Egypt theater cancels ‘Star Wars’ showings on opening day over corrupt film file
14 things Star Wars fans will love about The Force Awakens.
To use the parlance of the analysts who dissect box office figures like they were sports statistics these days, “Star Wars” didn’t “win” the weekend when it opened on Wednesday, May 25, 1977.
The summer the original Star Wars came out—the chapter that George Lucas later rechristened Episode IV: A New Hope—I was 11 years old, ostensibly part of the movie’s ideal target demographic.I suppose the last thing you want to hear at a Rolling Stones concert is, “Ladies and gentlemen, here’s two hours of entirely new material!” Even so, the shamelessness with which “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” replays the franchise’s greatest hits is startling. The highest-grossing film over the six-day Memorial Day period was the Burt Reynolds vehicle “Smokey and the Bandit,” which sold $2.7 million worth of tickets. “Star Wars” clocked in at $2.5 million. CONTAINS SPOILERS Star Wars simply wouldn’t be Star Wars without John Williams, no matter which Abramsian master of imitation they hired in his place. I still remember some images with the whoa-that’s-cool awe they inspired at the time: the oblique angle of the words as they disappeared into space in that opening crawl.
On Wednesday Star Wars fans of every age met at Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, Johannesburg, to celebrate the film’s release in true cosplay style. It’s finally here… Ten years after the last film, Revenge of the Sith (2005), and now that creator George Lucas has taken a back seat, director JJ Abrams’ spectacular reboot is a welcome return to the franchise’s roots successfully recapturing the fun and humour of the original trilogy after the missteps of the prequels. In The Force Awakens, he threads old themes beautifully with new: gotta have that fanfare, need the keening nostalgic pull of Leia’s theme, and his other gorgeous minor-key balladry. But even as a middle-schooler, I never quite warmed to the Star Wars mythos, which seemed too schematic and fairy-tale–like with its white-clad princess and black-garbed, mouth-breathing bad guy. Abrams has done an honorable job and steered things away from the those horrid prequels. “The Force Awakens” feels like a genuine “Star Wars” movie, with well-executed battle scenes, light comic touches and a warm feel for its characters.
General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) is now leading the Resistance against the evil First Order and their commander and Darth Vader lookalike Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) The pair go off in search of Dameron’s BB-8 droid, a whirling dervish of bleeps and cuteness, as he contains the missing piece of an important map. But the new is so good, as well: Rey gets an inquisitive leitmotif, announced on piano, that gives you the prickly excitement of knowing you’ve just been introduced to someone important. I preferred the cerebral sci-fi riddles and intergalactic do-gooder diplomacy of the Star Trek universe (and if we’re being honest, Trek’s Kirk and Spock did more for my incipient libido than either Luke or Han Solo). JJ must’ve been rubbing his hands in glee after the initial hoo-ha over casting and how there weren’t enough women in the film knowing what was ahead. Amid all the reunions and warm embraces bringing us back into the fold, there’s a simple moment – it lasts just a second or two – when Leia goes right in for a Chewbacca hug, letting her face burrow down into his fur while he emits one of his great, low, trilling purrs.
But the original film opened with a minimum of publicity: one trailer, a cast comprised largely of unknowns and a poster painted by brothers Tim and Greg Hildebrandt featuring a young man holding a gleaming sword over his head, a woman brandishing a pistol, two robots and a large, dark helmet filling the sky behind them, where some kind of dogfight between spaceships was taking place. Ridley, who could easily pass for Keira Knightley’s twin, is admittedly a little stiff at the beginning but her Rey is fresh and engaging; a cross between Katniss Everdeen and Princess Leia. That poster, which wound up adorning the walls of countless bedrooms in the summer of 1977, is one of the most beautiful and mysterious pieces of advertising art ever created.
Over the next few years, as the sequels (the early, real ones) rolled out, we collected action figures; spun out complementary narratives in novelizations, fan fiction, animated series, and video games; and generally wove the legend of the repressive Empire and the ragtag Resistance into our collective self-image, both as political beings and as consumers of ever more sophisticated entertainment products. John Boyega, no hint of the Peckham boy here, gives a performance that oozes winning charm while Domhnall Gleeson also makes a notable appearance as the coolly menacing General Hux. Ford gives such a good performance here – leagues above his Crystal Skull comeback – but it helps that the script’s so canny at mellowing the wisecracks. What else is the famous “1984” Apple commercial—released the year after we said goodbye to Han, Luke, and Leia at the triumphant Ewok hoedown that ends The Return of the Jedi—but a symbolic re-enactment of the victory of the brave, scrappy individualists against the faceless horde of Stormtroopers?
The movie is at its best in its class-reunion moments: Fisher and Hamill lend a spark when their characters appear, and Ford gives the movie lots of heart by reprising Han Solo, once again on the run from intergalactic loan sharks. They never come on too strong or feel crowbarred into the scene: his dialogue’s more often touchingly straightforward, as if he’s realised sarcasm is just unnecessary effort at this age. Passing over Lucas’ three early 2000s prequels in tactful silence (as befits the treatment of the vanity projects of a revered but dotty old uncle), we find ourselves, 38 years after that first blockbuster summer, still living in the pop-cultural world Star Wars built. Every so often, a touch of the old Han springs up: there’s a brilliantly funny one-two-combo diss where he mocks Finn’s rudimentary understanding of the Force and Chewbacca’s kvetching about the weather, practically in the same breath.
Abrams does have some spiffy new ideas, but he doesn’t do enough with them: Having a Stormtrooper turn traitor is brilliant, but Abrams essentially just flips the guy’s good/evil switch. Watching “Star Wars” again for the first time in nearly 20 years, I was struck by how economical the storytelling is; how quickly writer-director George Lucas plunges you into this complicated world with next to no explanation; the breadth of imaginative details (blue milk!); the subconscious effect of John Williams’ magnificent, instant-earworm score; the relentless pace; and the rare mix of wonder and excitement that entrances children and adults instantly.
Honestly, the man could make a hopeless hash of a movie and still break world box-office records, as long as there were lightsaber battles and adorable beeping robots and exploding space stations and plenty of verbal and visual callbacks to the series’ most famous moments. She’s powerful, human, self-sufficient — “Don’t take my hand,” she snarls at Finn as he tries to lead her to safety — and would never even consider wearing a gold bikini. When we join Solo on a ride in Millenium Falcon (yes, it’s a bit rusty but still the fastest spaceship in the galaxy), you actually feel like you’re up close, right in the middle of all the commotion.
Unlike subsequent chapters (including “The Empire Strikes Back,” which is widely considered to be superior, as “The Godfather Part II” was to “The Godfather”), “Star Wars” was brisk and rousing and self-contained, with something new to see and contemplate every 10 minutes and a narrative drive that never once stalls for pesky exposition. His sweaty panic moments are the first things to hook us concretely into the story; his fumbling curiosity about Rey is adorable; his fibs are winningly see-through; his timing’s off the hook. In his authoritative book “How Star Wars Conquered the Universe,” author Chris Taylor writes about all the creative decisions that fell into place during the writing process. The trailer already gave us a taste: but before Han and Chewy are home, Finn and Rey are clambering around inside it, practically holding their noses. Kylo Ren also feels more like a petulant teen, sometimes, throwing his toys (lightsabers) out of the pram when he doesn’t get what he wants but Adam Driver has always been great at playing charismatic, unlikeable a**holes and he’s no different here.
It’s been sitting round back of Jakku market gathering luminous mould for what looks like centuries, in the clutches of a trader who looks like he’d sell his mother for a new hyperdrive. Sharing a screen with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill—all of whom come back to reprise their original roles—would be a tall task for any young, relatively unknown actor. And fledgling thespians cutting their teeth on Star Wars dialogue have not historically made for a very pretty sight, as those of us who survived Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman’s leaden courtship scenes can attest. It also knows how to execute its emotional beats expertly in the sea of epic set pieces as it ponders, like the films before, about notions of fatherhood and legacy. The decision to make Chewbacca the co-pilot of the Millennium Falcon came from seeing Lucas’ own dog, Indiana, riding shotgun in the front seat of the car of his wife, Marcia, an accomplished film editor.
Ford’s Spencer Tracy-esque vibe allows him the gravitas to utter lines like “The galaxy is counting on us,” while sidekick Chewie says much without actually speaking words. Pauline Kael, then the most powerful film critic in America, clucked with disapproval at Lucas’ creation and warned its success could lead to the infantilization of Hollywood. “There’s no breather in the picture, no lyricism; the only attempt at beauty is in the double sunset,” she wrote in a review published in The New Yorker on Sept. 26, 1977, after the film had become a phenomenon and declared the year’s best film by Time magazine. “It’s enjoyable on its own terms, but it’s exhausting, too: like taking a pack of kids to the circus. An hour into it, children say that they’re ready to see it again; that’s because it’s an assemblage of spare parts — it has no emotional grip. . . . Their first meeting exemplifies the movie’s playful tone. “You’ve changed your hair,” Hans says to his old flame, noticing her famous bagel hair buns are gone.
The excitement of those who call it the film of the year goes way past nostalgia to the feeling that now is the time to return to childhood.” Some film historians point to the one-two punch of “Jaws” and “Star Wars” as the beginning of Hollywood’s gradual loss of interest in adult audiences and its all-consuming courtship of younger viewers. Yes, Star Wars fans: while Han Solo will always hold the number one spot, Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron is definitely a serious contender for the title of Second Coolest Man in the Galaxy (C-3PO sadly doesn’t qualify because he’s a droid). FN-2187, traumatized by his first experience in battle, escapes the First Order in a stolen craft piloted by escaped prisoner Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who immediately rechristens the young man “Finn” and entrusts him—lack of experience be damned—with the co-pilot seat. Together, the two must reach our old heroes to deliver the movie’s intergalactic MacGuffin (I won’t spoil what it is) before they can be intercepted by Darth Vader revivalist Kylo Ren (black cape and helmet, filtered breathy growl), played by Adam Driver. It’s the right mix of space-opera-cool and character that will please the hard-core fans that see this as just another piece of a much larger puzzle but also works as a standalone story as well.
His instability gives him a certain snake-like air of danger( it’s never clear exactly when he’s going to snap) but also provides the film with some sly humour. But it also struck a profoundly emotional chord in people who fell in love with the series, regardless of age and gender. “The movie is just the right combination of everything,” Taylor says. “People often think of escapism as something mindless: You’re escaping from the real world and you don’t care where you go. ‘Star Wars’ was the first movie to say ‘Escapism isn’t just for kids.’ This isn’t just a throwaway thing.
Whenever Kylo goes into angsty-slashy mode, you get the impression his stormtroopers and crew are secretly having an “oh, god, not again” reaction. The next time around, director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) is getting a crack at Star Wars, and—though it’s doubtful how much freedom this big-bucks operation can allow for individual auteurship—maybe he will take the story and characters down a different, more experimental road. JJ Abrams’s vision of Star Wars sticks quite rigidly to an organic, lo-fi approach, keeping CGI to space scenes and X-Wing/TIE Fighter/Millennium Falcon dogfights.
We still crave the idea that we’re going to be all right, that hate and fear can and will be defeated.” Clark also points out another reason for the series’ longevity: The time span between the previous two trilogies allowed multiple generations to introduce younger viewers to the “Star Wars” universe while keeping their own enthusiasm intact. “The first trilogy was in the 1970s and ’80s; the second one was in 1999 and the 2000s,” he says. “With these gaps, generations of fans were able to pass on their enthusiasms to newer generations. And enough time has passed since the last movie (2005’s ‘Revenge of the Sith’) that it’s a big deal to have a new ‘Star Wars’ movie again.
And thanks to the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney for $4 billion in 2012, the story is finally moving forward instead of dwelling in the past, like Lucas did with those prequels. Director of Photography Dan Mindel and costume designer Michael Kaplan have worked with Abrams several times, most notably on his two Star Trek films. Thirty years after “Return of the Jedi,” we’re about to catch up with some old friends and meet a bunch of new ones, in a movie created by people with a deep and obvious affection and understanding for what made that first movie special.
The pair started making films together as children 40 years ago, and Grunberg has at least cameoed in almost every film and TV show that Abrams has made since. The director calls Grunberg his lucky charm, and with good reason; it’s worth noting that he did //not// appear in the disappointing Star Trek Into Darkness.
And while Tarkin’s relationship with Vader enjoyed a level of mutual respect, Hux and Force user Kylo Ren are like teenage rivals for the attention of Supreme Leader Snoke, their awful boss. He has progressed enough that he does, eventually, realise that he’s in the way, but there’s something marvellous in his continuing inability to read a moment. A stormtrooper bursts in on a prisoner who’s being held on a First Order ship …before removing his helmet and announcing he’s here for “a rescue”. After the opening sequence (and that familiar, beautifully evocative scrolling yellow text), the film opens with a shot of space: a deep, wide place, glittering with stars and heavy with the promise of adventure.
A large moon looms into sight – and then – with stately, threatening grace – a giant First Order Star Destroyer slowly passes by, blocking out the moon’s glow.
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