Archive for the ‘J. J. Abrams’ Category

Reconciling the Myth

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

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Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Lupita Nyongo’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Max von Sydow, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels

Thematically set 30 years after The Return of the Jedi, director J. J. Abrams reconciles the myth of the original and iconic Star Wars Trilogy when he takes over as conceptualizer of the new Star Wars trilogy, given a touch task of remaining faithful to the original trilogy while introducing millennials to the original Star Wars iconography.

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In a genius casting move, Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings all the original cast members back from the first trilogy including Harrison Ford as Han Solo, the rarely seen Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia and the illusive Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker along with all the lovable companion characters including Chewbacca, and of course the droids C3PO and R2D2, which made up the original Star Wars. Even the Millennium Falcon is revived, which is enough to satisfy the original fans. Believe me, there are a lot of fans out there!

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The new cast includes Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, a former Stormtrooper turned Rebel. The Empire so prominent in the original series has been replaced by a more sinister totalitarian regime called The First Order which includes the evil General Hux, played by Domnhall Gleeson (Brooklyn) and the conflicted Kylo Ren brilliantly played by Adam Driver. Oscar Isaac (Drive) stars as Poe Dameron an expert Rebel X-Wing fighter pilot who has hidden a hologram into his droid BB8 about the whereabouts of the mythical Luke Skywalker, the last remaining Jedi Knight.

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As the continuous action moves from outer space to distant planets, the first of which Jukka resembles Tattoine, the desert planet in the original Star Wars, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is visually captivating, with a vast and imaginative array of droids, monsters, bounty hunters and sinister forces all beautifully orchestrated to give what audiences came to see: An adventure story set in a Galaxy Far Far Away to the memorable music by John Williams.

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Oscar winner Lupita Nyongo’o (12 years a Slave) plays Maz Kanata an E.T. like creature sympathetic to the Rebel cause. The chemistry between the diverse cast is amazing and adds to the magic of The Force Awakens, most notably the newcomers Daisy Ridley as a scavenger Rey, whose own propensities for becoming a Jedi open all sorts of questions and British actor John Boyega as Finn who immediately establishes a rapport with the infamous Han Solo as well as Poe Dameron whom he rescues from a gigantic looking Death Star.

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The production design and visual effects of Star Wars: The Force Awakens are spectacular and Oscar worthy. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is definitely for the fans of the original trilogy, the films directed by George Lucas which captured the imagination of a generation of boys and girls back in the late seventies and early eighties.

star_warsIf it’s any indication, I remember seeing The Empire Strikes Back while on holiday in Atlanta, Georgia in America back in 1980 when it first premiered and The Return of the Jedi in 1983 in the old Embassy cinemas in central Durban.

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Judging by the packed cinema and the international media hype surrounding Star Wars: The Force Awakens will do exceptionally well at the Box Office and this new version is recommended to fans of pure science fiction and to all those who grew up on the original series. It’s comforting to know that American director J.J. Abrams who reignited the Star Trek franchise, now in partnership with Lucas Films and parent company Disney, plans on making two more Star Wars films to complete this new re-energized trilogy and introduce Millennials to a whole new universe of Star Wars characters.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens is highly recommended viewing, brilliantly orchestrated by reconciling and paying tribute to the original mythical trilogy while seamlessly blending in an entire new batch of characters. May the Force be with us at least until 2019.

A Dazzling Enterprise

Star Trek: Into Darkness

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Director J.J. Abrams dazzling reinvention of the Star Trek franchise continues with the glossy sequel to the 2009 smash hit Star Trek with Star Trek: Into Darkness, pulling together the same cast from the original and then adding the amazing talents of big screen-newcomer Benedict Cumberbatch (last seen in the extraordinary Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) as the evil villain and celestial terrorist Khan, a reinvented character from the 1982 film: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Star Trek: Into Darkness opens with a spectacular volcanic sequence on a primal planet in which Captain Kirk rescues his half Vulcan friend Spock from near extinction to the 23rd century high tech metropolises such as London and San Francisco. Meanwhile back on Earth the sinister superhuman Khan destroys an Enterprise space library in central London and then wages an attack on the commanding officers of the Enterprise fleet at their Californian headquarters before fleeing Earth for a Klingon refuge on a distant planet.

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Captain Kirk played with boisterous heroism by Chris Pine and his team including Zachary Quinto as Spock, Simon Pegg as Scotty, Zoe Saldana as Uhura and ubiquitous Karl Urban as Bones, John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov head to the outer reaches of Klingon galactic territory and capture Khan, whose wily ways are only revealed as they head back towards earth. Cumberbatch is really superb as the sinister villain and far out does any of his co-stars maybe with the exception of Quinto’s slightly robotic yet sensitive Spock.

The unrequited love between Kirk and Spock is highlighted in a particularly touching scene when the dashing Captain appears to be dying in the heart of the Star Trek Enterprise and Chris Pine’s gorgeous blue eyes make the audience feel for his unfulfilled love as he seemingly expires due to radiation exposure under the mournful gaze of Quinto’s Spock.

But never fear Trekkies, Spock takes revenge on Khan and in a brilliantly orchestrated chase sequence through 23rd century San Francisco resulting in an extraordinary fight sequence aboard an industrial spacecraft, not to mention a crashing spacecraft taking out Alcatraz.

Whilst Star Trek: Into Darkness has less characterization as the 2009 Star Trek, it really is Cumberbatch’s film as he makes the villain into a truly deceptive sinister terrorist with some superb dialogue.  The rest of the supporting cast ham it up in their Trekkie uniforms without too much in depth characterization whilst the only subplot to attract minor interest is Alice Eve as the blonde weapons expert Carol channeling the Nicole Kidman look as she reveals her complex relationship with her dubious father veteran Captain Marcus played by Peter Weller from Robocop fame.

Star Trek: Into Darkness is for true sci fi fans and whilst not in the same thought-provoking existential vein as Ridley Scott’s Prometheus or Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion, it is pure glossy sci-fi entertainment and sure to remain an inspiration at future Comicon conventions , not to mention Trekkie conventions from Tokyo to Anaheim.

After all what can audiences expect from the producers of the successful Hawaii 5 0 series, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman but another action-packed brilliant bromance, however this time the visual effects and excellent sound editing triumph over characterization whilst the script retains its mythological narrative that has made the Star Trek franchise so enduring and iconic.

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