Star Wars: The Force Awakens never had a chance to be a great movie. It’s not controversial, it’s just a fact. J.J. Abrams and his creative team had too big a task, with too many moving parts, too many things to accomplish, for this movie to ever be great.
This is a movie that had to introduce a new generation of characters, reintroduce and reconnect audiences with 30-year-old characters, that had to re-establish credibility with Star Wars fans who felt burnt by the sins of the prequels, that had to remind audiences why they love Star Wars in the first place. Plus, it had to compete with people’s nostalgia, and a long-forgotten childhood is hard to compete with. And people expected this movie to be great, too? The fact that it even holds together as well as it does is really an achievement!
Sure, The Force Awakens plays things safe. There’s a lot of tread-upon territories returned to here, not a lot of risktaking. But ultimately, for a film to lay as much groundwork it does as competently as it is is something to be recognized even if the movie isn’t a great cinematic achievement.
I liken it to making a series of a TV show – and after all, what is the Star Wars saga if not a TV show, set against the most epic of scales, told in hundred-million-dollar mega-length episodes?
Not every episode of a great TV show can be great, simply by virtue of how a TV series is structured. Sometimes, you have to just connect the dots, lay a foundation, and know that it’s the hard work that will never be recognized. I’m honestly glad that Disney is rewarding J.J. Abrams’ hard work by letting him direct Episode 9 – it’s a chance for him to show what he can do when he’s not forced to check quite as many boxes.
There’s an inherent cinematic tension to a confined space like a train (Snowpiercer, Murder on the Orient Express), or, in the case of Kathryn Bigelow’s K-19: The Widowmaker, a submarine. K-19 tells the story of a nuclear submarine that undergoes a catastrophic failure to its nuclear reactor, and Kathryn Bigelow takes full advantage of the cinematic tension to create a claustrophobic film that takes a darkly depressing turn into the fatalistic. The images of young sailors, emerging from the irradiated containment compartment of the submarine, already suffering from severe radiation poisoning, are harrowing, to say the least.
Though K-19 is ultimately a good film for what it’s trying to be, it’s easy to see why this was such a boondoggle. This is not an action film – despite being marketed as an action film, despite starring one of the biggest action stars in the world in Harrison Ford (Liam Neeson was not yet an action star in 2002), this is a dark drama at best, claustrophobic, cynical, and depressing.
Some of the accent stuff in this movie is iffy at best. Asking Harrison Ford to do a Russian accent – maybe not the best move?
In many ways, this feels very much like the precursor to Bigelow’s later career, to films like The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty – the kind of dark adult drama that Bigelow is now known for, but at the time was not her modus operandi.
In Blade Runner 2049, visionary Canadian director Denis Villeneuve manages to live up to the legacy of the iconic classic Ridley Scott film Blade Runner. As I previously cataloged, Villeneuve is in many ways the perfect director to follow in Ridley Scott’s footsteps, as much a visionary stylist whose films tend towards a kind of frigidity as Ridley Scott himself, and Blade Runner 2049 very much proves that comparison true. If Blade Runner 2049 has shortcomings, they are very much its almost icy exterior and its burdensome length; but the content of the film overwhelms any such concerns.
Continue reading “2017 Movie #108: Blade Runner 2049 (2017)”
Over the years, a number of different versions of Blade Runner have come out, and some critics will tell you that different versions are the “definitive” or “best” versions. I’m not here to arbitrate the different versions, not having seen them all, but I can say confidently that the versions I’ve seen are all brilliant. Blade Runner is one of the most inventive, visually genius, and influential films in the science fiction genre, and in re-watching it, it strikes me that whatever flaws I may find in its plot or story, this is a movie worth watching and re-watching on the merits of the visuals alone.
Continue reading “2017 Movie #77: Blade Runner (1982)”
What more could you possibly want from an action movie? One of the greatest action stars of all time, in a cat-and-mouse game of wits against an equally great actor, a film of nonstop action and suspense and thrilling moments, even a cameo appearance from a young Julianne Moore! The Fugitive is masterful.
Continue reading “2017 Movie #64: The Fugitive (1993)”
When I was a child, my parents would take me to the library every week. I would always pick out a couple of movies on VHS (remember those?) to watch on the weekends, and inevitably there were certain movies that wound up in my rotation, movies that I would check out regularly and watch obsessively, movies that shaped me as a consumer of film and television. One of those movies was Raiders of the Lost Ark, and to this day it remains one of my most beloved movies of all time, a movie that I can watch any time and never gets old to me.
Continue reading “2017 Movie #49: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)”
A lot of people, some of whom I respect, really hate this movie with a passion. To them, the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones series is an abomination that shit all over their collective childhoods.
My view of things is a lot more conflicted… First, much as the original Indiana Jones films are classic, iconic, even masterful, works of art, I’m not one for the argument that a new work of art should change how I feel about something I love. Raiders of the Lost Ark, to my mind, is about as close to a perfect action film as I could imagine; no amount of problematic storytelling could change that.
Continue reading “2017 Movie #36: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)”