Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Cinema Review)

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12A – 152mins – 2017 – 3D


 

THE BURDEN OF ALL MASTERS

“It’s time for the Jedi… to end.”

Having recently announced that writer/director Rian Johnson will spearhead a brand-new Star Wars trilogy unrelated to the principal Skywalker saga in the coming years, it is clear that Lucas’ successor Kathleen Kennedy et al at Lucasfilm/Disney are unequivocally thrilled with how Episode VIII has turned out. George himself is on record as praising it for being “beautifully shot,” while early reviews seem to be unanimously positive and box office projections astronomically high…

… Keep Scuttling!

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Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 (Event Review)

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Sunday 17th July 2016 – ExCeL London Exhibition Centre – £32.00

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ExCeL ExPeRiEnCe

A veritable smuggler’s horde of juicy first-looks and jaw-dropping reveals, plus an army of guest panels introducing anyone who’s anyone in The Force Awakens (besides an injured Harrison Ford), and last year’s Anaheim antics totally sold me on the benefits of attending Star Wars Celebration – doubly so as this year’s LucasFilm love-in was held on British shores for the first time in nearly a decade.

With work commitments restricting my availability across this past weekend’s three day fan-fest, I excitedly joined the massing throngs of Jedi, Princesses, Stormtroopers, Ewoks – and one Nute Gunray! – invading London’s ExCeL Exhibition Centre for yesterday’s final day of wall-to-wall Wars. If you thought the Mos Eisley Cantina was overcrowded – you couldn’t swing a womp rat in the ExCeL without hitting ecstatic fanboys or cosplayers on Sunday!

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With everything from Rogue One costume exhibits to exclusive Art galleries and radio controlled X-Wing dogfight displays, as well as a Bantha herd of interactive activities (The Star Wars Show vlog recordings, Empire magazine podcast recordings, Mandalorian parades, Battefront gaming zones, Build an R2 area), I can’t accuse the organisers of this official shindig of skimping on the celebrations – the atmosphere was positively jubilant!

It ignites my lightsaber (not like THAT!) to see a franchise I have followed so fondly for so long to be so well represented by such a (rebel) alliance of strong supporters. It is truly inspiring to see how George’s galactic vision from nearly 40 years ago has touched and inspired countless scores of artists, designers, tattooists, children and families – and will continue to for generations to come.

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But with a great turnout comes almighty queues, and while the crowds moved swiftly for the most part, I was less than impressed at having to join a tailback of human traffic to entre the event’s official Store – especially when so many of the over-priced convention exclusive products were sold out by the time we made it past the high-vis-adorned doorman!

The Autograph corner was also a slight bone of contention for me, with the thrill at being able to see saga stars such as Anthony “C-3PO” Daniels, Matthew “General Grievous” Wood and Ray “Darth Maul” Park gamely sign merchandise and chat with starstruck fans somewhat quashed by the two biggest names on the bill – Mark “Luke Skywalker” Hamill and Carrie “Princess Leia” Fisher – hidden within screened-off areas where only those willing to part with a extortionate amount of credits could see them.

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I understand how escalating ticket systems and VIP packages at conventions work; I have attended many a similar event over the years, however at an officially arranged event focusing on celebrating one franchise, it seemed a little off to still restrict customers who have “only” purchased standard passes.

On the subject of missing out, as expertly organised as the annual event undoubtably was (schedules, maps, helpful crew, guidebooks, continually updated mobile app), I can’t help but feel like the ‘first come first seated’ wristband system for gaining access to the main event Celebration Stage panels was less-than-convenient for single day attendees – by the time we had queued to receive our entrance ticket lanyard, everything which sold the event to be in 2015 was “wristbanded out”.

Sure, I could catch-up on the live stream, or watch the shows on the giant video screen, but to hear thunderous cheers go up during the hotly-anticipated day-capping “Future Filmmakers” panel and not know why (the introduction of the young Han Solo; surprise guest Jon “Finn” Boyega, it transpires), felt like being so tantalisingly near yet so frustratingly far, far away.

SWC6I don’t want to sound like this is simply a case of sour meilooruns, because a lot of SWC was truly amazing and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but when you miss out on EVERY main stage event you come to realise how many of the multitudinous stalls are simply mountains of readily-available merchandise. Now I enjoy a good peruse as much as the next person, but I really required an additional Force-push to elevate this ultimate fan experience from merely good into hyperspace.

I thoroughly enjoyed my day at Star Wars Celebration Europe, but for too long I could have been at any large-scale money-making convention, rather than in the same building as such luminous franchise legends as Kathleen Kennedy, Dave Filoni, Rian Johnson, Mark Hamill, Pablo Hidalgo and countless others.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales – Vol. 1 (TV Review)

Disney X D – Premiered: July 6th 2015 – now available on DVD
Written by: Michael Price
Directed by: Michael Hegner (1.1), Martin Skov (1.2)


FORCE BLOCKS

Having forged a successful toy partnership some years ago, and with The Force Awakens and The Lego Movie exceeding expectations at the box office, it was only a matter of time before TV executive started playing with the merchandise. Alongside the utterly hilarious The New Yoda Chronicles, Droid Tales is another colourful 5-part CGI mini-series which is ostensibly for children but thanks to some cleverly blithe wisecracks and fan-servicing in-jokes is just as appealing to young-at-heart adults, too.

1.1   EXIT FROM ENDOR

With the rebel victory in full swing following the destruction of the Empire’s second Death Star, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) regales everyone’s favourite band of heroes with tales of the adventures he and best bud R2-D2 witnessed in the preceding decades. Ably by-passing the continuity issue of 3PO’s wiped memory by having R2 re-install his hard-drive, this provides a simple excuse framing device for some mischievously facetious retellings of the iconic film series, starting in episode one with The Phantom Menace (1999) and Attack of the Clones (2002).

However, while The New Yoda Chronicles managed to brilliantly merge aspects and characters from the prequel and sequel trilogies into a fabulously witty and respectful comedy, “Exit from Endor” veers too close to derisive in its irreverence. I was surprised to learn that this episode was written by the same screenwriter (Michael Price), because I seriously got the impression this was written by a prequel-hater.

Some of the jokes succeed in gently ribbing the source material (Luke questions “Who’s this guy?!” when the prequel-era Anakin’s force ghost appears alongside Yoda and Obi-Wan; the audience fall asleep when 3PO starts talking Trade Federation blockades), but the mere multitude of potshots this takes at TPM and Clones means we do teeter on spoof territory – especially where a certain divisive Gungan is concerned. Think Robot Chicken without the swearing.

It’s not all bad – hearing Mace Windu appropriate Samuel L. Jackson’s oft-quoted line from Snakes on a Plane (2006) was a gloriously obscure (and adult) inclusion – but I did struggle to believe Lucasfilm okayed the unsubtle mocking of their (highly successful) property.

CR@B Verdict: 2 stars

1.2 CRISIS ON CORUSCANT

Episode one concluded with goldenrod’s glib reminisces being interrupted when R2 is kidnapped by a mysterious hooded figure who steals Admiral Ackbar’s new ship. So 3PO and the amphibious war hero set off in hot pursuit of the plucky astromech, winding up in the recently-felled Empire’s capital of Coruscant. Being back on familiar ground for the first time in years, 3PO is once more overtaken by the need to tell tales, beginning with a bridging story which incorporates General Grievous into the saga long before his filmic introduction in Revenge of the Sith (2005).

“Crisis on Coruscant” works better than “Exit from Endor” insofar as it is telling a new tale which fans aren’t as protective of. Even when the story does reach the events of the final prequel movie, it is handled with a mite more respect – yet still joyfully playful in tone.

The only issue is by squishing the film’s events into just half a 20minute episode, a lot of the twisty-turny plot is skimmed over or left out entirely. Some of the cheeky changes can be excused for humour’s sake (Count Dooku doesn’t get decapitated, for instance), and if we’re being stringently canonical we can excuse them as storyteller 3PO’s embellishments. However, it’s so brisk that I think without a reasonable familiarity with the film, I would have been bamboozled.

Palpatine’s faked kidnapping is wonderfully over-egged, while a running joke about Anakin using a window as an exit to save time is delightfully hammy – I’m just curious going forward about how much ribbing the original trilogy will get in Droid Tales‘ concluding three episodes? I would guess nowhere near as much (a glance at the prequel-ignoring DVD cover makes the production team’s favouritism all too transparent), so a return to the humorous heights of The New Yoda Chronicles would be my (new) hope.

CR@B Verdict: 3 stars