Star Wars Spoilers

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Went to the cinema yesterday for the first time in ages, and now I actually feel the need to blog about the new Star Wars.

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The Bad

Too many Dimensions here, too few There

Now I’m not a Luddite who hates 3D movies on a principle of some kind. Even if the 3D glasses do impair the cinematic experience and I can’t shake the feeling that shadows drown out more readily in 3D: Certain directors have demonstrated how the technology can enrich the cinema beyond mindless action. As long as you use it conceptually in order to help shape the narrative. Without their 3D effects, something important would be missing from ‚Avatar‘ or the last two ‚Harry Potter‘ flicks.

But „The Force Awakens“ is not one of these. It would work fine in 2D, just as fine as any of its predecessors (and mainly because it doesn’t have to offer anything new over those, but more about that later). Then again, of all things, the music failed to create a sufficiently three-dimensional impression. The score somehow sounded unspatial and monophonic at times. Which is fatal, because the ‚Star Wars‘ franchise is called a ’space opera‘  for very good reasons. The score is something of another main character that significantly drives the plot. So you just can’t relegate it to the background like that.

But back to the third dimension of the video track. At least that’s not a fatal flaw. And you need to think positive. The kiddies seem to need it these days. Given the choice between TIE fighters screaming into the ranks or Ewoks / Jar Jar, give me 3D effects any day.

Better a decent rehash than a bad new idea?

On a remote desert planet, a whole micro economy of scavenging aliens is fueled by the wrecks of ancient space battles. At dusk on said planet, you miss the other sun. Just the one of them? That feels a bit paltry for this obvious Tatooine rip-off. Next planet on the Outer Rim: a greasy joint full of shady aliens where an alien band strums bland elevator music. The Bad Guys have cobbled together another Death Star, only this time it’s [Trump voice] huge [/Trump] and can destroy several planets at once over insane distances. Saving the day not a moment too soon: the proven combination of rebel-commandos-infiltrating-the-planet-with-its-shield-generators and high-risk-high-casualty-X-Wing-attack aimed at its weak spot (this time: „oscillator“). You can’t make this stuff up. Or at least you shouldn’t, because somebody already DID. Decades ago, in the SAME FRANCHISE!

At least this time it’s not the fat X-Wing pilot that is killed but his CGI-alien squad mates. But people who want to watch an old Star Wars movie could just dial one up on Netflix illegally torrent a restored version from the internet. Here I had been thinking they kept George „dialog meister“ Lucas away from the script. Have they actually passed a law in Hollywood now against thinking up new or original set pieces? Lamest of all – R2D2 actually saves the customary day this time by waking up from stand-by. Someone seems to have taken the criticism about the droid’s Bond gadgets from the fight in the Geonosis robot factory a little too far to heart.

Let there be no mistake: As soon as it is the well-known and aged characters driving the rehash, it’s not annoying at all. To the contrary. Laconic as ever, Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher just need a few lines of banter to conjure up the ordeals suffered by Leia and Han Solo since Episode Six. Vivid, moving – simple, and great.

The Good

The new female lead. Daisy Ridley delivers a great performance as ‚Rey‘, taking a much more deserved place in the contemporary string of strong, whedonesk heroines than the overrated Katniss from the last few installments of the implausible „Hunger Games“ holodeck.

Delivered with a pleasant lack of overblown pathos, John Boyega’s message as Finn the rebellious sanitation Stormtrooper is one against mindlessly following orders. Even the lowliest private can use his own head and make his own moral decisions – if he wants to, and if he has the guts. There is always an alternative.

And the pain on the face of a mute Luke Skywalker who, with the best of intentions, helped turn his nephew into the next Darth Vader is one of the great moments in cinematic history.

The Ugly

Also, that main baddie played by Adam Driver feels especially contemporary. Of course the bad is all there, with the atrocities and war crimes. But mainly, there’s a bully inside, of the school yard or Jihadi John variety. And that means of course he’s also a weak wannabe. Meet Kylo Ren, a Darth Vader fanboy whose self-doubt jumps from the screen long before the female lead spells it out for the peanut gallery. His mask, no life-saving prosthesis but pure exhibitionism. He wears it mainly for the image, he thinks it’s cool, a little like Eric Cartman would.

„I’m a dog chasing cars. I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught it“

But where Vader’s actual cool is first and second nature when he casually force-chokes skeptics and admirals, Ren goes the whole Rumpelstiltskin. Indulges in one tantrum after the other, thrashing his place with his pretentious two-handed light sword. Of course such lack of control does not help his authoritah any more than Cartman’s. His flunkies may fear him; they’ll never respect him. But that only makes him all the more dangerous as his evil is random and unpredictable. Dark Helmet from ‚Space Balls‘ meats Heath Ledger’s Joker, and the blend is extra-creepy.

Should someone ever press the nuclear holocaust button here on this planet, it’s bound to be a creep just like him.

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