The World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls – Critical Review

Doctor Who fans can mostly, certainly not always, be defined by either their love of stories involving monsters, bases under siege and running through corridors or their love for David Tennant and floppy haired Matt Smith. My own personal love of the show stems from the fact that at its very heart is a show about ideas and telling stories. From this angle, I personally believe that the ‘Moffat era’ of Doctor Who is the greatest in the shows history. Therefore, I’ve decided to look at The World Enough and Time and The Doctor Falls and explore some of the concepts within these episodes and how they relate to various concepts throughout the ‘Moffat era’ and the history of Doctor Who.

The idea to set The World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls on a 400 mile spaceship teetering on the precipice of a black hole whilst encountering time dilation is actually a brilliant one. Infact, you could quite easily have based a whole season around this concept. It’s that good. Season 10 has been essentially a disappointing one, for reasons we will tick off as we go along. A lot of the season has felt thrown together at the last minute on a number of levels, a lot of aspects of these episodes didn’t strike me as being developed enough as they could have been throughout the season to be fully paid off. This even includes The Doctor’s relationship with Missy. We only have to look at the 2016 Christmas special and the subsequent niggly retconning of The Doctor and Nardole following that episode to see that the idea of Missy being kept in a vault was clearly a last minute one. Nardole’s whole season has up to these episodes been mostly underpinned by a steadfast determination to keep The Doctor in Bristol, it’s difficult on the surface from his characterisation to see where jaunts to New York and ancient Mesopotamia fit in with that. Still, we’ll leave it as a niggle.

I love Michelle Gomez’s portrayal of Missy and her menacingly playful take on playing Doctor Who is a joy, as is her explanation of The Doctor’s name. I’m actually happy to accept that The Doctor’s real name is infact ‘Doctor Who’ and by the way, I will not accept Bill Bradley portraying William Hartnell’s Doctor in the upcoming Christmas special if it is anything other than Bradley portraying a cranky old man who thinks he’s from the 59th Century. I also expect him to at least have the decency to cantankerously abduct someone for relatively ambiguous reasons. I digress. Missy’s flirtation with decency is interesting and wouldn’t have been harmed by some more development.

Her scenes with Capaldi’s Doctor have been some of the most interesting and dynamic of the past three seasons. From this, we get to see a little of The Doctor/Bill/Nardole relationship leading into this episode. I’m not entirely sure how necessary this was, but it doesn’t hurt the pacing of the episode, which is frankly excellent and seems to fly by. Bill is shot by a scared blue meanie who, well, has absolutely no reason to be scared at all actually, as he firmly states and it is firmly shown that the creepy prototype Cybermen are only interested in humans, which he isn’t, so yeah, that makes absolutely no sense.

The macabre nature of the hospital scenes is excellent. The volume control is also a nice Moffat touch. The next point of contention is that on the whole, the scenes of Simm in disguise could be viewed on one hand completely unnecessary as the BBC stupidly decided to ruin the whole reveal. Moffat just about gets a way with this one in terms of the actual episode itself as a) The Master has a precedent for using disguises, b) The Master was PM on Earth’s ‘twin’ Mondas, which made me smile and is a cute nod to the RTD era and original series and c) because John Simm is just really, really good to watch and it’s kind of fun watching him to pretend to be Razor. There in a nutshell is The World Enough and Time, which gleefully sets up the pieces for the finale.

In terms of the modern series, Moffat is the only one who has actually mastered the ‘two parter.’ Part of this entails starting the second episode off from a completely different point to where we left off with the first. So if the first part was Frankenstein meets Interstellar meets Genesis of the Cybermen meets The Day of The Master, then the second part was obviously going to be… Little House on the Prairie with creepy scarecrows.

Missy has decided for the time being that she has absolutely no interest in being good and as a result, we spend the first few minutes after the credits watching her and The Master gleefully ponder how to kill The Doctor. Ever notice how much John Simm’s Master likes tying The Doctor to chairs? I’m sure Tumblr probably will have. A few minutes of this, The Cybermen turn against The Master/Missy and we’re onto our next set piece of Little House in the Prairie.

How Moffat has decided to portray CyberBill from here on in is interesting. Moffat has Bill rejecting the programming in a manner not too dissimilar to how he introduced Clara in Asylum of the Daleks, obviously this also allows the wonderful Pearl Mackie a chance to shine. I found it pretty interesting that in the first scene where we see Bill rather than CyberBill in this episode she’s shown as a black woman who the children are scared of. Given that we’re now in Little House on the Prairie, this probably deserves a critique in itself. CyberBill will also later be shot by the same scared white woman. Capaldi and Pearl Mackie however really are good. (It’s disappointing that we’re not going to get another season of Bill as she’s a wonderful character who is an absolute joy to watch.) Also really, really good is The Master’s taunting of CyberBill. “Didn’t you used to be a woman? I’m going to be a woman soon.” At this point it is already hands down my favourite episode since Hell Bent, just for Simm’s performance.

The pacing again is absolutely fantastic. Moffat is at his best just delivering line after line of quality exposition and concepts at break neck speed. It’s just great to watch. We seamlessly flow from Simm putting on eyeliner, making erection jokes with Missy which are entirely inappropriate for Saturday evening television, to a little girl blowing up legions of Cybermen with an apple, which is a classic Doctor Who idea.

The Doctor delivers his big speech which is cruelly dismissed by The Master, although received a little bit more receptively by Missy. Are we going to actually have Missy redeem herself… well yes and no. The only way The Day of The Master was ever going to end was with both The Master and Missy after 45 minutes of flirting, (read: Master-bation) literally stabbing each other in the back.

The Doctor makes his final stand along with CyberBill to an absolutely gorgeous soundtrack from Murray Gold. Gleefully blowing up Cybermen. On first watch I actually thought it was Bill who shot him. That would’ve been dramatic. The Doctor defeats The Cybermen and it’s time for the de rigeur season ending piece of deux ex machina. This time it’s puddle girl. This is a truly lovely scene and I’m pleased that Bill gets a happy ending. I think this also the first time I’ve ever seen two lesbians get together on TV without one of them being killed. Well, actually, they’re both technically dead, but they’re getting a happy ending where they’re both alive, so this can only be read as a victory for Bill, Puddle Girl and LGBT representation on TV, so huzzah. I’m kind of pissed off only in the sense that this would’ve been so much better if Puddle Girl had at least got a cursory mention at some point between the season opener and the finale, but still. Despite the fact Puddle Girl is essentially an immortal, omnipotent being, Bill decides she is going to Billsplain the universe to her…

As for The Doctor, despite being electrocuted, shot and blown up, he decides that he can’t be arsed with regenerating and we get to see him one last time in an adventure with the only person more cranky than he is at Christmas, so to finish off in true Moffat style, please return to paragraph three.

Degüello

To the chagrin of my neighbours I spent the morning listening to back-to-back ZZ Top albums on the Kitsound Boom Evo and I’ve rediscovered this classic.

  
Manic Mechanic aside which is like some kind of mescaline trip. Although it kind of works if you listen to it within the scope of the whole album; as a standalone track it’s kind of terrible, I think Degüello (meaning ‘slit your throat’) might be one of my favourite albums ever. Beat-up, sleazy blues. It’s basically what would happen if Charles Bukowski was a guitar player. The album is complete filth. Tracks such as I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide, Fool for your Stockings and Cheap Sunglasses which is effectively the greatest porno movie riff never used – one which would make you watch to the end of the film to see if they end up getting married – are mesmerisingly good.

I much prefer this to their more commercially successful stuff: Eliminator and Afterburner. I actually also much prefer it to the outstanding Tres Hombres which has the classic La Grange with that amazing ripped off John Lee Hooker lick. Which basically makes this head and shoulders ZZ Top’s greatest album and probably one of the best and most underrated albums of all time. I actually rate this as being up with albums the calibre of Revolver by The Beatles. 

Strongly recommended.

A Short Treatise on Guitarists

Yngwie Malmsteen may be amongst the most technically skilled and accomplished guitarists of all time. But his work is mechanical and the incessant shredding is overbearing and at the expense of the soul you would find in other eighties guitarists such as Guns N’ Roses’ Slash or the talented Randy Rhodes (Of Blizzard of Oz fame.) Malmsteen was inspired by nineteenth century violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini and the more contemporary Richie Blackmore of Deep Purple.
Frankly after about five minutes, whilst you can marvel at Malmsteen’s technical acuity it ceases to be enjoyable. Art sacrificed for mechanical drudgery. The attention of the listener is overtly drawn from a state of appreciation into an analysis of themotion. Similar to listening to a machine churn rapidly. Paganini or Segovia he is not. Plus, just for good measure. Slash’s foray into the orchestra pit at the end of November Rain completely surpasses anything which could be classed as part of the pretentious neo-classical metal genre anyway. Slash of course provided the likeability, as the aspirationally talented, essentially working class hero constrasted against Axl Rose’s febrile, loathsome, white trash heel with deranged delusions of grandeur, to such phenomenal effect to help make Guns N’ Roses at the time easily the biggest band in the world. 

Nonetheless I digress, Malmsteen’s debut album Rising Force is a fascinating insight into the man. Whilst largely well received – being completely instrumental – and easily the best of his work, I’m always aghast at how Malmsteen aside, the other session musicians on the album would not be good enough to play in a bad such as Ratt. Malmsteen’s shredding is against a backdrop of badly played generic eighties metal. Critics (as did most eighties shredders who he is largely responsible for) quickly tired of Malmsteen, due to his lack of interest in anything akin to artistic development or range such as other contemporaries like Todd Rundgren. Saying that, not many people do have the range of Rundgren. As technically skilful as his playing may be, he’s effectively a one trick pony, repetition is the mother of indifference. A wasted talent.

Whilst Malmsteen would be best described as a dour, mechanical air splitter, I much prefer guitarists who are the opposite and play out of a passion for music and furthering their art.

Following the excesses of late eighties shredding drudgery, in the early nineties there was Cobain. Cobain had soul and could sing too. Rare and difficult to find many people who can combine the two to such a high level, which puts him on the level of Hendrix. Whilst Smells Like Teen Spirit may be overplayed, the In Utero album is to this day grossly underrated.

Tom Morello is someone I love watching. He has a chronic difference to anything which could be described as fancy. Plus, testament to the creative spirit, he works with low budget kit – and has done for most of his career. I find it fascinating and it’s part of his enduring appeal, that quite early on, in his own words he gave up searching for ‘the perfect sound.’ Opting instead to work with what he had. Building his music on the quirks and glitches of the equipment at his disposal to find his own unique sound. There’s a video of him with Springsteen at The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame where they perform The Ghost of Tom Joad and the audience are just in awed silence.

The first time I ever picked up a guitar I was inspired by The Beatles when I was eight years old. Or as it would happen, George Harrison. The opening note of A Hard Days Night is something I tried to play constantly. Even at a young age, I couldn’t accept that it was basically someone playing a fucking boring chord like a ‘C’ but that’s testament to the ability of the man. To make it sound so engrossing. Anyone can work with good stuff, it takes a master to work with shit. To this day, I’m still mesmerised by that . Also an honourable mention to ‘I Feel Fine’ which is probably my favourite song of all time and the first song to utilise feedback. Whilst it was actually number one at the time, it never made a Beatles album because Ringo didn’t like it (!) which embodies the high standard of the times. Where their contemporaries were the likes of The Rolling Stones who have virtually unheard b-sides which are better than pretty much every song of the past twenty years. She Smiled Sweetly being probably one of my favourites.

A lot of the earlier stuff of the sixties was inspired by a lot of great blues stuff which kind of goes unheard. I mean probably Chuck Berry aside, it’s rare you ever hear anything about the likes of Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker which is quite sad.

Then there’s the classic jazz guitarists I love like Wes Montgomery and Django Reinhardt. Wes Montgomery block chords are the bane of my life, however sound amazing. Wes Montgomery probably even surpasses Django Reinhardt who is mind-blowing. Especially for someone with only three fingers.

Fin.

Crabwalk @ NGCA 

Checked out this great exhibition at the NGCA in Sunderland, today. Particularly liked this:  

  

It’s called The Cortical Night by Alex Dordoy. The canvas shows a cerebral cortex manifested as a forest against an opaque backdrop. Forests traditionally serve as a great mythological metaphor for transformation and change. This is also reflected in the spherical orbs representing the moon. Of course the moon is the ultimate methaphor for transformation. Those distant enchanting spheres that exist in the space between wakefulness and sleep, before disappearing to be reborn again. It’s a truly stunning interpretation of the dreamscape intertwined with the waking consciousness.

 
Also, I really liked the work of Jennifer Douglas which is designed to represent the current condition of Kazmir Malevich’s suprematist masterpiece ‘The Black Square.’ I’m a great fan of Malevich and I continue to lament missing the 2014 Tate Modern exhibition. Nonetheless, her work here serves as either individual (fractured) canvasses, or as a complete constructivist composition for which the picture below doesn’t do justice. 

  

Well worth a look.

Favourite Movies: Alphaville

  
“Machines generated new problems. Problems the human mind couldn’t solve.”

In the first part of an ongoing series about why Jean Luc Godard is a genius, this is about one of the most stunning and engrossing movies I have ever seen. Alphaville. A science fiction film without special effects. Set in a dystopian world that looks identical to Paris and takes us on a visual tour around some of the cities early 1960’s modernist architecture. A movie that is also part Chandler, part film noir, part Orwellian nightmare with a dash of Louis Ferdinand Celine and Jorge Luis Borges.

We meet the leading man Lemmy Caution, who looks like he’s walked out of every Bogart movie you’ve ever seen. He has a look of steely determination. It’s the classic 1960’s movie archetype of a man with purpose. When accosted by a beautiful woman (a level three seductress no less), she’s not given so much as a first glance let alone a second. This is a man with a job to do and he’s intent on doing it. You got this in the early Sean Connery Bond films before the role was ultimately softened and Bond was made to atleast exchange a glib or flirty one liner with the woman. Here, it is the textbook Gregory Peck determined scowl and an assertive “Clear off.” Also on another note writing a hard-boiled character like this also produces stronger women characters within the story as a result, as the women have to be actually y’know relevent and play a part in driving the story forward rather than just eye-candy for the leading man or there to engage in a bit flirty banter or provide a shoulder to cry on, such is the case in most modern movies.

I digress. This is is such a fantastically shot movie and the strength of Godard is in the confidence he has in his actors and the rare ability to just put the camera down and fix a scene where there isn’t actually a lot happening. Few directors can do this. The best recent example of such quality directing would be Steve McQueen in Hunger when he sets a camera on Fassbender and the priest for twenty minutes and lets the dialogue unfurl. There’s no reliance on providing constant stimulation to the viewer and changing frame every two seconds to maintain engagement. Having the confidence to do this is rare and not only does Godard have faith in his actors, he trusts his viewer. As a result, his movies play out to their conclusion with pretty much all violence and nudity left to the imagination – and the end result is actually all the more satisfying for it.

It’s the simplicity of the movie though which provides the most satisfaction. Taking a familiar concept such as the hardboiled detective story and then setting it against an innate threat which is actually probably more pertinent in the current day and age than it was in the sixties. The nacent threat is a technocratic society where lives are controlled by machines and the people are systematically conditioned in semantics (see:  modern PR, marketing, media or as it’s sometimes known, propaganda).

One of my favourite concepts:  The bible prevalent in every hotel room scene, in what is a lovely twist is actually a reguarly updated dictionary where words are removed and made obsolete whilst more appropriate words are freshly added. This builds on one of the most frightening parts of the movie: In attempting to control the limits of thought, the manipulation of language is perhaps the most foundational tool of all, for an individual can only think in the vocabulary available to them. In colonial societies the effect of this has been devastating. By suppressing language you suppress culture and identity. I have wrote about this previously, Alphaville takes this concept to its extreme.

In what is an inverse allusion to Camus’ The Outsider, the idea is to create a logical society free from emotion. This is actually very much pertinent to the kind of secular and self-defined rationalist society desired by many atheists and humanists these days. In reducing everything to scientific lines, we’re left with a Christian society sans God, ran on terrifying technocratic lines for big business and profit. Although the great tragedy is that no-one will actually know what money is for, as we got rid of all abstractions: poetry, art, music along with irrelevant distractions like kindess, affection, love, friendship in the process. Fortunately, as the movie helpfully explains, there is no reason to ask “why” we should or should not have such things, just say “because.”

The villain of the piece: the machine if you wish to rationalise, is actually a light and a fan with an eery low pitched croak. If you wish to be more abstract and upto date, you can imagine it’s the eyestalk of a French speaking Dalek. However, to look at this rationally or abstractly actually does a disservice to what manages to be massively unnerving. Presenting   a quasi-ominiponent menace controlling everyones thoughts and aspirations in a fashion that everyone can strongly relate to makes it horrific and a brilliant piece of film-making. Tremendously done.

In the Heart of the Sea. Review.

One of my favourite – and one of the most beautiful – books I’ve ever read is Leviathon, or the Whale by Philip Hoare. It’s a stunning portrait of the authors obsession with these mastadons of the sea. Whales possess something of a mysterious aura, perhaps more so than any other creature of the deep. Mesmerising and intelligent, the book enshrines the terrible beauty of man’s relationship with the whale. The depth of the writing justifies the mystique which we hold the leviathan.

I was pleased to see ‘In the Heart of the Sea.’ An enchanting dramatisation of the story that inspired or perhaps preempted Moby Dick. Whilst I didn’t think the movie lent itself well to the 3D format and wasn’t without its flaws, I was still perhaps a little disappointed to see such a low turnout for such a movie. 

‘In the Heart of the Sea’ tells an enormous story, one that can most certainly be described as an epic. From director Ron Howard, whose previous work includes Apollo 13 about a group of men stuck in a capsule in outer space, this movie is bigger. There is a massive performance from Chris Hemsworth. Engaging and engrossing, embodying everything we expect of the archetypal mythic hero. There are also a number of other standout performances including that of Benjamin Walker who I thought had good chemistry with Hemsworth.

Perhaps in trying to tell such a story in two hours, some of the suspense and tension is lost. Ironically, the role of the white whale is perhaps the least satisfying aspect of the movie – becoming an inconvenience and distraction from some terrific human drama being played out between Hemsworth and Walker. The inevitable shipwreck at the behest of the whale within the scope of the movie is almost superfluous. The ship could have ran aground or been hit by a meteor, the whale is a minor detail. Jaws this is not. On some level this is a disappointment, as the role of the leviathon in such a movie should be to enhance the tension and drama to truly Odyssean levels. I think the movie also suffers from the backdrop of the story being narrated through a world weary Brendan Gleason to Ben Whishaw’s (who is ostensibly in every movie this year) Melville, who in turn is taking pointers for Moby Dick. Whishaw in particular does nothing to enhance or move the story forward. His performance is particularly flat in a movie which ultimately relies on the fine acting driving it. 

Without this Treasure Island-esque narration – which let’s be real is a writing cop-out and/or a director not having confidence in the story he’s telling – and rather, had Howard invested the screen-minutes between Gleason (who I usually like) and the woeful Whishaw in building the tension on the ship towards the encounter with the leviathon, whilst utilising the  tremendous acting talent at his disposal, this movie would truly have been an epic – in the cinematic sense – for the ages, rather than one that tries to do a little too much in two hours.

I’d associated Hemsworth with the Marvel: Thor abomination. With Thor of course being retconned as an alien rather than a Norse God, so the retarded American Bible Belt wouldn’t be offended by the notion of other deities. He really is a talent though, hopefully they’ll put him in a few more serious films to showcase his abilities.

Unforgiven

A prostitute is disfigured by a cowboy after laughing at the size of his manhood. The local sheriff is perceived as being lenient on the assailant after he demands only that the local brothel-owner is reimbursed for his ‘lost investment.’ The prostitutes collate their capital and offer it as a reward to whoever murders the assailant and his cohort. 

Will Munny is a retired assassin and windower living on a failing remote pig-farm with his two young children. He’s approached by a boastful young gunslinger which leads him to set off in search of the reward…

Unforgiven is a spectacular treatise on the American Western, capitalism, law, feminism, justice, youth, folly, growing old and the value of human life.

There are enormous moral questions raised throughout the film. The role of the prostitutes in events extends far beyond patriarchal ownership. It leads us to look at the nature of modern capitalism where the employee is reduced to a functioning asset of the employer with an effective shelf-life, with the state having a protective interest only as far as capital is concerned. Rather, the person is not protected by the state, capital and investment is. 

The ultimate question in the fashion of Peckinpah’s love of world weary loners is to display the aging reformed gunslinger, who aspires to do the right thing in such a world of nihilism and brutality that we must question if there is such thing as decency, a moral life beyond an abstract ideal and whether such things are even possible? The tawdry implications of such questions are not limited to the periodic Western.

There are no easy answers.

The Hundred Most Irritating Shows of 2015

The end of each year is the time to role out the most obsequious, irritating TV format going. The ‘100 Best TV shows/moments/movies/songs/highlights of the year.’

The production of such shows goes as follows:

1. Select 100 TV shows/moments/movies/songs/highlights of the year.

2. Get irritating z-listers: people who aren’t interesting enough to be on ‘I’m a Celebrity,’ a ‘comedian’ no-one has heard of because they’re not funny, just bitter and twisted, someone from the 1970’s who should’ve stayed there and someone else no-one has heard of or cares about but wrote an article for The Guardian once.

3. Aggregate into list form. 

Here’s the part that really pisses me off:

It works. People watch this shit. 

The people who produce these shows are too lazy to come up with content of their own, so they compile a list. Lists are the ideal form of entertainment for a generation brought up on Twitter and Facebook, as every list comes with an unspoken guarantee to the viewer that they won’t have to invest too much time any mental energy by viewing anything that may actually challenge them. If lists had small print, it would read:
YOU WON’T HAVE TO THINK ABOUT ANYTHING YOU SEE FOR X MINUTES. YOU ARE GUARANTEED TO SEE A BUNCH OF PICTURES IN NUMERICAL ORDER. THIS LIST WILL NOT REQUIRE YOU TO EXPEL ANY MENTAL ENERGY. ENJOY YOUR JUNK FOOD, COCKTARD.

Sound stupid?

That’s because it is, you retard. Stop viewing this rubbish.

Know what else would be better than watching a show about a list of shows/movies/songs deemed to be the best of the year in lieu of original content? Showing those shows/movies/songs in FULL.

This is the culmination of the very worst didactic tendencies.

Let’s put this into perspective: what is the difference between art and pornography? Art ‘stills,’ whereas pornography is anything that is designed to elicit a stimulus, whether that be lust, excitement, fear, loathing, disgust. Pornography isn’t just people fucking.

Nonetheless, you know how porn movies (in the known sense) get derided for the terrible near non-existent plots, acting, music, production? Significantly more effort went into generating the content for the most derided, terrible porn movie than goes into compiling a list. That is how retarded you are for watching this shit and lapping it up.

Just putting that out there.

The Revenant

The Revenant is an upcoming 2016 Western from director Alejandro González Iñárritu. We can see from the trailer which features some exquisite cinematography, the almost always tremendous Tom Hardy, Leonardo Di Caprio being savaged by a bear and most crucially a soundtrack by Ryuichi Sakamoto that this is the best movie of next year and will win many awards. 

2015 has been a great year for cinema, all because of Mad Max: Fury Road, which is the greatest movie of all time. It features an inspiring soundtrack, although it could’ve been better if Ryuichi Sakamoto had composed it. It also includes the most unsurpassed chase sequences in the history of film and a flame-thrower wielding guitarist riding a mobile death concert. 

I am hoping for a year of innovative film-making to try and reach the bar of cinematic creativity set by movies like Mad Max. The Revenant looks to be a good start. 

C3Po Must Die

Some thoughts from the Force Awakens screening: 

Daisy Ridley is exceptionally strong. She is the standout performer and she salvages some of the overacting from others through the strength of her own performance. She’s extremely engaging. It’s no exaggeration to say she is by far the best thing about this movie and the only cause for optimism going forward. The only thing you’ll really remember down the line about this movie is how awesome Daisy Ridley’s character is. Maybes her and Chewbacca shooting people and blowing things up too. A tremendous talent.

C3P0 is irritating. He just ruined the emotional impact of Han meeting Leia again. He should be decapitated, the irritating bastard. Seriously, he is the worst character going. After all the heat that Jar Jar Binks gets, they persist with this? For the sake of moviegoers, I sincerely hope they get rid of him before the next movie by having him fall into a blender off-screen. Sadly having Kylo Ren or any of the main villains murder him, would have an adverse effect and only aid their popularity. He is that loathsome. He doesn’t even serve any purpose. He’s a translator, great. The new main protagonist can speak alien languages and talk to the metal beeping ball, so he’s an irrelevant piece of shit.

Not that the other droids don’t continue to be an irritant, atleast the beeping ball served some functional purpose in the context of the plot, now that purpose has been served, please move on. 

Another thing that irritated me was how much Poe the pilot overacts at the beginning. They could have left him dead, rather than leave it basically unexplained how he’s still alive and somehow swiftly got off the planet without anyone noticing which niggles me more than it probably should.

The CGI for Maz and Stoke/Snoke/Spoke was overkill. I prefer real people or even puppets, I don’t like to feel like I’m watching an uninteractive video game. I liked Domhnall Gleeson’s character, as an understated villain. He actually has a lot of promise and I personally thought was probably more effective than Kylo Ren. 

Kylo Ren is effectively a cross between a polished up Anakin on steroids and a low rent Alan Rickman from Harry Potter. There’s massive development required for the character going forward in order to build him up as someone who will hold interest and be a sound adversary over the course of three movies. An emotionally unsound foe who has already been bested by the main protagonist in the final battle of the movie doesn’t carry much hope. In hindsight they should have had the fledgling Rey struggle against him far more and have her be somewhat overpowered, or threatened. I say that even as someone who loved the sequence where she gets the lightsabre. In the context of a trilogy though, try imagining the original Star Wars movies if Luke had been an untrained farm boy with potential beating the much more experienced and ‘powerful’ Darth Vader senseless in the first movie. Where do you go with that? Darth Vader certainly wouldn’t have been seen as a persistent, engaging threat. We already know unless something happens to give Kylo Ren the upperhand, Rey already has his number and is a more powerful jedi, without any training. If you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want spoilers, don’t read this last paragraph.

The movie is still a distinct improvement on the last three prequels. Where it ranks with the originals is difficult to say. It’s a tour de force in its own right and Daisy Ridley deserves huge recognition. It’s a welcome return to simpler story-telling and escape from the overbearing, convoluted nonsense of the prequels which was bizarrely coupled with a confusion over whether Star Wars was for children or adults. Of course, Lucas ultimately concluded Star Wars was for eight year olds, because eight year olds are really drawn in by ridiculous political machinations. Not to mention the abundance of characters no-one gave a shit about. JJ Abrams and Disney atleast deserve credit for not being drawn into Lucas’ later films’ awful formula.

I had serious concerns about killing off Han. Some of this was alleviated by a reasonably passable handing of the baton to John Boyega, who gave a sound account of himself. Nonetheless, I still have concerns going forward. I am interested to see the development of Rey and where they’re going with her character, however. She is the saving grace. Although you’re still left with the over-arching sense that the Star Wars universe now basically centres on an incestuous family feud.

For an order such as the Jedi who are supposed to be the magical upholders of peace and happiness in the universe, we’re kind of getting to the point where we’re all thinking, you know, this Skywalker dynasty are a lot more hassle than they’re worth and the universe would’ve been better off if they’d never existed. Although it transpires incestuous family feuds are the hot cinema theme of this winter. They did the same with the James Bond movies too, where it turned out all the bad shit in the world, terrorist attacks, massive death tolls was just a conspiracy being driven by his step-brother with a major grudge. I don’t know how much capital is in having huge cinematic heroes as people the universe could really do without, like an inverse It’s a Wonderful Life, but hey.