I Love Dark Rey

The best characters are the one who catch you off guard. You think they know who this person is and where their narrative is going. Then there is a switch in the narrative and the character goes off in a surprising direction. When done well, this out of left field change in the character arc has the potential to shock the audience and up the dramatic ante by 100. When not done well, it can turn off the audience.

The new Star Wars firm, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker hits theaters in December. As they are during the lead up to every film in the franchise, Lucasfilm is mostly mum on the details. But then they slip a delicious nugget or two into the trailers.

At this point, there are any number of theories about Dark Rey (Daisy Ridley). Is this a vision of what will or could be? Is this the ultimate manipulation of the dark side? Will we learn that Rey is actually a descendant of the late Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDairmid) and has a family?

At this point, there are so many possibilities. I could theorize all day, but I think I will let J.J. Abrams work his magic and tell us in December.


Thoughts On The Star Wars Episode 9 Announcement

Star Wars is more than a space fable where a princess, a farm boy and a pirate defeat an evil empire. It is the story of good vs. evil, democracy vs. autocracy, nature and spirituality vs. machine, etc. It is also one of the biggest movie series of all time.

Last week it was announced that Episode 9 would start filming this week in London. While the statement itself is more than enough to make this fan happy, the most exciting aspects is the return of Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) and that Carrie Fisher will also return as General Leia Organa. Director J.J. Abrams (who also directed The Force Awakens), stated the following about Carrie’s return as Leia:

 “Finding a truly satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker saga without her eluded us. We were never going to recast, or use a CG character. With the support and blessing from her daughter, Billie, we have found a way to honor Carrie’s legacy and role as Leia in Episode IX by using unseen footage we shot together in Episode VII.”

While we will not know any details about the film for another 17 months, I have complete trust that J.J. Abrams not only will end the Skywalker saga as it ought to end, but also honor Carrie/Leia as she ought to be honored.

Throwback Thursday-Forever Young (1992)

Love, especially romantic love, often pushes us into decisions we might not have otherwise made.

In the 1992 movie Forever Young, Daniel McCormick (Mel Gibson) is a test pilot in pre World War II America. His sweetheart, Helen (Isabel Glasser) is injured and comatose due to an accident. The doctors are not confident that she will wake up from the coma. Not wanting to watch Helen die, Daniel agrees to be the guinea pig in a newly built cryogenic freezing chamber. The plan is that Daniel is to be woken up in a year, after Helen has passed away.  Instead of waking up a year later, Daniel wakes up 53 years later, in 1992.

He is woken up by Nat Cooper (Elijah Wood), a young boy living with his single mother, Claire Cooper (Jamie Lee Curtis).  While Daniel is trying to adjust to the fact that he woke up in 1992, his body is also aging rapidly. Can he find Helen in this new era or will he die, not knowing her fate?

Written by  J.J. Abrams, this film is the perfect blend of science fiction and romance.  Neither genre overtakes the other, allowing the best elements of both romance and science fiction to come together and gel into the best of both worlds.

I recommend it.


Ranking The Star Wars Movies

With the release of Episode 7 of Star Wars this weekend, I think it’s time I ranked all of the movies in the series so far. From worst to best, below is my definitive ranking of the Star Wars movies.

7. Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

Everything that is wrong with this movie can be summed up in three words: Jar-Jar Binks.  George Lucas nearly turned what was a respected and beloved film series into just another overblown, special effects driven, weak on plot and character science fiction film. Even with the likes of respected actors Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor could not save this film from being just plain awful.

6.  Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

In attempting to placate fans and make up for the awfulness that is The Phantom Menace, George Lucas moved the story forward. Replacing Jake Lloyd as a young Anakin with Hayden Christensen as a teenage Anakin did nothing for this film. It continued to be just another overblown, special effects driven, weak on plot and character science fiction film.   Thank you, George Lucas for nearly killing what was good and pure and true in Star Wars.

5. Revenge of the Sith (2005)

In the final prequel of the Star Wars Series, George Lucas makes the second attempt to placate fans, again making up for the awfulness that is Episode I and II, while  tying up the story lines that will lead to the Episodes 4, 5 and 6. While this film was the best of the prequels, it still does not hold up to the first three films.

4. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) 

This movie is an icon by itself. Without it, the movies today would not be what they are. In a sense, the story is a copy of the science fiction novels and books of the past, but it is so much more. It is entertaining, it is fun and it takes the audience out of their world and into a new one for a couple of hours. In short, it is perfect.

3. The Force Awakens (2015) 

Finally, Star Wars fans have a worthy successor to the first three films. Director and co-writer J.J. Abrams took out what did not work in the prequels and returned Star Wars to what it was. Practical effects, a nice mix of older cast members and newbies and a plot that feels true to the Star Wars universe makes for a dam good film.

2. Return of the Jedi (1983)

The final film of the first three in the series begins with the rescue of Han from Jabba’s lair. It ends with a satisfying conclusion.  The empire is defeated, Darth Vader has returned to the light side and our heroes have won. All of the strings are tied together perfectly. But that did not keep fans from wanting more.

1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Empire is the best of all of the films for a reason. Expanding the universe and the plot lines, the characters feel less 2-D and more 3-D. Breaking from their 1940’s science fiction molds, each character is given the chance to grow and change in new ways. And of course, there is one of the most famous revelations in film history:

Here’s hoping episodes 8 & 9 are just as good as 4-7 and not a repeat of 1-3.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review

This weekend was the weekend that Star Wars fans have been waiting and hoping for. Star Wars: The Force Awakens finally premiered.

It takes place three decades after Return Of The Jedi ended. The old Empire is a thing of the past. But the dark side lingers. The new leader of the empire is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). He is driven by one goal: to find and kill the last Jedi knight, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). But Luke has disappeared without a trace.

Luke’s sister, the former Princess now General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is still the head of the rebellion. She sends her best pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) to locate her brother. While his mission is still in progress, Poe is captured by the empire, but a storm trooper with second thoughts about his life choices, Finn (John Boyega) helps Poe to escape. Crash landing on the planet, Jakku, Finn is helped by Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger whose family abandoned her long ago. Poe’s droid, BB8, holds the key to finding Luke.

Rey, Finn and BB8 find the Millennium Falcon while escaping the Empire. This brings Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) back into the fold.

Can our heroes, both new and old, defeat the new empire or will the empire win?

When it was announced several years ago that Disney had acquired the rights to Star Wars and J.J. Abrams was to direct Episode 7, many among the fan community were concerned. As much as I like Disney films, they are a world apart from Star Wars. Thankfully J.J. Abrams (who is also a fan) and co-writers Lawrence Kasdan (who had a hand in Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi) and Michael Arndt wisely returned to the elements that made the first three films instant classics: a solid story, excellent actors and practical effects.

As the director, J.J. Abrams wisely utilized film to shoot as a pose to digital cameras. The film feels very much like the first three films: fresh, fun and entertaining.

One of my favorite elements of the film is Kylo Ren. Unlike Darth Vader, there is still a humanity to him. He is a nuanced villain whose reasons I will not give away, but I will say that he is not simply a villain because the film needed one.  Another element of the film that I loved as a female fan was the element of not just more women, but strong female characters. Besides Rey and Leia,there is Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o), a Yoda like figure and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) a female captain of the empire. My only quarrel with the filmmakers was a scene where one the female characters was briefly a damsel in distress, which felt out-of-place for her, but that is all I say.

The movie clocks in at around two hours. Normally I would say that a movie that is two hours should have left some scenes for the extras section of the DVD, but for Star Wars, I will make allowances.

And, if any of my fellow Janeites have also seen this film, they will see a performer who has in the past, played a role in an adaptation of a Jane Austen novel. Her time on-screen is brief, and I will not give away who she is, but she is there.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is presently in theaters. 


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