This month we’re mainly concerning ourselves with the first post-Lucas Star Wars film, The Force Awakens. We’ll also give you quick takes on The Hateful Eight, Steve Jobs, and Mockingjay Part 2. Oh, it’s real. It’s damn real.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
We should start off by saying we are delighted that so many people are delighted by this film, which seems to have provoked the reaction in many the reaction we had when we were in love with the film as younglings. We’re not trying to harsh your mellow on this, but you’ll have to forgive us for taking a different view.
It’s tough to talk about our gripes without descending into spoiler territory, which we don’t shy away from in the podcast. For the sake of anyone stumbling across these notes and in the statistically unlikely case you haven’t seen it, we’ll avoid those here. Suffice to say, we have a number of reservations about the world that J.J. is setting up, largely about the total lack of progress since the events of Return of the Jedi. Indeed, in all but name this is a reboot, taking the essence of A New Hope and a bit of Empire Strikes Back and putting the universe back into a comfortably familiar state with a bunch of comfortably familiar characters that largely echo the Solo, Skywalker(s), and Vader roles with perhaps the smallest bit of cross-pollination. We can see why, given the franchise purchase price, Disney would want to play it safe, but it’s still disappointing that given the wealth of directions the now obsolete Expanded Universe had taken, this film is nothing more than a reset button. We have some other issues, largely with the rather underwhelming roster of evil-doers that Team Lightside find themselves up against, and specifically with Adam Driver who fails to convince as, well, a human being, frankly. He looks more computer generated than Jar-Jar.
With all that said, on a technical and possibly even objective level, this may well be the best film in the series. Unfortunately for us rapidly ageing lads, having had the nostalgia shorn from the franchise after the obnoxious prequels, it’s tough to connect with this on the emotional level we’d hoped to. Without that, it’s just a largely competent space opera that occasionally turns into promos for future films in the franchise. Maybe the content plan they’ve got cooked up will surprise us, but at this early stage it seems like they’ll follow a familiar trajectory. Which is fine, we guess. But we’d hoped for something new, not just fan service. TFA does not deliver.
The Hateful Eight
Tarantino’s latest would like you to think it’s a Western, from the stagecoach-based opening that sees Sam Jackson hitch a ride with fellow bounty hunter Kurt Russell as he transports wanted criminal Jennifer Jason Leigh back to a Wyoming town for a hanging. Things take a turn when a blizzard forces them to take cover in a supply post with a bunch of assorted folks, as it rapidly turns out that at least one of them is not on the up and up. At this point it shows its true narrative comparison of Reservoir Dogs, and more or less lives up to that comparison. As with most of Tarantino’s output I don’t think there’s a lot of real lasting “worth”, in the horrible critical sense of things, but it’s an damn entertaining film as with most of his work, and if it had the sense to trim a bit of fat from the approaching three hour running time it might have been his most enjoyable film. As it is, for me at least it sits around third, which still places it higher than approximately 99% of all films. Viewing recommended.
Mockingjay Part 2
Mockingjay Part 2 concludes the franchise well, as Katniss concludes her role in the civil war, and has to go somewhat rogue in order to get a measure of revenge against Evil Donald Sutherland. It’s quite thoughtfully plotted and competently told, as with the rest of the franchise, and the only weak spot is the ties to the Hunger Games origins, as Katniss and team fight through an urban warzone booby trapped with silly contraptions apparently from the Games designers, and I can’t help feel a more conventional urban warfare would have been more effective. Still, I guess it wouldn’t have been the Hunger Games if that was the case. At any rate, it’s a neat end to a surprisingly good franchise.
Finally, Steve Jobs prophets to give us a window into the departed Apple honcho’s character through the shenanigans and fabricated conversations with various characters before keynote speeches introducing key Apple products, although it rather fails in that objective. It’s attempting to separate Jobs, the man, from Job, head of the most influential tech company on the planet, and the problem is the latter part of that is much more interesting that the former, and is given little more than lip service. The main attempt at characterising him comes from his strained relationship with his daughter, which unfortunately is quite one note – Jobs is an irredeemable douchebag to her. There’s little more to it than that, which is by all accounts an accurate take on the guy, but it’s not all that compelling a story. It’s well directed, well acted, and well scripted, but the subject matter turns out to be much less interesting than all involved might have hoped.
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