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Chen G.

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Everything posted by Chen G.

  1. Again, I'm not talking some meaningless and generic gestures nor setpiece-specific material - proper leitmotives, be they long themes are short motives.
  2. So, has anyone identified any themes beyond the two from "The Rebellion is Reborn"? I'm not talking about some generic gestures (e.g. that piccolo in the opening), but things that are clearly intended as leitmotives that represent something.
  3. I'm happy, as well, and I do like the film, but I'm not going to pretend its the best thing since sliced bread, like some reviews I saw or expecting to see. EDIT: Incoming! Garrett knows his stuff, but I wouldn't call the pace of this film (when taken as a whole) "blistering."
  4. Sir Ian clearly likes playing Gandalf, which is very nice to hear. No sir Alec "I'm too good for genre films" Guinness here.
  5. Yeah, at no point did I have a problem with the originality of the film. Yes, there are walkers, yes there is a master-and-apprentice dynamic, but that's just on the surface: the story as a whole is original. There one or two moments of blatant fan service, but that's it, really.
  6. No, I just think critics are not being impartial enough about the Star Wars franchise. I know several very serious critics who are letting their nostalgia get the better of them.
  7. I'm not criticising this film as a fan of Star Wars (which I am not). I am criticising it as a fan of good cinema. Its not the in-universe laws and conventions that it suberverts that offend me, its the storytelling laws that it subverts that do: Its not well paced, it forgoes planting-and-payoff for the sake of surprising twists, and it is too overcrowded for all the people involved to feel like fleshed-out characters. Outside of Kylo Ren, the villians in this are atrocious across the board. I still like it, but all these Disney Star Wars entries have been getting too much in the way of glowing praise as it is.
  8. I cannot ignore the lack of originality. This score relies too heavily on pre-existing thematic material, and feels like it's following (or made to follow) too closely in the footsteps of Johnson's temp track choice. Makes it feel lazy.
  9. So, I've seen the film twice by now. Seen other reviews for context. Went with people who aren't informed in film criticism, saw what they thought. Now, I'll try to give it as professional a review as I can muster, without spoilers and in under 2,000 words. Long story short: I like the movie and I think its quite good, but nothing beyond that, really. It has too many issues with pacing, the implementation of humor and the use of some of its characters to be "great" in any real way. Now, short story long: Cinematography The visuals are very striking. I gave JJ Abrams kudos for slowing down his acrobatic camerawork for The Force Awakens in order to allow us to appreciate the setting, but here its taken to a whole other level: the film opens with a (virtual) long take down towards a fleet, and such long takes permeate much of the first act. Its a wise move not just in terms of allowing us to appreciate the corners of the frame (as opposed to just the focus) but also as a juxtaposition to the faster camerawork and cutting typical of a climax. Too much too often (a-la a Michael Bay film) and you become saturated in it. Simple, but wise nonetheless. As much as this film reflects Johnson's voice, there's an attempt to follow up in Gareth Edwards footsteps visually, with shots of big star-ships protruding out of the darkness of space, compared to the fully visible ships showcased in previous films. The action scenes especially are staged with a wink towards Samurai films (which were among George Lucas original inspirations) with flashy choreography (that still feels physical, unlike Revenge of the Sith) and exceptionally well-framed wide shots. There are a couple of faux-documentary touches that have plagued the series ever since Attack of the Clones, which I didn't appreciate and even a few shots out of focus, but no matter. There's striking use of lighting on-board the Dreadnaught, making it feel like a submarine. The white and-red planet already looked striking in the trailer, but its somewhat undone when the director has a character comment on it: "oh, its salt." There's some clever editing here. When Luke asks about Han, the film cuts to Kylo Ren, his murderer. There's cross cutting between the faces of Leia and Kylo that makes good use of the Kuleshov Effect. However, in looking at the various storylines that this film juggles, the editing ultimately fails to find a right balance between them all, a point we'll soon delve into. Production Value The film could do with a bit more polish: Many of the creatures in the film are brought to life via puppetry, but its often very obvious: It happens in some shots of the creatures on Luke's island and during the (brief) appearance of a certain character. Speaking of those creatures, they're not as annoying as previous creatures in this universe, but they're hardly essential to the film. Johnson stated that he wanted the island to feel alive, and that's on point, but the film features two or three different types of creatures just on the island and the scenes involving them, which are used to infuse the Luke-Rey storyline with some excessive humor, contribute to the film's running time to little effect. We could have done with just the caretaker-creatures. For a film series that has been taking pride of late in its reliance on practical effects, there's some shots of obvious CG when some of our characters find themselves afield in the red-and-white planet, and during a fight sequence with Phasma. In other cases, the filmmakers tried to mask the CG by darkness and extreme color grading that makes it very hard to see anything. The film sounds great, and John Williams' score is given much more presence in this. The main new theme, pertaining to the character of Rose, is a welcome addition to Williams catalogue, but the movie is otherwise thin on themes and ends up rehashing themes from the previous film, as well as The Force theme, often in very familiar settings. Johnson's temp track choice, which is apparently heavy on Williams' own score to Revenge of the Sith, is evident through the score. Characters The characters continue to be compelling. The acting is mostly strong, Johnson's superior direction shining through especially in the performance of the older cast (this is possibly the best Mark Hamil has even been, in any role), but strangely the outright corrupt villains - Snoke, Hux, Phasma and the occasional admiral - are really over-the-top, and are given very little to do. Its easily the worst we've seen of the otherwise outstanding Andy Serkis. Other characters such as Del Toro's DJ or Dern's Holdo are well-acted, but nonetheless do not feel fulfilled. Its become a fashion for films to feature a large amount of characters to evoke grandeur, but without sufficiently sly writing and ample screen time, they become too many, and most of them end up as mere figures, as opposed to a realized character. This film suffers for it. Plot and Story Unlike the previous entry, this film is original. There are nods to other films, but they're all appropriate, unless one is of the opinion that this film should go out of its way to flat-out ignore the previous entries. There's one moment which feels like fan service, because the film goes so far out of its way as to stage a fake-out death of a major character in order to create said moment. There's a fair bit of Lord of the Rings blood to this film (one scene made me want to call out for Grond), and the fake-out death is as cheap a trick here as it was there. Implementation of humor Gladly, this film somewhat subverts at least one such expectation from a "middle chapter' film, which is the darkness of tone. Yes, this film is more "serious" than The Force Awakens, and its deals with themes of murky morals, but its also very funny. Casual humor can work very well to leverage suspense, even in harrowing pieces of cinema. The first piece of dialogue in this film is of a comedic nature, and it goes on for quite a while. The humor certainly worked if my venue is of any indication, but it isn't always casual: its doesn't necessarily grow out of the situation each time, and it often overstays its welcome. Structure and Pace To return to a "long story short", there lies the main problem of this film. Its too long, and this is coming from someone whose most revered films are long films: Nolan's Batman films, Braveheart, and above all, the Middle Earth films, especially the longest chapter which - in its extended form - clocks in at nearly twice the length of this film. Part of the issue here is how out-of-character for the franchise this film's length is. Yes, its on par with Attack of the Clones, but that's the worst film of the series, and its screen-time certainly doesn't help, so its hardly a good example. The issue isn't actually so much of outright screen-time, its a structural problem in the script: that's another aspect of "middle chapters" which this film doesn't subvert. On the outside, there's nothing wrong with the structure of the film: it has a clear-cut structure with an opening action sequence to keep us pumped through the first act which follows, than a long second act in two halves (with a twist introduced in the midpoint) and a third act that concludes the film. The opening action sequence works well enough. Thankfully, its not a single scene but a drawn-out sequence. Not so thankfully, though, its too drawn out. The demise of a figure from the resistance (whose significance is only to be revealed later) is treated to a long, elegiac death scene, tenfold the length of Han Solo's death in The Force Awakens; the aforementioned comedic beat in that sequence is way too long, there's a lot of exposition and fussing around with technology: fuel, tracking technology, light-speed, dreadnoughts, etc. Its missing the point of the Star Wars setting: "A long time ago" - it owes a lot more to The Lord of the Rings than it does to anything written by Gene Roddenberry. Its not supposed to make sense in terms of technology, only to feel "used". But the core issue isn't with the first act. More often than not, in fact, its not a long first act that merits accusations of bloat: The original Star Wars clocks at forty-five minutes before Luke sets off with Ben. The audience accepts the first act as buildup, and is still hanging unto the opening action sequence, which promises more action down the line, and the long first act evokes the sense of an epic journey. Its when the first half of the second act slugs, however, that's when audiences will start groaning. Once a goal is established for our characters and they set out to it, we expect the film to kick off, but if it starts only to stall again - that's when people will be checking their watches. Use of action After the opening action scene, the film is very light on action. There is peril, but there are only two more action set-pieces: one involving Kylo Ren in the midpoint, and another one in the end of the third act on that white-and-red planet. Both are well made but are too few and too far in between, which makes this film feel excessively pensive. These action scenes, and the film as a whole, suffers from the non-linear structure. We've grown accustomed to films, especially middle chapters of trilogies, trafficking in multiple story-lines. Done right, it heightens suspense. But once you move beyond two storylines and - more importantly - once you have all those storylines running through the entire film, you risk creating a fragmented film. Where in Empire Strikes Back, we cut back to Leia and Han every time when the audience craves action, here we cut from the action and drama to this film's version of Monte Carlo. Instead of one storyline elevating another, here one storyline pulls the others down. When we move from this to the action scenes, all the storylines are firing simultaneously, and it becomes too much. Think about the finale of The Dark Knight Rises, where we have a battle in the streets, a dooms-day-device in need of deactivation, a fight scene with Batman, an attempted evacuation, a fake character-death and major reveals all happening simultaneously, and it does a disservice to the sequence as a whole. Here it happens twice, with one of them only being halfway into the film. The film peaks so high with that action set-piece, that the next one almost feels redundant. The former action scene was apparently difficult for the filmmakers to come to grips with, and it involves some of the worst tricks in the Star Wars arsenal coming to the aid of our heroes: namely, contrivance and incompetence on the behalf of the villains. The latter action scene is much more competent, but is surprisingly thin on Rey's presence, because it doesn't serve to further her arc (it having already concluded at the midpoint) but rather Luke's. One can imagine that Carrie Fisher's death informed the editing choices of this set-piece, and there's a little bit of poignancy to it. Sadly, rather than end here, the film has two scenes that almost feel like the sort of scenes you'd see throughout the credits of a movie, with the latter not featuring our characters in any capacity. Surprises vs. Planting and Payoff Another structural problem involves the use of planting and payoff. The Empire Strikes Back has given fans of the series an appetite for surprising twists. Writer-Director Rian Johnson was so eager to provide us with such twists that in doing so his script forgoes the mechanism of planting and payoff. This film waits until the very end to showcase a new ability made possibly through The Force, and while it can be seen as related to an ability showcased at length earlier in the film, it comes off as something of a Deus-ex-Machina, due to lack of being set-up well enough. As part of a trilogy which is supposed to conclude the story of the main Star Wars episodes, this film feels more conclusive than middle chapters usually do. In a way, its appropriate given the way the last film ended: you can't end two of three films in a cliffhanger. Neverthelss, one could have wished for these films to be shot simultaneously like the Middle Earth features to create better continuity. With Abrams returning to conclude the trilogy, Johnson's entry seems destined to remain the odd film out due to his unique voice shining through.
  10. More often than not, they are written for the end-credits, rather than solely for the album.
  11. What, in a fleeting mention in that interview, 15 years removed from Return of the Jedi? There is no thematic material for Han, as a character. The love theme belongs more to the princess, musically.
  12. I don't mind the occasional wink or even a plot point. Its a long series, so those things are bound to happen. As long as I'm not treading the same ground, I'm fine. Oh, and the series is filled with fan service from Return of the Jedi going forward.
  13. I think a lot of it stems from the pacing, and maybe some of the uses of humor in the film. If you dislike an entire subplot (as many seem to with the Finn storyline) of a film, that's not something to be taken lightly.
  14. Not anything too largescale, but look at the audience score. Very unusual.
  15. I have to say I'm amazed with what seems like a backlash forming against this film. Not that I think it will be remembered as a bad movie, nor underperform, but so far Disney's Star Wars properties were extremely well received, and - critically speaking - The Last Jedi is, too. But it's RT audience score? Wow.
  16. Mine hasn't. Never was a fan of the thematic material of the previous score. Now, Rose's theme - that I like. Its not the greatest thing since sliced bread, but its a good theme.
  17. I think its fair to say that hopes that Rian Johnson is a more composer-friendly director have been proven to be, if not false, certainly a case of wishful thinking. There's a lot of blatant temp-track love in his: from original score that feels too close to existing music (especially prequel music!), tracked or re-created music in the film; there's a discarded recording of the opening, and a poorly-edited end-credits.
  18. That's something that I would expect more from a final score of a trilogy, e.g. the way Shore scored Return of the King and Battle of the Five Armies. Its no longer about introducing new themes but about pitting the existing material against itself, as it were. For the middle entry, I don't think its the appropriate approach.
  19. There are probably two or three other small motifs somewhere in there. They might not even be on the album. I really like the Rose material. I've yet to see how much presence it has in the film, though.
  20. I have my fair share of issues with The Force Awakens: namely, its derivative nature, and the over-abundance of jokes and the occasional Rathtar sequence, but its still better than Rogue One.
  21. I'm going to be very verbose on this. Proceed with caution. On the most basic level (i.e. reasonable production value and the existence of a narrative) I like all three. But Rogue One (which I've just finished watching on TV where it just aired) is empty in term of character. As with Edwards other major feature, Godzilla, the film is severely lacking in a sense of humanity. The attempt to tell it in a none-linear manner, clearly modeled after Chris Nolan's approach, is nothing but a gimmick: it is not used to infuse the first act with action (really, the film is completely boring until the finale) or deepen our understanding of the characters. Yes, the visuals are striking, but its not that difficult to create them when you're playing around in a digital environment. Its not cinematography if the camera is a virtual one. Even a lot of the effects lack polish. Much has been said about the digitally recreated characters. Now, its possible to create compelling digital doubles, but it requires the actor to be on the motion capture stage. You can't do it with existing footage. Even some of the practical effects aren't that impressive: The film attempts to recreate the cheaper Vader suit used in the original Star Wars, but in doing so exposes the suit to the scrutiny of contemporary cameras and showcases its ridiculousness. For a film that has been lauded for its uniqueness in the Star Wars cinematic landscape, this film is so brimming with fan service. I seem to remember once where it plays with the fan service (where a character about to speak a "classic" Star Wars line is cut-off mid sentence) but otherwise its just in there way too much: from the C3PO cameo, to Princes Leia uttering "A New Hope" to the inappropriate use of Williams' themes. So, I understand that The Force theme is the "Rebel-ship-taking-off-in-a-wide-shot theme." Yes, the finale is action packed, but its too fragmented. There's a difference between the finale of something like Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. What is it? one extra storyline. When you have two storylines running through the climax, you can play them off of each other. When its three or more, it becomes too much and the audience usually finds one storyline to focus on and doze through the rest, which ends up detracting from the climax as a whole.
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