Posted in 1980-1989, Film Review

Blade Runner (1982)

Image is property of Warner Bros, The Ladd Company and Shaw Brothers

Blade Runner: The Final Cut – Film Review

Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos, Daryl Hannah

Director: Ridley Scott

Synopsis: Set in 2019, A police officer, known as a Blade Runner, is tasked with hunting down and eliminating four human like beings, known as replicants…

Review: Every once in a while, a film comes along that initially audiences, and indeed critics do not appreciate upon initial viewing. Yet, over time, opinions change and it becomes clear that some films need perhaps another watch, to allow audiences to really appreciate a film in all of its majesty. Never is this more applicable than for Ridley Scott’s neo-noir classic Blade Runner. It would be fair to say that upon its first arrival in cinemas back in 1982, this film was hardly a run away success with the critics divided. Yet decades after its release, its holds its place as a sci-fi masterpiece.

Over time, numerous cuts of the movie have emerged (eight in total) but the final cut is almost certainly the cut that you should seek to watch. Immediately right from the opening shot, there is something so mesmerising to look at Los Angeles in 2019 as was envisioned back in the 80s, though we don’t quite have those flying cars as of right now! The CGI, for a film released at that time, is breath-taking and still holds up to this day. The set decoration also really helps capture that futuristic vibe perfectly, with a very futuristic sounding score from Vangelis.

All the various cuts would suggest that in all of this time Scott was not quite ever fully satisfied with the film, but despite all these versions, the core story at the heart of the film remains a very fascinating one that explores a plethora of different themes, all of which perhaps have helped the film to stand the test of time. Artificial intelligence was not exactly anything new in terms of science fiction cinema, yet the way it approached the subject and its exploration of many other themes ensure it has become a landmark piece of not just science fiction cinema, but cinema in general. That being said, the screenplay is bogged down in places by some pacing issues, as some scenes do drag for longer than they perhaps need to.

blade runner 1982

Harrison Ford was at the time, one of the hottest properties in Hollywood. Fresh from his success in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones universes, he certainly showed he had the charisma to be the leading man. As Rick Deckard, the man charged with hunting down these sinister replicants, he doesn’t quite have that Han solo or Indy-esque charm about him, but his performance ensures that Deckard is a testament to his talent that he added another memorable character to his collection. However, leading replicant Roy Batty (Hauer) manages the quite remarkable feat of stealing the limelight away from Ford, giving a very chilling performance. He deftly manages the balance between maniacal evil and compassion. Furthermore, he also gives what has deservedly gone down as one of the greatest (and improvised) monologues in film history.

Minor nitpicks aside, there can be no doubt that the impact this film has had, and continues to have over science fiction cinema cannot be underestimated. Indeed, the cult following that this film has gained in the years since its release certainly tells you all you need to know.  when a film has stood the test of time, even in spite of several different versions and quite the extensive amount of tinkering on Scott’s part. Nevertheless, what exists in the Final Cut of this film is a staple of science fiction cinema, and will more than likely continue to be so for several more decades to come.

Not so greatly received upon release, but over time, generations have appreciation for the wonder and beauty of the story that Scott brings to the table. It has deservedly gone down as a landmark piece of cinema.

 

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Posted in 1980-1989, Film Review

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)

Return_of_the_jedi_old
Image rights belong to 20th Century Fox and LucasFilm Ltd

Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi – Film Review

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Frank Oz, David Prowse, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams, Ian McDiarmid

Director: Richard Marquand

Synopsis: With the Empire seemingly victorious, the small band of surviving rebels must retrieve Han Solo from Jabba the Hut, and prevent the Empire from claiming total victory over the Rebellion by destroying the Empire’s brand new Death Star battle station. While Luke is battling to try and restore his father to the good side.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

Review: When the previous film in your franchise got pretty much everything right and made one of the best movies anyone has ever made ever, the sequel to said film was always going to have a very tough act to follow. Thus sadly for Richard Marquand’s Return of the Jedi, it doesn’t live up to either The Empires Strikes Backnor George Lucas’s original. It does have its shortcomings, yet despite this, it does have something to say for itself. There is plenty of enjoyment to be had and it does wrap up the original trilogy nicely.

The Empire struck back hard in the last film, and aims to move in for the kill with the construction of a brand new Death Star in a bid to defeat the Rebel Alliance once and for all. Similarly, the Rebels seek to make a last ditch effort to destroy the Empire’s brand new battle station. All the while, following the revelation at the end of Empire, Luke is determined that he can bring his father back to the good side.  With Empire, the tone was understandably a lot more darker with the Empire claiming a glorious win over the rebels, Han Solo trapped in carbonite, Luke’s hand chopped off, and while that tone is maintained in numerous parts, there is a return to a bit more jovial and upbeat moods, starting with the scene in Jabba’s Palace.

R2D2 as a waiter, ridiculous music by some sort of 80s style pop band, dancing, it’s all a bit ridiculous at times, but you cannot help but laugh and smile, for the most part, as there are some more annoying changes (we’ll get to more of that later.) Unnecessary CGI creatures but they’re thankfully not on show for very long. The true introduction of Jabba the Hutt and he’s this slimy nasty slug like being that you just detest every time you see him on screen, and cheer when he duly gets strangled by Princess Leia in her slave outfit, which quite possibly make some people lose their minds. Criticism has been aimed at the fact that she’s being totally devalued and reduced to a sex object, which is fair enough but ultimately that is the point, and it’s one of many reasons to dislike Jabba.

It’s here that we come to the crux of the story. We have seen Luke transition from a whiny brat (remind you of anyone?) to an awesome badass Jedi, courtesy of Yoda, who we see again briefly who has some more vital information to part before he goes to “forever sleep.” The scene with Yoda is enjoyable and there is more humour to be found, but it is ultimately a bit too short. There could and should have been more scenes with our little green friend before his passing. His training complete he goes off to try and turn his father back to the good side, enter Emperor Palpatine, the one who is truly pulling Vader’s strings and the one who has overseen all the death and destruction in the Galaxy. Ian McDiarmid plays him brilliantly, from his posture, to the make up to his voice. Like Jabba there is something just abhorrently grotesque about him, but he provides some fascinating viewing with some more memorable dialogue, and another very emotional ending with Vader redeeming himself by saving Luke from being fried by the Emperor’s Force Lightning.

While all this is happening, the Rebels are preparing their attack on the second Death Star: from space in the Battle of Endor, and down on Endor itself with Han, Leia, Chewie and co aiming to take down the shield that is protecting the Death Star. All these scenes are very well handled but mainly the Battle of Endor. It doesn’t quite reach Battle of Hoth levels of awesomeness but it isn’t far away. Similarly, the ensuing battle on Endor is also thrilling, albeit the presence of those fuzzy bears, otherwise known as Ewoks, does irritate some, and it is easy to see why. Although cute and fuzzy, these bears do feel somewhat out of place, and the fact that they helped to topple the evil Empire with sticks and stones, does leave some scratching their heads in bewilderment.

Empire was spared from a lot of changes, just because it was so damn good, but Jedi has had some rather grating changes. The aforementioned CGI creatures in Jabba’s Palace. The stupid “noo” Vader makes when throwing the Emperor to his doom. The brilliance of that scene is that even though he has a mask on, you can see from the camera work that Vader is conflicted as he watches his son seemingly die in front of him. The addition of the stupid “noo” just ruins the greatness of the scene. But by far the most infuriating change is the replacing of Sebastian Shaw as the ghost Anakin right at the end, with the actor who played him in the prequels  (I refuse to even say his name.) With Obi Wan and Yoda in their older bodies, the change to make Anakin his younger self just makes ZERO sense.

But with all that said, there is still much to be enjoyed with the closing chapter of the original trilogy. John Williams’s score remains as perfect as ever, and there’s plenty of action to keep the pulses up right to the end, and it closed the book on the trilogy that remains to many one of the best trilogies ever put to film, and for good reason, because it deserves to be.

Not as good as Star Wars or Empire Strikes Back, and with probably the most amount of annoying later edition changes, but there’s still plenty to enjoy with some solid thrilling action, and a good deal of heart and emotion too. 

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Posted in 1980-1989, Film Review

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

empire strikes back
Image rights belong to 20th Century Fox and Lucasfilm Ltd

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back –  Film Review

Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Frank Oz, David Prowse, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, James Earl Jones, Billy Dee Williams

Director: Irvin Kershner

Synopsis: With the Death Star being destroyed, the Empire and Darth Vader are out in pursuit of vengence against the Rebel Alliance. While Han and Leia fight the Empire, Luke goes off in search of a Jedi Master to become a Jedi. All the while Vader is in red hot pursuit of Luke.

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!

Review: How on earth do you top a film that had a monumental impact on pop culture and changed cinema forever? That was the unenviable task facing the individuals on the production team of the sequel to George Lucas’s phenomenal film. Lucas himself opted not to direct the sequel and the role was passed down to Irvin Kershner. A daunting challenge, but one that he rose to in magnificent style as they helped to make what is, simply put, one of the greatest films of all time.

With Lucas’s first film, we got introduced to this glorious and vast world, as well as our group of fascinating and interesting characters that you came to care about deeply. With this second instalment of the original trilogy, it takes both of these and expands on both of them, giving even great depth and development to our protagonists as well as our antagonists, and all the while exploring whole new worlds within this already wide universe. It’s a sequel done right in just about every way imaginable from the script to the directing to the score. It is pure cinematic perfection.

As the film’s title may suggest, the tone of this instalment is considerably more darker right from the get go, with the Empire ruthlessly seeking out the Rebels after the Death Star’s destruction. Vader in particular, now with no more Grand Moff Tarkin to hold him back is mercilessly killing the generals who displease him or  if they make a grave error, then there is no hiding place. There is no patience nor compassion at all with Vader in his quest to hunt down Luke Skywalker, and this includes torturing Han just for the sake of luring Luke into a trap. It is this mercilessness and pure villainy, as well as his booming voice and his unique breathing, that makes him one of greatest villains in the history of cinema.

So many scenes in this film have since become iconic pieces of  film-making. For one the, Battle of Hoth with the iconic Imperial Walkers. The first film did boast some extraordinary special effects (before Lucas became obsessed with them) but here in Empire, the effects are just as good and in some cases better.  While there isn’t as much action as its predecessor, the action that is on show is as equally mesmerising as the first film. Effects that remain as solid today as they did upon the film’s release almost thirty-five years ago. For instance, the aforementioned Battle of Hoth, the asteroid field, the iconic battle between Luke and Vader, it’s all perfectly well executed. What’s more, this battle as well as boasting some very memorable dialogue, also includes what is quite possibly the greatest movie twist of all time,  in which Vader reveals himself to be Luke’s father.  It’s brilliant, it’s memorable and it’s one of many reasons why this is the best movie in the franchise, and one of the best movies ever made.

The first film introduced us to our awesome ensemble cast, but it is here and through Lawrence Kasdan’s and Leigh Brackett’s screenplay this next chapter goes in a very different direction and goes in some very dark directions, that some directors may have baulked at. The relationships are tested to the extreme and our heroes are indeed in some very perilous predicaments. What’s more, this chapter introduces us to a handful of new and awesome characters, namely Yoda and Lando, The former, undoubtedly one of the best characters ever written, with some absolutely brilliant such as “do or do not, there is no try.” This among others are examples of lines which can and should be used by everyone in their lives at some point.

Can we really encase one of our main heroes in frozen carbonite and leave the film on a massive cliffhanger? Yes, yes they could. Can another one of our heroes have his hand chopped off and choose to fall voluntarily to his possible death? Again yes we can. It is bold and brave storytelling, but it is one of the many reasons that makes Empire Strikes Back so memorable. The film is littered with iconic dialogue, but none more so than the scene just before Han is put into carbonite. “I love you,” says Leia, and what should have been ” I love you too” was changed by Harrison Ford to “I know.” A master stroke by Ford and credit to the director for agreeing with the change as it is one of the most emotional moments of the original trilogy. John Williams’s score is again just perfection, and some of the best music ever written and composed for the big screen.

It is also the film with the least amount of change in it when compared with the rest of the trilogy. The bar was set very high following our introduction to this world, but Kershner and his team knocked it out of the park and in some style. There are no two ways about it, The Empire Strikes Back is cinematic gold.

Perfect in just about every way, from characters, script, action, effects, score. The best film in the franchise without a shadow of a doubt. 

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