Also known as: Exorcist II, The Heretic (working titles) Release Date: June 17th, 1977 Directed by: John Boorman Written by: William Goodhart Based on: characters from The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty Music by: Ennio Morricone Cast: Linda Blair, Richard Burton, Louise Fletcher, Max von Sydow, Kitty Winn, Paul Henreid, James Earl Jones, Ned Beatty, Dana Plato (uncredited)
Warner Bros., 117 Minutes, 102 Minutes (VHS cut)
“Pazuzu, king of the evil spirits of the air, help me to find Kokumo!” – Father Lamont
It has been a really long time since I’ve seen this film but since I’ve reviewed the first and third films in the series, I figured that revisiting this one was long overdue.
I put it off for ages because it’s the only one out of the three that’s not very good. However, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered it.
Honestly, this is a really strange movie that feels like a product of its time, as it uses some modern (for the time) science-based ideas to try and solve the mystery of Reagan’s previous demonic possession and the effects it had and still has on her. It’s kind of hard to explain but there are some neat retro-techie sequences in the film that probably play much better now than they did in 1977.
Additionally, I like that this doesn’t simply try to retread the material and narrative framework of the previous, classic film. Instead, it takes a new and fresh approach. While that can only be as good as the writing and the execution, it still made this an interesting and unusual film that was very different than what was the norm for religious based horror movies of its time.
The film is also loaded with talented actors from the returning Linda Blair, to Louise Fletcher, Richard Burton, Max von Sydow and smaller roles for Ned Beatty and James Earl Jones.
I also really enjoyed the score by Ennio Morricone, which probably deserves more credit than it’s gotten over the years, as the music is overshadowed by the public disdain for the film.
On top of that, I really liked the finale of the film, which saw the good people in the story return to the spot where Reagan was previously possessed. They want to confront and conquer this evil, once and for all, and what we get is a really neat sequence with solid effects and great sets.
The problem with the movie is that it is a very disjointed clusterfuck that drags along at a snail’s pace in some sequences. I think that the better parts of the film offset its general drabness but it’s a bad movie as far as the story and pacing go.
Also, the plot is so far outside of the box, it’s hard to envision this as a sequel to the original, even as it unfolds in front of you, featuring the same young actress playing the same character.
In the end, I get why people hate this movie. Looking at it as its own body of work, it’s palatable. It has some really cool moments but you have to drag yourself through the uneventful portions of the film to reach the more satisfying ones.
Rating: 5.75/10 Pairs well with: I guess the first and third films but they’re both much, much better.
Release Date: September, 1980 (Turkey) Directed by: Mike Hodges Written by: Lorenzo Semple Jr., Michael Allin Based on: characters by Alex Raymond Music by: Queen, Howard Blake Cast: Sam J. Jones, Melody Anderson, Ornella Muti, Max von Sydow, Topol, Timothy Dalton, Mariangela Melato, Brian Blessed, Peter Wyngarde, Robbie Coltrane, Deep Roy, Kenny Baker
Starling Films, Dino De Laurentiis Company, Famous Films, 111 Minutes
“Flash, Flash, I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth!” – Dale Arden
Far from great, this is still one of the coolest movies ever made. It’s certainly a product of its time, as it wants to exist on the same level as Star Wars but the rest of Hollywood hadn’t yet caught up to the magic that George Lucas possessed.
Regardless of that, this is still an enthralling motion picture that made the best out of all its parts, creating a one-of-a-kind, pulpy world that really felt like an update of the old school Flash Gordon serials it tried to emulate in many regards.
Also, this has more of a ’70s feel to it than ’80s. But it was technically made and shot in ’79, so there’s that.
Flash Gordon is overly fantastical and I mean that in a good way, as it’s so stylized and unique that it really stands out among a lot of the other epic science fiction space operas of its era.
The sets are incredible, as are the costumes. Sure, some things look ridiculously hokey, even for 1980, but they still work in this strange universe.
I thought that the cast was also solid, despite the lack of experience Sam J. Jones, who plays the film’s title character, had in front of the camera. He still shines and I’m surprised that this didn’t lead to bigger and better things. Although, he is overshadowed by some of the other actors, especially Max von Sydow, a legitimate veteran who seemed to be completely committed to the role of an evil, outer space madman hellbent on ruling the galaxy.
I also really dug Timothy Dalton and Brian Blessed in this. They’ve been two of my favorite British actors over the course of my life and this is actually the first thing that I saw both of them in, way back when I was a young kid that rented this movie quite a lot.
Sadly but also understandably, I think that this film is mostly remembered for its music, as superstar rock band Queen did the film’s theme, as well as some other awesome tracks. Their music in this is spectacular and it makes the film so much cooler than it would have been without their iconic tunes. But really, between these songs and the film’s stupendous style, it’s like a perfect marriage.
All in all, this is a film with some flaws and it’s probably way too hokey for modern audiences but for the time, it worked. I just wish it had as much of a cultural impact as other big budget movies from that incredible era of live-action space operas.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other sci-fi and fantasy films of the late ’70s and early ’80s.
Release Date: September 16th, 2009 (TIFF) Directed by: Michael J. Bassett Written by: Michael J. Bassett Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard Music by: Klaus Badelt Cast: James Purefoy, Max von Sydow, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Pete Postlethwaite, Mackenzie Crook, Alice Krige
Davis Films, Czech Anglo Productions , Wandering Star Pictures, Metropolitan Filmexport, Optimum Releasing, 104 Minutes
“If I kill you, I am bound for hell. It is a price I shall gladly pay.” – Solomon Kane
At times, this felt like two different films. I liked a lot of the stuff in this movie but it had issues with pacing and tonal shifts.
Still, this had some real badass moments and I loved the character design between Solomon Kane and the two big villains, Malachi and the Masked Rider.
The opening ten minutes or so of this film were great and got me excited for what was to come. However, after the intense and fantastic opening, things slowed to a crawl for quite awhile. The energy didn’t really pick back up until the Masked Rider appeared and started doing some evil shit. Man, he just looked sinister and cool as hell, almost like a powerful Sith thrown into a Robert E. Howard story.
Malachi also added a lot to the picture and was a nice antagonist for Solomon Kane, a hero that walks the line with one foot in Hell and the other on the side of God.
The ghouls were also pretty cool and provided a lot of intense moments, as did the ghosts in the mirrors and the big demon beast in the big finale.
I thought that the cinematography was good and the film is very well shot. It looks great, even in the moments were CGI is very prevalent.
I just wish that the film wasn’t bogged down by some of its inconsistencies.
Every part in the picture was well acted, though and that certainly boosted the overall quality of the film. James Purefoy was perfection as Solomon Kane and even if he’s not a widely known star, I can’t think of a bigger one that would’ve pulled off the character as well as he did. Frankly, I wish this had done better because I would’ve liked to have seen him return to the role for other movies. And maybe it’s not too late but it’s been almost a decade since this came out and I haven’t heard anything about a follow up. It’ll probably be rebooted sometime in the future.
I wasn’t sure what to expect before watching this. On one hand I was pleasantly surprised and on the other, I was bored for half the film. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: other films featuring Robert E. Howard heroes: all the Conan movies, Kull the Conqueror, Red Sonja and other sword and sorcery films.
Release Date: April 2nd, 1982 (Sweden) Directed by: John Milius Written by: John Milius, Oliver Stone Based on:Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard Music by: Basil Poledouris Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Earl Jones, Sandahl Bergman, Ben Davidson, Gerry Lopez, Mako, William Smith, Max von Sydow
Dino De Laurentiis Corporation, Edward R. Pressman Productions, Universal Pictures, 129 Minutes
“Crom, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that two stood against many. That’s what’s important! Valor pleases you, Crom… so grant me one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen, then to Hell with you!” – Conan
Conan the Barbarian is a hard movie to top in the sword and sorcery sub-genre of fantasy. It really set the standard in 1982 and it also spawned innumerable ripoff films, mostly from Europe and mostly schlock. A few wannabe Conan pictures were good but there’s too many to address when I’m here to specifically review this film.
This is also the superior Conan film, as its sequel didn’t live up to this one and its remake, decades later, was lacking the lightning in a bottle that made this film special.
When I was a young boy, I looked up to this film. I looked up to Conan and his struggle and his fight to seek out justice for himself and eventually, the world he lived in. In 2018, this would be considered a film that exudes “toxic masculinity” while being dismissed as shit by third wave feminists and male apologists. Sorry, but Conan, even fueled by revenge, was a flawed hero that went on to be a king, against all odds, and continually vanquished the evil in his world. In fact, this film got me into reading Conan comics, as well as the original stories by Robert E. Howard.
Conan the Barbarian is a balls out, unapologetic action film about one badass dude that’s not just going to take the bullshit of tyrants.
Now the film, like its title character, has its flaws. But compared to other big action movies of the time, those flaws aren’t as bad and not as apparent.
The acting is what you would expect from a Schwarzenegger film, the direction is much better than average and the special effects are actually great for a 1982 film that didn’t have a massive budget.
The thing that really makes this film more superb than it would have otherwise been is the score by Basil Poledouris. Conan the Barbarian has one of the coolest and most powerful themes in film history. It isn’t just the title theme that’s great though, it’s the music throughout the entire picture. It just sets the mood and pacing right. It accentuates the action and subtly gives life to the slower bits.
My only real complaint about the film is it does feel drawn out too long. They could have fine tuned it, whittled it down by 15 minutes and it probably would have moved at a brisker, more energetic pace. There are a lot of action sequences and there are a few moments where you feel like you’ve reached the big finale, only for the film to stretch on more. But don’t get me wrong, all the action bits are damn solid.
The opening sequence of this film is powerful, beautiful and breathtaking. It is the best shot and best paced sequence in the entire movie but it really draws you in and makes you want to go on this long journey with the hero. James Earl Jones, no matter how many times I have seen this scene, is still absolutely chilling.
Conan the Barbarian is a film that couldn’t be made in quite the same way that it was in 1982 with Hollywood politics being what they are.
Although, I could be wrong about that, as the new Conan the Barbarian comic by Marvel surprised me in how badass and brutal its recent first issue was. But maybe that’s only because it speaks to a particular audience that Marvel knows they’d lose if they messed with the formula.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with:Conan the Destroyer, the Conan the Barbarian remake, Red Sonja and the first Beastmaster.
Also known as: Dredd (Slovania) Release Date: June 30th, 1995 Directed by: Danny Cannon Written by: William Wisher Jr., Steven E. de Souza, Michael De Luca Based on:Judge Dredd by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra Music by: Alan Silvestri Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Diane Lane, Rob Schneider, Joan Chen, Jürgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow, Balthazar Getty, Scott Wilson, Ewen Bremmer, James Remar (uncredited), James Earl Jones (narrator)
Hollywood Pictures, Cinergi Pictures, Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation, Buena Vista Pictures, 96 Minutes
“I am the law!” – Judge Dredd
I was itching to watch the 2012 Dredd movie, once again. However, I figured that I’d revisit this adaptation first, as I hadn’t seen it since 1995.
Back then I thought it was pretty terrible. 24 years later, it still isn’t great but I appreciate it a bit more.
This movie is stupid, mindless and a total mess. However, it’s a hell of a lot of fun and just wacky enough to have some value.
Stallone is certainly enjoyable in this, as he hams it up big time and really embraces the insanity of what this picture is. But he had to know that it wasn’t going to be good once he got on set.
It had a post-apocalyptic feel that is typical of ’90s action sci-fi but man, this thing looks cheap. There are some good sets and big areas but there’s also a lot of shoddy green screen work that looks terrible when compared to the modern standard or really, the standard just a few years after this movie came out. I get that the production was limited by its resources but they were employing some techniques that were already outdated by the time 1995 rolled around.
One problem with the film is that the story is kind of incoherent and it felt like they didn’t have much of a script and just a sort of outline of the scenes. It feels like they’re just winging it and trying to make it work. Yes, I know there was an actual script but it doesn’t seem like it was fine tuned, it’s more like an early draft with some ideas for scenes stapled together.
This surprisingly had a pretty interesting cast between Stallone, Diane Lane, Rob Schneider, Armand Assante, Joan Chen, Max von Sydow, Balthazar Getty, Ewen Bremmer, James Remar, Scott Wilson and narration by James Earl Jones. But seriously, did Lane read this script before singing on? She just feels out of place, not because she isn’t a capable actress, she’s damn good, but because she’s just an odd choice to play a female Judge and she felt like she was above the rest of the film. Granted, I still liked her in it, she just stuck out like a sore thumb because she’s Diane f’n Lane. It’d be like having ’90s Julia Roberts in Double Dragon.
The only thing going for this is that it is a ham festival and pretty fun. It’s really dated and a big ’90s cliche but that kind of makes it lovable all these years later.
Also, I really like the chemistry between Stallone and Schneider, which we also got to experience in Demolition Man.
Overall, not a good movie but it is still a rather entertaining one for fans of ’90s cheese and action sci-fi.
Rating: 5.75/10 Pairs well with:Demolition Man, Robocop, Hardware and it’s much better reboot, Dredd.
Release Date: December 26th, 1973 Directed by: William Friedkin Written by: William Peter Blatty Based on:The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty Music by: Jack Nitzsche Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Lee J. Cobb, Kitty Winn, Jack MacGowran, Jason Miller, Linda Blair
Hoya Productions, Warner Bros., 122 Minutes, 132 Minutes (Director’s Cut)
“Your mother sucks cocks in Hell, Karras, you faithless slime.” – Demon
Few motion pictures have a profound effect on American culture en masse. The Exorcist is one of those pictures and even though I was born five years after it was released, it was the one film that I heard people describe with actual terror in their voice. I was warned about it at an early age, most of the people in my family couldn’t even talk about, it was like the Voldemort of motion pictures in my heavily Christian household.
However, once I did see it, and at a very young age, it went the route most things do for me that people warn me away from or over hype, it didn’t overwhelm me with its terror or greatness.
Still, it is a damn fine motion picture in many ways. But as far as its effect on me, it wasn’t as bad as what I had built up in my mind. But it is bone chilling and terrifying, especially looking at it within the context of the era it came out in.
When I was talking to my mum recently, I pointed out that horror films, in less than ten years, went from Vincent Price movies, which are family friendly at this point, to movies like The Exorcist, Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Last House on the Left. To me, it seemed like an extreme jump. Sure, there were gory exploitation films popping up in the ’60s but most people were unaware of those unless they lived near a grindhouse theater in a large city. It just feels that the harder, darker tonal shift in the ’70s, which this film was a part of, had a lot to do with the state of American culture at the time between the Vietnam War, the Nixon crap, the tensions over civil rights, multiple assassinations of prominent figures and so much more.
This is one of those films that I assume everyone over 18 has seen but it is also 45 years old now and these young kids today don’t give a shit about the classics or have the attention span for them. I don’t think that this is a film that will work for younger people because they’ve seen more fucked up movies than this and this story is a slow build towards an insane climax where film’s today have to deliver some sort of scare or special effects extravaganza every five minutes.
The Exorcist is perfectly paced, however. Some may feel it is too slow or that it could have been cut down but the emotional and terror build is so well executed that altering it would probably dilute the effect of the last thirty minutes.
One of my favorite scenes, which is still chilling and effective, is when the priest has the demon (in Regan’s body) tied to the bed and they have a conversation. This exchange is more terrifying than any of the demon’s physical antics.
This picture has impeccable cinematography, lighting and music. Everything used to shape the tone and atmosphere was perfect. The direction was good, the acting was solid and everything just came together really well.
The only thing that would have made this better for me was more backstory on the demon and more clarity as to why it chose Regan. I understand that it was some sort of revenge plot to mess with the priest but the motivations could have been clearer and the backstory could have been fleshed out more. Also, I wanted to know more about the demon. But then again, all of this also could have added too much to the simple story the film tried to tell and it could have easily gotten too convoluted.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with:The Exorcist sequels and prequels, The Ninth Configuration, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen film series.
Also known as: Bond No. 1 (India), Warhead (working title) Release Date: October 6th, 1983 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: Irvin Kershner Written by: Lorenzo Semple Jr., Dick Clement (uncredited), Ian La Frenais (uncredited) Based on:Thuderball by Ian Fleming Music by: Michel Legrand Cast: Sean Connery, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Max von Sydow, Barbara Carrera, Kim Basinger, Bernie Casey, Alec McCowen, Edward Fox, Rowan Atkinson, Pat Roach, Anthony Sharp, Gavan O’Herlihy
“Still here, Moneypenny? You should be in bed.” – James Bond, “James, we both should be!” – Miss Moneypenny
Never Say Never Again is probably the James Bond movie that I’ve seen the least. It actually isn’t canon and doesn’t fit in with the overall franchise like the other pictures that starred Connery.
In 1983, Roger Moore was James Bond and this was a picture that came out to compete against Roger Moore’s Octopussy. But let me explain the story behind this strange, one-off James Bond flick.
The ownership of the filming rights of the Thunderball novel came under dispute. Kevin McClory was one of the men responsible for getting James Bond on the big screen. He would also be one of the writers of the Thunderball film and produced that film alongside Eon, the studio that has made every official Bond picture. Because of his strong involvement and funding of Thunderball, McClory was able to maintain the filming rights of the Thunderball novel after a legal dispute. So Never Say Never Again is actually a remake of Thunderball with some pretty big changes.
Sean Connery came back to the role of Bond, even though he said he’d never play the character again. The title Never Say Never Again is actually a joke, as it was what his wife said to him when he told her he was going to do the movie. Oddly enough, the producers didn’t think that they could get Connery again and actually intended for this to be a vehicle to bring George Lazenby back to the role, as his sole James Bond film is still one of the very best. But obviously, McClory benefited more from signing on Connery.
The film also landed a top notch director in Irvin Kershner, who had just come off of his magnum opus, The Empire Strikes Back.
However, in regards to the film’s composer, an offer was made to John Barry but he declined out of respect for Eon Productions due to his long tenure creating the music for the real James Bond franchise. Sadly, the music in Never Say Never Again is really weird and nowhere near the quality of what Barry could have orchestrated. The score is like a jazzy disco hybrid that feels like it’s five years too late to the party in 1983.
On the plus side, this film benefited from the performances of Klaus Maria Brandauer, as this film’s Largo, and Max von Sydow, as the most famous Bond baddie, Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Both of these guys were great and McClory did plan to do more films after this one but they never came to be. It would have been great seeing Bond actually come to face to face with Sydow’s Blofeld.
We also get Kim Basinger, as the main Bond girl of the picture, and Bernie Casey as Felix Leiter, Bond’s greatest ally. I liked Basinger in anything back in the ’80s when she was in her prime and frankly, one of the hottest women on the planet. I was crushing on her hard between this, Batman and My Stepmother Is An Alien. As far as Casey, that guy is always a great addition to any cast.
Being that this was an ’80s Bond film, it couldn’t not have some silliness in it.
For instance, the scene where the evil lady pulls up next to a guy driving and throws a snake on him, causing him to crash and die, only for her to go back, collect the snake and then set off a bomb that was already wired to the car is absolutely stupid. She could have just blown up the damn car. It’s one of those things you just laugh off though because it’s James Bond in the ’80s.
Then there is the terrible looking scene where Bond and Kim Basinger are on a horse and they jump off of an extremely high wall at a coastal castle and safely land in the ocean, as the horse, somehow unscathed, swims to safety. Not only was the situation unbelievable but the sequence was incredibly cringe worthy and the effects come off as silly.
They also had to throw in a gratuitous video game scene because apparently Bond is a gamer in the ’80s and because video games were all the rage back then. I’m surprised they didn’t suck Bond into a computer for a TRON-styled sequence.
Apart from cheesy shit, there is also weird stuff that just doesn’t seem to fit the Bond vibe. I already mentioned the terrible score but in addition to that, the opening credits sequence was bizarre and nothing like the beginning of a Bond movie should be. Really, there is supposed to be a cold open, a mission accomplished and then it transitions into super stylized credits with a fantastic song. Never Say Never Again starts and feels like a mid-’80s B-level action flick from Cannon Films.
All things considered, good and bad, I do still like this movie. It may have worked better, however, as a Bond style vehicle for Connery and not as an attempt to just cash in on McClory owning the rights to one friggin’ book that already had a movie based on it (and a much better one at that).
McClory planned sequels and more Thunderball remakes at different times but none of them got off the ground and it is probably for the best. The rights have since been given back to Eon and now they own this movie along with the rest of the Bond library.
Rating: 7/10 Pairs well with: ’80s Bond movies, which starred Roger Moore not Connery. But yeah, this pairs better with the later Moore movies than it does the ’60s and early ’70s Connery ones.
Also known as: Det sjunde inseglet (original Swedish title) Release Date: February 16th, 1957 (Sweden) Directed by: Ingmar Bergman Written by: Ingmar Bergman Based on: Trämålning by Ingmar Bergman Music by: Erik Nordgren Cast: Gunnar Björnstrand, Bengt Ekerot, Nils Poppe, Max von Sydow, Bibi Andersson, Inga Landgré, Åke Fridell
AB Svensk Filmindustri, 96 Minutes
“Nothing escapes you!” – Antonius Block, “Nothing escapes me. No one escapes me.” – Death
Ingmar Bergman is considered one of the greatest filmmakers that ever lived. The Seventh Seal is considered his magnum opus by many. It has been referenced, parodied and ripped off by hundreds of films after it. The movies it has influenced have gone on to influence others. It’s reach is so deep and so broad that it will probably always have some sort of imprint on the film industry forever. It is an iconic body of work, regardless at how one views it. It is also an extremely high point, if not the highest, in the long history of Swedish filmmaking. The fact that I haven’t seen it in its entirety until now, could actually be criminal.
My entire life, I have been a huge film aficionado. So I’ve sort of always known about this picture and I’ve seen it’s effect on other bodies of work. I’ve seen this movie featured in documentaries and I’ve seen clips of it for so long that I felt like I had already seen it in a roundabout way. Even though I’m very familiar with the key elements of this puzzle, I’ve never had all the pieces put together in the proper way.
The Seventh Seal is about a soldier who is confronted by Death. He convinces Death to play him in a chess match. The soldier figures that as long as he’s locked in the match, he has more time on Earth. He is disenchanted and depressed over the fact that he’s wasted his life even though he realizes that he’s not that different from most men. He tries to bide his time all while searching for meaning and something greater. Eventually, time runs out and he has to face his mortality.
The film takes place during Medieval times but it’s not necessarily an accurate portrayal of that era. It’s more of a reflection of what was behind the inspiration of the story for Bergman, as he had stated that the idea of Death playing a game of chess came from a church painting from the 1480s. Additionally, the feeling of “doom and gloom” from the era was instrumental in helping set the tone of this film’s narrative. The film showcases the effects of plague and the witch hunts: things that were really very dark blights on human existence in that era. Really, what better time and place is there to set this film?
While I don’t consider this to be the masterpiece than many others do, it’s a very compelling film and it is easy to reflect on your own life, even in modern times, and compare it to the concerns that the knight has about his own existence and place in the universe.
Bergman certainly had an eye for composition and was a true artist in the medium of motion pictures. This really is art at its core. It is also a very human story as we will all one day be in the soldier’s shoes in one way or another.
The Seventh Seal is a very good motion picture that went beyond just influencing a generation, it influenced an entire art form well beyond what anyone could have imagined at the time. Films like this are extremely rare.
Rating: 9/10 Pairs well with: Other pictures by Ingmar Bergman.
*Since the second Disney Star Wars film comes out this week, I figured I’d post my review of last year’s The Force Awakens. This is taken from my previous blog.
Release Date: December 14th, 2015 (Los Angeles Premiere) Directed by: J.J. Abrams Written by: Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, Michael Arndt Based on: characters created by George Lucas Music by: John Williams Cast: Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Max von Sydow, Gwendoline Christie, Greg Grunberg, Simon Pegg, Daniel Craig, Pip Torrens, Frank Oz (archive recording)
Lucasfilm Ltd., Bad Robot Productions, Walt Disney, 136 Minutes
“I got a bad feeling about this.” – Han Solo
And here we are! The seventh episode of the Star Wars saga has now arrived! I have seen it! You have probably seen it! And we now know whether or not it was worth the wait, the hype and unrelenting adoration for generations to come!
So did it live up to the hype? Short answer: no. But what could live up to hype that strong? So was it better than the prequels? Yes and no but I will describe why, as I write.
It isn’t as good as the Original Trilogy and that is okay. It is still a nice addition to the overall saga despite its flaws. But I guess you just can’t keep capturing lightning in a bottle.
The problem with this film is that it is very derivative. In fact, it is basically borrowing a bunch of plot points and elements from the same saga it is a part of. This film is a rehash of A New Hope with elements of Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, the Knights of the Old Republic video game series and the Expanded Universe nine part book series Legacy of the Force.
Now I knew that this film was going to look to stories in the EU for inspiration but I didn’t know that it was essentially going to be a remake of A New Hope – extended with new stuff thrown in.
So how is it a rehash of A New Hope?
Well, a hero puts a message in a droid that needs to be delivered to the Resistance (the modern Rebellion). That hero is captured by a black clad Sith lord (or Sith wannabe, I’m not sure). The droid roams a desert planet and meets a stranger that helps it go further on its quest. The hero captured by the Sith is then rescued from the First Order’s (the modern Empire) big Star Destroyer. A new hero meets the desert stranger and they escape the desert planet in the Millennium Falcon. There is an evil General that is a prettier version of Grand Moff Tarkin. Starkiller Base (a bigger, badder version of the Death Star) blows up several planets (not just one). Some half hour filler stuff happens in a cantina full of weird aliens. Sith dude talks to a dude that is pretty much the new version of the Emperor. The heroes then end up at the Resistance base that looks reminiscent of the Rebellion base planet from A New Hope. They decide to destroy Starkiller Base. There is some father/son stuff. Han Solo has to lower the planetary shields so Starkiller Base can be attacked. X-Wings attack the base and fly through its trenches. Big explosion. Ships fly away. People holding hands. No medals handed out though. And Luke Skywalker is hanging out in Ireland and probably doesn’t even have cable. Okay, the Ireland part is new.
Wow, there are actually a lot more similarities than I thought before writing that quick recap.
The best thing that this film has going for it, is that the actors were good and the returning heroes from the Original Trilogy made an impact in the scenes where they showed up. But truthfully, this movie relied too heavily on incorporating everything it could from the Original Trilogy while ignoring the Prequel Trilogy. Furthermore, it didn’t really offer up much of anything new.
Say what you will about the quality of the Prequel Trilogy but at least George Lucas gave us a different story in every chapter. Each film, good or bad, was still something new. There were new imaginative worlds, cool alien species, cool ships, all types of new stuff to look at and experience. This film just wasn’t new and exciting. It was an amalgamation of all the good stuff that came before while trying to make you forget about the bad stuff. That isn’t always a good formula though. It certainly doesn’t work here. Additionally, the rehash of the good stuff isn’t done as well as it was the first time. So what’s the point, then?
The worlds were too similar to worlds we’ve seen already. The ships and vehicles were about the same as the old ones but with new paint schemes. It’s just all been done before and done better.
This film suffers from lazy storytelling and it lacks the imagination of George Lucas. Yes, his imagination was questionable, at times, but again, each installment of his Star Wars was something fresh. And it was his imagination that drove all of us to love the franchise in the first place.
I’m disappointed in J.J. Abrams because he claims to be a huge Star Wars fan and credits it for his journey into filmmaking. He dropped the ball but I don’t really think he’s ever had it and ran with it anyway. His first Star Trek film was also a rehash of sorts of A New Hope. His second Star Trek was a rehash of the original second Star Trek. His kid/alien movie Super 8 was a rehash of E.T. Hell, Lost was the most original thing he did but the last few seasons were awful.
This movie is the antithesis of the Prequel Trilogy. While that might seem great, it is its antithesis in a bad way. It just repackages everything we know and barely gives us anything new to sink our teeth into. If I want the Original Trilogy, I will watch the Original Trilogy. But then again, there are some people that just want the same shit over and over again and if that is you, you will love this movie. It doesn’t try to expand on anything like the Prequels did and it keeps imagination in a safe, tight jar.
This is the least ambitious Star Wars film that has ever been made. It played it safe, it was completely predictable and it didn’t present anything of value to excite you for its upcoming sequels.
The most important thing that The Force Awakens lacked, was fun. It had humor here and there but the film wasn’t a joyous experience, overall.
You see, in the Original Trilogy, Luke was our eyes and ears into a new world. He was excited and dying for adventure. Rey, this film’s equivalent to Luke, was pretty much sad and just yearning to go back to her boring shitty life, not craving adventure and actually running from it until destiny forced her to confront it.
In fact, the film was too much like Rey in that it was dark, brooding and pretty bland tonally.
The thing is, I may be coming off as harsh, but I wanted to like this movie. I have been a die hard Star Wars fan since the time of the Original Trilogy. I do like this film enough to watch it again and it is more enjoyable than the Prequels, even if it is less original, but I can’t honestly say that I like it. But I also don’t dislike it. I just happen to find myself in some weird state of limbo since leaving the theater an hour ago.
-The cinematography was weird in places and didn’t match up with the style of the previous six films.
-Abrams also talked about how he was going with more practical effects but there was still an overabundance of CGI.
-After all the hype about how bad ass and cool Captain Phasma was supposed to be, she was a non-event in this movie. She wasn’t even necessary to the plot in any way. But Abrams also needed his Boba Fett. But if he is digging up all the old actors and old plots for nostalgia sake, he could’ve just thrown Boba Fett in the movie.
-Abrams also borrows from the character of Yoda in making a tiny orange female alien that is a thousand years old. She knows the Force but is no Jedi but that doesn’t stop her from mentoring Rey, the Jedi to be. I bet in a future film, it is revealed that she had an association with Yoda.
-Snoke is this film’s Palpatine. For some reason his hologram is a giant sitting on a giant throne. Maybe he will be that big in the flesh but it just came off as weird and that throne room was a bit too much for a place he doesn’t actually sit in. I also suspect that he may be Darth Plagueis.
-I know that the Empire (now First Order) were based off of the Nazis but General Hux’s Hitler-like speech was a bit much.
-Starkiller Base (the new Death Star) is really irritating. It is technically impossible to build something like that in a planet’s surface without having an insane amount of volcanic activity. Also, it sucks power from its sun until it drains out. If that actually happened, the environment on the planet would freeze over, it wouldn’t just turn dark and snow more. And if the base can travel like the Death Star, the environment would alter so much that nothing could live on the planet. Also, the solar energy sucking thing was taken from the Star Forge superweapon in the original Knights of the Old Republic game. Plus, pulling energy like that into a planet’s atmosphere would incinerate everything.
-Finn is clumsy as hell but somehow can hold his ground against a force trained baddie. Also, it wasn’t established that he was a Jedi and therefore it bothers me that he even uses a lightsaber, not to mention that I doubt his Stormtrooper training came with fencing lessons. Also, he left the First Order because he didn’t want to kill strangers (admirable) but he had no qualms blasting his Stormtrooper brothers to bits when escaping with Poe. They are just brainwashed people like he was.
-What’s with the Stormtrooper with the anti-lightsaber weapon? Do they all have those and if so, why? There is only one Jedi in the galaxy. That’s like every cop on the street carrying a bazooka because you never know when a tank may roll into town.
-C-3PO and R2-D2 are barely in the film which misses the whole point of their characters. They are to be the observers of everything and the chroniclers of the Skywalker family saga. R2-D2 was asleep for the first two hours and ten minutes of this movie. And why did Luke leave R2-D2 behind? That was cruel.
-Han’s death was the best scene in the film. Not because I wanted to see Han die but the exchange between him and Kylo Ren was great. For only seeing these two share one scene, you could feel their love and their pain.
-Speaking of Ren, he has certain powers that seem to be greater than Darth Vader but yet he can’t build a lightsaber that isn’t crap? And yes, it still looks stupid. But it isn’t as stupid as Starkiller Base. Plus, he is a total emo bitch and nowhere near as menacing or threatening as any Sith lord before him. But his shuttle is pretty damn cool.
-Rey can’t take off in the Millennium Falcon without trashing everything in sight but she can fly it through a crashed Star Destroyer two minutes later.
-Why couldn’t Chewie drop Rey off at the top of the mountain?
-Even though the Force is what makes destiny happen, things in this film just seem too convenient. Even more convenient than all the other films. This goes back to my earlier point about lazy storytelling.
-Seeing an old planet from a previous film would’ve been nice. Jakku could’ve just been Tatooine, really.
-There should’ve been more of Poe Dameron.
-There was a complete lack of emotion and no feeling of devastation after Starkiller Base’s attack of mass destruction. It was soulless, cheap and irritating like the end of Man of Steel.
-I liked most of these new characters but I’m not completely sold on Ren.
-Rey and Finn’s relationship was a million times less painful to watch than Anakin and Padme’s.
-Leia is fucking great.
-I hope the galaxy expands out more in the next film.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: The Disney Star Wars movies.