with - I am sorry to say - James Earl Jones should have been recast. There are some 80-something men who have the voice of their prime years, but alas Jones isn't one of them and Vader isn't powerful enough as a result. I was amused that the Empire puts its archive on a tropical island planet. With those kind of resources, why not give your Imperial librarians some sun, sea, and sand? Watched straight after TFA it is also very striking how much the latter has done in terms of putting women into minor parts that in the original trilogy and thus Rogue One* were routinely played by men. Still, they re-launched a mega-franchise with two films in which the leads were played by women. That is some progress.
That said, one part of the original Star Wars sensibility that I was delighted to see was that just as TFA retains the Leni Riefenstahl aesthetic for the First Order, Rogue One let the John Martin inspiration off the leash. I spent the sequence in which a planet is destroyed going "This was definitely inspired by The Great Day of His Wrath, which I've since confirmed was the case.
* I felt that Rogue One might have ignored that a bit and stuck in some more. OK, characters who appear in both need to be more or less the same person, but there's no reason that more of the random fighters/pilots who don't couldn't be female when you've just done better in another film, and there were several characters who might have been gender-swapped and played by an older actress.
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