Quick Thoughts about Star Wars: The Force Awakens

starwarshorizontal

Yesterday, Christmas Eve, I saw Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens for the second time, and it has really reignited my love for Star Wars. Don’t worry, there are no spoilers here. This is not a review of the film, but a very quick note to say how it brought me back into Star Wars fandom.

ba27a391c84c421f5930995c0c5c9cc5I used to be a massive Star Wars fan, with the original trilogy, when I was younger. I lost interest during the second trilogy. I just watched Episode III for the first time. That’s correct, I’ve never seen it before today. I watched it partly because I wanted to fill in the story gaps that I’d missed. But I also wanted to revisit those middle films and give them a fair shot, watch them with new eyes, so to speak. I don’t want to dog on Eps I – III, but what I learned today is that my initial reaction and a lot of the criticism of them is accurate. There are a lot of reasons why I never connected with those films, but I think the biggest one is character. I never cared at all about the characters in those films. Anakin, Amadala, Obi-Wan, etc., none of them seemed to matter. None seemed real or identifiable. Not even Yoda. The story is engaging, the political drama really interesting, but the characters are flat, wooden, emotionless archetypes that have no substance. I know that people always blame the writing and/or the directing and/or the acting, with a lot of validity. The characters are awful. The whole thing lacks HEART. It’s like Lucas assumed we were all invested in the world he built, not the characters he created, so any ol’ characters would suffice to say the necessary dialogue and sell the storyline.

star_wars_1977_poster_001With the very first movie, Episode IV, you immediately clicked with the characters – you cared about what happened to Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, etc. And those characters carried you through the following films because you cared about them and you wanted to know what happens to them, and secondarily because of the amazingly detailed world that was built around them. And that’s what’s so brilliant about The Force Awakens: you not only have all the original characters that you already love and care about, so in a way it’s like a homecoming or a family reunion, but you immediately love the new characters too and connect with them. I left the first screening wanting to not leave at all, wanting to know more about Rey, Poe and Finn, wanting to stay in their world. Caring about what happens to them. Wanting to know what happens next in the saga.

star_wars_trailer3-620x412Seeing Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie again reminded me how much I used to love Star Wars. Meeting Finn, Rey, Poe and BB-8 – and even Kylo, Hux, Maz and the others – made me love it again in a completely new way. And because of that, “The Force Awakens” is easily my (close) second favorite movie behind “A New Hope”. And I absolutely cannot wait for the next one!

History of Sci-Fi Cinema 14: “It Came From Outer Space”

itcame1It Came From Outer Space (1953)
Written by Harry Essex, from a story by Ray Bradbury
Directed by Jack Arnold
Produced by William Alland
Universal
Starring Richard Carlson, Barbara Rush, Russell Johnson

An amateur astronomer and his dishy girlfriend are stargazing one night when what appears to be a meteor lands in the desert. But of course, that’s no meteor! It’s actually an alien spacecraft. But the only person to see it up close is the amateur astronomer and he has no proof to back up his claim. Not until townspeople start going missing, that is. It’s your typical 1950s Commie Scare paranoia piece . . . except that it actually isn’t. It’s a straightforward bodysnatcher yarn . . . except, no it’s really not. What it is is a thoroughly entertaining story with solid acting (Barbara Rush won a Golden Globe for her work in this film), good characterization, and a pretty spiffy alien that you never see too clearly on screen.

Continue reading

ST50 #48: “The Slaver Weapon” (TAS)

Captain, he is too alien! He makes me taste yellow root munched between flat teeth!

LCARS-48

Logo-TAS“THE SLAVER WEAPON”
Star Trek: The Animated Series
Written by Larry Niven
Directed by Hal Sutherland
Original Air Date December 15, 1973

Spock, Uhura and Sulu are traveling by shuttlecraft to deliver an ancient artifact, a Slaver stasis box, to Starbase 25. Along the way, they discover a second box (an incredibly rare find) in the Beta Lyrae system and set down on an ice planet to investigate. They are captured by the Kzinti, who hold the other stasis box and used it as a lure. Confiscating the Federation crew’s box, they open it to discover what appears to be a Slaver weapon. The crew must escape their captivity and prevent the Kzinti from retaining the potentially devastating weapon. In the end, it is the weapon itself which deals with the Kzinti, eliminating them.

Continue reading

Doctor Who: Reflections on Season 9: What Made it Great

On December 5th the Ninth Series of Doctor Who (or as we old-timers call it, “Season 35”) came to a close, giving us Peter Capaldi‘s second outing as the Doctor and bringing to a close the Doctor’s friendship with Clara Oswald. It was a season that gave us Daleks (no big surprise there), a return of Davros, a major reappearance of the Zygons, and a brilliant new encounter with The Mistress, as well as some new monsters and one particularly important new recurring character. I found myself enjoying the show in ways that I hadn’t in previous seasons, my excitement growing each week. As I wrote reviews of each episode I found myself, more than halfway through the season, still referring to it as “the best season of the Modern Series.” But now that the whole season is complete, including the big trilogy of episodes that loosely make up the finale, do I still feel that way? Is it still the best season of New Who?

Continue reading

Doctor Who: Reflections on Season 9: “Hell Bent”

DWHB1

Doctor Who has always been about rebellion. It has been about the Doctor rebelling against the society in which he was born. It was always said that the Doctor stole a TARDIS and left Gallifrey because he was bored, because he staunchly disagreed with his people, the Time Lords, who held immense powers but refused to use those powers to aid others. He has repeatedly come into conflict with the Time Lords because of his chosen lifestyle; at times they’ve opposed him and actively sought to end his adventuring, and at other times they’ve taken advantage of it and used him to accomplish something that they couldn’t be seen to be involved in. In “Hell Bent”, the Doctor, after billions of years, steps out onto the surface of Gallifrey to commit his boldest act of rebellion yet. Because, you see, while this episode looks like it’s about Time Lords, and about Gallifrey coming back into the universe, and about the political fallout of the Time War, and about the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Hybrid, it really isn’t. It’s really only about one thing: a man who is losing his best friend and will take any action necessary to rescue her and keep her safe. Even if that means defying his own people. Even if that means threatening all of time and space.

Continue reading

ST50 #49: “Bride of Chaotica!” (VOY)

The Destructo beam on my rocket ship can disable the death ray, but only if someone gets inside the Fortress of Doom and can shut down the lightning shield.”

LCARS-49


Logo-VOY“BRIDE OF CHAOTICA”
Star Trek: Voyager
Story by Bryan Fuller; Script by Bryan Fuller, Michael Taylor
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Original Air Date January 27, 1999
Guest Stars: Martin Rayner (Chaotica), Nicholas Worth (Lonzak), Tarik Ergin (Satan’s Robot)

Voyager becomes “grounded” on a subspace phenomenon and is unable to get itself unstuck. While there, aliens that are native to the subspace region, beings from a photonic reality, detect a world that they intend to explore and make first contact. Unfortunately, the world that they detect is the photonic world of Captain Proton, Tom Paris’ holodeck program. What ensues is a 1930s style monochromatic high camp romp, with dialog, acting, and music to match.

Continue reading

Doctor Who: Reflections on Season 9: “Heaven Sent”

92210

With “Heaven Sent” we have a unique occurrence in the history of Doctor Who — an episode featuring the Doctor and no other character. We’ve had other similarly unusual situations in the past: “Ark in Space” part 1 includes only the Doctor, Sarah Jane and Harry, with no guest characters. Same with “The Mind Robber” part 1 with the Doctor, Jamie and Zoe. The Season One 2-parter “The Edge of Destruction” features only the main cast for the entire story. The one-episode adventure “Mission to the Unknown” does the opposite trick, featuring only supporting characters with no involvement by the Doctor or his companions. But we’ve never had a story to feature the Doctor — or any single character — exclusively. That premise alone is an enticing one that immediately brings a million exciting possibilities to mind. But what we’re given here is a mostly quiet narrative on loss mixed with some new revelations about the Doctor, the reintroduction of some of the threads from earlier in the season, and a set up for the season finale. That’s quite a lot of material to deliver with only one actor on hand (that must have made for quite an interesting table read!)

Continue reading