LeviathanJanuary 9, 2017
So: what did you get up to over the holidays? Relax by the beach? Climb a high mountain? Forget about work? Demolish a building? Watch Star Wars at the cinema? Watch Back to the Future on TV? Was it all, perhaps, strangely familiar?
It was, perhaps, for me, the strangest Christmas, composed of mixtures of bad weather and good beach days, along with unexpected yet exquisite meetings with long lost relatives and friends. Not quite three wise men from far off lands, and a baby in a manger, nor even a nativity as the church is closed for a seismic strengthening, and even Herod would be having trouble collecting data on the new-borns as the Department of Statistics is closed due to a slight reduction in the number of usable beams. But certainly it is interesting seeing other people’s children grow up and compare them to your own offspring, if you have any.
The advantage of bad weather days at Christmas does enable one of the other great Yuletide traditions: that of the giving of money to the cinema chains in order to watch a movie about Star Wars. It is a tradition that started back in about 1977, and one in which it has gone back and forth in time ever since. We started at Episode IV (Part IV? Roman Numerals in space? It’s a different Galaxy, far far away – there were no Romans! Don’t be so silly! They hadn’t even invented the Roman Empire!), or, as we might prefer to call it, part 4, then up to part 5 and part 6, and then curiously back to 1, 2, 3, and now we have something that is meant to be about a 3.5? Honestly – I’m all confused here, mainly because I don’t pay that much attention to the ludicrous plot-lines, silly character names, and just enjoy them for the special effects battles that they really are.
But that would make a rubbish movie review, and with Maximus having done such a sterling job of reviewing films and concerts at times, I thought I would give it a try. Although for the first few minutes I was losing connection with the plot line altogether, instead being obsessed with Felicity Jones upper lip – never before in the history of the galaxy has a quivering top lip inspired so much emotion and dedication in an otherwise all male crew, at least until Princess Leia bursts onto the scene in, umm, episode 4. I am confused though about the accents of the various fighters – despite the whole shebang being set a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, some sound distinctly English, others American, and there are even traces of French, Irish, Scottish, and Japanese. Jyn Ersa has a very British twang, while her father has an American lilt, and by what freakish accident of cosmic synchronicity can this have happened? Also, really, why does anyone speak to a Wookie in English when all they do is yawn at high volume? Shouldn’t Han Solo have just yawned back at high volume also? I mean, when you have a conversation with someone in, say, German, you either both speak German or both speak English – it is unusual to say something in one language and only get answers in another, with no visible signs of translation. I dunno – maybe they had a babel-fish stuck in their ear the whole time, or maybe the dilithium crystals could nay hold them any longer. And since when have raccoons been able to talk, let alone shoot a raygun and converse with a talking tree?
This is harder than I thought. One of the key rules of science fiction fandom is of course not to let the streams cross (oops, there I go again), so a modern connoisseur of SF must keep separate the parallel universes of Star Wars from Star Trek, keep the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy away from the Guardians of the Galaxy, and above all keep Doctor Who away from Doctor Ropata, as we all know we’re not in Guatemala any longer. Most importantly of all, keep the birth of Jesus away from the fundamentalists, as it is far easier to see and believe the parallel world of George Lucas’s imagination, than it is to believe that Mary had a virgin birth, and didn’t just get caught out shagging some bloke called Gabriel down at the pub one night. But I’d better move swiftly on before I end up offending one or more of the world’s major religions…
So – the parallels drawn in the film Rogue One are strong in this one. Apart from there being multiple versions of Stormtroopers, not just in the traditional white, but also some in black, and some in a fetching beige, baby blue, with a touch of rouge combo – all of whom seem to be in the same circus troop, but none of whom seem to have made it into the next film, Episode 4, which was the original… However, 40 years ago the Stormtroopers were obviously the bad guys, being called Nazi names and all, but now they seem more like regular American GIs, especially as they roam through the streets of an obviously middle-Eastern city called Jedda, in a giant battle-tank with similarities to the M1-A1 tank of the US Armoured divisions. Is Darth Vader (yes, he of the pasta-warming scene in the canteen, killing people with a tray) really the new Trumpist Minister for War / Oil / Crystals / Foreign Secretary / Exxon? Or, if we took off that black helmet, would we see a wisp of floating orange hair? Does Vader speak like that because someone grabbed him by the pussy one too many times?
While the fantasy world of Lucasfilm is nice to escape to every now and again, and despite the fact that their CGI motion-capture abilities are nowhere near as good as those of Weta (oh come on, Cushing /Tarkoff looked so obviously rendered, it didn’t fool me even for a second, whereas Jackson’s Kong had me crying in my seat because a giant monkey got shot and was totally believable), the ironic fact remains: that while we are inside watching machines shoot up and destroy an entire city, we currently have a slower, but just as impressive Big Bertha machine start in on its second building, currently eating up large near the big Dragon restaurant in our Tory Street Chinatown. Urban destruction IS real, and it is happening to a city near you.