Tables, Ladders and Chairs in Boston on 13 December was nothing to write home about, although I’ve just written about a thousand words on it that you’re about to read. But let’s go with the spirit of that figure of speech, shall we?
For the first 45 minutes or so, The Force Awakens promises an exciting new beginning for the Star Wars series. It’s raring to go right from the start, JJ Abrams’ kinetic direction far, far away from George Lucas’ paint-by-numbers set-ups, even aside from the exhilarating action scenes. That shot of the crashed Star Destroyer we’ve all seen from the publicity stills? It looks even more breathtaking on the big screen, one of the best visual moments in modern cinema. And the new characters – desert planet scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), hot-shot X-wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), defecting stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), even the droid BB-8 – feel right at home in the universe the original trilogy established. When Han Solo and Chewbacca show up, as we know they will from the ubiquitous marketing campaign, it represents a passing of the torch more than anything else.
I’ve watched (or tried to watch) the first Star Wars movie a few times now. The last time I think I saw it all the way through was the 1997 theatrical re-release, with George Lucas’ added splodges of digital imagery. The version I’ve just watched (ahead of seeing The Force Awakens later this week) was the Blu-ray remaster, with much improved colour timing and CGI texturing, but the digital elements still look out of place, like intentionally shitty Photoshop.
And the story itself retains its flaws, with the exciting opening scenes giving way to the plodding, superfluous droid double-act on Tatooine that lost my attention so many times over as a child. Lucas was never that good on plot, let’s be honest. It’s not till bratty Luke and Old Ben meet Han and Chewy that the pacing improves and the action kicks up notch by notch, and from then on it’s as fine a space romp as I remember.
Such a shame that Lucas never improved on the promise the second half shows, letting his tutor Irvin Kershner helm the subsequent, superior The Empire Strikes Back. Why Lucas never directed another film till the execrable Star Wars prequel trilogy more than 20 years later is anyone’s guess; mine is that he hated directing,
"Ernest Cline’s Armada is everything wrong with gaming culture wrapped up in one soon-to-be–best-selling novel." Ugh, it's basically everything I hated about Cline's previous. Safe to assume the new one is similarly unimaginative, propped up by the same try-hard yet lazy-ass references. Fuck off already! #link
Beyond the Black Rainbow could be a good deal shorter; the final half-hour really tries the patience. It’s also a little too much in thrall of its influences (David Cronenberg’s films and Ken Russell’s Altered States for the most part, but also Carpenter, Argento, maybe even Boards of Canada and the video game Bioshock?) to stand on its own as a mindbending psycho-horror. But Panos Cosmatos’ debut feature at least steals from the best, while the villainous Michael Rogers steals this very picture with his malevolent presence.
Week 741 saw the writing calendar fill up a bit, with two gig reviews plus a handful of press screenings. It’s that time when the screenings bunch up a bit so the PR people can knock off early for Christmas, so there are a few January releases coming up shortly, it seems. (January releases for us, anyway; most of them seem to have come out in the States weeks ago.)