Tag Archives: Indiana Jones

Defending George as ‘The Force Awakens’

Instead of spending Black Friday fighting over flat-screen TVs at Walmart, I replayed “The Force Awakens” teaser trailer over and over on my phone, along with the rest of the world’s Star Wars nerds.

I analyzed and reanalyzed every detail: Is that Benedict Cumberbatch or Andy Serkis intoning ominously in voiceover? Who is that black-clad figure wielding the coolest lightsaber ever? Is that a droid or a soccer ball?

Then I took to Twitter to find out if I had missed anything. I texted friends and relatives to compare notes. I tried not to get too excited. “Remember the prequels,” I told myself, but it was no use.

In one of those spine-tingling moments that will go down in geek history, I and seemingly every other person on the planet was besotted.

In the days since the big reveal, relief and delight over the fact that “Star Wars: Episode VII” may not be the fiasco we feared has given way to gleeful mockery directed at “Star Wars” creator George Lucas, the man behind the best-loved sci-fi franchise of all time. (You may now start sending me hate mail, Trekkies.)

Dozens of comments on Facebook and Twitter express satisfaction that George can’t touch this new trilogy, J.J. Abrams be praised.

This hilarious version of “The Force Awakens” trailer, parodying the director’s much-loathed “improvements” to his original trio of films, has been circulating.

Also making the rounds, to great amusement, is this befuddling preview for an animated movie hailing “from the mind of George Lucas.” Turns out it’s based on a story he wrote and, yes, it looks pretty terrible.

I understand where all the George bashing comes from and I enjoy poking fun at his missteps as much as anyone. As far as my family is concerned, the filmmaker’s infamous prequels don’t exist and mention of a certain sequel with the words “Crystal” and “Skull” in the title causes physical pain.

Yet I can’t help but feel that Lucas doesn’t deserve such bitter backlash from the very fans who profess to adore his original creation.

This isn’t the first time I’ve defended Lucas. In 2008, I wrote a column arguing the director’s case. Ironically, it was just before the release of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

Even so, I stand by what I wrote then:

(Lucas) has gotten a bad rap over the past decade for his megalomaniacal tendencies, a certain computer-generated abomination called Jar Jar Binks, his mysterious ability to transform capable actors, like Natalie Portman and Samuel L. Jackson, into unfeeling blocks of wood and his inability to stop tampering with the “Star Wars” master prints.

These trespasses are not easily forgiven, but I can’t help but feeling that we have been a little too harsh on the master of the “Star Wars” universe, styling him in our imaginations as a scheming villain holed up at Skywalker Ranch, cackling as he dreams of new and better ways to annoy his adoring fan base.

… Perhaps it would be helpful, not to mention therapeutic, if we remembered all the things we used to like about George, his legendary contributions to the film industry and what his legacy means to us.

Lucas may be a control freak who doesn’t give a fig about what his colleagues or devotees desire, but it’s doubtful he would have accomplished all that he has if he wasn’t so uncompromising.

This is the man who almost single-handedly revolutionized independent filmmaking, championing artistic control with a savvy business deal that allowed him to preserve the “Star Wars” franchise exactly as he envisioned it and make a fortune off the licensing rights.

His technical contributions to the entertainment industry are innumerable. Since the debut of “Star Wars” in 1977, he and his creative team have aggressively advanced the fields of visual effects, sound, editing, digital filmmaking and video games. Industrial Light & Magic, THX, Skywalker Sound, Pixar –they all sprang from the mind of Lucas.

And it’s not as if his extreme wealth and power have driven him to the Dark Side, either. Lucas is a philanthropist, establishing an educational foundation and donating millions to his alma mater, the University of Southern California.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember, however, is that Lucas is the creator of “Star Wars,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Return of the Jedi” and the Indiana Jones trilogy, six films that have inspired and continue to inspire generations of lifelong movie lovers.

“Star Wars” was the movie that first introduced this critic to the wondrous possibilities of the cinema. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” was the film that showed her how much fun you could have in a movie theater.

… I must confess that I have nothing but gratitude for him.

Perhaps it’s time we showed more respect for the mind that spawned the little space opera that has become not just a series of movies, but a pop cultural touchstone, a lifestyle, a shared language, practically a religion.

This guy invented the Millennium Falcon, the lightsaber, R2-D2, Darth Vader, Yoda and Boba Fett. He breathed life into a galaxy far, far away with rudimentary but revolutionary special effects that still hold up. He inspired John Williams’ epic, instantly recognized musical score. His depiction of the battle between good and evil — a battle that rages inside all of us — is timeless.

So I’ll say it again.

Thanks, George.

 

 

 

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Come and Get Your ‘Guardians’ Love

Guardians of the Galaxy
Three and a half stars (out of four)
PG-13 (intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, some language)
121 minutes

Everybody loves The Avengers, but let’s face it. When it comes to personality, the members of Marvel’s prize superhero team are kind of square. Patriots, Asgardian princes and scientists with anger issues are only so interesting. Even the wise-cracking Tony Stark is a bazillionaire and a genius. Not very easy to relate to.

Maybe that’s why the ensemble of sorry wretches at the heart of “Guardians of the Galaxy” is so appealing. It’s made up of outlaws and losers, like Drax the Destroyer (played by wrestler Dave Bautista), an elaborately tattooed muscleman who is out for vengeance and takes everything extremely literally. Naturally, this is the source of much hilarity.

Then there’s Gamora (Zoe Saldana in butt-kicking mode), a green-skinned mercenary with daddy issues. After all, she’s the adopted daughter of Thanos, the wrinkly, purple baddie first glimpsed in the end credits of “The Avengers.”

Even weirder are Rocket, a resourceful, genetically-modified talking raccoon with a temper (his feisty voice is supplied by Bradley Cooper), and his best pal, Groot (Vin Diesel), a self-regenerating tree — just go with it –- who is surprisingly clever but boasts a limited vocabulary.

The merry ringmaster of this improbably lovable menagerie is Peter Quill, who also goes by the cocky alias “Star-Lord.” In an immensely winning performance, Chris Pratt plays Quill as a roguishly charming space pilot in the mold of Harrison Ford’s swaggering, self-obsessed Han Solo. Truly, a star is born.

To say that “Guardians” director James Gunn was influenced by the early work of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg is an understatement. Adapted from one of Marvel’s more obscure properties, the movie is a rollicking sci-fi-fantasy space opera with a rascally, retro vibe that recalls the original Indiana Jones and Star Wars flicks.

The film’s opening scene, in which Quill parts a valuable relic from its temple pedestal on the planet Morag, is pure “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” goosed to the groove of Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love.”  A sequence set in a mining colony faintly echoes that wretched hive of scum and villainy, the Mos Eisley Cantina. There are thrilling space battles galore, and Rocket and Groot are basically C-3PO and R2-D2 with more attitude.

With its population of extraterrestrials in a rainbow of skin tones and its intergalactic fashions — that’s some wig, Glenn Close! — “Guardians” also calls to mind “Star Trek” … on crack … as Gunn pokes into the freakiest corners of the Marvel Universe. But the film never feels derivative and it’s a ton of fun.

Based on the comic book series by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, the movie begins on a somber note with the death of young Star-Lord’s mother. That formative chapter in Peter Quill’s life is followed by another major event, the arrival of a spacecraft sent by his long absent father to retrieve his son from Earth.

Cut to the grown Quill, who is now quite comfortable living in outerspace. To his chagrin, his Star-Lord alias is met with disdain by most residents of the galaxy, thanks to his reputation as a rather smug smuggler who frequently runs afoul of the law.

Quill is after his latest score — a coveted silver orb — when he literally collides with Gamora, who has been sent to retrieve the object for Thanos’ ally, Ronan (Lee Pace).

Ronan is the genocidal leader of warrior race the Kree and he’s also the movie’s weakest link. Pace, who was so adorable on “Pushing Daisies” but now specializes in playing menacing fantasy monarchs (see his elf king, Thranduil, in “The Hobbit” trilogy), doesn’t do a whole lot besides make cartoonishly dire pronouncements in a very deep voice. He also glowers at equally blue hench-lady Nebula. (Yes, Doctor Who fans, that is Karen Gillan, aka Amy Pond, under all that makeup.)

Ronan is after the same thing every Marvel villain seems to be after. I don’t think it’s a huge spoiler to reveal that it’s an infinity stone. I know these glowing MacGuffins are one of the things that unify all the films in the franchise, but am I the only one who’s getting sick of them?

Back to the plot: While Gamora is after Quill in order to collect the orb, Rocket and Groot are after him as well, hoping to collect the bounty on his head. In the process, the whole posse winds up in prison, where they are joined by Drax and work together to mastermind one of the most entertaining jailbreaks in recent cinematic memory. Normally, these guys are out for themselves, but when they realize what will happen to their galaxy if Ronan gets his hands on the orb, they make an uneasy pact to save the place they call home.

After cutting his teeth on dark comic book satire “Super” and low-budget horror flick “Slither,” Gunn penned the “Guardians” script with Nicole Perlman, who is rumored to be toiling on a Black Widow spin-off for Marvel. (That could bode very, very well.)

Gunn and Perlman’s “Guardians” screenplay is hilarious and kinda sweet and just when it starts to get too cheesy, the director pulls it back from the brink with the perfect dose of snark and playful visual effects that put the considerable skills of the film’s VFX crew on eye-popping display.

The movie’s best device is a nostalgic one. Because Quill is from Earth, he’s constantly making references that baffle his alien buddies but connect with the audience, especially anyone who fondly remembers Troll dolls, the Walkman and Kevin Bacon in “Footloose.”

The film’s tone is dictated largely by its inspired soundtrack, built around Quill’s beloved Awesome Mix Tape of ’70s and ’80s pop.

Just be prepared. You will never, ever get “Hooked on a Feeling” out of your head again. It’s the new “Let It Go.