Don't know why I went to the 10:30AM show on Saturday. As was pointed out to me when I bought the tickets, at work I'm back on the morning shift, which means I've got my afternoons free, which means I could have easily gone in the afternoon. But I didn't. And I stand by my choices.
So when Disney bought Lucasfilm a few years ago and promised to flood our lives with new Star Wars product, one of the more intriguing things was the proposal of standalone films, aka these "Star Wars stories." As Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy once remarked, "It's about thinking of the Star Wars universe as a setting, rather than a saga." And for their first one, they decided to go with one of the more wondered-about untold stories in the Star Wars universe: how exactly did the Rebels steal the plans to the Death Star from the Empire?
Well, it was a daring mission carried out by Jyn Erso and her crew. Erso's got a personal connection to the Death Star: her father Galen was one of its chief architects, until he grew a conscience and walked away from the Empire. The film opens with the chief of the Death Star's construction, Director Krennick, tracking down Galen to drag him back to the Empire and finish what he started. We then flash forward to Jyn as a grown-up, who's been living largely on her own in this wartorn galaxy. But then the Rebels drag her in to the conflict. A defector brings word of the Death Star nearing completion, and Galen was able to smuggle out a message about it. Jyn is needed to verify the message and, if possible, help track down her father to find out more about this message.
Of course, we need a crew on this mission. The standouts to me were the droid K-2SO and Chirrut Imwe. K-2SO was an Imperial droid who was reprogrammed, but the reprogramming altered his personality, giving him a very dry sense of humour. Picture C-3P0 with more sass, and in the body of grappler.
Chirrut Imwe was a Jedi temple guard back in that more civilized time. While he cannot use the Force, he is a firm believer in it, and frequently lets his faith guide him. His official title was "a Guardian of the Whills," and dude, that's a deep cut Star Wars reference. "The Whills" was an early name George Lucas had for the Force, and Lucas's original title for the entire saga was "The Journal of the Whills." Anyway, director Gareth Edwards said that Chirrut was based on the character archetype of the warrior monk, and played by Hong Kong action legend Donnie Yen, he plays that archetype to the hilt. And much like K-2SO, he's got a dry quip for just about any occasion.
If I do have a problem with it, it has to be with our heroine, Jyn. I just don't feel like we got enough time with her to get to know her as a character.
Special effects are, of course, amazing. They give us some great angles of the Death Star that really play up its size and scope. Thanks to digital technology, there's some gratuitous cameos from long dead characters. And the final space battle is spectacular.
And, much like Luke's appearance at the end of The Force Awakens, the last 10 minutes are a gigantic nostalgic gut punch that left me in tears.
All in all, I give it a solid 3 out of 4 Nibs. A great addition to Star Wars. Full review on the website.
After that, out into the mall to do a little more shopping. But now, with my Christmas shopping finished, I thought I'd buy a few frivolous things for myself. As my mother frequently tells me, "Treat yo-self!" (Sorry, Aziz Ansari, my mother was saying it before you.)
So I wound up spending a lot of money at HMV. First, a new Blu-Ray.
Long ago,I blogged about the logic of buying a holiday special on home media. I mean, the one time of year you're going to watch it is the one time of year it's on TV ad nauseum. But now, I figured out why: it's the only way to see it uncut.
Going through Facebook's "On this Day" feature, I see I've been making the same complaint about Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town for about seven or eight years now. In recent years, they've been deleting one of my favourite parts. And I can see why they cut it. It's the same reason why it's my favourite. It's so hilariously out of place.
Using the Christmas song of the same name as the springboard, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town tells us the secret origin of Santa Claus. Santa, you see, was a rebel, who delivered toys to a town where toys had been banned. Santa is eventually arrested, and Jessica the schoolmarm tries to rally the people to free Santa. Through her efforts, she begins to realize she has feelings for Santa, and that's when we realize she is the who will become Mrs. Claus. And her awakening comes in the form of a very psychedelic musical number. I mean, it was 1970. That kind of animation was the rage. It's very much a product of its time. And compared to the stop motion of the Rankin-Bass holiday specials, it's very out of place. Which is why I love it. And why it's a prime candidate for deletion.
But now I can enjoy it in glorious hi-def!
And even though we live in the era of digital downloads, I bought a couple of CDs. I've blogged before that I think Michael Giacchino is one of the greatest film composers working today, and now he's done the music for my two favourite franchises with "Star" in the title. So I picked up his scores for Star Trek Beyond and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Buying Star Trek Beyond was more to complete my collection. A few years ago, a lot of music labels that specialize in film soundtracks released the complete, uncut scores for every Star Trek movie. And have them all! No Star Trek Beyond score was leaving a gap in my collection. I love the stuff that Giacchino has written for Star Trek. I easily put the main theme he wrote for Star Trek up there with Jerry Goldsmith's legendary theme. And speaking of Goldsmith, I swear I can hear echos of his stuff, and James Horner's Wrath of Khan and Search for Spock scores in Beyond. I especially like the piece entitled Night on the Yorktown, when the Enterprise arrives at the starbase Yorktown for some much-needed shore leave.
And then as others have pointed out, Giacchino seemed destined to do the music for a Star Wars movie. He's about the only one still doing John Williams-style, full orchestra, "everybody gets a signature theme" film scores. Some concerns about Giacchino doing the music for Rogue One, as he was a last minute replacement for Alexander Desplat. Giacchino only had six weeks to pull something together.
And I think he did a great job, listening to some of it on Spotify as soon as it went online on Friday. Listening to the theme he wrote for the Imperial forces, entitled "The Imperial Suite," reminds me of the variation on the Mission: Impossible theme he wrote for the opening credits of Ghost Protocol. The notes are there, but there in a different order. If that makes any sense. I don't really know a lot about music composition.
My favourite cut has to be "Guardians of the Whills Suite." This kind of replaces John Williams' "Force" theme, as it comes in whenever someone starts talking about the Force and matters of faith.
Listening to it back-to-back with his Beyond score (as I have been while I write this), yeah, it sounds like Giacchino may have borrowed a little bit from his Star Trek stuff when he put together Rogue One, but the dude was under the wire. I hope he gets to do another one. I would love to hear what he can do when he's got the time to do it right.
And that's my latest dispatch from my latest trip to the city. Last one before Christmas now, as the Christmas shopping is done.