“Raiders!” is easily one of the best films of 2016. It’s a compelling and incredibly emotional tale of how one movie influenced a trio of young boys, and how that piece of art not only paved the road for their future, but also save them in many ways. What becomes incredibly evident throughout the duration of “Raiders!” that makes what unfolds before our eyes a truly gut wrenching journey is that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were men influenced by movies. Thanks to their love for serials and Westerns, they were motivated to make “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as a means of confronting their love for classic serial adventurers. After seeing “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in theaters, young Eric Zala sought out to remake of “Raiders” but with teenagers in place of the adult actors.
It only takes a ripple to make a tidal wave, and “Star Wars” is one of the greatest cinematic tidal waves to ever hit America. It’s no secret that George Lucas’ science fiction epic was inspired by classic movie serials, and was generally looked down upon by studios who thought it would barely strike a chord as it was being made. What’s surprising is that many decades later, in whatever form you enjoy it, “Star Wars” is still a fantastic and flawless space adventure. Lucas masters the art of telling his own self contained tale that would open the door for future films.
JJ Abrams has a lot of work to accomplish with “The Force Awakens,” removing the stigma and stench the series has accumulated over the years with the release of the “Star Wars” film prequels, the constant re-editing and changes to the original films, and so much more. “The Force Awakens” actively works as a rebuttal to the aforementioned legacy set, unleashing a film that’s very down to Earth and celebratory of the original trilogy as a whole. It not only musters up a lot of the tropes from the original trilogy, but acts as a launch pad for a massive movie series that Lucasfilm and Disney are planning for a very long stretch. While some have criticized the film for recycling some elements from “A New Hope,” Abrams fully understands what he’s working with, and working on, and uses “The Force Awakens” as a massive doorway accessible to literally anyone.
As a Star Wars fan, one of the biggest disappointments of sitting through 1999’s “The Phantom Menace” was watching the creation of one of the most amazing villains of the “Star Wars” cinematic universe, only for him to show up for about five minutes, be killed, and then never spoken of again. This character that was on mugs, and t shirts, and posters was almost non-existent in future films. “Apprentice” is a fantastic and dare I say perfect, fan film that shows what would have happened if George Lucas subtracted twenty minutes of screen time from Jar Jar Binks in favor of more emphases on the sheer danger and threat that was Darth Maul. Maul should have been the recurring villain in the prequels and could have salvaged the otherwise terrible films.
For years I wrote off “Star Wars” as another typical classic film I had zero interest in watching until 1998 when sheer boredom gave way to curiosity. Managing to borrow the original trilogy on VHS from my aunt, I watched it in one entire sitting and loved every minute of it. Since then it’s been a very hectic relationship with the series packed with a lot of love, and a lot of bile. In 2015 “Star Wars Rebels” made me realize I still love the series after a self inflicted hiatus, and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” finally confirmed I wasn’t quite ready to abandon this series just yet. Like any other “Star Wars” geek I have controversial ideas about the series I love and hate, and these are five of the controversial aspects from the whole shebang I don’t hate.
After many years of the “Star Wars” franchise remaining stagnant and relatively convoluted, “The Force Awakens” has come to simplify and completely re-think the movie series. JJ Abrams introduction to his bold new vision for “Star Wars” is a one hundred percent faithful visit to a galaxy far, far away that functions as a platform for a new series, a sequel, and a love letter to the simpler, episodic days of “Star Wars” where every film was an ode to the classic movie serials of the golden age of cinema. This time around “The Force Awakens” actively works in fixing many of the mistakes made in the original six films, by actively casting a wide array of heroes and villains to present a more humanistic environment we can dive in to. And I’m not speaking about a wider array of aliens, but racially diverse characters, all of whom have something to contribute.
Lucasfilm Ltd. and Disney’s “Strange Magic” is another of the many releases in 2015 I was hoping to love going in, but just couldn’t. “Strange Magic” defeats itself before we even reach the second half of its achingly simple storyline, not because of its simplicity and abundantly detailed animation, but because of its constant musical numbers. It’s not enough the characters sing every five minutes, but the musical numbers eventually blur in to one another resembling more droning white noise than characters expressing their feelings. It inevitably begins to feel like the writers are just trying to stretch an hour long narrative in to a hundred minute film.
“Star Wars Rebels” is something that “The Clone Wars” wasn’t. It’s fun. It’s also simple, and about regular people for once. After so many years of writers focusing on military junk, “Rebels” is about regular outlaws and thieves, all with a hint of “Firefly.” Set after “Revenge of the Sith,” the writers focus on the after effects of the Imperial take over where the galaxy is disbanded and everyone are pretty much in it for themselves. “Rebels” is set before an important milestone in the “Star Wars” timeline. It’s when the seeds of rebellion were planted, and seems to be a show intent on focusing on how the famous rebellion was built and became a force against the Empire that would set the stage for folks like Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo to become heroes.