Star Wars is for Everyone (and Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Different)

Originally posted at the Portland Mercury, December 16, 2015

A long time ago, in a galaxy—well, in this galaxy, actually, somewhere near the end of the ’70s—20th Century Fox released a goofy, earnest adventure movie about a boy in a bathrobe who goes from kicking rocks around the interstellar boondocks to becoming the most important person in the galaxy. This movie changed the way movies were made, changed the way stories were told and sold, and, ultimately, changed the way we interact with our entertainment.

In the nearly 40 years since, you could fill a library with all the books and documentaries charting the creation and consumption of all things Star Wars. And with The Force Awakens, the seventh iteration of this cultural monolith, a whole lot of people who haven’t spent much time hanging out in that galaxy are feeling a little left out of the conversation. Considering The Force Awakens has already raked in a literal billion dollars thanks to advance ticket sales and merchandising, that’s gonna be a pretty big conversation. The kind of conversation we don’t really have anymore, save for events like the Super Bowl, or to a lesser extent, a presidential election.

So now people are asking, “What do I need to know? What books do I need to read? What TV shows do I need to binge? What movies do I have to rewatch—and I heard there was a special order I have to watch them in, too? Can some nerd help me out with, like, a three-step plan on how to jump on this stupid bandwagon?”

STEP ONE: DON’T JUMP
ON THE STUPID BANDWAGON.

 You don’t need to watch a single Star Wars film—much less all of them—before going to The Force Awakens. Yes, this new one is a direct sequel to 1983’s Return of the Jedi, but it’s also co-written and directed by J.J. Abrams, who was handed a property as desiccated, dusty, and insular as Star Trek and brought it back to candy-colored life in 2009. Abrams’ Star Trek succeeded for two reasons: (1) It made the series accessible to newcomers for the first time since the ’60s, and (2) it felt like a Star Wars movie, a feeling best described in a recent interview with The Force Awakens co-writer Lawrence Kasdan: “It’s fun, it’s delightful, it moves like a son of a bitch, and you don’t question too much.”

Much is made of “The Power of Myth™” in regard to Star Wars’ staying power. But the ubiquity of that mythmaking—which is present in nearly every piece of genre fiction—means you’ll have no problem figuring out who any of these new characters are. You’re already familiar with their archetypes from the last time you saw, say, Harry Potter, or Game of Thrones, or Lord of the Rings—all of which became massive commercial and critical successes despite the vast majority of their audiences having never read a single word of the books they were based on.

So don’t bother with a six-film marathon to “catch up.” That old stuff can wait for later. The Force Awakens is a (mostly) new story, featuring appearances from people you may or may not recognize (“Ah, that’s what a Chewbacca is”) supporting brand-new characters on a brand-new adventure, allowing audiences to join in on the fun without having to memorize a deck of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit cards. Liking Star Wars isn’t that difficult. But if you do decide to refresh beforehand…

STEP TWO: DON’T MAKE IT SO
GODDAMN DIFFICULT.

 Contrary to what Star Wars fandom might suggest, the requirement to ride this ride isn’t very high at all. Have you watched something with the words “Star” and “Wars” on it? Did you like it? Guess what: You’re a fan. That’s it. You don’t have to own a closet full of Lando T-shirts, or a shelf full of clone trooper dolls, or have memorized the differences between multiple versions of multiple films. In fact, you’ll probably have way more fun if you don’t count yourself among those types at all.

Because here’s the dirty open secret: Star Wars—one of the single most popular entertainments of the modern age—isn’t particularly “nerdy,” even though self-identified geeks have made it a key part of their creepy cultural-indoctrination rituals. It’s pretty hard to claim the Star Wars franchise has earned $30 billion dollars because of “nerds.” It got as big as it did because—even in its most questionable iterations—Star Wars looks cool, sounds cool, and features cool people doing cool shit. (Also, kids really like it.) The appeal of Star Wars isn’t far removed from the appeal of The Hunger Games, James Bond, the Fast and the Furious movies, or any entry in any of the superhero empires currently being assembled with the Marvel blueprint.

So no, you don’t have to shell out wads of cash and countless hours buying, collecting, eating, and slinging a bunch of bullshit in order to “get” the latest chapter in this money-printing machine. In fact, the only thing you need to know about The Force Awakens, and Star Wars in general, is this:

STEP THREE: STAR WARS IS FOR EVERYONE,
AND DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU DIFFERENT.

 Star Wars has always been about getting as many people as possible to have fun not just watching it, but experiencing it. The Force Awakens could have the best chance yet at accomplishing that: The old movies, engaging as they are, were made by a bunch of white dudes, starred a bunch of white dudes, and have been obnoxiously “claimed” by a bunch of white dudes. But now, under the guidance of Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, her multicultural brainstorming group, and the direction of Abrams, The Force Awakens promises to be the first Star Wars movie to actually reflect the skin colors and genders of its audience—knocking down what few remaining hurdles were in the way of every kid in the theater having an unobstructed pathway to the imaginarium exploding off the screen.

Much like Yoda’s cave on Dagobah (“the fuck is a Dagobah?” you might ask. You’ll get there, don’t worry), these films mirror what you bring in with you. You like goofy sci-fi action? Done. You like deeper mythological underpinnings? Just dig a little. Star Wars isn’t the impenetrable mess it can appear to be, thanks to the overstated importance pushed on it by the media (hi!), and the overheated arguments from its hardcore fans—many of whom, myself included, would make a Venn diagram of “entertainment press” and “easily perturbed men who have a hard time dealing” look like a full fuckin’ moon.

You can—and should—divorce these films from all their baggage. These movies have always worked best when they’re allowed to just be movies, not referendums on the validity of entire generations’ predilection toward escapism. So go into The Force Awakens the same way people went into Star Wars in 1977—with nothing more than an open mind and a taste for adventure. Because if everyone’s done their jobs, The Force Awakens will be a cool, funny, thrilling story about a bunch of kids trying to figure out how to fit in their own skin. And what’s more universal than that?

Published in: on 12/16/2015 at 12:05 pm  Comments Off on Star Wars is for Everyone (and Don’t Let Anyone Tell You Different)  
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Childhood Cacophony

Originally posted at Edward Copeland on Film, 05/26/2010.

I was 4, and visiting The Dalles, Oregon, during the first Christmas I can consciously remember. My uncle, who had a satellite dish and a 21 inch TV, had bought this VCR for his family, one of those Ford Granada-sized top loading behemoths that were a sign that one had made it in this world. And along with the VCR, he had obtained a copy of a movie I hadn’t yet heard about. A movie called Star Wars.

I was 4. I didn’t understand half of what was flying off the 21 inch screen. I was 3 feet in front of it, close enough to be lost in the scan lines. I don’t remember much, but I remember that I was remembering everything. I was committing it all to memory. It was weird, realizing I was recording these memories as they happened; half toddler/half computer, clad in corduroy and orange, staring at walking carpets and drowning in the wonderful combination of strings and drums and wrenches on guy-wires and gargoyle scuba tanks, the beautiful cacophony spilling from 3 inch speakers on either side of that 21 inch TV.

I remember the hamburger ship. I remember the one-eyed garbage monster. I remember the X ships blowing up the O base and the football player teasing the hell out of the blond dude in the bathrobe. I remember the giant dog with the diagonal belt yelling in time with the drums and the trumpets as they all won Olympic medals for blowing up big gray basketballs. I remember that, and the view out the window.

I was 4, and just behind this strange, beautiful mish-mash of visuals was a window, and the porch light nearby illuminated every single fat snowflake descending from the clouds. And to my 4 year old mind, watching this movie with a hamburger ship speeding through Mylar tunnels in something called “hyperspace,” the snow wasn’t falling; The house was flying. And as the Falcon blasted toward Yavin, I fully believed my uncle’s house was ascending towards the cosmos, the Christmas lights bouncing off the white walls, softened by the shaggy brown carpet I was laying on, blending with the light through the window, melting into the sounds and images vibrating off the TV.

It is my birthday. I am 7 years old. It is December and I’ve spent the last month and a half circling Star Wars toys in the Sears catalogue. Return of the Jedi has been out for about a year and a half, and I still haven’t seen it. I’ve checked out the read-along book from the Marion County bookmobile whenever it is available. I’ve deprived so many kids of their visits to that galaxy far, far away. I read along and I listen along, at least once every day. I color over the read-along book. I fall asleep with the cassette playing on my Fisher-Price tape-deck. The film has just moved to the Star Cinema in Stayton, Ore., December 1984. It is a surprise birthday present from my parents, after constant nagging to do things like tape making-of specials off Channel 6, and buy me action figures they couldn’t afford. December 16th rolls around. My dad shows me the movie listings in the newspaper. My eyes zero in on the Star Wars logo. I look up at him, unblinking, unbelieving. He smiles back.

I’m in the car. I’m in the theater. I’m cracking up my parents because months and months of falling asleep to the read-along has me humming themes as they spill out of the speakers. Tiny hands conducting the London Symphony Orchestra from thousands of miles away, years in the future. I’m saying the lines a second before the actors can recite them. I’m a 7 year old affecting a shit British accent and stepping on Ian McDiarmid’s dialogue. “So be it…Jedi.”

This is the first time I’ve ever been inside a movie theater, and it is everything all at once and I love it.

We’re going home. Amazingly, the AM station segues from some lite rock into, of all things, the Star Wars theme. Snow is blowing across the windshield. It looks like hyperspace. I fall asleep in the backseat, John Williams in my ears. And that’s why, whenever it snows outside, I put in the soundtrack. The one that comes in the plain black cover with the plain white letters that say Star Wars on it. I let Williams play full blast. And I imagine my car is chasing after my Uncle’s house. And if I catch that house, inside there is a 4 year old in corduroy and orange, resting his head on his hands, elbows dug into a shaggy carpet, awakening to the concept of imagination, and realizing the majesty in it.

The visuals of my childhood may look like Jim Henson. But the audio? It’s all John Williams.

Published in: on 01/10/2012 at 1:21 am  Comments Off on Childhood Cacophony  
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The Fatboy Roberts Interview: Funky New Magic in Great Old Movie Scores

An interview by Scott E. Weinberg. Originally posted at Cinematical.com. Reposted here partially to indulge my own ego, and partially because AOL/Huffington Post were giant dicks to Cinematical, and I’d rather people read the interview here than give them hits.

Normally I approach “fan-made” remixes (be they audio, textual, or visual) with a grain of salt, a little charity, and a general sense of disinterest. But it took me less than ten minutes of Fatboy Roberts‘ recent release — Geek: Remixed III — before I realized how impressive this stuff was. My first exposure to his music was via the excellent Portland cartoonist / film critic / bon vivant Mike Russell. My reaction? “I love this Mario Bros. track because it’s not ironic.”

Mr. Roberts was truly enjoying the goofy little Mario ditty, and he wanted to make it sound a little, well, funkier. But then he approached movie music masters like John Williams, Ennio Morricone, and Jerry Goldsmith with the same amount of respect; Fatboy’s additions actively complement the already-excellent music that we know and love. This is not an over-caffeinated kid who is blaring noises over the ‘Jaws’ theme, but a sincere movie-lover who also has a real gift for bad-ass beats.

So I told the guy we should chat. And we did.

Harsh critics call this stuff plagiarism. Loyal fans call it a new angle on some great music. What’s your take?

It’s a nostalgia bath, really. Auditory comfort food. At least, that’s how I always looked at it. Both from the perspective of the stuff I’m sampling and the way I’m interpreting it: I’m taking the music of my nerdy formative years, and combining it with the sort of hip-hop production they stopped doing right around 1997, right before sample laws got really harsh and people started making beats that sounded like they were learning on a Casio made out of Tupperware. I can see the plagiarism argument: I’m essentially taking some genius from John Williams / Jerry Goldsmith / Danny Elfman, taking a razor blade to it and then throwing a sack of breakbeats at it. It’s not entirely original. But “originality” and “pop music” don’t necessarily go hand in hand anyway. Ask Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters what they think about Led Zeppelin’s existence, you’d probably get a different answer than the one Robert Plant would give you.

Every track (from all three albums) contains a theme from a film, a TV show, or a video game. Why is popular culture more fun to sample from than the more traditional DJ resources?

I started doing it because I was a nerd, and I thought there were hidden nuggets of unrecognized funk in some of these movie scores, and especially in the TV themes, and as I was learning how to make beats in the mid-’90s, I realized that you can’t just keep going to the same James Brown/Zapp samples. (That said, I think there’s a Zapp/JB/Parliament sample on every Geek: Remixed album.) And honestly, it was fun to play back a tape for my friends, have them nod their heads, and then spring the sample on ’em like “Oh yeah, you were just dancing to the theme from Barney Miller.” “WHAAAAA?” “Yeah, and then for my next trick, you’re going to start wilding out to Unicron’s Theme from Transformers: The Movie” “SHUT UP.”

When you hear a musical score you admire, do you start remixing it in your head right away, or does it take a while before you love something enough to “monkey” with it?

It typically takes a while. I think I make note of the moments when a cue feels like it can be flipped and re-arranged to fit a more typical song structure, but they don’t really make themselves apparent to me until I sit down and start deconstructing the cues into their component parts: 4-bar string rhythm here, big orchestral hit there, melody, bass line. From there, I can start stacking parts of cues like funky Lego blocks, adding and subtracting things until I get something nice and chunky sounding to play with.

For example, the ‘Doctor Who‘ remix I did on the third album; I knew it’d been remixed before, to wide acclaim, both by the KLF and by Orbital. But I didn’t know until I sat down for a couple hours separating out the bass and the melodies that my version was gonna end up sounding like someone stuck the TARDIS on 20″ rims and gave it hydraulics. Same thing happened with the Cobra Theme from ‘GI JOE: The Movie.’ But sometimes, like with “Why So Serious” from ‘The Dark Knight‘ – I know exactly how it’s gonna work on first listen.

Music or movies: you have to choose one. What do you do?

I think I go movies. But it’s kind of a cheat, since some of the most powerful and compelling moments in film are only achieved because of the score behind them. The first 15 minutes of “Up,” for example. But I think the opportunities for storytelling are richer in film, ultimately. Especially if you throw in television — some of the finest storytelling ever captured on camera has spilled out over the course of 10 episode story arcs on shows like ‘The Wire’ and ‘Battlestar Galactica.’

What are some of your favorite film scores and/or composers?

John Williams during his golden period: ’77 – ’85. I know others will say that should probably extend out to around ’92 or ’93. Recently, Bear McCreary’s work on ‘Battlestar’ is just awe-inspiring, and Michael Giacchino is some kind of phenom. Lalo Schifrin and John Barry are two of my bigger inspirations as well. “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is probably the best piece of Bond music ever written, and even if the Propellerheads hadn’t perfectly reinterpreted that on their own, I think I’d STILL be too scared to attempt touching it. It took me three albums before I finally decided to try remixing “The Asteroid Field” from ‘The Empire Strikes Back.‘ I mean, I know that I’m not REALLY ruining these songs with these remixes. The originals are still there, and if anything, a crappy remix just makes the original look that much better by comparison. But there are some cues that I just won’t touch. There’s not gonna be some ‘Schindler’s List’ scratch tracks on any Geek: Remixed album.

The majority of your albums consists of music that belongs to other people, so (obviously) you cannot sell them. So all of this is just for the fun of it?

Yeah. I started doing them as a creative outlet for myself when my dreams of being a hip-hop producer were sputtering out and dying in my post-high school years in Salem, OR. So I’d make some beats for my aspiring rapper friends, and then they’d leave, and I’d watch ‘Aliens,’ and then I’d go back over to my set-up, and I’d go “I wonder if I can make an actual percussion section out of just the motion-tracker beep and an Alien hissing?” Just to see if I could do it. You can hear me learning how to structure and arrange on the first album, which was compiled out of about a decade’s worth of squirreling away these nerdy oddities. And it goes back to that whole “You’re never gonna believe what I just turned into a hip-hop instrumental” thing. It’s just fun to watch people reinterpreting / rediscovering the music they had relegated to the background of their memories. As in “You did NOT just make a beat out of Yub-Nub, did you?”

Who are your peers? Any other movie-score-remixers we should know about?

Peers is a strange word for me to use, because I consider what I do VERY basic in comparison to the people who’ve trod the same ground. The Eclectic Method is ridiculously good, on a much higher level than I’ll ever attain, both musically and visually: They don’t just remix songs, they remix the videos those artists produced. From what I understand, Daft Punk’s ‘TRON: Legacy’ score is essentially their film-score remix album that became a legitimate film score. Danger Mouse made The Beatles/Jay Z sound like a film soundtrack, and now he’s like, 21st Century Quincy Jones. Girl Talk doesn’t really do film scores, but it often sounds like the soundtrack to the greatest teen movie never made. DJ Shadow’s “Endtroducing,” of course. The first real “Film Score Remix” album I remember being made aware of was “Star Wars Breakbeats” by Supergenius. I heard that after I’d done “Don’t Make Me Destroy You” in 1997 and got MAD, but it’s hard to stay mad when the mixes were so good.

There’s been a lot of examples in regular hip-hop, too: I took my basic idea for “Meatlocker,” my ‘Rocky’ remix from the first album, from a horn loop Brand Nubian used in “Punks Jump Up To Get Beatdown.” I remember wanting that song to go in a completely different direction than where it went when I first heard it, which is a ballsy thing to say considering what a classic it is. Same with “Lothos’ Prom,” which uses a sample of violin as played by Rutger Hauer in the ‘Buffy’ movie. Blockhead, a NY producer, used that sample once, extraordinarily well, and I wanted to take a run at it too. And OCRemix is a site that’s been the hub for all video-game remixing for a very long time now. In fact, part of “Pickin Veggies,” from the 3rd album, is built off a re-imagining of the Mario 2 theme done by a group called Estradasphere. There are some serious minds picking through video game scores for sonic gold over there.

There are lots of others, but we all sort of run into the same “anonymous dude” on the internet. I’ve had mixes of mine assigned to other DJs out there. There’s stuff that’s been put on mix tapes with no attribution, or wrong attribution, but I can’t get mad at that. 1) I’m essentially stealing the music in the first place to remix it, so any claims of ownership I might have are pretty negligible (and arrogant, really) and 2) Half the stuff online is incorrectly named anyway. There are probably lots of people who think if it’s a soundtrack, John Williams wrote it, period. The ‘Alien’ score is John Williams, right? He’s the guy who did the theme to ‘Battlestar Galactica’ and ‘Forrest Gump’! That kinda thing.

My remix of “Made You Look” by Nas, with the music from the ‘Kill Bill’ trailer? I’ve seen that credited to at least four different DJs. Same with “The Requiem Overture,” which was my attempt at turning that ‘Two Towers’ trailer music into a coherent orchestral piece. I uploaded that thing to a couple fileshare sites in October or November of 2002, and I think currently about 2/3rds of all Anime supertrailers are using that mix. Also: I apologize to everyone who’s had that cue ruined for them due to its overuse by eager YouTube addicts (and Danny Boyle’s ‘Sunshine’). I’m really sorry about that. I didn’t know.

Can you think of any films that are virtually ruined by a bad score? (I call dibs on ‘Ladyhawke’!)

The most recent example I can think of would be Darabont’s ‘The Mist.’ I love that movie to death, but the moment where the jeep is pulling out of the parking lot, and Dead Can Dance just starts warbling up out of nowhere? I remember thinking “This is some ridiculous Zack Snyder ‘300’ shit right here.” It just did not fit the tone the movie had worked so hard to build. And then the film shrugs off that misstep with THE scene (you know the scene) and then, in the aftermath – the music comes back, and its even WORSE than before. That’s the most vivid example in my mind right now.

What’s the finest compliment you could receive from a recent fan of your albums?

That they want to keep listening to it, that it’s not a one-and-done sort of experience. Of course, the fact they even gave it a shot in the first place is really satisfying to me. I appreciate that people even want to attempt putting this music in their heads. But the best compliment I’ve gotten is from people who tell me that they hear the original versions of the songs, and get thrown off for a moment because they’re waiting for the drums and the bass to kick in.

What would movies be without music?

A hell of a lot more boring and dry. Not to say there aren’t movies out there that aren’t successful keeping the music to a minimum. It took Kurosawa like 70 years before he would let a composer really breathe on his pictures. But so much of what makes movies such a pop-culture drug comes from the music in them. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, I think we, as people, want our life to be scored. Headphones and an iPod can turn a a basic train ride — a boring citywide commute — into a pretty little montage sequence. I know some of my best memories have music attached to them, whether there was music playing at the time or not.

The cliche goes “The Art is in the Artifice.” There’s nothing more artificial than having a pop song start playing in the middle of a key moment of your life — but there’s no way the end of “The Breakfast Club” works without Simple Minds singing in the background, right?

all 3 Geek: Remixed albums available, with sample info and artwork, available at http://geekremixed.com

Published in: on 12/16/2011 at 11:45 am  Comments Off on The Fatboy Roberts Interview: Funky New Magic in Great Old Movie Scores  
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Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Originally posted at the Portland Mercury, December 16, 2015

J.J. Abrams owes his career to Steven Spielberg, with each of his films chasing that sense of awe and wonderment Spielberg consistently evoked in the ’80s. Abrams’ own films (franchise rehab attempts, mostly, like Star Trek and Mission: Impossible) have all built to this—a chance to right one of the biggest missed opportunities of that decade. Spielberg never made a Star Wars film, but with Abrams at the helm, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is as close as we’re gonna get to that Spielberg in this toy box.

 Thanks to cultural osmosis and frequent abuse of the monomyth, this toy box is a very familiar one, even if you’ve never seen a star war. And if you have, the familiarity crystallizes: The Force Awakens starts like Star Wars, has a middle like Empire Strikes Back, and ends like Return of the Jedi. It’s a best-of Star Wars mixtape mashed up with Spielberg’s greatest hits album.

But one doesn’t go to the seventh chapter in the most-watched series of all time seeking originality. It’s not a question of whether there’s a lot of new here (although this is easily the prettiest, most kinetic film in the series), it’s a question of whether Abrams can do justice to one of cinema’s best-loved pop songs.

 Thanks to stars Daisy Ridley (who plays reluctant hero Rey) and John Boyega (who, as former stormtrooper Finn, is the thumping, anxious heart of this film), and the best work from Harrison Ford in decades, Abrams hits the notes he needs to, clearly and strongly. While The Force Awakens doesn’t pack the emotional punch of 2009’s Star Trek (that movie is slightly better, both as a film and a series jumpstart), Abrams knocks the dust out of Star Wars’ engines. By breathing life into the best of the series’ past, he points it toward a hopeful future.
Published in: on 12/30/2010 at 1:05 am  Comments Off on Review – Star Wars: The Force Awakens  
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Review – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Originally posted at the Portland Mercury, December 14, 2016

Rogue One is a Star Wars story born of the present, but it ends in May of 1977. It’s a direct prequel to a movie made in response to Nixon’s reign, and it resonates all the more strongly for opening at the dawn of the Trump era. It’s Star Wars in A-flat minor, using most of the same notes from 40 years ago, pounded out on the black keys.

 That’s not to say that Rogue One is “edgy,” meaningless as that phrase has become. But it is on edge: Its heroes are nervous and squirrelly, angry and tired, and frequently scared shitless—of the fascist nightmare of the Empire, of the defeatist infighting of the Rebellion, and of the possibility that the pain of fighting for a better tomorrow will all be for nothing.

But this is still a Star Wars movie, and that means it’s a hopeful one. The kind of hope at Rogue One’s center isn’t triumphant and rewarding like the original. Instead of using its prequel status to scatter winking references like buckshot (although it does indulge a few times too many) it leans on the inevitability of its premise—these are the doomed spies who stole the Death Star plans—to give the characters a more muted victory, the kind that sets up a better future for their loved ones, whether or not they see it themselves. Those characters are sketched in very quickly, and if this had been anything like the prior efforts of director Gareth Edwards, that would have been a problem—he wasted his casts in Monsters and Godzilla, sticking them to the surface of his frame like emotionless Colorforms. (Of Edwards’ multiple stylistic similarities to George Lucas, this is the most troublesome.) But much as the cast of Star Wars saved Lucas’ ass in ’77, the rogues assembled for its prequel bring an abundance of heart and personality.

 Felicity Jones bears most of the film’s weight as Jyn, the abandoned daughter of Imperial scientist Galen Erso (a briefly present but effective Mads Mikkelsen), the man who perfected the Death Star. She’s forced into the Rebel Alliance and paired with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a James Bond type, but not the swaggering kind (it’s Darth Vader who gets the Connery-style one-liner). Cassian is more of a haunted, conflicted Bond, exhausted by his constant dealing in betrayal and death. The emotion the pair generates is often powerful, and fuels Rogue One’s hope. The most notable of the film’s numerous surprises is that its best scene doesn’t feature cartwheeling X-wings or lumbering, leviathan AT-ATs, but two wounded people trying to make sense of themselves, yelling at each other in the hold of a cargo ship.

It’s not all drama and tears. The film has a dry sense of humor, thanks to Alan Tudyk’s reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO, and Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen as essentially ronin of the Force, guardians of a holy temple that no longer exists. The film’s squirrelly nature is embodied by Riz Ahmed’s Imperial defector, and while Ben Mendelsohn’s Imperial Director Krennic gets lost in the sauce as the movie barrels to its packed climax, his oily initial impression stays good to the last sneer.

Star Wars is often championed as timeless, but Rogue One is immediate. Where the saga often treats the galaxy like a playground, Edwards’ environments constantly threaten to fall upon you and swallow you whole. It is gigantic, earnest, and ambitious. It doesn’t always pay off (and there’s a fairly big misfire concerning one supporting character), and you may not leave feeling all that happy. But you will feel hope.

Published in: on 12/30/2010 at 1:04 am  Comments Off on Review – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story  
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