Once upon a time, Warner Bros ruled the superhero movie genre with its DC Comics lynchpin characters Superman and Batman.
A decade ago, Marvel Studios released its maiden production – Iron Man – and the world of movies have never been the same.
When it comes to the Singapore music scene, it does appear that its marginalisation in the 70s and 80s has ultimately caused the scene irreparable harm.
Just booked my tickets for Infinity War, IMAX 3D no less. But my expectations are at an absolute low for superhero films, especially with recent disappointments.
Black Panther‘s astonishing domestic box office numbers for its opening 4-days is $245 million, which actually betters Justice League‘s lifetime US box office of $228 million!
Diehard Star Wars fans who were somewhat mystified by the ‘soft reboot’ that director JJ Abrams fashioned with The Force Awakens (TFA) will find little comfort in Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi (TLJ), which remakes creator George Lucas’ legacy into a generic movie blockbuster. Spoilers follow.
The mischaracterisation of Luke Skywalker
If portraying Luke as a coward in TFA – running away and hiding from the rise of the First Order – wasn’t bad enough, TLJ does its best to denigrate the memory of our hero.
First, he tosses away Anakin’s light sabre like it was so much garbage and then stubbornly refuses to train Rey whatsoever. This Luke Skywalker basically gave up and is just waiting to die.
Seriously, what the fuck?!
Then we find out that he intended – even for a split second – to kill his nephew (Ben Solo aka Kylo Ren) when he saw the darkness in him.
C’mon, this is the man who refused to believe that his father (Darth Vader!) could not be redeemed despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And yet, we are led to believe that he wanted to kill Ben Solo? Ridiculous.
Also, remember that entire vision sequence of the Knights of Ren killing Jedi trainees in the rain at Luke’s Jedi school? None of that appears in TLJ! Instead we have a quite lame scene of Kylo Ren bringing the roof down and Luke emerging from the rubble later on. Really really atrocious.
And … did Luke really need killing off at the end? Sigh.
A middle finger to the Star Wars diehard fans
As inferior a Star Wars movie as TFA was, it did at least lay down the groundwork for a new universe that got diehards in a tizzy coming up with theories regarding Rey’s parentage, Snoke’s background, the circumstances behind Luke’s disappearance, and so on.
TLJ basically shits on all this – giving diehards the finger in the process. Rey’s parents are nobodies, the mysterious Snoke is killed off (unnecessarily and in a silly manner to boot!) and remains a mystery, and the less said about how Luke is treated the better.
Dig deeper and one realises the obvious message here. Disney does not give a fuck about George Lucas’ original story ideas and not only does this new trilogy depart significantly, it also states emphatically that there is no connection whatsoever to Star Wars lore.
An utter lack of respect for the original material is displayed and simply put, Star Wars is reduced to a brand, which Disney can now exploit as it thinks fit without any reference whatsoever to the Lucas legacy. The ultimate “FUCK YOU” to George Lucas.
The pointless Finn-Rose sub-plot
The most frustrating thing about TLJ, without a doubt. A meaningless diversion from the main storyline finds Finn and Rose travelling to Canto Bight on a mission to find a code-breaker.
Considering the movie is 150 minutes and the manner in which this sub-plot pans out, this entire sequence could have been left out without any impact on the story whatsoever!
Perhaps it was included for Rian Johnson to make a comment about arms dealers? Or maybe to introduce the concept behind his own upcoming Star Wars trilogy? Who the fuck knows or even cares? There is just no logical reason for this sub-plot to exist. A waste of screen time.
The non-sensical expansion of Force powers
Remember the scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull where Indy survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge?
Well, the Star Wars franchise finally has its own ‘jump the shark’ moment with Princess Leia flying through space like Superman! Did she ever demonstrate Force abilities before?
Not only that but where in the past, Luke and Darth Vader (and Leia) had a telepathic connection (they are family after all), now in TLJ, Kylo and Rey somehow get ‘Force Skype’ powers and are able to video conference across the vast span of space and somehow touch as well, without any connection between them whatsoever! How exactly does that work?
And of course, finally, the coup de grace, where somehow (again!) Luke is able to project himself (astrally?) to confront Kylo in the third act from light years away. Simply incredible Force powers that function as deus ex machinas for both Leia and Luke.
We can see how these new Force powers serve as exciting plot twists for the average movie-goer but for the diehard fan, it’s a kick in the teeth!
The silly premise of the slow motion chase between the First Order and the Resistance
Much of the second act was occupied by the farcical sight of the First Order pursuing the Resistance in outer space, as the latter is somehow (!) out of range of the former’s weapons yet running out of fuel at the same time!
Have you ever come across space ships of this size in the Star Wars franchise running on fuel (?) and this is taking place a good 30 years after the original trilogy, mind you.
But we guess that if you can have a planet serving as a weapon without explaining how it moves from point to point (Starkiller Base), then anything goes, right?
Worse yet, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, who takes over from Leia when she is incapacitated – flying in space sure takes its toll! – refuses to explain her plan to Poe Dameron , which results in the pointless Finn-Rose subplot etc.
When Holdo’s plan is finally explained to Poe by Leia, he thinks it’s a good one! All that time, effort and angst wasted!
AND why didn’t Holdo’s suicide mission happen earlier? That would have guaranteed the safety of the escaping small transports
Really really bad writing by Rian Johnson!
The final analysis
With TFA and TLJ, Disney’s agenda becomes crystal clear – to bring Star Wars as far away from Lucas’ original vision as far as possible.
Which is fine as a concept but the execution is really poor. Inconsistent characterisation, a lack of respect for lore, bad writing, inconsequential sub-plots and characters (Captain Phasma?) make these movies truly messy affairs.
Mission accomplished as far as Disney is concerned. Star Wars is now a run-of-the-mill mass market blockbuster, no longer the singular vision of an artist but a corporate vehicle for maximum profits made by committee.
… still there’s more …
It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time – 17 years ago – when a superhero movie was not only a rarity but a bit of a joke.
Star Wars VII : The Force Awakens was a smash hit in 2015 BUT failed as a story. As a ‘soft reboot’, the movie served to superficially give the fans what they wanted but essentially retold the original Star Wars (1977) plot in an inferior way – adding in new characters but changing nothing significant in the key story beats.
Music Journalists (and hardcore music fans) like to get themselves in a tizzy about defining genres. But never the artists themselves – in fact, artists hate to be pigeon-holed in such a manner.
Taking a quick glance at the ‘New Releases’ each week over at Spotify Singapore will confirm that rock ’n’ roll music is completely AWOL from the awareness of the general music streaming public. But of course, there are many many bands and solo artists out there who are making music that derive its impetus from the classic rock ’n’ roll periods viz. pre-2000.
Regular PoP visitors will be aware that I am a massive Beatles fan. The Fab Four (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison & Ringo Starr) were the first band I ever obsessed over as a teenager and Abbey Road – the band’s final LP – was the first album I ever owned.
By that time, the Beatles had broken up a couple of years already and the individual members were busy releasing their solo LPs. I had friends who were equally besotted with the Fab Four and together we even formed our first band – the Beatles-channeling Hornets in the mid-70s! Like many Beatles fans, I dreamed of a reunion and this seemed even more possible when John came out of his 5-year hiatus in 1980 & released Double Fantasy with his wife Yoko Ono.
Of course, that dream was smashed into pieces when John was murdered outside his home on 8th December that year. It’s almost 35 years since that fateful day but the Beatles remain in my view the best band the world has ever seen (and ever will see). One could argue that the Beatles were at the right time and place as the universe conspired to provide the perfect conditions for the band to irreversibly change the world and to write their names into the history books.
Even as the music industry evolves decade after decade and music revolutions come and go, the popularity of the Beatles remains constant and the music they created fifty odd years still resonate to music lovers worldwide. Though the band was once closely associated with the sixties, it’s might be said that they have transcended that epoch to stand alone and become truly timeless icons. Consider the immense popularly of teen idol Taylor Swift, a search on Youtube – probably one of the most popular websites that teens frequent – will provide about 6.1 million results. Guess how many results a Beatles youtube search will provide? How about 5.5 million! Not bad for a band that last released a new album in 1970.
And so… whilst it has been more than a good 40 years since I first heard a Beatles song, I rest assured that years may pass and the latest pop thing may disappear into oblivion (how long more for TayTay?) but one thing will stay the same – it will always be the Beatles Forever!
… still there’s more …
Just realised that I haven’t done one of these for some time now.
So where am I? Caught between life’s necessities and the ‘luxuries’ of following your own dreams. And even in the latter case, trying hard to be true to myself.
Over half of the year has gone by and I am putting together a brand new album of songs that conceptualise somewhat the lessons I have learned in the past five years.
I say somewhat because the concept behind Present Sense is not really autobiographical but definitely my own life experiences have inspired the story that will unfold when one listens to the new music.
As always, I keep my expectations as low as possible. Even if the local music scene begins to build higher expectations, I remind myself that my relative advance age will always be a prejudicial factor in the scheme of things. Hard to swallow perhaps, but a hard truth nonetheless. Coupled with utter lack of appreciation for the arts that continues to plague our society, it’s a constant battle against the odds.
I still hear flattering things about my so-called status within the music scene but the reality hardly bears that out. Mostly, what I find is disrespect and even worse, a flat-out cold shouldering. I try not to dwell on these things – these are facts – but that doesn’t lessen the hurt.
For the brave few true friends I am thankful and comfort myself with their support – you know who you are. Present Sense is a tribute to you all.
… still there’s more …