I’m very fortunate to have had my review of the last Star Wars film published online at Buzz Magazine. Writing a review for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a challenge. I’ve had endless conversations with family and friends debating character motivations and plot points of various significance. It is a film that has stirred up talk about its merits and failures. I’m excited to see what you think and to share my thoughts. Two years ago I wrote a rambling diatribe about my feelings about The Force Awakens, now here I trying to cut the word length and keep my thoughts coherent in a review for an actual online magazine. How things change if you get a little luck.
Based out of Victoria, Buzz Magazine was one the longest running street press magazines in Australia being published in print from 1993 to 2010. Some fine writers have worked for Buzz over the years and gone onto successful careers in media since and there is simply no way to measure the contribution the mag made to local music over its print run. With such words and minimal advertising on the website the impression could be taken that Buzz is now semi-retired. Yet the site is quite prolific with new write-ups on a daily basis, the ongoing interest of fans old and new and contributions from some very talented people indeed.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!!!
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.
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
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.
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 Beneath, K-19: The Widowmaker, Presumed Innocent, Regarding Henry, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Frantic.
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.
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.
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. Meanwhile 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.
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?
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.
This is it in another 24 hours Star Wars: The Force Awakens will be playing across cinemas in my local cinema and the world. This is the last day I will know as little as I do. The last day I won’t know the answer to a million questions like did Han and Leia stay together all those years since we last saw them? Why not? What has Luke been doing? Are the new characters related to any of the old characters and who out of them will be Force sensitive? It is the last day anybody will really discuss the quality of the trailers because afterwards it will only matter if the film was good. Perhaps most importantly it is the last day to be this excited about a new Star Wars movie. There is something about the thrill of the unknown and the advertised but not yet consumed product. Tomorrow you might see a movie which you love dearly and go back to see 2 or 3 times. You’ll never be this excited about it again.
Disney have played this well. That last trailer has to be the best trailer of the year but it works mostly if you’re a fan. Recent trailers for blockbusters this past month have been shoddy when compared to the marketing for this movie. They’ve put the new characters Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren front and centre because they are where the franchise is heading and these films have to speak to a demographic that at best grew up on the prequels. Rey says she’s no one but we know she is going to prove to everybody she is someone. She dreams of adventure and seeing beyond where she grew up. A young man once looked out at two suns and thought similar thoughts. Finn does not know his purpose anymore or even who he is. We know he will find out both in this story. These are questions all of us ask of ourselves at different points of our lives but most keenly when we are young. Audiences could relate to Luke Skywalker in his dreams for adventure in the original Star Wars. Rey and Finn will do this for another generation.
Speaking of generations the trailers suggest Han Solo and Chewbacca will be guides for Rey and Finn throughout this universe and keepers of past stories much like millions of parents will be as they take their kids to see this space opera which is kind of like Guardians of the Galaxy only less funny sweetie. “A Jedi. The Dark Side. It’s true, all of it.” Han says in the trailer and these are the kind of words you would tell a child when telling Star Wars as a bed time story.
For my generation they’ve handed out nostalgia hits with John Williams score and money shots of the Millennium Falcon which paradoxically may not hold much appeal for Millennials. But make no mistake this is the ultimate 4 quadrant hit. When the Falcon moved into hyper drive and the score kicked in I felt goose bumps all over. At the end when Lupita Nyongo told me “The Force it’s calling to you…just let it in.” the Meta was strong with me. A million fans who felt burned by the prequels would’ve all felt the same way – she’s talking to me directly and I do want to let it in. I don’t think it’s unnatural to feel directly addressed by a trailer and yet share that feel with millions. These are films after all that make fans feel a tremendous sense of ownership. Look at the furore over Greedo shot first and the insistence that is it Star Wars not Episode 4: A New Hope!
Disappointment over J.J. Abrahams last film Star Trek: Into Darkness has tempered some expectations but his Super 8 felt so much like a movie from the 1980s made for kids that I believe Abrahams will nail the feel of the original trilogy’s world. I’ll make a prediction here and now and it’s the safest bet. It will be good, it won’t be terrible and it’s won’t be great. It can’t be 1977 again. The freshness is gone. I suppose Mad Max: Fury Road, Creed and Skyfall felt like films of their franchise but reinvented for a new modern age and as good as anything that came before. Maybe Star Wars could do that too and I hope it does but that is a hell of a thing to pull off and even then can it possibly meet the expectations set by that final trailer?
Part of what has me nervous is how excited I was when The Phantom Menace trailer dropped back in the day. It’s fascinating to look back now and see bits of scenes that were awful in it. Look Obi Wan is shaking Jake Lloyd’s hand but that’s the kid that says “Now this is pod racing.” All that CGI which at the time was exciting because we’d never seen anything like it and the scale was so impressive. We couldn’t tell how fake it was all going to look. There’s Jar Jar Binks getting zapped by the engines but we didn’t know how maligned his character would be. Jar Jar, Watto, battle droids these were impressively rendered CGI aliens who opened up the scope of the universe like the aliens in the original had. Lots of space battles. None of that suggested the endless boring political subplot. Ewan McGregor sounded so much like Obi-Wan I wondered if he’d been dubbed by Sir Alec Guinness who was still alive at the time. Yoda my favourite character was back and his dialogue was good and Samuel L. Jackson was going to be a motherfucking Jedi!!! It’s pretty fashionable these days to hate the prequels and my sentiments are with the original trilogy but I’ve got to say I don’t hate them. There are things I find in all of them worthwhile. In The Phantom Menace I really like Qui-Gon Jinn as a character and I think Darth Maul was suitably awesome as someone who made two Jedis look brave for going up against him. The Pod Race was fantastic and meeting Anakin as a slave’s child on Tatooine was a really interesting choice. But I digress. I went to a midnight screening with two friends from high school. I was 18 and about to leave uni in my first year. We caught a cab into the city afterwards just to walk through it in the middle of the night. Desperate for freedom and to see the world, like a certain young Skywalker I guess. Dissecting everything, discussing where to go in the sequels we liked it but things nagged at us. The biggest thing for me was the flow of the film, the dialogue often seemed stilted and the scenes rushed quickly by but paradoxically dragged as well. To me the story settled down best on Tatooine but the beginning I had found very jolting.
If anything makes me real nervous it is that we haven’t seen any scenes from the film yet. I don’t know if the dialogue will not flow any better than a prequel at this point in time but JJ and Lawrence Kasdan haven’t written bad dialogue in the past so I remain hopeful. I’ll be honest as a teenager back in 1994 I read George Lucas was going to make new Star Wars movies and I got really excited. The original trilogy had alluded to such a rich history and vast universe that my head spun with the possibilities. Yet even as a teenager I sat and wondered if Lucas could still make good movies. Radioland Murders, Tucker, Howard the Duck and Willow were in the rear view mirror at that point. I was right to be worried then. I hope I am right to be optimistic now. One more day and we’ll know. May the Force Be With You.