Sunday, April 9, 2017

Rogue One is Out on Video and I Have Jungle of a Day Today

You know what that means? Of course you do!  It's repost time!  Here is everything I wrote about Rogue One from Trailer drop to afteraction report.  Please enjoy...or don't I really have no power over whether you do or not.

First up

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story...Cataline's Trailer Reaction

Fuck me, I thought it was fan trailer.

My mistake but not by much.

Well good news, this December Kathleen Kennedy's newest Mary Sue is going to be stealing the Death Star plans...and our hearts!

That's right we get to have another Grrl Star Wars Hero.  She's got all the hallmarks, we've come to know and love:

English accent? Check.

Ninety pounds soaking wet?  Check.

Beat up a fireteam of Stormtroopers?  Double Check!

I don't know this for certain but I'm willing to bet that she is also really good at everything and everyone likes her, except for the white cis-gendered hetro-normative enforcers of patriarchal the bad guys.

Yay Disney!

I am now moving from worried suspicion to dread certainty that the new Indiana Jones movie will feature a feminist action hero who takes over from Indy.

I know she will be ninety pounds soaking wet but maybe...just maybe she'll be an American...Maybe.


Okay. It turns out we aren't the only ones who noticed.


Star Wars Conspiracy Theories Because Sure Why Not?

Star Wars came out at just the right time for me.  I was at the age where a major interest in girls had been thrust upon me and I was as powerless to resist it, as I was to do anything effectively about it.  Older boys suddenly took notice of me for the first time and  it was to make sure I knew my place at the bottom of the pecking order.  The world was suddenly a raging kaleidoscope of  horny, humiliation and powerless outrage.

Thankfully it didn't last long.

It usually doesn't...for most of us...but during that brief and horrible time any kind of escape is a treasure beyond price.

I was a member of the last generation of boys who found that escape in comic books and the first to find a dream of exultant power when you are at your most powerless, in Star Wars.

You get older up.  You get bigger.  You pick on boys younger than yourself and feel like shit for it when you actually grow up.  Girls stop being a source of painful longing and turn into a damn nuisance.  In short you grow up.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

You start seeing things differently because you have no choice...unless you are an SJW human dumpster fire like John Scalzi.  Gamma Males never leave adolescence behind.

There are things from your childhood that are supposed to fade in your affection.  And indeed Star Wars was one of them.  But I never left it entirely behind.  When something new comes along in the Star Wars universe I can't help but take an interest.

Today of course, we all see that the orginal film is drastically flawed from the stand point of summer popcorn burner.   The action is too slow, the light saber duel was between two old clumsy guys and the actions beats just aren't that exciting by modern standards.

But here is the thing dumbasses, it was never meant to be a popcorn burner.

From just about any perspective Star Wars is (or was before Lucas started mauling his own creation) a nearly perfect movie.  Now that may not have been Lucas' doing, there is a strong belief that it was saved in editing.   Let's take the opening scene for example.  Pan down shot of the familiar sight of a planet and it's moon. This reminds you of Earth and it's moon.  Continue panning down; the expanse of the red desert Tattooine is revealed.  That shocks you out of your familiar mindset and shifts your paradigm without a clutch.  You ain't in Kansas anymore Dorothy. Then the Rebel Blockade runner zips down the screen.  Small sized with irregular and curved shapes through out it's design.  Then the Star Destroyer appears; it's design features massive clean, sharp lines that speak of military efficiency.  You don't need to be told which one is the good guy and which is the bad.

Star Wars is a movie where just about everything in it works.  Sure it's slower and that's a good thing.  It takes it time and it builds.  These days you just don't see that in a movie unless it's from freaking damn China or India.

We also know what happened with Lucas.  Having exhausted himself making his epic of the Hero's Journey, he then had watch impotently as it was completely overshadowed by the Empire Strikes Back.  Which he had the least do with creatively.  I suspect that is why he spent the last twenty years maiming his work.  Each special effect added making things just a little bit worse.

Then came the prequels where George Lucas was fully revealed as a fraud.  They were decent enough as popcorn burners except for those really exciting scenes where people sat around and talked.  And of course the worst screen romance of all time.

Some people however were so over committed to Star Wars that they created the Star Wars Ring Theory.  This posits the position that George Lucas is in fact a genius rather than a fraud.  He revived an ancient German story telling technique that had every plot point moving around in a circle until you get back to the starting point.

Plinkett explains.

I find the Ring Theory as unlikely as Red Letter Media.  The truth is that George Lucas was a creative force in his early twenties but he expended all of that energy making the first Star Wars.  After that he was just trying to live up to his own legend and he couldn't do it.  In large part due to the fact that he didn't make Empire.  Lucas was being his own cover band, which is why there were similarities between the first and second trilogies.

Consequently the new Knights of Ren theory had me yawning.

Did you know there is a new Star Wars prequel coming out?  ITS TRUE!!!


I. Know.

I honestly wasn't planning to show up for it.  I thought I had broken the cycle of addiction.  I had thought that the latest Star Wars movie was great...for awhile.  Then it sort of slid down the ladder to merely good.  A few too many call backs combined with too much in the way of progressive politics.

Besides I know how the Rogue One story ends.  The ragtag rebel team of outcasts succeed in getting the plans to Leia.  Since Disney has to account for the fact that we never saw them again in the entire first trilogy, they clearly died one by one or as a group heroically.  Great, another Dark and Gritty. Pass.  I have no reason to show up.

Except now I am a little curious about something.

Do these ragtag heroes become the Knights of Ren?

Normally I'd snort and say hell no you are being a chump about Star Wars theories again.  But in this case there maybe something to it.

First there was Forest Whitaker's cryptic admonishments to the new (*sigh*)  heroine, "What will you do, when they catch you?  What will you do, if they break you? If you continue to fight, what will you become?"

Could this be foreshadowing?  Maybe.  It seems almost odd to include it otherwise.

I wouldn't build an entire conspiracy theory around it but there is however this.

The production art from the Force Awakens.  These are the Knights of Ren.  None of them have light sabers, so they probably aren't Force Users and none of the new heroes are either as has been repeatedly made clear by the production team.  But much more important is the fact that all of the Knights of Ren have an analog in the Rogue One team.  Except for the Cool New Robot but he's voiced by the guy who played Walsh on Firefly so the CNR will probably be destroyed after you've grown fond of him.

Getting back to my point.  The characters from Rouge One are all there.  The Heavy, the Armory, the Sniper, the Monk and most tellingly of all...The Rogue.



Yes, I'm going to see this one too.

Which leads us right to:

Rogue One: A Cataline Critique:

I would prefer to approach this movie critique with something close to professional standards for a Crackpot Right Wing Blog.  Sadly that would entail not revealing any spoilers.

However I feel I owe it to my readers to answer the question, was Cataline right about the Rogue One Team being the Knights of Ren?

Answer:  Nope they ain't.  There is no way that they could be.   Which effectively tells you most the plot of the whole movie.

You've guessed the rest of it just looking at the trailers.  The heroine's father designed the Deathstar but he also designed into it the flaw that Luke exploited.  The rebels didn't just sneak in and filch the plans.  You were told in the first minute in 1977 that "Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire...During the battleRebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon.  The key word is "Battle" That Op was not a snoop and poop. There was a big fight.  And that would be the climax of any story

And you never do see these guys again in any of the other movies.  There is really only one reason for that and they didn't shy away from it.

I was also right about the fate of the Walsh-bot.

This is a movie where you pretty much know the entire story when you've paid for your ticket.  So why go?

Because a story succeeds or fails in the style of it's telling.

So okay, lets take a look at this film as a film and try not to view it as the product of Disney SJW convergence.  Which isn't easy as the head of the Star Wars unit at Disney is a screaming feminist.

I'll start with something you won't believe.  I appreciate this film.  Which is not the same as liking it. They took a lot risks here with one of the company's cash cows, which I feel is a good thing in general.  Or at least it feels like they were taking risks when in fact they weren't, after all it has the name Star Wars on it, how much of a chance were they ever really taking?

Here is the hidden secret of Rogue One.  I can tell that it was designed from the ground up to appeal to the Chinese market. Star Wars: the Force Awakens didn't do big business there but Warcraft blew the doors clean off.  There was a reason for that.

 The film grammar, the pacing, the tone are all straight out of Chinese film epics. It is a long damn movie, one with an oppressive sense of fate and tragedy through out.  You know these characters aren't getting out of this alive because you never see or hear of them in the first trilogy.  They start off as goners.

The People of the Han eat that shit right up.

There is the bigger question of will it sell in America?  This could be the first Star Wars flop but I doubt it.  Because it has the name Star Wars in the title, like I said before.

Although actually it doesn't.

Film begins; we see the Lucasfilm logo followed by the familiar "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away."

And then, bam, star field.  No title card. No crawling Flash Gordon text telling you everything you need to know to set things up. No John Williams overture. Just the star field. It is a very deliberate jolt to an audiance that is expecting those things and didn't get them.  Then the shot scrolls upward instead down which is the opposite of how Lucas did it in the original.  In fact I'm pretty sure all of them started with a scroll down, now that I think of it.  It was a nice high brow way of letting you know things were going to be different with this one.

An Imperial Shuttle appears and heads for a planet.  The Imperials are coming to collect the Deathstar's chief designer.  He ran off awhile back and appears to have been in hiding making a living as a rock farmer.  That's what his farm seems to grow anyway; rocks.

Enter the bad guy dressed in white,  A not so subtle hint of things to come.  These two men clearly know each other.

Director Krennic: We are on the verge of bringing peace to the galaxy.

Galen Erso: By spreading terror?

Director Krennic:  Well you have to start somewhere.

I can't spoil what you have already guessed, Our Heroine's mother is killed by the bad guy, Krennic in the first five minutes (that also falls under Cataline's five minute spoiler rule).  That is actually right, good and proper.  Bad guy shows up, you tell the audience that he is bad and then you have him do something bad so they won't like him. Fine.

Her father is taken away and Jyn Erso goes into hiding.

Now we see the title card that just says Rogue One.

This is a Star Wars movie that is trying hard not to be a Star Wars movie.  I can appreciate that too.  Although in truth it isn't trying that hard.

After the title card the movie picks up sixteen years later.  Which is also a nice film school trick.

We catch up with grown Jenna who is now a prisoner in an Imperial Gulag.  Well we always knew the Empire had to have one somewhere.  And it continues the tone set by the movie's first scenes.  This is a movie that takes it time and builds it's setting instead of immediately hitting you as hard as it can as much story telling economy as possible

The atmosphere in this one is a lot different.  Yep it's dark and gritty, I guessed that one right. Cassian Andor is our male non-love interest.  He holds the rank of "Captain"  in Rebel Intelligence.  In function he is a cold blooded assassin and proves it early on.

 It turns out there are extremist branches of the rebellion.  Jyn's demi-stepfather is one of them.  He proves he is just as ruthless as Cassian Andor in getting what he wants.

The poverty in Jedha City has an edge to it that young Lucas might have approved of but that old Lucas wouldn't.  There is very little little in the way of humor.  The Walsh-Droid gets the best lines. Although they did give a few to Donnie Yen.

I admit to liking all this.

One of the things that nobody remembers about the original Star Wars is that it was one of the first Science Fiction movies where the future wasn't clean and white.  It had a lived in and dirty edge to it.  Now that all got cleaned up in later movies when Lucas lost his teeth but it was there originally.

They took a lot of risks with a story where the plot is pretty damn easy to guess. The overarching theme of this film is that all of these characters are struggling to find their way back to hope.  Jyn in believing in her father.  Cassian in believing in anything.  The unemployed monk guards of the Jedi temple are trying to find their way back to faith (even if it is a ludicrous 70s hippy religion).  The Rebels are trying to find hope for their Rebellion. All in the face of the relentlessly consuming power of the Empire.  The Deathstar makes an effective symbol for that.

There are a ton of call backs to the first movie. And some of those just frankly didn't work at all for me.

For instance.  Early on Director Krennic has to make a report to a superior.  Krennic enters the room, shot from the back he walks up to a figure who is facing out of a window and we can vaguely make out the reflected thus obscured features as being those of Grand Moff Tarkin.  And I thought to myself, ah good, the actor (playing Peter Cushing) playing Tarkin is going to deliver his lines with his back to Krennic.  Most commendable I thought.  They aren't going to have some guy with computer junk on face looking vaguely off as a human being talking to the camera.  He will, I assumed, just continue speaking to the window, thus indicating Tarkin's contempt for Krennic while at the same time performing a nice little trick that won't take me out of the moment by using CGI to animate the face of...and then Tarkin turned around.   It was everything I thought it would be and more.  That's not a good thing.

Tarkin shows up several more times than the plot needs and each time he has his creepy computer face drawing attention away from the drama.  Later they do the same thing albeit more briefly with Princess Leia.

Darth Vader's appearances are pretty much just fan service and bluntly are way over done.  They feel tacked on because they probably were.  It has the look and feel of something ordered by the studio.  Vader's scenes if anything were a hiccough that stuttered the tone of the film. And not to be brutal here but they should think about getting another actor to do the voice.  James Earl Jones is 85 and has the voice of an 85 year old.  He's a great actor but he can't carry the role anymore.  Although I did like Vader's lava temple even if it felt like something right out of the prequels.

I have heard the complaint that all of the bad guys in this movie were white.  Which is completely true. They were.  There was not one Imperial that was a POC. The Empire is now completely and deliberately White Washed.  Although the POCs aren't exactly good guys either.  Just goodish for the most part. These days it's hard to do a politics free review especially as every SJW blogger in the universe is going to be making comparisons between Rogue One and the recent election.  Casting themselves as the Rebels naturally. In fact the writers of the film began those comparisons themselves the night of the election, right before Mickey the Great and Terrible told them to shut the fuck up and start deleting their tweets.  Yes, this film has feminism's fingerprints all over it.

The battle scene  at the climax is actually very good.  Not Saving Private Ryan good but really good.  Better than the silly shit with the Teddy Bears in Jedi.  Way better than any of the computer generated light shows in the prequels.  The battle scene was well structured and timed.  The action escalated as it should and it didn't become boring with action-overload like the ones in the prequels.  They didn't take "going over the top" over the damn top.

Battle concludes our heroes find salvation if not escape.  The rebel plans are put into Leia's hands right before the credits roll.  And they do use the Star Wars credits music, indicating continuity is now invited back to the party.

In conclusion we have decent if completely predictable, western made film designed for the Chinese Market.  They took some smallish chances and went gritty with it.  It doesn't feel like Star Wars in the least even though it takes place in the Star Wars universe.  It does have the best battle scene in the entire series to include the assault on Hoth.  I feel the story did succeed in the style of it's telling.

Your call if you want to see it or not.

And finally to wrap things up in a nice neat little package we have:

Rogue One:  RoboTarkin, Darth Vader and the White Washing of an Empire

Star Wars at forty years old is now a prisoner of it's own history.

Galen the rock farming scientist, has to have desert moisture vaporators and blue milk on this farm just to let you know that it is in fact a farm in the Star Wars universe.  Despite the fact that it obviously rains there.

The fighters are still using 1977 era computer animation for their targeting systems.  Their dog fighting remains ship to ship using direct line of sight fire just like the WWII movies that Lucas loved as a kid.

Sure it's expected but is this really story setting that is still capable of any kind of vital and dynamic, self expression?

The answer is no.  It's an indication of stultification.  Star Wars franchise is in creative decadence.

I hear the cry of, cut them some slack Cataline, at this point it's not science fiction, it's fantasy.  Let me counter with Digital Peter Cushing.

Now I actually do appreciate that it would have been difficult to tell the Rogue One story without Grand Moff Tarkin.  Krennic needed a superior he could be berated by and Tarikin was by the best fit for that job.   You don't have to build up a new character, there is an economy of story telling  in  using Wilhuf Tarkin.  Fine.

But why didn't they recast the part?  Just hire a new actor.  Answer: Star Wars is too hide bound by it's own history to allow for that.

The sad part was that they insisted on shoving CGI Tarkin in our faces when a few film school tricks would have covered up what they were doing quite a bit better. Tarkin talking to a window with his reflected face thus obscured.  Tarkin communicating via a hologram, thus accounting very nicely for the digital appearance.   Orders relayed audio only.  Those would have worked as well as being respectful to the memory of Peter Cushing.  A few fan boys are all agog over the CGI performance and are insisting that it was much better than it actually was and you know what?  I would still loath it if it was dead solid perfect because that wasn't Peter Cushing.

Actors are artists too.  Their work is their intellectual property (after a fashion).  Their lives inform their roles and add texture to their performances.  The man who played Wiluf Tarkin had known war, early success, career failure, the crushing death of his wife of thirty years.  All of those things were somewhere in the sad brown eyes of Peter Cushing when his character orders the destruction of Alderraan.  The computer that mimicked him brought none of that to the party.

I have less objections to CGI Leia since a. it was (A) extremely brief and (B) Carrie Fisher green lit it herself.   Although the principle still stands.

And now we reach the part where Star Wars hidebound enslavement to it's own orthodoxy becomes unsupportable.

Darth Vader.

By now everyone knows that Darth Vader is in Rogue One.  Boy, oh boy, is he ever in Rogue One.

About half way into in the new film, in what I am bone deep certain is a studio ordered rewrite, Director Krennic having had command of the Deathstar stolen from him by Grand Moff Tarkin, decides to plead his case to Darth Vader.  Who can hopefully intervene on his behalf with the...

Wait a minute.  Why would Krennic do that?  Why would he even think of that?  In his world Darth Vader is kind of a nobody.

No, really.  The end of Rogue One is meant to tie in seamlessly with the first movie.  And in Star Wars: A...Star Wars. Vader isn't that important.

In the original Star Wars, before George Lucas started lying about his grand vision and trying to portray himself as the new Tolkein, Vader was quite a bit different as a character than he is  now.

We can start with the obvious. In known early drafts of Lucas' script, Darth Vader was always named... Darth Vader.   That was the name his momma gave him. Luke Skywalker's father was an entirely separate character who had been betrayed and murdered by Darth Vader from a literal point of view.

In the world where Krennic lives, Vader is supposed to be something akin to a Lieutenant Colonel, who happens to be a court favorite.  Sort of like Otto Skorzeny in Hitler's Germany.  Kind of a celebrity commando but he isn't all that important in the circles of the genuinely great and powerful.  The Imperial high command looks down on him disdainfully.  Sure he can get away with some shit like the occasional Force choke but Tarkin slaps him down for it.  He is tolerated, not feared.  In the first movie he is just the guy you  would put in charge of a reinforced company level special task force.  Princess Leia didn't think twice about getting all up in grill when he boarded her ship.

And then later, "Governor Tarkin, I should have expected to find you holding Vader's leash."

That is not something you say about the Number Two Guy in the Empire.

In his first iteration, "Vader is just the guy who shows up when the empire means business."

Then Lucas, so broken from making the first movie that he actually green lit the Star Wars Holiday Special, steps back and turns the reigns over to Kershner and Kasdan, who proceed to make the Godfather II of Star Wars movies.

It is in Empire that Vader becomes the emperor's right hand man.   And it is that version that Krennic goes to see.  It's amazingly over the top.   We are talking Phantom Menace ridiculous.  Vader lives in a temple on Lava World.  He rates his own Red Guards now which he never did before. The scene begins with some manner of acolyte/vizier type scrambling up to a figure suspended in a tank, similar to Luke's in Empire. It is Darth Vader. It becomes clear that Vader pretty much rates his own cult members.  Anyway acolyte/vizier informs Lord Vader of Krennic's arrival.  Tank drains, partially revealing a heavily scarred figure within.

Oddly they follow that entrance with...another entrance.  Krennic is waiting for Vader and then Darth Vader appears at the top of the stairs in full Dracula cape sweep.  It's pointless.  Krennic pleads a bit and gets a ritually obligatory Force choke. The scene wasn't needed to move anything forward.  Krennic could have figured out his next destination on his own with the information already in his possession.  It's only purpose was tacked on fan service.

Vader then gets a third entrance at the close of the battle.  That is the one that the fan boys are gibbering about and it truth that is the one that actually fits within the context of this movie.  I have zero doubt that that was supposed to be Vader's only scene.

So here's the thing.  If the producers are so hopelessly hidebound by the conventions of the Star Wars universe, then why are they White Washing the Empire?

Because they are surprisingly capable of creative self renewal and expansion in that department.

Lucas shot Star Wars in 1976 at Pinewood Studios in Britain. There weren't a lot of black actors working there back then so everybody was fish belly white.  It was what it was.   But now the rebels are so all over the place ethnically they could barely remember to throw in a few aliens.

 Yet the empire remains one hundred percent Anglo-Saxon.

Lucas used WWII imagery through out the first movie.  The uniforms of the Empire were clearly Axis inspired. I mean they were wearing baggy riding pants with jackboots.   Understandable at the time, memories were still pretty fresh.

Now they aren't but the Nazi imagery is getting much more blatant.


Frankly I wouldn't be put off by any of this if the Empire had more mixed racial representation. But the only Black Imperial in the whole thing defected in the first five minutes of the last movie.

We are moving past the days of, if you are White you are automatically a racist.  The SJWs seem to have realized that they have beaten that horse to death during the Obama years.

There is no getting around this, thanks to the adoption of Privilege Theory. Racism moved from something you did to something you are.

We have now entered the time of, if you are White you are automatically a Nazi.  I would deny this about myself vehemently  but I got so tired of saying I wasn't a racist for the past eight years that I simply can't be bothered.  Make your own assessment, nothing I can say can make you change you mind about me.

 I did not choose Identity Politics.  I find them odious.  But it doesn't change the fact that Identity Politics have been thrust upon me.

There is however an upside to being a Nazi.

"Say what you want about the Nazis, no woman has ever had a fantasy about being tied up and beaten by a man dressed as a liberal." -- P.J. O'Rourke

See you tomorrow when I will time for original content. 

1 comment:

Kentucky Headhunter said...

Force Awakens: F-

Rogue One: C

Chances of me seeing the next Star Wars movie: 3720 to 1.