THE SEVEN AGES OF HARRISON FORD

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

-William Shakespeare

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Hello and welcome to the second edition of The Seven Ages of.

A few things to keep in mind, inspired by Shakespeare’s words I am endeavouring to relate the trajectory of a career and lifetime of an artist through these seven ages. Whether it is where the actor was in their career and where the character was in their life will be the criteria.

Effectively for the purposes of these posts the Seven Ages will refer to these criteria.

  1. Infant – This could be an early role of little note when the actor just got their foot in the door or their first starring role.
  2. Schoolboy – Yearning for freedom and adventure but still reliant on the protection of their elders. Perhaps where the actor shows raw talent or does a terrible film or still works under a more esteemed mentor. If not fresh faced and young then still a relatively new quantity to the audience.
  3. Lover- I think Shakespeare intended this age to reflect lust, hot air and a lack of awareness that comes with youth. For the sake of this I might consider that or just put it down to their most romantic role.
  4. The Soldier – Essentially the age while still relatively young somebody decides on their code and goes out into the world to conquer it and being highly competitive to do it too. For an actor this maybe the moment where they truly define a persona for themselves that will stick. If they’re already a star it might be where they re-invent themselves and perhaps not without controversy.
  5. The Justice – maybe the height of someone’s stardom where they’re aged but established. Powerful even if coasting on their achievements from when they were the age of the soldier. Reflection comes to them too now and with it wisdom.
  6. Pantalone – Now the inevitable decline begins. Still in the world but it is passing them by. For a star who is smart this will often see them partnered with a new up and comer or Lover or Schoolboy if you will.
  7. Old Age – For most actors this may be a pitiful last appearance which only embarrasses old memories or it may be a performance of a character at this stage of life. At death’s door what will be their parting wisdom, their learned lesson?

This hopefully will be an ongoing series and I fully intend to do Gene Hackman (as soon as I see Night Moves and I Never Sang for My Father, c’mon Netflix Australia!), stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood like Stewart, Gable, Davis, Bogie, Hepburn, Tracey, and actresses who often struggle to find relevant work post 40. It is proving difficult to track down all classic films of bygone eras even from my community’s libraries so some will have to wait. Baby boomers are proving easier but the scope will hopefully expand to a Jack Lemmon or a Deborah Kerr in time. Harrison Ford is chosen this month because I’ve seen most of his films. When I was a teenager Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford were my two favourite movie stars and their movies informed me on the standard of being a man onscreen even if I rarely set the ambition of living up to it. The hope is I pick the film that represents the age and not a personal favourite but take a look and see if you have to keep me honest. If you think other ones will be a better pick for an age feel free to chime in. Do you have a landmark role for each decade Harrison Ford has been on the big screen? Let’s dig in.

SPOILER ALERT – There will be spoilers in this post!!!!!!

Image result for harrison ford AMERICAN GRAFFITI

1. Infant – American Graffiti (1973)

Harrison Ford first film appearance was as a bellhop in Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round in 1966. That could be arguably be the infant age but if we’re talking about the first film where he made an impact it was American Graffiti. A teen film, the perpetually always younger looking Ford played a drag racer at the age of 31. He only has two scenes, talking smack with racer John Milner (Paul Le Mat) and then actually racing. He serves as an antagonist to be defeated but Ford already adds layers. He seems all business with a female passenger at the start of the race but is that because he’s hiding fear that he’s about to lose or something else? Either way it’s that shit eating grin and good looking face under that cowboy hat in his first scene that made the impression and what an impression it was. For a more matured and nuanced performance you can’t go past his role in The Conversation a year later. Effectively a well-dressed polite heavy, Ford decided he would make the character gay and at no point does he telegraph it because the script does not require it. It was an early example of Ford being his own man and adding layers to a performance so that nothing was lazy or by the numbers. Still I think Bob Falfa got everybody’s attention before Martin Stett.

Runner Ups: Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round, The Conversation.

Image result for harrison ford STAR WARS

2. Schoolboy – Star Wars (1977)

The Conversation could fit here as an actor starting to get good work but still learning a lot from a talented director in the form of Francis Ford Coppola. As a man his career didn’t take off until he was nearing middle age and as an actor he has always shown an independence of thought and maturity in his choices. Yet if there is one final moment where Ford was not yet a movie star and still naturally brought the charisma of such a being it is in his first go around as Han Solo. Every little boy wanted to be Luke Skywalker, then they grew up and they wanted to be Han Solo. George Lucas with script polishes from Gloria Katz and Wilard Huyck can take some credit but it is Ford who made Solo the rogue so lovable. Effortlessly cool slouched in a seat at gunpoint, slyly grinning as boys act tough and Princesses remain uninterested. Those who think Ford can’t act should compare Solo to Jack Ryan and think again. Ford apparently doesn’t like to watch his old acting performances – with Solo he’s got no idea what he’s missing out on.

Runner Ups: Heroes, Force 10 from Navarone, Apocalypse Now, Raiders of the Lost Art, Blade Runner

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3. Lover – Presumed Innocent (1990)

Cheating once again with the rules of the seven ages, instead of covering a character full of hot air and enthusiasm or a part of an actor’s career where he resembles this we’re going to refer to the sexiest role Ford ever did. There’s a few to choose from, World War II love story Hanover Street, his great chemistry with Karen Allen’s Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark, his born again husband in Regarding Henry, his cuckolded cop in Random Hearts getting it on with Kristen Scott Thomas, his socially awkward Linus swept off his feet from Julia Ormond’s Sabrina. His most successful romantic comedy remains the 80s yuppie career film Working Girl with Melanie Griffith. Wasn’t even sci-fi Blade Runner at heart all about love and what one can truly feel explored in some part by Ford and Sean Penn? Yet they all pale next to Kelly McGillis and Ford’s stare downs in Witness. Scenes that were made for the term “tension you can cut with a knife” but Witness is to feature somewhere else so that leaves Presumed Innocent. This is not a romantic role, Ford plays a husband who cheats on his wife with a power hungry woman but lawyer Rusty Sabich is haunted by his former colleague Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi in fine form) in the way only a lover can be. Drawn into investigating her murder and then potentially seen as guilty of it the one thing that is never in doubt is that Ford is obsessed with her. In one scene his wife is seen off-screen asking why she matters so much and Ford breaks down in tears. It may not be love but it is certainly the passion of a lover and it remains one of Ford’s most unique and brilliant performances.

Runner Ups: Blade Runner, Random Hearts, Sabrina, Regarding Henry, Six Day, Seven Nights, Working Girl, Hanover Street.

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4. Soldier – Witness (1985)

The 1980s is a rich era for Harrison Ford, it begins with the greatest sequel of all time in The Empire Strikes Back, Ford’s first turn as a cop in Blade Runner, gives us the classic Indiana Jones trilogy, his tortured performance in The Mosquito Coast, Frantic hints at the Ryan persona of the 1990s with a middle aged doctor caught up in a thriller but dares to show Ford get beat up and pretend to be naked with girls half his age (Jack Ryan thrillers wouldn’t dare). These are real characters each with their own tics and foibles, they play like something more authentic and complicated than the mainstream hits from the 90s. Smack bang in the middle of the decade though is the closest thing to a prototype of the 90s star persona of them all in Detective John Book with important distinctions. Ryan is a family man, Kimble a widow, Book is a bachelor and hard edged cop where the others are historians and doctors. Book is dangerous in a way the others aren’t, he’s not a good man driven to violence, he’s a violent man driven to goodness. Which makes it all the more powerful when he is reluctant to fight, or tenderly sits with a boy or he shrinks from the gaze of a topless woman he is falling for hard. The only time Harrison Ford was ever nominated for an Academy Award it remains arguably his greatest performance. Solo and Indy endure, Blade Runner is so much richer because of his Deckard and Presumed Innocent and Working Girl were the successful changes of pace but Witness’s John Book is the Harrison Ford performance to see. John Book fits as a soldier personality too but more importantly this is essentially where Ford in his career established his reputation, proved he didn’t need to do genre work for the rest of his career and created the blueprint for what he would ultimately make a lot of money doing in the 1990s.

Runner Ups: Blade Runner, Frantic, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Fugitive, Presumed Innocent, Patriot Games

5. The Justice – Clear and Present Danger (1994)

There is a wealth of choices for this age from Harrison Ford, the age of the justice was the age that Ford played best and he became in a way the Jimmy Stewart for a new generation. After Stallone and Schwarzenegger in the 80s, Ford gave us the American hero for the 90s. Smart, urban if not urbane and a family man – just don’t fuckin attack him or his country. As a cop in The Devil’s Own he came face to face with Brad Pitt as a terrorist even if the film didn’t play it so cut and dry. Playing the President in Die Hard on Air Force One in… Air Force One almost seems inevitable in retrospect but Ford showed his boredom even before the decade closed pursuing a romcom in Six Days, Seven Nights with Anne Heche. Hey I liked it. With dwindling box office he returned to this type of film in Firewall (2006) but sadly that film was not as good as the 90s output. The Fugitive was the biggest hit and a damn fine film but Dr Jack Ryan has it over Dr Richard Kimble. In Patriot Games, Ford has his best moments when he sees his wife Cathy Ryan (Anne Archer) and child Sally (Thora Birch) in the hospital. His line delivery of the word spleen will cause any parent to tear up. His famous finger point is greatly satisfying in the next scene but Clear and Present Danger puts Ryan in a better film and features an equally good performance. Jack Ryan plays many notes here, a middle aged man fearing the death of his father figure (James Earl Jones as Admiral Greer), an analyst out of his depth in the field, and an arc that takes him from nervously advising his President to telling him where to go. For the kids who don’t know Ford was the master of awkward fight scenes, his facial expressions always moving from fear to rage with every punch and he would physically throw his body around. They’re not streamlined like a martial arts fight but they’re spectacular in a regular guy kind of way and probably owe a great deal to Ford doing a lot of work himself. You feel the fights. Conflicting reports range about how involved he was in his stunts but he sure seems to be close to some pyrotechnics in the lauded ambush scene of Clear and Present Danger.

Runner Ups: Patriot Games, The Fugitive, The Devil’s Own, Sabrina, Air Force One, Six Days, Seven Nights, What Lies BeneathK-19: The Widowmaker, Presumed Innocent, Regarding Henry, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Frantic.

Image result for HARRISON FORD MORNING GLORY

6. The Pantalone – Morning Glory (2010)

Ford came to stardom later in life and he was still box office king in his mid-fifties but sooner or later you’ve got to slide into supporting roles and pair yourself up with a younger kid. Ford proved game but as the 21st century dragged on the films he made just weren’t that good or just weren’t successful. After pulling out the old fedora again in 2008 he followed up with two films, the 2009 ensemble piece Crossing Over and the 2010 comedy Morning Glory hoping to capitalise on that momentum. Neither hit gold but he has enjoyed more success with the interesting premise of Ender’s Game and mentoring Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman) in 42, both in 2013. Morning Glory was made by some of the same team that only a couple of years earlier had major success with The Devil Wears Prada the film belongs to Rachel McAdams who here didn’t play a love interest but an actual career woman. As a TV producer Becky Fuller she hires Ford’s revered but benched anchor-man Mike Pomeroy. The film belongs to Becky who does have a boyfriend played by Patrick Wilson and interacts with a cast of individuals at their morning program Daybreak. The heart of the film though is her relationship with Pomeroy. The elder newsman doesn’t want to do morning television but is running out of options and coming to terms that after a lifetime of putting career first over family he now has neither. Ford plays proud, stubborn, hurt, funny and most importantly capable of supplying a bran doughnut or perhaps even a frittata for someone special. For years Harrison Ford struggled to get a great role for this age – in 2010 he got one and you should see it.

Runner Ups: Hollywood Homicide, Cowboys & Aliens, Ender’s Game, 42, The Devil’s Own.

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7. Old Age – The Force Awakens (2015)

I watched The Age of Adaline recently to see if it was Ford’s best work in years as some have said……. I think I’ll leave it there. Ford may not have a great performance for this age just yet. There’s time, we’ve got Blade Runner 2049 coming out later this year which is bound to deal with mortality and then most likely a final Indiana Jones performance. For now though it is Ford returning to a galaxy far, far away from a long time ago in The Force Awakens. It is not great acting; Han Solo has no big lessons to pass on in this story. What Ford does though is show that old men can still be young at heart, that Solo didn’t really grow up but he did become wiser. He passes on some advice to both Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) about life and in the third act he does exactly what Han Solo did all those years before near Yavin IV and the first Death Star. He goes into the danger to rescue someone, to do the right thing and that is why we always loved the scoundrel smuggler. When he confronts his son his last act is to show that he still does and always will love him. Maybe he does have one big lesson left to impart.

Runner Ups: The Age of Adaline, The Expendables 3, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Well that’s the list; can you believe Indiana Jones isn’t in there? It’s arguably the greatest role he ever played! What’s going on?! Where’s Deckard?! Well let’s discuss and feel free to put forward your own picks in the comments below.

-Lloyd Marken

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THE FORCE AWAKENS IN STAR WARS FANDOM

Quite possibly the most heavily hyped film of all time Star Wars: The Force Awakens has hit cinemas. After being burned by the prequels long term fans just want to know one thing-is it any good? And the quick answer is yes! With expectations being raised so much by the nostalgic laden marketing we have overlooked that the new movie The Force Awakens would buy an awful lot of goodwill just by being better than the prequels. However it didn’t beat the North American Box Office records in 16 days just by failing to be bad. Yes The Force Awakens is good yet more importantly it is fun.

Picking up the story 30 years after The Return of the Jedi, different forces throughout the galaxy are in search of the long absent Luke Skywalker. Poe Dameron a pilot with The Resistance is dispatched to pick up plans which may lead to Skywalker’s location but is unfortunately captured by the First Order led by Kylo Ren. The map remains with his trusty droid the seriously cute BB-8 who makes his way marooned on the desert planet Jakku where he comes across the scavenger Rey. star wars the force awakens haters rolling bb8Meanwhile a Stormtrooper having witnessed his first battle in the capture of Poe sees the Resistance pilot as a way for them to both escape the First Order.

The three new leads of Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) are inherently good people who make you laugh and like them almost immediately. Rey has come under criticism in some circles for being good at everything. Not a complaint without merit but Ridley makes Rey very believable and likeable that it seems churlish not to enjoy the character’s success for the most part. Kylo Ren as played by Adam Driver, like Vader before him starts off as a forbidding threat and becomes more complicated and fascinating as the story goes along albeit also far less intimidating. Out of all the returning ‘legacy’ characters Han Solo and Chewbacca are given the most screen time. Chewbacca has never been used better but Han Solo still roguish is now older and more vulnerable and Ford revels in playing the same character at a different stage in his life with very real new stakes.

J.J. Abrams is a story teller noted for great set-ups of premises and reinvigorating old franchises anew. Yet he is also known for jumping ship to work on new projects. He also specialises in pacing that carries the audience along at a zippy intoxicating rate that upon reflection appears to have helped gloss over coincidences and plot holes. The Force Awakens still suffers from this but it is arguably Abrams best film. It is not a bad thing he is stepping aside for Episode 8 and how that film answers some of the questions left hanging from this one will determine how fondly we remember both. star wars explosion crash the force awakens desert

Yet J.J. has pursued practical effects and location shooting to help match the aesthetics of the first trilogy, he’s referenced the past with the original cast and tons of Easter eggs but established a new mythology with lots of open-ends to speculate on for the next two years. Crucially he’s given us new characters to root for and sprinkled solid character based humour throughout. The highest compliment you can give this film is it makes you excited about Episode 8. Who would have thought?

-Lloyd Marken

Author’s Note: This review has been republished from my other site where I publish shortened film reviews of mine https://hottipsfromlloydmarken.wordpress.com/ I don’t generally get a lot of traffic on that with WordPress but it is a hit with my friends on Facebook so I’ve kept putting posts there semi-regularly. I found my longer review for The Force Awakens on lloydmarken.wordpress.com became more of a spoiler heavy dissection of the film and would like to therefore include my short piece on this site too since it is more akin to a review.

STAR WARS HAS RETURNED TO CINEMAS AND OUR HEARTS

First be warned this is a spoiler heavy musing of the new Star Wars movie. For a spoiler free review from me please check out my link here. Also a much more succinct discussion of spoiler topics can be found here from a much wiser man than me.

Quite possibly the most heavily hyped film of all time Star Wars: The Force Awakens has hit cinemas. After being burned by the prequels, long term fans just want to know one thing-is it any good? And the quick answer is yes! With expectations being raised so much by the marketing riffing on nostalgia for the original trilogy we perhaps overlooked that the new movie The Force Awakens would buy an awful lot of goodwill just by being better than the prequels. Yet it didn’t beat the North American Box Office box office records in 16 days by just failing to be bad. The Force Awakens is good but more importantly it is fun.

Picking up the story 30 years after The Return of the Jedi, different forces throughout the galaxy are in search of the long absent Luke Skywalker. Poe Dameron a pilot with The Rebellion-sorry Resistance is dispatched to pick up plans-sorry a map which may lead to Skywalker’s location but is unfortunately captured by the Empire-sorry the First Order led by Kylo Ren. The map remains with his trusty droid the seriously cute R2-sorry BB-8 who makes his way marooned on the desert planet Tatooi-sorry Jakku where he comes across the farm-sorry scavenger Rey. Meanwhile a Stormtrooper Finn having witnessed his first battle in the capture of Poe sees the Resistance pilot as a way for them to both escape the First Order. I may be mocking the repetition of plot elements from Star Wars but the first scene lands with a bang. It features smart dialogue, quickly establishes villains as people to fear and hate and despite being studio based feels very much like a real tactile world. Such a clear and concise set up makes you want to see this movie again before it has even really begun.

We are introduced to Rey in a fantastic sequence of economic storytelling which tells us what an average day of scavenging is like for her. She has to be tough to protect herself from others and she lives in small humble quarters where she is tallying how long she has been waiting for her family to return to her on Jakku and building toy dolls of Rebellion pilots reflecting her own dreams for a different future. Then she rescues BB-8 and we see how inherently good she is. It is a masterful sequence, quiet with minimal fuss and dialogue but wonderfully effective. We are with her from that moment on. The character Rey has come under criticism in some circles for being good at everything. Not a complaint without merit, when I think of impossibly capable heroes from earlier blockbusters I note they usually had some frailty even if it was emotional rather than physical. Rey is physically tough, morally strong and emotionally well balanced considering her backstory but Daisy Ridley gives shadings to explore later on. She is visibly in awe of the larger world that the Resistance and Han Solo represent and she loses her composure clearly during an encounter with her past. I enjoyed her defeating Kylo Ren’s attempts to mind interrogate her using the Force and that being the catalyst for her discovering her own powers. Her winning their duel at the end did despite his wounds and her natural ability with the Force and physical prowess with the staff I thought was a poor choice narratively. This has been debated on the internet a lot so I don’t know if I have anything definitive to add. You could argue it gives us a cathartic victory to see someone put Kylo Ren on his ass at the end of the movie and if somebody was going to do that it should be Rey but I feel that Kylo Ren should become more terrifying after killing Han Solo and that people should have him to fear being on the side of The First Order after the threat of the Starkiller Base has been removed. I can’t quite get over Kylo Ren having enough training to stop a blaster bolt but not enough to take down someone who has discovered they are strong in the Force in the past 24 hours. Suggestions that he hasn’t had to sword fight much with a lack of Jedi don’t fly with me. You have a lightsaber you should know how to use it. For that matter I don’t like Stormtroopers having weapons that can clash with lightsabers either. Oh okay. I’ll shut up now.

I will say this though, when Rey summoned that lightsaber and the score kicked in I smiled for every little girl out there who has ever wondered why a girl doesn’t get to fight with a lightsaber. When I was growing up Princess Leia was so cool and in charge that I never really questioned that she wasn’t really at the centre of the story and became mostly a love interest in the sequels.

Rey and Finn are undeniably cute in this movie and I do hope they get more than a hug by the end of the trilogy but Rey is going to be the central hero of this story and Finn ain’t going to be far behind. The biggest movie of all time has these two as their leads. That’s a good thing in my book. Finn at first may appear to be used an awful lot for comic relief but he at various times reveals a worldliness to his character due to the knowledge he has of the First Order and he has the best arc in the film. The last thing he says to Rey is we need to get as far away from The First Order as we can and he goes to the heart of their organisation to rescue her. When Maz Kanata sees right into his soul instead of acting guilty about his deception he fixes his own gaze and warns them all about the First Order. He’s more than comic relief and these are fantastic layers there to explore further in the sequels. We have here a male lead that in some ways is not as capable as the female lead but becomes devoted to her and as a result they both draw great strength from each other. It’s a good point when Rey points out to Finn that she doesn’t need him holding her hand to help her run but shortly after he drags her out of a tent before it blows up. In a later scene after he pushes her away he is taken by a monster and she rescues him with some quick thinking. I love these two; it’s just so cute how their faces light up around the other one.

Poe Dameron does not get a lot to do here as much as Finn and Rey but Oscar Isaac does not need much to make an impact. When Finn appears sad about Poe’s passing to BB-8 you believe it is genuine. At that point Boyega and Isaac had shared a sum total of five minutes of screen time to sell that. Kylo Ren as a design works fantastic in the movies way more than he did in the trailers. The voice under the mask sounds great and the sparks of his lightsaber reflect his unstable personality although his footsteps sound like he’s wearing solid metal platform shoes. The first real reveal about Kylo’s character comes at least 40 minutes into the film so I actually felt for once that J.J.’s typical coyness was justified in this movie. It was fun to discover the answer to these questions for myself albeit in retrospect it all seems so obvious. A villain close to the hearts of our legacy characters would be the only way to explain how Luke went into hiding and everything kind of went bad. We’re introduced to Kylo Ren long after his birth and fall to the dark side years earlier. He comes presented to us as a villain rather than a tragic figure and we see him do bad things quite early. Yet there is some inner turmoil there and we come to care about his fate a little even if that is all due to our history and feelings for his parents rather than him. Rey’s defeat of him also brings into sharper focus his inabilities. Seeing him stop the blaster makes it comical when he loses his temper and trashes things. Rey’s defeat makes you realise that beyond that all we’ve really seen him do is kill two old men, torture a tied up prisoner and get his ass handed him to by a girl. Suddenly the inability to control his temper is just another symptom of a big baby who can’t do much when really challenged. I didn’t want that for Kylo Ren but he’s still a fascinating character and his desire to measure up to Darth Vader appropriate for a new Star Wars film looking to hit with a new generation. Rey and Finn share similar sentiments when they first hop into the Millennium Falcon or discuss intently stories about the Rebellion. Can Kylo Ren be redeemed? Does the audience want that after he killed Han Solo and will it feel too much like a repeat of Anakin’s arc? “All of this has happened before and will happen again.” Other franchises have intoned. I would actually like to avoid that kind of cyclical doomed to repeat storytelling in this franchise but it was inevitable that the happy ending of 1983 would have to be ruined somewhat to create conflict in this several years later sequel.

Out of all the returning ‘legacy’ characters Han Solo and Chewbacca are given the most screen time. Chewbacca has never been used better, he gets the best lines out of the whole film and we don’t even understand what he is saying and when that already famous death scene comes Chewie justifiably lights up on the First Order. Han Solo to me is still roguish in this one but with age and a son has come vulnerability and real stakes for the smuggler. I’ve seen the film four times and every time Leia says “Luke is a Jedi…you’re his father.” I tear up. There has been a lot of talk about how Han Solo should have died in an epic way taking on many bad guys or sacrificing himself to save someone’s life. That’s the thing though he does die in an epic way to save someone’s life…to save Ben…to save his son’s. They’re about to blow up the base and Han sacrifices himself to save his son. When he walks out on that bridge he knows the odds but he does it for the woman he loves and the child they had together. His last act is one of kindness to let his son know that the light always wins, that he still loves him. I had a range of emotions the first time I saw The Force Awakens. Killing an older character has been done before with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan and there were certainly a lot of rumours going into this movie. When Obi-Wan died in Star Wars it was sad because we’d spent an hour with him and his character was likeable. Most fans have a lifetime of memories with Han Solo going back to their childhood predominantly and by association with Harrison Ford in general. There were a lot of us worried when we heard about the plane crash earlier in 2015 because this was our hero Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Richard Kimble, Jack Ryan, the coolest President ever and we didn’t want somebody so important to our developing years to be hurt or worse. I kept hoping they were going to find Han at the bottom of that shaft and take him home but no they don’t cheat out of this and I’ve come to feel that is only right. It seems popular to say that Harrison seems to be more engaged with his performance here but I always believe Mr Ford shows up to work. I will say though that he is as enjoyable as he has ever been and seems to be revelling in the emotional aspects of the role in this film.

The last shot near the Ewok camp in Return of the Jedi shows young heroes having weathered a war now ready to live the rest of their lives and make something out of it. Find some peace and joy maybe, raise families, restore democracy. I guess it was not to be and now Han is dead but Han died how he lived, hesitant but in the end doing the right thing. Rey now has his ship and co-pilot and is setting off on a new adventure. Maybe the good guys will restore peace to the galaxy eventually. It might be a neat idea in Episode VIII to show how successful the Rebellion was in restoring the Republic and peace to the Galaxy at least for a while. “Not all of it was bad.” as Han noted even if he was mostly talking about his sex life there.

the force awakens star wars trailer star wars the force awakens

I can’t say enough about how much I liked the new characters in this film. It was a relief not to be sitting around waiting for Han Solo and Chewie to appear. None of the trailers had really revealed if the dialogue was going to be good but there are so many lines that I find endlessly quotable mostly for their humour. I enjoyed the film as it zipped along never paying attention to any plot holes or conveniences-I was having too much fun. Then around about the time it became obvious they were going to blow up the Death Star-sorry the Starkiller Base I became a little tired. I actually thought to myself in a moment where an X-Wing was flying down a trench. Gee this is a good Star Wars movie but it might be a good idea if they don’t make any more after 2019? Han Solo’s death lends some emotional investment and turmoil to the third act. I’ve heard one fellow blogger even comment that it is when The Force Awakens really steps it up a notch. What can I tell you? I could have gone with a different third act threat than the Starkiller Base and I still feel Rey should’ve been desperately fighting a losing battle to hold Ren off before being saved by the planet’s surface splitting apart. Plus there must be some significance in General Leia walking past Chewbacca to Rey (whom she has never met?) to offer comfort after Han has died. As for the ending you have got to wonder why Mark Hamill was at that table read. Actually you don’t, he was at that table read to let you know Luke Skywalker was back. Personally I’ve always had problems with unanswered questions being left as sequel baits for originals that couldn’t tell a good story by themselves. Prometheus (which I liked) left too much hanging for a follow up and the makers of Terminator Genieshit keep saying their film is good because all of the plot inconsistencies are explained in sequels I pray we never get. Here it works. They’ve still told a complete story and while we don’t know everything about Rey or Finn we know that we like them, we know we care about them and we know we want to see them again and not just because it will answer our questions.

trailer the force awakens star wars bb8John Williams score seems well received but no theme seems to have caught people’s imagination like say Duel of the Fates did in The Phantom Menace. It seems to be growing on me though. The production values are top notch throughout, they’ve taken the time and expense to shoot on real locations and even CGI effects echo the look of the model work from the previous films. The Falcon now freed from the limitations of those models seems to bounce around on the ground and crash too much for my liking but again minor quibbles. As a side note how many shoot-outs has Han and Chewie been in? He’s never noticed before how powerful Chewie’s crossbow is and why does he think he can keep taking it off him. Doesn’t Chewie need it?

J.J. Abrams is a story teller noted for great set-ups of premises and reinvigorating old franchises anew. It felt like he stepped away from Alias and Lost long before they finished and he only produced Mission Impossible IV, Super 8 arguably his best film still feels like the third act is weaker than the rest of the story and he famously jumped from Star Trek to do this. With that in mind he is maybe as a Star Wars fan boy the perfect director to have made this movie and also at the same time it is a good thing he won’t be the only one responsible for tying up loose ends in the sequel. If there is one common point about this film it is that it echoes too heavily certain plot elements from the original trilogy (although let it be known that The Phantom Menace saw the death of a mentor character in the third act, a young poor child without a parent discovered on a desert planet and taken away for a greater destiny and the destruction of a large space station) then as a return to the series after an absence we will forgive this since we have such wildly likeable new characters and good humour. Fans will not be so forgiving next time. If some of the answers to these questions land with a thud in the next film both it and The Force Awakens will suffer as a result. the force awakens star wars trailer star wars the force awakensFor now though, there was a scene where X-Wings came flying in over a river seen first off in the distance as Stormtroopers radioed each other to get into position. Williams made trumpets blare, Oscar Isaac smiled; some pilot said excitedly “We got your back Poe.” And I wanted to fist pump the air. It was the fourth time I’d seen it. The biggest compliment you can give The Force Awakens is…it makes you excited about seeing Episode VIII next year and it can’t come soon enough. May the Force be with you Rian Johnson. Star Wars is back!!!

-Lloyd Marken

P.S. If anybody would like to offer their opinion or thoughts, please feel free to comment below.