Cast: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Amiah Miller
Director: Matt Reeves
Synopsis: After the devastation caused by the skirmish between Apes and Humans, Caesar and his apes now face a new threat in the form of a vicious Colonel who’s intent on eradicating the Apes once and for all
Review: “Apes, together, strong!” These were some of the words that we saw written on one of the walls of what was once the stronghold of the colony of super-smart Apes led by Caesar. The Ape that kick-started the rise of the Ape revolution that we saw in the first chapter of this reboot. We watched in awe as he became the leader of that colony. Then came the second chapter, where Caesar saw his leadership and his ideals challenged. It was the dawn of the Ape uprising, as one ape went rogue, and things went a bit awry for mankind and ape-kind both, and the war that was triggered as a result of that conflict, is now upon us, and it ain’t pretty.
Continuing in the same vein as both Rise and Dawn, this is avery personal story for Caesar, once again voiced and mo-capped tremendously by Andy Serkis. After the events of Dawn, the actions of the mutinous Koba and the utter contempt for humanity he had have had a lasting effect on Caesar. And when the humans and the apes clash once again, it proves to be the final straw for Caesar, and he sets out on the hunt for the vicious colonel (Harrelson) who is determined to eradicate Caesar and all of his apes, once and for all. Thus, this sets the wheels motion for another deeply personal and brilliantly told personal clash. Back once again after directing Dawn, Reeves has really showed himself to at the top of his craft, both as a writer and as a director, so it’s no wonder that he’s been handed the keys to the Batmobile.
The screenplay, co-written by Reeves and Matt Bomback, once again makes the smart decision to focus on Caesar and his apes, and their motivations for doing what they’re doing. Caesar stands out by far, but Maurice (Konoval) has a much greater role as Caesar’s most trusted adviser, and Rocket (Notary) likewise. A new addition to the Ape clan is Steve Zahn’s self named “Bad Ape” who certainly adds the humour this time around, but it’s gratefully kept to a minimum and thus it doesn’t become annoying. Dawn certainly offered plenty of exhilarating action sequences and once again Reeves delivers equally enthralling action sequences, whilst also delivering an intense psychological battle that pits Caesar against, by far the most compelling human antagonist of the franchise to date, Woody Harrelson’s Colonel, a man who is determined to ensure that humanity retains its place as the dominant species of the planet.
The CGI is once again, particularly for the Apes, is absolutely faultless. It’s so life like that once again you forget that they’re portrayed by actual actors in rather unusual suits. Though Serkis has often been overlooked for his work in these films in terms of awards recognition, he absolutely demonstrates his talents in bringing such emotional depth to a character, one who really makes the audience root for him, and want to see the obliteration of their own species. His performance is truly awards worthy, but award or not, his sterling work has ensured Caesar’s place as one of the most iconic film characters of the decade without a doubt. Michael Giacchino’s score is as you would expect, absolutely flawless.
Though there will almost certainly be more to come for this franchise, with Rise, Dawn and now War, we we have a trilogy that improves on what came before, and thus giving us one of one of the best trilogies of modern times. Apes, together, strong indeed.
The third chapter in trilogies so often disappoints, but no so here. With a thrilling personal story, combined with another excellent turn from Serkis as Caesar, to ensure that this trilogy is completed in great style, with the best film in the trilogy.
Cast: James Franco, Andy Serkis, Freida Pinto, John Lithgow, Tom Felton, David Oyelowo
Directors: Rupert Wyatt
Synopsis: Whilst carrying out some tests to research a cure for Alzheimer’s, a determined scientist discovers a young ape who after experimentation, develops remarkable advanced intelligence.
Review: As a species, humanity has had the dominion of Planet Earth has for the past two millennia. Of course, the idea that one day something else could come along and take that away from humanity is a theme that has been explored a considerable amount in cinema. There’s the classic alien invasion films, but the idea of super smart apes taking over the planet is one that has been around since the 1960s and the original Planet of the Apes film featuring Charlton Heston, which spawned four sequels. Then came Tim Burton and Mark Wahlberg in 2001, to which a sequel never materialised and after another decade, the franchise was rebooted once more.
In this new take on the franchise, Will (Franco) is a scientist aiming to discover a cure for Alzheimer’s. His research leads to the developing of a drug that is given on some Apes, which leads to one particular ape developing unprecedented abilities and super advanced intelligence that Will decides to adopt and name Caesar. As we watch Caesar grow up, and his intelligence becomes apparent, he begins to start questioning himself. All the while, the development of the drug begins to create tensions for the humans and as you might imagine a conflict between the humans and the apes starts to brew.
The wonder of modern technology meant that the apes were brought to life via motion capture work, and it’s just remarkable how advanced the technology has become. The technology is so impressive that it could almost make you forget that there is an actor who’s bringing the character to life. Though there are a handful of actors who bring the apes to life, the main man is the King of Motion Capture, Mr Andy Serkis himself. His work here is flawless, giving Caesar a very distinct personality, and a character you absolutely can empathise with. Given that it is in fact Caesar who is the main character in the film, writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver give him the most back story out of everyone by far, which does mean the back story of others does suffer a little bit.
As Caesar’s main father figure, Franco is excellent in his role as one of the few humans that Caesar trusts, along with Will’s ailing father Charles (Lithgow) and love interest Caroline (Pinto). There’s not a great deal of development on them, but they’re characters you care about. There’s one human who doesn’t quite view Caesar the way Will does, and that is Tom Felton’s Dodge Landon. Channelling his inner Draco Malfoy, he’s a man who relishes mistreating apes and putting them in their place, and when he meets Caesar, he’s certainly got his hands full, as it’s all well and good telling the audience that Caesar is a smart ape, but actions sometimes speak louder than words, and this is definitely the case with Caesar.
Under Wyatt’s direction the film is visually crisp with action scenes that are absolutely exhilarating to watch. With scenes that take place on California’s Golden Gate Bridge standing out as a particular highlight. The film’s pacing isn’t perfect, there are a few lapses in the plot where the film does drag. However there are one or two moments “holy shit” moments that more than make up for this. If a franchise has been dormant for a decade, any reboot’s key purpose is to reinvigorate interest in the franchise in a substantial way, and in that sense, it certainly was mission accomplished.
What a reboot should be, centred by a magnificent performance from Serkis with some stunning CGI and a very intriguing story, one that paved the way for future greatness.
Cast: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Zendaya
Director: Jon Watts
Synopsis: Having played his part during the Avengers’ Civil War, Peter Parker balances school with his superhero duties. When a new threat emerges in the shape of the villainous Vulture, Peter seeks to use this as a chance to prove himself…
Review: As a character and a superhero, Spider-Man has unquestionably enjoyed a lot of popularity ever since his first comic book came out. Indeed, it’s highly likely that many see him as one of their favourite superheros. Therefore it would surely seem to be an easy task to translate the friendly neighbourhood web crawler to the big screen to make a film that Spidey fans across the world can enjoy, but that is a task that has posed its challenges for Hollywood. One trilogy of his big screen adventures had two gems but then squandered it all with a messy third chapter. A reboot then followed, which produced two more pretty lacklustre outings, and consequently poor Spidey got a third reboot, which this time has thankfully got the character back on course.
Of course, this third reboot only came about after Sony and Marvel struck a deal which enabled Spidey to crop up in the MCU. His MCU foray began with a tremendous turn in last year’s Civil War, and now with both Sony and Marvel’s input, the webhead has a new adventure. As Peter battles with the mundane school life, he yearns for something more and despite his tutelage from Tony Stark, Stark does not believe Peter to be ready. All the while, a new threat is emerging in the shape of the Vulture, a man whose plans turn nasty after seeing something slip out of his hands, and of course he clashes with Peter.
Tom Holland remains excellent as both Peter and Spider-Man, carrying on from his sublime turn in Civil War. The previous films really didn’t for the most part capture Peter as a high school kid, and all of the problems that high school kids go through. Though it is kind of ironic for Keaton starring as a bird-esque villain given his Oscar nominated performance a few years ago in Birdman, he is by far one of the most refreshing villains the MCU has seen, given that the MCU has had some well documented problems in terms of nailing down a villain to match the calibre of say Loki. His character is fleshed out and though he’s not taking the title of the best MCU villain, he’s not the sort of disposable bad-guy that past MCU flicks have given us.
After directing 2015’s Cop Car, Jon Watts calls the shots here, and while some of the action scenes that he helms here are certainly very enjoyable to watch at times, there are moments where it does falter a little bit. It’s not exactly weaving any new webs but it does manage to be for the most part a lot of fun to watch. However, you never come close to feeling the anxiety or the tension of the situation in the ways that Raimi’s first two films in particular pulled off so spectacularly. The rest of the cast do a fine job and as you might expect RDJ is there to provide a considerable proportion of the laughs, a role he shares with Peter’s best mate in high school Ned (Jacob Batalon). Concerns that Iron Man’s appearance would be overbearing are thankfully wide of the mark, as he is used sparingly, but when he has screen time, it’s used to great effect.
After the lull that was the Amazing Spider-Man films, to see Spidey back on track will undoubtedly be pleasing to long time fans of the character be back in a really entertaining film that really explores his high school years in ways that perhaps hasn’t been seen before. Yet at the same time, offering nothing really new and or innovative in terms of what has come before it, both in terms of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and indeed, previous Spider-Man movies.
A familiar premise and characters, but with a refreshingly interesting villain and some well filmed action scenes, but at the same time, not breaking any new ground.
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González
Director: Edgar Wright
Synopsis: Whilst working for a ruthless crime boss, a young get away driver becomes one of the best in the business. When he meets a woman, he sees a chance to make his escape, but not before one last job…
Review: Whenever there’s a film that is released in the middle of the crowded summer movie season, that boasts a wholly original and extremely intriguing premise, that is always something to savour. Furthermore when you find out that said original film is from the man who gave the world the glorious Cornetto trilogy, that immediately is something to look forward to.
This is a project that Edgar Wright had in the works for well over two decades now. Yet it was only until after a messy exit from Marvel’s Ant-Man which he had been scheduled to direct, he turned his attentions back to his passion project, and hit the accelerator. Focusing on Baby (Elgort) a supremely talented get away driver who plays music via an iPod to drown out the tinnitus he suffered following a childhood accident. He’s one of the best in the business and Doc, the crime boss running the operations (Spacey), knows it. However when Baby falls head over heels for a waitress named Debora (James) he sees his chance to make his escape from the lifestyle. Unfortunately, Doc has other ideas, and one last heist beckons.
Leading the way in an impeccably acted cast, Elgort is immediately very likeable in the lead role as Baby. You have sympathy for him and his circumstances, and he has the charisma to carry the film on his shoulders. Likewise for Lily James as Debra, the two of them build a relationship and the chemistry between them is excellent. As the head honcho crime boss, Spacey too bosses every second of screen time he has, with the usual authority he brings to his roles, yet he can also show his more compassionate side. Jamie Foxx, for a man named Bats feels somewhat appropriate as he’s the most batshit crazy one of the group. Completing the core gang is Jon Hamm’s Buddy and Eiza González’s Darling, neither of whom have a great amount of backstory and character development, but are effortlessly watchable.
Wright’s screenplay does occasionally meander, there are moments where you feel like it could be something of a dead end, but everything is eventually steered back on course. The Cornetto trilogy demonstrated great humour throughout and there’s just the right amount of humour to be found here. With a premise that focuses on heists and getaways, it’s a given that there’s going to be some rather high octane action scenes, and that is most certainly the case. Wright steers these scenes superbly, the editing is slick and the action is so fast paced, there’s a very good chance that the audience is going to be on the edge of their seats throughout. Sure we have had heist movies in the past with a great get away driver, but Wright pulls it off in a manner that makes it feel fresh. Furthermore, the accompanying soundtrack, is one of, if not the best we have had so far in 2017.
The first two acts keep things for the most part at a steady pace, yet the third act is when things really move into the fast lane. It’s something to to savour, and could also lay claim to the best third act we have seen so far this year. It is breathless stuff that hits top speed in no time at all and barely slows down until the final credits. This might be a movie almost twenty years in the making, and to see it come to fruition in such spectacular style, is extremely satisfying, especially when it’s a movie that takes a very familiar concept, and makes it feel so unique and original, that has to be applauded.
Stylish, with slickly made action scenes that are pulsating to watch accompanied by a stellar soundtrack, fasten your seat-belts ladies and gentlemen, you’re in for one hell of a ride!
Cast: Tom Cruise, Russell Crowe, Annabelle Wallis, Sofia Boutella, Jake Johnson
Director: Alex Kurtzman
Synopsis: An Ancient Egyptian Princess is awoken from eternal damnation and seeks to bring terror onto our world and has set her sights on Nick Morton (Cruise).
Review: It certainly seems fair to say that right now, a considerable amount of major studios are pouring a lot of time, effort and considerable sums of money into building shared cinematic universes of popular characters. Yet it’s all well and good conceiving these ideas, but it’s vital that the foundations of the universe are done, and done well enough so that it won’t all apart several films down the line. When it’s done well (see the Marvel Cinematic Universe) it is delightful but when things have gone a little pear shaped, it can be troublesome to steer things back on course. For Universal, this reboot marks the launch of their Dark Universe, but in terms of laying those solid foundations to build upon, they’ve come up just a little bit short.
The film is set primarily in good old Britannia, but occasionally blasts back a thousand years or so to Egypt focusing on Princess Ahmanet. A woman who has consumed herself with jealousy and rage, and as a consequence, is locked away to spend eternity being mummified. Except when Cruise’s Morton stumbles upon a very ancient grave which sets off the chain of events leading to Ahmanet being freed from her damnation and now she’s on the hunt for someone, to help her rule the world (because what else do bad guys and gals really want to do besides that?) For writers as talented as Christopher McQuarrie and David Koepp, it is quite a surprise that their combined efforts result in such a lacklustre script that features really insipid dialogue, and a plot about as generic as they come. What’s more, some of the line delivery is nothing short of atrocious.
Cruise has shown his talents across many decades as an actor and as a man who really commits himself to the stunts he performs, but here his performance is just as generic as you can get. He tries to come off as this roguish badass that, to be fair, he has done throughout the Mission:Impossible series. Except under the direction of debut director Alex Kurtzman, it simply doesn’t work. Russell Crowe is again another fine actor, but much like Cruise, there’s just nothing to get excited about in terms of his performance, likewise for Annabelle Wallis’s character whose dialogue with Cruise is extremely cringy and gives an extremely wooden performance.
Having risen to prominence in films such as Kingsman and Star Trek Beyond, Boutella is by far and away the film’s leading light (or should that be darkness?) Though she isn’t helped by the film’s weak script she does her damn best to put some meat on the bones of her character, but they are threadbare and it’s just a mighty disappointment given the talent of the actress to not make her more of a compelling, and menacing presence, given that the script and the tone of the movie is all over the place.
There are some exhilarating, well filmed action scenes, packed with decent CGI, and accompanied by a fine score from Brian Tyler. There are plenty of shots of shots of Cruise running. which let’s be honest is is to be expected whenever he appears on screen, given that it has literally become a meme! It’s a shame then that these scenes are just not enough to prevent the film from being a complete mishmash that is trying so hard to get its Universe off the ground. It focuses so much on this, and as a consequence large forgets to be an entertaining movie by itself, and that is a monstrous disappointment.
With a real potpourri of mismatched tones, some very exposition heavy dialogue, and a collection of bland and uninteresting characters, the Dark Universe is off to an extremely uninspiring start.
Cast: Shia LaBeouf, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Frances McDormand, Patrick Dempsey, John Malkovich, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, John Turturro, Peter Cullen, Hugo Weaving, Leonard Nimoy
Director: Michael Bay
Synopsis: When a Transformer ship crashes on the Moon back in the height of the Cold War, triggering the Space Race, it possesses technology that could prove pivotal to the fates of both humanity and the Transformers themselves
Review: When you launch a live action franchise that is based off a hugely popular toy series, it’s almost a certainty that you will get people into the cinemas to see said films and the studio will make a nice juicy profit from these movies. However, you still have to make a good film that will ensure audiences keep coming on back once you decide to make sequels right?
Well not always as it happens, because even if you have one fun enough popcorn flick, but then that’s followed up with to put it mildly, a really disappointing follow-up, it creates the dilemma as to whether the audiences will return for a third film, under the same creative team as the previous two? Well yes as it turns out cos Hollywood does like to make those sequels, and the popularity of the Transformers franchise certainly compelled people back to the cinema, and thankfully this time director Michael Bay listened somewhat to the complaints that people had with Revenge of the Fallen, but not all of them.
In the wake of the previous movie Sam, now with new squeeze Carly (Huntington-Whiteley) is looking for fulfilment after having saved the world twice from the Decepticons, but of course those dastardly Decepticons are by no means willing to wave the white flag in their mission to conquer Earth yet, with their plot hinging around the Transformer ship that crashes onto our Moon carrying in it the former leader of the Autobots Sentinel Prime (Nimoy) and a transformer technology that if the Decepticons get their hands on it, is bad news for humanity as you would expect, and Earth becomes Transformers Bayhem once again.
For a franchise that has Transformers in the title, you would like to see a lot more focus on the bots rather than the humans, but for around the first hour, we see Sam struggle in a pretty tedious job rather than see Autobots and Decepticons laying it down, and it’s all just not very interesting, even with a good highway chase thrown in there. However, after Sam learns of a sinister plot that involves the aforementioned Transformer ship that crashed on the Moon, and its subsequent ramifications, the film does begin to pick up the pace a lot. Yet the journey getting there is not exactly enjoyable as you feel like there are some scenes that could have been left on the editing room floor.
It’s when we reach the third act and the city of Chicago has endured a bit of damage that the film really hits its brightest spots and its Autobots v Decepticons Round 3. Bay certainly likes to film his actions scenes with a lot of explosions and here he does so once more. Visually Michael Bay does make some impressive fight scenes and while they are fun to watch, there is not enough substance in them to justify the rather long running time.
The film doesn’t really boast much in the way of top notch acting talent too unfortunately. LaBeouf was watchable for the first film but here his appeal has just fizzled away, Huntington-Whiteley, while being much better than her predecessor isn’t exactly giving an award worthy calibre performance, McDormand as the new Government MVP and Patrick Demspey as the primary antagonist do offer some great performances, but it is the best of a bad bunch. It is a shame that there can be a truly great Transformers movie in there somewhere, and the first film was almighty close to achieving that, but with subsequent films, Bay did not build upon what he had achieved the first time around, and while the end product this time around is not awful, it is a mishmash of robotic mayhem thrown in with some inane human drama.
Throwing up nothing that you haven’t seen before, but considerably improving on what its predecessor gave us with some impressive visuals and action, that are weighed down by indifferent acting and a shaky script.
Cast: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Connie Nielsen, Robin Wright, David Thewlis, Danny Huston
Director: Patty Jenkins
Synopsis: After an American pilot crashes near her home of Themyscira, and speaks of a deadly war gripping humanity, Amazonian Princess Diana decides to stand up and be counted, and bring an end to the war that threatens to devastate humanity.
Review: Right now, there can be little doubt that superhero/comic book films is a genre that is thriving at this moment in time. Yet despite this domination, one thing had always been missing from the genre particularly since its renaissance post 2008, and that is the remarkable lack of a female superhero driven flick. A film showing that a woman can be if she wants to be, an absolute badass who will absolutely not let any man dictate what she does or where she goes. It has been quite remarkable that it has taken this long, but better late than never, and one can hope that more will soon follow.
It would be fair to say that much was riding on this film to be a success, given that the DC Extended Universe has not enjoyed the best of starts. Man of Steel was received fairly warmly, but the same cannot be said for Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad. Though all had varying degrees of entertainment to them, it would be putting it mildly to say that there were a fair amount of naysayers for each of them. In turn, the DC Universe was struggling to get off the ground, but now that is about to change, thanks to our titular heroine. She had already graced our screens with her small but significant role in BVS (as well as being one of the film’s saving graces!) Now director Patty Jenkins goes back to show how she became the invincible warrior, a journey that takes her to our human world, and more specifically World War I.
Of course, she’s not alone in this fight, with love interest Steve Trevor (Pine) involved in a covert plot to retrieve some vital information, all the while Diana is thinking there are some sinister forces at work, leaving her eager to march into battle and defeat the evil that she believes is corrupting mankind. Continuing from where she left off Gadot is superb to watch in the role, she has the charisma and compassion that makes you want to root for her. Furthermore, when she’s being the absolute boss that we know she is in the heart of the First World War, it’s simply fantastic to watch. The studio had always wanted a female director and Jenkins proved herself to be the perfect choice, as the action scenes are directed faultlessly and are visually mesmerising to look at, aided superbly by the awesome score from Rupert Gregson-Williams.
As to be expected, the theme of female empowerment is strong throughout and Diana embodies that to a T (or should that be a W?) At a time when a woman’s place was inferior to that of a man, Diana is having none of that! The chemistry between the two is what drives the movie forward. Humour is something that has become synonymous with the MCU and there’s plenty of good humour to be found here too. The plot is fast paced and gripping almost all of the time, yet when the third act arrives, this is where it begins to falter a little bit. It chooses to go down a route that is not exactly anything that we haven’t seen before. You would like to see studios try and avoid this somewhat cliched storytelling, but at least there are villains that are not completely disposable, unlike some of the MCU villains.
After three attempts to get their Universe up and running, it was beginning to feel like time was running out for DC and this was last chance saloon for the DCEU to get going in order to stand a chance of facing up to the might of Marvel. While that is still a bit of a way off for the time being, it fell on Wonder Woman’s shoulders to deliver, and well she certainly delivered those goods, and in wonderful style too!
A truly wonderful origin story that delivers compelling characters, pulsating action sequences and a truly awesome lead performance from Gadot, the DCEU finally achieves a proper lift off.
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo
Director: Ridley Scott
Synopsis: The crew of the Covenant make course for a chartered planet that’s seemingly hospitable for humanity to colonise. Upon arrival however, they make a horrifying discovery that has them fighting for their lives…
Review: When you are the creator of a franchise that has made its mark on pop culture and was a game changer in the science fiction/horror genre, it always feels like there’s a certain amount of pressure when said director make a return to the franchise, as Ridley Scott certainly found out. The expectation that was on the shoulders of Ridley Scott when 2012’s Prometheus, the first film in a prequel series of events taking place before Scott’s 1979 classic. It was not the happiest of returns to the franchise for Scott, as the film’s divisive reaction can testify. However, for this newest instalment Scott decided to return to more familiar routes.
The year is 2104, and the crew of the Covenant are soundly asleep in their stasis chambers, destination planet Origae-6. Yet when disaster strikes and fatalities occur, newly appointed Captain Oram decides to change course and head for a new planet that looks perfect for them to colonise. But of course, once they land there and begin to have a look around, it’s not long before the crew realise something is very wrong and the members of the team are all locked in a desperate bid for survival against some Neomorphs who as to be expected, are looking to make a meal out of the crew, LITERALLY!
Given that Scott is in many ways the founder of this franchise, it’s almost a given that the film will look visually mesmerising, and here he continues that trend.The production design and set direction are excellent, and the cinematography is all just wonderful to look at, but great visuals do not make a great film alone, you need to have some characters that you want to get on board with, and this is where the film falters a little bit. Many of the crew have so little development that you just don’t care about them, perhaps cos you know they’re just meat for the aliens. Thus you don’t have any sadness for the characters when they’re picked off. The death scenes are nowhere near as iconic, but Scott definitely throws in throwback moments that fans will undoubtedly enjoy. Chest popping death scene anyone?
That being said there are a few standout performances, most of all from Michael Fassbender in a dual role playing two versions of an android whose motivations you’re never quite sure whose side he’s really on. Katherine Waterston due to tragic circumstances at the film’s outset is fuelled by grief and anger, which makes her a character the audience can get on board with. When the shit goes down, she really delivers a wounded and powerful performance, in many ways, she’s the new Ripley, but not quite as badass, and Danny McBride really helps give the film a little sprinkle of humour.
Much like Prometheus, the film’s script is a little choppy and does falter at times in the second act. You do get the feeling that there are certain plot points that perhaps ended up being edited out of the final product, but the overall script delivers a story that certainly fuses elements of Prometheus and the original Alien film in ways that should be appeasing to fans of the franchise. Whilst also bringing that signature sci-fi gore that this franchise has become synonymous with. It’s similar in many ways to the films that have come before it, but as has been proven in the past, that is by no means a bad thing, and here it helps the film remain on course, and ensures it becomes a worthy addition to the franchise.
It doesn’t offer anything new to the franchise, but by fusing the best parts of Prometheus and Alien combined with an excellent dual performance from Fassbender, ensures it doesn’t become another disposable alien flick.
Is there a franchise across the galaxy that has made such an impact on popular culture than Star Wars? Right from its inception in 1977, it has seeped its way into almost any and every aspect of our daily lives, so much so that a good four decades after the first film was released in cinemas, it has continued to enjoy almost unparalleled levels of popularity. You ask anyone you meet on the street if they know Star Wars, it would be quite incredible if you encountered someone who genuinely has no idea what the hell you’re on about.
Anywho, for a great many years it did look as though there was no force left in the world of Star Wars, since its creator George Lucas had originally planned for two trilogies. However, since Disney bought Lucasfilm back in 2012, the franchise has enjoyed a new lease of life. The new trilogy is up and running and an anthology film is in the bag with many more planned. But the force has not always been strong with this franchise, and so it’s time to take a trip to a galaxy far far away and rate the Star Wars films from worst to best. Time to get started, and make that jump to hyperspace! Punch it Chewie!
The whole purpose of the prequel movies was to witness the transition of Anakin Skywalker from extraordinary Jedi to badass Sith, however he was far from a compelling character and here he’s nothing but a whiny pain in the arse! It is fair to say that Episode I wasn’t quite as well received as the 3 films that had come before it, so after some negative feedback you’d have thought George Lucas would have made some improvements in the 2nd outing in his prequel trilogy, and well in short he didn’t.
The dialogue is dreadful, with Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman not possessing a single bit of chemistry between them just makes it so painful to watch. Romantic dialogue at its absolute worst. “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere” is a line that will live forever in film infamy. The film tries to make things exciting with Obi Wan’s adventure, but even that is just ridiculously bloated and nonsensical. At a point it just becomes a chore to finish the movie as you’re just not invested in the adventure one bit. Even with less of one of the most infuriating characters ever brought to screen, it’s an excruciating watch, even with some lightsabre battles involved.
Ahem, speaking of said infuriating character: JAR JAR BINKS. One word: WHYYYYYYYYY????? What on earth was Lucas thinking when he came up with the idea for this character ? He’s annoying to watch/listen to, and it’s not surprising that some thought the character was deeply offensive, regardless of whether he was written to be for children, he did not need to be so infuriating to watch. He’s perhaps the most hated movie character ever, and justifiably so too. But that’s just one facet of what’s wrong with The Phantom Menace. Right from the opening crawl, upon watching this, something is not right. Trade negotiations??!! Peace treaties??!! Star Wars, this is not!
Again just what was Lucas thinking?! When you watch this you wonder is this the same man who created this wondrous universe? Cos here it certainly doesn’t feel like it. Lucas clearly became drunk with CGI, as there’s a ton of it on show here, and while some scenes are cool, the majority of these effects are horrifically dated. The script, much like Clones, is also abysmal, as is the acting. What puts Phantom Menace above Clones is Duel of The Fates, Darth Maul and the ending lightsabre battle, cos that’s just cool, but it’s not enough to save the movie from the mediocre snoozefest it really is, and that’s an almighty shame.
AT LAST! WAR! After two for the most part painful movies, we finally got the prequel movie we signed up for! Right from the opening space battle, we immediately get the feel of old school Star Wars, and the Clone Wars that we were promised. More importantly, we watch as the Dark Side gnaws away at Anakin, eventually leading to his full turn to the Dark Side. Rise, Lord Vader! Christensen is for the most part, much better here in his performance, but there are still some lines that are just painful to watch. But it must be said, the acting went up a couple of good pegs, largely courtesy of Ewan McGregor who really shines as Obi-Wan. Not more so in the destined duel between Master and Padawan. You really feel the emotion, the pain and anguish of these two former friends now ferociously trying to kill the other. It’s also much funnier than the first two movies, largely courtesy of R2D2.
The action is also much better, from the opening battle to the battle against General Grievous (also the best villain of the prequel trilogy). There’s a handful of some great battle scenes, such as Yoda VS Palpatine and the climactic battle between Obi Wan and the newly turned Lord Vader is certainly gripping, if a little overlong. But by far one of the most excruciating scenes to come out of the prequels was Order 66! It made any Star Wars fan’s stomach churn watching the grim destiny of the once highly lauded Jedi Order. Yet, there are some scenes that much like its predecessors are truly head scratching, dying of a broken heart? I mean, really? And that really dumb “Noooooooooo” right at the end, just well erm, no. No thank you Lucas. At least this film ended the trilogy and the franchise (or so we thought at the time) on a positive note.
The one that originally closed the book on the franchise, and although in terms of quality it doesn’t quite match up to its predecessors, there was much enjoyment to be had in this final instalment of the original trilogy. The Battle of Endor is really well done and features one of the most memorable lines in cinematic history, courtesy of Admiral Ackbar (you know the one!). But the main focus of this tale is Luke’s mission to rescue his father from the evil Emperor’s clutches, and try and restore him to the good side. Their climactic final battle carries a lot of emotional weight, and is also very gripping to watch: “I am a Jedi, like my father before me”.
Now on the other hand, there’s the small matter of the Ewoks, you either love or you hate these little bears, but either way the idea of them being able to topple the Empire’s troops is a bit silly and very perplexing. That being said, despite these furry bears, Jedi has enough enjoyment in it to give the original trilogy the satisfying conclusion it really deserved, but as we know, this was not the final chapter in the adventures of the trinity: Luke, Han and Leia.
Despite being called “Star Wars”, there hadn’t really been a moment where these films really felt like proper war movies, this is of course until Rogue One blasted its way onto the big screen, in the first of the anthology films that Disney had been developing since it seized control of the franchise. Taking place right before Episode IV kicks off, the focus is on a group of rebels who make a daring mission to steal the plans for the Empire’s deadly planet destroying space station, the Death Star, and it really does bring the war element to the franchise in a way that we had not seen before.
No Jedi to be found here, and in Felicity Jones’s Jyn Erso the franchise has another very compelling female lead (more on that later,) the assortment of characters that are recruited are enjoyable to watch, Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe for instance, and new droid K2SO is VERY funny. Yet there is a bit of an irksome lack of development on some of these characters, aside from Jyn and the relationship she has with her father Galen. However, when we get to that third act, it is breathless entertainment, not to mention one of Darth Vader’s best ever moments in the franchise. It is a perfect companion piece to Episode IV.
There has perhaps been no movie this decade that carried more hype going into it than for the first Star Wars film since 2005. By this point, the franchise had now firmly made the decision to move forward with its own ideas, and as such Lucas’s suggestions were left by the wayside, much to his dislike. After the prequels had for the most part left fans vastly disappointed, much was riding on this film to match those lofty expectations, and for the most part, it delivered.
Now there has been much criticism hurled at this movie for being essentially a carbon copy of the original. While admittedly there are lots of visual nods and throwbacks, JJ Abrams and his team delivered a film and a story that felt so much more like a homage to those original movies we know and love. Rey is a very compelling and interesting character that is so effortlessly watchable in spite of the fact that we know so little about her, and given the fact she is the central character of the new trilogy, is critical. John Boyega also gives a top notch performance as FN-2187 (Sorry, I mean Finn), a Stormtrooper gone rogue and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron certainly carries that Han Solo esque aura about him. Speaking of Han, this film gives him and Leia so much more backstory and fleshes their characters out in ways we hadn’t seen before.
In Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, the series has another superbly portrayed antagonist who in spite of knowing the bare minimum about his backstory (other than also being Ben Solo), is very compelling to watch in the same way that Rey is. He’s in many ways a wounded soul, but one you absolutely do not dare mess with. Some would even argue that he become most menacing when he removed his terrifying mask while interrogating Rey, placing his mask on the ashes of his Jedi victims, only to reveal a young boy, corrupted and twisted by the dark ways of the Force.
There’s flesh on the bones of these characters in a way that was pretty much non-existent across the prequel trilogy, thus you’re invested in them, leaving you wanting more. Also, the movie makes a bold choice by leaving the film on a cliffhanger. There are many questions that fans across the galaxy at this moment just do not know the answers to, which only generates more excitement and anticipation for the next instalment.
The start of truly something special, a film that revolutionised the industry in pretty much every way, and created a franchise that to this day enjoys galactic world domination. It would be fair to say that there was something of a struggle to bring this to the big screen. Production problems, difficulties in funding the film, and even some cast members thought the film would be a massive failure. Mark Hamill commented that on the first day of filming in Tunisia, cameramen were laughing at his costume. How wrong they were!
Right from the opening moments, this film just captivates you, the effects at the time were dazzling and they still hold up to this day (well for the most part!). The characters are all very intriguing and much like The Force Awakens, you wanted to spend more time with these characters, characters who have left their mark on pop culture forever. Luke, initially a bit whiny, really grows into the role of the main protagonist. Han Solo is your cocky, brash but lovable smuggler, and in Princess Leia, you have a female protagonist that is up there with the very best that have ever been put to screen. Equally in Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader, you have two of the most memorable antagonists cinema has seen.
Despite all the production problems, the struggles were not in vain, and the final product is cinematic gold in every sense. The start of a franchise that has reigned across the galaxy for decades now and will in all probability continue to do so for decades to come.
Sequels have very much become a staple of modern cinema, sometimes they improve on their predecessor, and sometimes they just don’t. Empire is most definitely the former, in this instance, but it’s more than just a great sequel, it is one of the best films of all time. Period.
With the first film we got introduced to our key characters and at the same time, introduced to a plethora of planets to explore and a very intriguing and well told story to boot. This film takes those characters and develops their relationships in very unique ways, whilst also making plot choices that are bold to say the least. While the action in A New Hope was something to behold, here it is even better. The Battle of Hoth is mesmerising to watch, whilst the climatic final battle between Luke and Vader (who’s also an absolute boss with no Tarkin to hold him back) just mercilessly dropping his own men dead in the quest to find Luke. What’s more if you had no knowledge of the prequels (lucky bastards) as people in 1980 did, then the twist that happens in this battle is so well executed that you just never saw it coming.
The tone is also much MUCH darker, especially given the fates that befall some of our heroes, and the direction and the cinematography are just BEAUTIFUL to look at. There’s not a single thing wrong with this movie, and with the introduction of Yoda, you again have one of the best characters to have ever graced the silver screen, and some of the best cinematic insults too. It remains to this day the best film in the franchise, and it will take something truly special to beat it.
So, after making that jump though hyperspace through all of the major cinematic Star Wars films, it is now over to you! Which is your favourite Star Wars film, and how would you rank these films? Comment below and let me know! If you enjoyed reading this, I’d be very grateful if you gave my Facebook page a like and connect with me on Twitter: @ThrSilverScreen.
Cast: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benecio Del Toro, Jon Bernthal, Daniel Kaluuya
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Synopsis: In the war on drugs on the USA/Mexico border, an FBI agent is recruited as part of an undercover operation to take down a leading drug cartel.
Review: Whenever you depict war on film, chances are the results usually aren’t going to be pretty, especially the story you’re telling is focusing on the war on drugs and drug cartels near the US/Mexico border. Some folks are going to get their hands dirty and things are going to get messy very quickly, with some fatalities along the way. Though this is an ongoing conflict, and even though the events portrayed here are fictional, you would be forgiven for thinking that you are in fact watching a documentary about this struggle, and not a fictionalised version of events.
The gritty and dark nature of the story then is perfect material for Denis Villeneuve, the director behind Prisoners, the dark and unsettling drama about a family who see their young daughters mysteriously disappear. Once again Villeneuve chooses a subject matter that will almost undoubtedly be very unsettling for some, but at the same time, it’s a story that is told with such conviction you will not want to take your eyes off the screen. The main protagonist here is Blunt’s Kate, an FBI agent who just wants to do what’s right, and that desire takes her into this conflict, and what she sees really opens her eyes. Alongside her is Josh Brolin’s Matt, an agent that is quite casual about the mission they’re on and Benicio del Toro’s Alejandro who by contrast, is not fucking around.
Taylor Sheridan in his debut screenplay tells the story in a very ambiguous way, is what we’re seeing right or is it wrong? There’s certainly some things displayed on screen that are certainly very wrong, and not exactly pleasant, but for a film about the war on drugs, that is hardly a surprise. The film might be a slow burner, but the script keeps you hooked in the story, and Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score will keep you on the edge of your seat. The three leading actors all deliver performances of a very high award worthy calibre, but special mention must go to del Toro who has perhaps never been better in his career and was mightily unlucky not to have received an Oscar nomination. He’s a man who is driven by his motivation, and that makes him one scary dude that you don’t want to anger, and if you have angered him, well you’re in deep trouble.
Villeneuve’s direction is masterful with some breathtaking wide shots of the FBI teams on their patrols, the camerawork is so authentic, it really makes you feel as if you’re on patrol with these guys. It kind of goes without saying at this point but Roger Deakin’s cinematography is as beautiful to the eyes, and Johannson’s score is to the ears. Deakins’s work, as is so often the case is just mesmerising to look at, even with the depravity that you see on screen sometimes. It’s incredible to think that he has never won an Oscar across his superb career, despite amassing THIRTEEN nominations. It’s only a matter of time before he lands that coveted Oscar gold, Blade Runner 2049 perhaps?
With a pulsating final sequence that will have you biting your nails until the credits begin to role, Villeneuve reinforced his growing reputation as a film-maker to watch, which he further cemented with his magnificent alien invasion flick Arrival. To make a movie about such a weighty subject matter cannot be an easy task, but with Prisoners and with Sicario, Villeneuve really proved more than anything than when it comes to directing, he most definitely is a Sicario himself, one that is absolutely deadly and does not miss.
Dripping with gorgeous visuals combined with some heavy subject matter seems an unlikely recipe for success, but with electric performances and assured direction, this is superb tense and gritty entertainment.