Sunday, December 20, 2015

A visit to good old Aunt "Star Wars"

    I'm a fairly cheap date when it comes to movies. I expect there to be a film of some sort, with a plot and dialogue and actors. It helps if it isn't entirely stupid. I like previews, and popcorn, and the chance to sit in the dark for two hours and watch something and not think about my leaky vessel of a life, riding low in the water but otherwise resolutely plowing the turbulent waves of the world. 
     The family headed over to the Highland Park Renaissance theater Sunday afternoon, to see the latest "Star Wars." The theater was mostly empty for the 1 p.m. show—that was fast, the thing just opened Thursday. I expected a line. I'd have waited a few weeks, but the boys were keen to see it; Kent had already seen it Thursday night, but readily saw it again.  
    "The Times said it's like a pre-fab house," Ross opined as we settled into our seats, and I almost covered my ears: I didn't want the delicious surprises to be given away. Nor did I want my enthusiasm dampened. Rich Roeper gave it four stars. I wanted to love it.
    "How so?" my wife asked. "Because it's exactly what you expect it to be?"
     "It doesn't have whimsy," Ross answered.
    "Maybe we add our own whimsy," my wife said, trying to put a bright spin on things.
    "Of course it has whimsy," I said. "It has that little rolling ball robot in it. That's whimsical."
    "I wonder if it has R2D2," my wife wondered, referring to the rolling garbage can robot of the previous films.
    "I think so," I said. 
    "Only it's 'R2D2 as Powered by Pepsi' in this one," Ross deadpanned. "And Hans Solo Cup."
     I admired "Hans Solo Cup" and wondered if he had just coined it; he claimed he had.  While other branding opportunities were mentioned: "Joy Yee Boba Fet" (Joy Yee is a restaurant in Evanston that sells drinks with boba, a kind of tapioca bead)  and "Sony Luke Skywalkman," they didn't reach the level of "Hans Solo Cup." Clever lad.
    And the movie? Eh. Not as bad as some of the franchise—no Jar Jar Binks, no Anakin Skywalker played by an excruciatingly bad kid actor. In fact, I liked the radiant babe newcomer, Daisy Ridley, as Rey, the female version of Luke Skywalker, the young person from nowhere drawn into the rebellion. The whole thing was wildly derivative, of course, and lacked any creativity regarding new creatures or locals, except the aforementioned rolling sphere and Ms. Ridley.  
    But the time passed, and I never looked at my watch, and it was sentimental to see the old favorites, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, reminding me somehow of Hillary Clinton. Having expected nothing, I was not disappointed, except when the film ended and I realized that was it. Though  I took a sort of perverse comfort in its mediocrity, its lack of originality or spark. With all the billions resting on the franchise, you'd think they'd have come up with something better than this. Another race to destroy the a bigger Death Star. A reminder of just how rare a good story can be. Still, one shouldn't complain. Going to see a new installment of "Star Wars" is like visiting an aged relative. There's no choice, you have to do it, and whether the conversation is interesting or not, whether a good time was had, or not, isn't really the point. It's just nice that the old girl is still around, and you have no choice in the matter but pay homage. It's an obligation.  


  1. As a teen when the first one came around, I actually fell asleep in the theater- during the film-even with all the noise. Haven't seen any of the sequels since and never cared for science fiction. Same with the Star Trek hoopla with the exception of the TV's Next Generation series. The fanatics are spending all sorts of $ on the assorted items that go with it and it's not $ well spent. Wouldn't see this for free.

    1. Some of them were pretty good: 2, or whatever number they've given it now, with the ice planet, Hoth, was exciting. And the one with Natalie Portman was a carnival. But in general, you're not missing much.

  2. Nick Digilio who reviews movies on his shows has not been a big fan of the franchise, at least not the last 3 that came out. He did like the first star wars and the empire strikes back. He was not expecting much from this film.

    Here is what he had to say.

    Ok, lots of people were shocked by my post yesterday exclaiming that The Force Awakens was phenomenal. So, let me explain.
    As many of you know, I have never been a huge fan of Star Wars (and, as many of you know, I can also be a loud mouth cynical asshole). When the first movie was released in 1977, I was 12 and I liked it very much, not nearly as much as my friends did, but I still liked just wasn't the life changing/defining movie of my youth (that would happen a year and a half later with John Carpenter's Halloween). I liked Empire a lot more, and by the time I was an almost 18 year smart-ass at the release of Jedi (which I still think pretty much sucks), I was done with Star Wars, the movies, the commercialization of it....everything. I never had any toys or other ridiculous products (that stuff actually fueled my dislike of that whole universe).
    I won't mention the unspeakable prequels.
    I still remember how much fun I had watching those first two movies (like it or not, the movies are loaded with iconic characters and timeless moments of cinema that even the biggest cynic can't deny), but, more importantly, I remember the complete joy my friends felt and how much it meant to them. It was a big deal to them... a really big deal.
    Yesterday, I sat in a movie theater packed with an incredibly excited, palpably joyful group of people, and watched a terrific movie that made everyone very, very happy. For 2 hours and 15 minutes, people forgot about all the horrible shit in the world today, and basked in youthful joy, happy memories and characters that they truly love....and I felt it too, and for those 2 hours and 15 minutes, I was not a cynical asshole.
    The movie brought back great memories, and made me think about how much my friends loved these movies. Now, is it a great film? Not really, it's very, very good and a lot of fun, and well crafted, and I loved every minute of the experience. Did I like it as much as, say, Mad Max? Not even close....but that's not the point. The point is that this movie is a cultural experience, and a great one at that. JJ Abrams has given a wonderful Christmas gift to the fans of this series, and they deserve it for having their memories stepped on between 1999 and 2005 by greed, creative bankruptcy and rampant commercialism. This movie will bring a lot of happiness to people, and only a true cynical asshole (of which I am one most of the time) would dislike that. It's great, I plan on seeing it again... but, I still refuse to buy a Goddamn bag of Star Wars oranges.
    Merry Christmas Star Wars fan....enjoy the hell out of your wonderful gift.

    1. He said, basically, a lot of people were excited to see the movie and it made them happy. Without doubt. I was glad to see it too. I'm not sure it made me happy, but I did like when Harrison Ford showed up. That said, we get to point out that it's mediocre, and everybody would have enjoyed a better movie even more.

  3. I was disappointed in the last trilogy. All special effects, all the time is boring. My favorite is still "The Empire Strikes Back" #2. I'll wait for the DVD or streaming video on this latest release. I hear it's better than the last three, but can't help thinking it's just a very long commercial for the latest batch of X-mas toys.

  4. "leaky vessel of a life, riding low in the water but otherwise resolutely plowing the turbulent waters of the world".

    I might need to borrow that line.

    1. It's a vague Dante reference. In the opening of "Purgatorio" he refers to "la navicella del mio ingegno," "the little bark of my native talent" on a "cruel sea." A bark is a boat, but I figured readers wouldn't know that.

  5. Star Wars was the first movie I saw in theaters, and I've loved that universe ever since. The original, not tweaked(Han shot first!) trilogy is far better than the next three, Jar Jar ugh, and they killed off Darth Maul way too soon. That guy had some excellent skills. We're going next week to see the new one, and I'm pretty excited.

  6. I never got too excited about Star Wars. As a matter of fact, I haven't even seen all of the second three that came out. I won't be seeing any current or future Star Wars movies mainly because of the bad taste left by Lucas' attempt to park his ridiculous salt-pile/spaceship on our beautiful lakefront. Such a sense of entitlement the wealthy have. He's got all the money he'll ever get from me.


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