We discussed books highlights of 2019, now it’s time for movies and TV-series. A few of the favourites and a few of the disappointments in both categories, to round up the past year in media :).
I haven’t had much time for movies and series. I’ve watched a nice mix of old and new, and enjoyed quite many of them – though only few made a lasting impression. The absolute winner in this category is…
Ola: That’s the way fairy tales start. Once upon a time, beyond tall mountains and vast rivers, a mysterious hero was born who had changed the fate of his tribe/community/nation/humankind. Led by fate, S/He had many dangerous and tasking adventures, had to overcome many deadly foes, traps and tests in order to come back to Her/His home with a great boon of miraculous nature and redeem Her/His people.
Nothing original, really, especially considering the fact that George Lucas’s creation of his famous saga had been significantly inspired by Joseph’s Campbell The Hero with a Thousand Faces. The theory that most of the world myths conform to one, simple pattern modeled on the rites of initiation is as suggestive as is ultimately misleading – and yet Lucas in his creation of Star Wars universe managed to strike a chord with millions of people worldwide, envisioning a world like – and yet unlike – ours, just exponentially bigger and vivid.
Starships! Knights! Droids! Magic! Princesses! Scoundrels with hearts of gold! Vile emperors! Cuddly little creatures! Breathtaking vistas of planets and space! It’s all there, and more – and everything is suffused by Force, a mana-like, magical power binding every living thing in a net of awareness.
Piotrek: It is a simple story, of a young man going from zero to a hero, discovering his heritage and coming to his power. A story like countless others, but in space.
Not a very realistic space, there aren’t that many attempts to pretend that, it is not hard science fiction that would try to propose a likely vision of space-travelling humanity of the future. This story takes place long ago, like the stories of Gilgamesh or Theseus, and takes a structure immediately familiar to audience from any cultural background.
Campbell is an obvious inspiration, and that’s something Lucas freely admits.
Ola: The Last Jedi is the second instalment in the new Star Wars trilogy, produced by Disney and without any direct involvement of George Lucas, the original creator of Star Wars universe. The Last Jedi starts right where Episode VII ended. My review for The Force Awakens, and my openly expressed criticism, can be found here. Episode VIII was supposed to open a new field of play, built on the flimsy foundations set in the derivative plot of Episode VII. Most of the fans had high hopes for The Last Jedi, both because of the immensely advanced technology allowing for more picturesque and dynamic scenes, and because it is the middle part of the trilogy – the analogies to The Empire Strikes Back were clear from the beginning, with Luke Skywalker doomed to reprise the role of Master Yoda.
The Last Jedi turned out to be a wholehearted reprisal of The Empire Strikes Back: with Dagobah set on a stony island, a reluctant hermit teaching the secrets of the Force to a young (but too old anyway!) and strong in the Force adept, a doom hanging on suddenly desperate Rebels… What happened to the New Republic? There are also some additional scenes taken out from The Return of the Jedi: our protagonist, trained in the ways of Force, tries to rescue the Big Bad Skywalker, in whom a conflict of darkness and light burns brightly… The protagonist is tortured by the evil Emperor with a badly distorted face and a penchant for terrible sneer (or Supreme Leader, whatever) only to be saved by the Big Bad Skywalker.
I hope everyone’s already seen Episode VIII. Because my first question is: WTF??? Why are you, Disney, so bent on killing all the beloved characters of old trilogy? Is this some kind of ritualistic patricide? I mean, I probably should be glad you didn’t use pretzels as a means of gruesome death, but that’s not enough for me, not by a long shot.
Piotrek: I, on the other hand, had fun watching the latest installment of Star Wars franchise. I’d say it was a very nice movie, but perhaps not a good addition to the SW universe.
Today a review of not a book, but an event – a Star Wars exhibition I had seen in London. A heaven for any geek, but a particular paradise for Star Wars fans – where else could you see BB-8 or Han Solo in carbonite?
Long time with total radio silence… has ended 😉 It’s been a busy few weeks, pretty hectic and full of work – after all, the end of semester is near and students finally wake up from their usual slumber. And now the before-mentioned and hopefully long-awaited review of the latest installment in the Star Wars universe is finally here :).
Ola: I’ve written a few words about Rogue One before, promising a longer review later on. Now, after almost everyone who wanted to see it had actually see it, we can safely present our spoiler-full review ;).
Piotrek: Well, I waited two weeks to see Rogue One and I really can’t remember what was that important to prevent me from doing that earlier… because the movie was great, a perfect end to my best year ever (cinema-and nothing else-wise). Now I consider the statue of limitations expired.
Ola: Rogue One is the first in the already announced plethora of tie-ins to the main Star Wars movies trilogies, reaching back to the time before New Hope, when a group of daring Resistance members stole the plans of the mysterious new weapon employed by the Empire – the Death Star, thus enabling the events of New Hope to happen.
Piotrek: A movie built upon a few sentences from New Hope, and settling some age-old controversies. The gods of canon have spoken.
I’ve seen Rogue One – and it’s very good :). Exceptionally good, considering it’s a spin-off.
Way better than Star Wars VII when it comes to depth, originality, and general faithfulness to the spirit. A story of sacrifice and faith – in all of their shades, even the most questionable and morally ambiguous. Lots of nods to all die-hard Star Wars fans, but none of the redundancy that had been the curse of the VIIth part. Also – way more gritty and brutal than other Star Wars titles. Reminded me of WWII movies – Dirty Dozen and Pacific beaches ;).
All the issues I really wanted to bring up in my planned Star Wars: The Force Awakens (book) review were already mentioned in Ola’s review of the movie and discussion below. But let me reiterate – I don’t blame the movie for being derivative of the original trilogy. For me it’s a (nearly) perfect mix of nostalgia and introduction to after-Return of the Jedi universe. It’s a struggle similar in nature, a fight against another genocidal empire, but history repeats itself even here. Sometimes seriously (I/II world wars), sometimes as a farce (PRL/PiS). Reddit pointed me recently in the direction of an excellent post by Gerry Canavan, Tolkien, THE FORCE AWAKENS, and the Sadness of Expanded Universes that discusses just that. I still think that [major spoiler, highlight to read] authors took the easy way out, with the New Republic power structures and military taken out of the picture with a single shot, but the basic idea – the fight continues, next generation must confront same evils – is ok by me.