Technical Issue!

AsperJosh has suffered a heavy impact. Every picture on every post before the Africa one has been lost due to an album online becoming corrupted.
I have almost every picture stored across 2 laptops and will slowly begin to re-upload them to my posts over a long period of time!
I will be starting from latest posts and work backwards to re-upload the pictures.
Thank you for understanding!
Joshua :'(

UPDATE - Fixed Posts

2015 posts fixed so far:
- Tough Mudder 2015 - MCM Expo 2012 + Past Experiences - Telling People, I Have Aspergers - 5CPS - Marvel Phase Three - Attack On Titan - MCM Oct 2015 - Interstellar - Star Wars VII - Star Wars Original Trilogy - Star Wars Prequel Trilogy - Star Wars Battlefront - The Fault In Our Stars - Chronicle - Evans Night Out + Winter Wonderland 2015 -

2014 posts fixed so far:
- A Year's Progression At The Gym - 5CPS - The Land Before Time - X-Men Premier - X-Men DOFP - Halloween 2015 - Online Dating - Macbook Pro -

House MD, 3 Years Driving currently in progress.
More to be mended

Thursday, 31 December 2015

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (Film Review)

The Force returns to the big screen after 10 years.
Hard to believe it's been 10 years since I last saw Star Wars in cinemas, where it was supposed to have ended. And now, I've returned to see The Force in action once again. I had doubts and still felt annoyed it's not official compared to the novels and information on Wookieepedia from what happens after VI, but this sorta filled in a descent replacement. See here my mixed views but also why everyone must go and see the new Star Wars!
It's been 30 years since the Rebellion defeated the Empire and restored peace to the Galaxy. But now that same evil re-appears from the shadows and intends to finish what Darth Vader started. Luke Skywalker is missing and everyone feels lost without him. But a New Hope surfaces as a BB-8 Droid holds the key to discovering Luke's location after all this time. It's now up to a new unlikely duo to help deliver this information to old heroes and stop the First order and the new Sith Menace from finding Luke first and crushing all that has been rebuilt.

It feels weird and long overdue seeing a Star Wars sequel to Episode VI. In this latest instalment, we now see events unfold since the Rebellion overthrew the Empire and Anakin Skywalker/ Darth Vader brought balance to the Force. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca and Princess Leia have grown old in peace unaware of a dark rise of the Empire returning. And even though it's set 30 years since the victory on Endor, it seems it was all for nothing sorta.

Our story begins with a special Resistance pilot meeting with someone who holds they key to Luke Skywalker's location and as Poe Dameron and his BB-8 AstromechDroid prepare to leave, the First Order arrives to collect the piece for themselves. We watch a daring escape fail but not before Poe gives the piece to BB-8 for safe keeping and letting him escape whilst holding off the First Order's attack. Our dark being arrives off his shuttle and interrogates the old man (who knows who's under the mask) asking for the piece. Poe is taken captive whilst BB-8 notices his master's T-70 X-Wing Fighter blow up and BB-8 ventures across the desert plains at night.

Soon after we get to meet our new hero of this story who happens to be a gorgeous lady called Rey. This lonely scavenger currently survives on the desert planet of Jakku collecting scrap in exchange for food portions to a greedy dealer. She seems to be waiting for someone eagerly with hope but we don't know who. I really liked the introduction to the planet which seems to have a history thanks to the graveyard of several TIE Fighters, X-Wings and a huge Star Destroyer in the desert plains.
Her home was creative and genius as it happened to be a fallen over AT-AT Walker.
I loved her from start to finish because she really goes on a journey of discovery and adventure (much like Luke Skywalker himself). She will become a crucial and important character in the Star Wars films now and I am most pleased with her performance (plus she was damn hot).

We also meet our other unlikely hero who suddenly undergoes a change of heart and loyalty to his job. FN-2187 soon nicknamed "Finn", was present during the attack on Jakku. This Storm trooper showed fear and mercy during the battle as he watched his comrade die which caused a major stir in Finn's fear and judgment (the first seen in any trooper ever). Finn shows clear stress that even Captain Phasma notices and orders him to hand his blaster in for inspection (she and Kylo both noticed how he chose not to fire a blaster bolt during the battle). Soon Finn's actions cause him to betray his code and plots to suddenly help Poe escape from the Finalizer in a TIE Fighter.
Which didn't go un-noticed awkwardly and a heated turret attack follows as the two try to escape the Star Destroyer. I actually liked Finn because he was a clueless and funny guy who was unsure of what he wanted or how to act (like a complete rookie in a film). I admit that at first with all the news and trailers that I doubted how an AWOL Stormtrooper could become a valuable character, but he certainly outdid himself and I thought he was amazing along with Rey.

Soon after, Finn makes his way to Rey by accident and the two end up running for their lives as 2 TIE Fighters arrive to attack the market. Now this is when the fun begins!
One of the funniest moments in the film is when they tried to reach a ship on Jakku, Finn pointed out to a ship which Rey responded was "Garbage". But the ship they wanted ends up getting destroyed and now the Garbage will do (the camera turns to reveal what ship she meant and we all know it by heart and sorta agree). But at least it made through the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs!
Anyway, after an incredible and nostalgic heated chase in this bucket of bolts with Rey piloting and Finn manning the turret, do our two make it out in one piece.
The last thing I want to mention is the good humour that we see when Finn secretly explains who he is to BB-8 and begs for his co-operation on helping him. After BB-8 tells Rey where they must go do they both exchange thumbs up, BB-8's version was hilarious and genius to think up!
Okay, time to hold back now on spoilers since I've just given away like 10-20 mins of footage haha.

BB-8 has been a fantastic addition to the film and has been a real laugh. His voice sounds like a robotic beep made with a synthesiser or something compared to the whistling we hear from R2-D2. The fact he is spherical is weird but actually perfect when seeing him in the film. It almost looked like a orange and white big football with an Astromech Droid head balancing on top (or as if R2-D2 had a baby with the Death Star) haha.
He's a great character and is now one of my personal favourites!

The anticipation for this film has been unbelievable around the world for a year. Everyone has had mixed expectations or even doubts about how a sequel would fit in to the ending to the Original Trilogy. Despite the novels actually explaining what happens afterwards, this film takes us in a whole new direction (like a tangent in the Star Wars Timeline).
When I learnt this year that Disney had bought LucasFilm and LucasArts and were intending to make their own sequel, I was both excited and doubtful. Because I felt that Disney weren't going to help bring the same amount of awesomeness as George Lucas has delivered during the whole Star Wars franchise (no offence to Disney's skill or anything).

Me and several serious fans at work who all know facts or actually read the novels, were all gutted to learn that they weren't going to actually follow up with the actual canon but instead do something entirely different. I've had hope and doubts all year on what it's going to be like, who will return, what the story will be about etc. But we do see classic heroes return which is the best thing about the film and hearing all those sound effects and actually entering the Universe again completely unprepared for what's to come.
I read up a couple days ago that this was originally going to be called Shadow Of The Empire, but I'm glad it didn't because I think there is a story with that title somewhere on Wookieepedia.

I liked the new worlds that we are shown in the film (we don't really see any familiar worlds at all this time). It's a good change since J.J. Abrams and his team have had to come up with brand new things to entertain us all instead of showing old locations with a new story.
Jakku was a similar take on Tatooine but this place is much more isolated and has had a history thanks to the ship graveyard.
Takodana was a great place and important location in the story (won't be saying too much). It certainly looked like Naboo in some places but it did stand out well and only focussed on the Castle where all the important stuff happens. Plus it's where we meet Maz Kanata who is a unique and very intriguing old female alien with a huge knowledge of the Force and helps set our heroes on their path. That whole scene was superb and a real teaser and now needs lots of explaining in the next film.
For more places, watch the film!

Kylo Ren was an interesting new baddy who was so bent on becoming the new Darth Vader. He had a strong connection to the force and is our new adversary hidden behind a helmet. But when he revealed his true face, I felt quite dissapointed at who the actor was (no offence to Adam Driver who played him). I feel the actor looked shockingly young to play this new menace (hypocritically, the actor is 32 years old even though he looks quite young). At first, I felt that the actor was the wrong choice plus a couple times in the film, we see this young lad has a temper tantrum and slices things up (that's not very mature).

Plus his new lightsaber has been a joke and looked silly during the whole hype, but now after understanding it's relation to him, how it was created and why it's like that, I now see the reason more clearly. Plus it's actually an ancient design from thousands of years ago apparently. But now I can understand and sorta respect it more (plus because he has Knights apparently), it makes much more sense. Plus the whole fact that a new sith saber was introduced is excellent as always but the fact that it looked unstable and fuzzy shows how outstanding his is to other creations we've seen.
But what I will take into consideration and better understanding is the fact this character resembles an ideal embodiment of the Force. I read it up and understand that Kylo shares a strong resemblance to Anakin's inner conflict with both the Light and Dark Side of the Force. This fearful and powerful man is trying so eagerly to follow his master's orders but can't help but feel drawn back to the Light Side as well as his family which leaves him with struggle throughout the film on finding his balance. I now understand why this character was shown and I now have a deeper respect for him and I'm actually now intrigued to see what will happen in Episode VIII. He sorta resembles Darth Caedus.
Many people including me guessed who was under that mask, some thought Jar Jar Binks or even Luke Skywalker (how annoying would that be?)

When we see him during the vision, it's dark and cool but leaves us with no answers (only a glimpse into the past as we see his followers, the Knights Of Ren). I wonder if they will be in the sequel?

Our new antagonist Supreme Leader Snoke who was huge (on screen) and serves as the head honcho for the First Order was a very mysterious and interesting villain with no backstory yet to explain who this Supreme Leader really is. He was very intimidating and looked like an old man but also zombie-like as if he'd risen from the dead or something. I learned today that there is a theory going on across the internet that he may actually be a past Star Wars character who is actually alive (use link for spoilers). I think it's a good theory but needs proof first before I'm convinced. But Andy Serkis was excellent playing this mysterious new Sith Master.

I did like General Hux of the First Order, he looked like an evil version of Matthew Crawley from Dowton Abbey. He gave a fierce speech right before their new almighty weapon had it's first demonstration. It sent chills down my spine, like he was giving a loud and shouty speech emphasising the First Order's intentions (it was like watching Adolf Hitler's speech a little) where we see no hesitation in their just words and how they really mean it and we know it's all wrong.
Captain Phasma who is a silent but strict woman under that shiny armour. I heard she's played by Gwendoline Christie (who's famous for Game Of Thrones). That's on my list to finally begin next year along with all the other mainstream series at last. Admittedly, she has a small and less promising role in the film and everyone was most intrigued by her in all the trailers. Turns out she's not so important honestly, but I hope she will make a return in Eps VIII and have a more entertaining role.

Now onto my mixed/ negative views of the film (this is a first for me to actually state negatives so passionately and seriously to a franchise I adore).
My biggest criticism is that this this film seemed to resemble too much to A New Hope. The Empire's new weapon was basically a planet size Death Star carved into the planet itself. It did stand out from the design we all know because it was so much more bigger and this weapon absorbed a Sun bone dry and concertedly fired a long distance beam and vaporised star systems. But the plots itself and how it was sorted out resembled too much of Eps IV. The planet almost looks like a Pokeball if I'm honest and it's a good example to compare it to (though I'd be sh*t scared if a Pokemon of that size came out of a ball that big!)

Later on, we see another familiar take on a previous film. This time relating to The Empire Strikes Back, where father and son confront each other (one is already lost to darkness but they both know that they are related). So it's not a 21st Century take on Luke, I am your father!
However, I was expecting the old man to say "I am your father, young man. And you will do as I say!" But alas that didn't happen and what did, I'm not so fond or even happy with as I'm pierced in the heart with horror as a classic and unforgettable character is now gone forever, it's just not right!

I wasn't a fan at the slightest of the new Stormtrooper design, I'm afraid. To me, they sorta look like they are smiling with shades on or like the side view of a fancy Adidas/ Reebok Trainer. Their white armour is quite flat and doesn't share that same look like Clone Troopers or Stormtroopers from the Originals. It's hard to explain properly, but when I saw the view from behind a trooper in the beginning, I felt like they were wearing a shiny plastic RIOT gear or something. It didn't look as good as the Prequel and Original Trilogy uniforms.
The only okay thing that we learn is that compared to Clone Troopers being grown and then the Stormtrooper being different people under the armour (no longer Clones), is that these new Stormtroopers have individual personalities. Looks like this film's trying to differentiate really badly (I understand and appreciate their effort and design) but it's a no from me! Though I won't forget to mention how one trooper certainly stood out from the rest and had a great fight scene with his swinging electro-baton and put up a good fight. This badass has become a big success and is currently being talked about on the internet. Even more than Captain Phasma, the picture explains it all.
By the way, hope you too found out who played a special Stormtrooper in the film! I won't say who or when but just really listen closely to a moment with Force manipulation of the mind, you mind even recognise a Bond! *wink*

Finally, I wasn't really pleased with a lot of sound effects for blasters being different. I know they have to change things to make it stand out and all, but the sound effects from the Saga before were all so special, unique and made Star Wars. Whilst these new blaster sounds sound too different and don't make me feel like it's right, even the lightsaber clashing was different to the past films.

A grand thing is that the main man himself, John Williams returned to help compose the music. Let's face it, it wouldn't be Star Wars without the magic of John Williams, right! The new soundtrack is not bad. I don't have any favourites at the moment, but I do support it and liked the idea of getting the Opening Intro to outrank any Christmas song for 2015. When me and Dad saw it on the 21st, I jumped a little in excitement and grinned like mad as the opening intro began and that world famous theme was played once again on the big screen!
I did like The Scavenger which is played during Rey's beginning, we get to see Jakku and a day in her shoes as she continues to survive this wasteland and wait for her salvation to arrive. It's suspenseful and makes you feel like your being watched. Must be relating to the quiet wasteland of Jakku (plus it ties into her theme).
Rey's Theme is great, it's like a day track as it shows her life in a day, it's a good introduction piece. Snoke was a dark and menacing track which suited him perfectly like the Emperor's theme or Sith, if you get what I mean (it makes more sense seeing it for yourself). But the best has to be The Jedi Steps and Finale, I can't spoil the scene but it's played right at the end and we even get a dramatic ending piece as well as hear the Binary Sunset again after all this time, that piece resembles the Force, guess that can only mean one thing... Someone appears!

The final fight was intense and surprising that when you think this fight will happen, it changes and somebody else takes up their destiny and engages the enemy. Looks can be deceiving!

Whilst the X-Wings fly into action in the sky and engage enemy TIE Fighters (like the good old days!)
So anyway, after the film finished and I'd seen it all with Dad, I drove us home and our long discussion began pointing out things from the film, both good and bad. I'm honoured that Dad knows almost as much as me and he listened to me point out flaws/ errors or blank points that the film delivered. He was on the same wavelength and we didn't really disagree on anything we pointed out. I feel so weird and outstanding to everyone else who has seen the film and praised it and given it awesome comments and ratings. I feel like an outsider for having criticised it seriously because of my knowledge and seeing how indifferent it is to what I expected or hoped for. I'm glad that several friends and fans from work all agree with my views. But for a film which gave it's own outstanding story to Star Wars. I will praise it and not deny that I did enjoy it and it was sensational to see Star Wars continue but mostly to have seen it with Dad again in cinemas (twice in our lifetime).
I even saw it again the following day with 2 friends from work. Like a true and loyal fan, I didn't say a thing or spoil anything (now that's a first!) I'm most grateful and pleased that not a single spoiler has surfaced on the internet or Facebook ever since the release date to have affected my views or excitement for this film.

I love this artwork I found on Facebook's Who Else Wants Star Wars Battlefront III? (it's an old Star Wars group). They have lots and lots of pictures of games, news, screenshots and artwork for everything Star Wars. This picture shows Three Generations and now Three Trilogies of Heroes on their speeders driving across the Sands of Time!

So, overall I think this deserves a good 8/10. It may resemble a hefty amount of past moments to the story and layout from one or two films, but no one can deny that seeing Star Wars in cinemas makes us all feel younger! It's truly wonderful and magnificent that all kinds of people in this day and age all went to see it and it's not fully considered a "nerdy" thing or to be talked down to (compared to how nerds get mocked for liking Star Wars, Marvel etc). I'm pleased that almost everyone must have seen it now and even if my views are mixed, what's done is done.
J.J Abrams has now made his own take on Star Wars and we have to be greatful for bringing the magic back (even if it wasn't as accurate to what's really happened in the novels and comics). Looks like the Star Trek films director has now done Star Wars (that's something funny to realise).
Now I wonder if he will continue to direct Episodes VIII and IX or if somebody else will come along and take the helm instead?
Who knows, guess we'll have to just wait and see... But I have a good feeling about Rogue One!

Anyway, now I'm off to Letchworth Garden City by train to spend my New Years Eve at Ash & Ben's house to meet them, Charlie, Paige and some others who I met at MCM Comic-Con this year. I wish everyone a Happy New Years Eve! I will be drinking a sensible amount and being crazy with these awesome people! I shall share the story the day after New Years Day or something.
I still find this trailer to be one of the most incredible, jaw-dropping and unforgettable trailers I've ever seen even so eager to see and will love forever (the song is too perfect, it's on iTunes).
Anyway, looks like Star Wars is worth it (if you know nothing of what happens after the films).
Happy New Years Eve & Day, my friends!

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