STAR WARS-THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

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This is NOT a film review.

“Nothing will stand in our way. I will finish……..what you started.”

To begin, there will be NO mention of plot points or scenes, if you want spoilers, jog on. Remember, this is not a film review.

Wow. What an emotional experience.
As the deadline approached, I found myself getting more and more excited, the force was truly awakening and JJ had seemingly, possibly, maybe, hopefully pulled off a coup; to make a sequel that honoured the originals yet managed to remain in the present (as far as film-making goes). Could this be true?

Everybody is feeling The Force at the moment.

Sat in the foyer on Thursday 17th December, 2015 in Sydney, Australia, the tension was palpable. We took our seats and waited, sat through some god-awful adverts and trailers and then It began (yes, I capitalized the I in it). No Fox fanfare as Lucasfilm is now owned by Disney, simply the Lucasfilm logo and then the opening crawl accompanied by THE music. Shit, it’s been a long time since I felt this. As excited as I may have been in 1999 when The Phantom Menace came out, this far superseded that feeling. I remember leaving the cinema back then sort of making excuses for it in my mind but a second viewing cemented my feelings about it, it was shit. Not so, here.

Could JJ Abrams really pull it off, after the travesty that was Eps 1,2 and 3, they shall, for me, remain in the depths of unneccessary along with the tv movies: Caravan of Courage-The Ewok adventure (which I never saw) and The Star Wars Holiday Special (2.5 on IMDB), mere distractions that came nowhere near close to the greatness of Star Wars, Empire and Jedi.
In my mind, I have erased the inclusion of 1,2 and 3. They are appendices, written badly, at best.

I can say, with confidence that JJ with The Force Awakens has done what Lucas (maybe/hopefully) wishes he could have achieved with 1,2 and 3.

And then some.

By selling the company and passing it along George Lucas has allowed the Star Wars universe to grow and become more relevant to today’s audiences as opposed to some outdated idea of what passes for entertainment these days.

That’s what it needed, a fresh approach from a skilled director who loved the originals as much as we did.

I never expected to have tears in my eyes at various moments during the watching of TFA, but they happened, I’m not ashamed to say it. I’m proud to say it. JJ hooks the audience emotionally by playing on the narrative themes of A New Hope and twisting them in a way that doesn’t seem plagiaristic (is that a word? Just looked it up, it is…..yes). The simpler, the better; gone are the overblown CGI that manages, like most 3d films, to distance you from the film and back are the creatures built by hand, the human touch. There are CGI characters in the film but never do you feel they are not real and a grounded part of this world (stand up and bow-the creators of Maz Kanata, brilliantly played by Lupita Nyong’o). Gone are the overblown, confusing messy politics and gone is Jar Jar Binks (mesa says thank goodness). What is left is the real essential elements of the originals, mythology, a bad-ass bad guy, an Empire that is stronger than it ever was, new characters that belong in the universe and a narrative that follows the rules add a pinch of seasoning and we may have an award winner, ladies and gentlemen.

Pause.

I’m currently listening to John Williams’ incredible score and still reeling from the experience of what I have just seen, it hit me emotionally. It is brilliant.

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JJ has done the seemingly impossible and made a film that is both current and manages to directly link to the originals. All I know is I’m looking to see it again and soon, like in the next day or so. I never thought after all these years that the magic could be revived, let me tell you, it can.

I could just go on and on and on (I KNOW I already have), I just can’t help it. I’ve written a lot and said little but my enjoyment of the film is like MANY others’; an emotional one. Mark Kermode said recently how easy and how much of a joy it is to write about great films. He’s not wrong at least on an emotional level.

Shit, what can I say without spoiling anything?

The cast are all great, the set pieces are tight, exciting and tense, there are quotes, the appearances of old characters get the tingles going, new characters surprise and entertain, there are laughs, tears, heart in mouth moments and more than a touch of humanity.
Excitement, adventure, drama, emotion; this has it all.

Hats off Mr Abrams, you rock.

For me, the film of the year.

Go see it.

5/5

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DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2014)

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The law of diminishing artistic returns.

A sequel to a reboot of a very successful franchise from the 60’s/70’s was always going to be an uphill struggle.

When Rupert Wyatt had finished Rise of the Planet of the Apes he began work on the sequel but, when the May 2014 release date had been announced by the studio, he felt there wasn’t enough time to make the sequel properly so was quickly replaced by Cloverfield director, Matt Reeves.

Here, Reeves does a decent enough job building on the story and, as it’s set 10 years after the end of Rise, there is a whole new generation of apes to contend with.
The Simian flu virus has all but destroyed humanity and with the apes and a handful of humans immune to the virus we are thrust into a dystopic world which makes for a great visual backdrop.

Caesar (the brilliant Andy Serkis) is still in charge of the ape colony and now has a son, Alexander (Kodi Smit-McPhee). When a group of humans enters their domain seeking access to the dam in order to generate power for the humans still living in San Francisco, order is upset. Koba, now played by, the always interesting English actor, Toby Kebbell, has his mind set on destroying the humans, having been tortured and experimented on by them in the first film. Here lies the drama, the liberal understanding of the goodness that exists in humans from Caesar and the relentless hate that Koba has for them.

Can ape and human live together in harmony? Not if Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) has anything to do with it. He brings gravitas to a poorly written stereotypical role. Jason Clarke plays our main human protagonist, Malcolm, who sympathises and has empathy for the apes. Kirk Acevedo (Oz) plays Carver, the human trouble-maker.

It’s an age old story of fear and the difference that lives within us that many times creates wars and dis-harmony.

Dawn is a good effort, falling short of being brilliant by some muddy composition.

3/5

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