Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford
Directed by J.J. Abrams
Early marketing for The Force Awakens made it relatively clear J.J. Abrams and the Disney Corp would not be reinventing the wheel for this entry. And why would they? Even the sacred original Star Wars films closely mimic one another. All open in some barren wasteland, all feature dwarfish scavenging weirdos, all allow an otherwise goofy robot to play hero in a clutch moment. And so, seventh verse, same as the first: desert orphan, precocious droid, masked villain with red glowing rod, geometrically opposed spaceships.
It’s not the material, though, it’s the delivery, and Force Awakens delivers, effortlessly weaving visual potency, emotional conviction, unexpected humor, and raw excitement into a crackerjack package that provides antidote to the prequel trilogy’s turgid masturbation. Set thirty years after Return of The Jedi, the film brings us up to speed quickly: Luke Skywalker has disappeared, the Rebels have failed to consolidate their power, the Empire has not remained in defeat. That evil reich, now known as the First Order, counts amongst its ranks a brooding and violent Darth Vader disciple named Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). When a map pointing to the whereabouts of Luke fumbles out into the cosmos, Ren believes it’s his key to restoring Vader’s galactic vision.
Fate (or dumb luck) brings together the heroic team that quickly becomes Kylo Ren’s biggest headache. The AWOL Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and isolated junk trader Rey (Daisy Ridley), both barely out of their teens, are a little overwhelmed as they inadvertently become swept up in the search for Skywalker (a figure neither can believe is real). Lucky for das kinder, another storied figure of lore (Harrison Ford) crashes the party and offers a lending hand (and wookiee). Meanwhile, the First Order turns an entire planet into a makeshift Death Star powered by the sun, and of course our band of outlaws winds up in an assault on that enormous menace, because what, are they not gonna help Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Admiral Ackbar?
Critics dog J.J. Abrams for doing little more than heating up other people’s leftovers in lens flare, but The Force Awakens proves when elements like a supremely talented cast and snappy scripting align the guy can slam dunk. Any bits that seem to defy whatever logic exists in this starry fantasy you forgive because the film’s whizzing you on a spirited, satisfying ride. The wonder and fun have returned to Star Wars, and not a moment too soon.
FINAL SCORE: Four precocious droids (out of four).
If any of Insane Clown Posse’s “joker’s card” albums synch up with the original Mark Hamill Star Wars it isn’t The Great Milenko. I tried doing that yaz the other night (starting the album, as always, after the second drum roll in the 20th Century Fox fanfare) and barely noticed the following:
– the Star Wars logo appears the same time that mysterious organ begins playing in the intro skit
– Alice Cooper’s narration begins as the opening crawl appears
– the opening crawl is fading away at the same moment Alice Cooper warns of the “arrival of the Great Milenko”
– the lyric “broke your neck” is heard in “Hokus Pokus” as Darth Vader is seen choking that rebel soldier on the Tantive IV
– the lyric “might shoot somebody” is heard in “Hokus Pokus” as that jawa shoots R2-D2 on Tatooine
– the lyric “little punk ass” is heard in “How Many Times” at the same moment Luke Skywalker first appears
It was massive stretches of nothing after that. I’m not sure how I kept myself from [INSERT ICP-SPECIFIC FORM OF VIOLENCE].
Fun fact: The Great Milenko was released in 1997, the same year George Lucas debuted his “Special Editions” of the Star Wars trilogy. I’m not sure what’s crazier—rapping clowns from another dimension whose fixations include graphic murder and off-brand soda or “Jedi Rocks.” Did we really need to see Boba Fett gettin’ his swerve on with hot alien chicks?
Way back in 2006 I conducted a year-long “study” wherein I tried to find an album that synched up with the original Star Wars a la Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz. My “findings” can still be viewed here; a much more concise and readable overview of the entire affair, however, is available via this sexy thing.
Green Day’s American Idiot ultimately proved itself to be Star Wars’s Dark Side OTM, but I’ve always wondered: Is there anything that synchs up to the same degree that isn’t an eyeliner-laden anti-Bush rock opera? Now I’m ready to continue the search, because I don’t have a job or a girlfriend or any responsibility that would prevent me from further dilly-dallies in sensory deprivation.
Welcome to the Great Star Wars Synchronicity Project Part II: Ewok Boogaloo. This time, it’s personal.
Last night I sat down with Slayer’s Reign in Blood, that satanic heavy metal delight from 1986, and fired up the original original Star Wars to see what magic would unfold. Per my previous experimentations, I started the album immediately after the second drumroll in the 20th Century Fox fanfare. Behold, the eighteen moments of synchronization I witnessed:
– the phrase “destroy” in “Angel of Death” is heard as the word “destroy” in the opening text scroll is approximately mid-screen
– the opening scroll fades away just as the breakdown in “Angel of Death” begins
– the Tantive IV flies onscreen the same moment “Angel of Death” resumes its normal speed
– a drumroll in “Angel of Death” occurs at the same moment the droids are seen reeling from an explosion (it looks like the drumroll made them shake and shimmy)
– Darth Vader strolls aboard the Tantive IV to survey the body count as we hear the lyric “angel of death, monitor the kingdom of the dead”
– “Piece by Piece” begins at the same moment Princess Leia shoves that disc into R2-D2
– a closeup of Darth Vader’s face appears at the same moment we hear the lyric “no emotion, death is all I see”
– the phrase “a flash” is heard as the stormtrooper fires his stun ray at Princess Leia
– the lyric “the only one way out of here” in “Piece by Piece” is heard as the droids are seen getting into the escape pod, and the song ends at the same moment a laser blast explodes over C-3PO’s head
– “Jesus Saves” plays through the entire sequence where the jawas save R2-D2 from, uh, hours of rolling along to nowhere in the desert
– the guitars in “Criminally Insane” start at the exact moment R2-D2 begins shuffling through the sandcrawler
– “Reborn” begins playing the same moment we first see Luke Skywalker (Luke = the rebirth of the Jedi)
– the lyric “I can’t control my destiny” is heard as the doomed Uncle Owen is in closeup (Uncle Owen has no control over his destiny to become a charred corpse via angry stormtroopers)
– the lyric “leave you ripped and torn” is heard as C-3PO is in closeup (Threepio is seen ripped and torn at various points during the Star Wars trilogy)
– the opening thunderclap of “Raining Blood” is heard the moment Luke gets up from the dinner table to run off in a huff
– the lyrics “awaiting the hour of reprisal, time slips away” are heard as Uncle Owen is seen looking for Luke (“He better have those droids in the south field by midday or there’ll be hell to pay!”)
– the final really loud thunderclap of “Raining Blood” coincides with R2-D2’s alarm concerning invading sandpeople
– “Raining Blood” stops at the exact moment the sandpeople drop an ostensibly dead Luke Skywalker on the ground
Pretty trippy, but nowhere near as synchronized as American Idiot. The hunt continues. I’ve acquired a lot of new music since 2006 and I’m sure I can find something that blows Green Day out of the water (even though I may have concluded the exact opposite in the past).
The year was 1980, and the world was enchanted with all things Star Wars. Desperate to get in on some of that sweet Skywalker coin, Coca-Cola created in the image of series star R2-D2 their own funky astromech droid named “Cobot.” Did Coke sell tiny remote-controlled versions of Cobot to clueless children all across the land? Of course they did. Did Coke build life-sized versions of Cobot for personal appearances at malls and grocery stores? C’mon, did you really even have to ask that question?
Here’s video of a restored Cobot in action; note how he is nowhere near as expressive, emotive, or interesting as R2-D2:
I’ve spent thirty-three years loving Star Wars and carbonated beverages. I have no idea how Cobot’s existence managed to elude me until today. I am not proud.
– The Jawa who shot R2-D2 was named Datcha and was apparently well-known throughout the galaxy for “taunting a krayt dragon and living to tell the tale”
– C-3PO once lead a droid rebellion against Boonda the Hutt
– The guy who played Wedge in that once scene gets pissy if you call him “Fake Wedge” even though he willingly admits it was his own fault he got fired
– R2-D2 can breakdance
– Later in life, Zuckuss (the squid-looking mamajama from Empire Strikes Back) was diagnosed with multiple personality disorder
– R5-D4, the droid from the first movie with the bad motivator (who may or may not have been intentionally sabotaged by R2-D2), sometimes went by the name Skippy and may have possessed Jedi powers
– Admiral Ackbar eventually had a Star Destroyer named after him
– I don’t know as much about Star Wars as I thought I did
– I need a new job