REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens


**Please NOTE: I began writing a movie review, and wound up writing a paper. A thesis, if you will, that critiques the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but moreover subsists as a tome of frustration against, and will hopefully be thumbtacked to the very ass of, Corporate Hollywood.

IN PROLOGUE  A Writer in Requiem

In May of 1983, I was 12 years old.

Sitting in a darkened theater called “Angelina Twin Cinema,” in Lufkin, Texas, I watched as the last (and most anticipated) of the original Star Wars Trilogy, unfolded. And surprisingly, I sank lower, and lower, and lower in my seat. Having read interviews with various behind-the-scenes participants, in various movie magazines such as Starlog and Fantastic Films, I knew in advance that something hadn’t gone quite as planned in relation to the film’s screenplay. On my way in, I really didn’t think it would matter. On my way out, I was frustrated. I just kept shaking my head, ‘Why the hell did they do that??’

While watching the movie, my ability to delude myself, suspend my disbelief, and in general distract myself from the film’s faults, was not only nonexistent, it had gradually turned into full blown anxiety. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Five drafts! All circulated among V.I.P.’s termed, “Above-The-Line Talent,” prior to principal photography. And with each new draft, reportedly came even more watered down characters and plot developments, and more and more contrived and inconsequential visual exposition. Rumor was, it was a ploy intended to sell more toys.

I was caught off guard. I could actually see the difference in the quality of the material, moving across the screen. And I could certainly hear it in the dialogue. Although the larger structure was really strong, scenes within that larger story structure were … simplified. And a little wooden. Even cartoony. But more often, pointless. This was awkward and embarrassing. Especially in comparison with the former film, Empire Strikes Back. Within two days, I knew I could have written it better. I didn’t just think I could have written Return of the Jedi better – I knew I could have written it better. This was the very moment, I realized I was going to be a writer. Whether I wanted to be, or not.

Mind you, I was only 12 years old.

.....and not a single Yub Nub was given that day.

…..and not a single Yub Nub was given that day.

PART FIRST  The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing or Wherein I explain the how’s and why’s of every nightmare in the 21’st Century being systematically generated and monopolized by Opportunists

I thought Return of the Jedi was the worst Star Wars would ever have to offer.  DISSOLVE TO: Thirty-two years and Seven months have passed since then. And Luke Skywalker has vanished. In more than one sense.

After a disappointing trilogy of Prequel films, helmed by original Star Wars co-writer and director, George Lucas, Disney and Lucasfilm sought out talent to “reboot” their newly acquired franchise. Several names were thrown to the media. After months of gossip, former movie Producer, and newly inaugurated Lucasfilm President, Kathleen Kennedy announced that J.J. Abrams had gotten the job.

Abrams entered the Industry as a college film school grad who had attracted the attention of the one and only Steven Spielberg. Working in multiple roles and positions in the area of film production, “Jeffrey” Abrams had managed to write and sell screenplays such as: Taking Care of Business (1990,) Regarding Henry (1991,) and Forever Young (1992.) Eventually, he was offered work polishing scripts for film production, and did so for good payment, but little or no credit. That is, with exception to the 1998 stupidfest, Armageddon. And just why Abrams would agree to a job rewriting said script is a head-scratcher. Specifically in light of the fact that Steven Spielberg was a mentor to Abrams, and Armageddon was competing against the Steve Spielberg produced Deep Impact.

Segueing into the TV business, by writing, and creating shows such as Felicty and Alias, Abrams quickly became a well-known, successful commodity in the business of Television. By the time the TV show Lost became a phenomenon in 2004, Abrams had plopped into the Television Development Executive comfy chair, offering comments, notes, and a certain creative advice, on numerous shows. A job role which he would never be credited with, as Development Executives rarely get credited. That’s the job position they don’t want you asking too many questions about. Because Television Development Executives always have more authority than they really need, and exploit it, obsessive-compulsively.

Eventually, Abrams began directing. First in Television, but later with films like Mission: Impossible III, Super8 (a film that reportedly pitted him against both Dreamworks’ and Paramount’s Development Executives, with heartbreaking results, ha-ha) and two Star Trek films. And all the while, he maintained his role as a “Television Development Executive.” The role that actually introduced him to the corporate climate of Hollywood, and in effect, has always been his trump card in the industry.

So, why did Lucasfilm want Abrams? Because Stephen Spielberg called up Kathy Kennedy and suggested Abrams. And why would Stephen Spielberg call up Kathy Kennedy, wishing to suggest Abrams? Because Spielberg had discovered that Disney (which owns Lucasfilm) wanted to reboot Star Wars into another kind of franchise. And just what kind of franchise? An ATM Machine, that’s what kind of franchise. Specifically, an overly episodic, simplified, addicting storyline. An unending series of films, preferably designed with less emphasis on the Joseph Campbell influence, and preferably straight-jacketed by a “Bible.” A “Bible” on a show, is television industry parlance for, “We wanna know what the hell’s gonna happen, going forward; don’t hold anything back; tell us everything, so that we — those who are really in charge — can determine the direction of these stories. You know, just like the Marvel films that we release. That’s it! Simplify the fuck out of it, in advance; that works for us!” They wanted something that they, the corporate-minded people who don’t really want to watch these movies, can understand. Something that is nothing like the Original Trilogy. Something that Development Executives can understand. Something like a Television Pilot…

Enter, J.J. Abrams.

PART SECOND  “The Film,” if you insist upon calling it that, or Jar Jar Abrams Strikes Again

There will always be quibbles. So let’s get those out of the way, first. I have two minor quibbles about the opening of this new film, The Farce Awakens, and I’ll let it be that. Laugh if you wish, I’m sure you will.

A) “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …” was always vibrant blue in the Original films. Now, for some inexplicable reason, it’s freakin’ green. And kind of an ugly green.

B) That opening starfield doesn’t look right. Many of the stars seem to be in the same place as they are in the other films, but … Now, I know you’re laughing, but I’m tellin’ ‘ya, it doesn’t look right. All the stars are the exact same brightness, giving it absolutely no depth at all. It looks cheaper. In the Original films, the starfields have depth. Mainly because the effects artists gave them depth, by creating multiple layers of variant brightness. In the case of this new film, it appears that a computer program mapped out the generic starfield from the Original films, and re-generated it. And no one ever sought to even tweak that. They just let the computer do it. You wouldn’t think this would matter, but it does.SW a long time ago

Let’s get back to those quibbles a little later. Presently, let me just give you the overlong, exasperated, overblown, blow-by-bow, description of incidentals that take place within this movie, minus the commercial breaks. *dusts hands* Stay tuned, I’m about to get mean.

The camera tilts down to the planet Jakku (pronounced Jack-oooo,) and after Abrams’ poor attempt at a signature opening shot (a cartoony shadowy triangle of a big star destroyer rising up in frame to cover the day-side of the planet,) we are on planet night-side. And quickly introduced to an apparently nameless character, played by world-renowned actor, Max Von Sydow. But please don’t get to comfortable with him, or curious about him, because he will be dead shortly. After having a brief exchange with Poe Dameron (played well by actor Oscar Isaac of Inside Llewyn Davis,) this makeshift camp in the desert is raided by Stormtroopers. Wait. Are they still called Stormtroopers? Screw it, I’m callin’ ‘em Stormtroopers. Poe has uttered exposition, confirming that he is part of ‘The Resistance’ (this is apparently a new word standing in for Rebellion; when in fact the Rebellion apparently never ended, and both words mean the same damn thing,) and Sydow has given him a small thumb drive (no shit, that’s exactly what it is) filled with some secret data that will assist the Rebels. I mean the Resisters. Whatever.

So the camp is attacked — and although brief, it is good action filmmaking; some nice work here – and we are introduced to BB8, which is Poe’s droid. Poe’s X-Wing fighter is damaged during the melee, so he cannot escape the Raid with the thumb drive. So he puts it in the robot, and tells BB8 to take off, that he will catch up with the cute little spanner later. Then, Poe sees an Imperial ship approach and land. Meanwhile, one of the Stormtroopers sees a comrade killed, and runs to his aid, only getting there as a bloody hand reaches up to mark his helmet. Then, the same sympathetic Stormtrooper watches as his other comrades gun down unarmed people. And even though he’s wearing a helmet, Stormtrooper is clearly conflicted. THIS guy, is the absolute best, and most wonderful thing about this fucking movie.

Soon after, a dark and shady guy in cheap black cloth and a graphite grilled helmet comes out to question Max Von Sydow. They seem to know each other. Sydow speaks to Mr. dark and shady, says something about you can hide behind a mask, and call yourself Kylo Ren, but yada yada yada… That sort of thing. So Kylo Ren lightsabers Max Von Sydow. A wonderful thespian, and unique talent, taken from the Star Wars universe so quickly it makes you want to buy a puppy, name it J.J. Abrams, and slap the living shit out of it. Then, some Stormtroopers bring Poe before the Kylo Ren person, and place him on his knees. Kylo Ren leans over, just stares at Poe. Poe comments that he’s not sure if he’s supposed to talk first. Then Kylo says something about wanting the little thumb drive, and Poe comments that he can’t understand a word he’s saying; must be the mask. They take Poe away. Stormtrooper with blood on helmet is still conflicted …

Shift to day, and across the Planet. A character we eventually come to know as ‘Rey,’ a teenage scavenger, appears, and following a series of expository bits of business revealing her shit life and knowledge of the veritable junkyard of ‘Empire’ space ships littering the planet, she rescues the nauseously cute BB8 from a junk scavenger, who would have simply dismantled the robot for spare parts. This comes to us via conversation between Rey the teenager, and BB8 the droid. You see, she speaks his language. They can communicate. Something Luke needed an X-Wing Fighter’s computer to assist him with in Empire Strikes Back. Wait, it gets better. As the movie goes on, she talks to Chewie, as well. She’d make a great protocol droid, given she speaks the language of everybody she meets. In any case, she shows dignity and integrity, by refusing to sell BB8 for food. Awwwww …

Meanwhile, after arriving on-board the Star Destroyer, Conflicted Stormtrooper needs a moment to himself. After removing his helmet to get some air, he finds a minor character named “Captain Phasma” over his shoulder. A sleek, tall, chrome Stormtrooper that looks very similar to a Cylon on the old Battlestar Galactica. By Phasma’s voice, we know the dude’s a she. This cool chick was wasted. She pops up infrequently, and only for an instant. And Later on in the movie, they just stick her in a garbage compactor, and that’s the last we see of her. And we never saw much of her to begin with, mind you. I hear she’s in the sequel. Lame excuse.

Anyway, after Poe has been interrogated by Kylo Ren, or Darth Punk-ass Bitch, as I like to call him, Conflicted Stormtrooper is placed in charge of the despot Rebel fighter, and pulls them both aside to offer to help Poe escape, if Poe will fly. Because conflicted Stormtrooper’s not a pilot. Some funny exposition, and the two of them go through a humorous sequence of stealing a Tie Fighter and crash landing it back on Jakku. But before they do, Conflicted Stormtrooper gives his name as FN and a number. Poe refuses to call him that, decides to call him “FINN.” Finn responds really enthusiastically to this. They probably should have rethought that moment, given what a white man giving a black man a name, implies.

They two are separated by the crash. Is Poe no more? Finn meets Rey, after witnessing her defend herself. Gets attacked by Rey because BB8 recognizes Poe’s jacket on Finn. Somewhere in there, Finn lies, says he’s part of the Resistance. And essentially he is, now. Whether he likes it or not. So technically, he’s not really lying. And, the Empire – I mean The First Order – Jesus, was it really necessary that they rename the fucking Empire? Okay. I’ll just have to get used to that, I guess. I’m not getting used to ‘The Resistance,’ though. That is ‘The Ridiculous.’ So anyway, The F.O. knows that BB8 is carrying the thumb drive. So they’re gonna be looking for it, right? And the last thing they would do is shoot at it, right? Wrong. Sort of a plot hole, there, people! Once they find BB8, Tie Fighters show up and start strafing the area. Clearly attempting to murder the poor little robot fart. Like I said, PLOT HOLE, PEOPLE! Or … ‘ya know, discrepancy, or whatever-the-hell you wanna call it. I don’t care.  Run, you little 1981 Nerf soccer ball.BB-8So Rey and Finn have to escape. But like Gerbils, they’re obviously going nowhere without transportation off this rock. So she leads them to a ship that’s about 200 yards away. Finn sees one closer, and shouts something along the lines of, “What about that one!?” She looks across the desert sand, and deems it to be a piece of junk. Suddenly, the very ship they’re running for 200 yards away gets blasted into oblivion, and Rey and Finn deviate to ‘piece of junk.’ Which turns out to be The Millennium Falcon, with tattered tarp covering its fuselage. IT’S A TARP! Admiral Ackbar even makes a later appearance in the movie. So this is a nice little in-joke.

Contrivance, contrivance, they escape, get caught by a freighter, which turns out to be Han Solo and Chewie, wherein we get the famous trailer moment, “Chewie … we’re home,” but a slightly better version of it. Once everyone knows who everyone is, Han tells Chewie that they will have to let the kids off at a nearby way station. Rey and Finn offer that BB8 is carrying a map to Luke Skywalker. Han is surprised. They take a look at it. The map is not complete, but it’s a good chance for some exposition. Han tells them that Luke tried to train a new generation of Jedi, and failed, miserably. He sunk into depression and vanished. Leia has been trying to find him ever since. Han says at one time he didn’t believe any of it: a force that encompassed everything, the Jedi, their powers. All of it. But now, he tells them he knows it’s true. All of it. This scene attempts to get across that these kids have heard about ‘The Force,’ and these people (Han, Luke, etc.) but assumed they were mythical. And now they’re finding out they are real. Unfortunately, it’s handled, fleetingly, and amateurishly. And after illustrating that little bit of the scene from the trailer, ‘It’s all true, all of it,’ the scene essentially goes nowhere. They really didn’t know what they had there.  I honestly thought, given that this is a key scene, that the filmmakers would have worked on it a bit longer. But oh, no, it seems like they did a couple of passes, and never came back to it, and consequently, the real meaning of it, and the opportunity to dig deeper and have it really mean something, and possibly narrow down the through-line of the entire movie, gets lost. Or is slighted. Don’t get me wrong. You comprehend what they’re telling you — the idea they’re trying to get across — but it’s not nearly as mythical or emotional or legendary as it should be. Most important scene in the movie, and they mucked it up. And they could’a done it with less dialogue. That’s the sad part. And there’s something bothering me about Han Solo. He seems familiar. But like a grandmother.  Please note: I did not say grandfather.

Next, there’s a mindlessly unnecessary sequence that follows wherein two criminal gangs dock with and board Han and Chewie’s freighter, wanting the return of their money, as cargo was undelivered. Han argues he’s got to get rid of the cargo he currently has, before he can pay them back. Seems Han is borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, again. Han’s hauling some monsters, which I cannot remember the name of, but wasn’t really impressed by much. They certainly were creepy, gooey looking things; I’ll give ‘em that. Weird looking 1990’s Sci-Fi shit, is really what it was. However, they were derivative, and not very inventive. Didn’t capture my imagination for an instant. Matter of fact, looked like a rejected creature from one of Abrams’ Star Trek films. Or any bad sci-fi movie, for that matter.

Anyway, our heroes escape in the Falcon and travel to another planet to meet a small alien woman who owns a Bar in a Castle. A small alien woman who wants to know where her boyfriend Chewbacca is. Anyway. There’s some talk at a table. Finn warns them about a new type of Deathstar. Finn wants to get the hell out of there, and head for the Galaxy’s outer rim, for safety. Rey is shocked. Finn decides to leave with some aliens who will take him there. The Bar owner, Maz Kenyata? Kanata? Sounds like a compact car. I guess it is hard for Development Executives to come up with good names in the Star Wars Universe. She asks Han who the girl is, WE CUT AWAY before he answers. But we suspect that we will eventually learn in another film, that this is Luke Skywalker’s daughter. Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps they haven’t nailed that down yet. I don’t know whether to chastise them for generating a Bible for this new enterprise, or chastise them for not having figured out the backstory to their own fucking movie. I’m conflicted.

Case in point. Rey hears something, and is drawn into the basement of Castle/Bar. Down a long stone hallway, she finds a keepsake box with a lightsaber inside. Touching it, she has a flashback to the corridor aboard Cloud City, from Empire Strikes Back, sees Kylo Ren and others like him, and finally, sees herself as a little girl, abandoned on Jakku. Apparently, by her parents. At this point, I realize that the planet Jakku is not really very interesting, and has come up far too much, and been dwelled on far too much, in this movie. It looks exact’a’fuckin’ like Tantooine. So why didn’t they just – never mind. So the little Maz Piñata Bar owner lady appears, again, tells Rey that the lightsaber belonged to Luke, how it got here is another story, but that it calls to Rey. Rey runs away, says she never wants to touch the thing again. Like a virgin. The point that should be taken, though, is that none of this makes sense, because it doesn’t make sense to Abrams, either. Keep that in mind.

By the way, there are a few brief interludes I’m leaving out between a red-headed guy in authority aboard the Star Destroyer, and Mr. shady, Kylo Ren. They are wasted time. I have also left out a character seen in giant hologram. A shitty hologram. Named Snoke. It looks like a giant naked “Dobby” from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Only without ears. Snoke wants Kylo Ren to kill his father, Han Solo. Stupid for them to give that away so early, but whatever, dude. Your story; ruin it if ‘ya gotta. Snoke is the kind of character you hope somehow vanishes in-between movies. He’s gonna turn out to be the Jar Jar of these new films, I can see that already.

So, two aliens inside the Bar/Castle have sent secret messages: one to the Rebel Alliance (once again, the ‘Resistance.’ Notice how my mind is ‘Resisting’ using that word,) the other to The Fuck Off. I mean the F.O. Both report that they’ve found the droid each side is looking for. Which is not a bad bit of business, but not handled very effectively. If I could take a moment to simply reiterate my appreciation for the fact that F.O. also stands for – never mind that; never mind that. Okay … so Rey has run off into the woods around the Castle/Bar place, and looks up to see Tie Fighters, etc., flying overhead. Uh, oh. Shit’s about to get real. Right? Not so fast, this is a sequence that could have been done much better. It’s too much ‘by the numbers.’ As if the director just walked through it. Like it was a Television Pilot — thaaaat’s right; I forgot, I’m sorry.

Rey is confronted by Finn. I mean Kylo Ren. Sorry. Finn and Ren rhyme too much. That’s not good. Anyway. Rey is still in the woods when Kylo tries to get the location of the droid out of her, and discovers that she’s seen the map. It’s in her head. Which for some reason reminds me of Star Trek. So he places her in an unconscious state, and abducts her. Finn sees this after fighting a Stormtrooper with Luke’s lightsaber. The Stormtrooper, by the by, has been magically equipped – total fucking coincidence, I’m sure – with a wonderful taser wand, that deflects a lightsaber. Let that sink in. So a moment later, Finn sees Kylo Ren taking Rey — ya know all three of their names should have been changed to something else. Rey, Ren, and Finn. What dumbass thought that was a good idea??Candycane Candycane

Okay … so anyway, Finn is sweet on Rey. And is devastated to see her being carried, unconscious into a later-day shuttle craft, by Kylo Ren. He tells Han they took her, and Han just confirms he knows; walking straight for a transport ship, landing not far away. He stands solemn, waiting. Like a guy’s who’s really done something stupid, waiting for his wife to get off the plane at the airport. And you’re expecting a really amped up Leia. Because previous dialogue from Maz the Bar owner has led you to believe that Han and Leia haven’t seen each other in a while. So she’s gonna have a word with him. Right? Wrong. Instead, you get a wooden Carrie Fisher; whose performance as Leia was clearly restricted. And that sucks. Big time. You also get C-3PO. He says hello to Han Solo and makes a small, trivial comment about his new “red” arm. Which seems forced, and truly makes you wonder if this Abrams guy is aware of how discombobulated and awkward that is. Because there’s nothing more to it than that. And why would 3PO need to mention that it’s “red?” Anyway, Han tells Leia that he saw their son. “He was here,” he says this without an ounce of grit, and suddenly I realize what it is that’s been bothering me about Han Solo. He’s been lobotomized.

Another thing I’ve neglected to mention is that Poe Dameron from the opening scenes, finally returns to pilot another X-Wing craft in defense of the aliens and resistance fighters, around the Castle/Bar. No doubt sent by Leia. So Poe’s back. That’s cool.

So now we get a protracted sequence on another planet, somewhere, wherein various characters converge and have more dialogue and exposition, which isn’t really well thought out, but also isn’t as simple and straight to the point as the original Star Wars, either. A shame really. Intercut with this, is Rey aboard the new Death Star. Which is a Death Star with a big laser gun at the equator, but with land and water all over the rest of the planet. Looks like they built this new Star Destroyer base from within the planet. Interesting idea. Wish they had dwelt on that a bit more. Even if only with a bit more dialogue about it. I’ve read they termed this technological craptastic extravaganza, “Starkiller Base.” But I don’t remember hearing that uttered in the movie.

So Rey is restrained within Kylo Ren’s interrogation room (the same one he interrogated Poe in,) and she convinces Kylo to finally take off his helmet. And as suspected, it’s Adam Driver. But we all knew that, because Disney and Lucasfilm can’t keep a secret for shit. They even paraded him out at Comic-Con – alongside the other villains featured in the film. Driver, while earning my respect in spades as both a thespian, and former United States Marine, is nonetheless playing a character that is not genuinely a threat to anyone. It’s easy to understand why they cast him, though. He looks like he could be the bastard child of Han and Leia. Looks a bit, in his own way, like each of them. And I can see what they’re going for here. The concept of the character is that he’s sort of a young 21 year-old guy from one of the X-Men movies, who drifted way past Magneto’s prejudice, and straight into complete madness … because he meant to do that. Kind of creepy, actually. But by his own exhibited behavior, the character is still just a child. And that just doesn’t work within this film. Because he’s the only real heavy, and he ain’t that damn heavy. Maybe if he was more acrobatic, and moved around like lightning. Something, anything scary. I’ve always believed that what makes a fantasy villain work is whether or not you could bean him in the head with a big rock, and he would still kill you. I mean that takes courage on your part. But what if it has no effect on the villain. Then you know you are dealing with something closer to evil. As opposed to a soul you can relate to, and have a dialectic argument with. But, from what I know of Kylo Run, I mean Ren, I could bean his ass in the head from 20 feet away and run like hell, and he would not recover quickly enough to chase me. He’s too weak. I fear no retribution from him.

Anyway, Kylo Ren soon finds that Rey is strong with the force, and he’s not getting that map out of her. So he leaves her under the guard of a Stormtrooper. So she tries the Ben Kenobi, “You don’t need to see his identification. These are not the droids you’re looking for.” And at first, she’s ineffective. It doesn’t work. However, after a second try, it does work. And a Stormtrooper that sounds suspiciously a lot like actor Daniel Craig, frees her, leaves the door open, and walks out, dropping his weapon on the floor. It’s mildly humorous.

So a few of Abrams small potatoes actors make cameos in the Rebels final briefing meeting. And there, of course, is Admiral Ackbar. And across the room, BB8 discovers R2-D2 underneath a drop cloth. C-3PO informs BB8 that when Master Luke went away, R2 went into low power mode, and has been in that state ever since. Maybe that will make more sense in the plot of the next movie. But it would have been nice if it had made sense in THIS movie. But let’s not forget, THIS IS TELEVISION. That’s the way they’ve designed this movie. They’re trying to get you addicted to nonsensical bullshit, with the promise that there will be a payoff. Just like the TV show, Lost. Remember Lost? Yea, that was Abrams.

To wrap things up, Han, Finn and Chewie travel to the big new Deathstar base to complete their part of the sabotage mission. There’s some bit of business about the Empire’s shield’s being at a certain modulation, and therefore the falcon will need to come out of light speed past the shield. Sounds like an idea leftover from Abrams’ Star Trek, but it’s kind’a cool when they do it. And that is when you realize this movie will play better on TV. Once they crash the falcon through some trees, and into some snow, they infiltrate the base, and Finn – who has offered to help them sabotage a vital part of the base – reveals that he lied. He doesn’t know anything about where that that part of the base is, or how to sabotage it. But he wanted to rescue Rey, and he knew they wouldn’t let him come along if he didn’t lie about being a sanitation worker for the F.O. No shit.

So they take Captain Phasma hostage, throw the poor maligned and unused character into a garbage compactor, and find Rey just in time. Now they have to set explosive charges. Whist Han and Chewie are doing this, Han sees Kylo Ren searching for them. Han decides to confront his son, “Ben,” who’s walking across a catwalk platform over a deep chasm leading down into the heart of the base. It does not go well. Kylo “Ben” Ren is definitely conflicted, but his inner conflict exists simply because he’s been ordered to kill his father, Han Solo, by Snoke, the giant earless Dobby clone. And though Kylo Ren/Ben he wants to kill his father, he doesn’t have the gumption. He’s simply not man enough. And Han doesn’t realize that. This reminds me of something Han and Leia had discussed earlier in the hidden Rebel base. Leia says something along the lines of, “If you find our son, bring him home.” But Kylo is no longer Ben. For whatever reason, his psychological transformation from the person he used to be, to the person he now wants to be, is complete. Or it’s about to be. Ben offers his lightsaber to Han, and once Han takes it, Kylo ignites it, right into Han’s chest. Han’s expression is complete surprise. He strokes his son’s cheek, and Kylo further slices the lightsaber blade out of Han’s side, and this sends Han falling into the chasm. Kind of like the Emperor falling into the same type of chasm in Return of the Jedi. Maybe Kylo was always just a bad kid. Maybe he was bullied. Maybe, maybe, maybe; whatever. If they knew, we would know. Abrams and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan never figured that out, so they just never addressed it. Because they don’t have to do that in Television. In light of Harrison Ford terming Return of the Jedi, “… nothing but a big toy commercial,” I’m sure he’s secretly pleased as punch with having shot the most expensive Television Pilot ever made.

So Chewie sees this, HOWLS, and shoots at Kylo. Kylo evades his gunfire, looks up and spots Rey and Finn at an exit on their way out. Rey and Finn run out and into the woods. More woods. Scenes in the woods on two different planets. Interesting. Someone has a one-track mind. Once they get out there, Kylo magically appears from out of nowhere, and uses the Force to slap Rey into a tree. Finn goes to her aid, Kylo gets his attention with, “That lightsaber! It belongs to me.” Clearly Kylo wants Luke’s lightsaber. It is possible, that Luke gave it to him as a boy, and an adult wisely took it away from him. Clearly, Luke tried to train this kid, who, according to dialogue between Han and Leia earlier, was already a bad kid. But they only have a few words about this. So it just puts an image in your head that this kid might have been suffering from a sociopathic personality disorder, before Luke tried to train him in the Jedi arts. So why would Luke blame himself that the kid grew up to be an evil freak, and run away? To be fair, perhaps Luke didn’t run away for that reason. Perhaps Luke ran away because he knew that Kylo Ren could feed off of his power, and become more powerful. And perhaps that’s bullshit.

So Finn fights Kylo, and gets injured badly. We think he’s dead, in fact. Because Kylo Ren sliced him in the back, and we don’t know how deep. So Rey wakes up, sees Fin, and is emotionally overwhelmed. At the end of the previous fight, Luke’s lightsaber went flying off and landed in the snow, several yards away. Kylo uses the Force to grab for it — but it goes right past him and lands in Rey’s hand. And she fights him like she’s been trained. Like a Boss. Plot hole? Perhaps? Or perhaps her memory was wiped by Luke. Or something else. I’ve read theories, but honestly, I don’t think Abrams and Kasdan considered it important enough to determine that. And Rey was a little young in her flashback to when she was abandoned on Jakku. So when they hell did she learn to feel the force and use it, and train with it, and all that stuff??? Another questions we’re not supposed to ask. So she defeats Kylo Ren (sounds like a brand of Ramen Noodle,) leaving him injured, but alive on the other side of a canyon-like chasm that develops between them, following the explosion from the charges left by Han and Chewie. Chewie arrives in the Falcon, helps get Finn aboard, and they leave the planet, with Poe and his Squad in pursuit. The base explodes. Big Bang Boom. And we’re back at the Rebel Base. There is some celebration by the Rebels out on a tarmac. R2-D2 wakes up. He has the rest of the map, and the Rebels put it together with what was on the thumb drive, discovering Luke’s location.

Rey and Leia say goodbye. Rey takes Han’s seat aboard the Falcon. Chewie seems pleased with this. And they take off to cheering. On a distant alien planet, the Falcon surfs across the ocean as they approach an island of grass and rocks. Then, Rey walks from the Falcon, about a half a mile up a series of rock stairs to see a cloaked figure on a cliff, looking out over the ocean. He turns, she takes a step forward. He removes the hood of the cloak (looking a bit too dramatic, and trying to look cool) and she pulls out the lightsaber. Incidentally, I promise you the pose he makes will be turned into an endless series of gifs and memes on the internet. They will appear without hesitation or pause, as soon as that image and/or video is available. Facebook, here it comes. Trust me on this. By the way, Mark Hamill’s clearly wearing hair extensions. But the look on his face, the pain in his eyes … it works because of that. Even though he looks ridiculous.

Next, Rey offers him the lightsaber, and he just stares back at her. He’s a little stunned. Give him a minute, he’s old. Or that’s the impression we’re clearly supposed to get. Self-enforced ageism in Hollywood is getting a tad tired, at this point. “Sure,” they say. “He can be Luke Skywalker. But he has to be Luke Skywalker old and tired and everything that goes with.” Ridiculous. Luke would be more alive than that. Depressed, or not. And to be fair, we have all seen the more recent photos of Mark Hamill on the internet, evidencing his new haircut and waistline. And he’s already in the UK. Rumor is they’ve already started shooting the next movie, even though their official start date for principal photograph is in January. Regardless, it appears Luke will be much more alive, active, and overall present, in the next movie, than he was in this one. Which wouldn’t be hard to accomplish. Lastly, we get another shot of the two them still standing there from above, and we’re out.

First thing you see next, is “Directed by J.J. Abrams.” This comes full circle to my original quibbles about the credits. Said credits look oddly like a lazy approximation of the original credits. A pale imitation is really what they are. And there’s something about that simple detail that really bothered me, and still does. I mean, seriously. You heard of “Harmy,” yet? The individual (or possibly a group of individuals) who generated the De-Specialized Editions of the Original Films; thereby removing all changes made by George to the 1997 Special Editions? You know who I mean. Based upon samples I’ve seen, that person(s) did a much better job simulating those original credits, in a clear attempt to get those Original films as close to the versions that were theatrically released (in ’77, ’80, & ‘83,) as possible. Much better job. And although I’m not saying it had to be perfect — I’m not nitpicking, trust me – the fact is: if you’ve seen the Original films enough times, you will notice the glaring difference, pretty quickly. Once the film is released on home video, compare those opening and closing credits of Force Awakens (a title I do not like, and will address shortly) with that of the Original three films. You will instantly notice a clear difference. Again, I’m not stating this to be nitpicky. I’m pointing out how fucking lazy a job they did on the new film’s credits.SW Closing CreditsYou don’t see that with the Prequels. I gotta give ‘em credit for that, if nothing else. That element of the Prequels, Lucasfilm handled fairly well. They generated credits that were at the very least an attempt to be faithful to the pre-established look of those credits. But these new credits just look cheap and superficial. And while I’m sure many people will laugh at me being bothered by something like that, the truth is — it’s a clue. A big one. If approximating that look was done in such a slipshod manner, how much respect do you think they really have for Star Wars, in general? It says a lot about their actual intentions, as opposed to the public’s perception of their intentions.

All right. So, I think I’ve made my point.

PART THIRD  A fair analysis by a fair-haired 6-year old; loaded cap pistol in hand

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has a plot that is “almost” literally the same as the original Star Wars. Secret Plans are the McGuffin. A farm boy (or girl, this time) on a desert planet. Han and Chewie aboard the Millennium Falcon spirits her away from her home, with Stormtroopers hot on their trail. There’s another bar with aliens. There’s a Death Star. Need I go on?

“This isn’t your father’s Star Wars.” That was the comment I saw on the internet that incensed me. That really bothers me. Because A) it’s not even close to being in the same league as the 1977 film, and B) it’s ripping off the original film, along with elements of Empire and Jedi — and doing a very poor job of it. This is a film with a budget reportedly north of $200Million. And maybe … just maybe, that’s part of the problem. A “Star Wars” film, needs to be a film with a more manageable budget, a spirited and inspired filmmaker, and a support group behind it that does not consist solely of Corporate Hollywood, in order to escape the dreaded by-the-numbers “Star Wars Rip-off” sensibility. Which is exactly what this feels like. One of those movies that simply rips-off Star Wars. Some associated with this new film have termed it, “an homage.” Proving they have no idea what the true nature of homage is, any more than they understand the Forces at work that made the original film work so damn well.

Luckily, everything in this movie goes by so fast, you don’t have much time to complain. And you do generally enjoy it. The film is a Class-A production, all the way. Disney made sure of that. But an hour later, it feels hollow, trumped up, like an interesting diversion from the actual Star Wars Universe, and worst of all, regardless of the money they spent on it, it feels cheap. This doesn’t feel like Star Wars on the big screen. AGAIN: It feels like Star Wars on Television. Or something worse. And it’s too easy. Really great movies are A LOT harder to make than this. And most people never stop and wonder why. It’s because it’s a lot harder to really get it RIGHT.

In truth, I have absolutely nothing against Star Wars being on Television.  Actually, Star Wars: Rebels is frankly the best thing that has been done with the franchise, since Star Wars (1977) and Empire Strikes Back (1980.)  But a production “intended” for Television is an entirely different animal, than a production intended to theatrical release; which is this case, has been promulgated as the heir apparent to the original film that started it all, and isn’t even trying to get honor the sources of inspiration for the original film.

In Thesis, just because you are terrified of repeating the mistake that was the Prequels, doesn’t mean that you go to the opposite extreme, essentially using every sleazy, derivative tactic ever employed in the annals of Television, to rip-off your most cherished predecessor. No. You do the work, and you do it right.

In closing, I really hope the kids enjoyed it. But based upon recent statistics of the average age of ticket buyers for the film, either the kids are simply not interested in this film, or they didn’t feel they were invited. Which is sad. Because Star Wars should be for the kids. It should always be for the kids. And if they don’t feel welcome. Something has gone terribly wrong. In fact, that 6-year-old kid still inside of me did not feel welcome at all. Maybe it will play better on Television. Where it belongs.

Good move not killing Finn, by the way.

Good article at Hollywood Reporter website on why the Star Wars franchise has to pay off for Disney:


Log Entries: 03/01/2015

Let me begin by apologizing for my tardiness in addressing the need for a regular post on this blog.  For the past several months, I have been busy writing a screenplay that takes place within a theme park in Houston, Texas in 1979, called AstroWorld.  And with generous assistance from the park’s former employees, I have created something very funny, and very magical.  But it has taken a lot longer than I expected to produce a First Draft.  So from here on, I resume my regular monthly posts on this blog featuring entertainment news and tidbits from the worlds of sci-fi and fantasy.  **Also, please NOTE: I have a backlog of obituaries over the past several months.  And all will be addressed at the end of my next blog post, in April.  But for now, I have chosen to only focus on one: Leonard Nimoy.    BladeRunnerBLADE RUNNER 2 (or whatever the eventual title may be) has been given a green light by Alcon Entertainment and it’s associating partners.  As reported many months ago, Harrison Ford will reprise his role as android hunter Rick Deckard, and a new director has now entered the mix, taking over for Ridley Scott; who will now service as Producer.  Denis (Prisoners) Villeneuve will now helm the film.  The only other details offered were that the film will officially begin production in 2016, and that Harrison Ford believes it to be,  “the best script I’ve ever read.”  Unfortunately, there is no further word as of yet, on any “definite” involvement on the part of Ford in a potential Indiana Jones 5 (excepting previous statements by Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger, and those pesky Chris Pratt rumors,) but Starlogger will keep you posted …  Blomkamp's ALIENHOWEVER, IN OTHER REBOOT-REMAKE-SEQUEL NEWS, director Neil (District 9, Elysium, Chappie) Blomkamp has managed to persuade 20th Century Fox to finance his own Alien film, based upon a personal art project (at left.)  As of this writing, the film is said to be a sequel to all previous Alien films, and Sigourney Weaver is in negotiations to reprise her role as Lt. Ellen Ripley, or some variation of that original character.  The film, thus far, is untitled.  But director Blomkamp made a point to pin down the approximate angle his film will take by stating the following: “I want this film to feel like it is literally the genetic sibling of Alien.  So it’s Alien, Aliens, and then this movie.”  Blomkamp later clarified that he will not be revising the current cannon of the Alien franchise.  Offering that he will not ignore events depicted in Alien 3 or ResurrectionMARVEL & SONY PICTURES recently made a deal for $0 (that’s right, no money involved; both parties simply agree not to share profits or sue each other,) allowing for appearances of Spider-Man in Disney-Marvel films, specifically including Captain America: Civil War (said to involve cameos of many characters in the Marvel Universe,) and possibly, the forthcoming Avengers sequels, Avengers: Infinity War Part 1 and Avengers: Infinity War Part 2Heroes and VilliansIt is not certain at this time if the Spider-Man character will make appearances in any of the other Marvel films planned by Disney, which in part include: Doctor Strange (starring Benedict Cumberbatch,) Black Panther (starring Chadwick Boseman,) Captain Marvel, and The Inhumans.  And although Sony’s The Amazing Spider-Man 3 has been effectively cancelled, due to the lackluster performance of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, The Sinister Six and Venom are still in development at Sony, and Marvel’s own Kevin Feige will be producing a new stand alone Spider-Man film, which is aiming for a summer of 2017 release date.  Actor Andrew Garfield will not be returning … ON THE SUBJECT OF CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, the film’s storyline reportedly pits Captain America against Iron Man, due to opposing views over something called, “The Hero Registration Act.”  Robert Downey Jr., who will appear in the film as Iron Man, had this to say regarding the nature of his role in the film. “Ultimately, it’s Steve’s (Rogers) story; it doesn’t say ‘Iron Man 4: Civil War.’  I think that’s great, too.  I think Chris has been hungry to bring even more of an underside and some shadow to that.  I remember the comics — on the surface, you got the sense that Cap was baseball and apple pie, but underneath, there was all this churning stuff of being a man out of time.  Now we know he’s made his peace with that.  What’s the bigger issue ?  It can have a little something to do with the past, but it can be about someone becoming more modernized in their own conflict.”   DDDAREDEVIL WILL SOON BOW on Netflix.  The series is said to be set after the events of the first Avengers film, and on the subject of the general plot of the show, Marvel’s Emma Fleischer offered the following: “We are still part of the Marvel Universe, but we are not explicitly in that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. world.  We’re in our own corner.  So the aliens (of The Avengers [2012]) came down and ruined the city (New York,) and this is the story of Hell’s Kitchen’s rebuild.”  Among the cast will be Vincent (Full Metal Jacket) D’Onofrio, who will play Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. The Kingpin … MARVEL’S A.K.A. JESSICA JONES will also begin airing soon on Netflix.  The show, already in production, is a 13 episode series starring Krysten Ritter as a former superhero, turned detective.  It premiers later this year …THE BEAUTIFUL MORENA (FIREFLY) BACCARIN has been cast as the female lead in the Ryan Reynolds Deadpool film.  Having languished in development hell for several years, Deadpool somewhat reboots the character Reynolds first played in the film X-Men Origins: WolverineDeadpoolHere he plays an assassin who undergoes a procedure to cure his cancer, but the operation leaves him twisted and scarred while also giving him extraordinary abilities.  The film, directed by newcomer Tim Miller, begins filming next month in Vancouver, Canada … BRYAN SINGER’S X-MEN: APOCALYPSE has entered production.  The sequel to X-Men: Days of Future Past will star a variety of new talent as the young X-Men characters we all know, dealing with the threat of the character, Apocalypse, in the mid 1980’s.  Thus far, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan, and Even Peters (Quicksilver,) are the only returning actors from previous films of the franchise.  As for Patrick Stewart, the plan is for he and Jackman to team up for another Wolverine film.  And good news for Jackman-Wolverine fans.  Jackman recently stated that he intends to play the character of Logan/Wolverine, until he dies … GrossguardA MINOR STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS news item: Jony Ive, a VP at Apple Computer responsible for many of their designs, including the iPhone, iPad, iMac, and more recent iOS platforms, was consulted on certain aspects of the new “crossguard” lightsaber seen in the recent teaser trailer.  Crossguard MemeSpecifically, the idea that the light blade isn’t so well defined.  Said Ive: “I thought (the lightsaber) would be interesting if it were less precise and just a little bit more spitty.”  He also suggested the redesign be, “more analog and more primitive and I think in that way, somehow more ominous.” … MEANWHILE, FELICITY (THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING) JONES has won a role in an as-of-yet unnamed Star Wars spin-off film.  The script for that top secret project is now being rewritten by Chris Weitz … AND TARIANA (ORPHAN BLACK) MASLANY has won a separate role in a separate Star Wars spin-off film, set to be directed by Gareth (Godzilla) Edwards.  Reportedly, Muslany will be playing the live action version of “Sabine Wren,” a character featured in the animated Star Wars Rebels ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (scheduled to begin shooting The Legend of Conan this fall,) will yet again reprise his role as “The Terminator” in yet another sequel, scheduled to follow the upcoming Terminator: Genisys reboot.  According to Schwarzenegger, the next Terminator film will begin production “next year.”  The new Terminator films are reportedly designed to be a trilogy, and production is scheduled to move quickly to take advantage of the Terminator rights, before said rights revert to creator James Cameron; who has no intention of revisiting the Terminator franchise … Legend of ConanSPEAKING OF LEGEND OF CONAN, Producer Chris Morgan has stated that the film will be more inspired by the original film by John Milius, than by the work of Robert E. Howard.  “We look at all the source material and we love things that kind of speak to that tone.  We’re incredibly respectful to Howard.  I’m a huge fan of the stories and the books, but I’m a super-huge fan of the first movie; because that crystallized and distilled it all for me.  Milius just killed it.  He did such a good job.  And Legend of Conan is really resonant and it really digs into the legacy of that original film.  I’m already very proud of it.” … IN GHOSTBUSTERS NEWS, director Paul (Bridesmaids) Feig recently commented on his personal inspiration for the development up the reboot featuring an all female cast.  GhostbustersSaid Feig, “I will say, I was very inspired by (The Walking Dead.)  What I love is how they play with the danger, they play with the scariness, but also the idea that it’s always about gauntlet run.  And that’s something: an element I want to bring to this Ghostbusters reboot is having to get through these various obstacles that are supernatural and all that.  I really feed off of The Walking Dead.” … PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES has officially started production in Queensland, Australia, directed by Espen Sandberg & Joachim Ronning.  The story: ghost pirates lead by Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) escape from the Devil’s Triangle, determined to kill every pirate at sea, including Captain Jack Sparrow.  His only hope is in finding the legendary Trident of the Greek God Poseidon, which gives its possessor total control over the seas … IN VARIOUS DC NEWS: Gal Godot will reprise her role as Diana Prince a.k.a. Wonder Woman in a stand alone film that begins shooting as soon as this fall … Legion of Superheroes (a comic that followed a team of super-powered 20-somethings, in the 30th Century) is being developed and possibly prepped by Warner Bros. as a ‘superheroes in outer space’ story, ala Guardians of the GalaxyHarleyActress Margot (The Wolf of Wall Street) Robie has been cast as “Harley Quinn” in Suicide Squad, while Jared Leto has been cast as “The Joker,” and Will Smith has been cast as “Deadshot.”  The film is being directed by David (Fury) Ayer … The CBS Supergirl series is finalizing casting and will begin shooting soon.  The show is described as being about Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin, who was born on Krypton, but escaped its destruction the same as Kal-El, by being sent to Earth.  Taken in by a foster family, she’s been a “Super girl” in hiding, living in a “Superman” world, until turning twenty-four and coming into her own … Director Zak Snyder has offered this image for his version of the “Aquaman” character, as he appears in his forthcoming Batman Vs. SupermanAquaman Jason MamoaJason Mamoa had this to say about the role: “It’s not my movie.  it’s the first time in history to have them (Superman & Batman) both on the screen together, and I’m just excited to see those two up there.  Justice League is quite a ways away.  But I’m looking forward to it.”  He added, “There’s definitely a plan in this whole universe that Zack (Snyder) is designing.  And it’s amazing to be a part of it.  I think everything that you see that is building, there’s a purpose behind the whole plan.  What’s great about this is Zack, man.  We don’t want to just reinvent it, but he’s got a whole idea of what Aquaman should be and I’m really honored to be playing it.  I’m excited for the world to see it.”  Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is scheduled for release March 25, 2016.  Justice League is tentatively scheduled for release in November of 2017.  A potential and eventual Aquaman film is also in the offering … Pete's DragonIN BRIEF: A remake of Walt Disney’s Pete’s Dragon (1977) is now shooting in New Zealand.  The film is being directed by David (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) Lowery, and stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, Karl Urban, Oona Laurence, and Robert Redford.  The film is due in theaters August, 2016 … Steven Spielberg’s film Minority Report (2002) has spawned a television series.  Set 10 years after the film, and the end of the Precrime Division, another generation of characters will secretly relaunch the Precrime Division in a genuine attempt to avoid possible Armageddon.  Casting is complete and the show begins shooting very soon … Evan Daugherty (Divergent, Snow White and the Huntsman) is writing the Tomb Raider reboot for GK Films and MGM.  Warner Bros. will release the film … Director Rob (Parks and Recreation) Schrab will helm the sequel to The LEGO MovieThe LEGO Movie Sequel is due in 2018.  This film will follow on the heels of The Batman LEGO Movie, which will be released in 2017 … Michelle Gomez will reprise her role as “Missy,” or “The Master” in the upcoming season of the BBC’s Doctor WhoAsh Vs. Evil Dead begins production very soon (if it hasn’t already,) and will air in half hour episodes on the Starz Channel, later this year.  Sam (Army of Darkness) Raimi will helm the initial episode.  And it appears that many members of the same team that made that film, are also involved here.  Gimme some sugar, baby.Amazon Prime has ordered a full series commitment after evaluating viewings of the pilot for The Man in the High Castle.  Based upon the 1962 novel by Philip K. Dick, the story centers on an alternate history (set in ’62) wherein the Germans and the Japanese won the Second World War, and each control half The United States.  Man in the High CastleWhen tensions between these two sides rise, things get interesting, creating a highly complex story that won a Hugo Award in 1963.  According to Amazon’s VP Roy Price, The Man in the High Castle is the most watched pilot Amazon has yet produced.  And they’ve produced a lot of various pilot episodes of various shows.  The Man in the High Castle’s subsequent episodes will be available later this year to all Prime Members. … The 1982 comic Dreadstar is headed for television.  Benderspink and Universal Cable Productions are producing the live action pilot, without a current Network commitment.  The story centers on Vanth Dreadstar, the sole survivor of the Milky Way Galaxy, who teams up with a band of strange characters to stop an ancient war between two evil empires, from spreading throughout the Universe.  DreadstarJim Starlin, who created the character, will pen the screenplay.  Starlin is also the creator of a trio of characters featured in Guardians of the Galaxy: “Thanos,” his adopted daughter “Gamora,” and “Drax the Destroyer” … Writer George R.R. Martin has revealed that Producers of HBO’s Game of Thrones are about to completely mess with both readers, and TV viewers heads by killing off a number of characters on the show, who live on in the books.  Martin had the following to say, “People are going to die who don’t die in the books, so even the book readers will be unhappy.  So everybody better be on their toes.  David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are even bloodier than I am.” … 20th Century Fox TV and New Regency are developing what they call an “event series,” based upon the graphic novel, Enormous.  The story is set in a near future and involves an ecological crisis that spawns massive creatures.  No writers or Network commitment has been announced … David (Jurassic Park) Koepp has been hired by Sony Pictures to pen an adaptation of Sylvain Neuvel’s debut science fiction novel, The Themis Files.  The story concerns a covert project to assemble ancient body parts of a giant humanoid relic, buried long ago and all over the world, by aliens …  Warner Bros. hasn’t given up on that Space Invaders movie just yet.  They’ve hired writer Dan Kunka, author of a blacklisted screenplay that got a lot of attention, to re-draft the material based upon the classic early 80’s arcade game …   Warner Bros. is also developing a motion picture version of Adventure Time.  Roy Lee and Chris McKay (The Lego Movie) will produce, and series creator Pendleton Ward will co-write.  Originally a TV movie was in development in-between the show’s 4th and 5th Seasons, but was cancelled … Daniel Craig Lea Seydoux Dave BautistaAnd last but not least, the 24th Bond film, Spectre has started shooting, with Daniel Craig being joined by series regulars, and Lea Seydoux, Monica Bellucci, Christoph Waltz, and Dave (Guardians of the Galaxy) Bautista.  The story is said to involve a cryptic message from an unlikely source that sets down Bond inside a maze of a criminal organization.  As ‘M’ fights political pressure to shutter MI6, Bond uncovers a hidden truth that could destroy everything he fights to protect. SpectreHOW MANY ENTERTAINERS: ACTORS, DIRECTORS, WRITERS, PRODUCERS, DANCERS, SINGERS, what-have-ya, how many can you name (and trust me, you can count them on one hand,) how many can you name right now, without having to research the matter, thoroughly, that showed the integrity, the discipline, the sincerity, the dignity, and the poise that Leonard Nimoy did in his career ?  How many ?  Star roseI can name one or two off hand.  Sidney Poitier and George Pal.  After that, I start searching my memory, and eventually, I dodge my failing memory for that old Cinemania ’97 program that I have installed on my computer; which I consult regularly for research and the occasional adventurous foray into film history.  And while that wonderful tool may lead me to find a new list of potential treasures I haven’t seen, and though I may discover endlessly interesting personalities I was completely unfamiliar with, there aren’t many that stand out with a certain tangible integrity, or that shine with that simple honesty that is a person’s true and own character.  Most, are simply people who are paid to be artificial.  They keep their true nature to themselves.  Nimoy NikonAnd besides, who could blame them for getting lost in that unending cycle of publicity, pomp and circumstance, artificial humility, and a certain ‘when in Rome’ mentality, that affects all who work in such an industry.  But Nimoy seemed to sidestep all that jazz.  How ?  The man was the very portrait of how to be a professional actor.  ‘Nuff said, right ?. He was also known for being a terrific director.  Stop there ?  Photographer.  Writer.  Teacher.  Lecturer.  All of these are roles that are hard to master.  And according to many who knew him, he was also a good friend, a fair man, and a endlessly curious rascal, who most found difficult to hold a grudge against.  Was he simply meditating, or did he really learn that much from playing the character of Mr. Spock ?  To quote In Search of …, I suggest there must be, “some possible explanation, but not necessarily the only one, for the mystery we will examine.”  Nimoy Spock out of uniformLeonard Simon Nimoy was born in March of 1931, in Boston.  LennieHis parents were immigrants from what is now The Ukraine.  His father a barber, his mother a homemaker.   Their son (Lennie) began acting when he was 8 years old in a neighborhood theater.   After high school, he studied drama and photography, and received honorary doctorates from two different Universities.  Nimoy ArmyIn ’53 Nimoy enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve, and as a Sergeant, he served in Army Special Services, helping put on shows for the troops.  Then he moved to Hollywood and did more than 50 small parts in various films and TV shows; generally as, ‘the heavy.’  He also took on ‘ethnic’ roles during an era when Hollywood sought out the scarce ethic talent they could find, to play any ethnic role they could accomplish on camera, with said actor.  He played everything from Italians, to Russians, to Mexicans, to Native Americans.  And throughout, he picked up extra money teaching acting classes, on the side.  spockBut Gene Roddenberry’s Wagon Train to the stars, made him first a star, then a pop culture phenomenon, and finally, a legend.  Star Trek was almost instantly popular.  Although at the time, no one at Lucille Ball’s company “Desilu,” or Paramount, or even NBC knew that.  There was press; there was lots of press.  But the sponsors just weren’t there.  Mainly because the “Nielsen Ratings” weren’t accurate.  nimoy catlowBut it was a great run for him, and he made great money for the term of the show’s run on television.  And after the show ended, he kept working.  First came Mission: Impossible, playing the master of disguise, “Paris.”  Then, the film Catlow (1971,) starring alongside Yul Brynner.  Rod Serling’s Night Gallery gave him his first opportunity to direct.  And he gave a calm, cool performance as a murdering surgeon in a terrific episode of Columbo, titled, ‘A Stitch in Crime.’  And there were plays, and commercials, and appearances on other television shows.  A Stitch in CrimeHis role as narrator on the mysteries of the unexplained show, In Search of… kept him in the public consciousness for some time.  Almost everyone who was alive at the time saw it in syndication, at least once.  His role as a psychiatrist in Philip Kaufman’s successful remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, remains a clear standout.  And there was more.  You can be sure of that.  He just – kept – workingLeonard Nimoy In Search OfAnd then, somewhere in the early to mid 70’s, Nimoy began spotting his likeness as “Spock” on billboards advertising alcohol.  He immediately started looking around and found that his likeness was being loaned out by Paramount to all matter of product placement.  Right across the board, “Spock” was everywhere.  And he looked just like Leonard Nimoy.  So Nimoy began the process of trying to get paid for that.  Which was a long, convoluted legal nightmare.  Both to get the residuals he was owed for co-opting his image, and as an attempt to influence some element of responsible control over what products the image endorsed.  Concurrent to this, Star Trek was coming back to life.  First, there had been an animated series.  Which, just like the original show, was massively more popular with the public than anyone knew at the time it was being produced.  Then, there had been conventions.  Small conventions that got BIG turnouts.  Thousands showed up.  Nobody saw that coming.  Including Nimoy, Shatner, Kelley, Doohan, Koenig, Takei, Nichols, et al.  Even Roddenberry, who had been attending Star Trek conventions almost since the day after the last episode aired on NBC, had no warning as to the mobs that would eventually begin descending on those later conventions.  Then, in 1976, Star Trek went into syndication.  And everyone was watching.  STTASIt was instantaneously one of the highest rated syndicated shows in television history.  Nielsen had finally fixed their unique system of establishing somewhat accurate numbers, that matched programs with television viewers.  And POW !  Paramount wanted the show back on the air.  Which is precisely what Gene Roddenberry had been trying to accomplish for some time.  But then suddenly, Paramount did an about face, deciding they would rather try this Star Trek thing out as a film.  In theaters, to be precise.  Thus, Roddenberry oversaw the initial development of a grand vision of a screenplay, and the studio developed a short list of directors for the project.  But when they threw bait into the water, the only bite they got, was from director Philip Kaufman.  Kaufman would eventually leave the project after clashing with Roddenberry over the script (he wanted Toshiro Mifune to play Kirk’s arch nemesis in the form of a Klingon Commander,) and once the script was deemed by the studio brass to have been developed “by committee,” it was summarily shelved.  But the script cooked up by Roddenberry and his writers, was a unique story idea.  Kirk and crew (including Spock,) arrive to investigate a planet sending out a distress signal.  The planet is phasing in and out of our dimension, in intervals.  After briefly clashing with the Klingons, Kirk and a few Red Shirts beam down.  The planet unexpectedly phases away, and doesn’t come back.  Through subspace radio, Starfleet instructs Spock, now in command, to wait.  A protracted period of time passes, but finally, Spock must leave orbit.  Three years pass and Spock and crew are unexpectedly ordered by Starfleet to return to the planet.  Passing ships keeping a wide berth of the area, have reported the planet’s recent reappearance.  Soon, Kirk is returned to the Enterprise with a whopper of a story about the planet’s human inhabitants, and the bizarre alien race (the Cygnans) that both control the planet, and steal the technology of other races for their own purposes.  STTMPBut Spock intuits that Kirk is not telling them everything.  He’s hiding something.  And this generates conflict between the two men.  When the Cygnans eventually realize they aren’t going to get what they want (the Enterprise,) they utilize technology stolen from another civilization to generate a wormhole singularity, which pulls the Enterprise in, along with their own planet.  The scenario resolves with the Cygnans being defeated, but with the Enterprise and it’s Crew in orbit around the planet, in another distant time and place in the Galaxy.  The planet is dramatically revealed to be Earth, now relocated to its present location, the solar system we all know so well.  Upon beaming down to check on the human inhabitants, Kirk introduces his crew to the ancient civilization of human inhabitants, in residence.  And then reveals to Spock evidence of the Sumerian culture, including the history of the Cygnan race’s rule over them, inscribed on tablets.  And the kicker … before departing, Kirk and his crew are heralded as Gods by the inhabitants, and its clear that the Enterprise crew are in fact the source of the mythical Greek Titans recorded in ancient human history.  Kirk and crew beam up, and head back through the wormhole singularity, to their own time and proper place in history; making calculations and getting ready to contact Starfleet for assistance in closing off the wormhole singularity, for good.  The film was to be titled, Star Trek: Planet of the TitansInvasion of the Body SnatchersNimoy read it, liked what he read, but inquired yet again about resolving the dispute over his likeness being used without his permission, and without being compensated.  Paramount were tired of hearing about this.  As it turned out, they never even asked legal about it.  They didn’t give a damn and assumed the situation would resolve itself without their intervention.  Bad judgement call.  Without Nimoy, they were dead in the water.  A Star Trek movie was never going to be the same without Mr. Spock, anymore than it would be the same without Captain Kirk.  But until the legal situation regarding his likeness being used as product placement without his consent, was resolved, Nimoy of course, just kept declining to participate.  And without the Spock character, Paramount were hesitant to pull the trigger.  So they merely kept Star Trek in development.  Languishing.  It was a film, then it was a TV series, then there was talk it would be a series of made for TV movies, ala Columbo.  Then it was a feature film, then it was a TV series again.  The execs at Paramount were just playing with the idea, really.  But there was no real momentum.  Finally, they pulled the trigger, and began pre-production on Star Trek: Phase IIPhase_II_Enterprise,_aftA television show wherein the Enterprise crew had been away for a short time, and change had come to Starfleet, life had moved on, and the Enterprise had been refit.  They contacted Nimoy.  He asked them if there was any progress on resolving the dispute over his likeness being used without proper compensation or permission.  Paramount terminated contact with the actor, and another Vulcan character was created to take Spock’s place.  The show would go on.  Supposedly.  Paramount kept things moving slowly.  And Roddenberry took his time developing scripts.  Sets were built, actors were cast.  And then … one day … on May 25th, 1977 … it hit.  Star Wars.  And reportedly, the executives at Paramount were stilted.  Both by the vision of the film they were all “required” by the Studio hierarchy to see, as well as by the box office receipts that rollllllled in, week after week.  Only days before it was scheduled to begin shooting, Star Trek: Phase II was put into turnaround.  The Paramount brass had to think this through.  And while almost everyone involved in the production of Phase II suspected they knew why, it wasn’t until Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released, that they found out for sure.  The studio now made no secret of what they wanted.  They wanted a “big idea.”  In fact, many at the studio were chatting endlessly about the dazzling effects in CE3K, as well as the compelling and emotional momentum of the film’s storyline.  And the executives were saying, “This could have been us!”  Now it was a certainty.  There was going to be a movie.  From here on, they were only looking at making a motion picture.  Finally, Roddenberry understood what they were after.  And when Roddenberry turned in a quick rewrite of Alan Dean Foster and Harold Livingston’s script for the pilot episode of Star Trek: Phase II, Paramount felt that this was the big idea they were waiting for, and the project was given a green light.  Within days, a young executive asked to meet with Leonard Nimoy.  Nimoy acquiesced, but during their lunch, refused to read the new script until the lawsuit was resolved.  They parted ways, amicably, and soon after Nimoy got the script, a letter of resolution regarding the lawsuit, and a check for past due residuals for the use of his likeness as Spock — and a promise that it would never happen again.  Star Trek-TMPNimoy opened the larger envelope, read the script, had a meeting with the director of The Andromeda Strain, Robert Wise, and agreed to sign on.  It goes without saying, that Star Trek: The Motion Picture not only had production problems, but that the film was never actually completed by the director.  (*Star Trek The Motion Picture was finally re-edited by Wise in 2001, utilizing CGI and sound effects that had been recorded by Alan Howarth in 1979, but never used.  The Director’s Edition, was much favored by director Wise over the theatrical release, and is currently available only on DVD.  Paramount is said to be working to bring it to Blu-ray.)  In fact, according to Robert Wise, the film that was released to theaters was in fact his workprint.  And according to Leonard Nimoy, when he asked the head of the studio at the film’s premiere in Washington D.C. how long they had to finish the film before it’s release, the head of the studio replied that as far as he was concerned the film was done, and scheduled to open in theaters the following Thursday.  Simultaneous to their conversation, employees of Paramount were actually already getting the release prints from the film lab, and lining them up in a large empty sound stage in preparation for delivery to the theaters.  Nimoy was crushed.  And shocked.  He simply assumed, ‘Oh well, on to the next thing, I guess.’  Cast members on set of Star Trek: The Motion PictureBut Star Trek had a funny way of hanging on.  Shockingly, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, already nicknamed “Star Trek The Motionless Picture” by critics; and at the time, the second most expensive motion picture ever made — right behind Superman – The Movieactually made money.  With a final budget that had ballooned to almost $46 Million dollars, the film still brought in close to $140 Million.  And in 1979-1980 business climate, a film had to make three times it’s budget to clear a profit and be considered a success.  Paramount didn’t get a windfall out of it, but the film cleared a profit, and would make them additional money in cable and other ancillary markets, nonetheless.  So the consensus among the staff at Paramount, was simply, ‘Let’s get the next one right.  And let’s get it cheap.’  Dumber words were never spoken by a studio executive in such ironic conundrum.  Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan CastStar Trek II: The Wrath of Khan was produced with the assistance of a television crew to keep costs down.  Nicholas Meyer, the writer and director of Time After Time (a time travel story about H.G. Wells chasing Jack the Ripper to the present in his time machine,) was brought aboard to give the film more life.  And he did.  st2He eschewed the tired cliched and boring pacing of early 70’s sci-fi that had dogged the first film, and looked for a fresh approach that would appeal the both Star Trek fans and the Star Wars generation.  He screened episodes of the Original Series, and discovered Ricardo Montalban’s character in the episode, “Space Seed.”  Then, he made the creative decision to take inspiration from Captain Horatio Hornblower, and instantly, Star Trek II (originally titled “The Undiscovered Country,”) was off and running.  There was only one problem.  Although Nimoy loved his character, he didn’t want to “only” be associated with it.  Spock hadn’t wrecked his career, but the Vulcan had definitely limited his options and opportunities.  Due mainly to the stigma inherently associated with typecasting.  So Meyer met with Nimoy, and asked, “How would you like to have a really good death scene?”  Nimoy was hooked.  nimoy and meyerAnd when news of Spock’s death leaked, Meyer and the film’s producer came up with a fun solution.  Fake the death of Spock early in the film, belaying the audiences expectation of it, and then hit them with that zinger in the last reel.  When another obstacle emerged, the producers dodged it with ease, as well.  The studio felt “Undiscovered Country” was too vague and irrelevant to the plot, so Meyer and Producer Harve Bennett changed the title to Star Trek II: The Revenge of Khan.  However, as soon as that title was announced, Paramount got calls from attorneys for Lucasfilm and 20the Century Fox Film Corporation.  “That’s too similar to the title of our next Star Wars film, ‘Revenge of the Jedi.’”  So Star Trek II became The Wrath of Khan, and 6 months later Revenge of the Jedi became Return of the Jedi.  Yea, thanks for calling.  Everyone involved thought the surprises were over.  Until they screened the completed film for the first time, and the director saw that his ending had been altered by Paramount.  There it was.  Spock’s shiny new torpedo coffin, resting on the surface of a planet that was created by a device designed to regenerate life from death.  All they could do was laugh.  Even Nimoy thought it was hilarious.  The movie was a hit.  And those who made it accepted that their Frankenstein monster was in fact, a real beauty.  And judging by the profits it made in June of 1982, every kid in every neighborhood saw it.  More than once, in fact.     Star Trek III The Search for Spock CastNimoy knew there would be a sequel.  And he knew what the fans were going to want it to be about.  So he moved quickly to get a meeting with Paramount, and told them that he wanted to direct the next film.  They balked at that.  Although Nimoy had, by that time, been working here and there as a director (mostly in television,) a had acquired a reputation for being a true professional — Star Trek III was slated to be a major feature film.  With a sizable budget, to match.  Leonard Nimoy Robin Curtis William ShatnerThey weren’t sure he could handle the responsibility that came with the monolithic task of directing a major motion picture.  Nimoy argued that he knew the character of Spock, knew Star Trek, and that he knew they needed Spock to be the momentum of the next story.  And Leonard Nimoy direct’s The Search for Spock, had a nice ring to it.  But Paramount still had reservations.  Finally, Nimoy dropped a bomb on them.  Either he directed Star Trek III, or this was the last conversation they were ever going to have with him again.  Star Trek III: The Search for Spock wasn’t as much of a critical success as the the previous film, but it was the 10th highest grossing film of 1984.  And whereas Star Trek II had made $79 Million, Star Trek III had made $76 Million.  Not bad, as far as diminishing returns goes.  But it wasn’t really Leonard Nimoy’s film.  The storyline was mostly cooked up by Producer Harve Bennett, with generous suggestions from the Studio brass.  And as a direct result, it was a very uneven storyline.  And while being entirely watchable (certainly for Star Trek fans,) it nevertheless had retained no semblance of spirit of what had made the previous film so incredibly popular.  But regardless, Leonard Nimoy’s work as a director, shined through.  And Nimoy was immediately asked back to helm the next film.  The studio told him, “the training wheels are off.  We want your Star Trek film.”  STAR TREKStar Trek IV: The Voyage Home was one of the most successful films of 1986, generating over $100 Million, and remains one of the most critically and commercially successful films in the history of the Star Trek franchise.  But it was something else: the most accessible to non-Trekkies.  And that was alllll Nimoy.  He wanted to lighten things up.  The first Star Trek film was pretentious to the point of boredom.  The second one was a bit gritty, and featured the death of a major player.  The third was was operatic, and featured the death of Captain Kirk’s only son.  Nimoy felt the fourth one should have something to say, but should also be light.  Even frivolous.  STIV Voyage HomeStill dealing with interference from Paramount, the initial draft was a retread on their biggest hit at that time, Beverly Hills Cop.  It featured a “fish-out-of-water” team-up between the crew of the Starship Enterprise, and Eddie Murphy.  And reportedly, the script came off as a Mad Magazine parody, similar in may ways to comedian Richard Pryor being wedged into the plot of Superman III.   Supes coming Supes goneThankfully, Murphy bowed out to do The Golden Child.  A film he later regretted making, stating, “I just walked through Golden Child.  I would have been better off doing Star Trek IV.”  Soon after he departed, Nimoy called the cavalry: Nicholas Meyer.  And the rest is movie history.  Thanks in large part to screenwriter Nicholas Meyer, and the one and only Leonard Nimoy, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home was the one Star Trek film that everybody saw.  No matter who they were.  Star Trek had finally generated a story that appealed to the general movie going public.  And for a brief moment in time, those cult-like walls had come down, changing the fan base to include just about anyone and everyone.  It was a magical moment for Star Trek fans.  But it didn’t last.  As stated, the fourth film cleaned up at the box office, during the ’86 holiday season.  And by January, Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner had requested a meeting with the Paramount studio brass.  And as it had been agreed during secret contract negotiations for Star Trek IV, Shatner would indeed direct VStar Trek V PosterDuring production of the fifth film, Nimoy serviced as a consultant and confidant to his friend, but the film, and it’s story, was Shatner’s creation.  Nimoy had climbed into the backseat and made no derogatory comments about Captain Kirk’s driving skills.  The film was about the Starship Enterprise being hijacked by a religious evangelist who believes the intelligent source of all creation lies just beyond a barrier separating the outer areas of our Galaxy, from the large middle interior mid section thingy place, of our Galaxy.  Notice how awkward that sounds.  I did that on purpose; that’s what it’s like watching the movie.  And while fans had high hopes (based primarily on the teaser poster seen at right,) the film was a flop for Paramount.  And dependent on what sources you cite, the film cost just over $30 Million (much of it not even on the screen, due to some rather badly produced effects,) and had only made somewhere between $52 and $63 Million.  While Paramount’s other big summer release that year, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, cleaned up at the box office, the Studio essentially took a bath in red ink on Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  The cast, including Nimoy, initially thought it was the end of Star Trek, once and for all.  Then, Paramount called again.  No kidding.  Literally days after the failure of the film was official, the head of Paramount called Leonard Nimoy.  “We want to do something for the Anniversary coming up.”  Nimoy quickly, and wisely, suggested Paramount also contact writer/director Nicholas Meyer (a prime factor in the success of both Star Trek II and Star Trek IV,) and put the two of them get together to toss around some ideas.  Trek 6So, on a long walk on the beach somewhere on the East Coast, Nimoy and Meyer chatted.  The Berlin Wall had come down in ’89, and and one of them (Nimoy says it was him, Meyer says it was him,) offered that there could be a Klingon parallel.  As originally planned by both men, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Meyer finally got to use his title) was to be an expansive, big budget 1970’s style political thriller in space; with shades of Rod Serling and John Frankenheimer’s Seven Days in May, in the background.  But Roddenberry was displeased with the direction and tone of the film.  As well as many of the plot contrivances.  And Paramount wanted to keep Roddenberry happy for the upcoming Anniversary.  On top of that, and for reasons unknown, Paramount quickly began slicing away at the film’s budget.  Star Trek VI storyboardA lengthy scene that came hot-on-the-heels of Captain Sulu’s observance of the destruction of a Klingon moon that was a prime energy producer for the entire Klingon economy, had to be cut.  Kirk was to be reactivated and sent to round up his retired crew.  He knows where Scotty is, so he tears him away from teaching a class in a Starfleet Academy hanger, utilizing the Bird of Prey from Star Trek III and Star Trek IV.  (Storyboard seen above.)  Scotty knows that Uhura is commuting to Mars to host a radio program, so they rescue her from utter boredom, leaving the mic open in their wake.  Next, they tear Chekov away from a chess game he’s loosing in Russia, and then, the group find Dr. McCoy drunk at a social gathering.  This all had to go.  And as mandated by Paramount, via Gene Roddenberry, the Seven Days in May subplot had to go, as well.  So no reason for the military ribbons on some of the uniforms of some of the Starfleet personnel is ever given.  The story behind that was that several months before the events of the film, the Military had re-organized and attempted a political coup to take over Starfleet.  It failed and the Military was simply ingested into the Starfleet ranks.  It made for great political intrigue and added more ingredients and red herrings to the plot.  But it was gone.  Then, there were small moments that cast doubt on many members of the Enterprise crew.  Did they possibly have a motive to get involved in sabotaging a peace summit between the Klingons and the Federation ?  Roddenberry wanted that gone, too.  Then, there was the massive battle at the end of the film, that involved a cloaked Klingon ship attacking the Enterprise, only to be set upon by the Excelsior, and then surprisingly, by another Klingon ship, and also a Romulan ship.  All four ships playing cat and mouse with a cloaked ship they cannot see, moving about the battlefield freely.  The effects for that alone constituted about $11 Million of the films budget.  Paramount simply told Nicholas Meyer, you no longer have $35 Million, you have $18, do what you can.  The result was a movie that is a shell of its former self.  Really.  A good film, but not the great film it could have been.  Not by far.  Nimoy, however, like all involved, enjoyed the reunion, and the chance to build a Trek film that would leave a better lasting impression that Star Trek V.  And now, finally, it was over.  Right ?  Nope.  Nimoy rightfully turned down a walk-on in Star Trek: Generations, due mainly to a badly designed script and opening scene.  (Shatner did the film and they reportedly shot his character in the back, before Paramount saw the scene and made them reshoot it; giving Kirk a more dignified death.)  But between audio book recordings, convention appearances, funny commercials, and even two returning appearances in J.J. Abrams Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness, “Mr. Spock” never really parted ways with Leonard Nimoy.  ST into darkOver the years, he had written two separate books about his relationship with the fictional character.  “I’m Not Spock (1975,)” and “I Am Spock (1995).”  The first was highly controversial among Star Trek fans, but both sold well.  This added ‘Author’ to his colorful resume, and multifaceted career.  He even helped produce a comic book: Primortals.  And he made regular appearances on both The Simpsons and FuturamaHe never stopped working.  Even after he announced his retirement, Leonard Nimoy made appearances on Fringe, The Big Bang Theory, and others.  Nimoy The SimpsonsHe was a constant success, and truly a positive example to anyone wishing to achieve such success.  And, he was a man filled with philosophical insight and wisdom.  You only had to listen.  Without a certain journal, or road map of the man’s intentions in life, I am not certain of his personal goals, or his general target of accomplishment.  But I can say one thing for certain.  Lennie hit whatever he was aiming at.SpockIt !