Henrik Carlsson's Blog

Microcast: First impressions of ”Rogue One”

Listen to my first impressions of ”Rogue One”.

This is very much not a cohesive review. It’s me saying ”random” thoughts about the movie less than ten minutes after I watched it for the first time.

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Lightsaber battles are as fun and fantastic in real life


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Star Wars Rebels is bringing back one of the Expanded Universe’s greatest villains

“One of the most famous villains of the Star Wars universe is coming back: Grand Admiral Thrawn.”


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More Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Iris and me have been watching Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales. I was really entertained by the first episode and found it hilarious at times. Unfortunately the rest of the episodes where not as great.

The plot of the show is just an excuse to let Threepio retell episodes I – VI. The retelling of The Phantom Menace was amazing. It managed to parody all the things that are silly in that movie. The other prequel-retelling was okay, but not as funny as Episode I and once the series started retelling the original trilogy I felt like the funny moments were fewer and further between. I guess the jokes in ”Droid Tales” are very cheap and a bit lazy, which works as long as the movies they riff on are so lazily written but once they face better movies it just starts seeming cheap, rather than fun.1

Anyway, watch an episode or two of ”Droid Tales” but if you find them losing their way a few episodes in it’s okay to stop. There are plenty of other things to watch on Netflix.

  1. Please note that I do not imply that episodes II and III are better than The Phantom Menace. I actually believe that Episode I is the least terrible of the prequels. 

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I saw The Force Awakens a second time, this time in IMAX 3D

Once again there will be spoilers for Star Wars, The Force Awakens.

A few weekends ago my brother, his girlfriend and me went to see The Force Awakens in the IMAX theater at ”Mall of Scandinavia” in Stockholm. It was an interesting experience since it’s the first feature film that I ever saw in iMax and also the first time I saw a whole movie in 3D.

I am nearsighted and ever since I started wearing glasses I think going to a movie in a theater lost something for me. I can easily start obsessing over almost non-existing smudge on my glasses, to the point that I loose focus on the movie. This problem has been solved since I stared using contact lenses.

Why do I tell you about this? Because the 3D makes this problem a problem again and in a big way. Not only am I wearing glasses again, I’m wearing glasses that has been used and smudged by someone else. Given the look of the glasses the person using them before me must have tried to wipe them clean using a potato chip. So the glasses were gross and that took me out of the movie from time to time.

Even disregarding that, the 3D didn’t do it for me at all. I think it made the movie seem less real, not more as I hope is the intent. It is something about when the depth of a shot, and size of a person in it doesn’t match the apparent distance to which he/she is standing from me that makes my brain cringe. In 2D a great movie can feel like I’m watching actual events unfold. In 3D The Force Awakens felt more like watching a video game from time to time.

Ignoring the 3D, rewatching the movie was great. I had been slightly worried that it would be as great the second time but I do think it was. Yes I laughed/gasped slightly less at somethings but I also feel like I appreciated the story and the whole of it more.

In my earlier review I criticized the movie for the Starkiller Base plot-point.

Which brings me to the Episode IV rehashing. The whole idea of this new super weapon (The ”Starkiller”) and the comparison between it and the Death Star felt silly. I think the plot didn’t need this. The search for the map to Luke Skywalker had been enough for me. That would probably also meant that the filmmaker had found a better way to get the story to the point of the meeting between him and Rey.

It felt really jarring when a super-weapon was suddenly fired after General Hux’s Hitler speech and felt the whole operation against it felt rushed. I felt a whole lot less of this is the second viewing. Now that I knew there would be a super-weapon the pacing of the movie around it felt much better. Because of that I do think that it should have been introduced in the opening crawl. Just a quick sentence about how the First Order is working on getting its super-weapon operational would have been enough for me, I think.

All in all the movie was just as great the second time around and I do want to watch it again and again, maybe even once more in the theater. But I do not recommend anyone to see it in IMAX 3D. Use the money from the expensive tickets to see it twice in a regular 2D theater instead.

Oh, one more thing. Something that I sort of missed the first time was how badly injured Kylo Ren is before his battle with Finn and Rey begins. Off course I didn’t missed the fact that Chewie shot him but on the first viewing I didn’t really think about how clear the movie makes it that Chewie’s bow-caster is a really, really powerful weapon. Everyone that’s being shot by it in this movie is not only dead but also literally blown away from the spot where they stood. Worth noting for those who think that Rey is ”overpowered” and that she should have been crushed by Ren.

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Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales is great

In a way the headline says it all, but allow me to elaborate.

For the past week, and for the coming months, I’m on paternity leave with Iris. So far we’ve had a good week and I think things will only get better as I tie up a few loose ends from work and can devote even more of my energy to her.

I don’t know how much tv is appropriate or not for a one year old, but we do watch some tv everyday. Sometimes it’s something we do together while cuddling in the sofa, sometimes it’s something I use as a ”babysitter” while I got to do some house chores. And during this week we’ve found a show on Netflix that’s great for both of us.

Lego Star Wars: Droid Tales is basically Threepio retelling the various Star Wars movies in a kids-friendly way while also making it highly entertaining for someone like me who love the original trilogy, really liked The Force Awakens and hates the prequels.

We have not seen the whole show yet and I don’t know whether it’ll keep being as good as I think it is now but the first episode was simply amazing. I don’t want to spoil the funny moments but I can tell you that it starts the morning after the victory celebration on Endor and the scene where C-3PO is cleaning by using R2-D2 as both a garbage can and a vacuum cleaner is great.

Don’t take my word for it, just watch the first few minutes and hopefully you’ll laugh just as much as I did.

Side-note: We’re watching it with the Swedish dub, so I’m missing out on the original voice-actors but as I’ve seen in the ending credits, and as apparent from the trailer, it’s the one and only Anthony Daniels that’s doing the voice for Threepio. I guess I need to rewatch it by myself with the English dub. I love Daniels as Threepio. He gives so much life to the character.

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Celebrating my 30th birthday with Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens

I’ve loved Star Wars for twenty one years. That’s a lot shorter time than some other fans have but also a lot longer time that other fans. It is not meant as a metric of how much more or less a fan I am than other people, just a way of saying Star Wars and I go a long way back.

I first saw the original Star Wars movie on December 11th or 12th, 1994 just days before turning nine years old. From there on it’s been an ongoing love affair, even though my interest has had its ups and downs I’ve always loved the original movies whenever I’ve sat down to watch them. I was young enough for the prequels to not HATE them in the theater but also old enough to be able to look critically at them today and realize they’re pure and utter garbage. All of them.

So the stakes where quite high when I first heard about a seventh movie being made. The first teaser trailer looked okay but didn’t really say anything about the movie, except for the important fact that The Millennium Falcon would appear. I did not, however, get my internal hype-machine up and running. Then came the second teaser and I got really excited. I literarily (yes literarily, not figuratively) cried when Han and Chewie showed up.

”Chewie, we’re home.” Damn right you are! My friends are home and we’re about to go on another great adventure like we did when I was young and life was simple. That’s how it felt. So I started anticipating the movie. And when I saw it’s release date I got so happy I almost cried again. It actually had its world premier on my 30th birthday!

My experience (spoiler free)

The big day arrived. I had given myself a ticket to the three p.m. show, the earliest in the theater in Falun, as a birthday gift and I was ready. I had done my very best to avoid spoilers beyond the second teaser. I hadn’t seen the actual trailer and I looked away whenever anything Star Wars related appeared online. I was pumped and ready.

And the movie delivered. I had hoped to be entertained. I was. I had hoped to see some visually thrilling scenes. I did. I had hoped for believable characters and an exciting plot. I was given that. And I had almost dared to hoped to laugh, cry, be on the edge of my seat and in the end just be almost cathartically happy. I did all those thing.

In the end I sat in the theater as the closing credits rolled with a happy grin on my face. The movie had made me feel like I was a preteen again. Like I wasn’t as cynical as I am. It had taken me on an adventures with my old buddies again.

Was it a flawless movie? Far from it it. I’m counting on the next one being better and I’ll likely find more flaws when I rewatch The Force Awakens but on that day it was everything I could have hoped for. Since it was preceded by me playing with my daughter, not yet a year old, and since afterwards me and my fiancé was able to go out, just the two of us, for a nice sushi dinner it all added up to being the best 30th birthday I could ever ask for.

Digging deeper (spoiler alert)

I had originally planned to write a thorough scene by scene review but as time has passed (it’s over a month since I say it) the memories are fading and I need to be done with this text so I’ll go over the high points and my main criticism of the movie.

There will be spoilers. If you haven’t watched the movie, stop reading and go watch it!

So, highlights it is:

The opening crawl

Well, how can it not be? You have the ”Star Wars” logo, the star field and the iconic, yes iconic, music by John Williams. The first seconds of any Star Wars opening is enough to open the door to my inner child. So it really takes a putz to screw it up. That being said the prequels did manage to screw it up, especially in The Phantom Menace.

The Force Awakens did the crawl well. It let me know who the good guys where, who the bad guys where, that there was a MacGuffin and that we needed to find Luke, fast. And that’s really all I needed to know.

The blood on Finn’s stormtrooper mask

It’s really the start of his hero’s journey, but more importantly it’s a reminder that there are actual people inside these suits. People that can bleed, that can be killed, that can be happy or sad, than can mourn or be mourned.

I also see it as a clear message from the movie makers to me and people like me who feel like one of the (many) problems of the prequels were that there were no stakes in the big battles. Soulless droids fought agains soulless clones and the audience where always given the impression that both the droids and the clones where cannon fodder and that we shouldn’t care about any individual one. The blood on Finn’s mask is a clear message that we should care. That there are no cannon fodder. That the battles have ramifications.

Rey and the introduction of her

How can I not love Rey? Finally there’s another woman in a Star Wars movie as badass as Leia. The introduction of her is great. The way she works persistently in silence, the way her actions rather then her words tell us that she is tough, that she’s someone we can count on in a pinch, but also that she has a troubled past and that she really lacks any kind of friends.

Kylo Ren’s voice and face

Kylo Ren the character is not that interesting to me in this movie, at least not until Han and Leia talks about him and clearly states that yes, he is their son. But his physical appearances is cool and his crude lightsaber is great as a symbol for himself as this unfinished, frustrated thing that’ll blow up any second.

The thing that worried me as he made his entrance was his voice. The last time I saw a bad guy in a mask in the theater I got super-annoyed by his voice and the effect treatment of it. I think Kylo Ren’s voice was a positive surprise. It sounded menacing without being overdone and silly.

I also like the fact that when he removes his mask he is not horribly scared in anyway. He’s just a frustrated young adult with an unhealthy obsession for his grandfather ”The Great Darth Vader” and therefore he also want to look badass. And it works, both as a way for him to look badass and as a way for him to appear more insecure and out of control.


I don’t need to elaborate on this, do I?

Space/air battles

The ones involving The Millennium Falcon in particular. They look like the best parts of the battles from the original trilogy, only cooler. And the Falcon is just as much a ”hunk of junk” as before.

The references to the original movies

There were a lot of references for us old-time fans. And they walked the fine line between fun and tedious with grace.

The music*

This comes with an asterisk since I didn’t really notice the music during the movie. It was there, no doubt about it, but there were so many other things to focus on. But as I’m writing this I’m listening to the soundtrack on Spotify and it’s great. John Williams’ music is the one constant through all seven movies. It’s always been there, it’s always sounded like a genuine part of the Star Wars world and it’s always been amazing. It was one of the few bright spots of the prequels.

The lack of references to the prequels

This is certainly fanservice, but it’s hard to see this movie and not feel like the creative team wants us to know that they too hate the prequels and that they promise us that even though they may still be canon, let’s not speak of them again.

The special effects, both ”practical” and CGI

The movie looks great, as simple as that.

That Leia is old

We knew beforehand that Han would look like he spent the last thirty years being pulled behind a tractor on a corn field, having his face used as a plow (and looking amazing from it). We didn’t know what Leia would look like.

And I love the now old Leia. I love the idea that a woman is ”allowed”, for lack of a better word, to age in a similar way. She is wrinkled, her eyes are those of an old woman and her voice is filled with traces from Carrie Fisher’s own hard life. And all of that makes her more believable as a character.

As I’ve read the Expanded Universe books over the years it has felt like a given that Leia would end up president of ”The New Republic” but this movie proves how wrong I was in thinking that. Off course Leia won’t be a president sitting in her far away castle, she’ll be in the trenches, she’ll be digging the trenches. She’ll be standing shoulder to shoulder with Chewbacca and fight of impossible odds.

In a way I wish that she had been the main character, instead of Han, and that she had faced and been killed by Kylo Ren in the end. But maybe her confrontation with him will be all the more intense in a later movie. Now we know the stakes in such a confrontation. And we also know that Leia is a fighter and that she’ll be the last one standing regardless of the odds.

It’s also worth pointing out that the chemistry between Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford is just as good as ever. You can clearly see that these are characters that love each other, that can’t live with or without each other, so to speak.

There’s probably a lot more worth pointing out and I’ll likely do that once I see the movie again. (I’ll see it in iMax this weekend.)

The less good parts

I won’t dwell on this for too long.

The poor treatment of Captain Phasma

(I hope I got the name right.)

The shiny stormtrooper in the teaser got me really curious and when I watched the movie and we where told that the character was a woman I was happy. Yes, a badass evil woman in a Star Wars movie. The happiness stopped there since her role in the movie was minuscule. She gets captured in the silliest way possible1 and gets knocked out by Chewbacca.

Here’s to hoping she’ll be back with a vengeance in Episode VIII.

The rehashing of Episode IV and the high pacing

It felt like JJ Abrams had so much he wanted to say that the second half of the film felt rushed in times. There were so much to do for the characters.

It’s a nice contrast to the endless scenes of people sitting around and doing nothing but talking that’s infested the prequels. It’s also nice to see a movie that crams more than enough stuff for two movies into one, instead of the usual modus operandi of todays movie studios where source material, such as a single book, gets turned into two or more movies even though it could just as easily have been one movie that in itself had been more interesting. That being said, I do think some things could have been cut from the movie making it feel less stressed.

Which brings me to the Episode IV rehashing. The whole idea of this new super weapon (The ”Starkiller”) and the comparison between it and the Death Star felt silly. I think the plot didn’t need this. The search for the map to Luke Skywalker had been enough for me. That would probably also meant that the filmmaker had found a better way to get the story to the point of the meeting between him and Rey.

I do like the fact that Luke was missing for 99,9% of the movie though.

Some character, especially Finn, could have used a few more minutes on their story arcs as well.

Finn using a lightsaber

No. Just no.

Lightsabers should be the privilege of jedi and other force-sensitive people. And please don’t make Finn a future jedi. Please.

Wrap up

I’m having a hard time deciding whether I like the very end of the movie or not. The part where Artoo comes back to life and provides our heroes with the final map to Luke seems like Deus ex machina. Or if it should be explained in the movie, it happened because either Luke sent some kind of remote signal to Artoo, or he was aware of what went on around him even in his powered down state (maybe there’s midichlorians in his engine oil). Regardless of how it happened, Artoo ”woke up” because the force had awakened in Rey and she was ready to meet Luke.

I think subsequent watchings of this movie, and even more its coming sequels, will help me make up my mind on this matter.

So as I said in the beginning, I really liked the movie. It’s without a doubt at least the forth best Star Wars movie. Sure, that bar is quite low to pass but it still passed it with flying colors. It’s close to the original trilogy in quality and a few more viewings might even convince me that it is as good as Return of the Jedi. It is not, however, a new The Empire Strikes Back.

I think the best way to sum it up is to quote the line that made me tear up the most, and I did tear and choke up quite a few times in this movie. It’s when Artoo finally comes back to life and Threepio says

My dear old friend, how I missed you.

It felt so good to hear that line. It reminded me again of the close relationship that these droids have to each other and also, like the ”we’re home” line, reminded me of all the adventure these characters had brought me along for as I grew up. And now they are here again and they will bring me on for so many more adventures. I’m ready to jump into my imaginary spaceship and go wherever the Falcon heads.

  1. Well, I’m sure Lucas would have come up with an even sillier and even worse scene, but hey… 

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Some awesome things

This is just at quick post to share some awesome robotics stuff on YouTube.

Yesterday I took a long walk with Iris and while she slept I listened to a whole bunch of episodes of the silly podcast Robot or Not?. It’s really silly, and funny, and great, and if you have any interest in the Incomparable and/or Jason Snell or John Siracusa you should listen to it!

Anyway, all their talk about robots got me thinking about BB-8 and the fact that I kind of want to put a BB-8 toy on the wish list for my 30th birthday. Still, it’s a really expensive toy considering that the main thing I’d probably have it do is patrol back and forth through my house. So instead I started thinking about building robots, which led me to YouTube.

First, I found this great of how the BB-8 toy works wherein a guy who build robots for fun, and who has built and R2-D2, takes a BB-8 toy apart and shows how it works.

Then I found a video of a guy who’s building his own BB-8 from a globe, and RC car and some other stuff. Inspiring idea, and I love how he walks us through his work.

I then took a closer look at the guy behind said video and he seems to be simply awesome! He builds all kinds of cool geeky stuff. How about an actual ion propulsion for a TIE Fighter toy? Check this guy out!

And finally, as I made my way out of the BB-8 hole and towards the Arduino based robots I’ve seen before I found this guy, Kid Robot Maker and his video about how to make a cheap Arduino robot. This kid is my new hero!

The robot he builds is excellent in its simplicity and I love how this kid, who seems to be really young, just throws himself out there to the world and sort of says ”hi, let me show you something awesome”. How come I, who are probably at least twice his age, never seems to be able to work up the courage to do a video like this of some simple but cool project.

Kid Robot Maker, you’re the man!

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I once thought that ”Revenge of the Sith” was almost as good as the original Star Wars movies. Boy, was I wrong!

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För övrigt oerhört häftigt att en ny Star Wars film har premiär på min trettioårsdag!!!

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Jag hade helt missat att biljetterna till ”The Force Awakens” släpptes häromdagen men nu är det bokat till 15:00-föreställningen.

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Daddy’s girl!#starwars #darthvader

Daddy’s girl!
#starwars #darthvader

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Det blir allt svårare att hålla sig spoiler-fri för The Force Awakens. 

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My initial impressions of Teaser #2 for Star Wars: The Force Awakens

When I’m writing this I’ve seen Teaser #2 for Star Wars: The Force Awakens just three times, slowly play-pausing my way through a forth viewing. I write this before listening to The Incomparable #243: Find My Lightsaber. I’m really looking forward to hearing what Jason, John, Serenity and Dan thinks about it and I’m sure it will influence my opinion as well, but I do want to write down my impressions before being affected by somebody else’s.

I’m trying to stay spoiler-free for this movie, so I’ll only watch the teasers and trailers. That means that this far all I’ve seen i the first teaser and this one.

The Teaser #1 was kind of cool but also seemed very generic for a action/adventure movie in 2015. The short scene with The Millennium Falcon flying was awesome though.

This new teaser gives me a whole lot more. It opens with well known Star Wars music by John Williams and a really wide shot of a desert (Tatooine, I presume). The music gave me instant goose-bumps but I did think the matte-painting looked kind of cheap. This was my internal dialog as I watched it: ”Oh well, maybe that will be fixed before the actual release of OH MY GOD, IS THAT A CRASHED STAR DESTROYER!!!!

And then we hear the voice of Luke Skywalker. We see Darth Vader’s burnt out helmet, we see a ”classic looking” lightsaber and most importantly we actually see Luke patting R2-D2 with his prosthetic hand.

You have that power (the force) too.

Who?? Who has that power? OMG!

By this point in the trailer I’m on the edge of my seat as more of Williams classic Star Wars music showers me. Then there are X-Wings and then a quick cut of what I assume is a ”Dark Jedi” och ”Sith” or something swinging the lightsaber with the hand guard that we saw in the first teaser. My adrenaline is pumping wild by this point.

Then there is chaos, and another shot of the Dark Jedi and then my favorite shot so far, the one of the stormtroopers infront of the giant red imperial symbol. This shot feels a lot like something from a Nazi Germany propaganda video. Then more chaos, new actors, TIE fighters and who is this shine stormtrooper that marches in slow motion?

Now I’m really pumped and then suddenly we see the Millennium Falcon again in a beautiful chase with a TIE fighter. And then fade to black. And then we hear Han Solo’s voice. ”Chewie…”, the picture fades in and we see Han and Chewie, ”we’re home.”

In the second view I literary cried at this point.

I promised myself early on, when we first got the word of a new Star Wars movie, that I should get my hopes up too high. Now that seems impossible. There is just so much that this trailer gets right. Judging by what we see here, maybe there’ll be more focus on the original Star Wars actors than I’d thought before. In some ways I don’t want that. I want to get to know new characters and I don’t want the movie to just be a service to nostalgic old fans like me. But I can’t deny the fact that I cried when I saw Han and Chewie. These are my childhood heroes and soon I will see them in a movie theater again, in a movie that I haven’t seen before, a movie that might actually not suck!

The teaser says very little about what the movie is about but I like everything I see in it. Every image seems well thought out. I like the tweaked design of the stormtroopers and the X-Wings.

Maybe it’s just me, but some parts of the teaser makes me think about the Dark Empire comic book, a comic book that I didn’t like at all. The crashed Star Destroyer and Luke and R2 sitting alone in the light of a bonfire are very reminiscent of that comic book. I didn’t like the book itself but there are some elements from it, like a Star Destroyer crashing on a planet and Luke and R2 alone on a foreign world, that is very appealing to me.

There is also the thing I’ve thought about since the first teaser, the thing that I can’t shake out of my head. What if this new Dark Lord is in fact Luke Skywalker?

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Oh. Fuck. Yeah!!!!

Teaser #2 for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is out and Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God!!!

I promised myself that I should not get my hopes up too high, last time I had high hopes for a new Star Wars movie it didn’t turn out well, but I don’t think it’s possible for me to hold myself back. Once I’m seated in the theater and hear the music begin and the logo fade away I’ll be like a child on christmas.

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