The Minimum Effort Ep.16: 2018, baby!

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Join Ben and Lewis for a belated look forward to the glamorous gifts of film and TV that are coming our way in 2018- both the good and the bad…

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The Force Awakens- The Good and the Bad

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So with The Last Jedi only a few days away we decided to write another couple of reviews for the latest additions to the Star Wars filmography. As before we are going to do 5 good points and 5 bad points, unless you are Lewis and cop out and only do 4. So, enough with all the preamble you are here for some strong opinions and a witty banter (Lewis, make sure you make it witty while you’re editing). Here it is- my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (TFA for convenience, I don’t want to write more than I have to).

We’ll start with the good shall we?

The Good

A good start to a new trilogy – Ok, so I know that this film is essentially A New Hope 2.0 (I’ll get round to this later) but this film has got to cover 30 years of Star Wars history, appease returning fans, and introduce new film goers to the Star Wars Universe, and you know what, TFA does a bloody good job. The film is funny and rooted in Star Wars law for returning fans (there are some questionable decisions but hold your horse I’ll get round to them) while being accessible enough for your Nan to watch and have a good idea what’s going on. The film tells you what you need to know, leaves hidden what needs to be hidden, and asked questions that left me wanting more and has led to some truly fantastic theories.

Practical Effects – After the CGI disaster that was the prequel trilogy, a decision was made to bypass CGI wherever possible making use of practical effects, animatronics, puppets and actors in costumes. This was one of the most welcome things about TFA. I know CGI has come a very long way since 2005, but even in films today average CGI looks awful, see Justice League and parts of Thor: Ragnarok. Obviously practical effects can’t do everything but the blend of puppets, make up, and costume with green screen and motion capture was truly brilliant here.

The Rey/Kylo duel – Right, so, the climactic duel of TFA definitely doesn’t have the emotion of the duels seen in the original trilogy; however, the duel was able to find and almost perfect balance between the stylised, over choreographed performances seen in the prequels, the Obi-Wan/Anakin duel on Mustafa in particular, and the wood chopping heavy swinging style seen in the originals. This balanced fighting style makes the duel a fast-paced spectacle without all the unnecessary twirling around.

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Casting and performance – The film introduced three new heroes to the Star Wars world and all of them were great, I really, really enjoy Oscar Isaac and John Boyega in this film, their shared screen time, although brief, is funny, engaging, and believable. Daisy Ridley really grows into the film (more later) and by the end she gives a really terrific performance, you would hardly know she was a relatively inexperienced actor at the time of filming. We also see some returning favourites, Han Solo is back playing (spoilers) the Ben Kenobi role, and Ford does it well. Probably only because he knew it was a one off return and that he would finally get the character killed off, something he has been after since The Empire Strikes Back.

Writing – This is my last ‘Good point’ and it very much echoes my first; the film, for the most part, is well written, it is quick, slick, funny, and most importantly accessible. The movie re-introduces a lost world enabling people that have never seen Star War before to sit in a screening and understand and hopefully enjoy what is unfolding on screen.

 

The Bad

Daisy Ridley – I said there would be more later, there have been stories from the set of TFA that JJ Abrams wasn’t particularly happy with Daisy Ridley during the early days of filming, and if the film was shot from beginning to end (starting on Jakku, then moving to Maz’s, before finishing on Starkiller) I can see why. Ridley’s performance is by no means Christensen bad, but it is wooden and it did take me out of the film a bit. After about 20 minutes of screen time I could feel the difference in the performance, and after finishing the film strongly as well as coming off the back of Murder on the Orient Express I expect a big performance in The Last Jedi.

Derivative – Ok, so this is the big one, the “it’s just A New Hope 2.0” argument, that the films’ success is based on nostalgia and so on. I don’t really buy into this but ok yeah I’ll take your point and run with it. There are similarities, the big weapon that can destroy planets and the resistance (which I always thought was a stupid name for the army of the government), the use of a desert planet, and the main character wanting to leave it to name a few, and yes TFA does run very much like A New Hope, but I think the characters are different and interesting, the story takes different twists along the way and despite being set a long time ago in a galaxy far away there is only a certain amount of things you can do with a Star Wars film. When re-watching TFA there are definite similarities to A New Hope, but I don’t buy into the idea that the film’s similarity to one of its predecessors was entirely a bad thing- perhaps just a little disappointing. The similarities didn’t ruin my experience, because you know what I was too bloody busy enjoying myself. That being said the X-wing attack on Starkiller isn’t great, it is really only a means of showing us that the base was destroyed.

Toying with the lore – This is a bit more of a fan complaint than a proper film criticism, there are a lot of liberties taken with the Star Wars lore. You know how Luke seems to become a capable Jedi after what seems like 2 days in The Empire Strikes back, well in this film it takes Rey about half an hour to develop her abilities enough to beat Kylo Ren. There are many counter arguments to this, Kylo was shot, he wasn’t trying to kill her etc. but I think the film would have taken a much more interesting turn if she got her arse handed to her and perhaps Han dies saving her. There are also some bizarre new abilities including Kylo’s mind-walk trick and blaster-freezing abilities. These will probably be explained away in The Last Jedi.

Maz – I spoke about the practical effects earlier, now it is time for the CGI stuff, Maz in particular, because Snoke is only seen through a fuzzy hologram thing. Maz does look out of place in this film, I am not really sure why the choice was made to have a computer generated orange alien wandering round an almost entirely practical set but there we go.

The last point(s) –This isn’t a cop out, if anything it is a cop in, I am just putting a few smaller points in together. Firstly C3PO, the walking exposition machine strikes again. Can we please stop putting C3PO in every Star Wars film, to be honest I didn’t recognise him at first because of the red arm… see what I did there? But really the character is just an annoyance, he doesn’t serve a purpose- STOP PUTTING HIM IN THE FILMS.

Secondly, the miracle of R2D2 waking up exactly when needed. R2 could have been functioning with half the map, the droid didn’t need to be in low power mode, it was a strange choice to have him in low power mode, I can’t really figure out why it was done, it didn’t add anything to the story, and, much like this point, dragged the film out unnecessarily. Lastly, bin the Rathtar sequence, it didn’t add anything to the film, find another, quicker, way for Han to accept Rey and Finn. By binning the Rathtars some of the irritating hanging questions, like the Luke lightsaber one, can be answered.

Alrighty, that’s it, my 5 good and a few more than 5 bad points about TFA. You are probably all still shouting at how I glossed over the derivative point, but hey, if it pisses you off that much you go ahead and have a shout- it’s really good for our stats. Boycott The Last Jedi for all I care… but I know you won’t because deep down you do like this film.

Anyway, thanks for giving this a read, if you want to get in touch with us follow us on Twitter or on Facebook, and if you want to hear our lovely voices why not take a look at the new and ever so slightly improved podcast? We are bound to review The Last Jedi so keep an eye out for that.

Thanks for reading guys,

Ben.

You are NOT the Father!

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With The Last Jedi set to hit cinemas in just a few days, fans of Star Wars are excited to see what Rian Johnson and co have in store for us with the new movie. One of the chief plot threads set to be explored is the parentage of humble scavenger Rey- who are her elusive parents, and why did they leave her on Jakku? I will now take a look at a few of the many possibilities, and will rank them according to their likelihood (in this fan’s humble opinion, at least). 

 

1: Luke Skywalker and X 

At face value, this seems like the obvious answer. Luke, like Rey, is strong in the force, and both followed similar paths in A New Hope and The Force Awakens respectively. Furthermore, the Star Wars saga has always followed a Skywalker, and so it would make sense for the main character to be a Skywalker, right? Add in the fact that the Skywalker lightsaber called to Rey, and it seems like a slam dunk. Well, unfortunately it doesn’t seem that simple. For starters, it can be argued that Kylo Ren, the grandson of Anakin Skywalker, fulfils the role of lead Skywalker in this trilogy. Secondly, JJ Abrams has stated that Rey’s parents did not appear in Episode XII, and while he could be lying, I feel inclined to believe him at this time. Finally, it seems out of character for Luke to have both fathered and abandoned a child, even after the destruction of his new Jedi order (I’ll mention more on that later). It is clear that Luke recognises Rey on Ach’to, but for now at least, exactly why remains a mystery. 

Likelihood: 7 midichlorians out of 10 

 

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2: Han Solo and Leia Organa 

Another popular theory suggests that Rey is in fact a Solo, and the sister of Ben. There are strong narrative advantages to this theory- direct relatives fighting one another on opposite sides of the war is a tried and tested storytelling mechanic, with great effect. Futhermore, this would go some lengths to explain the apparent connection that exists between Rey and Kylo- both seem able to tease information out of the other, Kylo sees the ocean and the island (Ach’to?) in Rey’s mind, while Rey sees Kylo’s fear of not matching up to Vader. Another, often overlooked, bonus to this theory is that it does not require the introduction of any new characters, which allows it to be much cleaner in terms of plot threads and continuity. However, the big cross next to this theory comes from the canon novel Bloodline, set six years before Episode XII. A not-yet-fallen Ben Solo is mentioned several times, and yet there is no mention of another sibling at all, let alone one matching the description of Rey. Of course, it could simply be a lie of omission, but in that case, why not release it after the reveal, preserving the continuity? The way the scene between Han and Maz at her castle is framed makes it likely that Han knew who Rey was, but with the presence of Bloodline it seems unlikely that it is a familial connection. 

 

Likelihood: 4 midichlorians out of 10 (8 out of 10 without Bloodline)  

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3: Grandaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi 

My personal favourite theory, (if for no other reason than because Obi-Wan is one of my favourite characters) and one that took a big boost with the announcement of the Kenobi anthology film, this is one that requires a bit more explaining. The theory suggests that Obi-Wan had a child while in exile, who in turn had Rey. Supporting evidence comes from hearing the voices of both Alec Guiness and Ewan McGregor (who recorded new lines) in the lightsaber-induced vision, the only characters to do so. As it was Old Ben who owned the lightsaber for the longest, and then passed it on to Luke, his appearance in the vision appears to make sense. Furthermore, it allows a well recognised and beloved character to remain relevant to the new trilogy, and explains Rey’s accent in the Force Awakens (meanwhile fellow Brit John Boyega had to change his for the role). This theory also satisfies Abrams’ “not in Episode XII” comment, while also providing hints for the audience. However, even a staunch Rey Kenobi believer like myself has to admit there are flaws to the theory. Several new characters would have to be introduced, which would potentially make the subsequent films messy, and question marks would arise as to why Kenobi never mentioned a child. This theory does fit, at least from a certain point of view. 

 

Likelihood: 6 midichlorians of 10 

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4: Students of Luke’s Academy 

The most plausible of all fan theories, simply due to its flexibility, is that one or both of Rey’s parents were students in Luke’s new Jedi Order before its destruction. This would explain most of the main cast’s familiarity with Rey (at least after some coaxing), while satisfying the Abrams rule and avoiding many of the pitfalls of the theories above. This would explain some of the visions in the lightsaber vision, such as the Knights of Ren and Luke with R2-D2. Her parents would have likely been killed by Kylo and his gang, fulfilling Maz’s “prophecy” about them never coming back. The only flaw with the theory comes from Rey’s abandonment on Jakku (Why does everybody want to go back to Jakku?!). Once again, Bloodline puts a spanner in the works, however, as Ben’s fall to the dark side and the subsequent destruction of the new Jedi Order would have happened a minimum of six years before the Force Awakens, a long time after Rey arrived on Jakku (in the vision she appears to be a maximum of seven years old). It is possible that Rey’s birth was against the Jedi code, and that is why she was hidden away- but in that case, why not send her to somewhere a little more hospitable (Luke at least stayed with his family on Tatooine)? Overall, though, this is the most likely scenario regarding Rey’s lineage. 

 

Likelihood: 8 midichlorians out of 10 

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A lot of other theories have been floated around, such as Sabine/Ezra, Qui Gon/Shmi and Cienna/Thane (and recently Iden Versio, but as I havent played the new Battlefront yet I am unqualified to comment), but they largely all suffer from the same problem- a lack of familiarity to a casual audience. When my Nan eventually sits down to watch The Last Jedi, she is not going to have any idea who these people are, and perhaps quite rightly. As much as Star Wars is about its expanded universe, the main series films still have to be accessible to a more general audience. Even spin offs, such as Rogue One and the new Kenobi anthology are on thin ice in this regard. Someone shouldn’t be forced to do research to understand a major plot point- that’s simply poor storytelling, and LucasFlim and Disney undoubtedly know this. So, unless the character appears in a live-action movie, they’re not Rey’s parent. 

I hope you enjoyed my list- if you have any other theories or would like to fact check me, please leave a comment below! 

Star Wars: The Force Awakens-Does it live up to the Hype? (Spoiler-free)

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*SPOILER-FREE ZONE*

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After seeing The Force Awakens at the midnight showing last night, we both left with some differing opinions about some aspects of the film. However, what we did agree on was the sheer amount of joy, humour, and fun that came through on the big screen.

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From the moment the opening crawl and John Williams’ score appeared, it seemed like everyone in the cinema had the biggest, stupidest grin on their faces, which is exactly as it should be when watching Star Wars. It just felt right, and from then on, I don’t think anyone really stopped smiling at the jokes, the heroism, or the great chemistry between the both the new and the old cast members. The practical effects were great, the CGI didn’t stand out as glaringly bad, and everything felt the way Star Wars used to feel. We were thrown into this used, beaten up galaxy that we had all come to know and love with the original trilogy, and, like I said, it just felt right.

The characters are very engaging, and the three new heroes, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac have a chemistry between them that speaks volumes about their personalities and talent. As well as our heroes, the film’s villains are fairly impressive themselves. Adam Driver is an interesting new take on the classic Star Wars villain, and makes for a very menacing and impressive character. However, the much-hyped Captain Phasma, Gwendoline Christie’s character, is terribly under-used, and I’d go as far as to say wasted. Of course, we have the return of our old heroes too, and it feels just like old times. To sum up the quality of the characters of this film, they always feel like real people, who say things that a normal human would say without a rant about sand in sight.

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Speaking of ranting about sand, if you’re worried that this film follows the prequels into any of their pitfalls, then have no fear, because this is about as far removed from those stagnant period-pieces as you can get. This is mostly due to the absolutely breakneck speed at which this movie progresses and the wealth of references to the original trilogy, as well as the quality of its characters and special effects. However, at times, this fast-pace and reliance on the original films does work against it.

It occasionally feels like some very key scenes are glossed over in order to flash onto the next big set-piece, and as amazing and impressive as they are, those key moments would benefit from a little more space to breathe and develop. Not a whole lot more, but they definitely required a bit more attention and care. Unfortunately though, this is a common issue with Abrams’ films, as they frequently rely on a surface-level development that moves at a ferocious pace. That being said, this refusal to slow down for anything does mean that the stodgy, over-explained prequels are nowhere to be found, and it closely resembles the action-adventure pace of A New Hope; or, more accurately, A New Hope on speed.

However, this is a resemblance that brings up another issue. The reliance on the original trilogy extends beyond pacing, set design and special effects and into the script. To be specific, the storyline of this film is more of a greatest hits version of the original trilogy than its own, original design. Granted, Star Wars has always been formulaic in its structure, but this was an opportunity to be innovative and creative in this new story, and unfortunately it was wasted in order to give fans something that they’ve seen before numerous times. The reasoning for this is understandable to an extent, they obviously wanted something tried and tested to kick off a trilogy that might grow into its own thing, but there’s a limit, and at times this film toed the line between homage and reboot.

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With that said though, there’s no denying that this was an incredibly fun film to watch, and if it’s done nothing else, it’s made us incredibly excited to see episode VIII, where these characters will hopefully develop even further, and give us more of the same fun. We both plan to go back and watch this film at least one more time, and who knows, maybe on a second viewing it will be even more enjoyable to watch.

 

Have you seen The Force Awakens? Do you agree with what we’ve written, disagree, or do you think we’ve overlooked something? If so, please leave a comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts; and if you’re feeling generous, a like, follow, or share would be amazing. 

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi- Yeah, it’s OK

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Benportrait1The finale of the original trilogy has always been a bit of an issue for me. There are some parts of the film I really enjoy, while there are others I cannot bear to watch.

 

 

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The Bad-

As usual I will get the bad stuff out of the way early.

  • I have made it clear on a number of occasions, almost whenever I get a chance in fact, that I hate the Ewoks. The Ewoks are clearly aimed at kids, and the idea behind them is to primarily sell toys, but they were also meant to show how a less technologically advanced culture can defeat a more advanced society. This is all well and good, provided it is believable, and a bunch of 3-foot-tall teddy bears killing Stormtroopers with arrows and stones is about as far away from believable as you can get.
    If the downtrodden Wookies were used rather than the Ewoks it would make the fight much more believable, this would mean you could cut the shitty acceptance into the tribe segment for something far more interesting. It would also give us a proper look at Chewbacca’s home world rather than our heroes walking through a random forest.  We should have known that Jar Jar was on the way when Lucas gave us the Ewoks.
    As a far as I am concerned the only good thing about the Ewoks is that you get so see some of them die.
  • As I said in my review of A New Hope, I dislike most of the changes George Lucas has made to the original trilogy, but there is one that is head and shoulders above the rest. It is the insertion of Hayden Christensen into Return of the Jedi’s closing celebration scene. Christensen replaces Sebastian Shaw who plays Anakin in his dying moments, and I have no idea why this was done. When the ghosts of Obi-Wan and Yoda appear they look the same as they did when they died. Why does the Anakin character look like he did in the prequels?
    I did some digging with regard to why Hayden Christensen was added, and this was listed on a forum-
    ‘First, Lucas was trying to establish a “familiar face” to the character that would link the OT and the prequels together. If he had stopped there most “old school” fans would have still not liked it but would have let it slide … BUT … his second reason is asinine. He said that a Jedi’s “Force Ghost” is the image the Jedi had of themselves when they died and that Anakin died when he became Darth Vader.’
    http://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/20339/what-was-george-lucas-reasoning-for-changing-anakins-head
    I can accept the idea of the force ghost being an image of the Jedi, but Anakin turned back from the dark side, saving his son and killing the Emperor. It is this action which allowed him to become a force ghost, so surely the Sebastian Shaw version of Anakin should be used? Anyway, even if we ignore the mythos, how does Luke know who this random younger guy hanging out with Obi-Wan and Yoda even is?
  • Return of the Jedi isn’t a bad film, but it is filled with reminders of its two better predecessors. There is an awful lot of exposition linking Hope, Empire and Return together. “Look! Captain Solo. And he’s still frozen in carbonite.” Firstly it isn’t needed. We know who he is and what has happened, and secondly, it just reminds us of the better films that came before, and I end up wanting to go and watch them instead. Throughout the film there are scenes that are just characters talking to other characters in order to explain and emphasise previous events that have already been covered. Seriously, we should have known what was coming in the prequels after what happened in this film.
  • If you remember my Attack of the Clones review, I said that Jango was more of a badass that Boba, and this film is the one that proves it. There was an opportunity for Lucas to show us how cool Boba Fett could be, but it was wasted completely. If the number of generic bad guys was reduced, a longer Luke/Boba Fett fight could happen which, as I suggested with a longer Windu/Jango fight, would be far more interesting. Instead, we get an unworthy death for a character that deserved a lot more.
  • The 5th spot on the bad list was tough, not because there wasn’t anything left, but because there are two things that could make the list; the Death Star 2.0 or the computer effects. I am going with the computer generated effects… I know Star Wars was a game changer, and I know Return is 30 years old, so I am not comparing it to modern day films, but I am comparing it to its predecessors and in all honesty the blue screen effects don’t hold up when compared to the two earlier Star Wars films. The shots of Luke looking up at the blue screen stop-motion Rancor, the blue screen Tatooine background, and the speeder bike back drop are particular offenders that spring to mind.

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A quick dishonourable mention goes to another terrible addition George Lucas has made since the film’s release. As Darth Vader contemplates saving his son from the Emperor, instead of standing there in silence, debating his morality, he cries-

“No… NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooo…”

In a sentence reminiscent of that moment in Revenge of the Sith, that silent deliberation is ruined forever. People LAUGHED in the cinema when it happened in Revenge of the Sith, so what drove these morons to put it into this scene? God I hate it so much- Lewis, with the blessing of Ben.

The Good-

  • The Luke we see in Return of the Jedi is a badass. He isn’t the whingy, moany teenager we seen in A New Hope. He isn’t the cocky guy who thought he could take on Vader without completing his training. No, in Return of the Jedi, Luke is almost a fully-trained Jedi, and has no time to take any shit from anyone. From the moment we see him force choke the Gamorrean guards blocking his path, and then successfully use a Jedi mind trick on one of Jabba’s minions before calmly confronting the Hut gangster, the audience knows that this older Luke is now ready to take down the Empire. These events are followed by the massacre at the Sarlaac pit, where Luke cuts through almost every one of Jabba’s henchmen. This is how you develop a character arc over a series of films. (If you are wondering where the Luke/Vader duel is, don’t worry it is on the way).
  • I really enjoy two thirds of the last hour of Return of the Jedi, so they make up the next two points on my list. Firstly, the battle outside the Death Star to destroy the space station. This sequence is probably my second favourite of the 4 major space battles in the franchise (closely beaten by the Death Star sequence in A New Hope, then followed by the opening sequence from Revenge of the Sith and finally the one from Phantom Menace, if you were interested). I think this battle is brilliantly finished, and while we might not be as emotionally involved in essentially what is the 3rd part of the last act of the film. The ship to ship action flows smoothly across the screen, and still retains a high level of tension as we realise that the Death Star is actually operational, and see the outmatched Rebels struggle to survive long enough to get an opportunity to blow up the space station. This is a highly underrated segment of the film.
  • Right, now the Luke versus Vader duel. It may not be as iconic as the fight in Cloud City, but the duel between Luke and his father in the second Death Star really shows how the tables have turned. Luke now has the ability to kill his father but is desperate not to do so, desperate to save his father from himself. That is until the scene called ‘A Jedi’s Fury’. in this powerful scene there is an explosion of emotion as Luke bests his father in order to defend his sister, only to stop short of killing the Sith Lord after realising that this is what the Emperor wants. Only now does Luke understand himself what it is to be a Jedi outside of the instruction of Obi-Wan and Yoda. The sequence has some fantastic imagery, such as Luke’s face cast half in shadow and half in light, showing his internal conflict and conveying powerful emotions. A really brilliant sequence.
  • There tends to be one or two changes in the special editions that I don’t mind, and the one in Return of the Jedi is the removal of ‘Yub Nub’. The scenes where we travel around the galaxy are ok (except the trip to Naboo where we hear the Gungans, that bit can spend eternity in cinematic hell), but I honestly feel the music is an improvement. While still being celebratory, there’s a slightly sad note to the theme, almost as a commemoration to everyone who died in the fight for freedom. This might just be me, but I like the new music. Any time spent away from the Ewoks is an improvement in my eyes.
  • I debated putting the Yoda scene as my 5th point on the list, but I think it is a bit rushed. So instead, I am making another mention of the puppeteers and the creations they control. I mean how much more believable does the puppet Jabba look compared to the pile of CGI shit we see in A New Hope? (Damn you, George. Why do you have to keep going back and making pointless additions?) Also, how much more brilliant and inspiring is the puppet Yoda compared to the CGI one? Infinitely more so. The close up shots of the stop-motion Rancor show how impressive it actually is, but again, it is tarnished by the poor use of the blue screen. I also recently found out that Admiral Ackbar is a puppet, not an actor in a costume, which goes to prove how incredible the creations really are.

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So that brings our journey through the Prequel and Original Trilogies to an end. Hopefully you have found it mildly entertaining and at least a bit informative. If you disagree with anything we have said or think we have missed anything please do shout at us, and if you agree with anything, please shout at us about that too.

It’s now only a few more Hours until the midnight release of The Force Awakens, and we’re too excited for words. Look out for our reviews of the film; we’ll be releasing a short, completely non-spoiler version tomorrow to give you our opinion, and then a more in-depth version later in the week.

It will be amazing.

God I hope it is good.

But what if it isn’t?

No, no. In JJ we trust.

Thanks-

Ben

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back- It’s SO Good

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imageSo we’ve reached The Empire Strikes Back, arguably the best of all the entries in the Star Wars franchise, and definitely my favourite of them all. Much like Revenge of the Sith, this film was an attempt at a darker, slightly more serious continuation of the story of Star Wars, and boy does it really pay off. However, when it was initially released, people weren’t sure what to make of this tone, and it wasn’t widely recognised as the best of the trilogy until quite a few years later. I find this quite hard to believe, because it’s definitely the best directed and most well written of the three, but hey, I wasn’t there.

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You can really see that with a good script these films can be absolutely incredible. The story, the dialogue, and one of the most iconic moments in cinema history all combine to create a film that stands the test of time, and will forever be a part of pop-culture.

Anyway, like Ben with A New Hope, I’m going to have a hell of a tough time picking out some bad points about this film.

  • First of all, it’s a tenuous point at best, but the few scenes that really bug me in this film are introduced in the special edition changes. Every other change to this film is absolutely fine by me, but the establishing shots of Cloud City that were constructed with CGI stand out like a sore thumb compared to the practical sets. I have no problem with the idea to show more of the city, and in fact I like that we get to see more of it, but the execution of the idea is just pretty bad. In my book, if you can’t do it to a good standard, you might as well not put it in there, because all it does is detract from the film.
  • I have to say thank you to a friend who suggested that the characterisation of Boba Fett is lacklustre at its best. I’m so used to accepting that he’s just there to do a job that I always forget how little attention is really paid to him. As with Darth Maul, there’s a lot of wasted potential in the character of Boba Fett; a wasted potential that isn’t even remedied in Return of the Jedi which would be the best place to do it. Now, I know there’s the argument that the lack of characterisation is due to the fact that his mysterious nature is the key to his popularity, and I do agree with this to an extent, but they could’ve given him just a few more lines to reveal a little more about his motivations and character. They could even use these lines to create even more mystery and ambiguity around him, but hey, I can see why they did the things they did.
  • I personally don’t have any issues with the special effects of the original 1980 cut, and to be honest, that Yoda puppet is about a hundred-times more believable as a character than the CGI turd-pile they gave us in the prequels. Buuuuuuuuut… I guess some people MIGHT have a problem with the practical effects, as much as it hurts my heart to say it… and that’s all I’ll say on the subject, because they’re wrong.

This is getting really difficult now…

  • I’ll admit, the dialogue can be kinda melodramatic, and I think you’ll know what moment really does stick out the most; some line about something not being possible or something… anyway, the thing is, when you’re completely absorbed in this film, you don’t notice the melodrama, and it can even feel like the most natural line in the world when you’re committed to this world you’re seeing on the screen. Really though, it’s pretty over-the-top, but what part of Star Wars isn’t?

Right, that’s about all I can manage to think of in terms of bad points about this film. I’m very sorry that they’re weak in comparison to some of the points I came up with for the prequels, but I mean, when you hold up The Empire Strikes Back against the likes of The Phantom Menace, there really is no comparison.

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Ok, now let’s get on and dig into the good stuff. There really is a lot of it-

  • I’ve already spoken a little about the dialogue in this film, and I’ve already mentioned that the story is pretty damn good too, but I’d just like to expand on what why this script is one of the stand-out things that make The Empire Strikes Back For me, my love of the film definitely stems from the content of the script, and the great dialogue. It’s a much more personal story than A New Hope, all the stakes are directly related to the characters rather than the galaxy as a whole, and I think this allows for deeper explorations of their personalities and motivations. As well as this great characterisation, we aren’t force-fed much exposition at all, and we’re thrown into the action and tone of the film immediately, with the Battle of Hoth happening pretty quickly after a little adventuring with Luke and Han Solo. The entire Dagobah scene is one of my favourite moments of Star Wars, and don’t even get me started about Luke’s eventual confrontation with Vader, because I’ll be talking about that shortly…
    At its heart though, The Empire Strikes Back is a love story. We finally get to see Leia and Han’s relationship develop beyond some roguish flirting into a mutual affection for each other, with some pretty hilarious lines from Harrison Ford thrown in as a bonus.
    “I love you”
    “I know”

What a loveable dickhead!

  • Industrial Light and Magic reach an entirely new level of quality with the special effects of this film. I’m certain that most people went into the cinema thinking that they would never be able to do better than Star Wars: A New Hope, but boy were they proved wrong. Everything just looks so well put together and designed here, but despite this neatness of design, it still feels likes Star Wars, and still looks all beat-up and used when it counts. In particular, I’ve always been impressed with the effects used for the Battle of Hoth, which stand-up today with very little CGI enhancement. Another superb scene is the asteroid chase, which is just as fun and tense every time I see it. I have yet to spot the famous shoe though, so I guess I’ll just have to keep watching it…
  • The performances of the cast are at an all-time high here, which was probably made possible by the well written story and script, but I think credit where credit is due. It seems like they’re a lot more comfortable in their roles than before, and there’s a nice natural chemistry between Hamill, Ford and Fisher; Ford and Fisher in particular. Hats off to Mark Hamill for his interactions with Frank Oz performing Yoda too. It can’t be easy acting against a three-foot puppet, but he pulls it off very believably. I’ll just make a quick honourable mention of Billy-Dee Williams as well for playing the smoothest criminal the galaxy has ever seen.
  • Another move by the writers I have to acknowledge is the idea to use Empire to progress the characters’ relationships and create a conflict that would result in a very emotional and powerful finale in Return of the Jedi. The fact that the film doesn’t really have an ending is one that frustrated a lot of movie-goers, but it really isn’t an issue for me. Ending the film on a note of uncertainty and defeat is one of the things that makes Empire stand out from the other films in the franchise. We’re left with a lot of questions that we desperately want answered; it leaves us anticipating the conclusion of the saga.
  • Oh boy, the most iconic moment of the entire Star Wars franchise exists as the pivotal moment in this film. Even if you’ve never seen Star Wars you’ll know that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father from the countless pop-culture references and just general knowledge. This moment is such an icon of cinema that it’s almost become a part of the world’s collective consciousness; everybody knows it. The story goes that nobody but Mark Hamill, David Prowse and the writing/directing crew knew what the famous lines actually read. Everybody else was under the impression that the revelation was that Obi-Wan was the one who killed Luke’s father, rather than Vader (which is a pretty good twist in itself). As for the fight, rather than the twirly, over choreographed duels of the prequels, we see Luke in a far more realistic, almost desperate attempt to save his friends, avenge Obi wan, and not die in the process. It really is a one-sided fight, and it’s clear that Vader is just toying with him until Luke gets a lucky hit in, at which point Vader decides to end it, and try to bring Luke over to the dark-side. This is such a tense sequence of events, and the amount of emotion and substance in the fight is only rivalled by their duel in Return of the Jedi, but perhaps that’s a fight for Ben to discuss tomorrow…

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Again, I can only apologise for the lack of negative points here, but it’s honestly just that good of a film. I didn’t want to get pedantic and start picking out little details or subjective opinions, because they really don’t affect the overall enjoyment of the film. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this, and you can look forward to Ben’s review of Return of the Jedi tomorrow, followed by our review of The Force Awakens on Thursday.

It’s an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan!

Lewis