Flying Solo

Nine days – a great deal can happen in almost two working weeks. In this case, I am referring to the time between the official UK release of the latest Star Wars film and the date I eventually caught up on the epic sci-fi space opera. Pav had wanted to catch the film over the opening weekend but I was just not able to spare the time so he went with somebody else (I cannot blame him!) I waited until I had broken up for Christmas and then had the mammoth task to avoid spoilers. Much easier said than done, in our modern connected world. Obviously I was going to catch the film with my dearest wife but unfortunately, due to an injury sustained at the gym, I was going to be flying solo. Fate would have it that, while I detest going to the cinema on my own, the only two other occasions this has occurred, was to see the same film franchise. Perhaps it was just a sign of The Force.

Somewhat inspired by Diamond Geezer’s blog post from a mere 8,640 minutes ago I thought I would take a look back at my own Star Wars history. Focusing only on those films I have caught at the multiplex, I watched the originals when they came had their terrestrial TV premieres and at some point, I was given a VHS with the Special Editions. To my surprise, I have actually watched each film at a different UK film chain and until today, different location.

  • The Phantom Menace (1999) – Showcase, Winnersh
  • Attack of the Clones (2002) – Vue, Leicester
  • Revenge of the Sith (2005) – Empire, Wycombe
  • The Force Awakens (2015) – Odeon, Bracknell
  • The Last Jedi (2017) – Cineworld, Bracknell

I would consider myself a big fan of The Back To The Future trilogy above and beyond the Star Wars saga. I place a great deal of explanation behind this purely to timing. The first film was released in 1985 and I wore out the VHS tape in my youth with multiple screenings. My father surprised us with tickets for Back To The Future II and III as a dessert serving after a family meal at The Deep Pan Pizoccasions (which was conveniently located right next door to the UCI cinema) on two occasions in 1989 and 1990. I recall heated arguments with my friend Matt W from college via e-mail and MSN Messenger on the reasons why the time travelling saga of Marty McFly beat Luke Skywalker and the dynasty of the Jedi Knights. In the epic summer of 2000 (which became a right of passage before headed to university in September), I watched the original trilogy back to back (across three days). These were the versions as Lucas had originally intended without his endless and needless tinkering in recent decades. Perhaps as an adult, you get a better appreciation of the greater mythology unfolding on the screen, which you can never understand as a child. It is just big explosions, blasters, duels with light sabres and droid. You appreciate the inner conflict of the characters and the wider theme of good versus evil. My favourite film is The Empire Strikes Back.

The Last Jedi was great fun, action-packed and had plenty of material and new characters to keep me on the edge of my seat. I would still perhaps rate The Force Awakens ahead as it had a coherent fleshed out story throughout and set the foundations for a new trilogy and bringing this universe to a new set of fans. The humour was perhaps raised a few levels in this latest movie and the tone was lighter which helped the overall feel. My favourite character continues to be Poe Dameron who firmly takes over the mantle once held by Han Solo. You get to understand the scale of both the First Order and the diminishing number of rebels of The Resistance. Pav made a fair comment (via WhatsApp as we exchanged opinions on the film last night) that the trip to Canto Bight was a meaningless distraction and unnecessary. However, you have to understand the gigantic task for Rian Johnson to write and direct an epic tale that respects both the original trilogy and the great work by JJ Abrams on TFA. He does well, in difficult circumstances to deliver an entertaining film which hits all the right notes. What was it missing? Perhaps a greater focus on Rey’s actual Jedi training from a reluctant Jedi Master. Better to understand the intentions of the First Order beyond crushing this small band of rebels. I suppose they have to keep some questions open, which will keep us coming back for more. When is the next film released and do they have an official title yet? Only 94,521,600 seconds to go…

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