‘Star Wars’ takes Lupita Nyong’o to another acting universe

22 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Military Operation With Mouse Ears: Inside the ‘Star Wars’ Premiere.

For better and worse, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is a work of directorial authorship. I rarely enjoy going to premieres because they’re hectic and you invariably have to wait an hour (or longer!) for the movie to start while the celebrities stroll the red carpet and industry types work the room gossiping and trading air kisses.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday that he is “confident” President Barack Obama will see the latest movie in the Star Wars saga “at some point,” reporters said. The premiere on Monday for “The Force Awakens” was more frantic than usual partly because of the intense security — there were fleets of Los Angeles police officers, armies of private security and several firetrucks standing by, too.

CBS News White House Correspondent Mark Knoller also noted that the MPAA arranges films for White House screenings (so don’t expect to see the first family waiting in line for popcorn at your local theater). Last week, Obama praised Star Wars creator George Lucas at the Kennedy Center Honors, citing a legacy he said would continue to endure for generations to come. “Think about how many children have been raised, at least in part, by George Lucas,” the president said. “Think about how many young people searching for their place in the universe have thought to themselves, ‘If a kid from Tatooine moisture farm can go from bulls-eyeing womp rats in his T-16 to saving the galaxy, then maybe I can be something special too?’ “George, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but they might even make a brand-new Star Wars movie soon. It was like a military operation, but with mouse ears: Disney had taken over a stretch of Hollywood Boulevard and several theaters, including the Dolby, which is where the Academy Awards take place. It’s very low-key, it’s not getting a lot of promotion,” Obama joked. “But it’s also pretty remarkable that nearly 40 years after the first Star Destroyer crawled across the screen, we are still obsessed with George’s vision of a galaxy far, far away.

John Boyega, one of the new stars of Episode VII, said he was overwhelmed to be finally able to bring the film to his hometown of London. “I’m a boy from Peckham and I’m in Star Wars!” the 23-year old roared to the crowds. A movie fanatic, Spielberg is himself a master of the graft—especially grafting the mythic memory of the cinema onto a child-like sensibility formed by television. Whenever the president sees it, there’s a good chance he’ll be pleased — reviews of the film (both from critics and celebrities who saw the film early) have so far been overwhelmingly positive.

This is Star Wars, this is the biggest film franchise of all time and this is a movie that I’ve lived with all my life – and now I’m a part of it. Abrams stands at an extra remove from the source—one step down from Spielberg’s worship of a world of images to the modern worship of a world of stories. That makes Abrams just the person to plug the newest ready-made pre-fab blocks of quasi-Biblical legend into the template left by Lucas, and Abrams does so with a vigorously responsible enthusiasm joined with a palpable wonder at his contact with the venerated text. The setup—and it’s giving almost nothing away to mention it, since it’s outlined in an opening crawl of text—involves the quest for Luke Skywalker, who’s in hiding.

The universe is dominated by an evil successor to the Empire, called the First Order, and its overlords are trying to find and kill Luke, who is the last of the Jedi. Here, too, there’s secret information that gets hidden in a little robot, and there’s the crucial decoding of that information to insure the success of a mission. The new script, which Abrams co-wrote with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, brings along a host of new characters who are incarnated by an extraordinary troupe of young actors. As he did with his 2009 rethink of “Star Trek,” he had to find the sweet spot between respecting a beloved work and bringing something new to the equation. That’s always tough, but the smartest move that big studios can make when they have a valuable property they want to exploit ad infinitum is to hire directors who (fingers crossed) know what they’re doing.

There’s a gifted pilot (Oscar Isaac); a fiercely martial young woman pursued by villains (Daisy Ridley, a nearly new cinematic presence); an independent-minded soldier on the run (John Boyega); a passionate military mastermind (Adam Driver). He won’t direct the next chapter; that gig belongs to Rian Johnson, whose movies include “Looper.” By then maybe everyone will have calmed down; because, frankly, among the challenges in reviewing a hyper-hyped release is separating the signal from the noise — in other words, separating the movie from the nonsense that’s generated by the industry, the entertainment media and the fans. Their talent often blazes through the screen, their presences are vital, but the spare rendering of character and the tight mechanism of the plot allow them few chances to shine. Boyega renders a keen declamation of proud anger, and Driver momentarily surpasses the story in a fiery Shakespearean outburst, but for the most part the cast appears mainly as symbols of their own youth, a new generation of cinematic faces transplanted onto the revered corpus of legend. I had read widely on “Star Wars” as a series and a cultural sensation for an earlier article, but avoided stories focusing on this latest installment.

And John and I got on really well from day one.” Warwick Davis, who reprised his role as Wicket the Ewok for The Force Awakens, said: “It’s amazing to be here. On the other hand, some venerable faces are back as well, attached to familiar characters (if you want to be surprised, don’t click on this IMDb page that names the actors and their roles). Abrams plays the nostalgia factor to the very hilt of his lightsaber, and the stagy entrances with which he reintroduces beloved performers is among the most identifiable elements of his direction.

Because while it may represent a second cinematic coming for some and offer further evidence of the decline of civilization, the art and the media for others, I needed to watch a film. He beams every gesture and every gag, every sigh and every whoop, to the virtual balcony, and some grand plot twists can be seen coming around the corner. His spectacle and its meticulous design are something to see, but his direction doesn’t shape the elements stylistically—it doesn’t provide anything to look at. From the start, Abrams confirms the movie’s own identity as a fast-moving action thriller that, like Lucas’s first installment, mixes its frames of reference, combining science fiction and Westerns, “Lawrence of Arabia” and prehistoric fantasies. But the director seems to resist allowing any of the elements to depart from the confines of the action to take on free-floating, loose-ended cinematic identities of their own—no thought is meant to escape from the airtight channel of meaning.

He’s the best director and producer around at the moment, and because of that I know he will do it justice. “I know he will have struck the right balance between action, comedy and thriller and keep us all on a cliffhanger at the end. “I will probably go and see it every day till I’m fed up of it. The movie is fast-moving—featuring rapid action within the frame, rapid camera movements, and rapid cutting from shot to shot—yet it feels sluggish throughout, because the speed of thought is slow.

I’m positive about it – I feel the force.” The cross-generational appeal of the films was also apparent, as fans of all ages queued for hours, having heated discussions about their predictions of what director Abrams had done with their beloved franchise. This work of stunning, shock-and-awe digital contrivance is so weighed down by reverence for the franchise and calculation of effect that it plays less like an experience than like a summary of itself. It transcends generations.” Abrams echoed the excitement of the cast. “It’s a remarkable relief that the world can now watch the film,” he said. Even the mightiest of catastrophes and most clamorous of battles never reach the actual thrill of experience; they stand outside themselves and await the feedback of admiration, like the cinematic equivalent of a flashing applause sign. The reason to describe the plot in only the hedgiest and dodgiest of terms isn’t so much to avoid spoilers as to avoid giving away the only thing the movie’s got.

I wouldn’t have wanted to know the great twists of “Psycho” before seeing it for the first time, but, even after having once seen it and knowing all of the script’s tricks, the pleasure of watching it again (and again and again) is nonetheless undiminished, and possibly even enriched.

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