Now that J.J. Abrams is all but guaranteed to be directing Star Wars: Episode VII — Attack of the Phantom Clones it's time to take stock of what an influence George Lucas' franchise has already had on him throughout his career. I've already argued that his Star Trek owes a lot more to Star Wars than it does to classic Trek.
Throughout his best-known contribution to television, Lost, however, there are dozens of outright shout-outs and homages to Star Wars. Most of those are pretty obvious, like when Hurley, who's been transported back to 1978 decides to rewrite The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. What's more interesting to uncover are points of comparison between Lost and Star Wars that go deeper, down into the storytelling DNA, and aren't just easily dismissed as "pop culture references."
With that in mind, we've rounded up nine points of comparison between Lost and that Galaxy Far, Far Away, with videos to back up our claims. Oh, and we've got one bonus comparison of Star Wars to Alias as well. It may surprise you, which of the Star Wars movies seems to have had the greatest impact on the storytelling sensibility of Abrams and the people in his storytelling orbit, like Lost executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, who obviously deserve a large part of the credit for the direction that Lost eventually took. No, the Star Wars movie that seems to have proven most influential to Abrams and his colleagues is not The Empire Strikes Back.
Delusions of Grandeur
There's more than a little bit of Sith Lord in Ben Linus, so no wonder he tells Juliet "You're mine!" just the way The Emperor Formerly Known as Darth Sidious does to Luke in Return of the Jedi.
Good Guys Going Dark and Bad Guys Taking a Beating
You know, if you're styling yourself as a supervillain you have to remember there's likely to be some blowback. In fact, it's hard to think of any TV character before or since who was beaten up more frequently than Ben Linus, and often by the good guys. Funny thing about that, though. When Jack Shepherd bloodied Ben's face to a pulp, it also exposed the violence Jack himself was capable of, the darkness lurking in his own soul. Much like when Luke Skywalker finally owns Darth Vader in their lightsaber duel aboard the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi — even cutting off Daddy's hand like was done to him — he pauses to realize that in using his enemy's tactics against him he's become his enemy. Consider the villains in both Lost and Star Wars as a kind of walking litmus test for our heroes.
Garroting Deaths of Bloated Criminals
The staging and lighting when Sawyer kills Locke's father, Anthony Cooper, is eerily similar to when Princess Leia strangles Jabba the Hutt. Though playing the Leia role, Sawyer is not nearly in as much a state of undress. (Sadly, YouTube is lame. This classic moment from Lost is not available in embeddable form. Enjoy this photo of Cooper's bulging eyes instead!
The Trouble With Nets
At least Sawyer's sense of smell wasn't responsible for getting him and Kate trapped in a makeshift net set by Rousseau, the way Chewbacca's was when he got half the Rebel force on Endor ensnared. Outsmarted by Ewoks! Oh, the indignity.
Wait, We're Related?
Like Luke and Leia before them, Jack and Claire never realized they were brother and sister. Thankfully, though, Claire never unwittingly planted a big wet kiss on her sibling , the way Leia did to Luke on Hoth.
Darkness and Light
Star Wars takes place in a particularly Manichaean universe. There are good choices and bad choices, a Dark Side of the Force and a Light Side. Lost replicated that light-dark bipolarity all through its run, from the white and black pebbles Jack and Kate discover on corpses in a cave, to the white and black logo of the Dharma Initiative, to this classic moment from the pilot, when Locke teaches Walt backgammon. Also, Yoda's description of the Dark Side as "fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering," pretty much sums up the life story of Smokey the Monster, doesn't it?
Bold, Beseeching Declarations
Because in any great mythology you can't have your heroes go it alone both Lost and Star Wars have characters crying out to the women in their lives for help. Jack didn't have the Force to help him, but he did have a tangled mass of facial hair, when he shouted at Kate, "We have to go back, Kate! We have to go back!" Somehow even Luke seemed more emotionally stable hanging from an antenna high above the planet Bespin when he reached out to Leia through the Force with "Leia! Hear me! Leia!"
Monosyllabic Cries of Pain
May 2005 was a dark, presumably hoarse, time for pop culture characters. It saw the release of Revenge of the Sith, with Darth Vader's much maligned "Noooooo!" Right around the same time, the Others stole Walt from his incredibly needy father, Michael. Altogether now, "WAAAAAAALT!!!"
Fathers Doing Horrible, Crippling Things to Their Sons
Freud says that the Oedipal conflict involves a son wanting to destroy his father, that said father senses this desire and fights back with equally destructive force. Hence, Darth Vader cuts off Luke's hand and Anthony Cooper pushes John Locke out of a window.
BONUS ALIAS CLIP: Unlikely Heroes
When SD-6's tech geek Marshall Flinkman says to Sydney Bristow on a mission, "My name is Marshall J. Flinkman, and I'm here to rescue you," it's obviously a direct, word-for-word callback to Luke Skywalker's classic swashbuckling line in the original Star Wars. But it gets at the subtext of Luke's valor as well, that heroism can come from even the most unlikely places, whether you're a farmboy from Tatooine or a glorified IT support nerd.
All in all, across these 10 references to Star Wars in Lost and Alias, here's how the specific callbacks break down per movie: The Phantom Menace, 1; Revenge of the Sith, 1; A New Hope, 1, The Empire Strikes Back, 2; Return of the Jedi, 5. Based on this tally expect Abrams Episode VII to look a lot like Return of the Jedi! Which is exactly what the fans want to hear.
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: ABC, Lucasfilm]
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Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
The Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.