Sunday, February 18, 2018

Black Panther (2018) - Ryan Coogler



I graduated college in 2008.  During my final semester I took an overnight job at Motorola and worked with a few temps who happened to be black.  I wound up working there way longer than expected and the closer we got to November and election day I noticed something rather remarkable.  So many of my coworkers who never once gave a shit about politics were excited to vote, some of them for the first time despite being in their 70s.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt Barack Obama would be our next president and I also learned a little about what it felt like to finally have someone representing you.

As a white man I don’t have that type of hardship.  Call it white privilege but as long as I can remember political candidates look like me and most of the heroes in movies whether they be super or not tend to bare a resemblance.  Now I know many black people do love comic books and super heroes, but I can also guarantee there were many people at the Regal Cinema in Jack London Square on Thursday night who were seeing their very first super hero movie.  I’ve been to some midnight screenings before and you’ll see your fair share of nerds but this was something else.  This was a celebration of all things black and African.  Like that second Tuesday in November of 2008 I was witnessing a group of people mobilized and celebrating the fact that for once they were witnessing one of their own.  Perhaps this is because I was seeing the film in the director Ryan Coogler's hometown, and one of the most historically black cities on the west coast, but unlike the 16 previous Marvel movies, this one seemed bigger than comic books and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It’s hard to talk about this film without getting into the bigger picture here.  This film is unapologetically black in all the best ways.  It celebrates black culture in a way that not only shows African culture as equals globally but in many ways blatantly superior.  It’s a film that might scare idiotic and easily threatened white people, but again is more of a cultural event than a random super hero movie.  Marvel has built up a ton of good will with their Cinematic Universe and although it might seem insulting it’s taken this long to bring Black Panther to the screen, it is a character whose time has come.  This franchise has been painfully patient when it comes to introducing characters and you can tell there is a definite desire to get this right rather than just get it out.

Blackness Squared
 Hollywood often lacks imagination when it comes to what will sell.  This is the reason we had to wait an embarrassingly long amount of time for Wonder Woman to get her own film.  That movie vastly exceeded expectations and proved to be the only modern DC film people actually somewhat enjoyed.  Black Panther as a character isn’t nearly as universally known as Wonder Woman but it once again showed that a large segment of the population was ready and waiting to see themselves represented on screen.

I know nearly twenty years ago Blade came out in theaters and damn it it’s still a pretty awesome movie.  In many ways Blade was the first Marvel movie that helped opened the doors to X-Men, Spider Man, and eventually the MCU.  When Blade came out we were all so excited to see any sort of super hero it didn’t matter.  Although Blade was undoubtedly black, his race seemed largely incidental in that film and franchise.  The Luke Cage Netflix show used clumsy kid gloves trying to tell an inner city story about a Harlem super hero that seemed incapable of taking chances.  Cage was largely a boring show because it seemed the show’s creators were too scared to offend people or alienate others that it largely played it down the middle and left us wishing the show had some balls.  Thirty minutes into Black Panther and that is not the case.  This film punches you in the face with African culture, it embraces it’s blackness in a way that is downright inspiring and truly beautiful.

Now before this white man starts talking any more about what this film means to black people I’d like to actually try and discuss the film on it’s own merits and to some degree how it fits within the MCU.  These films have occasionally gotten a little formulaic and considering I’ve reviewed so many of them I honestly wonder if I’m falling prey to my own cliches when I break them down.  So I suppose I should get into my what I liked and disliked sections but forgive me if bigger picture issues muddy up the waters.

Many solo films in the MCU do tend to stand alone, but I feel like not since the first wave of movies have we really seen a film largely ignore the rest of the MCU.  Sure we know T’Challa was introduced in Civil War, and the death of his father is shown in flashback.  Also Klaw is an early antagonist and we first see him in Age of Ultron, losing his arm no less.  It is perhaps a little ironic that one of the two white people in the film happen to play a villain.  For an actor that spent so much of his career creating iconic roles for CGI characters it is nice to see Andy Serkis get to be a human here, and he seems to relish every devious moment his character has.  I’m not going to lie, I thought Klaw was a very minor player in Age of Ultron, and didn’t connect the dots of who he was which is one of the great things about these movies playing for the long haul.

Black Panther largely ignores the outside world and the other films and events of the Marvel Universe.  This makes it prefect for those people who are just coming on board to this movie here, because anything that happened in a previous film is quickly referenced to so you don’t need a phD in MCU history to appreciate what’s going on, nor do you necessarily need to be all caught up on these films to get everything.  Now I would say that I might get into some spoilers so again I recommend seeing this film before reading further but I’ll try not to divulge too many details.

Erik Killmonger was without a doubt my favorite part of this film.  Michael B. Jordan is absolutely phenomenal here and I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for him and his character rather than our hero.  Marvel movies have given us a fair share of monster of the week villains who want to bring destruction because blah blah blah destiny, etc.  In recent films they’ve come to almost laugh at these motivations and have made things slightly more interesting but Killmonger is something different.  He is from Oakland but Wakanda by blood and man does he have a point.  He knows that Wakanda and their Vibranium can help liberate oppressed black people throughout the globe and it isn’t hard to take his side.  Perhaps a few of his methods might seem to go overboard because after all we’re supposed to view him as a villain but even T'Challa begrudgingly seem to admit he was at least partially right.

Now there are a few things that didn’t really work here.  There were a few half-assed attempts at comic relief most of which went over about as well as a fart at a funeral.  In many ways this movie does take itself very seriously so even the occasional attempt to add some levity winds up seeming awkward and forced.  Luckily these moments are few and far between so you just cringe and move on.  I also was thoroughly removed from any sense of reality when CGI rhinos showed up to fight.  I know they showed up earlier in the film but they looked far more silly than menacing.  Last bit of nitpicking is that when looking through the credits it appears as though the scenes set in Oakland were actually filmed somewhere in Atlanta.  Much like I shook my first in anger at Chicago being filmed in Toronto, I have to gripe a little about this considering the director Ryan Coogler is from Oakland and damn it I wanted my town to be in this properly.

Too many strong black women to count
If you were keeping track the faults I found with this movie are all definitely in the minor category, especially if you were one of the people who were put off by the over abundance of humor in Thor: Ragnarok or the Guardians movies.  What this film does right is so much more.  I haven’t even begun to mention the absurd amount of strong female characters here.  This isn’t a token female gets to be a bad ass, it’s more like every female is either a hell of a fighter, incredibly smart, powerful, and proud warriors.  It takes a special gift to make these characters seem authentic in their abilities and powers rather than forced examples of inclusion.  This is something the last couple of Star Wars films have been unable to do for the record.

Now I am reluctant to get into some sort of recency bias and declare this a transcendent masterpiece.  I do think some perspective is necessary when assessing what this film means in the larger picture.  Structurally a lot of things are right in this film.  There are a few moments when there seem to be fight scenes drawn out just for the sake of having action.  A few plot points seem slightly clumsy that help to motivate story and character arcs but didn’t seem to make rational sense among the characters.  *Spoilers* Why didn’t T'Chaka take Erik home to Wakanda when he was a kid?  Why did they immediately agree to duel each other when both eventually come to a similar conclusion?  

 
Still obligated by law to have your hero shirtless

These are the types of things that tend to stick out when you think too much about everything, but seem like potential flaws that can be exposed like a sore thumb upon closer inspection.  I’m reluctant to declare this a masterpiece right out of the gate but it is a damn good movie, and one that was long overdue.  The cast is all pretty excellent and the one performer I feared most for Forest Whitaker mercifully didn’t bring his Rogue One or Battlefield Earth performance here.  The females and villains however remain the best of the scene-stealers.

*Spoilers*
The film does strike a little close to home at the end.  T’Challa eventually decides that he wants to help the rest of the world, particularly black people with Wakanda’s technology and resources.  The first place they establish a base in is Oakland, and looking around my neighborhood I can’t help but wish there was some super human help on the way.  People here really do need help and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of melancholy knowing that this was just a movie and the help was was purely fictitious.  

Sunday, January 28, 2018

They Shoot Pictures Don't They 1000/1000



I’d like to begin this story back around 2006.  I was a member of a few different film forums and it was with my good friends at the now defunct foreignfilms.com that someone first posted a link to They Shoot Pictures Don’t They and their top 1000.  The original thread was “how many films in the top 100 have you seen?  I was rather pleased with myself to find that I had seen all the top 100.  I then looked further down the list and found I’d seen the top 200.  After extending my search a little further I found Mikio Naruse’s Floating Clouds somewhere around 250, and at the time it was the highest movie I had not viewed.  Later that year I went through the entire list and wrote down every film I hadn’t seen, which turned out to be quite a bit more than I was expecting.  Luckily with Facets and Odd Obsession as my allies, I spent the next year doing some serious damage.


Fast forward to 2012.  I was at a rather unimportant party with a group of people I didn’t really know and haven’t hung out with since.  At some point a game was started that essentially involved asking each other questions.  Someone asked me what I was most proud of accomplishing.  Now I didn’t have one of those go to cliche answers to this question, I had no kids, didn’t own a house or my own business, and I damn well wasn’t about to pick my college education as a point of pride.  So I said I was most proud of having seen 998 of the 1000 films on They Shoot Pictures Don’t They.  At this point I was quite possibly the only person alive who had seen that many, but like that 199/200 score I got on my Buster Keaton paper from Miss Anderson (I will never forget), almost perfection is hard to live with.  It’s hard to say exactly why this list was my badge of honor.  There are no shortage of greatest film lists that I’ve seen everything from, but to me this was always the most definitive and authoritative.

The two films I hadn’t seen at that point were Jacques Rivette’s Out 1: Spectre and Stan Brakhage’s Art of Vision.  Now I had seen the full 12 hour version of Out 1 at the Siskel Center a few years before so I was willing to count that film as a technicality.  As for the Brakhage film it was a bit of the reverse.  Art of Vision was essentially an extended version of his much better known and way easier to find Dog Star Man.  So in a way I had seen the entire list but like many of Barry Bonds’ records this had a big fat asterisk next to it.  The same can be said of the previous incarnation of the list I looked at with the god awfully pointless Andy Warhol film Empire.  Yeah I’d seen an excerpt of it which is essentially the same static shot over 8 hours so really looking at a still of the film kind of counts and saves you from wasting soooooo much of your life.  

Now we arrive at 2018.  Every year Bill Georgaris takes it upon himself to update this massive list with whatever new best film lists he comes across and for the record, no my own list isn’t listed as one of the sources.  The new lists generally get updated in winter, and this particular year it was updated around the second week in January.  I decided to get down to it and see what new arrivals I needed to check out, and double check whatever older films I may have missed.  Unlike most years I found some of the new additions were rather easy to find mercifully.  Double bonus some of the films that had tormented me in the past like Art of Vision and Empire had dropped off, and that finish line was in my grasp.

So I can say that as of January 27th, 2018 I have officially seen all 1000 of these films.  I have finally officially crossed every god damn one of these movies off the list.  This process has taken over a decade, and I know very well that when 2019 comes and the list is updated again there will inevitably be a few more for me to check out to stay up to date.  However for the next year I can safely boast that list is completely accomplished.  So if you’ll indulge me I’d like to take you through the new editions to the list I just watched and the few remaining movies needed for complete supremacy.

One question that I’m sure some of you might be asking is, how the hell can you keep track of all of these?  1000 films is a lot and I’d be hard pressed to give you an accurate plot synopsis of all of them, but there’s another way.  I do keep a list of every film I’ve ever seen listed by year.  I’ve mentioned this system elsewhere on this blog and I found it’s the best reference to quickly find whether or not I’ve seen a film yet.  As one would expect there are inevitably a few that were either never added to the list, or put under the wrong year, and sometimes I do find myself doubting whether I’ve seen something.  This brings me to the extra sure part I played in the 2018 edition, watching at least one film I have already seen because I forgot to add it to my list and potentially re-watching another one or two for good measure.  There is a decent adage you can use which is if I don’t remember watching it, then maybe I should see it again.  So here is the recap of what I’ve seen and possibly re-seen in order to complete the ultimate cinematic mission.

#1000 - Sorcerer (1977) - William Friedkin

The seventies when everyone needed a shave, a shower, and a haircut
New to the list is Friedkin’s poorly titled flop that followed up The Exorcist.  Now it’s hard to really bash a film that is at the absolute bottom of the list, but seeing some of the films that just missed the cut I’d say this doesn’t really belong.  It is a well made remake of Clouzot’s Wages of Fear, a film deemed by many to be a masterpiece that I just was never wild about.  I do love Clouzot’s work, but for some reason Wages of Fear did nothing for me even upon a second viewing.  Friedkin’s film therefore seems doubly unnecessary.  The performances are good and there are some well executed scenes but ultimately this was just another tick.

#999 - Oasis (2002) - Lee Chang-Dong

UGH the movie
This is one of those films that was actually on a previous version of the list that I simply didn’t see.  Perhaps it was the very generic title, and the fact that I was familiar with some of Lee’s work (Secret Sunshine, Poetry) that I think I just assumed I had seen it.  After downloading it and getting a few minutes in I quickly realized I very much had not.  I don’t know how to put it, but I hated this movie.  On paper it seems like an odd plot for a movie, a mentally unstable ex-con falling in love with a girl who has cerebral palsy but that leaves out so much of what is wrong here.  Particularly how they meet, and the bizarre and awkward rape that is just hard to look past.  Roger Ebert was apparently a huge fan and lord only knows what he found so charming about it.  If you plan on crossing all of these off I’d make this one of the last.

#998 - L’Humanite (1999) - Bruno Dumont

This makes as much sense to you as it does to me
Another film that was on a previous version of this list, albeit towards the very bottom.  Bruno Dumont is a filmmaker I was more aware of than familiar with.  His films are thoroughly pretentious, alienating, and French in the worst sense of the term.  L’Humanite seems like it could be a decent police procedural ala Memories of Murder but is filled with so much head scratching behavior and slow pacing that eventually you just cease to care.  It may seem like I’m shitting all over this list but keep in mind these are the bottom films and essentially the dregs of the list.  I wouldn’t be surprised if other Dumont films pop up on this list in future editions but for now this seems as good of an introduction as any.

#980 - Scarecrow (1973) - Jerry Schatzberg

Seriously so fucking seventies
Technically the last film I watched to complete this list, Scarecrow was a film I just always thought I had seen.  Ever since I first got into film and was watching classics from the glorious American cinema of the 70s, Scarecrow just seemed like a film I had seen.  I had watched nearly every other Pacino film from the decade but the more I thought about this particular one the more I didn’t remember it.  Checking my master list I didn’t see it included anywhere and this is just one of those ones that slipped through the crack.  Scarecrow is so thoroughly 70s it’s almost a cliche.  Schatzberg was definitely second tier in terms of filmmakers of the period but this might very well be his best work.  Gene Hackman and Al Pacino were at the top of their game in 1973 and make a near perfect pair.  Audiences mostly passed on the film as it seemed all too familiar, and watching it now it isn’t hard to see why, but in terms of revisionist cinema it is testament to how rich and fertile American movies were in the seventies.

#979 - O Bandido da Luz Vermelha (1968) - Rogerio Sganzeria

Once upon a time men had hair on their chest
Also known as The Red Light Bandit, this is a curious film from the peak of Cinema Novo.  Like many of his contemporaries, Sganzeria is deeply indebted to the French New Wave, almost to the point of plagiarism.  The plot which is essentially about a man on a crime spree has lengthy diversions to discuss social and political issues in contemporary Brazil and just sort of wanders at it’s own pace.  It’s certainly one of the more unique and interesting films among the new additions, but it’s hard to say it sustains it’s pace throughout.  The first thirty minutes or so are spectacular and the last act just sort of meanders until the film ends.  Godard’s Breathless had similar pacing issues but was so groundbreaking it got away with it.  Worth checking out for sure, and proof that even us know-it-all’s sometimes miss films.

#965 - Pickpocket/Xiao Wu (1997) - Jia Zhangke

Another day in China
Not to be confused with Bresson's far better known film of the same name comes our first entry in the “wait did I see this?” category.  I’ve been a fan of Jia’s since I saw The World in the theater back in 2005.  I quickly checked out his previous films only to discover his first feature was at the time unavailable in this country.  At some point in time I did find a copy of it and don’t know if I ever watched it, so alas I made sure to settle that now.  It might lack some of the scope of his later films but it isn’t a bad start at all.  Full of long takes, real locations and non-actors it is a worthy successor to Neorealist films of the 40s.  Zhangke definitely did better later in his career, but it’s always interesting to see where the great directors start.

#924 - Sholay (1975) - Ramesh Sippy

Mustache game on fleek
Now we’re talking.  Perhaps second only to Facets was the Mt. Prospect Public Library.  If you know anything about Mt. Prospect, IL (which I’m sure you all do) it’s that that town has a very large Indian population.  So I often saw the DVD for Sholay and wondered what the hell it was about.  Bollywood cinema is a monumental undertaking.  There are thousands of films, and nearly all of them are over 3 hours, so knowing where to start can be a bit overwhelming.  I tend to focus on the films that pop on lists, and there have been a few that have been on TSPDT.  Sholay was new this year and it instantly became my favorite Bollywood movie.  There are some great films in Bengali, notably Ray, Sen, and Ghatak’s work, but the mainstream Hindi movies have often failed to impress.  This has at times been called a “Curry Western” and it’s a nice way of saying it’s a Western from India.  The plot has some things in common with Once Upon a Time in the West as well as Seven Samurai, but with all the ridiculous and colorful musical numbers you’d expect out of a Bollywood film.  This was easily my favorite of the films I watched for the 2018 list, so yeah this one is pretty damn awesome.

*Bonus Film*

#733 - The Ascent (1976) - Larisa Shepitko

Bonus
Chalk this up to faulty record keeping.  I saw Larisa Shepitko’s best known motion picture at Facets probably a dozen or more years ago.  They were running a Shepitko and Elem Klimov retro, and this was the only film I was able to catch.  It eventually got a DVD release courtesy of The Eclipse Series, and it was one of those I knew I saw.  Since it was curiously absent on my list of 1976 movies, I seriously started second guessing myself.  So just to be 1000% sure (get it?) I gave it another crack.  It didn’t take long for the film to start ringing some bells, and it rightfully deserves it’s place not just as one of the greatest films directed by a woman, but one of the highlights of all Soviet cinema.  Sometimes it pays to give yourself a little refresher on these films just to make certain.

Conclusion

This has been a long journey.  There definitely aren’t many of us out there who have seen everything and I certainly join select and incredibly obsessive company.  I am definitely thankful that this list is a little biased towards older films, because I’m sure the more recent offerings would be the place to trip me up.  Over the next year I aim to tackle a good amount of the 1001-2000 movies to make sure I don’t get caught off guard too much when 2019 rolls around.

Now this list isn’t necessarily the final word in great film.  There are plenty of excellent movies, especially recent releases that won’t be found here.  One thing I do love about this list is it isn’t one person’s opinion.  It is multiple lists, multiple people voting, with literally thousands of different movie lists combined.  I know my own list has a few of those movies that make you shake your head and say “really?”, so a compilation of others helps minimize that.  There isn’t a ton of movement in the top 100 this year, so I’d say if you were looking to tackle just that first part of the list, it doesn’t fluctuate too much and is certainly doable.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I might go back to working on Jonathan Rosenbaum’s top 1000 again.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)




Have you heard kids?  Another Star Wars movie is upon us, and if you haven’t seen it then you failed at life and you shall be publicly shamed.  There of course is that usual contingent of people who love to remind you they’ve never seen any Star Wars films, but for normal people things tend to stop and everyone needs to get on board before the masses spoil everything for everyone.  If you are on the fence about whether or not to see Episode VIII and you’re looking to this here blog to make up your mind for you, stop now.  I will spoil the holy hell out of this film for you unapologetically.  So this is strictly for people who have already witnessed the now annual cinematic event, or people who give no shits about seeing it and just really love my prose.  

So before I get into the film itself I need to get a little meta and start discussing Star Wars as a franchise, a money making property, and a cinematic universe.  There was definitely a sense of relief when George Lucas mercifully handed off the keys to his extremely profitable kingdom to Disney.  Knowing that episodes 7-9 wouldn’t be anything like the prequels was certainly cause for rejoicing.  The problem with Disney handling this property is their scientific approach to going down the middle.  I don’t see any scenario where any of these films live up to the original trilogy, but it also seems hard to imagine any of these films being as bad as the prequels.  A similar comparison can be made with the MCU.  By crowd pleasing and playing it mostly safe all the movies are enjoyable but none will ever reach the heights of The Dark Knight.  However mercifully they won’t also reach the depths of Batman v. Superman, so I guess it’s still a win.

There is also a certain cautionary tale of being careful what you wish for.  Star Wars films used to be released three years apart.  They were a damn event, and although Force Awakens and The Last Jedi still seemed like events, they’re already starting to lose their impact.  With this aggressive release schedule you also have very little margin for error during production.  Directors have already been replaced on the Han Solo film no one asked for next year, and Disney will move heaven or earth to get their Christmas release.  That’s the other problem I have, Star Wars comes out in May.  After all May 4th is Star Wars day, and you can’t release six films in the same month, then suddenly start dumping these flicks on us for Christmas.  Christmas is when critically acclaimed movies trying to win awards get released, I don’t need Star Wars occupying my viewing time, and taking up 3-4 screens at every theater that otherwise might have shown a worthwhile low budget indie film.  It’s a dick move and it’s probably part of Disney’s subversive plot to snuff out anything that isn’t Disney.

So here we are with a new episode every odd year and a pointless film designed to “expand the Star Wars Universe” every even year.  The more I think about Rogue One the more I want my time and money back.  I’m sure despite my protestations I’ll probably be dragged to Baby Driver Han Solo, and I’m sure it’ll be entertaining in the way Thor: The Dark World was but you can’t make me like it.  Am I becoming and old curmudgeon who takes these movies designed for kids and simpletons too seriously?  Probably, but like millions of other people I grew up with these movies and still want them to matter.  The over abundance of Star Wars movies is exhausting and largely unnecessary.  There was always an expanded universe in comics, books, and video games which was perfectly set up for the super die hards who legitimately couldn’t get enough of this shit.  For the rest of us, tone this shit down a bit, it’s making these films less special with each annual release.

On that note, there is another problem I’ve noticed about these films.  I did see Force Awakens and Rogue One in theaters, and that’s it.  I have felt no need to revisit either film since they were released.  In the case of Rogue One I’ve actually become gradually repulsed by the idea of sitting through that again.  Force Awakens was certainly tolerable and wasn’t a bad film, but it really did nothing for me beyond the surface level of telling a Star Wars story.  There were so many similarities between that and the A New Hope that it mainly just made me want to watch the earlier film again.  The prequels were awful for a way different reason, but none of those films were worth watching more than once except to possibly make fun of it for critical purposes.  Compared to the compulsively re-watchable aspects of the original trilogy I just don’t feel like any of these hollow facsimiles will hold up that well in 30+ years regardless of how competent they may be.

Now let’s talk about Episode VIII, and to some extent Episode VII. After the first three episodes destroyed my faith in Star Wars, I promised I wouldn’t walk into these films with fanboy blinders on.  I would try and look at them objectively as films, without focusing too much on how they rate against others in the franchise.  Before I get too far into this I will freely admit that there are plenty of flaws in the original films we all love.  There are plot holes, laughably fake effects, and head scratching moments aplenty, but they don’t bother me.  Maybe I just grew up with it, but mostly it’s because the films themselves can overcome those flaws.  You’re so immersed that those flaws either take a dozen or so viewings to even notice, or they’re just forgivable because everything else is so great.  Unfortunately these new films don’t have that built up good will and are operating on a much smaller margin of error.

So before I sound like a grumpy old man shaking his first angrily at the sky saying “Not my Star Wars!” I want to mention a few of the things that I liked about The Last Jedi.  Mercifully Poe was actually kind of awesome.  He seemed so painfully thrust upon us in Force Awakens as some sort of Han Solo substitute that I instantly hated him and the corporate think tank that created him.  For a minute it seems like his reckless nonsense would be passed off as cool, but his character seemed far less forced here and I found myself a half hour into the film thinking he wasn’t too bad.  They definitely delayed him and Finn making out and officially becoming the first interracial gay couple in the galaxy but maybe Episode IX will give us that pay off.

Emo Vader was actually one of the highlights


Spoilers are going to start now, so this is the last warning.  I really, really liked when Kylo Ren and Rey killed CGI space monster Snope and then fought side by side against surprisingly powerful Imperial guards.  Emo Vader instantly redeemed himself and as he offered Rey a chance to kill everything and forge their own destiny I got really excited.  Force Awakens painfully repeated the plot of A New Hope with some thinly veiled differences just to technically not plagiarize.  For one brief moment I thought maybe we would be done with the First Order and the rebels and finally get an original story.  Rey and Emo Vader using their powers of the force with no Sith or Jedi dogma just ruling the galaxy like the ultimate good cop-bad cop.  Of course I knew this wasn’t to be, so I’ll have to contend to the inevitable fan fic for like minded people.  I also liked the fact that Rey’s parents turned out to be piece of shit junkers who sold her for drinking money, instead of some cosmic lineage that would have seemed ridiculous.

Now for everything I had a problem with.  For starters this movie was far too damn long.  Regardless of the actual run time being 2 hours and 33 minutes, it felt too damn long.  Towards the end I started thinking about Return of the King because every time I thought they could wrap up the film more stuff happened.  I know many people have felt Star Wars movies could have been longer, but once again careful what you wish for.  You could have easily cut 50 minutes out of this film and not missed a thing.  Things pick up right where Force Awakens ends, and I’m not a huge fan of that.  The other episodes generally had a few years between them, allowing us to feel that our characters grew and developed somewhat off screen.  This is the whole reason for that iconic scrolling exposition, to catch us up on what happened since the last film.  For that reason I didn’t even remember Finn was wearing a Jacuzzi suit.

Finn and his forced subplot was my biggest complaint plot wise.  We get this convoluted subplot where he has to do a video game side quest to shut down the tracking device.  There are plenty of subplots in Star Wars films, but with Rey having grumpy Luke Skywalker telling her to fuck off, Finn’s plot just seemed more like “we gotta give him something to do”.  So they go to CGI Monte Carlo to find the only person in the galaxy who can break into the First Order’s security system only to get arrested for parking in a tow zone and settling for stuttering Benicio Del Toro who totally can do the same job after all.  The fact that they go through all that nonsense, and ride space horses, and there’s stupid ass kids, only to get right to the tractor and Brienne of Tarth to catch ‘em felt like a waste.  I don’t mind the fact that they failed but I did mind the fact that so much screen time was spent following their failed quest that I ultimately felt like all of that could have been done away with, and I cold have gotten out of the theater half an hour earlier.

Finn could have and should have been killed several times in this film.  For starters Brienne should have just executed them, but you knew there would be some deux ex machina to save him because he hadn’t yet gotten his love scene with Poe.  When he gets saved by the Star Destroyer they’re in getting blown up I just figured cool he’s going to escape.  I definitely didn’t feel like the remaining storm troopers and Brienne would keep trying to kill them, as their ship got destroyed.  Typically something like that makes you change your priorities to get the fuck out of there.  Towards the end of the film Finn was about to go all Randy Quaid in Independence Day to save the rebellion from that magic laser battering ram.  It seemed like a decent arch to his character, he sacrifices himself, everyone lives and escapes, but then random asian girl crashes into his ship which should have theoretically killed both of them to “save him”.  Side note, how the hell did he drag her back to the base considering they spent like five minutes in ships flying out to meet the first order.  No doubt he would have been captured, killed, or stomped by an AT-AT, but I digress.

No one understands true love
I liked Benicio’s pragmatic approach to the conflict and the fact that he certainly seemed to understand that there were some select people who profit regardless of whether the First Order or the Republic wins.  I couldn’t help feel like this was a direct commentary on America’s foreign policy, which helps grey up some of the usual black and white politics of this cinematic universe.  His character had it’s own quirks, but as a one film side character I did enjoy his brief moments.

Now there’s enough other stuff to fill another 50,000 words about my nitpicking but I’ll limit it to some bullet points

1. What the hell was with Princess Leia waking up in outer space and “forcing” her way back to the ship to save herself?  That was ridiculous and silly, and wasted a perfect opportunity to kill a character that probably needed to die considering Carrie Fisher did die this past year.  Also she proceeded to do nothing of note the rest of the film making her surviving pointless unnecessary.
2. Those Porg things were insufferable.  I wanted Chewbacca to eat them all and I would have laughed hysterically.  I try not to hate the cutesy nature of them, but my god they looked like super fake cartoons, at least Ewoks were little people in costumes.
3. How the hell is Rey a Jedi master instantly?  This is more a complaint with Force Awakens.  It took Luke years of training to do the simplest tasks, and she just has “raw Jedi power” or some shit?
4. Who the hell is Snope and why did he look like a shitty video game villain?  He shows up in Force Awakens and just is the new emperor or something.  I know Andy Serkis played him, but we couldn’t get some makeup instead of that fake looking cartoon video game boss?  Also how damn powerful is he that he can force choke someone light years away and toss them around the room?  Doesn’t matter he’s dead now, hurray.
5. Ghost Yoda can light shit on fire?  I mean it’s awesome that Jedi ghosts can show up and talk, but I’ve never seen them physically do shit, minor complaint.
6. Too many stupid kids, and the end was garbage.  I thought we all politely agreed after Phantom Menace that kids have no place in the galaxy.

Sadly Carrie Fisher was completely useless in this film
The last big complaint I had is the basic plot of the film.  Every Star Wars film inevitably involves rebels running away from the empire, and that was nothing new.  However two and a half hours of them running away and slowly getting picked off was just boring.  Even if it was an exciting space chase it would have still gotten old after an hour.  I also wonder why the hell Laura Dern didn’t tell Poe what the plan was which could have saved us that pointless Finn subplot.  This film simply seemed to just say “here’s all your favorites and they’re doing stuff.”  No one seemed to have anything necessary to do and it ultimately made this film feel like all surface.

I liked Emo Vader and his temperamental nature.  I also laughed out loud when he ordered every single weapon to fire on Luke Skywalker.  That could have been a very, very ridiculous scene but it did get explained somewhat to a satisfactory enough conclusion.  Not sure if they’re going to just set this up so that he eventually goes good and everyone lives happily ever after, but there’s enough intrigue to make his character unpredictable and interesting to watch.

So yeah feel free to let me know how much I missed the mark and what a fucking idiot I am, or whether or not what I’m saying makes any sense.  I’m still going to see Episode IX, let’s just hope it doesn’t waste all of our time.