Star Wars VII-IX

Continuing where I left off yesterday is the rollercoaster ride which was my journey through the Star Wars movies in the lead-up to voting for the 2020 Hugo Awards. Somehow the Disney era of Star Wars movies has managed to span both extremes of my response to the saga as a whole, reaching creative heights and plummeting to the abyssal depths.

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

Rewatched The Force Awakens – not at all bad! On my original viewing I was a bit let down by the way the plotbeats were so obviously modelled on the original movie, with none of the “surprise” developments being at all surprising – I was hoping for something with a bit more originality. But none of that really bothered me this time, I just enjoyed the ride. Villain Kylo Ren is still a problem – he’s a whiny tantrum-throwing little shit and I still find it hard to believe he’s played by a respected actor, or that we’re supposed to take him seriously. And I’m still pissed off that on original release, the merchandisers had pinned all of their hopes on his character and had made *nothing* featuring Rey, who is THE MAIN CHARACTER!!! (and so much more engaging a character than Luke). Still love Disco Stormtrooper (I mean Captain Phasma), who received an enjoyable comicbook miniseries about her quest to eliminate all evidence of her failure in this film. This time I was ready to spot Daniel Craig’s scene as a stormtrooper, but completely failed to recognise Simon Pegg until afterwards. Delighted to spot Iko Uwais (The Raid) and Jessica Renwick (Iron Fist) in small roles. And this retelling by emoji is wonderful!

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

The Last Jedi, as hoped, was really good! Even Kylo was more interesting. Laura Dern was awesome, Kelly Marie Tran is fun as a new supporting character, Phasma is back, Benicio del Toro is very Benicio del Toro, and it was good to see Lily Cole (however briefly). Thumbs up for cute puffin creatures and crystalline foxes. The salt flats which turn red were beautiful. The plot wasn’t a copy of a previous movie with the serial numbers filed off, and successfully pulled off the reignition of hope from near defeat. And there were some nice visual jokes (the spaceship/iron cracked me up). The backlash from entitled fanboys (who don’t realise that their behaviour and attitudes align them with the First Order and not the Rebel Alliance) was disappointing and extremely nasty, but Rian Johnson should be proud of his work creating one of the best entries in the series.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Caught up on Solo today, which was fun! I’m not quite sure where the pre-release bad word-of-mouth came from, but it was a solid heist movie romp. Woody Harrelson was pretty fun, Emilia Clarke provided strong support, Donald Glover was clearly having a ball playing young Lando, but best of all was Phoebe Waller-Bridge as a droid suffragette-equivalent. There was a surprise return from a character I thought was long dead, plus a humongous electric space cephalopod. Pseudopods up!

The Mandalorian Season 1 (2019) / Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

It’s “Star Wars does different genres” today. Finished off The Mandalorian (western with a touch of Lone Wolf & Cub aka Baby Cart) – some of the episodes stood out more than others, but the finale was one of the best. Looking forward to more! Also rewatched Rogue One (war movie with a strong WW2 feel), which retains its status as my personal favourite SW film. I still dearly wish for a spinoff prequel starring Donnie Yen & Wen Jiang. As an immediate prequel to Star Wars, I love that they went so far in the quest for visual authenticity that the X-Wing pilots have ’70s mustaches!

Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

I am so thoroughly disengaged from The Rise of Skywalker that I’m finally giving in and complaining about it while it’s still running. Normally going into a movie with low expectations allows me to me be more forgiving and look for the good – but I’m finding that extraordinarily difficult to do. Everything interesting about the previous film has been casually thrown away and replaced with the utmost tripe. The previous film was divisive, but received the best reviews of any Star Wars film, because it was willing to take risks and had something to say. The last of the prequels was badly written but had a reasonable plot lurking behind it. This has neither good plotting nor good scripting. Some scenes are direct retreads of scenes from other films, but amped up in a way that proves going bigger does not mean going better. A lot of infodumps come courtesy of old journals or artifacts whose existence makes no sense in the context of previous events. There are massive retcons, cheap fan service moments more pointless than anything people complained about in Solo, and some badly thought through action setpieces. JJ Abrams has always had difficulty creating satisfying endings for his TV shows, but this is a whole step beyond. The whole thing stands as an act of utter creative cowardice on the part of Disney as they retreat into a soulless attempt to recreate “greatest hits” moments. Back in 30 minutes to see if my opinion has changed 🤣

The Death of a Franchise, sorry I mean The Rise of Skywalker, has now finished (thank god) and somehow managed to get even worse! I am especially angry on behalf of Kelly Marie Tran, who played Rose. In 8, she was a major supporting character and became Finn’s romantic interest. In 9, she is pushed so far off to the sidelines that not only do the filmmakers flirt with suggesting they’re giving Finn a new romantic interest, she’s not even allowed to hug him at the end of the film when every other pairing or friendship group is hugging or kissing. When paired with the really toxic reception she was subjected to online by vicious misogynist racist ableist trolls (which drove her to delete her social media presence after months of relentless abuse), her effective erasure from the final film in the series is completely contemptible. I don’t think I have anything else that needs adding to my earlier post. As for the Hugo voting… this was nominated for the category Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. The other 5 candidates are all pretty strong, so before watching the film I thought it likely I would rank this at #6. Now that I’ve watched it, I’m seriously considering leaving it off the ballot entirely.

Postscript: Reader, I did leave it off the ballot entirely. (Apologies to Jane Eyre.)

To conclude, a completely biased personal ranking of the Star Wars material covered here, plus the unreviewed original series of Star Wars: Clone Wars (2003-2005) which I watched several weeks later (in brief: Genndy Tartakovsky is an animation god and everybody should watch Samurai Jack).

  1. Rogue One
  2. The Last Jedi
  3. The Mandalorian
  4. Clone Wars (original series)
  5. The Empire Strikes Back (original release)
  6. Solo
  7. Star Wars (original release)
  8. Return of the Jedi (original release)
  9. The Force Awakens
  10. Revenge of the Sith
  11. Attack of the Clones
  12. The Star Wars Holiday Special
  13. The Phantom Menace
  14. The Rise of Skywalker

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