Posts Tagged ‘Star Wars’

Directed by Rian Johnson. Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisey Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac.


“This week on homes under the hammer, retired Jedi Luke Skywalker is looking for a new hovel, will Rey be able to find something to suit him?”

We pick up the story not long after the end of The Force Awakens. On a remote planet Rey (Ridley) has finally found Luke Skywalker (Hamill) who she hopes can be persuaded to re-join his sister, General Leia Organa (Fisher) and help the Resistance defeat the First Order. Meanwhile the Resistance must evacuate their base after the First Order arrive. Poe Dameron (Isaac) leads an attack to buy time for the Resistance fleet to escape but victory comes at a cost.

With the Resistance unable to elude the First Order former Stormtrooper Finn(Boyega) joins forces with a Resistance mechanic named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) to attempt a dangerous mission that, if they’re successful, could see the Resistance fleet finally able to give the First Order the slip. Meanwhile Kylo Ren (Driver) struggles to find his place in the Universe after killing his father in The Force Awakens. Is he a truly powerful warrior in his own right, or just a wannabe Lord Vader?

And manipulating events throughout the universe is the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) the overlord of the First Order who wants to crush the Resistance, and destroy Luke, the last Jedi…

First a quick note to point out that this review contains only the vaguest of spoilers!


And so we come to our third Star Wars film in three years, an amazing sequence and not one I’d have ever imagined happening ten years ago. In 2015 we had The Force Awakens, a shockingly good Star Wars film and arguably now one of my favourite in the franchise. Then last year we got Rogue One, a prequel set just prior to A New Hope. Now a lot of people really loved Rogue One, but it was a film I struggled with. I liked it, I just couldn’t bring myself to love it.

And now we have The Last Jedi, the direct sequel to The Force Awakens, so where does it sit in relation to the last two Star Wars films, and in the franchise overall? Well deciding where it slots into the franchise is not a question I really feel I can answer. I’d need to see it again, maybe even more than once (and truth be told I need to see Rogue One again as well) in order to make a judgement call.

What I can do is give you my emotional gut reaction to The Last Jedi. It didn’t grab me the way The Force Awakens did, but by the same token it gripped me emotionally far more than Rogue One, and it has to be said that it has a harder job as the third film in three years, lacking the shock value of The Force Awakens.

There is a lot to enjoy in The Last Jedi; great performances, great battles, and, more importantly, having the rug pulled out from under you again and again regarding the expectations you walked in with. But for all it’s good points it’s a film that infuriates. The longest Star Wars film to date it’s too long by half an hour at least, but the length would be more acceptable if the pacing was better. It’s worrying when a film seems to come to a natural end and then proceeds to go on for another half an hour or so and give us another big battle. Watching this film again will be interesting with hindsight, knowing what’s to come I might be more relaxed about the pacing and enjoy it more.

On the plus side, as long and uneven as it is, the film never bores, although during the quieter moments you might find yourself questioning certain things and spotting plot holes. By contrast The Force Awakens was a film that just didn’t let up, and didn’t give you the chance to ask “Hang on. what about…” type questions.


Kylo Ren was a bit embarrassed after cutting himself shaving.

But it’s good that TLJ isn’t just a copy of TFA, instead it charts its own path, and on writing and directing duties Johnson has done a good job, and he’s aided by some great performances. The central quartet of Ridley, Boyega, Driver and Isaac are as good here as they were in TFA. In particular Driver and Ridley share some great scenes and both play being conflicted very well. In particular whilst Kylo Ren still hasn’t quite lost that whiny teenager edge, Adam Driver gives us a villain with more nuance than the average bad guy, and yet again Daisy Ridley completely convinces as Rey, tough as nails but as desperate as Kylo Ren to find her place in the universe.


“Does anyone know how I turn this off?”

And this is a film where several characters develop over the course of the movie. Boyega continues to be a joy to watch, a cocky sureness married with superb comic timing, if I have a problem with his role it’s that he doesn’t seem to get enough to do and he seems a little relegated by his side mission. As Poe Dameron Isaac gives it his all as the uber brash X-Wing pilot, and he has one of my favourite lines from the film. He’s also good butting heads with Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) and he too has something of a learning curve.

In many respects however this is Hamill and Fisher’s film. Hamill is just wonderful in this, essaying Luke as a somewhat broken, very grumpy old man, who made a mistake with Ben Solo and fears making another with Rey. It was worth his absence from TFA to have him here, older, wiser, yet still that young man looking to the horizon. And of course this film packs the additional emotional wallop of giving us Carrie Fisher’s last performance, though no one realised it when they were filming, and as melancholic as it is to see her on the big screen, I’m glad to say that Leia gets way more to do here than she did in TFA; barking orders, making big decisions, and generally putting a certain flyboy in his place. It’s a joy to see and just a damn shame that we won’t see it again.


“No, you’re a scruffy looking nerf herder!”

The newer characters don’t fare as well. Tran is the best of the bunch as Rose, an ordinary Resistance fighter who proves anything but, and she and Boyega have some nice chemistry. Laura Dern doesn’t really convince as Holdo though, and Benicio del Toro doesn’t get nearly enough to sink his teeth into as codebreaker DJ.

Everyone’s new favourite droid BB8 is back, and he’s as cool as he was in TFA. Poor old R2D2 doesn’t get much of a look in however, and though they get a bit more screen time, C3PO and Chewbacca feel similarly side-lined, as does Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma who’s barely in it, though at least she fares better than Maz, whose return basically happens via Skype (it is very funny though). Rounding out the cast is the ever reliable Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux (and yes folks, his aide who looks a bit like Vivian from the Young Ones is actually Vivian from the Young Ones!)


Chewie really wasn’t sure about his new co-pilot…

There are some great effects and some great set pieces, and plenty of weird and wonderful new creatures to populate the Star Wars universe, including the adorable (but essentially pointless) Porgs. I can’t shake the feeling however that this was a film that had one too many characters, one too many crazy cgi aliens, and one too many set pieces (in particular Finn and Rose’s trip to a casino planet, whilst hardly superfluous, is a weak point).

I’m being picky of course, because this is a great film, with great character moments, a huge amount of humour, and some genuinely unexpected plot skews, it’s just that (at the moment) it doesn’t quite break into my Star Wars top three, but as I say, I suspect repeat viewings may change this.

Anyway, go see it, and May the Force be With You!


Things suddenly felt a touch Rogue One, which didn’t fill Finn with hope for a long life!


Rogue One

Posted: December 19, 2016 in Film reviews, science fiction
Tags: ,

Directed by Gareth Edwards. Starring Felicity Jones and Diego Luna.


“Do you think we’ll get medals?”

When the Rebel Alliance get word that the Empire is on the verge of constructing a giant space station with the power to destroy entire planets, they determine to stop this from happening. After liberating Jyn Erso (Jones) from an Imperial prison they plan to use her to help track down her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) the research scientist they believe is responsible for the planet killer. Though Jyn has no idea, the Rebels plan to assassinate Galen.

Along with Rebel Captain Cassian Andor (Luna) and his irascible robot companion K-2SO (Alan Tudyk practically stealing the whole damn film) Jyn travels to the occupied world of Jedha where she hopes to find Saw Gerrera (Forest Whittaker) a fanatical rebel commander who knew her father. Along the way they meet up with a blind warrior who believes in the force and his gruff companion. They also meet an Imperial shuttle pilot who defected to the Rebel Alliance with a holo-message from Jyn’s father.

As it becomes apparent that the Empire’s superweapon has already been constructed the rag tag group hatch an audacious scheme to acquire the plans to the weapon. If they succeed the Rebel Alliance might have a chance against the so called ‘Death Star’ but if they fail the rebellion is doomed.


Modern Star Wars films are a bit like buses. You wait decades for one and then two turn up in quick succession. From someone who remembers waiting three years between Star Wars films, getting one a year takes a little getting used to.

Rogue One is a very different beast from last year’s The Force Awakens however. Whereas TFA followed on from Return of the Jedi, Rogue One instead takes us back to a time before A New Hope, filling in the blanks to explain just how those rebel spies got hold of the Death Star plans that Princess Leia had to hide in R2-D2, as well as explaining just why the Death Star had such an obvious design flaw.

Of course, whether these blanks needed filling in is up for debate, but you can’t fault that it makes for a compelling basis for a film, and given the dearth of Star Wars films should we really complain?

I’ll get the hard bit out of the way first. The good news is that I liked Rogue One a lot, the bad news is that I didn’t love it, at least not on an initial viewing. It’s possible—likely even—that repeat viewings will see it gain in my affection, but on a gut level I can only say this; 12 months ago I walked out of seeing The Force Awakens with a bloody great grin on my face, and Rogue One didn’t remotely engender the same kind of emotional response.

Which doesn’t make it a bad film, because most films don’t have this reaction on me, but does mean I can’t quite agree with the sentiments of some who say it’s the best Star Wars film since 1977. It isn’t. But on the other hand it’s far from being the worst either, so you pays your money and you takes your choice.

Things get off to a slightly ropy start with the absence of an opening crawl, and the lack of John Williams’ iconic theme. I can understand why they were absent but it does serve to make the film seem less epic from the start. When the Rogue One title appears this doesn’t help because it’s kinda small, and isn’t even in bold. Yes this is a standalone film but its’ still a Star Wars film and I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was slightly nervous/embarrassed about its heritage right from the start (similar to the absence of the gun barrel in several of Daniel Craig’s Bond films).

The opening third of the film is perhaps the weakest because there’s a lot of set up in terms of characters and worlds and we do seem to bounce around a lot. Thankfully the film does settle down somewhat, and it quickly becomes apparent that, just as A New Hope was a classic tale of farm boys, princesses, wizards and rogues transplanted into space, Rogue One is a World War 2 (and occasionally an Iraq/Vietnam War ) movie set in space.  So early on we get a lot of Rebel officers with stiff upper lips and English accents talking about secret missions and frankly you could have put them in WW2 era British army uniforms and it would have worked just as well. I liked this element of the film, it was nicely handled.

Of the eclectic bunch of characters (more Dirty Half Dozen than a Dirty Dozen) who form our core cast some fare better than others. Jones’ quality shines through, despite Jyn having a backstory that feels very similar to Rey’s in The Force Awakens (young girl left to fend for herself who grows into a tough no nonsense adult) although I do wonder if this was intentional? Jyn has the biggest journey of any character, going from cynic to believer in the space of the film and—aside from a later scene where she’s in disguise and you really notice how tiny she is—Jones firmly convinces as someone who can, and does, handle herself in any kind of fight.

As Andor Diego Luna (who it took me a while to realise was sleazy boyfriend from Blood Father) doesn’t get much back story, but he doesn’t need it because it’s written all over his face in every scene. This is a man who’s seen bad things and done bad things, who’s world weary as hell yet who won’t stop fighting until the Empire is defeated. They’re no Rey and Finn but Jyn and Andor do make for an engaging pair (and no romantic subplot neither).


“Aren’t you a little short for a Rebel spy?”

As I said earlier, Alan Tudyk is a hoot as K-2SO, an Imperial droid reprogramed to serve the rebellion. In his own way he’s as much fun as BB8 was last year.

Donnie Yen also plays well as Chirrut Îmwe, although blind-warrior-monk-martial-artist isn’t exactly a daring new character type.  Jiang Wen as his partner Baze Malbus fares less well, he’s gruff and has a really big gun and, well that’s about it. Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook, an Imperial pilot who defects to the Rebellion, is engaging, but we learn practically nothing about him, not even why he chose to defect.

As Jyn’s father Mads Mikkelsen is reliably solid, Ben Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic, head of the Death star project makes for a different kind of villain, though he rarely rises above the position of evil project manager. Of course he isn’t the only villain, and it’s no spoiler (I hope) to advise that Darth Vader is back.

Which should be a good thing, and is at times but at others feels like a stumble. Whilst nowhere near the disaster of Revenge of the Sith (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!) Vader didn’t quite feel right in some scenes, even his costume seemed slightly altered and the voice doesn’t quite ring true all the time (even though James Earl Jones is back) and whilst it’s exciting to see Vader kicking ass and taking names, it does kinda prompt the question of why he was content to let his Stormtroopers take the lead at the start of A New Hope.

Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera is the weakest in the cast, playing some kind of crazy cross between Osama Bin Laden and Frank Booth, and I can’t quite shake the feeling that he had scenes cut, certainly his brain sucking alien pet seems pointless.

The effects are great, although a couple of CGI recreations of certain characters (not saying who) are both exceptional and disturbing in equal measure. Get ready for a lot of uncanny valley, especially given one of these characters is given quite a bit of screen time. One can’t help thinking less might have been more.

When the film finally reaches its third act it’s worth the wait because there’s one heck of a battle going on. Part Normandy landings, part Platoon, part battle of Endor, prepare to see a lot of things (and people) blown to smithereens.

Gareth Edwards direction is good, and I say that as someone who found both Monster and Godzilla a trifle dull. There are multiple action sequences before the big dénouement and all of them are well handled.

This is a very different kind of Star Wars film. These characters aren’t the typical heroes and the film goes to some dark and gritty places—in fact I’m still surprised Disney were on board with this. What this means is that at its best it’s a radical, and welcome, departure from the Star Wars norm rather than a cookie cutter Rebels vs Stormtrooper generic action flick. The downside to this is that at times it doesn’t quite feel like a Star Wars film, and no amount of references to “hope” can change that.

It is exciting however, and at times despite its grit it is laugh out loud funny, though at other times it’ll tug at your heartstrings. In places it’s a little too clever in trying to tie every loose end, and in particular the ending seamlessly segueing into A New Hope feels a trifle too neat. But I’m being really picky because it has the name Star Wars attached. Make no mistake, for all its faults this is a very good film, a hundred times better than dross like Suicide Squad and better than most blockbusters of the last twelve months, it’s just not quite good enough to make it into my top five films of the year, though its damn close, and who knows a repeat viewing or two might alter my view somewhat. It wouldn’t be the first time…


Tanks for reading my review!!!

You’ve possibly already read my review of The Force Awakens, so you might be wondering what else I have to say? Well I’ve now seen the film three times, and my initial viewpoint has not shifted one iota because I still love it to bits. It’s my favourite film of 2015 (which is a shame for Kingsman given it help top place from about January) and might well be my favourite film for several years. However it might be nice to talk in more detail about various elements of the film, and some of my own thoughts about its themes and the characters in it. And of course because this isn’t, strictly speaking, a review, I can spoiler the film to my heart’s content.

Yes you hear me. SPOILERS! So if you haven’t seen the film yet I recommend, nay insist, that you bugger off right now and come back once you have. But if you have seen the film, and want to check out my ramblings, why not hop over BB8 here and read on…



Is Rey a Mary Sue?

I’ve seen a few comments along these lines, and there is a certain amount of evidence to back this up—she can fly a ship, she can repair a ship, she can fight and shoot and she can use the Force and she’s pretty handy with a lightsabre the first time she picks it up…but, and this is a pretty big BUT, so what? I mean, is her skillset any different from Luke’s? Let’s not forget Luke went from farm boy and hotshot bush pilot to battling highly trained Stormtroopers and flying an X-Wing into battle against the Death Star! In fact you could argue Rey likely had a less sheltered upbringing than Luke, I mean he had Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru to look after him, Rey only had herself, so is it any wonder that she’s quite handy in a fight? She’s spent most of her life scavenging downed spacecraft on Jakku, so even setting aside the fact that she had clearly been working as a mechanic as well as a scavenger, she’s probably got quite an intimate knowledge about how space ships are put together. Then there’s her flying skills, which seems to surprise her just as much as anyone else. She’s clearly flown a ship before, but as she herself says, only in the atmosphere, yet suddenly she’s besting Tie Fighters. The interesting thing here is that Finn says ‘how’d you do that’ (or words to that effect) and Rey’s answer? ‘I don’t know?’ so I think we can chalk that kind of natural ability to the Force (same as Luke and in fact Anakin).

As for her use of the Force, this does seem more innate than, say, Luke’s, but you have to take into consideration that Luke had never heard of the Force, or Jedi Knights, or lightsabres, whereas for Rey these are all known things. They might be mythical, maybe even apocryphal, but she’s aware of them, so her trying out a Jedi Mind Trick ™ is a bit like Silent Bob in Mallrats!

So yeah, Rey is a bit of a Mary Sue, but no more than Luke or any number of other fictional ‘innocents’ who suddenly start kicking arse like professionals. Of course what’s the major difference between Rey and most of those characters? She’s a girl of course! Oh lordy, they’ll be wanting the vote next (Paul rolls eyes)


Does Harrison Ford pull a Paul McCartney?

This may be a huge case of me reading things into something I spotted, but when Han and Chewie first show up on the Falcon, and Han’s talking to Rey and Finn, we see him side on and damned if he doesn’t seem to be very pointedly pointing towards his feet.
Now way back the album cover for The Beatle’s Abbey Road featured the fab four walking across a zebra crossing. Three of them are dressed wearing shoes but Paul McCartney is not. Not only is he barefoot but he’s very obviously pointing towards the floor so you notice he’s not wearing shoes.

Now this was interpreted as suggesting that Paul was dead (if you aren’t aware of the whole ‘Paul McCartney died in the 60s and was replaced story I refer you to Google). It’s something to do with him being barefoot.

Last year Doctor Who had a similar photo shoot done, and this time Jenna Coleman was the one barefoot and pointing and again this was interpreted as suggesting the character of Clara was not long for this world.

Now with this in mind, Han pointing towards the floor takes on a whole new meaning, especially given that he won’t survive to the end credits. But, like I say, I might be seeing something that isn’t there. Maybe Ford just stands like that all the time…



It struck me on the third viewing, that it can’t be coincidence that the three (new) main characters are all masked the first time we see them? Kylo Ren is wearing his sub Vader mask for a good half of the film but the first time we see Finn his visage is covered by his Stormtrooper helmet. This leaves Rey, and the first time we see her, clambering around inside the crashed Star Destroyer, her face is covered by her scarf and goggles.

So what are we supposed to take from this? Than none of them is quite what they initially appear to be? This is most clear with Finn, he looks like a Stormtrooper but he’s actually like no Stormtrooper we’ve ever encountered before. And whilst on first inspection Kylo Ren looks like Vader, he’s about as far from the Sith Lord as you can get. Any rage in Vader is kept under tight reign, but with Kylo Ren it’s out of control. And when he finally does take his helmet off we see that he isn’t some scarred old man, some creature more machine than human, instead he’s a perfectly healthy young man. He doesn’t wear the mask because he has to, but because he wants to, and I wonder if Kylo Ren will actually wear it at all in Episode VIII? You could argue that in removing his mask and in killing his father, the real Kylo Ren has been revealed?

And what does this say about Rey? Clearly that she is more than she initially appears to be more than just a simple scavenger. On the one hand her hidden depths may refer to her Force powers of course, but it may also relate to her heritage. Which brings me to the next point…

Is Rey the daughter of Luke, or even Han and Leia?

An awful lot of people have suggested that Rey is Luke’s daughter, and cite the way he looks at her at the end of the film as evidence (not to mention her abilities with the Force, and the fact that it seems she was abandoned by someone, and seems quite attached to her Rebel pilot’s helmet and Rebel Pilot themed teddy/doll). Would this make sense? I suppose so. Do I hope it’s true? No.

First off I don’t like the notion that Force ability is only hereditary, it makes little sense, especially when you factor in Jedi Knight’s celibacy. Secondly if she is Luke’s daughter, then that suggests either Luke abandoned her to the tender mercies of a disreputable sort on Jakku, or else someone else took her and Luke just never bothered to try and track her down. Neither option reflects well on Luke.

Finally, it’s just too obvious!

Another option, which frankly holds less water, is that she’s Kylo Ren’s sister. Again it seems unlikely. Sure Han takes to her quickly, and sure Leia hugs her before they’re even introduced, but neither of them talk about having a daughter, which would be kinda weird (and the same problem arises of her being abandoned on Jakku).

None of which means she isn’t a Skywalker, it just means I hope she isn’t.

Why are they still using Tie Fighters and X-Wings?

I think we all know that the reason they’re still using X-Wings and Tie Fighters 30 years later is because a/ they’re cool and b/for added nostalgia. But, having said that, does it really seem that unexpected? I always figured that X-Wings were a relatively new kind of craft at the time of the original films, and for all we know Tie Fighters were similarly fresh off the production line. Now taking this into account, and factoring some real life 20th/21st Century examples into the equation. First off look at the Panavia Tornado which entered service with the RAF in around 1979/1980. Although it is due to be replaced within the next few years it is still, as we speak, flying combat missions over Iraq and Syria, which means it’s been operational 35 odd years. This isn’t a unique example either, the US Navy has been flying F18 Hornets since the late 1970s.

With this in mind, and considering as well that it’s likely the avionics/engines of both X-Wings and Tie fighters have likely been upgraded making them, technically, different beasts to the ones Luke flew/flew against, then the fact that the First Order and the Resistance are still flying them is quite logical, maybe more so for the resistance who might have less of a choice in the matter.

That said given the original trilogy gave us Y-Wings (my own personal favourites) A-Wings, B-Wings, Tie Bombers and Tie Interceptors, let’s hope for some new ships in episode 8 in addition to the old favourites.


Kylo Ren is rubbish, he’s taken down by two characters who’ve had no lightsabre training.

I think first and foremost we need to consider what condition Kylo Ren is in during this fight. First off emotionally he must be all over the place, you know given that he’s just killed his own father. That’s got to affect his judgement and his thinking. And then of course he’s also just been shot by Chewie. Now the film takes every opportunity to show us how powerful everyone’s favourite Wookie’s bowcaster is. It knocks Stormtroopers clean off their feet, and even factoring in the greater ranger Kylo Ren clearly takes one hell of a pounding via this wound. So he’s emotionally off balance, he’s bleeding and likely in a lot of pain, and from the way he keeps hitting his own wound either he’s getting the adrenaline to pump, or distracting himself with the pain. Neither of which suggest a fighter at his best.

Now to his opponents. Finn might not be adept with a lightsabre, but he is a trained stormtrooper, and, judging by his encounter with the riot-trooper earlier, stormtroopers get a lot of melee training, so whilst he might be unused to the weapon, he probably isn’t unused to the kind of weapon.

And of course Kylo Ren takes him down.

On to opponent number 2. Rey might have grown up a scavenger, might not have had in-depth training, but we find out early on that she’s not afraid of a fight, and is quite useful with the staff she carries. Again a lightsabre might be something very different, but it isn’t like she hasn’t fought with melee weapons before, and you could even argue that her lack of formal training makes her a much more unpredictable opponent than Finn. Plus you have to factor in that Rey is strong with the Force. Likely not as strong as Kylo Ren (yet) but as we’ve already argued he’s probably not at his best.

All of which adds up to what is, the more I think about it, one of the most interesting and mismatched lightsabre duels since Luke went up against Vader the first time in Empire.

If, and it might be a big if, Rey fights Kylo Ren in Episode 8, I imagine things will be very different. Kylo Ren will be more on top of his game, but Rey will probably have had more training.

Of course it wouldn’t surprise me if they leave the rematch for episode 9 and have Rey go up against another of the Knights of Ren in episode 8. I also hope we don’t get Kylo Ren vs Luke, because the likely outcome of that might be as depressing as what happened to Han this time!