The refugee crisis isn’t about refugees. It’s about us | Ai Weiwei12 hours ago
I was a child refugee. I know how it feels to live in a camp, rob of my humanity, says the artist and activist Ai Weiwei
Quentin Tarantino apologizes for Polanski defense: ‘I was ignorant’3 days ago
The film-maker has said sorry for a 2003 interview in which he justified Roman Polanskis rape of Samantha Geimer
Darth Vader actor ‘not interested’ in Star Wars: The Force Awakens6 days ago
Dave Prowse, who appeared as the evil Sith Lord in the classic original trilogy, says he has not even seen the trailer for JJ Abramss film
In terms of rampant hype, it is even giving the original space opera trilogy, which helped usher in the Hollywood blockbuster era and sold hundreds of millions of plastic lightsabers, a run for its galactic credits. But the British actor who appeared as Darth Vader in all three movies says he has not even seen the trailer for JJ Abramss Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Dave Prowse, who portrayed the deadly Sith Lord onscreen for Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), told Yahoo! Movies he wasnt the slightest bit interested in any of Disneys new Star Wars films at least four are currently planned unless he got to play Vader once again.
It depends, he said. It depends if Im playing the part of Darth Vader in it Yes then Id be very interested. But if theyre putting somebody else in Darth Vaders mask, then Im not the slightest bit interested.
Of the latest, apparently final trailer for Abramss film, which has been viewed a staggering 50m times on YouTube, Prowse said: I havent seen it at all. No. Ive seen nothing about it whatsoever. No. No.
He added: The new film, I know absolutely nothing about. I dont really want to talk about it as I know nothing about it whatsoever not being involved in it, I really havent got much interest. You know not a lot, no.
The 80-year-old actor and former bodybuilder was in the Vader suit for much of the Sith Lords screen time and reputedly even got to speak his lines on set, though his west country tones were dubbed over with those of American actor James Earl Jones in post-production, and many of the fight scenes featured British Olympic fencer Bob Anderson. To add insult to injury, when Vaders face was finally shown to audiences as he lay dying in 1983s Return of the Jedi, producer George Lucas chose to cast the British stage actor Sebastian Shaw instead.
Abrams should perhaps not take the slight on The Force Awakens personally. Prowse has previously signalled his disinterest in Lucass oft-maligned prequel trilogy, which attempted to tell the story of how Jedi Anakin Skywalker was turned to the dark side. I didnt like Star Wars I, II and III at all, he told the Hull Daily Mail in 2013. I think the common opinion now is they were really bad movies. Theres no comparison with the original movies. They had a much more believable story.
Yet intriguingly, Prowse has still been tweeting about The Force Awakens, the latest trailer for which features crossguard lightsaber-wielding Vader fanboy Kylo Ren addressing the ruined helmet once worn by the dead Sith Lord.
Prowse is not the only Star Wars alumnus left nonplussed by the hype surrounding The Force Awakens. Lucas himself said in April that he had not seen the films previous trailer, though the Funny or Die website was quick to imagine him doing so.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Martin Scorsese film recalls martyrdom of Japan’s hidden ChristiansOne week ago
Ban on Christianity in early 1600 s, the focus of movie called Silence, forced converts to practise in secret, leading to a localised sort of the religion still practised by a few dozen people today
At low tide, Shigetsugu Kawakami can just about make out the prohibited stone from his home overlooking the beach in Neshiko, a tiny village on Hirado island in southern Japan.
According to verbal testimony, at least 70 villagers were taken there and beheaded in the early 17 th century. Their crime had been to convert to Christianity. When we were children, the adults told us that if we climbed on to the rock the village would be cursed, said Kawakami.
Today, ascension rock is a permanent reminder of the atrocities of almost four centuries ago. But the martyrdom of Japans concealed Christians is in danger of being forgotten.
Tens of thousands of Japanese Christians were executed, tortured and persecuted after the Tokugawa shogunate banned the religion in the early 1600 s. With a wary eye on Spanish rule in the Philippines, the authorities dreaded Japan could be the next country targeted by European powers that used Christian teaches as a catalyst for colonial rule.
The ban left Japans 750,000 converts with a selection: renounce their religion or continue to practise their religion in secret, in the knowledge that discovery would almost certainly mean death.
Discussion of Japans Christian heritage has largely been absent from public life since the mid-1 960 s, when Shusaku Endo explored the martyrdom of early converts in his critically acclaimed novel Silence.
Now, Martin Scorsese hopes to ensure their narrative will not be forgotten with a cinema based on Endos novel that is due for release next year.
Starring Liam Neeson and Andrew Garfield, the cinema also called Silence follows two Portuguese Jesuit missionaries who are sent to Japan in the early 1600 s to investigate reports that their mentor has committed apostasy. They arrive to find Japanese converts in the midst of a brutal crackdown by the Tokugawa shogunate.
While no official records are kept of the number of modern-day kakure kirishitan ( hidden Christians ), local experts say perhaps merely a few dozen people still consider themselves believers.
Once its saviour, clandestine adore has contributed to a sharp decline in the number of believers. Blended with dwindling, ageing populations on the islands where it once prospered, disciples fear their crypto-Christian tradition is at risk of dying out.
Kawakami, 64, is one of the few concealed Christians who is happy to talk publicly about his faith. We dont practise our faith in public because we are effectively still in hiding, he said. We usually remain quiet and never out ourselves as Christians by appearing on Tv or giving interviews. We dont hold special ceremonies or pray in public. In fact, we dont do anything that would risk dedicating ourselves away.
Remote southern islands such as Hirado demonstrated fertile ground for Catholicism after St Francis Xavier and other missionaries introduced it to Japan in 1549. After a nationwide prohibit was enforced in the early 1600 s, converts devised ingenious ways to keep their religion alive.
They gathered in private homes to conduct religion ceremonies, and figurines of the Virgin mary were altered to resemble the Buddha or Japanese dolls. To the uneducated ear, their prayers voiced like Buddhist sutras, even though they contained a mix of Latin, Portuguese and obscure Japanese dialects. Scripture was passed on orally, since keeping bibles was considered too great a risk. None wore traverses or other religion accoutrements.
The need for secrecy during the course of its 250 years that Christianity was banned meant the version of the religion observed by Kawakamis ancestors little resemblance to its mainstream Catholic origins. Instead, early Japanese Christians incorporated elements of Buddhism and Shinto into their faith until it became a polytheistic creed of its own.
In many styles it was a very Japanese version of Christianity, said Shigeo Nakazono, curator of the Shima no Yakata museum on Ikitsuki, an island near Hirado.
But even this localised sort of Christianity met with fierce opposition from the Shogunate authorities, who devised a singularly cruel exam of loyalty to uncover converts. Suspects were ordered to prove they were not Christians by trampling on fumie images of Christ or the Virgin Mary engraved from stone or wood or face being hanged upside down over a cavity and slowly bled to death.
When the Meiji government lifted the prohibition in 1873, an estimated 30,000 secret Christians came out of hide. Now, Christians of all denominations make up less than 1% of Japans population of 128 million.
Japan was coming under the influence of European industry and technology, and that meant that old objections to Christianity weakened, Nakazono said.
Nakazono wondered whether Scorseses film would bide true to Endos novel, which some have criticised for being preoccupied with martyrdom. If all hidden Christians had been martyrs, there would have been none left, he said. But there were enough people willing to stamp on the fumie , denounce Christianity and then pray God for forgiveness.
At Neshiko beach, ascension stone physical proof that there were those who refused to abandon their faith is half submerged by the incoming tide. Even today, centuries after the last executing, locals remove their shoes before defining foot on the beachs fine white sand as a sign of respect.
Like the rites of the kakure kirishitan , the memories of the executed converts have been preserved by word of mouth a tradition that devotes Kawakami hope that their courage, and faiths, will not be forgotten.
We feel we have a duty to pass it on to future generations, he said. This is something our ancestors risked their lives to tell us.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Captain America: Civil War review – an aspartame rush29 days ago
Entertaining mayhem ensues when some of the Avengers reject government oversight following a botched operation
Should the Avengers be nationalised? This is the explosively controversial idea that ignites a civil war among their ranks in this exciting superhero extravaganza. Its crazily surreal, engaging and funny in the best Marvel tradition, building to a whiplash-twist reveal that sports with the ever-present idea of duplicity and betrayal within the Avengers ranks themselves.
The innumerable civilian deaths and collateral damage that always follow the Avengers spectacular city-pulverising showdowns have become impossible to ignore and now the Avengers are faced with having to submit to UN political oversight and control.
After a catastrophic Avengers action in Lagos that resulted in Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) inadvertently trashing part of a building and killing innocent people, a political summit in Vienna is convened in which the Avengers must sign away their superheroic independence. Its an unthinkable humiliation the superhero equivalent of the Treaty of Versailles. And some of them arent having it.
Captain America (Chris Evans) makes a stand for the Avengers autonomy. Lining up behind him are the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scarlet Witch.
But ranged against him, deciding to go along with the new political reality, is Tony Stark, otherwise known as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), and joining him are War Machine (Don Cheadle), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) and Vision (Paul Bettany).
But wait. However real these divisive issues are, might they have been deliberately triggered by a sinister German agent, persuasively played by Daniel Brhl, who sets out to exploit the dangerous, destructive potential within Winter Soldier a dark secret dating back to a 1991 Russian military experiment revealed in flashback?
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Alan Cumming: ‘If Donald Trump is the president, we are screwed’1 month, 5 days ago
In an appearance at the New York Public Library, the actor talked about Elizabeth Taylor, Monica Lewinsky and, naturally, the rise of Donald Trump
Many years ago, the actor Alan Cumming happened to attend a birthday party at Carrie Fishers home. He arrived early. He was so early, in fact, that he was the first guest to arrive. The second was Elizabeth Taylor.
Rather than drum up small talk with one of the great Hollywood stars of the 20 th century, Cumming told a mob at the New York Public Library on Wednesday night, he chose to slip into another room and get a drinking at the bar. Fisher, he told, then approached him and hissed, in a kind of stage whisper: What are you doing? Do you know how many homosexuals would like to be in your position? Cumming returned to the living room and promptly he and Liz fell into an enjoyable conversation.
This is the sort of anecdote Cumming tells in his new volume, You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams: My Life in Stories and Pictures, out this week in the US from Rizzoli. I wanted to give people literal and figurative snapshots, Cumming told the NYPLs Paul Holdengraber last night at the first event of the library Live at the NYPL series. Probably the most touching of these is a shot of himself with his grandmother. On the working day the photograph was taken, Cumming told, his grandmother defended him from relatives who are seeking to tease him about his newly bleached blond hair. If I was young, she said, Id be a freak like Alan too.
On the stage last night Cumming was not much like the characters he plays. He was constrained, spoke slowly and carefully and sometimes even sadly. He was wearing a T-shirt that earnestly extol him a Library All Star and implored, Get in video games, read! And at least at one point, he was visibly riled with Holdengrabers topics. This was when Holdengraber tried to draw a parallel between Cummings troubled relationship to his father, and his troubled relationship with the writer and critic Gore Vidal.
Vidal befriended Cumming in the early 2000 s, he told the audience, and he aimed up having mixed feelings about the relationship. He was flattered, at first, that Vidal liked him, but the more he got to know the famously caustic critic the more he was saddened by Vidals lack of exhilaration. I dont think he was a very nice person, he told Holdengraber. He recalled a visit with Vidal and Vidals partner, Howard Austen. The pair had been together for 50 years. But Cumming said he was shocked to hear Vidal say in front of Austen, Well, Ive never loved, of course. This seemed a cruel thing to say.
Still, Vidal had plainly profoundly affected Cumming. He said he had want to get title his book, I Wrote This Book Because Gore Vidal Told Me To, but his publishers hadnt let him.( That title was instead used for the one chapter in the book where he discusses the relationship .)
Another of Cummings disagreements with Vidal, he told, was over the Monica Lewinsky affair. Vidal was unsympathetic to Lewinsky and especially defended Bill Clintons famous statement that he did not have sex with that woman. Cumming is a good friend of Lewinskys and grew very serious talking about it.
The way that, you know, the most powerful man in the world and this 23 -year-old girl who was in love with him, this thing happened, this unfortunate thing happened, yet she was the one, the weak one he said, reaching for the words to describe his feelings. He was the one who abused his power, and she was the one who was berated, and denigrated, and whose life was made a misery.
Cumming also had opinions to share about Donald Trump. If Donald Trump is the president of this country, we are fucked, ladies and gentlemen, severely, he told.
In the book he writes about the style that Cabaret, the musical whose 1993 London revival was Cummings big breakout role, gradually immerses the reader in the prospect of Nazism. Holdengraber called this passageway prescient as to the present trend of politics. Cumming blanched at the thought. Six, seven, eight months ago, it was funny , now its not funny at all, he said.
The fact that he has been a candidate of a major party, Cumming continued, its a victory of the lack of value this country puts on education. We have allowed a generation of people to be uneducated, to not be able to analyze, to not care about what is happening in the world, to also be in a place where if they are told the same thing again and again and again, propaganda basically, they believe it to be true. He cited Brexitas another example of the same phenomenon.
The demographics of this country have changed so radically in the last generation, and Im hoping that rich, white, entitled humen like Donald Trump, their days of being able to say contentious, racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic things, are over, Cumming told. But Im not certain. And that fills me with such horror.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Eddie Izzard:’ Everything I do in life is trying to get my mother back’1 month, 8 days ago
Transgender hero Eddie Izzard has done standup in French and German, operate dozens of marathons, and is now in a period drama with Judi Dench. But, he uncovers, his can-do attitude has a melancholy source
There was a literal turning point in Eddie Izzard’s lifelong pursuit of personal freedom. It went one afternoon in 1985 when he had gone out for the first time in a dress and heels and full makeup down Islington high street. He was 23 and he had been planning- and avoiding- that moment for just about as long as he could remember. The turning point came after he was chased down the road by some teenage girls who had caught him changing back into his jeans in the public toilets and wanted to let him know he was weird. That pursuit objective when eventually, faced with the screamed question” Hey, why were you dressed as a woman ?”, he decided simply to stop running and turn and explain himself.
He spun around to give an answer, but before he got many terms out the girls had run in the opposite direction. The experience taught him some things: that there was power in tackling dread rather than avoiding it; and that from then on he would never let other people define him. After that afternoon, he says, he not only felt he could face down the things that scared him, he went chasing after them: street performing, standup slapstick, marathon running, political activism, improvising his stage show in different languages- all these things felt relatively easy after that original coming out as what he calls” transvestite or transgender “.” You think, if I can do something that hard, but positive- perhaps I can do anything .”
The ” anything” he has been doing most recently is to take on the challenge of acting opposite Judi Dench and Michael Gambon. In Stephen Frears’s interpretation of the true narrative of Queen Victoria’s late-life relationship with an Indian maid, Victoria& Abdul , Izzard plays a full-bearded, tweed-suited Bertie( afterward Edward VII ), reining in his comic instincts to occupy the outrage and scheming of a son considering his mother apparently making a fool of herself. Izzard has done plenty of movies before- he was in Ocean’s Twelve and Thirteen alongside George Clooney and Brad Pitt and the rest- but nothing that has required quite this level of costume drama restraint. He loved it.
He and Dench are old friends. She has been a regular at his stage shows and has been in the habit, for reasons forgotten, of sending a banana to his dressing room each opening night, with” Good luck !” written on it. Assuring her channel Victoria at close quarters was a daily masterclass. The movie was shot partly at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight( the first time any film crew had been allowed inside by English Heritage) and the cast would let their hair down in the evenings. One time, Izzard remembers:” I was dancing with Judi to Ray Charles’s’ What’d I Say ‘. She felt like a young lady, a young teenage girl virtually. Judi has this amazing triggered of vitality that traces all the way back to her youth .”
Watching the cinema, you’re so ready to see Izzard slip into one of his wayward meanders of consciousness that for a while it seems odd that he stays on script. Does it feel that style to him too?
” Not now ,” he tells.” My early run as an actor wasn’t very good because I only switched all my comedy muscles off, and I didn’t know what to replace them with. I believe I have learned more how to just’ be’ on cinema now. It is just like knowing how to both ride a bicycle and drive a car. If you are in a automobile you don’t want to lean sideways to turn a corner. You know the difference .”
Ever since he bunked off school and conned his route into Pinewood Studios as a 15 -year-old and strayed the film sets for a day, he has imagined himself an actor. The first thing he did when his comedy finally took off after years of trying and often failing to stimulate people laugh was to get himself a drama agent and see if he could pursue a twin career. He has never been satisfied with just doing one thing, and it appears that determination to diversify has only grown. He’s 55, and because of his running- which peaked at 43 marathons in 57 daysin the UK and 27 in 27 days in South Africa for Sport Relief– he looks lean and almost alarmingly bright-eyed. We are talking in a hotel room in London, and he is garmented sharply in” boy with eyeliner” mode. He works on the faith, he tells, that human beings were never made to sit still or settle, but to place themselves in challenging situations, and then work up how to cope.
” World war two is a good example ,” he indicates.” People get fallen behind enemy lines with no idea of what they were going into. They had to learn to do a great deal under extreme pressure and on the move. And they proved they could. In a very different style, I believe coming out as transgender allowed me to set myself in other terrifying situations and work them out once I was in them. I knew I would get through the bad, scaring bit- and there was a lot of that when I was a street performer- and eventually get to a more interesting place .”
10 Cloverfield Lane Will Have You Writhing The Whole Way Through1 month, 11 days ago
10 Cloverfield Lane is a freshening change from that somewhat saturating tradition. It wasnt until January, merely two months prior to the opening of the films release, that we were even made aware that it existed.
Its not really a sequel to the alien attack movie Cloverfield, but more like a distant, less showy relative, with both having spawned from JJ Abrams production company Bad Robot. Whereas Cloverfield showed us the Statue of Libertys head crashing into the street as a whole city disintegrated, 10 Cloverfield Lane barely leaves the underground bunker in which most of the film is set.
Being less showy doesnt mean its any less entertaining, though. The movie will have you either writhe or jumping out of your seat from before the opening credits are over, right up until the very end. It’s director Dan Trachtenberg’s first feature length cinema, but he pulls ofthis spiraling thriller as though he’s done it a thousand times before.
The film starts out with Michelle( Mary Elizabeth Winstead) dismissing bellows from her fianc as she drives in her car. After being run off the road she wakes up in an empty room where she soon gratifies her captor or saviour Howard( John Goodman) who tells her that the world outside is a nuclear desert, and that they must live underground for at the least a year to remain safe. We live Michelles dread with her, questioning the legitimacy of Howards claims and motivations as she slowly tries to decipher exactly what “the hells going on”. Is Howard right? Does leaving the bunker entail certain demise? Or is something more sinister happening?
The third character in the mix is the jovial Emmett( John Gallagher Jr ), a local worker who has known Howard for some time. Emmett provides the only glimpses of light relief from the incredibly weird and intense Howard.
John Goodman plays Howard brilliantly, his huge frame and sketchy stance combining well to intimidate the whole way through. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr are equally as good, and its the three of them that elevate this film from a tight script and well thought out idea to something that really get under your skin.
The less you know before ensure it, the more you will enjoy the film, so we wont be revealing any spoilers here. What we will say is that if your heart rate and stress levels don’t go up during the course of its movie then you really are made of stone.
10 Cloverfield Lane is out in cinemas this Friday .
He who must not be named: how Harry Potter helps make sense of Trump’s world1 month, 27 days ago
For fans of the wizard series, the new political order is Dumbledores army v President Voldemort. Is it merely a juvenile comparing or have JK Rowlings books shaped a generations thinking?
Every generation has its go-to pop-culture political analogy. For decades, it was Star Wars. Its easy to see how Reagans 80 s space-based weapons shield initiative earned its nickname, for example, but the reference has endured, to the extent that White House chief strategist Steve Bannon expressed his admiration for the dark side in a recent interview: Darkness is good. Dick Cheney, Darth Vader, Satan. Thats power. But one name was missing from that listing: Voldemort.
The Harry Potter villain has risen again over the past couple of years, as fans have described comparisons, often humorously, between a world under threat from a narcissistic tyrant and that of the Harry Potter volumes. In February, Bannon was the subject of a Buzzfeed quiz that asked, Who Told It: Steve Bannon or Lord Voldermort ?; it was harder than you might have thought. JK Rowlings readers have grown up at approximately the same pace as Harry, Ron and Hermione, and with its hundreds of millions of book marketings and the massive success of the movie adaptations, the series reach has been enormous.
What Harry Potter has given a generation is a simple narrative of good triumphing over evil, and, as a result, it has been a frequent and controversial point of reference in this time of political divisiveness. At the worldwide Womens Marches in January, there were plenty of homemade signs that indicated Princess Leia as the face of a new resistance, but there were as many Potter ones, such as Dumbledores army, inspirational quotes from the series and references to Hermiones role in Harrys survival. Perhaps these placards had been inspired by an outpouring of affection for the books following the US election in November, as people began to post quotes on Twitter. Order of the Phoenix, mount up, wrote Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda. There is even a Chrome extension that changes any mention of Donald Trump or his cabinet to the name of a notable Death Eater. Install it, and your browser will instantly refer to Betsy DeVos as Dolores Umbridge, Jeff Sessions as Antonin Dolohov or Rex Tillerson as Draco Malfoy.
The return of Star Wars: an evil empire in Jedi clothing?1 month, 29 days ago
Next month ensure the eagerly awaited arrival of The Force Awakens. A good moment to examine the franchises timeless mass appeal
A long time ago, when everyone was taking day trips to a galaxy far, far away, I decided to stay put on our drab little planet. For months I ignored the blis of the individuals who returned home babbling about the marvels they had witnessed. Eventually my resistance weakened: late in the summer of 1977, I decided to see Star Wars after all. By that stage it wasnt easy. Cultists were attaining multiple return visits, and tickets were scarce. But I managed to buy one for a late-night session in a London cinema, where the mood of contagious excitement erupted every few minutes into whoops and cheers. I was merely there, I sternly told myself, out of culture curiosity. Two hours later I stumbled back into the empty streets, my head reeling as I hummed the fanfare by John Williams a marching through space scored for blaring trumpets and thunderous drums that introduced a wild, unstoppable ride, a rollercoaster of giddy delights. Star Wars “ve earned it” terse, bold title: here was a cosmic carnival, a flaring light show that was violent but mercifully harmless.
I sampled other worlds, peopled by animals belonging to no known species, and I watched a blue planet like our own blow up in a re-enactment of the big bang. I also had a preview of our cybernetic future. People were redefined as digital wraiths, whose data could be loaded on to a disc and disgorged from a machine as flickery holograms. Upsetting traditional hierarchies, two metal servants the burnish, prissy butler C-3PO and his squat companion R2-D2, apparently a dustbin with a brain bossily managed the affairs of their accident-prone masters. I liked this pair so much that I even bought a poster of them, which I pinned up in my college rooms in Oxford, discreetly out of sight of the student to whom I was teaching English literature.
My enthusiasm faded soon enough, and I binned the poster. I wasnt seduced to see the sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi , when they appeared early in the 1980 s; by the time the writer and director George Lucas added The Phantom Menace and two more prequels to the series between 1999 and 2006, I had made up my intellect that only adolescents preoccupied by gadgetry went to the cinema, so I left them to it. From then on, my attitude resembled that of Natalie Portman, who remembers shrugging indifferently when she was offered a role in the first prequel: I was like, Star what?
Portman, however, overcame her disdain and accepted the job, and I gradually caught up on DVD with the five episodes Id missed. Now, with the series due to resume when The Force Awakens is released next month, Im obliged to admit that Star Wars is inescapable. The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis recently called it a cradle-to-grave amusement experience, which is literally true. Soon after their emergence from the womb, toddlers can be togged out in romper suits that announce I am a Jedi, or fitted with bibs on which Yoda, resembling a wizened green embryo, deploys his usual back-to-front syntax to demand Feed me you must.
At the other end of life, a Texan cancer patient called Daniel Fleetwood, who in September was given two months to live, campaigned online to be given an early viewing of The Force Awakens , pleading that he was unlikely to survive until its opening date; the movies director, JJ Abrams, granted his wish early in November, and Fleetwood died shortly afterwards. Han Solos Millennium Falcon can whizz through wormholes to emerge in galaxies on the far side of the universe: I hope that the movie eases Fleetwoods journey to his final destination, wherever it may be.
Appearing in instalments throughout the decades, Star Wars has aged with us, and as proof of its longevity the three principal actors from the first cinema goofy, toothy Mark Hamill, sassy Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford with his sly sideways grin will return in wrinklier, more grizzled form in The Force Awakens . The series also narrates the history of the times we have lived through: not only abstruse science fiction, it is political journalism in coded form.
Over the course of the six cinemas( not in chronological order ), a libertarian republic transforms itself into a predatory global empire, much as the United States has done during the last half century. Wed like to avoid imperial entanglements, tells Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi: he is repeating a point first made by George Washington, who in his presidential farewell advised the new country to remain isolated. America kept to itself until 1945, but during the cold war it began to behave like a global bully. In 1983 Ronald Reagan deflected attention from members of the military conceit and commercial rapacity by calling the USSR an evil empire, a phrase borrowed from the synopsis of past events in the early stages of Star Wars . Reagans plan for an aerial shield of rocket deployment platforms had similar origins: it was nicknamed Star Wars because it would supposedly transform nuclear combat into a pyrotechnical blitz to be played out far above us.
When the USSR fell apart, the focus changed. The Star Wars prequels especially Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith , made after 9/11 advise about the curtailment of autonomies in fortified, permanently embattled America. Democracy cant be bothered to put up a fight: Ewan McGregor, playing Obi-Wan Kenobi when young, statements that the senators are merely interested in serving the interests of those who money their campaigns a comment that glances at Washington DC , not the far-flung planet of Coruscant. The sepulchral monarch, who, as personified by Ian McDiarmid, has skin like desiccated parchment and teeth that are lichen-crusted gravestones, virtually quotes George W Bush and Donald Rumsfeld when he explains that security and continuing stability are his regimes imperatives. As for The Phantom Menace , the title might serve as a caption for the vial of imaginary anthrax hold back by Colin Powell at the United Nation in 2003 during his speech to rally support for the invasion of Iraq. Star Wars begins by proclaiming Princess Leias determination to restore freedom to the galaxy, though its never clear just what all those twinkling starrings need to be freed from and when we do get a clue, the explanation is dismayingly banal. For citizens of the galactic republic as for those in favour of the Republican party, the sticking point is the iniquity of taxation. Turmoil resumes in The Phantom Menace because trade routes to outlying star systems are being taxed by the greedy trade federation. A pact has to be signed by the commerce guild and the corporate alliance, which are supported by the banking clan( whose representative is a corpse with a clerical collar) and the techno union( which sends a metal leviathan to the negotiations ). Until Lucasfilms sale to Disneyin 2012, Star Wars was distributed by 20 th Century Fox, so its seducing to cast Rupert Murdoch as the baleful megalomaniac monarch, keen to widen his piratical brand of capitalism into all markets. Although the Jedi master played by Samuel L Jackson insists that We are peacekeepers , not soldiers, he unsheathes his lightsaber to keep the airwaves open for the dissemination of American entertainment.
The idea of the Force, central to the fuzzy theology of Star Wars , is disturbingly equivocal. The Jedi think of it as spiritual energy, but the word also entails power, which is colder and more brutal. Star Wars catches both Americas light and dark sides, its naive optimism and its crass, domineering pursuing of earning. Whether we think it good or evil, all of us have been colonised by this empire of images.
Now that CGI effects have become so ingeniously deceptive, its odd to remember the astonishment that Star Wars provoked in 1977. We may be more sophisticated today, but what remains eye-opening about the first three films in the series is the variety of custom-made environments through which they range arid Tatooine, gaseous Bespin with its city in the clouds, or jungly Endor and the virtual zoo of so-called lifeforms they place on display.