In light of the fact that George Lucas gave an interview about Star Wars: The Force Awakens (on the Charlie Rose show) and referred to Disney as “white slavers,” I felt compelled to add this little bit to this post. You might be surprised, based on my “vicious” critique of the new Star Wars movie, that I'm not siding with Mr. Lucas. I'll say no more because Disney surely doesn't need me to defend them. What I will say is that if you enjoyed the new Star Wars movie, then great. I didn't like it, but you did and the Force continues throughout the universe unchanged. What some of you didn't realize is that I'm a jokester at heart and much of the wording of this post is meant to be intentionally provocative. The points I make in each paragraph are solid (in my view) and I stand by all of them. But especially the headlines are meant to be crazy. Would you have read this post if I kept the original title: My Reasons Why I Didn't Like the New Star Wars Movie at All! (But Daisy Ridley as Rey is a star)? Probably Not.
The original post starts now…
When the first trailer for the Star Wars: The Force Awakens came out, like a lot of fans, I was quite unimpressed. But then came the second trailer! We beheld a crashed Imperial Star Destroyer in the desert, Mark Hamills’s narration over flashes of action scenes, and ended with the entrance of… Chewbacca and Han Solo with a “Chewie, we’re home,” uttered by Han. Okay, I admit it. I (almost) teared up.
Much of the uneasiness from Star Wars fans was over what would happen to the franchise now that it was owned by Mickey Mouse (or, sorry)…Disney. To be fair, Master George Lucas did a pretty good job of damaging the franchise, all by himself, with his prequels. Yes, we got Jango Fett, Jedi Master Mace Windu, and Darth Maul! But we also got Jar-Jar Binks, some of the worse acting performances from Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman ever on screen, and some of the worst and clunky dialog in a major studio film ever. Taken all together, the prequels were nothing but some dead Kowakian monkey-lizard on the side of the road. (Here's a pic of one–Salacious Crumb, Jabba the Hutt's favorite little pet–pecking out C-3P0's eyes)
The other concern, from many, was over writer-producer-director, JJ Abrams at the helm. Would we get Star Trek movie I JJ (a brilliant reboot) or get Star Trek 2: Into Darkness JJ, which in many eyes, including mine, destroyed the new Star Tek movie franchise. If you doubt that, have you seen the trailer for the disaster that is the upcoming third Star Trek movie?
Well, I saw the new Star Wars on opening night—December 17th. Not the first showing, but close and no, I didn’t stand in a line. The only movie I ever stood in line for ever was the 10th year anniversary showing of Blade Runner at the historic Nuart Theater in West Los Angeles. I never expected to get in to see the new Star Wars on opening night, but I did. The theater was packed and my main motivation for going on opening night was I thought it would be so fun to experience the film with other fans.
So as you can see, I am a genuine Star Wars fan, even despite the prequels. But you already know my quick movie review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens sucked!
Okay, that was my emotional (Leonard McCoy) response as I walked out the theater two and half hours later. Let’s get into my intellectual (Spock) analysis. The movie is one of the most uneven movies I’ve ever seen: the good parts are very good—the casting of Daisy Ridley as Rey is the best thing about the movie, but bad parts are pretty bad; and, unfortunately, it is the bad that remains. I still expect it to become the highest grossest movie of all time (sorry Avatar), but is it a good movie? No, and here are the reasons why: (But first…)
DO NOT READ ANYMORE OF THIS POST IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS AND PLAN TO SEE IT. THERE ARE TONS OF SPOILERS BELOW SO GO AWAY NOW! BEAM AWAY NOW! RUN AWAY NOW! I DON’T WANT TO SPOIL IT (PUN INTENDED) FOR YOU. MY CRITIQUE IS VICIOUS!
Top 10 Reasons Why Star Wars Sucked (or Yep, JJ Abrams and Disney are the Devil Sith) – Austin Dragon
Part One: Race and Star Wars
1: I’m Sick of Hollywood’s Quest For “Diversity.” Get a Life and Stop the Obsessing Over People’s Skin Color!
You can see all the magazines and articles all chattering about it everywhere. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the latest movie engaging in Hollywood’s (selected) obsession with “diversity.” Oh, look at us! We got a White female, Black guy and Hispanic guy as the leads. Aren’t we so progressive? Aren’t we so hip? Look how much we’re pushing the envelope? Well no, you’re actually being stupid and are too stupid to realize it.
Let me ask you this. There’s a meeting of the senior executive leadership of a major corporation—one White guy, one Black guy, one Hispanic guy, one Asian guy, one White female. They all grew in the same place, went to the same Ivy League schools, vote for the same political party, and have the same political and social ideology. Would you say this company’s leadership team is diverse? If you say, “Yes,” then you’d get a big fat F (as in “fail”) in my class.
Really are we back to this again? A person is their skin color? I thought we had decisively kicked that bigoted notion to the curb for trash pick-up back in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Yes, we did win that war (of racial equality) in America—though we have quite a few people out there who act as if the opposite were true. The measure of success is not that racists exist (a version of them always will); but can the racist stop you from life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is parents, upbringing, character, values, and culture that make the person, not their skin color.
The racial color barrier (and gender barrier) had to be torn down—and ripped apart— in a post-slavery, segregated America, but do these 2015 Hollywood filmmakers really think that’s what they’re doing. Sorry, but a whole generation of filmmakers and actors already beat you to it starting in the ‘30s through the ‘80s. It’s shocking to me how ignorant and self-absorbed these guys are. Do they know these names? Lena Horne, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Woody Strode, Diana Ross, Richard Pryor, Sidney Pointier, James Earl Jones (and I'm not talking about him as the voice of Darth Vader), Dorothy Dandridge, Nichelle Nichols, and many more. They were the trailblazers in Hollywood. We are all the beneficiaries of those struggles they faced and the battles they won, in the face of real prejudice and racism. We may live in the house, but we didn’t build it. Today's Hollywood, you’re not doing anything special.
I hate the Racial Bean Counter People; that’s what I call them. They come in all races, ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and both genders. I’ve been aware of them since the ‘70s and implicit in their moronic over-simplification of the human race is the preoccupation on superficiality (skin color) and not substance (values, character, decency, culture) of people. Ironically, it is they who are the ones perpetuating the racial stereotypes of the past, today.
So why is this mind-set so toxic in Hollywood? Why is it a big problem in the new Star Wars movie? Because it affects the choices these filmmakers make, and most often those choices are bad.
JJ Abrams and Disney, you want to be judged by your push for “diversity”? Good. Let’s do so. Here is why this false diversity is troubling.
2: John Boyega as a Black Stormtrooper is Offensive. Here’s Why.
We, the fans, didn’t ask them to do this, but George Lucas had to introduce the concept that the Stormtroopers were actually clones and what they looked like. But what race were they going to make the clones? Well, they wisely side-stepped the whole issue by making them…not Black. Instead, they cast Maori actor Temuera Morrison as not only Bobba Fett’s (clone) father, but the template for the clone army.
Then 13 years later, what do they do? JJ Abrams re-imagines the Stormtroopers and makes them Black! I’ll admit that ticked me off from the moment Finn (John Boyega) took off his helmet at the start of the movie. Why did Star Wars want to insert race into Star Wars, why?
They would deny that’s what they did. Their cover story is, as JJ and Disney would have you believe, that the First Order needed to add to their ranks because they ran out of clones so they began taking children from families for Stormtrooper service. That’s BS for these three reasons.
One. I’m sorry, theses are clones. If you need more clones, then you…clone some more.
Two. Remember, these are Racial Bean Counter People. Notice that all the First Order people are White, and not just White, but really White (and have British accents). Why didn’t their quest for diversity apply to the First Order people that we see? So we have White People snatching Black children from their families to be used as shock troops, at the front line, in their battles. Yeah, okay, that sounds like a script and casting idea that I can get behind. (dripping sarcasm)
Three. No, the Stormtroopers are clones. I guess with three screen writers, they can’t keep their cover story straight. There’s a scene near the end of the movie when our good guys are fighting the Stormtroopers. One Stormtrooper after another yells, “Traitor!” at Finn in the battle. How would the average Stormtrooper even know that Finn was a Stormtrooper. He has no helmet, no uniform; he’s in civilian clothes. Do the filmmakers really expect us to believe that this insignificant guy in Finn (sorry, but true and even the character says this) is known on sight by every random Stormtrooper in the vast First Order Empire. Oh, stop it. They know who he is because they have the same face. They’re clones. Otherwise, that scene makes no sense whatsoever.
Update May 1, 2018: More than a few of you have convinced me that they are not clones. However, let's be honest here. This was the first time we saw a Black Stormtrooper. The movie-makers were trying to make a statement. And I didn't like it.
3: The Black Lead As the Comic Side-Kick and No game. Yep, That’s Groundbreaking.
We have all seen movies where we’ve sat there and asked, “Why did they cast him or her in that role?” It’s nothing against him as an actor, but that’s my feeling about the casting of John Bodega in the film. Can you imagine (in a parallel universe) Johnny Depp as Iron Man, or if they cast Tom Selleck as Indiana Jones? Very good actors and I’m a fan of both, but Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man and Harrison Ford will always be Indiana Jones. Casting matters.
Also, I thought all Mr. Boyega was going to do was walk around with his hyperventilating as an acting technique for the whole movie. But then we got to it. Mr. Bodega was cast to be the comic relief in the movie. I thought he is, to use the words JJ and Disney, a lead? Okay, that’s strike three for me.
4: You Cast the Beautiful Lupita Nyong'o and Turn Her into a Four-Foot, Bug-eyed Yellow Lizard Alien.
You think I’m being harsh, but look at the Star Wars poster—and not the Chinese one where they removed the Black guy. Where’s Lupita? She’s the four-foot, bug-eyed yellow lizard alien (Maz Kanata), barely taller than R2-D2.
If Paramount Pictures and Marvel Studios in casting Chris Hemsworth as Thor, digitally had him run around in the movie with a big bag over his head and a poncho over his body, everyone would laugh at them. We’d all say these guys are foolish.
Using my Jedi mind powers, I can hear some of you saying, “But Andy Serkis is in the Star Wars movie too as Supreme Leader Snoke and he’s digitally changed.” My snappy comeback would be that he’s not a four-foot lizard alien, but a Dark Sith Master and whenever seen he’s a humongous holo-image. But motion capture technology is what actor and director, Andy Serkis does. He’s carved out a nice acting niche with Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes and that’s what he does, and does well. Lupita may be an Academy Award winner, but no one knows who the heck she is. She can stand on the Star Wars stage but no one knows she was even in the movie. And let’s be blunt, movie studios want their beautiful actors to be seen, which again makes the choice to turn her into a four-foot lizard alien all the more bizarre.
Let me very clear in what I’m alleging. I don’t believe, for a second, that Mr. Abrams or Disney is racist. The “R” word has been so over-used and misused that the word no longer has the meaning it should. But JJ does have a problem. Again, it’s the choices.
I know JJ is sincere in his concern about “diversity,” but there are actually quite a few Blacks in Hollywood who could get a film or television series made if they wanted. If, however, all they want to do is make some Selma or slavery biopic for the millionth time, the occasional minstrel show, Soul Plane (2004) or nothing at all but live large like everyone else in Hollywood (regardless of race and gender), so be it. The right people will emerge in the due course of time. It’s this kind of Hollywood mindset that makes me nervous and leads to things like “It’s Hard Out There For a Pimp” winning the American Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2006.
Also, I don’t ever remember anyone running around after the release of Empire Strikes Back talking about Billy Dee Williams as the Black guy; it was “how cool is Lando!” That movie came out 14 years after the end of segregation in all of America (I use 1969 as the benchmark year). Can you explain to me why skin color in a film is a major topic of conversation 46 years after the end of segregation, Mr. Abrams? The majority of people in America are still White (70%), the majority in China is Asian, and the majority in Latin America is Hispanic, so why is it weird that their movies would reflect that?
5: You Champion Having a Latino Lead in Your Movie and then Give Him No Movie Time.
This is a pattern with Mr. Abrams that precedes Star Wars. “Khan!” Moving to Hispanics, Ricardo Montalban was Khan in every way in the 1982 Star Trek: the Wrath of Khan. JJ Abrams does the Star Trek reboot (again, an excellent movie) and then re-imagines, of all people, actor Benedict Cumberbatch (great actor; watch the BBC series Sherlock as soon as you can) to play the titular role as Khan. Just, stop it! The villain Khan Noonien Singh was Eurasian, which means the actor can’t be Caucasian. I get that Hollywood when faced with casting a Eurasian character presents too complex a category for them so they will cast either a Hispanic or Asian actor, but Benedict Cumberbatch?
In Star Wars, the other big thing (according to them) is their Hispanic lead in actor Oscar Isaac. Okay, we see him right at the beginning of the movie and then poof—gone. He died in the crash when he and Finn escaped, it was said. Okay. Then he reappears at the very end of the movie and the explanation for this absence was so pathetic.
Why would they do this? If you call him a movie lead, then the actor actually has to have some screen time in the movie. Again, it’s JJ and Disney running around patting themselves on the back about how this is the first major motion film without any White males as a lead. A segment of Hollywood obsessed with “diversity” and this is what they give us: a Black male comic side-kick, a Hispanic male with no movie time, a Black female as a four-foot lizard alien. Yep, very impressive. (more dripping sarcasm)
Quick Diversion: You see how much I despise Hollywood's “diversity.” So let’s compare the Racial Bean Counter People with me. I’ve published 10 books to date and here is a sample breakdown of MAIN characters:
- A teenage White Amish girl (Kristianna)
- A Black husband and wife; leaders in the Resistance (“General” Moses and M)
- A Jewish husband and wife; leaders in the Resistance (Tova and Mr. Tova)
- A Mexican priest; leader of the Underground Railroad (Father Marcos)
- A Jewish female paramilitary leader (Shoshana)
- A Mormon commander (Vincent)
- A Sikh religious and military leader (Sikh Bob)
- A Japanese Christian “governor” (Kanji)
- A Japanese atheist female tek-lord (Zen)
- A Black male and White female husband and wife; the Magi (Wings and Top Hat)
- A White female Wicca leader (Athena)
- Her Black and Asian Wicca female lieutenants (Czarina and Titania)
- Bolivian female twins and slave liberators (The Betty Boop Twins/Sisters Guerras)
- A female Venezuelan anti-slaver leader (Sister Cyclops/Sister Serena)
- A Goth Christian female leader (Goth Lila)
- A Conservative Jewish “secret agent” (Gideon)
- An African Catholic bishop and military commander (Archbishop Masai)
- An Italian Catholic bishop leader (Cardinal Cassiano)
- An Orthodox Jewish anti-slaver and gunman (The Cowboy Rabbi)
This is from one of my series, After Eden—sci-fi with, obvious, religious and political themes. I’m releasing another new series (my cyberpunk detective series – Liquid Cool) where the protagonist is Puerto Rican, his girlfriend is Chinese, his best friend is Black, and his staffer is French. Another series I have coming, which probably is going to be my most diverse, everyone is Black. I see people not skin color, which is why my world is diverse and theirs is “diverse.”
Part Two: Disrespecting the Star Wars Universe
6: Really, That’s How You Kill Our Cherished Han Solo?
Star Wars has always liked to kill popular characters in stupid ways. Really, you kill the great inter-galactic bounty hunter Bobba Fett like that? Really, that’s how you’re killing Jedi Master Mace Windu?
This movie is no different, but it’s how they do it this time.
One of the charms of Han Solo was how he could get out of danger by the seat of his pants and even when the bad guys thought they had bested him, it was always Han who had the last laugh—take that you fat bastard, Jabba the Hutt! On a serious note, we understand that some parents are known to do unwise things when it comes to their children. However, let’s be clear. Han and Leia’s son is basically a Nazi. Remember, at the beginning of the movie, Kylo Ren has the Stormtroopers round up the innocent villagers in a circle to blast them to death.
The scene arrives. Anytime you see anything that looks like a catwalk in Star Wars you need to run away fast because it means someone is going get a hand cut off or killed—Luke Skywalker, Qui-Gon Jinn, the Emperor, Darth Maul. It is a very bad place to be in the Star Wars universe. Everyone should know this by now.
From the moment we see Han Solo looking out at his arriving son on a…catwalk, we know Han is dead. The reason we continued to watch is because we couldn’t believe JJ would be so criminal in how he did it. There is no explanation as to why Han and Leia want to reconcile with their Nazi son. Also, the staging of the scene is so infantile —Chewie on this side, Rey and Finn over here to watch from above, the especially ominous CGI-ing of the scene to make it all dark and spooky.
Why would Han do it? You try to reconcile outside on solid ground, not alone, preferably not while you’re trying to blow up their Death Planet. You don’t do it on this elevated catwalk many stories up with no railings. The scene made no sense because the motivations of Han’s character made no sense. It was the filmmaker forcing an emotional scene, which only back-fired on fans like me. Han’s dead. Okay, who cares? Even Leia’s reaction of the death of Han, sensing it through the Force, was pathetic. Not even a tear?
If a fan of your franchise doesn’t care about the death of an iconic character, then you have royally screwed up. Such deaths should matter to the fan, but not so in this case. I feel it’s the perfect metaphor. JJ didn’t just kill Han; he killed Star Wars.
7: First He Can Force-Freeze a Pulse Blast, Then He Gets Beat Up By a Girl.
Let’s remember how Star Wars introduces their new baddie Kylo Ren. Poe shoots a cannon laser blast at him and Kylo Ren, using the force, freezes the laser blast in motion and when the action is done releases it so it can hit what it’s going to hit. Not even Darth Vader ever did that. The closest we saw was Darth Vader blocking a laser pistol blast with his hand from Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back.
In the original movies, Luke Skywalker was strong with the force, but he had to go to Dagobah to train with a real Jedi Master, Yoda. At the time Luke left, his training was still not done. In this new Star Wars movie, we are introduced to Rey who basically gets out of bed and spontaneously masters the force to beat the powerful Sith lord, Kylo Ren, in her first ever light-saber battle. No knowledge of the force, no training, nothing. That’s just stupid. The set-up was good with Finn trying his best to stop Kylo Ren, and failing (since I trashed Mr. Bodega, I’ll say that this was the only time I actually liked him in the movie). But Rey beating Kylo Ren? What I expected them to do is have Rey train with Luke (in the next Star Wars movie) and then fight and defeat Kylo Ren in the next one.
To go even deeper, the subtext of this scene in elevating this one female character to such a ridiculous level is to say that all the Jedis that we have seen before—Luke Skywalker, Ben Kenobi (played by Ewan McGregor), Mace Windu, etc.—were nothing. It’s saying—which is why I always hated the introduction of the whole midichlorians nonsense in the prequels—is that you become a great Jedi Knight not through training or skill, but by blood. In other words, only the midichlorian-superior can be a Jedi. Only those with the right blood can be Jedis? Are you freaking kidding me, Star Wars? What twin evils does that sound like that we defeated in America with the Civil Rights Movement and defeated in the world with World War II. I already used the “N” word (Nazi), three times so I won’t repeat it again. But are we comfortable with that concept–the supremacy of blood (racial superiority)–embedded in a pop culture movie franchise? I’m not.
8: What Exactly Has the Rebel Alliance Been Doing For The Past 30 Years? They Did Actually Defeat the Galactic Empire.
And had Darth Vader throw the Emperor to his death off that catwalk!
In the original Star Wars, we had the Death Star. It was destroyed and then our baddies rebuilt it, but was destroyed in Return of Jedi. In the new Star Wars, we have a Death Planet! It is 100 times larger and can blow up not just one planet but several at a time.
I’m sorry but do the filmmakers know that the Rebel Alliance actually defeated the Empire in Return of the Jedi? These bad guys call themselves the First Order, but it’s the same Galactic Empire. Same uniforms, same White actors with an over-representation of British actors (I watch quite a bit of British TV so I noticed many right away), same tie-fighters, same Imperial Destroyers, and same Stormtroopers.
What the heck was the Rebel Alliance doing over the past 30 years? The movie never explains itself, and the subtext is that none of what happened in the original three movies mattered.
The First Order (The Galactic Empire) got a new Death Planet and a new guy to replace Darth Vader. The Resistance (The Rebel Alliance) has a C-3PO with a new red arm. Isn’t that special? The Rebel Alliance that we knew and loved at the end of the Return of the Jedi would never have let that happen.
9: Yep, Luke Skywalker is found. And He’s a Homeless Cyborg Bum Hangin’ Out on a Cliff.
The movie’s ending is just plain odd.
They touch down on this planet thanks to this map and Rey is just walking and walking. Then she reaches a hill to see that hooded figure—Luke! Yep, there’s Luke standing on the top of a hill looking out over the ocean. At first you ask, why didn’t they just land the Millennium Falcon right there? Then you ask, what the hell is Luke doing? There’s nothing—I mean nothing around. No tent, no structures, no animals, people, nothing. So here we end the movie in this awkward moment staged for the camera of Rey stretching out her arm to hand Luke his light-saber, but he’s not taking it.
Some of you might be saying that I’ve been a long-time hater of Mr. Abrams. Actually that is not true, but again we see a pattern. I never watched his television series Lost, but how they ended that series for the fans should be classified as criminal abuse. I did watch his series Alias (can’t remember why I stopped watching it), I was a big fan of his series Fringe (until they relocated it to the parallel universe), I was a fan of Persons of Interest (until the bad guys stole the machine and the writers didn’t know what the hell they wanted to do with the show), and I will always be a fan of his “small” film, Cloverfield. So my critique of him is not as a hater. As the reboot of the Star Trek movies also clearly shows, Mr. Abrams knows how to start things (sometimes brilliantly) but often times doesn’t know how to do the middle or end part.
10: Yes, it’s confirmed. JJ Abrams and Disney Signed a Pact With the Devil are actually all Dark Lords of the Sith Order.
I always had fond memories of Disney as a kid. Fantasia, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, etc. The greatness continued through their purchase of Pixar. But this Disney is not that Disney. Disney owns Star Trek, Star Wars and Marvel Studios. There is something unsettling about one entity owning all those movie franchises. JJ destroyed the Star Trek franchise, I believe the same will happen with Star Wars, and all of us Marvel fans know that the amazing Marvel movie empire is coming to an end soon. (Ant Man? Seriously?) Monopolies are bad and I say that as a capitalist. Hollywood monopolies are even worse. It would be one thing if all of this consolidation also consolidated the best of the best, but far from it. Frankly, I don’t think these Hollywood executives actually know what a good movie is.
Some might say: “Hey Austin, the movie is the fastest grossing a billion dollars ever!” Yeah, so what? My critique is not about box-office grosses, it is about movie quality for the general audience and the Star Wars fans that made the franchise and made George Lucas and company a gazillionaire. Does anyone think that Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon and Revenge of the Fallen are good movies? They sucked, but still are huge commercial successes. Same with the Hunger Games movies; they’re awful (not to be confused with the books which are awesome, especially the first two of the trilogy). What about the last James Bond movie, Specter? Really, is that a good movie? Conversely, the original Star Trek was cancelled after three years of its five year “mission” on television. The classic Blade Runner was a box-office flop. Modern Hollywood is doing what it always does: trying to make big money with bad movies.
Will this trend last? No, but it will go on for awhile. Transformers and Iron Man III have already shown us the future: Hollywood will continue to shift its focus away from America to China. Jacking up ticket prices and focusing on the post-movie theater life of a film (DVDs/BluRay, streaming, cable, broadcast TV, etc.) were previous strategies to make profits from mediocre and bad movies. The problem is that when the trend does end this time, it’s going to be very messy, and all it will take is one or two of these committee-approved, planned “blockbusters” to fail at the box-office to bankrupt an entire studio.
What is sad about Star Wars is that a great franchise has ended, and it didn’t have to happen. With all the money Hollywood has to make a modern movie, including on writers, was it not too much to ask to get quality in The Force Awakens that surpassed the original three movies? I guess the answer is yes. The year 2015 has ended and, for me, Mad Max: Fury Road is the best movie of the year.
With the coming tsunami of endless Star Wars movies and television series, I’m quite content with watching the first Stars Wars, the Empire Strikes Back (the best) and Return of the Jedi annually to remind me of that nostalgic time as a kid when movies were magic.
Update May 23, 2018: I'm sorry but it looks like I was so right when I originally wrote this article before the release of The Force Awakens. The Star Wars franchise is dead and from all the reviews I saw of The Last Jedi–it sucked! (And it looks Solo will be the same.)
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