Les Mis and Star Wars

Wars

What a week!  Between Les Mis at the Zig and the new Star Wars trailer, I’m on full-blown Nerd Alert.


So .. Les Mis.  Again, the Ziegfeld Theater in Ogden is on a roll with this one.  They even got a guest performer to play Jean Val Jean, some dude who’s paid his dues at the Shakespeare Festival and travelling companies and yada, yada, yada.   I’ll … politely .. refrain from comments on the HIS performance.

But, wow, it’s one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, mostly owing to a ridiculously strong background cast.

One interesting thing about live theater is that a particular performance can completely reframe a play, make it work different and accentuate different things.  I’ve never liked the Thenardier scenes for example.  In fact ‘detest’ is a word that comes to mind.  But some of the strongest performances in the show were given by a couple of local actors who COMPLETELY stole the show.

Master of the House went from being my least favorite song to a squee-worthy feast of awesome.

So the Thenardiers were great, so was Eponine and older Cosette.  Young Cosette made me cry in a PERFECT performance.  Marius was merely passable until Empty Tables, when he knocked it out of the park.  Javert would have trounced Russell Crowe in an ‘inspector contest’.  And the rest of the chorus were each memorable and strong, becoming characters in the right moments, fading in the back when it was time.  A few chorus members shined; you can tell that the Zig has a few future stars waiting in the roost.

And yeah.  It’s a different show when the villains, the disenchanted, the background characters steal the show.  The Thenardiers — including their daughter Eponine — stole the spotlight.  The focus shifted from the Val Jean tale of redemption.  They became a different story from the one I’ve seen before, a tale of graft, of corruption, of trying to reach beyond your own station.  And I was delighted.

Go see it while you can.  Drive a little if you have to.  They’ve added a few extra showings, but it’s selling out fast.


 

I’m a JJ Abrams fan.  I loved his tv work (Lost, Fringe).  I liked what he did with Star Trek.  And with the trailers we’ve seen of Star Wars, I’m sure I’ll enjoy his take.

But I’m scared that I won’t love it.

Don’t get me wrong, the dude has the Hollywood formula down pat.  He can make you cry, he can make you smile, he can make you woop.  But sometimes I wonder if he can still make us FEEL.

The second Star Wars trilogy did it wrong.  Part of that is due to being a prequel, something that kills your stakes from the beginning.  But part of that is what I call Disneyland syndrome.  Abrams is already guilty of this with Trek, but I’ll forgive him for reviving a dead franchise.

The Disneyland Syndrome is when the filmmakers think we want more of something we’ve had before.  Liked a ride on rails, they want to give us a tour through movies that we love.  They want to give each character their ‘moment’.  They want to set up big set pieces.  They want you to laugh and cry and woop, but they want it to happen in a CAREFULLY CONTROLLED WAY, because they don’t want to upset the long-term franchise.

A real movie has a plot that’s uninterested in getting anyone screen time (Bobba Fett); appearances must serve the story, not the other way around.  A real movie has stakes.  A real movie lets the heroes fail (Luke losing an arm) and has events that change the fundamental nature of the universe (bad guys win).  We don’t want our Star Wars wrapped in cellophane.  We want stuff to happen that matters.

That’s why I want to see Han Solo die.

Okay, it doesn’t have to be Han Solo.  It can be Luke, or Chewie, or R2D2.  But a real story has stakes.  And after the Kirk-death-fakeout, JJ owes us something big.  But look at the filmmakers who own our hearts.  Look at Whedon.  That’s the difference here guys.  The ability to say yes, I love this thing, but it can change, people can die, but that’s okay.

I want to walk out of that theater knowing that the stakes are big, that the heroes can lose, and knowing that the world has changed forever.

Let’s burn a bridge.  Let’s  kill Han Solo.  And then?  Let’s revenge him.

 

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