Star Wars: Return of the Jedi – Review

The original trilogy comes together in a massive galactic finale. Star Wars – Return of the Jedi pits our heroes once again against a fully-charged Empire that wants to wipe them out for good. The film served as a climax for a series of films that captured the hearts of the world, young and old, male and female. There was something about the series that despite it being set in a galaxy far, far away, was so relatable but also, very exciting.

Return of the Jedi opens on the familiar planet of Tatooine (Luke’s homeworld) in an attempt to rescue Han Solo (who is still in Carbon Freeze) from Jabba the Hutt. After a rather long series of events, a big set piece and a Q & A session with Yoda, the team reunites with the Rebel Alliance as they are about to take on their biggest mission yet, to destroy another Death Star. But things are a bit different this time. They have a much bigger fleet ready to go on the offensive and there is word that not only is the under construction project not yet armed but that the Emperor himself is on the battle station.

The final battle is a culmination of what we had seen in the pervious movies and then some. It cuts nicely between three simultaneous struggles; A ground battle: the Rebels and their new found friends the Ewoks against garrisons of Storm troopers, a massive space battle between a surprised Rebel fleet and the Empire’s Star Destroyers and a Lightsaber duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader as the Emperor looks on. The film puts our main characters exactly where they need to be, split up between these fights so we have people to follow in each. Return of the Jedi doesn’t necessarily take the time as in the other films to dwell on that characters, by now if you have been following the films we already know a lot about them and the only real character development is shared between the characters in the Death Star’s throne room, Luke, Vader and the Emperor. That isn’t a bad thing though because the film is able to focus more on the battles at hand, the twists, turns and traps of all three of these skirmishes get you to care about the heroes’ plight and wonder if they will all make it out alive.

Welsh director, Richard Marquand took over directorial duties for Return of the Jedi as Lucas continued to produce and assist with the visual effects and story. This aided the film a lot as Marquand was very much an actors director and was able to get good performances out of everyone in the cast. The main new addition to the cast was Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, a quintessential evil character with a subtle Shakespearian vibe. He was very much a stand out in this film as he injected something new into the story and terrified children around the world.

In Return of the Jedi, Star Wars cemented itself as the franchise that pushed the boundaries of what you could put on screen. Character costumes like the Ewoks, Jabba and Nein Numb were beautiful realisations of how puppetry could work along with human movement while the space battles showed progress from the first film a few short years ago. John Williams returned to score the film, his track Ewok Celebration (aka Yub Nub) was one of my favourite pieces from the soundtrack and it was brutally cut from the Special Edition versions.

There isn’t much else to write for this film other than I felt it was a great way to end the trilogy and start a long wait before we might one day see episodes 1, 2, and 3.

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi: Above Average


Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back – Review

Arguably the best Star Wars film, The Empire Strikes Back returns to the galaxy far, far away three years after the Rebel Alliance’s assault on the Death Star. The film is a darker chapter in the saga but it creates a compelling story and adds depth to our favourite characters. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back separates Luke from Leia and Han for the most part of the film, Luke goes on a spiritual journey training under the Jedi Master Yoda while the rest of the gang attempt to evade the Empire.

The main cast return now as house hold names, people were clamouring to see the next part of the story and the film doesn’t disappoint. The script by Lawrence Kasdan and Leigh Brackett fleshes out the spirit of the force as well as developing the characters in to more than the plucky heroes we see in the original film. Luke is impatient and lacks focus, traits that true Jedi do not possess. While Han is seen to be much more than a scoundrel that is only after money, he shows compassion and care for his friends. In the early part of the film Leia is seen as a leading part of the rebellion while unfortunately she is relegated to love interest for much of the rest of it. Lando Calrissian is introduced as a supporting character who while being Han’s old friend, has his hand forced by the Empire and subsequently betrays that friendship.

Having a darker plot raises the stakes for our heroes, while not putting the rebellion at too much of a risk. This film is able to spend time on the characters, it has a pretty awesome battle between the Alliance and the Empire but that is used to open the film while the remaining hour and a half is much more personal.

As with A New Hope the special effects of this film were advanced for their time. The production team kept with their expert model making for the bigger and more menacing ships and the stop-motion animation for the Tauntauns and the AT-ATs made things feel very real (even though now they may look a little dated). However the real praise goes to Jim Hensons workshop for Yoda. As a kid I thoroughly believed that Yoda was somehow real and even now in 2017 Yoda feels as real as any of the other characters.

The visual style of the film is similar to Star Wars: A New Hope but the colour pallet in general is darker, despite the planet Hoth and the interior of Cloud City being white. While set pieces like the Battle of Hoth and the escape from a Star Destroyer are impressive (most impressive), it is the final duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader that is an amazing piece of cinema. The glowing blades of the red and blue lightsabers in a dark environment convey a sense of horror and that style is used again in parts of their second duel in Return of the Jedi.

While it is a main feature in many of the Star Wars films, Empire Strikes Back features some of the most iconic music by John Williams. “The Imperial March” makes its first appearance in this film and it has become synonymous with Star Wars and probably as famous as the main theme. Williams’s score has been paired with all the episodic films up to this point and it as much a part of Star Wars as any character. The music in this film conveys the menace of the empire and the tranquillity of Yoda and his chosen home world of Dagobah. It helps the audience feel tension and happiness when ever it is needed, more than (probably) any other franchise.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is a masterpiece of cinema and is one of the best films in the Star Wars franchise. Sequels these days tend to go bigger while this film goes a darker and more personal route.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back: Well Above Average

Star Wars: A New Hope

In 1977 the world changed. Star Wars (now known as Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope) inspired and amazed movie goers both young and old, and it’s still doing that to new fans today.

The original Star Wars film was written and directed by George Lucas. The script was shopped around with many studios declining and even after Fox gave it the green light and all during production, they were nervous to say the least. However, the film that was released, and the subsequent altered versions that have been released since captured the hearts of so many that saw it. It’s hard to review a film like this, a film that I have loved since I first watched it with my Dad in 1998 (in preparation for The Phantom Menace), when I was 6.

In the countless times I have watched it since, I have always believed that A New Hope is the quintessential Hero’s Journey, a young farm boy is living his hum-drum life and is caught up in a war between the two factions, the mighty Empire and the underdogs, the Rebel Alliance, aided by his super-natural guide and band of friends he takes on the extraordinary hurdles in front of him and comes out on top. The film borrows heavily from Kurosawa films like The Hidden Fortress and military films like The Dam Busters but it this sort of retooling of elements people are familiar with and putting them in a setting like the Star Wars galaxy that makes it so believable and relatable.

This film is a masterpiece of cinema and it’s curious that George Lucas writing and directing Star Wars turned out so well when upon trying to emulate the success and take over for the prequel films, it fell short. I am certain that it is because of the success of this film and the other two (to be reviewed soon) that George faced no hurdles when making the prequels, there was no-one doubting him, no-one giving input. Star Wars was plagued by producers doubts, limited budget and an even more limited time frame and that’s what made it what it is. For all intents and purposes this is an indie film. It feels real and is only using special effects when needed, a stark contrast to the films made in the late 90s and early 00s.

To get to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope itself, the main characters were portrayed by largely unknown actors. Mark Hamill was on a television show, Carrie Fisher was the daughter of actors and starting to make it out in her own right and Harrison Ford was beginning to make waves but it wouldn’t be until this film released that he became a household name. These young and very talented actors were complimented by well-seasoned veterans in Peter Cushing and Alec Guinness. All were great additions to the film and shone through in their own parts. It felt like there was care taken in the development of these characters and they were directed well to become these, now iconic, roles.

The visual effects for the time were mind-blowing, and this is what started the industry leading company Industrial Light and Magic who while working on almost every film to hit the screens these days have become synonymous with Star Wars. The rotoscoping of the Lightsabers, the detail in the practical models and making them come to life would not have been possible with out George Lucas’ vision coupled with John Dykstra and his team at ILM.

Star Wars: A New Hope is filmmaking 101 but its that simplicity combined with the care and attention that made it into a film that has stood the test of time and started a legacy that will live on for a long time.

Star Wars: A New Hope: Above Average

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Review

The concept of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was a simple one, who were the Rebel spies that stole the plans for the Death Star?

The film follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of the scientist behind the Death Star’s super laser, as she helps the Rebellion investigate the rumours of the Death Star’s existence and find a way to destroy it. Along the way we meet a large ensemble cast that will make up the Rogue One team; Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a rebel spy and K2-SO (Alan Tudyk), his re-programed Imperial Droid, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) and Chirrut Imway (Donnie Yen), two former Guardians of the Whills (protectors of the Church of the Force) and Bodie Rhook (Riz Ahmed), an Imperial pilot who has defected to deliver secrets from the Empire.

The cast is supported by Rebel Alliance Members; General Draven (Alistair Petrie), Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), Bail Organa (Jimmy Smitts) and Extremist Rebel – Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). While the primary antagonist Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) is supported by other Imperial members, Governor Tarkin (Guy Henry with facial enhancements to look like Peter Cushing), Jyn’s Father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) and Darth Vader (voiced again by James Earl Jones). The film boasted such an enormous cast and everyone got their time in the spotlight which is a testament to the good writing, directing and editing.

The film captures the essence of the original Star Wars films. The seriousness of the threat of the Empire combined with the focus on every-day characters that are just trying to survive in this rich galaxy. The space battle towards the end of the film is just incredible and harks back (or forwards in viewing order) to the battle of Yavin and the assault on the Death Star in A New Hope. The addition of archival footage from cut scenes from the original also help to tie in the film to the universe. Rogue One is the brain child of John Knoll the Chief of Industrial Light and Magic so the film benefited from being a passion project to the team. The visual effects in this film make the world feel as real to us in this modern age as it did to the fans in 1977. The digital rendering of Governor Tarkin did take me out of the film only slightly but the work done on Princess Leia for the brief time you see her is stunning. ILM is truly at the forefront of this technology and with them we will enter the uncanny valley in no time.

Gareth Edwards directed most of this film, with parts being retooled by Tony Gilroy (this could be seen as the start of Lucasfilm’s problems with not getting what they want from their directors) but the end product is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars cannon. There was a significant change to the films ending due to the director and the producers worries about weather Disney would approve of an ending where all the characters die (sorry, spoilers), as we don’t see any of them in the films after this. Eventually word came down from Disney that they were ok with that kind of ending and specific elements were reshot. You can find parts of this alternate ending and, in fact, other parts of cut footage and dialogue in the trailers for the film. Which ended up showing the feel of the film rather than what ended up in the final film. Misleading, yes, but in the long run not the worst decision.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a wonderful film and I hope sets a precedent for other Star Wars anthology films to take risks and tell stories surrounding the saga films. Star Wars is a big universe and the more we can get from these films the better.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Above Average

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith – Review

This is the third film of the ‘prequel trilogy’, a collection of films that many call a disappointment. I have always had a soft spot for Revenge of the Sith, the scenes of the Clone Wars, the melodrama between the Jedi and the Senate, Anakin and Padme, as well as Anakin and the Jedi and the Senate. While probably not a traditional Star Wars movie, the film ticks all the boxes when it comes to an enjoyable experience.

Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith follows Anakin Skywalker as he is pulled in every direction by the Chancellor, the Jedi, the ongoing war, his wife, the light side and the dark. The story surrounding him follows the end of the Clone Wars and the rise of the Galactic Empire.

The acting in this film is not its strength, again Ewan McGregor and Ian McDiarmid stand out in front of the performances of Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman and even Samuel L Jackson. As with the other prequel films (I know I am repeating myself) the poor dialogue and clunky attempts at character development are noticeable but not as bad as the previous films. Maybe that stems from there generally being more going on in the film.

The visual effects are top notch in this film, it’s bright and colourful but doesn’t feel as real as the original films did. Admittedly, this does make for a difference between the shiny Republic and gritty Rebel Alliance we see in the later films (chronologically speaking) but its not a difference many liked.

Revenge of the Sith is by far my favourite film of the Prequel Trilogy. It has less problems than the first two films did however it still feels very different to what I would generally associate Star Wars with. That being said keep an eye out for the next Star Wars review because Rogue One: A Star Wars Story captures that feel in ways I couldn’t dream of. The dramatic build in this film is its selling point. Maybe it’s because I’m a huge Star Wars fan but you really feel that everything is on the line here, the evil Empire has won and it’s going to cause so many problems in the long run. It also has that Empire Strikes Back vibe to the ending with just a dash of A New Hope.

Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith: Average

Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Review

While originally I was going to review the Skywalker Saga of Star Wars films, I figured why not review all the theatrically released Star Wars films. This unfortunately means I’m reviewing the 2008 big screen premiere of the TV series Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

While this film did help kick-off a well received TV series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a drawn out storyline that would have been better served in an episodic format. The story centres around Anakin Skywalker as he and Obi-Wan Kenobi serve the Republic as Generals in the Clone Wars. He gains a Padawan learner in Ahsoka Tano and a new mission to rescue Jabba the Hutt’s son, who has been kidnapped. The film even feels like a single episode and a two-parter edited together and after seeing every episode of the show, I believe while it serves as a pilot (not a good pilot), it is far from a story that deserved a theatrical release.

The writing was clunky and felt like a children’s show. Now, I understand that it is but there should have definitely been some differences between this, for all intents and purposes – a movie, and the long form television series. It needed to be more cinematic, and I just never felt that. Some of the quips between Skywalker and Tano felt like forced (pardon the pun) attempts to appeal to a younger audience and the dialogue from the battle droids was a failed attempt to provide comic relief in a film without a focus on R2-D2 and C-3P0. The voice acting might have originally gotten some getting used to but like I said, I’ve seen every episode of The Clone Wars, these characters are iterations I have become used to.

Now to the look of the film. A lot of people were originally very against the stylistic choice the creators went with when making the film, the human characters have very angular faces while the droids and the clone troopers looked more-or-less the same as they appeared in the live-action films. Whether or not the style was down to budget or trying to differentiate the animated series from the films, it can take people very much out of the story. I remember not being a fan of the look and while I still don’t love it, I’ve accepted it (which seems to be a reoccurring thing when it comes to films set in this time period). Compared to the TV series, this was definitely made first as some of the animation felt a bit dated even for 2008.

There is not much to say about this film. It was unnecessary, boring and only served one purpose… to start a TV series. While it did achieve it’s goal and Star Wars: The Clone Wars is a great show, delving in to the stories that occur between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, but this is one of my least favourite of those stories and its definitely one you can skip. Watch the show though if you’re a Star Wars fan and haven’t already, it’s worth your time.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Well Below Average

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones – Review

Upon my most recent Star Wars marathon and the writing of these reviews, I always thought that it was this film that I liked the least, but it’s a bit of a toss up now between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. The former because it adds very little to the Star Wars mythos, this one because it was just a missed opportunity. While it served it’s purpose of starting the Clone Wars, it was interwoven with this ham-fisted love story, in a desperate attempt to have two of our characters make the babies they’re supposed to to tie in with the original trilogy.

Anakin and Padme’s wooden love story aside, which is difficult because drives so much of the film, Attack of the Clones focuses on the continuing problems plaguing the Galactic Republic. It’s not just the Trade Federation any more, its the Banking Clan and the Techno Union, they all want out and are willing to go to war to do so. With tensions building, Obi-Wan Kenobi investigates a plot to kill Senator Amidala which unveils many more plots and secrets that have been in the making for the last ten years.

As with The Phantom Menace there isn’t much to praise in this film. The acting abilities of Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid and Christopher Lee were drowned out by the again poor character development and general lack of direction from George Lucas. The dialogue from most characters was poorly thought out but it was delivered to the best of the actors abilities. Character was again, left behind for visuals and general plot.

The visuals are interesting in this film, it is good to see that the Naboo sets were still used despite a lot of the other sets and destinations being digitally rendered for the most part. The prequel trilogy films do not deliver the same lived-in feel that the original films and subsequent newer Star Wars films have tried to re-create. This comes at the sacrifice of real world settings for the advancement of visual effects and putting Industrial Light and Magic at the fore-front of the industry. Which, while I feel is a very good thing it did cause a lot of problems for fans of Star Wars.

Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones is more of the same when viewing the films in chronological order. This film has a main character but unfortunately, it’s the wrong one. While yes it charts the path of Anakin Skywalker from fear, to anger, to hate, to suffering and sets up for his fall to the dark side, it focused too much on him. Obi-Wan’s mission leading to the formation of the Clone Army and the beginning of the war was much more important to the story. This film falls short of its potential.

Star Wars: Attack of the Clones: Below Average

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace – Review

The first film in the timeline of Star Wars is not character driven, nor is the plot overly that important to the franchise’s mythos. What The Phantom Menace does is sets the stage and introduce the characters for the real story that starts ten years later.

Is the film important? For particular fans, no, for others, absolutely not. The story could probably be a decent 25 minute short to serve as a prelude to the story of Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the dark side. On the plus side, we wouldn’t be as well versed on inter-galactic trade law as we are now if it wasn’t for this film.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace opens on a young Obi-Wan Kenobi and his master, Qui-Gon Jinn on a mission to settle a trade dispute between the Trade Federation and Naboo. The negotiations never occur, the Trade Federation establish a blockade and invade the planet. The Jedi along with the Queen of Naboo flee to the capital planet of Courscant to convince the senate to intervene. Sounds pretty straight forward right? Except along the way the meet a boy who ((SPOILERS)) becomes Darth Vader.

The star of this movie is difficult to pick out as the film has no main character. Liam Neeson plays a great Jedi Knight as Qui-Gon Jinn respects the Jedi Order but also challenges the establishment. Ewan McGregor has little screen time as Obi-Wan Kenobi but The Phantom Menace is a nice little origin story for him. Ian McDiarmid, also did a decent job as Senator come Chancellor, Palpatine. (Funny how the only stand outs in this film were established actors). For almost everyone else it shows that while they may have been good actors, the major fall back came from the direction (or lack there of) from George Lucas. Something you will find with the prequel films is that Lucas seemed to be focused on the over-all story and the look of the films rather than the actors living in the world. As a result, character development and dialogue come up short.

On that point though, the look of the film is fantastic, and for 1999 the use of CGI was bold but they pulled it off. The prequel films are a triumph of visual effects and had Lucas focused on this and left the directing to some of his peers, the general consensus around the films would be much more positive. This does bring me to probably one of the most amazing sequences 7-year-old me could ever have hoped to experience, the battle between the two Jedi and Darth Maul, the platforms, the amazing score by John Williams, the Lightsabers, the flips and the lens flares. What an amazing piece of cinema. Now of course I look back at it and it is very choreographed to the point where it seems more like a dance than if they were actually trying to kill/injure each other. However, it is still a pretty cool scene.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace is a below average film with a confused plot and very little direction. It left a sour taste in a lot of people’s mouths before the turn of the century and it still does. I don’t bash the film as much as a wide range of fans do but it’s not a film I enjoy.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: Below Average

Justice League – Review

The DC movie franchise returns to the cinemas after Wonder Woman dominated the Box Office with their second film for 2017, Justice League and it was pretty good.

Justice League is set some time after Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Superman is dead and that starts to wake up three mysterious boxes. The boxes are ‘Mother Boxes’ powerful cubes from the planet Apokalips (but that isn’t really mentioned in the film). These boxes either called to or freed Steppenwolf, a New God (again not really mentioned in the film) who had tried to bring the boxes together before but failed. This time, he doesn’t plan on failing. This is where Batman realises he must bring together a team of superheroes to stop this alien threat.

While the ‘getting the team together’ scenes weren’t bad, they felt poorly paced. In usual DC Movie style they jump from scene to scene like a comic book rather than a film where usually some form of transition is required. And maybe that’s it, I’ve said in the past that these films have captured the comic book style more than other series has. So maybe these are the ‘real’ comic book adaptations? That aside, there were a few similarities to Marvel’s The Avengers but the Justice League coming together had a little more nostalgia for me (the Justice League animated series being one of my favourite cartoons as a kid) and it was good to see these characters come together on screen.

The team consists of Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg (plus – spoilers… eventually, Superman). The characters have a good dynamic with each other and it feels more like a team that actually likes each other more than a team that is forced together for a common goal. Batman (Ben Affleck) continues his gruff and grizzled persona but has lightened up a bit for this film (almost like Superman’s death actually made him happier) and Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is still the elegant bad-ass who appeared in the solo film earlier this year. Both of these characters are good but we know who they are, its time to meet the new guys.

Barry Allen aka ‘The Flash’ (Ezra Miller) is a socially awkward kid who after being struck by lighting can now move at incredible speeds. He is the comic relief of this film, very different to his television counterpart played by Grant Gustin, I didn’t hate him as much as I thought I would, he’s not a bad charater and Ezra Miller has done a decent job bringing him to the silver screen. Aquaman (Jason Momoa) is a man of two worlds that belongs in neither. He’s gruff and grizzled like Batman but doesn’t have the responsibility and tends to help only when he wants to. Jason Momoa does a great job cutting down the campy versions of Aquaman people are used to and I am very much looking forward to his first solo outing next year. Rounding out the team is Cyborg, after an accident that leaves Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) on death’s door, his father harnesses one of the Mother Boxes to bring him back to life. This results in the Mother Box grafting cybernetic limbs that end up taking over almost his whole body. He stays in control most of the time but on occasion the cybernetics take charge, this can put him in a little trouble. Cyborg has a good but rarely touched on character arc that I would have loved to see more on.

I wont touch on Superman but as many expected, he does return.

The villain Steppenwolf lacked a lot. I feel that he probably did have motive but it wasn’t confirmed by him, some of the characters assumed his motivations and that’s really all you have to go on. He didn’t pose much of a threat and his end goal was the same as Zod’s in Man of Steel – ‘turn Earth in to a planet like my planet’. I didn’t like him and he felt like a overcorrection to BvS where they went big with Doomsday and the Death of Superman story and the producers probably thought that using Darksied straight after might be overkill.

Like in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, there was no coherent progression in the story. It was a collection of parts of the story. There’s definitely parts missing and again that comes down to Zack Snyder’s film making style. With that its time to talk production… and oh boy what a production this was. Many script revisions, two composers, two directors and one digitally removed moustache. With $25 Million worth of reshoots the story was likely changed significantly but you really can see what scenes are directed by Joss Whedon and what scenes are Snyder’s (Zack Snyder having to step down in Post Production after the death of his daughter). The reshoots coincided with Henry Cavill’s shooting schedule for Mission: Impossible 6, for which he had grown a moustache which he was contracted to keep while filming, so Justice League’s VFX team had to resort to using special effects to digitally remove the moustache in post.

Junkie XL was originally composing the score for Justice League after working on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice but was replaced by former Batman and Batman Returns composer, Danny Elfman. What an addition to the film it was, Elfman included his original Batman theme from 1989, worked in John William’s Superman theme from 1978 and kept Wonder Woman’s new bad ass theme. I love Danny Elman scores and I think they really belong in a comic book film. I hope Warner Bros. keeps Elfman around because he can add one thing to the DC films that Marvel is missing, good and memorable music.

With all the criticisms and all the praise I have with this film I find that there are parts that I loved and parts that I absolutely did not. It’s rare to have a movie this polarising. However I feel that the pros just narrowly outweigh the cons. It’s great to see this team together on screen finally and I would love to see more. Justice League is a step in the right direction and tonally the future of the franchise should exist somewhere between this film and Wonder Woman. I want to see Warner Bros. ramp up production in this area so we never have to wait more than a year (Justice League in November 2017 to Aquaman in December 2018) ever again.

Justice League: Average

Thor: Ragnarok – Review

Why wasn’t Thor in Civil War? That’s because he was dealing with his own problems searching for the Infinity Stones he saw in his weird dream in Avengers: Age of Ultron. His journey brought him to Muspelheim in front of Surtur in order to prevent Ragnarok, a prophecy that foretells the destruction of Asguard.

The movie opens brilliantly with the sort of jovial humour and full on action one comes to expect from Thor’s character (portrayed by Chris Hemsworth). Thor’s showdown with Surtur though is short lived and the God of Fire is defeated quickly. Because the film isn’t about him, it’s about Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death who returns from exile to rule Asgard and conquer more than just the nine realms.

Thor’s first confrontation with Hela sends him to Sakaar a world where those who are outcast and lost end up. It’s there he is captured by Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) and drafted in to the gladiatorial games overseen by Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). To win his freedom, he must confront Grandmaster’s champion, which as you’ve all seen in the trailer is Thor’s ‘friend from work’, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Add Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) in to the mix and you have your main cast in a movie full of characters from the previous Thor films and a few from other entries in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Chris Hemsworth was in his element in this film, he wanted this film to be different for Thor and working under Taika Waititi is exactly what he needed. His character kept much of the charisma and charm that made him one of the MCU’s most loved characters and added more comedy, depth and strength to the character. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has been through a lot and you can see that while still a trickster god, he has matured somewhat in to someone who cares. You can tell Cate Blanchett had a lot of fun portraying Hela, she hasn’t had much of a chance to play a character so completely evil and she pulls it off very well. She does seem to use many standard, ‘I’m an evil lady’ traits, (the standard; snake like movements, sexy walk, baring teeth, snarling, etc.) but it works for the Goddess of Death and Blanchett is great!

Tessa Thompson joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Valkyrie and she is a welcome addition. She is a tough Asgardian warrior who had faced Hela before. The fight against the evil goddess decimated her army and she is the sole survivor, she resides on Sakaar drinking, fighting and making a living for herself far away from Asgard. While they didn’t delve too much in to her character in Thor: Ragnarok, Valkyrie is set up enough that I’m looking forward to seeing more of her in Avengers: Infinity War and beyond.

I blame Transformers: The Last Knight for what I’m about to say next. I guess if there was one thing I didn’t enjoy about this film, it would be that I couldn’t take Anthony Hopkins seriously. His portrayal of Odin in Ragnarok is a far cry from the Odin we saw in Thor  and Thor: The Dark World. I feel that he was ready to say ‘dude’ at any moment. So thanks for that, Michael Bay.

Thor: Ragnarok is a beautiful looking movie and a nice departure from the first two Thor films who, while being colourful, still had a muted layer over the top. This film does not, and there is so much colour! The muted pallet that plagued many of the Marvel movies is hopefully gone for good. The VFX are really nice and some of the alien characters look fantastic – especially fan-favourite, Korg (voiced by Taika Waititi in a brilliant extended cameo).

Which brings me to the directing. Taika Waititi, who has brought us What We Do in the Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople was not many people’s choice to direct a mega-franchise film. What we did expect was good quality humour and we got it. What we didn’t expect were great action scenes and stunning visuals, but we got that too! The story was developed by the team that wrote Thor: The Dark World while the screenplay was written by the man responsible for many of the Marvel One-Shots from a few years ago, Eric Pearson. Throw his comedy writing with Waititi’s comedic direction and we were bound to be in for a treat!

Thor: Ragnarok tells a concise story that while involving other members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is largely its own thing. The film does its job of putting Thor in the place he needs to be for next year’s Avengers: Infinity War but is still free to tell a very Thor centric story. Which is what the MCU has done reasonably well in the last few years (Captain America: Civil War excepted), but I understand that some set-up is required for the big-banner Avengers films.

Thor returns to the MCU in this brilliant film that combines the extravagance of the previous Thor films and the gritty lived-in feel of Guardians of the Galaxy movies and expands the galactic part of the universe. Thor: Ragnarok is funny, colourful and action-packed and probably the best entry in the Thor series of films yet!

Thor: Ragnarok: Above Average