THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (1980)

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Obi-Wan: “That boy is our last hope.”

Yoda: “No. There is another.”

1980 couldn’t come quick enough after 1977 gave us Star Wars leaving us wanting more.

The Empire Strikes Back. Sounded ominous but boy did it sound like a lot of fun. As a 9 year old boy going to the Odeon Cinema in Chesterfield with my 6 year old brother this was so exciting. As with Star Wars we had to line up to get our tickets and boy was it worth it. I’m not going to spoil it for the 4 people who haven’t seen it but the reveal was like no other we had experienced. Noooooooooooooo.

This being the middle part of the trilogy it was purposefully darker (well, look at the title), yeah there would be adventure and fun but we were not to be molly-coddled as an audience. This was our generations ‘head in a box Seven’ moment and no-one could have seen it coming.

We were reintroduced to our heroes, Luke, Leia , Han, Chewie, 3P0 and R2 and the evil Darth Vader. We are introduced to new characters; the smooth as silk-Lando Calrissian and the Emperor but no-one expected the world, nay universe, to fall in love with a muppet. Enter Yoda, an 800 year old shaman, mystic Jedi who would teach young Luke the ways of the Force.

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter”

And so, many more quotes were released into the world that are as popular now as they were back then.

Just magical.

Here the director was Irvin Kirshner, with George Lucas taking an ever so-slightly back-footed Executive Producer role here, but make no mistake he was heavily involved in all aspects of this film. Written by Lawrence Kasdan (who also wrote the screenplay for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens (along with JJ Abrams) and Leigh Brackett, here we get much more depth and layers in the characters. A New Hope set up the world and Empire took us deep within the heart of it.

This is the dark middle of the trilogy, limbs are lost and a massive reveal that made its way into the cultural pantheon regarding family was birthed.

The Empire Strikes Back immersed us firmly into the Star Wars universe and allowed us to get lost (and found) in the drama onscreen.

Another absolute classic.

5/5

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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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BUY THE DELUXE CD EDITION HERE

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