Solo

Sunday brought a much-anticipated Patriots defeat at the hands of the Eagles. For the movie geeks like myself we were also excited to see new movie footage and trailers debut during the big game. There was more Infinity Wars footage but I was not too excited about it, maybe because I’m afflicted with a bit of Marvel fatigue.

For the moment, I don’t have any Star Wars fatigue. When I originally heard about the plans for the anthology films, and extended universe of films separate from the “Episode” series, I viewed it as a cheap cash in. However, Rogue One became my favourite Star Wars film. The film excelled on its own merit but I also found it refreshing to see a Star Wars tale that was not tied to the Skywalkers. There is an entire galaxy with interesting worlds and people, and these films allow the filmmakers to diverge from the battle against the Sith and show us other layers of the universe.

The Super Bowl gave us a tv spot for Solo: A Star Wars Story, which was pretty much an announcement trailer. The full trailer arrived today. I’ll be discussing both, but let’s start with the tv spot.

Obviously it features less dialogue than the full trailer. The few bits of dialogue we get don’t give away too much in terms of the plot (and they shouldn’t), but give us just enough to understand what the movie is about as we lead up to the title shot. The visuals look amazing, very photorealistic and devoid of the cartoonish CGI we see in some films. That is also a relief since this film doesn’t have that much post-production left to go, with a May release date.  This marketing footage was released pretty late- some movies have teasers come out nearly a year before release- likely due to all the production issues Solo had. Former directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired weeks before principal production was set to finish. Ron Howard then came in and oversaw five weeks of reshoots.

Reshoots don’t have to be a bad thing, since well-loved films like Back to the Future and Rocky also had reshoots. Not to mention The Force Awakens and Rogue One. Reshoots aren’t always about removing or changing a storyline, they can simply be some behind the scenes special effects work, like the reshoots for Force Awakens. However, the fact that two directors got fired into production makes it obvious that the Solo reshoots could likely have altered the story of the film. The Lord and Miller take was a more comedic venture, described as a “screwball comedy“. While Han was used for comic relief at points in the original trilogy, that doesn’t mean the film itself has to be a comedy to work. The reshoots could work out well or the film could end up being some Frankenstein monster of subplots, characters and storylines that don’t mesh.

Moving on the actual footage, Donald Glover looks like an OG in the tv spot and the trailer. We don’t get any lines from Lando but we do see him piloting the Millennium Falcon at one point. In the original trilogy, we find out Han won the plane from Lando in a game of sabacc. We’ll likely see the ship change hands in the film. I actually came across an article that argues a Lando film is more deserved than Solo, especially since Han’s character is relatively fleshed out in the original trilogy and already has a conclusive end in The Force Awakens. The author argues that some mystery about Han’s early years fit the character, meanwhile the level of mystery Lando still has makes him a better candidate for a film. Of course, the comments have one guy complaining about a “poc obsession”. I doubt he complains about the much longer phase of the white people obsession. Anyways…

I generally avoid watching or reading anyone’s thoughts on trailers before I give my own, since my opinion could end up swayed. If someone is negative I could go in with a negative mindset, or settle for something mediocre simply because it wasn’t as bad as one critic or YouTube reviewer made it out to be. I came across a tweet yesterday that I can’t help but agree with.

Like I said, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed or been as bothered if I didn’t read this tweet first.

“I got kicked out…for having a mind of my own.”

“A pilot…the best in the galaxy.” Almost reminded me of the Pokemon theme song.

“Hey kid, I’m putting a crew together. You in?”

That being said, at least the delivery isn’t too bad. I am sure Woody Harrelson will give a great performance, like he usually does. Emilia Clarke can be hit or miss, I’ve even noticed this from her performance on Game of Thrones. Some actors and actresses also seem to flounder outside of a certain role, and I am hoping that isn’t the case here.

The biggest question mark so far is Alden Ehreneich as Han. Apparently his performance initially failed to impress Lucasfilm and necessitated an on-set acting coach. Now, the article says the acting coach isn’t necessarily a bad sign. The worrying part is how late into production the coach was brought on, which is implied to be some point late into principal production.

This film hinges on Ehreneich’s performance. Many fans are likely skeptical of seeing someone else portray Han at this point, even if it is a role that would make no sense for Harrison Ford to play. People will likely nitpick Ehreneich’s voice and looks, and if he gives a poor performance on top of that, the film’s anchor will be ruined.

I was actually more excited for this film after the tv spot, than I was after the full trailer. With that said, I am still curious to see how the film turns out and I am still looking forward to seeing Donald Glover as Lando.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

Warning: This should be obvious but this review will have spoilers for previous Star Wars films

After seeing The Last Jedi yesterday, I am now ready to share my thoughts on one of my most anticipated films of 2017. While I believed The Force Awakens was a rehash of A New Hope, I still enjoyed the film and Rogue One also cemented my continuing interest in Star Wars lore.

I try to avoid reading or watching any reviews of a film before I see it, since I want to avoid going in with preconceptions. I also try to avoid social media as a whole since Han Solo’s death was spoiled for me by one of the attention-seeking denizens of YouTube. I wasn’t able to abstain completely prior to seeing The Last Jedi but I can only hope that I successfully subdue any preconceptions or at least acknowledge the impact they had on my viewing of this movie.

Episode VIII begins right where VII left off, cutting between the stories of Poe, Finn, Rey and Kylo Ren. I am happy to say that this film doesn’t come across as a complete rehash of Empire Strikes Back, although there are a few moments of similarity. The film’s strongest arc is definitely Kylo Ren’s, who is still dealing with the conflict of truly embracing the dark side. Rey and Ben shippers have a lot to moments to look forward to. Aside from the will they/won’t they moments, Episode VIII delves further into Ben’s past and his relationship with Luke Skywalker.

While the plot revolves around getting Luke to rejoin the Resistance, Luke is a reluctant mentor for Rey. He is a tragic figure whose past failures hinder his ability to move forward. There is plenty to love in the original Star Wars trilogy, but my enjoyment of them was always hampered by Mark Hamill’s subpar acting. Hamill has developed a lot as an actor since then, with a plethora of voice acting and live action roles separating his speaking roles as Luke in Return of the Jedi and The Last Jedi. Hamill is able to bring true vulnerability to the role, along with the wisdom expected from the last Jedi Master.

Aside from criticisms that may be reasonable, there is also a slate of alt-right vitriol since this movie has too many women and minorities for their liking. I always found it amusing that people who use the word “triggered” to insult others, are actually the most triggered. They will not be bothered by any of the issues present in “liberal propaganda” but it’s all hands on deck if a film set in another galaxy isn’t dominated by white males. I will ignore these people’s opinions, since they are no more valid than the thoughts of a flat-earther.

Andy Serkis puts in another great motion capture performance as Snoke, surrounded by a cast that delivers for the most part. Finn’s marketing bait and switch, from possible Jedi to bumbling comic relief, was one of my biggest criticisms for the previous film and I happy to see that remedied here. Finn has a meatier role this time around. Domhall Gleeson’s General Hux straddled the line between campy and intense in The Force Awakens, but he crosses that line here quite a few times. There are some weak performances from some minor characters; ones who only have a few lines. While this shouldn’t hamper a film too much it didn’t help that two such characters had the film’s first spoken lines, seemingly setting the tone for what was to come.

Rey’s character was met with a flurry of Mary Sue complaints and some fans will be happy to see some of their thoughts addressed here. One reviewer I follow said The Last Jedi is the Cabin in the Woods of Star Wars films, and I have to admit that this thought influenced my outlook on certain scenes. For example, in one scene Snoke criticizes Ben Solo for his lack of commitment to the dark side, noting that killing Han Solo must have broken his spirt since he lost a fight to a girl who had never wielded a lightsaber. With the Cabin in the Woods comparison in mind, I had to think that writer/director Rian Johnson was trying to address some of the previous film’s biggest criticisms. The film also takes this approach when it delves into Rey’s history, giving us a reveal that may be anti-climactic for some, but also helps to set it apart from other Star Wars films.

I think that some of these scenes help to account for the polarizing reception that The Last Jedi has among fans. While The Rotten Tomatoes critic score is 92%, the audience score is 54%. I am sure that this low rating is partly due to people bothered by too much colour and ovaries, but I won’t say that the alt-right is mostly to blame.

The Last Jedi is nearly three hours long, and its length was the main criticism from the friend I saw it with. While I didn’t feel like the film dragged, I will understand if people say it could have been shorter.  New characters are introduced, such as Rose Tico, Star War’s first Asian character and an easy target for the alt-right. She is paired with Finn for the majority of the film and I have to agree that this is a subplot that could have been condensed at the very least. This subplot leads to the infamous confrontation with Phasma that we saw in the first trailer, but one can’t help but wonder if we could have arrived at that moment differently. The subplot would not have been improved if Rose was white. I will say that like Rogue One, this subplot helps to bring in more moral ambiguity to the Star Wars characters. Instead of characters who are affiliated with light or dark, The Last Jedi shows us more who are simply looking out for themselves.

There are some moments of humour, or attempted humour, that do not work. However, I will say that the majority of jokes didn’t feel out of place. Aside from some flat jokes, there are also several scenes or moments that could have been cut to allow screen time to be used more efficiently. Yes, porgs are cute. After the film cut to them for the tenth time, I started to get annoyed. As a result of some unnecessary or dragged out scenes, we miss out on other moments that could have been expanded, such as the reunions of key characters. It would have been great to see more of Princess Leia, especially since this was Carrie Fisher’s last performance. Obviously she may have been written somewhat sparsely with more in mind for Episode IX, but a weak subplot just brings more attention to what else could have been presented. There are now more questions that will have to be answered by Episode IX. 

To end on a more positive note, The Last Jedi, has moments, whether dramatic or action-oriented, that I believe will become iconic parts of Star Wars lore. The action, at the very least, is sure to please fans, but I believe the film has more to offer as well. I honestly believe I may need to watch The Last Jedi again before I can give it a true rating. For the moment, I will say that I am looking forward to seeing it again.

Star Wars Film Rankings

Rogue One

A New Hope

The Empire Strikes Back

Return of the Jedi

The Last Jedi

The Force Awakens

Revenge of the Sith

“” Attack of the Clones

“” The Phantom Menace

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

With Halloween season upon us, I have been trying to see more horror films and dedicate most of my blog and @moviegrapevine Instagram account to horror related material. However, I have to make an exception for some of the new trailers we received recently. There was a false alarm concerning the Infinity War trailer but we still got new footage for Pacific Rim: Uprising and Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.

I will give Pacific Rim its due, but this blog post will be devoted to The Last Jedi. You can check out some of my other posts for my expanded thoughts on Episode VII. As a quick recap, I will say that I enjoyed the film but was bothered by the fact that it was a rehash of Episode IV. Finn was marketed as the next Jedi character and instead he ends up mostly being comic relief. I liked Rey and actually didn’t heed the complaints about her being a Mary Sue as much as most people did. If people actually compared this film to the original trilogy, they would realize that Luke had similar skills at the beginning of his arch. He was a pilot, mechanic and was also a protégé when it came to his use of the force. Then again, this is the age where the inclusion of minority and/or female characters is always criticized because it’s part of a liberal “agenda”, while the disproportionate dominance of white males on screen is perfectly natural.

Let’s start the discussion of this trailer with another one of the most divisive elements from Episode VII. Kylo Ren was a character that many people either loved or hated. To some he was a conflicted character with an inner battle between dark and light, to others he was just a lame, geeky-looking, emo, Darth Vader wannabe. I was one of the former, so I am excited to see how his character grows.

The previous trailer showed us a shattered Kylo Ren mask and this trailer shows Ren smashing it, seemingly leaving that persona behind. However, Ben isn’t done with the dark side yet. He started his quest to kill his past when he killed Han Solo and it looks like he decided to go full circle and take out Princess Leia as well. Like before, Ben appears conflicted, but we know that inner turmoil won’t be enough to stop him from doing what he deems necessary to join the dark side. In many ways, he is a wannabe. Someone who isn’t truly as menacing or evil as he wants to be, but I think it actually makes his character more interesting. Vader was a tragic character as well, someone whose emotional pain led him down a path of darkness, before he redeemed himself and rejoined the light.

After Carrie Fisher’s passing it was made clear that Leia would not be present in Episode IX. We know her character is coming to an end in this film but she may not die by Kylo Ren’s hands. Seeing Princess Leia on screen for the last time will be a bittersweet moment but let’s hope her end is just as momentous as her beginning.

Moving on from one of the franchise’s most famous characters, let’s talk about Finn. John Boyega has previously stated that Finn will have a more substantive role in the The Last Jedi, basically saying that a character who starts off as a consummate badass is a boring one. I guess Rey haters will agree. We’re definitely seeing more badass this time around, starting with the suit. Then there’s the fight with Phasma, the woman who controlled him when he was just FN-2187.

Apparently Boyega has stated that Finn isn’t 100% on the side of the resistance, which brings up some questions about his role in this film. In one shot of the trailer we see other people with his suit among the Stormtroopers, maybe he is undercover? In The Force Awakens Finn was close to abandoning the resistance, maybe he decides to do so again and something pulls him back.

Rey played a part in bringing Finn back last time, and maybe she’ll do so now. What I loved most about this trailer is that it brings up one of the biggest issues that many fans had with A Force Awakens. Rey’s raw power in the first film bothered plenty of people and here we see that her power links her to Kylo Ren. It’s implied Luke abandons her as a teacher due to his fear of her power, which was only mirrored by one other student, likely Kylo Ren.

People will still hate Rey for her power but I think this presents an interesting dynamic that gives a more logical reason for her to reach out to Ben. The revered figure who was supposed to guide her (apparently) abandoned her and one of her few friends appears to be separated from her. Will Rey bring Ben closer to the light or will he lead her closer to darkness? In the immediate aftermath of The Force Awakens fan theories were replete with dark side Rey and Jedi Kylo Ren, maybe the fans were actually onto something.

Although we get more of Luke in this trailer, his character is still hidden compared to the others. The two trailers make it clear he’s attacked at one point. He’s kneeling in front of a burning building in one shot in the first trailer, and climbing out of wreckage from a burning building in this trailer. Maybe this attack is what forces him out of isolation, since someone apparently finds out where he is. Could it be that Rey either betrays him or ends up leading someone else to him? Or these shots could be backstory showing the destruction of the Jedi Temple, which was alluded to in previous films.

In short, this was one of my favourite trailers of 2017 and I am hoping the film lives up to the hype. I am worried that the trailer possibly spoiled too much but that is my only gripe. We got more of the action, more of the characters and AT-M6s (different from the AT-AT’s in Empire). Or you can just call them Robot Camels.

Kingsman, Justice League and The Last Jedi

Now that I have seen It, these films are my most anticipated blockbusters for the rest of the year.  I thought I would take this post to discuss some of my hopes (and worries) for each film. The films are listed in the order of their release dates, not by anticipation. The Last Jedi is my most anticipated, with Kingsman second and Justice League third.

  1. Kingsman: The Secret Service

I thought the first Kingsman looked somewhat generic when I saw the first trailer, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a witty, well-paced, action-packed deconstruction and parody of the Bond films and spy films as a whole. Taron Egerton gave us an amazing performance as “Eggsy” and Colin Firth had a believable turn as an action hero with plenty of gravitas. Whenever I watch Liam Neeson’s jilted choreography in Taken 2 my mind comes back to this film as an example of how to execute an action scene with an older actor.

Between the action, the performances, the attacks on spy cliches etc., Kingsman was a film that felt like a rare treasure. That is why I was not excited to hear about a sequel. I was worried that the sequel would not be able to capture the magic of the first. The trailers have given me some hope but I can’t completely ignore the voice in my head that tells me this film might feel like a cheap cash grab.

It will be good to see Colin Firth on screen again but I can’t help but feel like his character’s reappearance cheapens his death in the first film. I am excited to see Pedro Pascal, who is probably best known as Prince Oberyn on Game of Thrones. While I don’t usually like Channing Tatum, I find that he does well in comedic or semi-comedic roles like the one he will likely have here as Agent Tequila. To his credit, Tatum also had a surprisingly good serious turn in Tarantino’s Hateful Eight.

The action we’ve seen so far looks like it is doing its best to top the first, but I hope that the action isn’t the only thing that is better.

2. Justice League

Now, to say that the DCEU has had mixed reviews would be an understatement. Man of Steel got so much hate that even the editor of Rotten Tomatoes wondered why its rating was so low.  BatmanvSuperman and Suicide Squad both followed that up with even worse reviews, and then Wonder Woman mercifully gave the DCEU its first fresh film. I don’t judge a film purely by what others think but it is a fact that bad word of mouth can negatively affect a film’s earnings.  A slate of films deemed weak by the general public would definitely hamper Justice League.

One thing that has bothered me since I saw the Comic-Con teaser for this film was the seemingly drastic shift in tone. One-liners abound from every character, including a Barry Allen whose personality seems transplanted from Wally West (his nephew-in-law who also becomes The Flash). I don’t agree that Man of Steel or BvS were “dark and gritty” like a lot of people say. Like I’ve previously discussed the films are dark in comparison to the stable of light fair Marvel has pumped out since 2008 (with the exception of their Netflix shows). A comic book film that doesn’t have one-liners every five minutes becomes “depressing”, it lacks “fun”. This is regardless of whether fun fits the character or storyline. People might say this Marvel v DC is a conspiracy but answer me why the darker Marvel Netflix shows don’t get swarmed by the same comments complaining about their lack of “fun”. The Defenders is the lightest one so far and even that is still miles darker than anything the MCU has put on the silver screen.

All of this to say that I was worried the Justice League was being made with a conscious effort to throw in as many one-liners as possible and make it fun. Let’s not forget, Suicide Squad is more “fun” than BatmanvSuperman and it has a slightly lower RT score at the moment (25% to Bvs’s 27%).  Throwing in more music in post-production and writing plenty of jokes didn’t help it overcome its other issues. “Fun” isn’t enough to make a film good and a “dark” tone isn’t enough to make it bad.

Moving on.

I have no problem with special effects themselves but there are a lot of weak looking shots in the marketing so far. There are scenes where it is far too obvious that everything but the actors are computer generated. The floor, the backgrounds, the sky all look fake. Cyborg in particular looks terrible when he is directly beside any of the other members of the league. I don’t mean that they are just stylized a la 300, I mean they are just poorly rendered. I am hoping that the film looks better by the time it’s in theatres.

My hopes were high hearing about the Justice League finally making it to the big screen. I have rewatched the animated series numerous times and have unashamedly daydreamed of finally seeing this film. I can’t help but think that it would have been better to see some more solo films prior to this team-up, but I have to admit that this approach could have some benefits. Characters that were either not well known or respected before, such as Aquaman can shine in a team setting first, which will help to boost sales of their solo film. However, Marvel has to get credit for being able to build a great brand on the backs of characters that were relatively unpopular. Some people probably never though Iron Man or Captain America would be on Spider-Man’s level in terms of box office receipts but Marvel pulled that off.

Additionally, while I have a man crush on Jason Momoa I am worried that his acting will be a painful weak link in this film. If some of his other performances are any indication, we could be in for a painful two hours, especially if his character gets a lot of lines.

3. The Last Jedi

Last, but not least.

The Force Awakens was a rehash of A New Hope, but it did bring some new things to the table. Namely a continuation of our beloved characters from the original trilogy, along with Rey and Finn.

One of the things that bothered me most about TFA was the almost cruel bait and switch for Finn’s progression. He was marketed as another Jedi, and then ends up being comic relief that is incapacitated by the end of the film. John Boyega has said that Finn’s character will shine more in the sequel and I hope that’s true.

In true nerd fashion, Daisy Ridley quickly became my biggest celebrity crush. Fanboying aside, her performance was great and I was also able to ignore most of the Mary Sue complaints since her character progression almost mirrored Luke’s. However, her progression did draw more attention to the paltry one Finn received.

Rogue One actually helped to increase my anticipation for this film, giving us an exciting and different Star Wars story that could have become a cheap cash-in or a rehash.

With a different director on board for this film, and the successful box office run of TFA, I hope The Last Jedi will give us something new as well.

Luke Skywalker is back and although I found Mark Hamill’s acting somewhat weak in the original trilogy, he has developed greatly as a voice actor and film actor since his last outing in the Star Wars universe. Coincidentally, his most recent performance I can recall is in Kingsman.

It will be bittersweet to see Carrie Fisher on screen for the last time, presumably with Princess Leia being killed off out of respect for the actor. I remember that one of my aunts passed away around the same time, and that I couldn’t help but think that it was a powerful testament to how death links us all. Let’s allow entertainment to link us as well.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Edit: The trailer is now out, and I will be doing  a video and blog post with my thoughts on it later today.

Star Wars Celebration Orlando is now underway, featuring panels with the stars and filmmakers of the Star Wars franchise. Director Rian Johnson is present, and it is expected that the trailer for The Last Jedi will premiere online tomorrow. With that said I thought I would share some of my hopes for the next film.

1) No death star.

We have had three death stars over seven films, and even the original trilogy didn’t have two death stars back to back.  I didn’t mind seeing the original death star again in Rogue One, since it was a prequel. With that said, death stars should simply be retired for the saga as a whole.

2) More development for Finn as a capable warrior.

John Boyega has hinted (via Instagram) that Finn will have a more physical role in The Last Jedi. He has also hinted that the character would be boring if he started off as a  skilled warrior, instead of realistically developing to that point. Since Rey is often accused of being a Mary Sue to her skills as a pilot, mechanic, and her skill with the force and the lightsaber, maybe Boyega has a point. I have previously discussed the Mary Sue argument, although I believe detractors may have a point I simply have to question if a male character with the same skills would be criticized as much. After all, Luke had the same skill set in A New Hope.

Finn was marketed as the franchise’s next Jedi, and his fate in the film came across as a cruel bait and switch. First, one of the few black main characters in the franchise is reduced to comic relief for the most part. Second, he’s unconscious at the end of the film while Rey goes to train with Luke. Boyega is a great actor, if his performances in Attack The Block and Imperial Dreams are any indication and I hope he gets more room to shine.

3) More new locations and people.

Rogue One and the announcement of various spin-offs that deviated from the “Episode” series initially seemed like a cash grab. However, Rogue One ended up being a breath of fresh air. Star Wars is the story of a galaxy,  and it was great to be separated from one family and one set of characters for a few hours. We got memorable new characters and places that still relate to the “Episode” series while also showcasing how vast the universe really is.

If the trailer is released tomorrow, I’ll be fanboying like everyone else, with these hopes in the back of my mind.

RIP Carrie Fisher

Hello everyone,

Hope you all had a great Christmas break and hope that the New Year will bring greater things for us all. I never liked the commercial aspect of Christmas but I have always loved the opportunity to see more of my family. It’s a sad truth that there are people out there who will be experiencing the season without the company of a loved one. Not due to work or travel, but due to death.

Carrie Fisher (1956-2016) passed  away today at 8:55 AM after complications from a heart attack she experienced on the 23rd. There were early reports that she was in stable condition, but those were taken from more ambiguous statements from her brother. There was an official statement from her mother yesterday stating that she was stable. Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, later confirmed that her mother passed.

2016 has been a grave year for celebrity deaths, taking greats such as Muhammad Ali and Prince. I am not familiar with Fisher’s work outside of Star Wars, although I hear she is great in her other roles. She’s served as a writer for films and television shows as well. However, her role as Princess Leia was enough to make her a true icon in popular fiction. Leia is not only a main character of one of the most popular series of all time, she is also one of the most popular heroines of all time. Whether you are a proud Star Wars fan, a causal one, or someone who thinks they’re too cool for it, you knew Princess Leia. Either you’ve heard the name or you recognize the clothing and the hairstyle.

Fisher’s death brings up a lot of questions, but I didn’t want to write this post to delve into those. She apparently finished filming Episode VIII already so there are no worries about the next installment. Episode IX is another issue, since Leia was allegedly supposed to be in the film.  However, it seems callous to focus on that right after her death. For now, let’s wish her family and friends the best as they get through this time.

Episode VIII

Spoilers for Rogue One and Episode VII

Rogue One is still on my mind, and feel free to check out my review. While Rogue One managed to be a prequel that had its own style, Episode VII was pretty much a remake of Episode IV. We follow a young orphan, Rey (Luke) who must come to terms with her Jedi powers and combat The First Order (The Empire). We get Kylo Ren (Darth Vader) , who is revealed to be related to one of the protagonists. We even get another death star (Starkiller base).

I discussed all the similarities with a friend and he argued that J.J Abrams would be hesitant to deviate from the original trilogy much, after the backlash that the prequels received. Episode VII played it safe, relying on the return of the old cast to generate hype and satiate the droves that turned out to see the film.

The prequels had some great moments, with Episode III being the strongest. However, the prequels left much to be desired. The performances by Jake Lloyd, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman, the overuse of CGI, pod-racing etc. With that said, the prequels were not bad simply because they did something new. Rogue One is a great example of how the new star war films can respect the past and continuity, while also giving us fresh characters, locations, conflicts etc.

Kylo Ren’s character seemed like a metaphor for Abrams’s fears of not living up to the original trilogy. Ren is a character who wants nothing more than to live up to Darth Vader (the original trilogy) and is worried that he is seen as nothing but a unworthy imitation. One oft-cited piece of wisdom is that one should not try to replicate something that is deemed as great or untouchable. Sometimes, the only approach is to try something new.

Let’s hope we can see something new with Episode VIII.

Rogue One Review

After I saw Episode VII: The Force Awakens I took some time to analyze the film before launching into a  review. I was initially committed to doing the same thing for Rogue One, but since I got back I have been re-watching any scenes I can get my hands on, visiting IMDB and fighting the urge to watch Episode IV. I figured I would put this mood into something more productive.

I liked Episode VII, especially since it showed us the old cast again, but was disappointed that it was a rehash of a New Hope. Rogue One could have been a rehash as well. A prequel can seem like a money grab but the film may be my favourite Star Wars film, showing us new characters and new worlds that we don’t see anywhere else in the trilogy. Episode IV began with an opening crawl that tells us that rebels stole the plans for the Death Star, which is what led to the rebels knowing about the Death Star’s weakness.

Rogue One takes place only a few days before (with the exception of flashbacks) and tells us how the rebels acquired the plans. Firstly, I will say that the squad of new characters do not get that much development. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the central figure and gets the lion share of backstory. Diego Luna’s Captain Cassian Andor comes the closest to Erso’s level of backstory. With that said, the film still managed to make me attached to this new crop of characters. Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe is sure to become a fan favourite and is one of the highlights. Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO is also a scene-stealer and is my favourite droid in the Star Wars universe. After his performance as Sonny in I,Robot it’s pretty clear that Tudyk is a chameleon. Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook and Wen Jiang’s Baze Malbus bring up the flank for our main rebels and are both highly competent in their roles, even if they may not be as memorable in comparison to their partners.

Jones and Luna both carry the film well as two morally grey characters attempting to navigate their mission. They are also supported by Ben Mendelsohn, who plays the villainous Krennic.

Krennic reports directly to Grand Moff Tarkin (Guy Henry), which brings up one issue with the film. Peter Cushing originally played Tarkin in Episode IV but since he passed away, his face was digitally added to Henry’s body. The friend I saw the film with didn’t realize Tarkin’s face was digitally created but since I knew going in, it did bother me at times. The film did a much better job with this task than Tron: Legacy did with Clu, but it could have been improved as well. Most of the special effects in the film are amazing, with Tarkin and one scene in particular being the only stand out for subpar effects.

Forest Whitaker plays Saw Gerrera, a militant rebel who is at odds with the rest of the rebel alliance. He is also a central figure in Erso’s backstory, which makes him a pretty important character for the film. Whitaker’s performance is somewhat hampered by an accent that affects his line delivery, making some lines clunky and harder to make out. The character was also in the Star Wars: Rebels series and the character doesn’t have a similar accent in the show. With that said, I will say that the film left me wanting to find out more about the character.

Saw was involved in over a decade of combat with the empire, and this film brings some exciting combat of its own to the screen. Yen’s fight scenes are an obvious stand out but the film also creates great aerial and ground battles throughout. The last act is especially riveting and helped to clear up one of my biggest concerns about the movie.

When there was news of rewrites, it was rumoured that the rewrites were being done to lighten up the script. I wouldn’t be surprised if Disney truly did that since Thor 3: Ragnarok was changed for that same reason. The last act makes it clear that the writers didn’t care about making the film light-hearted. Since the old trilogy never showed us the characters who stole the death star plans, you can guess what happens to them. Rogue One shows us. One issue from the rewrites is that a lot of scenes appeared to have been cut. Some of my favourite shots from the trailer were conspicuously absent from the film. There may be an extended cut but it is likely that some scenes were simply removed all together.

The Death Star’s weakness has been lampooned mercilessly, but Rogue One actually clears up the reason for the weakness. Rogue One also has several easter eggs and nods to the rest of the franchise. At one point Erso bumps into the same duo who accosted Luke in the bar in The Cantina, and we see Erso’s parents drinking the infamous blue milk. By the end of the film you’ll also want to watch Episode IV since Rogue One ends right where that one starts.

Speaking of the franchise, we see its most famous character in all his glory once again. Darth Vader is in the film for less than ten minutes, but every minute is glorious. There has been some criticism online for one of his lines, which many people saw as a corny joke. Maybe I was just happy to hear James Earl Jones again, but I didn’t mind the line at all. One thing that definitely wasn’t cheesy was Vader’s final scene in the film. It is filmed like a horror movie and deftly shows why he is such a feared figure.

Rogue One may not give us the most fleshed out characters but I give the film credit for making me care about the characters anyway. I also appreciated how well it tied in with the series’ continuity. I enjoyed it from start to finish and it leaves me wanting to watch the old trilogy all over again.