40 years ago Stars Wars opened in the UK

On the 27th December 1977 Star Wars opened to a British audience who had spent months waiting for the film to hit British cinemas, but in those long months from the film opening in the USA in May of that year to the UK opening, fans had plenty to keep them going.

Today a big blockbuster opens wordwide generally at the same time, or even places like the UK get say, a Marvel film, a week or two before our American cousins. In the 70’s a film would take on average six months between American and British openings, and even then it’d likely be a limited release so London, Glasgow, Birmingham, and the larger cities before it opened in the smaller cities and towns.

For those of us who managed to get hold of American magazines like Famous Monsters, we were teased something we’d not see for months, but for many British SF fans the one thing we had was the novelisation by George Lucas.

Also one of the biggest effects the original Star Wars had on the UK was the launch of 2000AD in the February of 1977 so by the time of the film’s release that December, 2000AD was firmly established and its readership lapped up the comic’s publicity for the new film.

We also had the Marvel Comics adaptation. Not the black and white weekly which didn’t launch in the UK til February 1978, but the American issues, well, some of them at least as we never had the first issue distributed in the UK but we did have the second to the sixth issue distributed. The reason for this was that Marvel’s US style comics were restricted in distribution with only 15-20 titles per month deemed fit for UK distribution as Marvel UK’s reprints would be printing Spider-Man, Hulk, Avengers and other titles which mean large runs of US Marvel Comics in the 70’s and 80’s are ‘non-distributed’ so are scarcer in the UK than they may be in the US. We did however get the treasury editions (large over-sized comics) of the film adaptation.

Eventually though December rolled round and the film finally opened, well, for those of us living in cities like Glasgow or London , and we finally saw what the fuss was all about. Of course the film was a huge success as it had been in the US, but it took time to spread across the UK which is why Star Wars (later Episode IV: A New Hope) had incredibly long runs at cinemas in most of the UK’s big cities.

Upon the film’s release the floodgates opened as magazines like Dez Skinn’s Starburst tried to cash in on the film…

While Marvel UK finally released their black and white reprints of the comic adaptation…

I loved my little paper X-Wing Fighter!

Even the late Barry Norman liked it.

The rest is of course history. The film seeped its way across the UK and wherever it went it brought the huge queues that’d been part of the film’s history since it’d opened just after Christmas 1977. See this was the thing; you had to work to get most things Star Wars related. You had to search out the comics before Marvel UK released their version. You had to hunt out the few toys that sneaked over the Atlantic that Christmas. As for the film, in the few cinemas it was opening in they’d sold out tickets months prior, so like me you waited in the cold as wee child to see a film you’d waited to see for nearly a year, then you felt you’d earned it. Though to be honest I prefer popping online and booking tickets. Far easier…

So remember when you’re moaning that you have to wait a week for a Big American Blockbuster opening what it was like in the analogue days when seeing these films involved a lot of patience because if you didn’t have that then you’d go insane with the wait.

Ah, simpler times…

Censoring Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is the bastard child of the Indiana Jones series of films as it’s the film where creators George Lucas and Steven Spielberg were in exceptionally dark places personally which poured over into their work. In the case of Temple of Doom, it resulted in a film more influenced by the films of Lucio Fulci and Cannibal Holocaust ( tell me there isn’t some influence on Temple of Doom) than the bright adventure serials of their youth.

As you’d imagine Temple of Doom suffered heavy censorship on both sides of the Atlantic, and the film (as far as I know) has never been shown uncut on British television. Cutting Edge is a series of splendid YouTube documentaries outlining censorship in a number of films and it really deserves more views than it currently gets. Their episode on Temple of Doom is one of the most exhaustive, and best, examples of what they do. Their work really is wonderful and I recommend once you’ve watched this to go through their channel and see their other films as this sort of archive is essential for film fans interested in censorship.

The strange case of George Lucas

George Lucas is the creator of Star Wars, and is a very,very, very,very, very wealthy man even before he sold the rights to Star Wars to Disney for billions of dollars so he could sit around spending the rest of his life counting his money. Sadly, Lucas decided to become a grumpy old man upon seeing The Force Awakens and decided that Disney and J.J Abrams had pissed all over his children.

This is a case of seller’s remorse. He’s seen something that he didn’t think of  be more popular than his own work and he’s thrown a strop, but here’s the thing about selling something: once it’s gone it’s not yours. Sure, you can comment upon it, but don’t act like a dick when people call you out and ask you if why you sold it for billions of dollars if you think you can do better?

But this is because for a long, long time nobody has ever called Lucas out or challenged him. He’s been surrounded by Yes Men/Women for far too long and when realising that he’s no longer at the centre of his own creation has kicked back in the media to try to make a case that he’s somehow been wronged, yet, unlike say, the case of Jack Kirby, or Alan Moore, or endless Disney cartoonists over the decades this isn’t a case of a Massive Corporation shafting a lowly creator. This is the case of a very powerful creator making a boat full of cash and getting pissy.

It’s bullshit basically, as are those people crying out for Lucas to be reinstated back at the head of the Star Wars sage. Tough, he sold out. Disney went off to do their own thing and that really is the end of it.

However this is an excuse to post the documentary of the making of The Phantom Menace. Apart from showing the fact that Lucas had turned into a terrible director by this point, it also shows the entire forelock tugging that went on around him in scenes that play like something written by Ricky Gervais in The Office. My favourite scenes are the one where Lucas tries to explain to his mate Steven Spielberg that the droid army is going to look cool with Spielberg doing that thing mates do of being nice, but at the same time thinking ‘fucking hell, really??’.

The second is after the first viewing of the film where everyone realises they’ve got a stinker on their hands. People’s faces are pale as they try to sort out a mess that never got sorted out because nobody had the bollocks to say, ‘actually George, that’s shite, let’s try something else”.

Anyhow, here’s the film, get ready to cringe….

What I thought of Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens

Spoilers ahead.

Don’t read on if you’ve not seen the film!

Ten years ago the last Star Wars prequel, Revenge of the Sith was released and everyone had the same feeling of relief one has when a loved one finally dies after a long and painful illness. The prequels were finally over and we could all go back to remembering the Star Wars films when they were fit and healthy rather than dying on their feet. Few people thought a decade on we’d have a new Star Wars film, let alone one without the involvement of creator George Lucas, but in Christmas 2015 we’ve got The Force Awakens from director/writer J.J Abrams which is the fist of a series of new films under the new Disney ownership.

As a film it’s fantastic. As a Star Wars film it’s spectacular. This isn’t a dying relative, but some spritely young thing kicking your back doors in. It’s not perfect, not film is, but the gaping plot holes (and there’s two big holes in the film) are easy to ignore. The plot follows some of the same beats at the first Star Wars film, A New Hope, but it’s remixed not to mention this new trilogy seems to have been planned out in advance so there’s dangling threads in terms of plot and characterisation so I don’t mind that.

The plot starts with an opening scene where Poe Dameron (Oscar Issac), a resistance pilot trying to find a map with the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker (who’s went into hiding) is meeting on Jakku with Max von Sydow’s character and instantly the fact Sydow is speaking the first lines in the new film adds it a gravitas from the off that the opening drivel about trade and taxes in Phantom Menace doesn’t have. From there on in for the next 40 minutes or so the film doesn’t let up. We see the First Order massacre a village of innocents, Poe’s droid BB8 escapes into the desert with the MacGuffin (the map) then a Stormtrooper in the name of Finn (John Boyega) rebel against their brutality, and then escape with Poe in a TIE Fighter from the cruiser they’re on which is shot down and crash lands on Jakku.

The first act of the film takes place almost exclusively on Jakku, a desert planet designed to invoke the original but one that had one of the final battles between the Empire and the Rebellion. It’s here that Abrams has some frankly astonishingly framed shots that blow the closed, tedious shots of the prequels. It’s also on Jakku we meet Rey (Daisy Ridley) who is this generations Luke Skywalker, and that comparison becomes clearer in the third act, but the rest of the first act involves Rey and Finn meeting, being found by the First Order, fighting and then escaping Jakku in the Millennium Falcon (which just happens to be on Jakku) before being captured in space by a freighter piloted by Han Solo and Chewbacca.

Harrison Ford is clearly having some fun playing Solo as a grumpy old man, but it’s really the new characters that sell the film as Ridley, Boyega and Adam Driver’s gloriously pissy Kylo Ren (a Darth Vader cosplaying fanboy acting as the First Order’s muscle) that steal the film from the established cast, though Ford has a lot of screentime with all three with some scenes being charming, and one in particular being shocking if you’re not expecting it.

Act two is about filling in the plot which involves a mega Death Star called Starkiller Base that threatens the new republic, but baddies being baddies the First Order use it to destroy the heart of the republic. What I do like here is that the First Order aren’t as organised as the Empire was, plus they’re more bloodthirsty, so they’re the ISIS to the Empire’s Al Queda.

In a very Cantina type bar (and another nod to the original films) on another alien planet that Han takes them to, Finn and Rey find Luke’s old lightsabre thought lost in Empire Strikes Back,but Rey rejects it after experiencing a vision. As the First Order catch up with them (as they too want the MacGuffin so Kylo Ren can find and kill Luke therefore completing the task Darth Vader couldn’t) a battle breaks out, Rey is captured by Kylo Ren, and Finn takes up the lightsabre in battle against his former comrades. After a bit of some frankly dodgy exposition, we’re taken to the home of the resistance after being reintroduced to Leia (Carrie Fisher’s Stallone level botox will make you gasp) there’s a desperate final attempt to blow up Starkiller Base, and to rescue Rey. Also around now it’s revealed Kylo Ren is Han and Leia’s son who was being trained as a Jedi by Luke, but he went to the dark side, hence why Luke fled into hiding.

Rey however proves to be more than capable as she’s not only able to resist Kylo Ren’s force assisted torture, but she’s able to throw it back at him. Indeed, I read this scene as Kylo Ren fiddling around with someone he’s underestimated and misunderstood, not to mention that he triggers something in Rey who manages to use the force to escape, join up with Finn, Han and Chewie on Starkiller Base, However as they sabotage the thingy they need to so the resistance fighters can blow everything up at the end of the film, Han confronts Kylo Ren who has been struggling with being pulled to the light side of the Force. Han and Ben (Kylo Ren’s real name) have a moment where we think perhaps his father has pulled him from the edge, but no, as the sun blinks out and everything turns dark, Kylo kills his father.

At this point Chewbacca goes mental against First Order stormtroopers, as Finn and Rey chase down Kylo. The three face off in a nearby forest to the thingy that needs to get blown up to help end the film is, and just as we think we’re in for a big fight with all three Kylo knocks out Rey, so Finn takes up the lightsabre against the better trained Kylo. He manages to hold his own for a bit but Kylo starts battering him, before nearly killing him and knocking Luke’s old lightsabre into the snow. Kylo reaches out for it using the Force (he is after all, a Jedi fanboy and this is the ultimate bit of memorabilia)  but as the lightsabre flies out of the snow it passes Kylo’s hand and smacks into a surprised looking Rey. The pair have a fight that’s infinitely better than all the fights in the prequels combined.

Rey gets the upper hand on Kylo, gives him a scar to remember her by but before the battle can end, they’re separated by an earthquake as the planet falls apart as the resistance have blown the thingy up. Fortunately Chewie turns up in the Falcon saving Rey and the comatose Finn. Everyone escapes. Plot threads are left dangling for the next two films, and the film ends with Rey, Chewie and R2D2 finding Luke on a remote planet that looks like Ireland. We has a final shot of Luke and Rey meeting. The End.

Plot wise The Force Awakens borrows a lot of beats from the original films so you could say it’s ‘fan service’ but Abrams would have been damned had he done nothing, so he couldn’t win. For me, he gets it right and yes, I think you could go into this film and not needing to have seen the original films because what’s being done is that Abrams is playing with the culture of Star Wars. In fact, Kylo Ren is a meta-comment on fans (dressing as his hero, collecting relics) and a great character in his own right as we’ve not really seen the baddies in a Star Wars film being developed, or having a story arc outwith of Darth Vader and even then that felt tagged on a bit. This doesn’t. Neither does Finn’s arc, or indeed Rey’s. Only Poe Dameron’s character feels thin not to mention is at the centre of one of the film’s plot holes as how did he escape Jakku??

Most of all it feels like Star Wars. I care about the characters from the minute Poe is cracking gags at Kylo Ren, or Finn undergoes a crisis of conscience and decides to redeem himself, to Rey being a lonley scavenger on a backwater planet to  someone that can beat Kylo Ren in a lightsabre fight. It also helps that the script is good. It’s tense, action packed and funny in all the right places, though there’s a lull in the second act and the Starkiller attack is a bit gubbins as it gets in the way of the more interesting battle between Kylo, Finn and Rey, the script is splendid. Just let yourself go and let Abrams hammer you with nostalgia and you’ll love The Force Awakens.

I don’t think it’s better than A New Hope or Empire Strikes Back, but it is better than Return of the Jedi because it’s got real actual character development plus it gives us an important cast member death scene that the films needed (Ford wanted Han to die in Jedi, and he’s right, he should have. It’d have made the situation clearly grave enough that one of our heroes died, but Lucas talked Ford out of it. 30 years later he gets his death scene) plus the new characters are delightful, fun, exciting and threatening. I give a fuck for Finn as he tries to escape the First Order and in the process become a hero. I empathise with Rey locked away waiting for something to happen to her. I even get Kylo Ren’s emo angst. In fact I want to see more of Rey, Finn, Poe, BB8, Kylo Ren and everyone in the film, apart from Supreme Leader Snoke who is just not threatening, or evil enough.

There’s been complaints online that these characters haven’t been fleshed out. We’ve not been told everything about them, or that Rey’s use of the Force in the third act is ‘unrealistic’ in a film where space travel is easy.This is the first of a new trilogy of space fantasy films, so not that word ‘fantasy’ as this is just fantasy, and there’s clearly a plan for the next two films so in this era of people being spoonfed everything it’s going to be hard for people to realise that they’ve got two years to wait til more of the puzzle is revealed but it’s clever. After all, if you’re one of the millions of people that aren’t fans going to see this film and you like it, then you’ll want to come back to get the next chapter. That said,the film probably needed a bit more in the Jakku scenes to give us a bit more of Rey’s life but this is a minor point.

I can’t believe that in 2015 we’ve finally gotten a good Star Wars film that’s a couple of hours of entertaining fun as opposed to a load of bollocks.A year ago the new characters were introduced and people were wary, but now looking back at that teaser I can’t help thinking how great a bit of marketing it is as these are the people we’ll be turning into icons from now on.

See The Force Awakens. It’s blockbuster that doesn’t disappoint.

Looking back at the Star Wars saga: Part Two: A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi

In the first part of my rewatching the Star Wars films I endured the prequel trilogy again, something I’m not going to put myself through again in a hurry. Moving on quickly to the original trilogy, and the first film, Star Wars, or A New Hope if you’re a proper pedantic fan.

If you look at the first film it’s an amazingly simple film, but it isn’t. Creator George Lucas puts together a perfect faiytale fantasy that does what it does not simply, because that wouldn’t have worked. No, Lucas creates archetypes that are casted so well so the actors help tell the story, so we know Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker is a dreamer. We know Princess Leia played by Carrie Fisher is a smart, tough fighter. We know right away that Alec Guinness is a wise old man, or that Harrison Ford’s Han Solo is a bit of rough but has a soul deep down.

The casting is perfect. Yes, the pace of the film itself is slow compared to 21st century film, but again, it’s this pacing that works. It’s asking questions of the audience as it’s constantly dropping lines that tell of a larger world but we don’t know anything of this world and that allows our imagination to run riot. One of the best examples of this is the initial conversation between Luke and Ben where the Clone Wars, Jedi Knights, lightsabres, the Force, the Empire and Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker are all introduced to the viewer

As a scene it’s brilliant. It’s probably the most important bit of world building and exposition in any of the films, but it’s sold by Hamill’s naive innocence and Guinness’s sincerity. In fact the ensemble casting is probably the best you’ll ever see in any film but it’s Alec Guinness that’s important because if Lucas hadn’t got someone of that quality as Obi Wan Kenobi then it’d have ended up failing.

Star Wars is genius. Watched at the right age it will swallow you alive because there’s so much to explore in this world, plus the good guys win and at the end the beautiful princess stands over all our heroes. The End.

To this day I remember that cold December 1977 night in Glasgow where myself and my parents queued for hours, and I mean hours, in the bitter cold waiting to get to see what was by then a phenomenon. It was a fantastic experience and I’ll never forget that night but what Star Wars does is to teach you to try and how to win. It’s overwhelmingly positive. The next film isn’t.

Sure, The Empire Strikes Back is a great SF adventure film but it’s also a film where we see our heroes lose over and over again. By the end, Luke’s been maimed and beaten by Darth Vader, Han’s been captured by Boba Fett and is being taken to Jabba the Hutt, the rebellion has been scattered and humbled by the Empire. All those heroes we loved at the end of the previous films are beaten at some point in this one.

The Empire Strikes Back is the substance of the Star Wars story. It’s ‘dark’ but if Star Wars is the heart of the saga, then Empire is the brain. It explains the entire plot, the backstory and reveals that everything isn’t as we thought. In short it’s a bit like how things are in life which for a child is a major revelation. Forget for a minute that Empire has some amazing setpieces including the best lightsabre fight of all the films, it’s a serious film if you can say such a thing about a fantasy faiytale.

There’s good reason as to why this is considered the best film in the saga by so many people. It’s because it is. It also sets up the climax in such a way that at the end of the film you wanted it to be 1983 there and then but to a kid in 1980 that wait was utterly agonising. I don’t think people today realise how that three year wait made people go mental waiting for the big ending of the saga.

That big ending came in 1983 with Return of the Jedi. Now Jedi gets a lot of stick mainly because of the bloody Ewoks, but for a film that is essentially giving over half it’s running time to a Big Climax split between the battle in space, the battle on Endor and the battle between Luke, Darth Vader and the Emperor, it ties things up well.

But, those bloody Ewoks. They’re annoying. Best to ignore them and enjoy Return of the Jedi for the rollicking good fun it is. It doesn’t stop apart from maybe three, or four scenes of exposition before it gets back to the action so by the time the second Death Star is destroyed and the Empire defeated (or so we think) we’re satisfied. Now Return of the Jedi isn’t the best Star Wars film, but it’s the most action packed, and ultimately we though in 1983 that this was the end, though Lucas had made it clear he’d do episodes 1-3 at some point and we knew how badly that turned out.

The original trilogy is glorious though. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen all three original films. I don’t particularly care as every time it’s fun not to mention it’s an easy and simple way to relive a part of childhood which is the key to Star Wars. It captures childhood at whatever point you see it like an insect trapped in amber which for me is why people go back to these films again and again. You can have the years slip back easily so you’re young again.

And in four or five days time the next Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, opens and we’ll get to see if director J.J Abrams manages to recapture what the prequels couldn’t and give us a glimpse of what it’s like to be young while setting things up for a new trilogy.

I hope he does. It’ll be nice to have a bit of shamelessly nostalgic fun and I’m going to be queuing to see this one along with millions of people worldwide next Thursday.

Just please don’t fuck it up!

Looking back at the Star Wars saga: Part One: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith

The new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, opens on the 17th of December and like most sad auld bastards that saw the first Star Wars film on a cold December night in 1977 I’m positively excited for a new film that looks like it might, just might, be decent at least.The reason for this severe trepidation is the rightfully maligned prequels that started with the complete mess that is The Phantom Menace.

I decided to go back and rewatch all the Star Wars films, and to be fair, the prize for utter ineptitude does go to Attack of the Clones (more of that in a bit) but The Phantom Menace isn’t as bad as I remember it, which to be fair, isn’t saying much as it’s still a terrible film. But I get what Lucas is trying to do by making it an accessible kids film (which is what Star Wars should be) but a film that opens talking about taxation and trade sanctions becuase there’s nothing I loved more as a kid than to talk about taxation and trade sanctions.

Now for a brilliant criticism of the prequels I suggest going to Red Letter Media and looking at their excellent (and funny) reviews because they’re the best reviews of the prequels I’ll ever see. For myself the problem I had with The Phantom Menace was that after seeing it with a load of mates when it first came out, I (like probably millions of others) didn’t say ‘it’s shite’ but lied and said I enjoyed it. That’s not to say there’s good in it. The pod race is fine.The end lightsabre battle is fine. There’s the odd decent scene,I even don’t mind Jar Jar Binks and certainly don’t hate the character because it’s a kids film, but it’s painfully, tediously boring.

The Phantom Menace is dull. For an action-adventure film that’s death but it is. From the opening crawl there’s a lot to take in that’s tedious because here’s the thing; I go to a Star Wars film to escape things like taxation, not have it as a major plot point!

Yet the film could have been saved if somebody had the bollocks to tell George Lucas his script was rubbish. I mean, at what point did he really think that Padme (a girl supposedly in her late teens) would fall for Anakin (a child not even in his teens) in a relationship that is the core of the prequels? It’s all a mess and I recommend watching the making of documentary because you can see it all unfolding in front of you as if it was an episode of The Office, but instead of Ricky Gervais, it’s George Lucas as it’s star.

I once drunkenly came up with a better plot years ago. Naboo could be blockaded because it has some MacGuffin it refuses to share with the bad guys and the bad guys are cracking down on Naboo because they’re bad guys. We’re introduced to Padme from the off as a wise beyond her years leader, who is rushed off planet to protect her but her chief pilot is killed by whatever is more effective than those shite robots, so young Anakin steps up to fly them out of the blockade and to any safe backwater where they can meet with the Jedi sent to help protect them and bring them back to Coruscant.

From the off we see Anakin as a ‘great pilot’, a good guy and Padme is taken by his heroism, plus you could play up a Princess and the Pauper vibe here so you’re making it clear this is a fantasy film as opposed to a tax return. When they meet up with the Jedi, they see the force is strong with him but they need to get off planet so you still have your pod race and all that before Darth Maul turns up and chases them across the galaxy as he tries to kill Padme.

Then the film goes pretty much as it does except you’ve curbed all the bollocks about L’il Anakin, and you’ve got a more exciting first half of a film that doesn’t involve people standing around in rooms talking and talking and talking.

But if The Phantom Menace is rubbish, Attack of the Clones is just inept.

Like the previous film there’s some decent set pieces that are fun I suppose, but on the whole I just look at it and think that poor old Ewan MacGregor thought these films would be more fun than they were. The big problem with Attack of the Clones is Hayden Christianson.He’s not a particularly bad actor, nor is he a good one but he’s a young actor here speaking some complete pish for dialogue not to mention being badly directed.

Lucas does at least realise his faults. He introduces Christopher Lee as Count Dooku as the central baddie here, but if Lucas had planned ahead he’d have stuck Dooku in the previous film as a bit of bait and switch. Make audiences watching this in order (episodes one onwards) think that Dooku is the baddie that turns into the Emperor and make Palpatine the real phantom menace. Of course if you’ve seen the films in order you’d know who the baddie really is, but it’d have been fun to see a mystery unfurl for fresh viewers. Nah, Lucas didn’t think of that. He just threw in lightsabre fights (oh that Yoda fight, dear god, that Yoda fight) , big creature battles and lots of shite that looks like cut scenes from an average PS2 game.

Attack of the Clones sucks. It’s a bad, bad, bad film. By now though Lucas has at least realised he needs to have his characters in certain places by the end of the prequels but because he’s clearly not planned all three films out carefully, he throws virtually everything into the last prequel, Revenge of the Sith.

This is the least bad film of the prequel. Again there’s some decent set pieces, but it’s a bad film. MacGregor at least has a bit to do as an actor, but he’s chronically wasted in these films but at least here he’s allowed to act a bit rather than just say his lines and then fuck off to have a wee cry in his trailer.

Problem is that by now thanks to Lucas being unable to think ahead, everything gets crammed into it’s running time so Anakin being a great pilot and a hero? Cram that in quickly. Padme being pregnant? Cram that in quickly. The end of the Clone Wars? Cram that in quickly. Anakin turning to the Dark Side? Cram that in quickly. The death of the Republic? Cram that in quickly?

Yet Lucas has time for a lightsabre duel between Anakin and Obi Wan that should have been the emotional centre of the prequels. It should have been epic instead of tiresome. At no point did I give a single flying fuck about anyone in this duel and instead I remember sitting in the cinema wondering if this was a good sign that the film could nearly be over and I could nip for a piss. Nope. Once the duel is over, there’s more exposition crammed into the final minutes of the film including the extraordinarily offensive Padme death scene where she just dies because the story requires her to. Here’s where my drunken idea idea at the time can be repeated. Padme and Anakin have a psychic link because although Anakin is strong with the force, Padme is also sensitive so they link with each other utterly. They could have set that up in the previous film so you’d have all these romantic scenes played out without the need for terrible dialogue. Just allow actors to act.

Anyhow this bond would weaken if one was threatened with death and you you could establish at the end of the second one that as Anakin is having his arse handed to him by Count Dooku that Padme is also affected. So going into the last one when Anakin turns to the Dark Side, it acts as a cancer in Padme that starts to kill her faster as Anakin commits more and more atrocities in the name of Darth Vader until the moment he puts on the armour and then she dies as the Dark Side infects her system completely. Effectively Anakin kills his beloved Padme but by this point Anakin is gone, replaced by Darth Vader. Play up the fantasy/fairytale aspect. It’d have been grim, but still within the rules set up by the series and for people watching it in order that haven’t seen the original films it sets Darth Vader up as one evil bastard.

But no, Padme just dies a pointless empty death. Darth Vader does his McBain scene, the films end, the credits roll and those of us with full bladders empty them in an act symbolic of the prequels themselves as after all they were full of piss too.

The Star Wars prequels are examples of dreadful filmmaking not to mention how to take a talented cast, not to mention a much loved idea and waste it because nobody’s sat down and even done a basic plot of all three films. People aren’t excited by endless scenes of people sat down at desks talking unless you’re David Mamet writing something like Glengarry Glen Ross then it’s dynamic but Lucas should never have been let near scripting or directing these films. They’re the cinematic equivalent of being stuck between floors in a lift knowing you’ll move eventually but you’ve not worked out when you will, but you’ll get there.

Thankfully signs are that J.J Abrams has at least worked out in advance with his collaborators where the new trilogy will go so there might be a bit more going on, but one thing to come out of revisiting the prequel trilogy is that I have no urge ever to see these films ever again.  I don’t think I could manage to sit through them again without falling over like a dead Padme.

Next up, the original trilogy gets rewatched…….

My Top 20 SF Films-11-The Star Wars Trilogy

I’ve recently dived into doing ”best of’ lists, so as I’ve explained, I’ve decided to do my top 20 SF films. This is my personal list, so feel free to disagree with it and of course, you’ll be horribly wrong.

Previously at # 20, The Matrix19, Seconds, 18A Boy and His Dog17Sunshine16Dark Star15Rollerball14 Altered States13, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 12, Forbidden Planet. 

At #11 it’s not one, not two, but three films (and some prequels I’m going to imagine didn’t happen), it’s the original Star Wars trilogy.





Right, let’s get one thing out the way. The prequels are crap. Really, really crap examples of how to make really, really bad films. There may be the odd scene that’s good, or even more shockingly some acting may break out at a few points in the three films but they’re pish, sheer and utter pish. They

Now that’s out the way let me tell you what you probably know which is that these three films are the defining moments of a lot of people’s childhoods. The first one used to be mine but over the years I’ve become less enamored of it due mainly to the almost cultish devotion of a number of it’s fans, but that aside these three films are the best examples of the sort of 1930’s style Space Opera you’ll see.

Star Wars (pffft to this A New Hope subtitle) is a simple fairy tale. The good guys are good, the baddies are bad. We cheer the goodies to victory and everyone leaves the cinema happy! The Empire Strikes Back fills out the simple story with angst, parental abuse, a lot of plot and the best film of the three not to mention a rare time when the sequel is better in a lot of ways to the original. By the time we get to Return of the Jedi, the series reaches a natural end with a series of climatic battles and sadly, Ewoks. Those bloody Ewoks….

Watched as a whole it’s a bloody great time. These are just fun films which are well made, enjoyable and although they’re essentially kids films (that’s going to make a few fans wet their knickers with rage) they can be enjoyed by everyone as these are simple films that never become simplistic. They were unspoiled wonders til the day The Phantom Menace hit our screens and it all went horribly wrong…

My favourite bit in all the films? The fight between Luke and Darth Vader at the end of Empire Strikes Back. It sums up the series message of hope and heroism against the face of evil and corruption. It’s also beautifully shot. Compare it with the dreary, endless fight at the end of the third prequel which goes on and on and on and on while saying nothing.

Right now these films are outside my top ten, but they might sneak back in someday……..

Next time, we go across the 8th dimension….

Star Wars Day

Star Wars Day is sucking the joy out out of something that was, once, a huge source of joy and fun, scrunching it up, wiping it’s arse with it, and selling it back to people who really should know better.

There’s an amazing snippet at the Wikipedia article for Star Wars Day where it’s apparently considered ‘‘anti-imperialist, cultural, and political movement” and this utter snippet of horror:

”Current day Star Wars fans were not the first to introduce the line “May the fourth be with you”: when Margaret Thatcher was elected Britain’s first female Prime Minister on May 4, 1979, her party placed an advertisement in The London Evening News that said “May the Fourth Be with You, Maggie. Congratulations.”[3]This reading of the line has also been recorded in the UK Parliament‘s Hansard.”

This is giving greater meaning to something owned now by Disney, and is being marketed and exploited to an inch of it’s life at the expense of anything new, original or risky because most people bleating ‘May the fourth be with you’ only want more of the same over, and over, and over, and over again until they have Wookies coming out their ears.

Where’s the next Star Wars? Where’s people and studios taking risks? Where’s the ability of fans not to give importance to something that’s a film about a boy beating an evil Empire and snogging his sister? Why try to label something with an importance and a message which isn’t there?

Star Wars wasn’t anything more than well made children’s films that everyone could enjoy but it gave meaning and hope to people because the 70’s and 80’s were bleak. It’s escapist fun and to see it being given religious meaning is frankly, bollocks, because it’s turned into a monster of marketing to geeks can be sold shite which makes Disney and George Lucas another squillion quid.

I enjoyed Star Wars as a kid. I still watch those original films every now and then to cheer me up because it reminds me of a happier time, but now it looks like that girl you fancied at school who’s grown up and become a prostitute selling herself for another hit of crack because she can’t stop.

So yesterday was one of those times where you wonder if the 21st Century is really going to be worth it if all we can do with our culture is recycle the past and weld on meaning to make it important to adults who’ve grown up and still want to enjoy the stuff they did as a kid, but don’t want to admit it’s kids stuff when really the fact it’s kids stuff is what makes it fun because it is timeless. Though it has been soiled, used and abused to the point where what made it great is a distant memory, not to mention there’s some weirdness about this whole Jedi as a religion stuff that reminds me of how cults like the Jesus Army or any of the New Age cults work.

And as for ‘May the fourth be with you’, the first time I remember anyone saying it was bearded accused sex pest Dave Lee Travis on his radio programme in 1978.


There you go; the whole thing could well be invented by the man who popularised darts on the radio, smoking pipes, and allegedly having gropy hands round women.

So just enjoy the films for what they are. Don’t go mental for the sake of a film!

However if anyone slags off Suspira I will rip their liver out…