As a child of a time when you could see the strings on the Thunderbird models – not that I did – I thought nothing of the stilted way Scott Tracey walked (our postman, Mr Pejorative walked with the same staccato gait, in his case the result of an unharmonious interaction between his hip and a .303 bullet somewhere near Arnhem in late 1944). Consequently I’m a sucker for all special effects. I think it’s because my ability to suspend my rational belief in how the world really works is laudably enhanced – I mean if you lived inside my imagination, the notion that small people live behind my skirting boards is nothing but a sine qua non.
Thus seeing the original Star Wars film once again is always an experience. A good one and not one full of the clunky gear changes and unexpected detours. Unlike driving an Austin Allegro
(easily the worst car ever built in the 20th Century and even the much maligned Trabant
doesn’t run it close – though I suppose neither of them could fairly be described as ‘running’ anything anywhere, their movements being more akin to limping like a rusty-springed Zeberdee)
….where was I? Oh yes, Star Wars.
I enjoy Star Wars. And to have as an early birthday treat a trip to see a Big Screen version at the Royal Albert Hall with the John Williams score played live by the London Symphony Orchestra, well that was always going to be special.
The music, if you listen to it rather than let it wash over you, seems to be there, always. There are few longueurs when the score disappears. It was easy not to realise it was live too, so good was the timing. And the RAH has such fantastic acoustics that just listening would be treat enough.
But I watched. And I was stunned by the quality of the special effects. There was no CGI then, no computer animation or enhancements. It was models but to this aged and untrained eye it didn’t suffer in comparison to the modern.
Now, ok, there were some bits that showed their age – 1977 I think – like the computers they used in the rebel fighter planes which were more reminiscent of those original ping-pong games we got so excited about. They were blurred and simplistic. A bit like my rose tinged nostalgia or should that be neuralgia?
But at least they weren’t as crap as some of the acting. Mark Hamill was dire. I didn’t remember that. In his last role in the recent Star Wars offering, he was a decent actor. Back then he had three expressions – fearful, angry and, erm angry. Now, ok, that’s two more than Ryan Gosling, I know, but he doesn’t have Gosling’s shallow good looks to compensate.
The bit that really stood out though was added in the 1990s – a sequence between Harrison Ford (whose acting was somewhere above adequate) and Jabba the Hutt. In it Hutt slimes alongside Hans Solo and rubs against him as he whispers murderous entreaties in his shell-like. Ok, there’ll have been some green screen involved but the overlaying was pretty seamless.
And I realised how good it was three days later when I went to see Fantastic Beasts (The Crimes of Grindelwald).
This is the latest in the fertile franchise that is the Potter World, now into a millennium of prequelling and it has been largely panned by the critics.
If you are a Potterhead then you’ll go. And I doubt you’ll be disappointed. The plot is a curate’s egg. It starts complex, tangles itself with enough twists and theories to make explaining quantum mechanics in pidgen vulcan a doddle yet unpicks itself with the alacrity of a teenager’s nose and ends up being very enjoyable. And I say that even though Jonny Depp features in it. I mean if ever there was an actor capable of mumble-bumming a movie into the siding of straight-to-Netflix it is he. But he’s not as bad as you expect, rather like pro-biotic yoghurts.
In this offering Newt Thingy, Eddie Redmanye, acting as if in a Health and Safety film warning that using magic to explode things means you really should wear safety goggles, had close up and personal cuddle-time with a Chinese water dragon. Which instantly took me back to Jabba and Hans. Seamless but no more so than Star Wars. Or maybe it’s these old eyes still incapable of seeing the strings.
PS while on the subject of magic I was recently put onto the Rivers Of London series by Ben Aaronovitch.
Ok it’s been going since 2011 but bear with me, I’m slow. I’ve been listing via Audible which is a laudible (ha, soz, couldn’t resist) addition to my consumption of literature. These are full of Potterseque magic but in a modern setting involving the Met Police and some realistic London settings. Centring on the adventures of trainee constable Peter Grant and his colleague Tracey May they work well as crime thrillers. But add in the magic, the warring King and Queen of the Thames, goblins, fae people, trolls and the usual cast of London lowlife they are excellent. If you enjoyed Potter but want it with more coffee and less acne then this is for you. It’s funny too. Just saying.