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IR Film Review: STAR WARS – EPISODE IX – THE RISE OF SKYWALKER [Lucasfilm/Disney]

Following any divergence such as was “The Last Jedi” there can be a sense of reckoning. In the first “Star Wars” trilogy not overseen by one person (i.e. Lucas) there is bound to be conflict of conception. Colin Trevorrow was originally supposed to do this segmentation and obvious a wisp of his story structure remains. But as Adam Driver alluded, this path was always the correct one and the point discussed from the beginning. The film here feels right. It is the best made of this trilogy of films mating some of the basic risks that Abrams might have avoided with “Force Awakens” which felt infinitely too safe but also keying into aspects of what fans would like to see.

“The Rise Of Skywalker” is dense and moving. And yet there are holes. Now granted in most movies of this scale, there is a certain level of disbelief allowed. But this is Star Wars. The reality is director JJ Abrams had a shorter time to make this, close up as many loose ends as he could and keep the release date Disney set. He did. And to make the film as entertaining as it is with some specific moments that needed to work while integrating Leia and giving a sense of closure, this one feels more steady.

Rian Johnson’s previous film which had a couple spots which were brilliant also drifted too much into the metaphors and politics, which of course is part of it but also what bogged down many elements of the prequel trilogy. There is no exact formula with these movies that make them work no matter what. These films are a huge undertaking. “Empire Strikes Back” didn’t look effortless. There are clunky elements in that too but time is the true test. The issue here is that you see the work but the bridges made to get there don’t have time to breathe and have a lack of connection. The dichotomy of what everybody feels and how they display it is very anachronistic almost making it seemed forced. Daisy Ridley as Rey is a perfect vessel but she always seems too pained though her voyage is not meant to be easy. When you see joy in her, it is mired in sadness which is part of the structure. The intention is there but it is all about plot. Rey wants to find balance. Every act she commits is towards this. But impulse is her enemy which is the entire progression. But balance is the key word.

In keeping the main three stars together most of the time in this installment, it creates a better dynamic considering how different all of them are. This is why the original film worked between Han, Luke & Leia. Chewie had a better part then. Here even that character is used more in the vein of nostalgia but Abrams uses that as much as he can. Poe as a character is still underdeveloped. He was never supposed to be a Han Solo and yet there is never a sense that he nor Finn is a general per se. They still have the same fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants mantra but their stakes never feel fully realized. “The Last Jedi” was better at doing this and for inherent iconic image. But again didn’t move like this. No Canto Bright to bog the trajectory down.

Adam Driver, comparatively as a character, is truly the only one that comes close to full realization as Kylo Ren but again his character needs to serve the plot as well. One scene in particular really makes it sing and it was inherent that it need to happen, despite it being more of a metaphor per se. But inherently that is what Star Wars is about. Without giving away spoilers, this scene offers the perspective which makes everything acceptable. Star Wars was and is about archetypes. The path could only truly be one way. The ideal it comes back to is that this is entertainment and the film thrills. Case closed.

B

By Tim Wassberg

Sirk TV Graphic Novel Review: STUMPTOWN VOL. 1 [Oni]

The essence of a heroine is reflected in the ideal of her goals or pursuits. “Stumptown – Vol. 1” [Greg Rocha/Oni/156pgs] knows what it is and embraces it. Dex is the vision of anti-hero with a chip on her shoulder but a thirst for a good time. She needs money. She is down on her luck. She likes to drink. But she hits it with a sense of humor. ABC created the series adaptation that is premiering this fall. The pilot seen perfectly captures the feeling of the graphic novel and while the characters are reflective, liberties are taken in terms of moving the storylines. At least in the initial push the art captures a dingy feeling which is dictated to be Portland but could be Anytown USA. The major difference is in the music mix tape highlighted in the series which adds an undeniable tinge of the Greek chorus either underplaying the humor or overplaying the irony. While the investigations unit with Dex besets is already established, the texture of her relationship with Grey seems to be still developing.  The essence of violence seems to be a constant in Dex’s life though she seems to take it in stride but her world weariness is apparent. She wants to be loved but she doesn’t want to put too much work into it. The politics, which seem so apparent at times in the pilot in terms of the Indian Reservation law, are subdued here although the capture of the matriarch of the casino and her nonchalance is adequately relayed. “Stumptown” plays into that noir concept of a character that seems to be stuck in her life but accepts it as existences. Like the gumshoes of the 40s, the world and its intentions forever focus what the characters choices will be. Dex makes the most of it and the least of it in the same throw.

B

By Tim Wassberg

Sirk TV Comic Review: 9/25 Small Issues #1 [Marvel]

The essence of conflict and what constitutes the greater good is embodied in the ideals of what characters believe is right from their point of view. Whether it is Warlock seeking the balance his life or Norman Osborn trapped in the identity of someone he is not, perception is in the eyes of the reader and not the beholder in many of these cases.

The New Mutants: War Children #1 The ideal behind this new series is the aspect of paranoia within. While the texture of friendship looms heavily, the personage of Warlock is propelled to destroy his friends. It is an interesting progression in the character between logic and emotion with Doug, his main friend, finally bringing him back from the brink as a variation of a symbiote overtakes various members of the force. The visuals are motley and visceral though the specific art depicting Warlock and the accompanying lettering are the most telling specifically in the progression of emotions.

Fearless #3 This series continues to bring together the different women superheroes in the Marvel Universe. The first story has some of the women including Captain Marvel speaking at a girls’ camp when one of the kids comes up with an intergalactic beacon. Danvers, of course, plays it off but it is Invisible Woman who seems to understand the stakes. The 2nd story in the issue is more dynamic because it has a sense of consequence. It follows Hellcat as she tries to control her life without being pulled back in to her ex-husband and family’s expectation in hell. She however becomes a role model to a younger demon which is an interesting paradox. The final story with Jubilee and Wolverine is more of an afterthought but the color palette makes it stand out undeniably.

Spider-Man Velocity #2 This series and this issue specifically works more as a concept piece in terms of the notion of speed and perception. Spider and MJ can’t seem to understand the idea of this faster-than-the-eye superhero that always seems to evade Spidey. Once he recognizes what Velocity’s tell is it becomes a fairly basic storyline. The idea of a seance and the comedy that arises out of it feels more Bill & Ted than Spider-Man but the tone works overall even until the conclusion of the issue when the cat is seemingly out of the bag.

Black Panther #16 This issue continues an interesting parallel of the ideals of Wakanda Prime versus a new outpost on an inter-dimensional planet that has become completely juxtaposed by the mercenary dealing of the people in charge. That texture is never quite fully seen in this issue but the archetypal political structure it presents is undeniable and interesting to be sure which includes an older activist who seems to be goading people to revolution. This definitely has ramifications in science since it plays into the dividing perception of T’Challa as The Orphan King, In the end of the issue, the action tends to overtake the story which is too bad because the narrative dynamic is enough to sustain the progression without a large fight.

The Amazing Spider-Man: Absolute Carnage #30 This series issue really specifically moves in with the idea of identity and its perception in the world of symbiotes. While elements like Venom have their own way of balancing to a point inside its host, the story here with Carnage takes on a different personification with Norman Osborn believing he is the original host and losing all sense of self while he seemingly also rots inside his mind in a straight jacket. It is an interesting visual metaphor that is undeniable and keeps consistent to the very end of the issue which is commendable. some of the art which includes the almost ripping of s ymbiote from its host really plays into the concept of the ID as the character battle against their own specific demons.

By Tim Wassberg

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