Rogue One

SPOILER ALERT – While I’m sure everyone who cares will have already seen Rogue One – A Star Wars Story by now, this post contains numerous spoilers.

I watched Rogue One for the second time last night. After my first viewing I thought it was a great, thoroughly entertaining, and worthy addition to the Star Wars movie universe. After my second viewing, I have a few reservations.

The movie still has a lot of good points. The overall story is good and fits in with the other Star Wars storylines quite nicely, particularly the neat way it all ties in to A New Hope at the end. I also liked Galen Urso’s character and his personal sacrifice to build the death star with that massive technical oversight in its reactor core and how this relates to the development of his daughter Jinn’s character throughout the movie. The way it allows her to develop from an uncaring criminal to devoted hero of the rebellion is a good solid believable story arc for her character. It’s a shame all of the heroes had to die at the end, but it did make for good cinema. Cassian Andor was a good foil for Jinn, cheesy dialogue aside, and K-2SO also made for good entertainment – even if a wisecracking droid with a British accent is hardly new territory for Star Wars. There’s also plenty of staples such as good old fist-fights, blaster battles, and X-wing vs tie fighter sequences (as well as the introduction into the cinematic universe of the Khyber crystals) to keep most Star Wars fans happy.

A common problem, however, for this movie and all the prequels, is the way they integrate classic characters such as Darth Vadar into these new storylines. In this movie Darth Vadar had two key scenes. The scene at the end that has him cutting down scores of rebels in his vain attempt to retrieve the deathstar plans is the stand out sequence from the whole movie. Very Star Wars indeed. His other scene, where we found the Sith lord apparently chilling out in a vat in his castle on Mostafar, was unnecessary and unconvincing. It’s great to see as much as we can of one of cinema’s most enduring characters, but what was the point of this scene? Vadar gets to impose his authority on Krennic and then gets him in a force choke (I imagine the producers saying ‘OK, when’s he going to choke someone? That’s what he does, isn’t it?) and drops a truly terrible pun ‘Try not ot choke on your aspirations’. It feels camp and forced and adds nothing to the story. I know Star Wars is pretty camp, and the banter between the heroes in the original trilogy is a part of what makes those movies so fun. But, while some nice cheesy one liners are always welcome, certain characters don’t do them – Darth Vadar being one. He’s supposed to be an embodiment of evil and the dark side of the force – not some wisecracking sidekick. It’s not nearly as bad as his tortured ‘Noooooooooooo!’ at the end of Revenge of the Sith, but it still made me cringe. The blind force guy Chirrut was much more suited to the wisecracking role, although some of his dialogue, while he was knocking out storm troopers left, right, and center, was also questionable. At least he was a cool new character and got a good heroic death braving the crossfire to set up the link to the rebel fleet outside Scariff’s security gate.

This inability of the producers and writers to understand the basic characeter traits of their key protagonists and antagonists makes me worry about what state Han Solo will be in when they release his stand alone fare next year. At least Leia’s surprise appearance at the end was so brief it didn’t do much other than give a cheap thrill to her legions of fans. It’s better to leave these classic characters alone and focus on developing new stories with a whole new set of key players – as they did in Rogue One for the most part. These new stories won’t have to call for all of the new characters to die so heroically at the end. One of the main strengths of The Force Awakens was the introduction of Rey, Finn, and Dameron Poe to take over the mantle from the old guard.

It’s so much better to create new characters and stories from a universe that is so well realized and so vast that the possibilities are literally limitless. This is one of the main strengths of Rogue One – Vadar’s 50/50 ratio of good scenes aside – A mythology of the universe that is already known being given a motley crue of new characters to explore, and for the most part hitting all the right buttons for Star Wars fans. I suppose as long as the classic characters still draw in the crowds (I guess they’re probably planning Obi Wan and Yoda backstories too), there’s not much chance of that happening any time soon.

Rogue One – 7/10

Back :(

Another day, another back spasm.

About 8 months ago, whilst I was living in Saudi Arabia, I suffered a prolapsed disc in my lower back. Since then I have had endless minor back problems. I say minor because I can still walk and do most things (except sports, heavy lifting, and bending). My condition was not helped by a car accident that I was involved in about 6 months ago (still in Saudi Arabia). I was rear-ended at a red light by a bus whose brakes had failed. I was actually quite lucky to walk away from that smash. The unapologetic driver of the bus simply got out and said ‘Alhamdulillah – you’re not dead!’

‘Thanks mate – Where are your fucking brakes?’

Apparently the brakes hadn’t been working for weeks, but his bosses still saw fit to make him drive the bus. His boss actually showed up at the crash and informed us all that the driver would be fired immediately.

That’s good then. My back feels better already.

Unfortunately, my back was hurting too much for me to enquire about the rest of his fleet of buses and the state of their brakes. Although, in my experience, health and safety is not high on the list of priorities for bus companies, apparently.

Anyway, my injury – the original prolapsed disc, not the aftermath of the crash – was what persuaded me to leave my old job and return to my quaint village near to the English South Coast. The insistence from the local Doctor that I needed surgery to remove the disc without his even giving me a proper physical examination was enough encouragement to return home for a second opinion. The crash a couple of months later neatly reinforced my views that the Middle East was not a place I’d like to stay and recover.

The physiotherapy I have undertaken since returning home has been very helpful. A small mix of stretches and core-strengthening exercises have done wonders, and, while the strength of my lower back doesn’t fill me with the confidence of being able to fight off a marauding terrorist attacker, or even being able to run to catch a bus, I do not have any pain in my lower back or shooting nerve pain down my legs. That pain was excruciating when I first injured myself (damn you 25litre water bottle – If only the tap water had been drinkable) and after the crash 2 months later (Incidentally, even though the crash wrecked my spine and jiggled it into the most unnatural of positions, it didn’t cause me more pain. It was actually sweeping and mopping the floor of my house a couple of days later that popped the disc out of my heavily weakened spine again – Clearly, I will never sweep or mop again).

Things had been going well and I was told swimming would be the final stage of my recovery.

Alas, my neck had other ideas.

After several stints at the local pool surrounded by various grannies doing their bit to stay healthy and school kids learning to swim, the problem moved to my neck. No doubt caused by my ungainly swimming style – I simply refuse to put my head under the water. This constant craning of my neck out of the water as I flail about to try and improve my fitness exacerbated the whiplash injury I suffered in the crash.

I didn’t even know I had a neck problem until I started swimming.

Bloody exercise is not good for you at all.

So, off I went back to the physio for some more stretches, and back to the waiting game.

This brings me to today.

Every morning, after I roll out of bed, I do my stretches and a bit of planking to keep my lower back in good nick.

Stretch one – no problem

Stretch two – no problem

The plank had other ideas. When you tweak an injury, you just know it right away. As soon as the plank was done, I knew it was wrong. You feel the twinge in the lower back and the return of the sharp pain in the disc. It’s not nearly as bad as before and most upright positions are still painless. Although, as my spine doesn’t feel like it’s straight anymore, when I stand upright I have to rotate my hips side to side and round and round to align my spine into a painless position. I believe it’s rather sexy actually, but I think I’m in a minority there. I think the grimace all over my mug puts people off. After the crash, this problem was at its most severe and it would take five minutes to  get myself upright, and even then I was still standing at an angle.

Thankfully the nerve pain and sciatica hasn’t returned, so it looks like a minor setback. Sitting can get uncomfortable, but walking is not a problem.

Luckily, the pub is only ten minutes down the road.

I think booze will remedy this situation immeasurably.

For the time being at least.

Welcome

Hello. I’m 33 years old and going nowhere. I’m unemployed and single. I live at my mum’s house in a small Southern English village. She cooks for me and cleans my clothes. It’s like paradise here compared to my last home. I have all the freedom to do everything, anything, and nothing.

What a catch you must be thinking.

You’re not wrong there!

At least I have some savings from my last job. Although, they are slowly slipping down the drain. Or down my gullet, I should say. In the form of beer and cider. At the moment, I’m living in purgatory. I have all the options in the world and no idea. I tell myself weed helps pass the time. It doesn’t. It drives me further into the abyss of indecision.

The laziness I feel grows everyday. As does the total antipathy to everyone and everything around me. I feel like I’m living in a bubble and the walls of this bubble keep growing thicker and thicker and harder to burst. More and more I enjoy solitude. I yearn for the days before when I could close the door to my windowless abode and shut myself off from the theocratic nightmare going on outside. Only then was I free to indulge in minor vices and watch movies and snooker on my projector. Not always alone. But always bored. At the time it felt like a claustrophobic hell, but now I find this memory oddly nostalgic.

I am not in a bad position. I can do anything I like. But what do I like? What can I do? These are the questions I ask myself.

Shall I go on holiday again?

Beats working, that’s for sure.

I’ve spent the last ten years travelling and working. It makes staying in one place difficult. After a short time the desire to move gets stronger. Now that I’m four months into this stint in my childhood home, the desire to move on is stronger than ever.

Moving on feels like the only option. So, why does it also seem so unappealing? Is it the constant barrage from family and friends about settling down? Most people have or are having their kids these days.

I don’t know what to do.

So, I’m going to write a new blog.

A diary of sorts.