Star Wars™ or Star Bores?

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For the last couple of days during this unending lockdown, I have been thinking of Star Wars. The feeds on various social media platforms such as Google, YouTube and Instagram are pretty much just cars and science fiction, with random bits of friends and family stuff in-between. Anything from lightsabers on sale to how the USS Discovery’s Mycelium spore-drive works and how fast spaceships in The Expanse actually travel. (Feel free to notify me, I still don’t have a definite answer.)

I then thought about what I think of the Star Wars movies since everyone is criticising the absolute crap out of the sequel trilogy. So without going into too much detail, I will now give my honest opinions about each one – in chronological order (by era, not release):

The Prequels

The Phantom Menace – Meh

Attack of the Clones – Good

Revenge of the Sith – Better

 

The Fillers

The Clone Wars Series – Excellent! Brilliant! Magnificent!

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Okay

Rebels Series – Meh

Rogue One – Bloody Brilliant!

 

The Original Trilogy

A New Hope – Very Good

The Empire Strikes Back – Really Very Good

Return of the Jedi – Good

 

The Sequels

The Force Awakens – *cough* Knock-off *cough*

The Last Jedi – Uhmmm… What’s with all the comedy?

The Rise of Skywalker – WTF was that?

 

(I have not included The Mandolorian in this for the sole reason that I have not seen it. Sorry. I hear it’s very good though.)

So that’s my short honest opinion. The Sequels really disappointed me – like it did many other people. The Force Awakens was just A New Hope remake to introduce the new characters and get rid of some old ones. The Last Jedi was a complete farce. It was the first Star Wars that I saw in the cinema and I really looked forward to it. Oh boy, was I in for a shock. Why is there so much humour in it? The cinema was laughing more than anything else. It’s Star Wars, not Spaceballs! And why the heck did Cantonica (the casino planet) get so much screen-time?

The only two remotely cool things about the whole movie was the fight scene where Kylo and Rey were fighting together in the throne room on-board the Supremacy (Mega-Star Destroyer for the non- Starwarsians who read here) and the bit where Kylo ordered all the guns to shoot at Luke and he brushed it off like dust (because, of course, he was a projection).

And finally, we get to The Rise of Skywalker. What a fustercluck. The marketing was “the end of an era” and “40 years in the making”, which got me really excited. When I heard Palpatine’s laugh at the end of the trailer, I got really, really excited. So I went into the cinema all pumped up with excitement. But oh, was it crushed fast. I stood outside the cinema afterwards and thought WTF WAS THAT?.

During the run-up to the movie, leaks were happening and fans were going rampant with their theories. I read some of them and I can honestly say that most of them were better than the final product. I like JJ Abrams. I think he’s a great director. He’s the reason I like Star Trek. (Don’t worry, the 80s and 90s ‘Trek are still the best.)

Many of these theories regarded who Rey’s parents were. Many believed that they were nobodies, which would have been cool as it would have made Rey an ordinary galactic citizen who rose up and defeated the most powerful Star Wars baddie. But no, instead she is the granddaughter of said most powerful baddie. Not a Kenobi, not a Skywalker, not a random scavenger, but a freaking Palpatine! This was the single stupidest decision made by Disney and the feminist Kathleen Kennedy should spend some time in the Sarlacc Pit for this and everything else she has done!

Instead of showing people that a nobody from a wrong-side-of-the-tracks place can become great and inspirational, it showed that in order to become truly great and successful, you need to have a favourable background (like many famous people). It’s stupid and uninspiring and very un-Disney. Walt would have a hissy-fit.

This movie also resolved some of the plot holes of the previous movie. I’m not going to bother thinking of examples as I really don’t care, but instead of answering the pressing questions everyone had, they simply added more. For instance, one of the things I was most excited about was the news that Richard E. Grant would be joining the cast as an Imperial General. This was an excellent addition, but it was still ruined. The scene in question was how the movie got rid of General Hux. General Pryde (Grant’s character) just shot him. PEW!, and he was out of the movie. No ceremonious end to the leader of the Imperial Navy, like the one Cutler Beckett got in Pirates of the Caribbean. He didn’t deserve the end he got. More ‘going down with his ship’ would have been so much better instead of ‘getting unceremoniously shot as an afterthought’.

I have this thing when I watch a movie – I want my mind to randomly wander to a bit of the movie that I found cool or inspiring, hours, days or even weeks after watching a movie. I find this to be an indication that the movie was good and that I really enjoyed it. Good examples of this feeling are the murderer being shown less than halfway into the movie in Knifes Out, the beautiful twist at the end of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express and the sheer beauty that is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty . The movie must want me to dissect parts of it in order to make sense of the rest. I had one heck of a time with Inception, figuring out which were dreams and which were reality, weeks after watching the movie.

With The Rise of Skywalker, I forgot about the events of the movie as soon as I got home and never really thought about it again – until now when I realised how bloody angry I was and decided to write this sort-of blog, sort-of rant about it.

So, the question is, will I watch it again? The answer; only if I have to – which coincidentally is the same answer I gave with Marvel’s Black Panther. I will however, buy it as it is the only Star Wars movie I need to finish my collection.

But only if it’s on sale.

 

©2020 MICHAEL DE KOCK

 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerd, petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.

Chronicles of an Eight-Year-Old Beemer

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You might remember one of my very first blogs, Chronicles of a 21-Year-Old Beemer (https://michaeldekock.com/2012/06/29/chronicles-of-a-21-year-old-beamer) from eight years ago. In that post, I had dreams of turning my dad’s little Beemertjie into a grand tourer or off-roader and fitting it with some kind of forced-induction. Yes, I was very naïve. This happened back in June 2012.

In 2013, we sold the Beemer to a guy from Polokwane who was a gardener. Right before he drove off with it, I told him in my best impersonation of Liam Neeson that if he ever takes the car ‘Spinning’, that ‘I will find him…’ He stopped by a week later to pick something up and I saw that he changed the rims from black steelies with hub-caps to the E30’s alloys. I didn’t like it. I thought about that car every day for two years. I still think about it at least once a week. Most recently, I thought of how cool it would be as a convertible here by the sea where I could have used it as a beach buggy. Anyway.

In early 2014, we moved to Cairo, Egypt, for four and a half years and returned in August 2018. I was 22 already and had been dreaming of a first car since I was 17. Well, a year and a half ago (on the 22nd of January 2019 to be exact), I finally got my first car and as you could deduce from the title, it was also a Beemer. I would never have thought that I would actually get a Beemer as a first car!

As per petrolhead custom, I started by looking at all the cars that were far outside my budget and moved downwards toward the cheaper ones. Whilst looking at BMWs, Volvos, Mercs, VWs and others, I kept having this depressing feeling that I was going to end up with a Ford Fiesta, Suzuki Swift or that dreaded Toyota Etios. I didn’t much like that feeling. But I persevered. I stayed clear of the Hyundais, as I find them really boring, but I knew they would be stupidly reliable. I liked the Kia Rio, but the newer model was too expensive. I then realised how expensive VW Polos were. It’s ridiculous!

In the end, I decided that I like the F20 BMW 1-Series and the hatchback Volvo V40. I checked a few Volvos out and one BMW. They were slightly higher than my budget, but I kept at it. In the end, I found a listing on Gumtree for a blue BMW 118i manual, almost the same Liquid Metallic Blue that our old 316i was. I called the dealership – who was incredibly helpful – and we drove through the next morning. I checked the car out, took it for a test-drive and instantly fell in love. We went to pick it up three days later. (We were so impressed with the dealer’s service that my dad called the same sales-person directly a few months later and bought his Santa Fé through him as well).

So here we are, a year and a half later and the Beemer is awesome! Allow me to provide the specs: it is a 2012 BMW 118i Sports-Line manual, not M-Sport. (I don’t know why there are two sporty trims.) It has a 1.6L Inline-4 (like the 316i) with a turbo (unlike the 316i). It produces 125KW and 250NM of torque through a 6-Speed Getrag manual. The engine is a joint BMW-Groupe PSA (Peugeot) endeavour called the Prince engine (known as the N13 at BMW). In BMWs, they make more power that in PSA’s applications and unlike PSA’s cars, it is mounted longitudinally instead of transversely.

In my experience with the car, the acceleration is good, but not fast. It’s not bad, but it is the in-gear acceleration that is really impressive. In 3rd going 50kph, put your foot down and you’ll be at 80kph really quickly. The cool thing about the transmission is that the gears are really long, so you can do 100km/h in 2nd if you want to. You can also short-shift into 6th doing 50km/h. As with many cars, the top gear – 6th in this case – is the economy gear, so it takes a while to accelerate when putting your foot down. However, in Sport Mode, shift down to 5th and you’ll be breaking the speed-limit in no time – not that I do that a lot, but I had two tickets in the first two months to show for this experiment.

I do have some complaints about the car though. The first not being a complaint with the car, but rather the person who specced it when they ordered it. It doesn’t have Bluetooth. The button is there and it looks like the previous owner used it, but it doesn’t work. I cannot find anything in the i-Drive system pertaining to Bluetooth either.

Another complaint is towards BMW. The Prince engine is relatively small and turbocharged, so you would think that it is relatively fuel efficient? Wrong. It is much thirstier than I thought it would be and much worse than what BMW claimed. Though I don’t drive all that much and a tank still lasts me around 450km with town driving.

It recently had its first service since I bought the car and I saved up quite a bit in case it was going to be ridiculously expensive, with it being a premium German automotive product. I was pleasantly surprised. It cost about a third of what I budgeted and everything seems to be fine.

All-in-all, I absolutely love my car. Every time the garage door is open, I catch glimpses of it parked there. When I drive it – even when I’m just cruising through town at 30-40kph in 4th – I love every moment in it. Many days I still cannot believe that I actually have a BMW as a first car! I love the feeling. It drives awesomely, it’s a pleasant and dynamic-feeling and it is rear-wheel-drive! I know in the real world it doesn’t really matter what the drivetrain is for most cars, but for a petrolhead it does. I dislike driving on gravel or dirt roads as I had a bad experience once, but when I do find myself on one, I cannot help but dump the accelerator and feel the back-end kick out. It is an awesome feeling. I just wish I could get access to a skidpan…

 

©2020 MICHAEL DE KOCK

 

Michael de Kock is a recently graduated job-seeking nerd, petrolhead, fascinated with avocados and generally quite tall.