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Sunday, December 17, 2017

STAR WARS: A Religious Experience


Yes, I went to see STAR WARS:  The Last Jedi.  For many, the ten (some say 12, for there was a holiday special featuring Chewbacca's family and another focusing on The Ewoks) is a religious experience.  I have two Christmas treats for you:  view the entire Chewbacca (did you know, for example, that he had a wife???) special (1 hr 37 minutes--even including Harvey Korman, Art Carney, Diahann Carroll and the Jefferson Starship!!) and entire Ewok adventure (1 hr 20 min--narrated by Burl Ives).  Free.

The major difference between traditional religion and Star Wars is that the former developed from mostly folk tales found in The Bible, The Koran, Veda and equivalents, while the latter was created by George Lucas forty years ago of space adventures occurring a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  That's George on top.  The links are that both are morality tales.

For accuracy purposes, you would have thought that this opening theme should've said "a long time from now."  However, one can interpret this in many ways.  For example, the narration could have been a quote from sometime in the future.  Yet, there are hints that the characters in the film have no relation to Planet Earth.  The Big Bang occurred almost 14 billion years ago, and there might well have been intelligent life billions of years ago somewhere in the Universe.  In any case, if you take this subject too seriously, you get caught in the faith versus reality quandary.

Rotten Tomatoes reviewers gave The Last Jedi a 93% rating.  Interestingly enough, audiences only bestowed a 56% like score.  But Walt Disney Studios is happy, for Box Office Mojo showed that, just this weekend, the film earned a gross of $220 million.Add a whopping $230 million in international ticket sales, and the gross was $450 million.  Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012 for $4 billion.  #s 2 and 3 this weekend were Ferdinand at $13 million and Coco at $10 million.  The Star Wars franchise has now zoomed past $7.5 billion.

Here is my problem with the series, I can't keep up with the characters.  But this is partly because the first trilogy, beginning with Episode IV:  A New Hope in 1977, was followed by a prequel trilogy in 1999.  Then came a sequel trilogy beginning in 2015 with The Force Awakens, then now, The Last Jedi as Episode VIII.  Further complicating my understanding, though, were two more, an animated The Clone Wars in 2008 and Rogue One last year, which are termed anthology films.  Coming this summer will be another, Solo:  A Star Wars Story, directed by Ron Howard.

I will share all kinds of stuff about this movie (so if you truly are a certified aficionado, stop reading now), although for most readers of this blog, the effect will be like including a poster of Star Wars.  Who really knows enough to be substantially influenced?  If you're like me and show potential for getting confused, here are a few pointers and other important background info to reduce your ignorance and better enjoy the film:
  • What or who are Jedi?  To simplify, they are the monk-like hero warriors and good guys (mostly) and gals, who have a kind of mystical Force.  They were at one time 10,000 strong.
  • Who are the Sith?  The bad ones, epitomized by Darth Vader.
  • Episode I: 
    • Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson)
    • nine-year old Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), apprentice to Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor)
  • Episode 2: 
    • young adult Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen)--who in later episodes went on to become Darth Vader and father of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia
    • Jedi Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi
    • Jedi Yoda (supposedly 900 years old--above photo with George Lucas)
    • Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, who plays a prominent role in The Last Jedi) was training nephew Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, major villain in The Last Jedi), who fell to the Dark Side, became a Sith and killed his father, Han Solo.
  • Episode 8:
    • Supreme Leader Snoke (rightbaddest guy) just appeared, with no explanation, but is killed near the end, by, again, Kylo Ren.
    • The Resistance (good people) is on the verge of extinction and there are so few Jedi (Leia and Solo never attained this status), maybe only one.
    • Kelly Marie Tran did well as the first Asian-American actress to play any kind of role in Star Wars.  Here with John Bodega and Daisy Ridly. Rose Tico will be back.
    • At the end, Luke Skywalker just goes home.  So at worst, the last Jedi is left alive.
Notwithstanding, the key character throughout is Darth Vader, born as Anakin Skywalker, who becomes a Jedi, but switches to Sith-hood, marrying Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman--princess and Queen, who is "good"), siring Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, playing the commanding General in The Last Jedi, who passed away a year ago, and who, by the way, is the daughter of Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds).

Han Solo is her son-in-law, for, if you missed it, Princess Leia married Han Solo in Episode VII, sort of, and their son is Kylo Ren.

Most of the important toys return, save for Jar Jar Binks:

  • R2-D2
  • C-3PO
  • BB-9E
  • Yoda
  • Plus a new one, a Porg

Why are archaic lightsabers used in the film?  They evoke coolness and samurai action, but are hopelessly obsolete when compared to pistols and The Force.  However, the younger movie generation is addicted to hand-to-hand fighting and these whooshing weapons of color occupy significant movie time, lowering costs.  Note that Siths mostly field the color red.

Finally, who was The Last Jedi?  Luke Skywalker, for this is mentioned in this movie.  Yet, we have at least one more Star Wars film coming, and nothing much has been said of Rey's (Daisy Ridley) parentage.  I thought this would be revealed in The Last Jedi.  Hey, she has THE FORCE, and the third trilogy has her as the central character.  Guess what we'll learn in Episode 9, which will be released in June of 2018?
On the other hand, a few other possible Jedi candidates could be:
  • Kylo Ren:  certainly, he will be THE villain, but will he convert in Episode 9?
  • That final scene of Temiri Blagg, a young kid with a broom staring up at the stars... there has to be something here.
  • Yet, George Lucas did say, somewhat emphatically, that the series will end with Episode 9, but I can't imagine Luke Skywalker actually being the last Jedi.
  • Ah, a warped sense of love somehow keeps getting inserted into these Star Wars sagas, so will Rey link with Fin (John Bodega) or Poe (Oscar Isaac) or Kylo Ren (right, Adam Driver)?

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