Journey’s End

I watched the WWI movie, Journey’s End, for the first time the other day, on a Danish streaming service for my broadband internet. The movie was released in 2017, so sure – I’m late to the party.

The movie was basically about a small group of people dealing with the stress of past and upcoming battles in the muddy trenches of Aisne, 1918. There are in particular three officers that we follow, one of which is a captain that’s losing his mind to PTSD. As such the drama and the acting is absolutely top notch.

Yet, the movie didn’t quite work for me.

The problem is that 99% of the movie takes place in the officers quarters and the trench, with people worrying and talking. The actual war action is very limited, and even when it does happen, not much is seen apart from a few bombs going off. No doubt budget reasons played a role, and I also understand that the story was originally a theater play.

But the way the movie starts with the captain already starting to lose his marbles, right after the young second lieutenant Raleigh joins, shows that they have already been through a lot of hell at this point. But we don’t really know what that is.

Sure, we already know about how the trench warfare in the first world war was absolutely excruciating. We have seen the footage. However, a bad design in movies is where there’s too much telling and not showing. This movie doesn’t even bother to do that. It merely trusts that you’re already aware of this.

It’s not because I love war action and people dying all over the place. I despise war as much as anyone. But I still believe a rough and loud scene of war to begin the movie would have made the captain’s worries so much more impactful. It would have brought me a lot more under the skin of him and his comrades.

It would have made for a much better movie to me.

The Demise of Skywalker

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Since I blogged about the first two movies in the new trilogy of Star Wars movies, I’ve felt kind of obligated to write about the third one too. It was delayed on my part because I only saw it on a streaming service at Disney+ which came to Denmark this summer.

Apart from The Mandalorian, Disney+ has really opened my eyes for both Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels – quite late to the party – but that is, as they say, an entirely different story.

But even when it was available at Disney+ a few months ago, I kept postponing my first viewing of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker both because of the general lacklustre reviews and because of how I found the first two movies lacking in so many departments. I only got to finally watch it yesterday.

Maybe it was because I had lowered my expectations, but I actually thought it wasn’t that bad!

One of the criticisms I’ve heard is how the movie kind of hit the reset button, ignoring many events taking place in the second movie, but that’s not true. For example, Rey’s parents and her heritage are revealed and turns out that she did indeed have quite an interesting ancestor, yet Ren still insists that her own parents were still nothing special. That’s okay. I can live with that.

The movie was also more coherent that I expected, and it had epic set pieces. I was never bored.

One of the biggest points of critiscism I had about episode 7 was how much it had aped from episode 4. I thought that at least for the first two thirds of this movie, the writers tried to do mostly their own thing. Then in the end they sadly just had to go and repeat the end of episode 6 with barely a few surroundings and details conveniently switched around.

That was certainly disappointing, but at least is was so infused with epic that I almost bought it anyway.

Let’s move into more specific spoilers.

The Blast Jedi

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I just saw the Star Wars: The Last Jedi yesterday, in one of the smaller cinema halls of the place I usually visit. I guess 2D viewers are now regarded as secondary citizens. The 3D versions get the biggest halls, with the best chairs and the best sound.

But I don’t care about 3D. Upgrade it to not need glasses anymore and I’ll give it another shot.

The blog post about the previous movie took a while for me to get out as I waited for a second viewing, but I thought I’d get this one out as soon as I had seen it the first time.

As for the movie itself, it was quite a mixed bag of emotions for my part. I actually didn’t like it much in the first third or so. Much like the same kind of disappointment I felt when I saw The Force Awakens for the first time. The inital battle felt a little bland and they still relied too much on classic elements of the original trilogy. I was really afraid that it would once again try to match many of the beats of the next movie from back then, which is widely regarded as the best of them all – The Empire Strikes Back.

But luckily it did manage to break out of this shell in the last half and actually surprise me with a few scenes I didn’t see coming. It was as if the director Rian Johnson (who was also the writer) knew that he had to do something to break that curse, and he sure did. Especially the final confrontation used a daring idea I liked, even if it really pushed the boundaries of what we knew jedis could do so far.

That doesn’t mean that I turned completely on a dime and now think it’s a marvelous movie. It still has its problems and at the end of the day, I believe that even though it is indeed a better movie than the The Force Awakens, there’s still room for improvement.

Time to move into spoilers.

The Fourth Awakens

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This is a belated blog post about the seventh Star Wars movie that I’ve wanted to write for a while, but I wanted to watch it again for the second time first. As I was quite a bit disappointed after the first viewing in the cinema, I didn’t want to buy it – but luckily, the European Netflix added it recently and I could finally watch it again while taking down notes. I wanted to get my facts straight before berating the movie, write about how it was way too similar to A New Hope, and all the other things it got so very wrong.

But then a strange thing happened – I actually liked it a lot better this second time around!

I could still see a few bummers along the way, but this time I accepted a lot of the stuff I found wanting in the first viewing. Most of it actually turned out okay, and there’s so much to like as well. I think one of the problems of watching it the first time was not only the steep hype that no movie could possibly hope to meet, but also that most of us have had our own ideas about what happened in the many years between episode 6 and 7. And I’m not talking about the extended universe here as I’ve barely read anything there. I was never comfortable with fans coming up with their own stuff and tried to keep my distance.

Nevertheless I couldn’t help but get exposed to some of it through Star Wars video games. I did like the idea that Luke went on to become a master, teaching a new school of young jedis. But I also had my own ideas about what could have happened all those years. That Luke found some other love interest. What children they all had. Leia learning the force. The many adventures they continued to have. And I think that’s precisely one of the reasons why some of us were inevitably displeased with episode 7.

Luke failed something and went into hiding? That’s not a tragedy I had envisioned for him! Han and Leia are no longer together? Why? I imagined they lived happily together all those years! They had a son that turned to the dark side of the force? But that’s not…

You could argue for starting episode 7 in a peaceful situation where everyone is happy together and things start getting bad from there. However, now that I have watched the movie the second time around, I can’t blame J.J. Abrams & Co. for creating the situation that they did. Many years have passed and it sets up a much more interesting backstory that things didn’t plan out perfectly in those years. There have been problems along the way, just as we all have in real life. Then you can certainly debate whether the choices the writers made were the right ones for Han, Leia and Luke, but I decided to find peace with this. They needed to set up the backstory right in order to write an interesting new episode, and starting from an utopian moment would probably have sounded too good to be true.

But even so, there are still questionable things in this movie. Too many things mimics episode 4, but that’s not the only problem. I’ll try to get into all of those I found while watching it again for the second time.

And yes, there will be spoilers.