Ruminations Episode VII Show Notes

The Curse of the Black Pearl

  • This video explains some of the behind the scenes history of the making of The Curse of the Black Pearl, especially the comical short sightedness of Disney’s former CEO, Michael Eisner.
  • Johnny Depp received an Oscar nomination for his role of Jack Sparrow, ultimately losing to Sean Penn for Mystic River. In 2018, Depp received the exact opposite honor when he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry for his (final?) performance of Jack in Dead Men Tell No Tales.
  • Wikipedia has a good breakdown of how Hanz Zimmer and Klaus Badelt split the work for the score of the first Pirates film. Long story short: Zimmer couldn’t focus on the score because he was busy composing for The Last Samurai, so he passed the work onto Badelt. However, he still managed to compose most of the main cues with Badelt. Because the schedule was so rushed, seven other composers had to contribute orchestrations and cues, including Game of Thrones’ Ramin Djawadi and Arrow/The Flash‘s Blake NeelyThe most famous track, “He’s a Pirate,” sounds like it was lifted verbatim from Zimmer’s Gladiator track, “The Battle.”

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Ruminations Episode VII: A Pirate’s Life for Us

After what seems like an eternity, Rum-inations is back with our seventh episode! As promised at the end of Episode VI, this one is all about pirates and rum. To prepare for such an undertaking…we bought a whole bunch of rum and rewatched all 5 Pirates of the Caribbean movies with our friend Ruben, who now joins us as our first guest! 

In addition to our episode, check out our show notes full of movie and musical clips, historical tidbits, and mucho rum recommendations!

Episode VII Show Notes

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Ruminations Episode V Show Notes

Game of Thrones (01:30-26:30): As we mentioned in the episode, the entire world has Game of Thrones Season 8 takes. Below are a few interesting columns, blogs, and podcasts we’ve come across since the finale aired:

  • Entertainment Weekly‘s recap podcast with Darren Franich and James Hibberd. Hibberd visited various sets and interviewed actors during filming so he knew many of the plot points that were to occur, yet he still wasn’t keen on its final product (as conveyed in his own finale recap).
  • Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone‘s equally unimpressed blog specifically focusing on Tyrion’s kingmaking
  • This amazing GLoP podcast in which guests Ross Douthat (New York Times) and Sonny Bunch (Washington Free Beacon Washington Post) join co-hosts John Podhoretz and Jonah Goldberg, and the normally level-headed Ross has a few, er, choice words to say about showrunners Benioff and Weiss.
  • Lastly, this AV Club essay by Myles McNutt takes a contrarian, positive take on the finale, noting its thematic consistencies. Worth a read, as much as we might not agree with his view of the final product.

Aladdin (26:30-39:30):

  • Flashback to Episode I and our ranking of the 57 Disney Animated Classics. Look at Number 1 on all 3 lists!
  • Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the “Speechless” writing team, on their new woke song for Jasmine
  • Cartoon Jafar sings “Prince Ali,” which was left entirely out of the new movie. Speaking of missing Jafar scenes from the 1992 original, wasn’t live action Jafar’s transformation into a giant cobra so cool to see on the big screen? Oh.

Knights of the Old Republic (39:30-42:30):

  • The news. Ugh. Here is the original trailer for the award-winning 2003 RPG. It plays automatically whenever you start up the original Xbox game, and I get chills every time. (The torture scene towards the end, which plays a major role in the plot, is very similar to this scene in The Force Awakens, and the only time my interest was piqued while watching Episode VII.)
  • There’s a new book about the making of the game!
  • This meme:

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (42:30-49:00):

  • Not really much to say about this one. Some news about its box office numbers, as it was more successful than the previous two movies in its opening weekend.

Avengers: Endgame (49:00-51:00):

  • This Half in the Bag review from the always-great Red Letter Media is comprehensive and sensible.
  • We were both annoyed by Fat Thor though we never mentioned it in the podcast. Apparently, Chris Hemsworth fought to keep him in the movie?

Featured Image credit:
Composite image/FLIPP

Ruminations Episode V: Disappointment

Everything is Terrible in Episode V of Ruminations! When writing about our last episode, I quoted T.S. Eliot since cruel, cruel April brought us the ending of two of our favorite franchises. Little did I know how cruel it would actually be! Another Eliot quote is appropriate now (this one the conclusion to The Hollow Men):

This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.

Whimper to its conclusion Game of Thrones did–and its lackluster finale takes up the full first half of our episode–but it wasn’t alone in its dullness. The live action Aladdin remake and the much-hyped John Wick Chapter 3 – Parabellum, released in back-to-back weekends, were also quite lame, to put it mildly. To top off this whirlwind of recent mediocrity, a bit of (potentially) soul-crushing Star Wars news also leaked this week. When will the suffering end?

Avenger: Endgame was pop culture’s only saving grace and we gladly left it out of our lamentations (until, ya know, the end of our episode, when we decided to actually talk about it. Oops?)

Listen and complain along with us! And, as always, SPOILERS!

Episode V Show Notes

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Ruminations Episode I Show Notes

For ease of discussion, we each compiled an individual ranking from best to worst and then took the average of each film to create a single master list:

Rank Master Chris Steven
1 Aladdin (1992) Aladdin Aladdin
2 The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) The Hunchback of Notre Dame The Hunchback of Notre Dame
3 Beauty and the Beast (1991) The Lion King Beauty and the Beast
4 The Lion King (1994) Beauty and the Beast Pinocchio
5 Cinderella (1950) The Little Mermaid Alice in Wonderland
6 The Little Mermaid (1989) Sleeping Beauty The Lion King
7 Sleeping Beauty (1959) The Black Cauldron Cinderella
8 Pinocchio (1940) Cinderella Emperor’s New Groove
9 Hercules (1997) Hercules Hercules
10 Mulan (1998) Mulan Sleeping Beauty
11 Alice in Wonderland (1951) Tarzan The Little Mermaid
12 Tarzan (1999) The Princess and the Frog Mulan
13 The Black Cauldron (1985) Pocahontas Pocahontas
14 Pocahontas (1995) Pinocchio Tarzan
15 Emperor’s New Groove (2000) Robin Hood Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
16 The Princess and the Frog (2009) Lilo and Stitch The Princess and the Frog
17 Robin Hood (1973) Dinosaur The Great Mouse Detective
18 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Emperor’s New Groove The Black Cauldron
19 Lilo and Stitch (2002) Alice in Wonderland Robin Hood
20 The Great Mouse Detective (1986) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Lilo and Stitch
21 Zootopia (2016) The Fox and the Hound Wreck It Ralph
22 Peter Pan (1953) Peter Pan Zootopia
23 The Fox and the Hound (1981) The Jungle Book Ralph Breaks the Internet
24 Wreck It Ralph (2012) Zootopia Bolt
25 Dinosaur (2000) 101 Dalmatians Tangled
26 Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) Oliver and Company Peter Pan
27 Bolt (2008) The Great Mouse Detective The Fox and the Hound
28 101 Dalmatians (1961) Wreck It Ralph Fantasia
29 Tangled (2010) Ralph Breaks the Internet Dumbo
30 Dumbo (1941) Bolt Atlantis: The Lost Empire
31 Fantasia (1940) Dumbo Frozen
32 The Jungle Book (1967) Brother Bear 101 Dalmatians
33 Brother Bear (2003) The Rescuers Dinosaur
34 Frozen (2013) Fantasia Brother Bear
35 Oliver and Company (1988) Tangled Meet the Robinsons
36 The Rescuers (1977) Frozen The Rescuers
37 Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) Lady and the Tramp Fantasia 2000
38 Lady and the Tramp (1955) Fantasia 2000 Lady and the Tramp
39 Fantasia 2000 (1999) The Aristocats The Jungle Book
40 Meet the Robinsons (2007) Bambi The Aristocats
41 The Aristocats (1970) Meet the Robinsons Moana
42 Bambi (1942) Moana Oliver and Company
43 Moana (2016) Atlantis: The Lost Empire Bambi
44 Home on the Range (2004) The Sword in the Stone Big Hero Six
45 The Rescuers Down Under (1990) Home on the Range Home on the Range
46 Big Hero Six (2014) The Rescuers Down Under The Rescuers Down Under
47 Treasure Planet (2002) Treasure Planet Treasure Planet
48 The Sword in the Stone (1963) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
49 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
50 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) Big Hero Six Winnie the Pooh
51 Winnie the Pooh (2011) Winnie the Pooh The Sword in the Stone
52 The Three Caballeros (1944) The Three Caballeros The Three Caballeros
53 Saludos Amigos (1942) Saludos Amigos Saludos Amigos
54 Make Mine Music (1946) Melody Time Make Mine Music
55 Melody Time (1948) Make Mine Music Fun and Fancy Free
56 Fun and Fancy Free (1947) Fun and Fancy Free Melody Time
57 Chicken Little (2005) Chicken Little Chicken Little
    • SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS: We mentioned the seven little Oscars Walt Disney received for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Here he is presented the awards by Shirley Temple.
    • THE SWORD IN THE STONE: Madam Mim toys with young Arthur and scares him by pulling her face and turning it into a pig, which Disney pays homage to in Princess and the Frog when the alligator Louis puts willow tree leaves over his face.
    • WINNIE THE POOH: The best scene in either “Pooh” movie (pun intended) is when Winnie trips out on bad honey in the Heffalumps and Woozles sequence. This scene also hearkens back to when Dumbo accidentally gets drunk and hallucinates “Pink Elephants on parade.” The Baksun song, from the 2011 film Winnie the Pooh, is arguably the only memorable piece of it–in fact, it was the only scene we could remember!
    • THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD: Check out this video of the Disneyland dark ride “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride,” where you, your family, and Mr. Toad get to be damned to Hell with a smile! Quite possibly the best scene from any of the World War II era films is the famous Headless Horseman chase which ends in a flaming pumpkin being thrown at a terrified Ichabod Crane.
    • WWII ERA FILMS: Here’s some backstory on the Good Neighbor Policy mentioned when discussing Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros from NPR. For more information, you can always check good ol’ reliable Wikipedia. Here is the beloved Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros at the Mexican Pavilion in EPCOT, enjoyed best over a margarita from La Cava del Tequila. In Make Mine Music, a whale sings opera. (It’s exactly how it sounds.) The Fun and Fancy Free intro includes Jiminy Cricket, bringing the movie some sense of continuity…but that’s about it.
    • CHICKEN LITTLE: Chicken Little SUCKS, end of story! (If you want tangible evidence, brace yourself and check out the alien chase scene from the 2005 abomination).
    • MULAN: Here is some backstory on the legend of Mulan. Some highlights: Mulan embarrasses her family and herself with the matchmaker and she goes to the shrine of her ancestors and sings “Reflections.” She then meets Mushu, who tries to overcompensate for his small stature. In this last clip, the hulking mass Shan Yu and the Hun army fight Captain Shang and Mulan.
    • HERCULES: Phil the satyr–who is a mirror image of his voice actor Danny DeVito–sings “One Last Hope” while training Hercules. The fast-talking Hades erupts in anger at henchmen Pain and Panic wearing Hercules’ merchandise. Later, in one of the most quotable scenes in the movie, Pain and Panic, in the guise of two children, trick Hercules and get him to fight the Hydra by pretending to be trapped under a boulder.
    • PINOCCHIO: We mentioned Pinocchio‘s diverse and terrifying villains. Here the overweight Italian caricature Stromboli threatens to use Pinocchio as firewood and babbles in 40s’ era Disney dialect “Italian.” In one of Disney’s scariest moments, the evil Coachman’s face contorts into a demonic visage while declaring his diabolic plans for the boys he’s kidnapping. The oily Lampwick transforms into a donkey in traumatizing fashion before Pinocchio’s eyes on Pleasure Island. The film’s final villain, the giant whale Monstro, sneezes out and chases Geppetto and Pinocchio.
    • SLEEPING BEAUTY: Maleficent, the self-declared “mistress of all evil,” transforms herself into a dragon, fights Prince Philip, and becomes Disney’s villain poster child all in one fell swoop. Prince Philip places the film in the 14th century when talking to his father. We also mentioned that Disney used music from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 1890 ballet Sleeping Beauty as the basis for its film’s music, and here is a blog post by Floyd Norman, one of the film’s animators, on that subject.
    • CINDERELLA: A particularly cute scene in Cinderella is when the mice introduce Gus Gus to Cinderella. Disney’s most evil housecat Lucifer maniacally sits on Lady Tremaine’s lap as she snaps at Cinderella. He later chases and tries to eat Jaq and Gus who are acquiring pieces to make Cinderella’s dress. We erroneously called the Duke a viceroy or captain; here, he discovers Cinderella and finally finds the owner of the lost glass slipper.
    • THE LITTLE MERMAID: Ursula sings “Poor Unfortunate Souls” and makes a deal where Ariel signs over her voice to the sea witch. She then, in true Disney fashion, transforms herself into a giant octopus and is then impaled by Prince Eric. We mentioned the controversy surrounding Ariel’s plot line–a quick Google search brings almost 2 million results–so have at it, if you are so inclined. We’ll end with a short tweet from conservative columnist John Podhoretz about The Little Mermaid‘s impact.
    • THE LION KING: First, that opening. We (well, Steve) mentioned how Black Panther is essentially a live-action Lion King (which is funny as Disney is currently making an all-CGI “live-action” version to be released later this year). Scar prepares his Nazi-like hyenas for his usurpation of the kingdom which culminates in him revealing his true intentions as he whispers “long live the king” when killing Mufasa. In the film’s lightest moment, Simba grows up to song (becoming Matthew Broderick) in the famous “Hakuna Matata.” Later, the heavenly ghost of Mufasa appears to Simba in the sky reminding him who he truly is–the music is chill-inducing.
    • BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: The Beast erupts in anger at Belle and gives her some warm advice that she should “Go ahead and STARVE,” a favorite scene of Chris’s from his childhood. The dinnerware come together to console a crying Belle by singing “Be Our Guest.” (Remember, it all takes place on the table!) After a few drinks, the towns people sing a raucous song about their local hero Gaston. We also mentioned the innovative use of computers in the artwork for the Best Picture-nominated film, so here is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie.
    • THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME: Hunchback begins with its goosebump-inducing opening number, “The Bells of Notre Dame” (which also serves as the ending to our episode.) Quasimodo watches the city streets of Paris by moonlight as he sings the heartfelt number “Heaven’s Light.” This quickly leads to the diabolical musical number of “Hellfire,” sung by Judge Frollo in front of a raging fireplace as he lusts after Esmeralda. (This would also be a good time to mention that Chris was incorrect–and face palmed hard–about Maleficent being the only Disney villain to ever say hell, as Frollo sings an entire song about it!) Lastly, Hugo the gargoyle, voiced by Jason Alexander (much to Steve’s chagrin), sings “A Guy Like You” to make Quasimodo feel better.
    • ALADDIN: Aladdin shows Jasmine “A Whole New World” in one of Disney’s most romantic scenes. The film’s superb villain Jafar reaches his serpentine zenith as he transforms into a giant cobra, Chris’s favorite scene in any Disney movie. During the fight scene, Genie turns into a cheerleader, not-so-secretly rooting for Aladdin. All of Robin Williams’ impressions and their inspirations in Aladdin can be found in this video. Also included here are two articles about the dispute between Robin Williams and Disney that Steve sort of mentioned but failed to expand upon–we had no idea a Picasso painting was involved until compiling these notes. Lastly, Chris compares his loyalty to Aladdin to that of Davy Jones’ loyalty to Calypso in Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End.
    • THE BLACK CAULDRON: We have linked a decent Slate article on the making and box office failure of The Black Cauldron. (The only caveat is that Chris strongly disagrees with the author about the Horned King being a poor villain, because you know, he’s great!) Here is the Horned King’s first appearance, where he reveals he wants to resurrect his dead soldiers as “cauldron born” and ultimately desires to be worshipped as a god among men (See? So cool!) He later terrorizes his minions as he makes his dramatic entrance into the banquet hall of his castle. The only other Disney villain that could arguably be labeled as equal to the Horned King’s sheer evilness is the demon Chernabog from Fantasia, who summons the forces of darkness in the epic scene “A Night on Bald Mountain.”
    • ALICE IN WONDERLAND: Alice stumbles upon a Caterpillar smoking a hookah, who impatiently asks her who she is. She is later greeted by the delightfully mad Cheshire Cat who gives her dodgy advice.
    • THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE: There is a documentary titled The Sweatbox that covers the history of the scrapped, much darker version of The Emperor’s New Groove called Kingdom of the Sun, but Disney seems to not want it available to the public. A version on YouTube that we had saved for these notes has already been removed for copyright reasons.
    • THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG: The “Disney Renaissance” Era-esque The Princess and the Frog opens and closes with the great musical number “Down in New Orleans.” Dr. Facilier also takes up the mantle of great villain songs when he tricks Prince Naveen into making a deal with him and his “Friends on the Other Side.”
    • ZOOTOPIA: Judy Hopps plays “Try Everything” by pop star Gazelle (aka Shakira) as she travels to Zootopia for the first time, similar to how we both have played this incredibly catchy song many times since first hearing it. After she becomes a cop, she is put in charge of parking meters and has a particularly rough day giving out tickets on the city streets of Zootopia–a truly laugh-out-loud moment.
    • Two final notes from Steve: first, he would like to link to the show notes of an episode of the great culture podcast The Weekly Substandard from March 2017, as his email on the WWII era Disney films was featured (and also read in the episode.) Last but not least, here is the first ever blog post “Flipp” wrote on this site, way back in the summer of 2014–a post that never got a follow-up for a variety of reasons. Guess what it was about?

Image credit:
Fireworks show over Cinderella Castle at closing hour / Disney World, Orlando 2010 / © Jorge Royan / http://www.royan.com.ar / CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Ruminations Episode I: The Best and Worst of Disney

Welcome to the debut episode of “Ruminations,” a podcast on movies, politics, and religion, discussed over a glass–or three–of some type of adult beverage. In this inaugural episode, co-hosts Chris and Steve (previously known on this site as Flipp) discuss the 57 animated films produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. This conversation has been 5 years in the making, as it was the summer of 2014 when Chris and Steve began a chronological journey through Disney’s official filmography, starting with 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This endeavor finally came to its conclusion last fall (December 2018, to be exact) with the release of Disney’s most recent movie, Ralph Breaks the Internet.

For ease of discussion, each co-host compiled an individual ranking from best to worst; a combined average was then taken to create a single master list. The master list’s Bottom 10 and Top 10 will be highlighted specifically in this episode. For additional notes, and movie clips, follow the show notes link below. For now, please listen and enjoy!

Rank Master Chris Steven
1 Aladdin (1992) Aladdin Aladdin
2 The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) The Hunchback of Notre Dame The Hunchback of Notre Dame
3 Beauty and the Beast (1991) The Lion King Beauty and the Beast
4 The Lion King (1994) Beauty and the Beast Pinocchio
5 Cinderella (1950) The Little Mermaid Alice in Wonderland
6 The Little Mermaid (1989) Sleeping Beauty The Lion King
7 Sleeping Beauty (1959) The Black Cauldron Cinderella
8 Pinocchio (1940) Cinderella Emperor’s New Groove
9 Hercules (1997) Hercules Hercules
10 Mulan (1998) Mulan Sleeping Beauty
11 Alice in Wonderland (1951) Tarzan The Little Mermaid
12 Tarzan (1999) The Princess and the Frog Mulan
13 The Black Cauldron (1985) Pocahontas Pocahontas
14 Pocahontas (1995) Pinocchio Tarzan
15 Emperor’s New Groove (2000) Robin Hood Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
16 The Princess and the Frog (2009) Lilo and Stitch The Princess and the Frog
17 Robin Hood (1973) Dinosaur The Great Mouse Detective
18 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) Emperor’s New Groove The Black Cauldron
19 Lilo and Stitch (2002) Alice in Wonderland Robin Hood
20 The Great Mouse Detective (1986) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Lilo and Stitch
21 Zootopia (2016) The Fox and the Hound Wreck It Ralph
22 Peter Pan (1953) Peter Pan Zootopia
23 The Fox and the Hound (1981) The Jungle Book Ralph Breaks the Internet
24 Wreck It Ralph (2012) Zootopia Bolt
25 Dinosaur (2000) 101 Dalmatians Tangled
26 Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018) Oliver and Company Peter Pan
27 Bolt (2008) The Great Mouse Detective The Fox and the Hound
28 101 Dalmatians (1961) Wreck It Ralph Fantasia
29 Tangled (2010) Ralph Breaks the Internet Dumbo
30 Dumbo (1941) Bolt Atlantis: The Lost Empire
31 Fantasia (1940) Dumbo Frozen
32 The Jungle Book (1967) Brother Bear 101 Dalmatians
33 Brother Bear (2003) The Rescuers Dinosaur
34 Frozen (2013) Fantasia Brother Bear
35 Oliver and Company (1988) Tangled Meet the Robinsons
36 The Rescuers (1977) Frozen The Rescuers
37 Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) Lady and the Tramp Fantasia 2000
38 Lady and the Tramp (1955) Fantasia 2000 Lady and the Tramp
39 Fantasia 2000 (1999) The Aristocats The Jungle Book
40 Meet the Robinsons (2007) Bambi The Aristocats
41 The Aristocats (1970) Meet the Robinsons Moana
42 Bambi (1942) Moana Oliver and Company
43 Moana (2016) Atlantis: The Lost Empire Bambi
44 Home on the Range (2004) The Sword in the Stone Big Hero Six
45 The Rescuers Down Under (1990) Home on the Range Home on the Range
46 Big Hero Six (2014) The Rescuers Down Under The Rescuers Down Under
47 Treasure Planet (2002) Treasure Planet Treasure Planet
48 The Sword in the Stone (1963) The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
49 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949) The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
50 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977) Big Hero Six Winnie the Pooh
51 Winnie the Pooh (2011) Winnie the Pooh The Sword in the Stone
52 The Three Caballeros (1944) The Three Caballeros The Three Caballeros
53 Saludos Amigos (1942) Saludos Amigos Saludos Amigos
54 Make Mine Music (1946) Melody Time Make Mine Music
55 Melody Time (1948) Make Mine Music Fun and Fancy Free
56 Fun and Fancy Free (1947) Fun and Fancy Free Melody Time
57 Chicken Little (2005) Chicken Little Chicken Little

Episode I Show Notes

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Eh.

I’ve refrained from writing this post for months, unsure of what exactly to say and afraid of the backlash. However, with the release of its Blu Ray and DVD, I finally want to publicly say, completely forward and without nuance…

I did not like Star Wars: The Force Awakens

george bush shoe

Now, I didn’t hate Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I will gladly admit that I was brought to tears of utter joy by its initial trailers (that music!) and was fairly entertained by many parts of the movie, especially the scenes involving Han Solo. However, I wasn’t swayed emotionally one way or another by the movie as a whole. My one word response to the film as that final compressed, spinning aerial shot of Rey meeting Old Luke in Ireland circle-wiped to “Directed by J.J. Abrams” was…

“Eh.”

But then I let the dust settle. I watched the film again, a few days later, and while I enjoyed myself slightly more, I also hated the parts I disliked the first time upon seeing them again. If anything, my opinion got a little worse. This, combined with the outrageous level of hype and love shown for the movie by practically everyone has made me want to go all Kylo Ren on my computer. I’m all for being excited by a new movie, especially a new Star Wars movie. But once that movie is viewed by millions of people, I would hope and expect legitimate criticism, not blind loyalty and exclamations that because it is Star Wars and  because it wasn’t made by George Lucas, therefore it has to be the GREATEST  STAR WARS MOVIE SINCE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. (The same crazed, irrational fervor surrounded the most recent Jurassic Park film, which was awful.)

I find that statement (about Force Awakens being the best since Empire) extremely wrong because it begs the question that Return of the Jedi isn’t good. I have also come to like Episodes II and III, and to me, both of these prequel films are worth more than The Force Awakens ever could be. Oops. Did I say that out loud?

george bush shoe

The Good.

  • Han Solo. Harrison Ford was great. His old Han was so much better than his old Indy. This was incredibly surprising because it’s basically a fact that he likes Indiana Jones so much more than Star Wars (hello, Indy 5!!) His interactions with Chewie and Rey were hilarious and sweet, and he got his wish that Han would be killed off, albeit 32 years later…
  • BB-8 because he was cute and reminded me of my cat.
  • Finn’s fight with that Stormtrooper (named by the Internet TR-8R), and the Resistance’s surprise attack on the First Order. That was an exhilarating scene, and that is probably the highest praise I have for anything involving the production of the movie.
  • Rey’s vision when she picks up Luke’s lightsaber because it reminded me of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
  • …and when she uses the Force to get his lightsaber in her fight with Kylo Ren. (Again, just like in the trailers, it’s John Williams’ use of an OLDER theme that sells it for me.)
  • That final compressed, spinning aerial shot of Rey meeting Old Luke in Ireland that circle-wiped to “Directed by J.J. Abrams.” And I actually liked that Luke was in it for less than 30 seconds and remained speechless. It (and this is the only thing, really) made me want to see Episode VIII.

The Bad.

First and foremost, The Force Awakens was not written well. In fact, I’d say it was written fairly poorly. For all the hype surrounding the knowledge that the writer of Empire and Jedi (and Raiders of the Lost Ark) was returning after three straight George Lucas-penned screenplays, Lawrence Kasden failed to impress me. In fact, some of the dialogue was so wooden and flat at times that I actually missed the nostalgia of the Prequels and their clunkers. The plot of Force Awakens was a reboot/remake of A New Hope with some Empire beats thrown in for good measure. The Snoke scenes should have been mysterious and engrossing but instead seemed like transplanted Thanos scenes from the various Marvel movies; they just didn’t feel like Star Wars to me. And the rules of Star Wars were seemingly thrown out the window… How did Rey manage to use a Jedi mind trick if no one ever taught her what it was, and after the film made it clear that she didn’t even know Jedi were real? Usually, McGuffins are simple and subtle enough where their existence in the story isn’t brought into question… Except the plot device that drives The Force Awakens made no sense. Why was there a map to find Luke? He’s not an object. He’s a person. Who leaves a map when they don’t want to be found? And how could no one figure out from either piece of the map (in BB-8 and in R2-D2) where it led? Most the the plot points in this movie just seemed like sloppy, lazy writing.

The movie itself started out on a terrible footing. The opening scene was filled with as much exposition-heavy dialogue as anything in Phantom Menace, and was awkwardly staged and awkwardly filmed. The dialogue never got better after that, with constant references to the Resistance and First Order throughout, but without any clarification or history to give the audience a clue as to what was going on. Expositionary dialogue is a necessary evil, especially in a sci-fi world, but it is at its best in small doses. When it consumes a film and also confuses more than it than explains, the movie suffers greatly. I still have no idea what was going on; the only clarity in the film was that we’d all seen the plot and characters and beats before… in the Original Trilogy. Disney played it safe (you could argue killing Han wasn’t safe, but as it was long overdue and foreshadowed heavily, it was also the easiest shock they could go for while not doing anything too controversial), and as they pleased the most Star Wars fans because they went in the opposite direction of the Prequels, they largely succeeded. Two billion dollars is worth a lot more than my petty criticism.

The Ugly.

But the worst two aspects of The Force Awakens weren’t deus ex machina Force tricks or the random CGI bartender who could have easily been a person in a mask or the lack of a noticable original score… it was the characters of General Hux and Kylo Ren. Both villains were clearly based on Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader, but lacking their gravitas or imperious nature, they were laughably bad. It was as if J. J. Abrams REALLY wanted to impress Star Wars fans so he cast the two nerdiest, unassuming fans who came up to him at whatever convention he was attending to play the two villain roles, and then felt bad about his choice after seeing their acting but convinced himself that no one would ever notice because STAR WARS IS SO COOL.

Anyway, Hayden Christensen has been called wooden…out of his league… a terrible actor (among many, many worse things), but Kylo’s temper tantrums and moody attitude made Christensen look like Laurence Olivier. I know for a fact that statement will anger some people, but not once during Awakens did Kylo Ren make me feel anything at all other than annoyance. Even when he killed Han, it was broadcast a mile away because no one in Hollywood knows anything about subtlety, and I was more peeved at the story-telling than at the death of my favorite Original Trilogy character. And then he lost in a fight to a Stormtrooper-dropout who spent the entire movie getting beat up and a girl with no Force training (who obviously has a major connection to the Force, duh, I know!!! but still. Sloppy writing: it happened because the plot needed it to happen). Like I said, laughable.

And then there’s Hux. I don’t know who gave the okay to have the main military leader SCREAM to his troops with the most cliched, unoriginal dialogue imaginable, but I bet they  thought they were doing something really friggin’ clever. I hate comparing things to Hitler, but I bet they figured their military general would give off a Hitler vibe if he yelled with the burning hatred of a thousand suns at his troops.

Except they cast a Weasley, so he gave off a Weasley-trying-to-be-Hitler vibe, and it was one of the worst acting performances I’ve seen in a mainstream movie in ages. (To get political for a moment, Hux is the Hitler that everyone thinks Trump is/will be.) Give me Hayden yelling about slaughtering Sand People like animals any day. Where is Dexter Jettster’s buttcrack when you need childish, idiotic filmmaking? Oh, right… It was in a better movie.

george bush shoe

I am excited for Episode VIII. I want to know what happens next in the Star Wars universe. I want to see Rey’s journey. I want to see more of BB-8. I want to see Luke speak and be an Obi-Wan Kenobi to our new Jedi hero.

And I want to see LANDO. Please, Disney. At least bring him back in the next go round. He can even drink some Colt 45 on set. It’s gonna be great!

For everyone who loved The Force Awakens, I seriously am happy for you. And slightly envious that I can’t, so enjoy your Blu Ray and deleted scenes for me.

-FLIPP