Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Image is property of LucasFilm and Walt Disney

Star Wars: The Last Jedi  – Film Review

Cast: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Domnhall Gleeson,

Director: Rian Johnson

Synopsis: Following on from the events of The Force AwakensThe First Order is hot on the trails of the Resistance, while Rey seeks out the guidance of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

This review will be 100% spoiler free.

Review: Very few films manage to become such events that build anticipation and excitement among audiences quite like Star Wars does. Though for a long time (a decade to be exact) no new films were made in the Star Wars universe, it never lost that magic and majesty that it carries for so many people. Though that was unlikely to ever diminish, as 2015’s The Force Awakens came along, it was the film the franchise needed to revitalise itself and get the force flowing through it once more.

Picking up almost immediately after the events of Force Awakens, without divulging too much information, the First Order is now aggressively hunting The Resistance, which is to be expected after you blow up a significant asset, namely Starkiller Base. Meanwhile over on Ahch-To, Luke Skywalker has chosen to hide himself away, due to a horrible event that took place in the past, which doesn’t bode well for Rey, who is seeking Luke out to return a significant possession of his, and for help in honing her Jedi powers.

For many a big criticism of Abrams’s efforts was that it was just a rehash of A New Hope, and while it is not a shot for shot remake, it does undeniably heavily borrow elements of that film. The reception of the prequels and how different they were to the original trilogy meant that the decision to make the first chapter of the new trilogy feel like the film that started all this was a sound decision. However, taking over from Abrams, Rian Johnson continues on what Abrams built so successfully and gives another strong addition to the franchise that continues at the themes that almost every film before it has touched upon.

For many the greatest film in this celebrated franchise is The Empire Strikes Back, and justifiably so too. It took the characters and developed them in extremely unique ways, and it’s clear Johnson is going for a similar vibe, but this is not just a rehash of Empire, it crafts a story that needs to be told, taking the characters and taking them in certainly very intriguing directions. Conflicts are occurring both between the First Order and the Resistance and intense personal conflicts are raging inside some of the characters. Of the familiar faces, Daisy Ridley is once again superb as Rey, adding real intensity into her performance as she goes on a journey to discover the answers to the questions that we had about her last time out. John Boyega likewise as Finn, is certainly a very likeable presence, as is the roguish charm of Poe Dameron. Of the newcomers, Laura Dern has an authoritative presence alongside the late Carrie Fisher’s Leia.

On the flip side, there’s a lot going on with Kylo Ren too, which given the heinous crime he committed against his father is understandable. But even then, his character has a lot on his plate, just like many of the characters here. Though once again, the Skywalker siblings are key pieces in this puzzle. Having had a mere cameo last time around, Luke has a lot more to do this time around and given that so much has happened to him since he decided to adopt the hermit lifestyle, there’s much to be explored and Hamill is once again terrific in the role. Though there is an obvious element of sadness surrounding Leia and the passing of Carrie Fisher, in what will be her final turn in the role, she bows out tremendously. That being said there are some new characters who could have really done with more fleshing out, and some characters who were so frustratingly underutilised previously are still not given the time to shine.

last jedi

Though the story does move along at a steady pace, there are moments in particular around the second act that really slow the film down, and in some cases seem almost completely out of place and for some it might take them completely out of the film. That being said, that does not take away from the brilliant direction that Johnson puts into this. Sometimes a film can have the feel that it was almost directed by a committee, absolutely not the case here. The film looks immaculate and the action scenes are superbly well handled. There are some scenes that could have been omitted but there’s plenty of scenes that will get the adrenaline flowing.

A key task of any chapter two in a trilogy is to leave the audience desperately wanting more by the time the credits start to role, that criteria has been met. What Johnson crafts here is so well done it’s easy to see why Disney has given him the green light to make a new Star Wars trilogy unrelated to the current events of the saga, or so we are led to believe at this moment in time. The task of completing this story for these characters now reverts back to the man who introduced the world to them, and given that excitement and interest in this franchise is now likely to continue to the end of time, can we somehow make the jump into lightspeed to December 2019 already?

Continuing on the foundations laid by Force Awakens, The Last Jedi packs plenty of emotional punch, taking the characters in exciting directions and setting the stage for what should be an enthralling conclusion to this new trilogy.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Rogue One: A Star Wars story (2016)

rogueone
Image is property of Lucasfilm Ltd and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Rogue One: A Star Wars story – Film Review

Cast:  Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmad, Alan Tudyk, Forest Whittaker

Director: Gareth Edwards

Synopsis: Telling the tale of the brave rebels who upon hearing about the Empire’s construction of a deadly weapon capable of destroying entire planets, set out on a brave mission to find and steal the weapon’s plans.

Review: “There will be no episode 7” the words of one George Lucas back in 2005, and for a long time that looked as though Lucas’s stance would not change. This is of course until Disney came calling to the tune of 4 billion dollars, and last year Episode 7 did arrive courtesy of JJ Abrams and Disney. Of course Disney had no plans to stop at Episode 7, with as well as two films to complete the new trilogy, there would be as of right now, three anthology films to come as well, giving Star Wars fans across the galaxy one new film every year until 2020.

Of course, as Lucas himself found out, making a prequel or three can be a risky endeavour, so the new creative faces behind the resurgence of Star Wars decided to pitch a story that would not touch the existing saga, but one that would sit nicely between say a couple. In the case of Rogue One, it sits between Episodes III and IV, the focus is on a rag-tag group of rebels led by Jyn Erso (Jones) who make a daring move for the plans to the lethal Death Star weapon. The franchise has boasted plenty of great action down the years, but rarely have they ever felt like it was truly Star WARS. Well enter director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy who really put the war in Star Wars and then some!

Edwards proved he could handle action well like he did in 2014’s Godzilla reboot, and here he demonstrates his considerable talents once again. The action particularly in the third act is utterly compelling and just brilliant to watch in all of its glory. It’s almost like Saving Private Ryan, but in Space! Much like what Abrams did with Awakens, the world Edwards has also created just looks and feels like Star Wars, with a few familiar faces in there brought incredibly to life by the wonder that is CGI but of course some new characters, all of whom are compelling to watch, but some are more developed than others. The cinematography too is tremendous, and much like Awakens, there is a great emphasis on the use of practical sets, and not relying on Green Screen, bonus points if you can spot the use of a London Underground station as an Imperial base!

felicity-jones-jyn-erso-rogue-one-disguise
Image is property of Disney.

Jones is excellent as Jyn Erso, a character who has had a difficult past, but after a big discovery becomes personally connected with the story, she’s the lead and the most well developed, because she is a key part of the Imperial’s plans for reasons that will not be disclosed here, but there are others who absolutely shine as well. Cassian Andor (Luna) is excellent as the main support for Jyn, with Donnie Yen as a blind Rebel warrior at one with the force, and an absolute badass! Comic relief characters often come in droid shaped sizes, and this void is filled excellently by newbie K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk. Beyond these guys, the rest of the crew are a little bit light on character development, but the aforementioned trio certainly aren’t. On the flip side there’s one key new villain in Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic, almost your typical pantomime villain, who sneers at just about everyone and anything. Of course one Darth Vader makes his presence known once again, largely thanks to James Earl Jones’s booming voice and it’s an absolute joy to see one of cinema’s best ever villains back on the big screen.

Many took aim at Awakens  for being too similar to A New Hope. For sure there are some obvious visual nods and throwbacks, to please the fans, but ultimately given the poor reception of the prequels it was the safe route to have taken to launch the new trilogy. Of course Rogue One does do something similar with neat little visual nods to certain characters but by the time the enthralling third act arrives, gone are the Star Wars familiarities, it’s all out war in every sense of the word, with reminiscent shots of World War II and epic battles occurring on the beaches of this planet, and the CGI remains at a very high standard, with Michael Giacchino stepping in as a late replacement for Alexandre Desplat, delivering another superb score, the first not composed by John Williams.

For Disney, their colossal investment to take control of this franchise is certainly looking to be a wise decision, and one that is looking set to pay off big time. The studio raked in the cash following the release of Force Awakens. Although it’s unlikely that Rogue One will make the 2 billion The Force Awakens made, there’s every chance that Rogue One will make some serious cash. Right now, The Force is strong with this franchise, and the all powerful Disney machine in many ways resembles the Galactic Empire in terms of its sheer power, but Disney certainly doesn’t seem to have any plans to build a giant planet killing weapon!

This is everything the prequels should have been but really weren’t. It manages to strike a great balance between everything you know and love about this franchise, whilst also going in some exciting new directions.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens (2015)

Image rights belong to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Bad Robot Productions
Image rights belong to Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Bad Robot Productions

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens -Film Review

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker

Director: J.J. Abrams

This review is 100% spoiler free

Synopsis: Three decades have passed since the events of Return of the Jedi, from the ashes of the old Empire rises a new threat in the form of the First Order who threaten to unleash more tyranny on the galaxy. The key is the location of someone important who’s disappeared, with the Resistance, headed up by Leia Organa, also on the hunt for this vital information.

Review: It kind of goes without saying, that Star Wars is one of the biggest franchises the world of movies has ever seen, and when the announcement of three more films were coming to a galaxy near us, it was glorious news, and music to the ears of every fan of this franchise. With each little bit of information that was revealed, from the cast, to the director, to the trailers. Excitement and anticipation for this new Star Wars  film has been massive. So much so that some fans were afraid it would disappoint. Well fear not young padawans, because JJ Abrams and his writers, Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt, stayed on target to ensure this franchise has a much needed return to form.

The prequels, while they had some good points were ultimately a missed opportunity. The effects were there to make 3 more brilliant films in the wake of the original trilogy, but this opportunity was squandered. From the outset JJ Abrams wanted to return to practical effects, whilst obviously using CGI where necessary. What’s more the prequels suffered from a lack of an absorbing and engaging story.

ForceAwakens

With JJ being such a fan of the original, it is very apparent that he knew what the audience wanted, and the story, without straying into spoilers is very engaging and gripping to watch. There’s no nonsensical talks about treaties or whatever, it’s the sort of exciting driven plot that was so successful to create this beloved universe. From the off, it’s pulsating action that keeps the audience engaged from the first scene to the last scene. It’s everything we wanted from the prequels, which on the whole, the prequels failed to give us.

With the original trilogy, we got a great ensemble of characters that we liked and wanted to root for. Which somehow frittered away with the prequels, but once again there is a great batch of very interesting and developed characters. First of all we have Daisy Ridley as Rey, a scavenger on Jakku who through circumstances ends up being pursued by the villainous First Order along with John Boyega’s Finn, a stormtrooper gone rogue. Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, the Resistance’s best pilot. Flying the flag for the dark side is Adam Driver’s ominous Kylo Ren, and the sinister General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Andy Serkis’s mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke.

All of the principle cast are electric in their roles but special mentions must go to Boyega and Ridley, especially Ridley. Almost an unknown prior to her casting, she gives such a powerful and real performance that her name will be remembered for a very long time to come. John Boyega, another relative unknown is another name that will reach into the stratosphere and beyond. Kylo Ren is an antagonist that definitely ranks as among the best the saga has seen, he’s very menacing and frightening, and his back story is very intriguing and dark in equal measure, with his motivations being very crystal clear.

The chemistry between new and old characters is also magnetic. You’d think that a newcomer like Ridley couldn’t stand up to someone like Harrison Ford, but she does and then some. Ford as Han Solo is his usual charming, arrogant self and even after all this time, he still absolutely owns the role, as does Carrie Fisher in her role as General Leia Organa, as she now calls herself. Throughout the film there are definite homages to the original trilogy, but they don’t come off as just downright rip offs at all. It’s all very well executed, from the direction to the effective use of practical effects. It’s no secret that the prequels were effects driven movies and the notion that these could drive the plot was one of their biggest mistakes, as such there were none of those mistakes repeated here. The effects help the story on but the core element of the story is very much driven by the characters and their journey.

With all that said, there is only really one major nitpick. For all the great characters that we got that were not downright infuriating to watch, some characters did not feel fully utilised and some were left somewhat underdeveloped. However, the mistakes of the past were not repeated, and Abrams has ensured that this new trilogy has got itself off to a near perfect start with an excellent cast, great screenplay, exciting action, solid use of practical and special effects where necessary. And of course Mr John Williams’s music is as brilliant as it always has been. The franchise is full light speed ahead now,  and all eyes will now be on Episode VIII, so it’s over to you Rian Johnson!

A return to form for Star Wars after the mishap of those prequelsexciting characters,  a terrific story with some truly compelling villains and a solid combination of practical and special effects. The new trilogy, off to a perfect start, it got!  Hmmmmmm.

a

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. 

a

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Star Wars Episode III:Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Revenge f the sith
Image rights belong to Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith – Film Review

Cast: Hayden Christensen, Ewen McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Christopher Lee, Samuel L Jackson

Director: George Lucas

Synopsis: Set three years after Attack of the Clones,  after Chancellor Palpatine is abducted by the sinister General Greivous, Anakin and Obi-Wan set out on  a mission to rescue him. All the while, feelings of doubt and darkness are creeping into Anakin’s consciousness.

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

Review: It was the big selling point of the whole Prequel trilogy when it was first announced that three new films were going to be made. The selling point being the transformation of one character’s turn from good to really REALLY bad. Therefore, after two really poor first chapters that were almost devoid of the action and drama that made the original trilogy the much beloved films they are. Fans must have wondered if there was any hope for this final instalment and thankfully it wasn’t a hat-trick of complete disasters, although it could have gone that way.

Immediately, the film certainly offers A LOT more than the previous two almost put together, with the CGI being much improved, and the action and light sabre scenes in particular being much more efficiently handled. It is engaging and interesting to watch and for a change, there is a coherent plot and story for the viewer to absorb and watch with interest, as we watch one man transform himself into arguably the greatest villain cinema has ever seen. Although the process getting there is a little bumpy and is in some ways a bit rushed, one minute he’s Anakin and then bang it’s “Arise, Lord Vader!” It was an extremely sudden change although it’s clear it had been building in him for a long time.

One of the main problems with the prequel trilogy is a lack of a compelling villain. With Darth Vader it was demonstrated how to make a villain effective across a trilogy but here with three individual villains for each movie, something is missing. General Grievous, while he is arguably the best of the villains in the prequel trilogy with his sinister voice and presence, he is again horrendously underutilised before being abruptly killed off, although the fight leading up to his demise was some of the best scenes we got in the prequels. Indeed there are many action scenes packed throughout the film that certainly provide a lot more enjoyment than the previous two films, with the opening battle scene actually boasting some incredible CGI, or the battle with the Wookies and the Droids on the awesome sounding planet of Kashyyyk.

Yet unfortunately like its predecessors, this film is again bogged down by some poor dialogue/acting/ screen-writing (delete where appropriate.) The most guilty offender here is once again Hayden Christensen. His performance is much better than the previous film, and there are no nonsensical lines about sand or whatever, but there are still some horrifically bad moments that make you wonder how they even ended up in the finished film. In addition, while the final battle between Obi Wan and Anakin/Vader is undeniably cool, it is a little overlong and choreographed to a ridiculous amount of detail. The film isn’t completetely devoid of acting ability, but the likes of Ewan McGregor and Samuel L Jackson are the best of a bad bunch, with Natalie Portman again being a bit stilted in terms of her acting.

Overall the prequel trilogy, even though there are those who defend them rigorously will go down in history as such a missed opportunity. With the advancement in effects, there was a chance to create more excellence, but overall they really missed the mark. Yet for all their faults, they made a lot of money and ensured the franchise survived, although it could have been very different. But Revenge of the Sith is without a doubt the best of the trilogy, a compelling story, much more interesting action sequences and we get to see the birth of one of cinema’s most iconic villains, even if we now know what a stroppy little brat he was in parts before his turn. Thank you very much Mr Lucas (!)

Much improved from Episode 2 with a considerably more interesting plot and some more developed characters, but poor writing, acting and dialogue, once again bogs down this from reaching the soaring heights of the original trilogy. 

b

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)

Attack of the clones
Image rights belong to Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – Film Review

Cast: Hayden Christensen, Ewen McGregor, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Christopher Lee, Samuel L Jackson

Director: George Lucas

Synopsis: Set 10 years after The Phantom Menace, when a separatist movement  threatens to create trouble for the Republic, the Jedi Knights along with Senator Amidala move to ensure the Republic’s survival, but a growing threat is emerging in the form of a clone army…

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

Review: When it came to the creation of these prequels, surely every single Star Wars fan on the face of the planet must have been wondering what brilliance could the creator of this awesome universe throw at us? Our first answer was the horrendously disappointing The Phantom MenaceSo when a sequel came along, audiences possibly hoped that Lucas would realise his mistakes, listen to the feedback, and give us something much more closer to the original trilogy. But yet again, the hopes were dashed with another bloated CGI filled mess, with very little substance to it, and the standard of writing? Improve it did not.

In the first prequel, there was a lot of sitting around and talking, but not enough action to get the excitement going, it became hopelessly tedious with some horrific dialogue, and it’s unfortunate that this poorly written dialogue hasn’t gone away. The plot, of sorts, focuses on the Separatist movement and their plan to leave the Republic, led by the mysterious Count Dooku. Lucas really tries to make this plot really interesting but it doesn’t wash unfortunately, because it wasn’t the big selling point of the prequels, that being Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader. In addition to this less than interesting plot with the Separatists, we have an even less interesting love story between Anakin and Padme, and these scenes are just cringe worthy to the absolute maximum. What makes these scenes even worse is Hayden Christensen’s acting as a grown up Anakin and the delivery of some of his dialogue, is just horrendous. Once again Lucas’s poor script doesn’t help but it doesn’t take away from Christensen’s poor delivery of his lines, and while Natalie Portman isn’t much better, she does have an Academy Award to her name, Christensen does not. Go figure…

The emotion that ran throughout the original trilogy is again severely lacking in this film with the completely uninteresting plot and while interest does grow in the latter stages of the film, once the Jedi finally get off their bums and decide to do something to help. The action scenes in this film do offer more but they’re yet again mired by the ridiculous overuse of CGI which like the previous film is so ridiculously apparent it almost hurts your eyes while you watch. The absence of Star Wars sets sticks out like a sore thumb and Lucas once again tries to overload the viewer with CGI, forgetting that there’s a fine balance between great CGI and great storytelling, which again baffles as he mastered that with the very first film we got in the franchise! There are some decent characters in this film too, but again like with Phantom Menace, they’re barely utilised before we have a chance to explore their potential, namely one Jango Fett, father to the awesome Boba Fett, except here he’s not so awesome, he’s another whiny little brat kid, kind of like how Anakin was in the first movie, and in many ways like Anakin is here.

Also introduced is Count Dooku, played by the late and great Sir Christopher Lee. His performance was decent and his character is explored a bit more and there is a bit more action involved with his character to boost the excitement, but again it’s over before it really has a chance to get going. John Williams’ score remains as awesome as it always has been but the film is once again bogged down by poor writing, even poorer acting from certain individuals, and terrible TERRIBLE romantic dialogue, and more CGI overload that again does nothing to enhance and or improve upon the very weak story that we are presented with here, which was just not what audiences wanted to see. It was yet again a terrific opportunity squandered and resulted in CGI overkill.

Yet again weighed down by a poor script with some appallingly bad dialogue and even worse acting, lessons were not learnt from Episode I and the CGI is just as noticeable and dated as its predecessor, but it somehow manages to be worse, even with less Jar Jar Binks.

D+

 

Posted in 1990-1999, Film Review

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

the-phantom-menace-poster
Image rights belong to Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – Film Review

Cast: Liam Neeson, Ewen McGregor, Jake Lloyd, Natalie Portman, Ian McDiarmid, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker

Director: George Lucas

Synopsis: When the planet of Naboo comes under attack from the sinister Trade Federation, it falls to two Jedi Knights, and a mysterious young boy to try and solve the conflict.

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

 

Review: Back in the 1970s, in 1977 to be precise a film was released that would later go on to redefine not only the science fiction genre, but films in general. A film that would go on to have two successful sequels and remain insanely popular to this day.This film is of course Star Wars, and the man behind this remarkable feat of cinematic brilliance was George Lucas. Therefore when plans were announced to expand on this universe with a prequel trilogy, fans must have been overjoyed, and excitement built. However, ultimately their excitement and anticipation was misplaced.

The first film had the immediate sense of intrigue and excitement, and you would have thought that the creator of this universe would recapture that immediately. Yet right from the opening credit crawl, something just doesn’t feel right. This is not the Star Wars movie we were looking for, it is trying to be a part of the much loved franchise and although it technically is, it just feels hopelessly out of place. The first three films had great writing, some terrific characters, and some brilliant action scenes and combined great use of practical as well as visual effects, but virtually none of that is employed here, with some stilted dialogue and some horrendously written characters.

It is worth wondering when watching this film, is this the director who created this universe with his 1977 masterpiece? The main plot revolves around peace treaties, and political squabbling. It just doesn’t boast the excitement of the original trilogy, or have that emotional punch towards the climax, and the writing is absolutely nowhere near the level of quality that was on show in the original trilogy (for the most part.)It is almost painful to watch at times watching these characters devoid of any emotional connection to the audience. The film struggles to retain interest in the story, which in parts is down to the horrendous overuse of CGI. There is so much on show here it is once again painfully apparent that some shots were done on a computer, and the lack of quality written characters, despite some considerable talent in front of the camera, shows the real weaknesses in Lucas’ script, which is evident with what many believe is one of the worst characters ever put to film: JAR JAR BINKS!!!

Right from the off, this creature instantaneously irritates, with his nonsensical actions as well as his dialogue and he is just downright infuriating to watch. Also annoying, but not quite to the level of Mr Binks is the introduction of Anakin Skywalker, played by Jake Lloyd. The big selling point of the prequels is to watch Anakin turn from the good Anakin to the evil Darth Vader, but he spends the majority of the movie moaning and it’s just painful to watch, particularly because Jake Lloyd does not give a good performance at all, but then again with the script by Lucas being as bad as it is, it doesn’t help him shine. Vader is one of the most iconic villains in film history and his back story is just ruined by this terrible performance. The absence of the emotional connection for the film is seriously damaging and the overuse of the CGI particularly in some of the action sequences is so noticeable that it hurts your eyes while you watch. It’s like being fed with the same food day in and day out, after a while you’re going to get bored, and the effects are a bore at times. The effects do not hold up in parts and they add nothing of substance to the movie.

With all that said, there are some, but not many plus points, namely the John Williams score remains as excellent as it always has been. There are some cool scenes such as the Pod racing sequence, and there is a very cool character in Darth Maul. In addition he is part of what is probably the best scene in the movie, the light sabre duel between him, Qui Gonn and Obi Wan. But yet again, there is frustration as Darth Maul has has very little screentime and is ultimately killed off before we had a chance to see what he could really do. It is ultimately a shame that after 3 near perfect movies, and a 16 year interval between Return of the Jedi and this, this is the end product. It’s a real shame because with the advancement in the effects at the time, there was scope for greatness, but this fritters away into a gigantic CGI and effects heavy mess.

With a poor script, and a frustrating over-reliance on CGI, as well as some truly atrocious acting and characters, this was such a missed opportunity to expand on the brilliance of the original trilogy, but instead chose a path of mind numbing mediocrity. 

C-