“Let Me Give You Some Advice. Assume Everyone Will Betray You And You Will Never Be Disappointed…”
Within the space of just one blockbusting cinematic month, audiences across the globe have been joyously rewarded with big release after big release, with Infinity War and Deadpool 2 both hotly anticipated franchise follow ups which have seemingly succeeded to staggering degrees in terms of both their critical appeal and eye-watering box office figures, particular in regards to the former which has managed to cement its’ place quite rightly into the top five highest grossing films of all time. Another week therefore brings with it yet another Disney backed big budget extravaganza in the form of Solo: A Star Wars Story, the second spin-off in the ever expanding space opera franchise after 2016’s Rogue One and a movie which explores the early undertakings of Alden Ehrenreich’s (Hail, Caesar!) young, cocky and confident take on the titular space pilot. With high-profile production issues, including the firing of original director’s Phil Lord and Christopher Miller of 21 and 22 Jump Street fame after “creative differences” and mumbling’s regarding Ehrenreich’s on-set acting ability, a strange rumour if ever there was one considering his superb performance in Hail, Caesar!, Solo seemed doomed to fail from the outset, and with fan expectation an all-time low for a cinematic release with the Star Wars branding after mixed responses to its’ fundamental existence, does Solo manage to fend off its’ many steely-eyed critics?
Thankfully, and somewhat surprisingly, the film does exactly just that, swapping the melancholic and controversially bold tones of Rogue One and The Last Jedi respectively for a more conventional science fiction romp, one stuffed full of exhilarating action set pieces, interesting new characters and a youth-infused charm thanks to the steady handed nature of its’ well-formed cast who have gripped tightly the chance to step into the shoes of iconic franchise personas. With Ron Howard taking over directorial duties halfway through the filming process and capturing a reported seventy percent of the finished article on his own say, for a man whose back catalogue varies from greatness (Rush, Frost/Nixon) to outright blandness (Inferno, In The Heart of the Sea), the “steady handed” approach of Howard’s film-making abilities isn’t exactly the first name to spring to mind when attempting to rebuild a reportedly sunken ship, but credit of course should be handed when its’ due and whilst its’ hard to gauge perhaps Howard’s stamp on the final product, Solo is undeniably well made and makes up for its’ somewhat straightforward hero narrative by having the most fun possible with its’ strong points, akin to say the more low-key Marvel releases such as Ant-Man and Doctor Strange which play to a sense of familiarity but succeed due to the commitment showed by all involved.
With Ehrenreich easing into the inexperienced, swaggering nature of a hopeful Han Solo, the film begins by presenting the central relationship between Solo and Emilia Clarke’s (Game of Thrones) Qi’ra, a fellow low-born survivor who like Han himself, will do anything to survive the perilous world of slavers, gangsters and thieves which the film resides in. With Solo’s journey resulting in introductions to Woody Harrelson’s (Three Billboards) father figure, Tobias Beckett, Paul Bettany’s (Infinity War) scar-ridden criminal, Dryden Voss, and of course, Donald Glover’s (The Martian) charming interpretation of Lando Calrissian, the range of bright, fascinating characters allows the limited amount of time spent on deep, meaningful characterisation to be somewhat overlooked, with Howard at times more interested in a rapid, relentless editing pace which moves from one well designed planet to the the next without ever really having the chance to breathe. Whilst the relationship between Qi’ra and Solo is somewhat generic and functional, the real bromance of the piece is of course between Solo and Chewbacca, the furry, murderous Wookie who is as charming and fundamentally likeable as ever, and with the interactions between the cast effective and wickedly humorous, the Disney stamp which has made most of the entries in the MCU so great is vividly on show to see. With it meant to be the undisputed train wreck of the year, Solo: A Star Wars Story turns out to be anything but, a splendidly ludicrous popcorn fest which ties into the franchise’s space opera mantra with ease, a movie which will hopefully appease the fans left cold by The Last Jedi and one which proves that when in doubt, get the right guys in to get the job done.
Overall Score: 8/10
“I’ve Seen This Raw Strength Only Once Before. It Didn’t Scare Me Enough Then, It Does Now…”
Knocking every other big-screen release of 2017 out of the park in terms of mind-melting anticipation, Disney and Lucasfilm return with the eighth direct entry into the Star Wars universe with The Last Jedi, with it being a whole two years since the revival of the franchise with the scintillating revelation which was The Force Awakens. Dispatching with J. J. Abrams for the time being, with Abrams returning to directorial duty on Episode IX after the cancellation of Colin Trevorrow’s contractual duties, Looper director Rian Johnson takes charge of a release which continues on with the many dangling plot threads left over from its’ predecessor with a returning cast featuring the likes of Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and the final on-screen performance of Carrie Fisher as the ever-majestic Princess Leia. Whereas The Force Awakens realigned the critical consensus of a universe which had been somewhat tarnished thanks to the George Lucas directed trilogy released at the turn of the century, The Last Jedi has a somewhat blank slate to go where and which way it chooses, and whilst the latest entry within the Star Wars canon doesn’t exactly hit the lofty heights of its’ predecessor, with particular and crystal clear flaws affecting the final, overall product, Johnson’s movie is a spectacle fuelled adventure thrill ride which has enough twists, turns and eye-watering action to leave even the most casual of Star Wars fans gasping for more.
With a narrative which continues the many dangling plot threads left over from The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi is primarily wrapped around the centre of an escape movie, with the hunted Rebel Alliance at front and centre of the movie’s action straight from the offset in which characters both old and new are are brought into the mould of a two and a half hour journey which moves from the darkness of space to the salt laden plains of an ice covered rebel retreat without ever really coming up to the surface for breath. With subplots which include Daisy Ridley’s Rey and her interaction with Mark Hamill’s aged and hermit-esque Luke Skywalker, the wandering temperament and conflicted heart of Adam Driver’s beefed up Kylo Ren, and John Boyega’s relationship with Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose, The Last Jedi is a film which can’t be faulted for a lack of substance and plot, but with a sagging middle act in which we see one of our heroes venture to a casino-laden planet of riches coming off as the obvious editing misstep, sometimes Johnson’s movie does begin to feel incredibly heavy, and whilst there are comedic elements aplenty throughout the course of the action, the overall tone of the movie is much more darker and melancholic that one might have expected, with the notion of death and loss not exactly hiding away akin more to the sensibility of Rogue One than any other previous release in the series so far.
With particular elements which come across somewhat baffling and jarring, including a Guardians of the Galaxy moment for Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia and a handful of wasted opportunities for particular underdeveloped characters, Johnson’s movie does ultimately make up for these missteps by being a fundamentally stunning and beautifully made movie, with cinematographer and Looper collaborator Steve Yedlin creating a wide range of jaw-dropping images and shots which made me want to stand up and applause in a manner similar to Roger Deakins’ outstanding work on Blade Runner 2049, a film which on some levels does share similarities with The Last Jedi with both movies focused primarily on their feel, look and emotive qualities above anything else, resulting in Johnson’s movie coming across as arguably the least relatable Star Wars movie to date thanks to a somewhat cold and unnerving spiritual tone. With a lightsaber battle which ranks up there with the best the series has produced thus far, a satisfying resolution for particular character arcs and an ambiguous conclusion which leads the Star Wars path onto a vast number of potential directions, The Last Jedi is a flawed but emotionally riveting and spectacular addition into the Star Wars universe, and whilst it may not be the best series offering, Johnson’s movie is undeniably the most beautifully crafted.
Overall Score: 8/10
Its been a difficult few weeks for Star Wars fans who have been rocked by the death of Carrie Fisher. Even more so consider her reportedly large role within the upcoming instalment of the series. Fortunately, the filming for Episode 8 has wrapped and Fisher will be making a posthumous return, but what about the final episode in this trilogy that also considers her role extremely important?
If we take a step back and look at the latest Star Wars adaptation, we can see Disney and Lucasfilms have a potential solution. Peter Cushing or as some may know him, Grand Moff Tarkin was digitally imprinted into Rogue One. Cushing, who died is 1994 was brought back to life by VFX artists and magicians to reprise the iconic role with express permission from his estate. Personally, had I not been told, I wouldn’t have known about this until after the release of the film which prompted a lot of controversy. Towards the end of the film we also witnessed a young Princess Leia using the same technology but was far more apparent.
Its being reported that Disney have already begun talks with Fisher’s estate to utilise her image as Princess Leia so they can finish this trilogy. As of what the talks will consist of or if there will be any script/story changes, we can’t be sure, but its hoped by many that if they come to an agreement, Leia will be done gracefully, not overdone and her role heavily reduced or ended appropriately.
Considering the impact of the character on the universe and the film industry, I can see a deal going ahead. Fisher’s estate owes a lot to the Leia character and the fans that have supported them the over decades and I feel that justice can be done for both Carrie and Leia to round out her career with respectfully.
What do you think of this? Would you like to see Fisher maintain her role through CGI? Let us know in the comment section below!
“We Have Hope. Rebellions Are Built On Hope…”
In a year in which summer blockbusters have been somewhat below par, and that’s putting it nicely, we close 2016 with another venture into the galaxy far, far away, with Rogue One attempting to bridge the gap between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope with a merry mix of old and new characters and a storyline which delves into the theft of the infamous death star plans, the red herring-esque of a plot device which paved way for the entire Star Wars universe. With Gareth Edwards on directorial duty, the man behind Monsters and the rather awesome recent reinterpretation of Godzilla, Rogue One is a much darker and melancholic tale than perhaps we have seen previously in the Star Wars canon but one which also contains the adventurous thrill ride we have come to expect, culminating in a final act which ranks up there with the best visual experiences not only in the Star Wars universe but in the variety of blockbusters within the modern era of cinema.
Although narratively Rogue One begins in a striking sense of anti-climax in comparison to other Star Wars movies, we are swiftly introduced to Jyn Erso, a disconnected wanderer who is captured by the rebellion in order to help seek out her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) who is at the heart of a mysterious weapon development for the pre-A New Hope Galactic Empire, ruled over by the key figures of Ben Mendelsohn’s Director Krennic, a digital reincarnation of Peter Cushing’s Tarkin and of course, the menacing Sith Lord, Darth Vader, whose appearances are brief but terrifyingly effective. When Rogue One eventually kicks into gear around the half hour mark, the sense of joy many fans get from re-watching the classic original adventures fuels the journey into a truly classic tale of outlandish planets, wildly inventive alien beings and enough canon nods to leave fans beaming with joy. With Felicity Jones embracing the lead role of Jyn as a mix of Lara Croft and Princess Leia herself, she inevitably has the meatiest role of the movie alongside undeveloped performances from the likes of Mikkelsen, Whitaker and Diego Luna but the real magic of the movie is in its’ fan appreciation, answering questions the canon has had for decades and proving the Star Wars universe is an endless pit of cinematic possibilities, particularly when they are as successful as Rogue One.
Overall Score: 8/10
The biggest film of 2015 is finally here after years, almost decades of an excruciating wait for a true continuation of George Lucas’s original trilogy, something of which would attempt to eradicate the wholly mediocre memory that the prequels imprinted on the Star Wars community, whilst expanding the well and truly cherished universe for a whole new generation of young children who’s experience of The Force Awakens may indeed be their first taste of Star Wars on the big screen. With George Lucas handing directorial duties to renowned sci-fi enthusiast, J.J. Abrams, the man behind the reinvention of the Star Trek series, The Force Awakens was already heading in the desired direction with Lucas finally understanding that money can only go so far and what was truly needed with The Force Awakens was to return to the imaginative and truly immersive spectacle the original trilogy portrayed all the way back with the release of A New Hope in 1977. Has it succeeded? Is The Force Awakens the magnum opus of the Star Wars universe many have proclaimed it to be? Not exactly, but one thing is for sure, it is a resounding homecoming and like the original trilogy, a whole lotta fun.
Beginning once again with the legendary line of “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”, John Williams famous overture blasts onto our screens over the scrolling opening crawl that informs us of Luke Skywalker’s apparent disappearance and the rise of the First Order, a seedy, evil faction of the fallen galactic empire who are attempting to discover the location of the lost, legendary Jedi, an opening backdrop much more streamlined than the tax credit political nonsense that The Phantom Menace began with. So far, so good, and the film takes no time at all settling into the introduction of the both the film’s antagonist and protagonist with the Sith-ridden Kylo Ren being introduced through ruthless murder and an understanding of the force similar to that of Vader himself, whilst Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron comes across as the cocky, swaggering second shade of Han Solo himself, and already I’m sold. Within the first ten minutes of the film we are exposed to an understanding of the force unlike anything I have ever seen before and this is a riff played extensively upon throughout the course of The Force Awakens, resulting in a villain both ominous and ambiguous who is crippled by, excuse the pun, the force of expectation brought upon him due to his rather muddled family tree. No spoilers here.
Where Kylo Ren proves to be a real win in terms of the evil side of the force, the introduction of Daisy Ridley as Rey and John Boyega as Finn are welcome entries into the Star Wars universe, with Rey particularly being a strong, independent, and well-developed female lead, expanding the rather limited female base of characters established in the universe so far and for that I’m glad. Following in the footsteps of the universally recognised R2-D2 also, is that of BB-8, the orange coated roller-ball who, along with the return of Chewbacca, brings the greatest comedic elements of the film, particularly in a scene where it responds to Finn’s thumbs up which resulted in the entire screening laughing in hysterics. As for the return of the golden-oldies, Harrison Ford’s Han Solo is the obvious winner with him not only getting the greatest screen time, but also the best lines, most of which hark back to the original trilogy or his relationship with his favourite Wookie, a true bromance is ever there was one whilst it is his character which takes the front-line in the film’s most shocking twist, a cinematic moment on par with “I am your father”, and one that is set to send shock-waves across the Star Wars universe.
As for the film’s production, The Force Awakens is a particularly handsome movie with spectacular scenes of vast, endless landscapes, gorgeous looking CGI spaces battles, and a unnerving attention to detail that highlights the love and dedication to which the film has been made with. Where the film ultimately succeeds is in its’ sheer diversity to the prequels, with the dodgy CGI of the early 21st century being totally outclassed with the use of practical, real life props, giving the film that rustic aesthetic which makes you feel these places actually do exist and aren’t created on somebody’s computer, a brilliant change of direction, and one that leaves me reeling for more. For all the film’s brilliance, there are certain degrees of similarity in terms of plot which reduces the film’s overall originality, yet one can afford to overlook such weaknesses and exhale in relief. The Force Awakens is a true return to the magical wonder of the saga’s original trilogy, incorporating new, interesting characters whilst working a winning nostalgia appeal with the return of the series’ most famous faces. A real triumph. How many years until the next one?
Overall Score: 9/10
The hype is real and totally worth it!
Usually in these duo reviews it seems that I’m the one to poke holes in the plot, but I don’t know if I’m “fanboying” too much while mentally blocking most of them out. There isn’t many films that I would say that I’d gladly sit in the cinema and watch again, back to back, but I would for this. If you haven’t yet, go see this film!
As obvious as the statement is, this is undoubtedly a Star Wars film. What I mean by that is that it feels like a continuation of the originally trilogy. J.J Abrams decision to use more costumes and animatronics instead of relying solely on computer effects is a noticeable improvement, bringing a more organic feel to environments and sets.
The return of the previous cast is a welcome sight and a good measure of the passage of time. good to see that none of the previous actors have forgotten their roles despite it being 32 years since they were last in their characters shoes. Moving on to the new characters, as Dan said huge praise for Daisy Ridley’s character Rey, loved the character progression which was done at the right pace. Along with Oscar Isaac’s character Poe which immediately resembled a Han Solo personality and humour but thankfully not to the extent which he mirrors him. John Boyega’s character Finn slightly recalled me to how Luke was in the original film. Its often hinted throughout the film that there is something special about him but he struggles to become it but that’s not say that his character doesn’t also make loads of progression. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who left the cinema wanting a BB-8 for Christmas. The lovable droid despite only commuting with limited gestures was hilarious and adorable even more so than I dare say R2-D2.
No Star Wars film is complete without the Dark Side. Though I admit I was originally sceptical to Adam Driver as the First Order’s Kylo Ren, however, he did an impressive job…while the mask was on. Without the mask he just didn’t seem as big nor as threatening, yet maybe that was deliberate. What Kylo Ren can do with the force though brings a new evil with the Sith (torture) and I love his character for that.
One little complaint I have would be with Gwendaline Christie’s character, Captain Phasma. Despite being one of the most advertised characters her role was minuscule with hardly any dialogue. She didn’t even fire her blaster once! Hopefully she will have a larger role in the future upcoming films.
The fight choreography is perfect for the setting of the film. No force triple back flips or over the top dance fighting which is how it should be. Every swing has the characters emotion in it, along with the amazing camera work and epic music it creates truly enjoyable fight scenes.
After watching the film you can clearly tell that J.J Abrams is a huge fan of the original trilogy and directed “The Force Awakens” for fans. Its safe to say that he hasn’t let us down at all. There are throw backs to the previous films but not so many that we are chocking on it or that it disrupts the pacing of the story. I am really looking forward to seeing what happens next and hopefully it continues with this momentum.
If this had came out before I did my top 5 this would’ve easily been my number 1!
More Star Wars news! This time in relation to the movie.
JJ Abrams has been doing a great job enticing the audience and with his love for Star Wars and incredible talent for film-making, this Star Wars revival could bring a full on resurgence to the new generation of cinema goers. With people making the connections, you can find a definitive breakdown shot by shot on Youtube! This year is looking great for films, people!
Trailers seem to be dropping like flies recently…
Time for some gaming news. The long awaited Star Wars Battlefront finally got its release date after months of waiting from Star Wars and Battlefront fans alike. Filmed entirely through the Frostbite engine. With games stepping having to ramp up specs to appeal to the number junkies, this game looks to push the boat out with a giant motor on the rear. Lets hope it looks as good as its cut scenes!
With the upcoming movies (Trailer will follow this post shortly) the hype around the scene is mad so lets hope they all get it right!
Coming out this November 20th, don’t miss one of this years biggest games!
Let’s be honest, we are all excited for this. No matter how old you are. Brace yourself, the internet is about to explode. Let me know what you think in the comments below!