Solo: A Star Wars Story – Review

The gap between the prequel and original trilogies gets a new entry in an origin story for one of the galaxy’s most notorious scoundrels. Solo: A Star Wars Story gives us an action-packed tale of a young Han Solo set around ten years before Star Wars: A New Hope. The film is full of speeder chases, heists, explosions and blaster fire it barely stops to take a breath, but it is a great ride!

The story starts on Corellia, Han (Alden Ehrenreich)’s home world where we are thrown in to the action straight away with a familiar scum and villainy vibe Han squares off against a weird looking crime boss followed by an American Graffiti like speeder chase with Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) by his side. We then see Han’s time working for the Empire, and his escape while meeting Chewbacca and his new mentor, Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) along with his crew. A job the crew picks up sends them to Kessel aboard Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover)’s ship the Millennium Falcon. We see Han’s confidence shine through these adventures however, we start to see the toll these series of misfortunes takes on him as he goes from a hopeful and naive young man become the scorned scoundrel that we came to know and love.

The film looks and sounds beautiful! The different planets we visit, separated by scenes in the immaculately kept Millennium Falcon provide a stark difference and shows that not all the Star Wars universe around this period was worn and lived in. The film feels very much like a combination of the prequel and original films the music, sound effects and action come from The Phantom Menace through Revenge of The Sith while the grit and realism come straight out of the classic films.

Alden Ehrenreich delivers a pretty good portrayal of a young Han Solo. I can see this character becoming the man we see in the Mos Eisley cantina in about 10 years. His speaking Shyriiwook left a little to be desired by other than that I thought he was good. Donald Glover’s Lando Calrissian is pretty spot on for the most part. There was one or two times where I felt he was being too formal/British for my liking, there was a slight feeling of ‘Would Lando say that?’. But again, these two actors did a good job of bringing younger versions of Han and Lando to big screen. Most of the other members of the cast performed to a good standard but there wasn’t much of a stand out. I could tell Paul Bettany was enjoying himself playing a crime lord, but other than that no one stole the show. Chewbacca is always great and its good to see Joonas Suotamo continuing his fantastic performance.

After the bizarre events surrounding the production of this film, I am happy with how it turned out. I was worried that Lord and Miller were going to make it a little too campy for a Star Wars film and while Ron Howard was a safe replacement. There are a few of his movies that I really enjoy and I knew he was going to do right by Johnathan and Lawrence Kasdan’s script and make a good film. Speaking of the script, I think character wise, the knocked Solo out of the park.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is a good movie. It was familiar and predictable for the most part, very fan-service-y, but a very enjoyable action-adventure movie. Honestly, I think that was the point. If they keep doing a few simple but fun movies like this people might not need to take every entry in the Star Wars anthology too seriously. We can go back to a time when just being in the universe was enough. While a Bobba Fett movie or an Obi-Wan story would be interesting, I think Lucasfilm need to step out of their comfort zones and find a story that can feature nothing we’ve seen before but still be interesting and maybe even profitable.

Solo: A Star Wars Story – Above Average


Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Review

This review contains spoilers. Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been out for a few days now and it’s time to give a more full review on it. If you haven’t seen it yet, this is your warning to not read this post.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is very satisfying however, there were a few things that I didn’t like. Some parts of the film, particularly a few of the bits of humour and some of the choices some of the characters made weren’t my favourites, there are even some scenes that I felt didn’t quite belong. The film is a culmination of every Star Wars film that has come before it, like previous entries, you feel that ‘poetic rhyming’ the franchise is said to have. By that, I mean this film is definitely not like The Force Awakens, in which the whole thing felt very ‘A New Hope’. No, this film takes little hints and vibes from the whole of the Star Wars saga. As well as drawing in (in my opinion) similarities from other big franchises like Harry Potter, Battlestar Galactica and Lord of the Rings.

The Last Jedi picks up almost straight after Episode VII, the First Order retaliates after the destruction of Starkiller Base, heading straight for the Resistance base in the middle of the new band of rebel’s evacuation. This leads to a cool space battle with a dash of humour thrown in. I say dash, it’s pretty full on and hammy – a lot of people are not going to enjoy the humour in this film. The Resistance escapes and moves to their next stop in the storyline, which also happens to be the last stop because the next plot point is a doozy. The First Order track them through hyperspace which results in a ‘chase’ scene for the majority of the film. Imagine two cruise ships on the sea, both with the same engines, propellers etc. both going full throttle – not exactly thrilling. Yet, somehow it works and towards the end of the film, there is a dramatic payoff that is probably one of my favourite scenes.

We’ll come back to the chase between the Raddus and the Supremacy later on. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) learns what has happened to Luke (Mark Hamill), why he is on the planet Ahch-To (the planet we find him on in The Force Awakens) and she seeks to learn the ways of the force. Luke Skywalker’s arc is an interesting one. He is reluctant to train Rey as he believes that the Jedi and their teachings are not the answer to the Galaxy’s problems. I can see why there was a bit of a cloud hanging over Rian Johnson’s choices from Mark Hamill’s point of view. He is definitely not the Luke Skywalker from the ‘Legends’ material. But I can see that this is how he has ended up and I don’t mind that. The dynamic between Luke and Rey (Mark and Daisy) was strong and I thought that it was the most interesting of the character combinations. Most interesting, but not the best… No, that goes to Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), over the course of the film their force connections across the galaxy are so good and fun! Their teamwork in taking down the Praetorian Guards after the murder of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) was another one of those great scenes in the film.

Now it’s time to look at my least favourite plot points – almost everything involving Finn (John Boyega). While the setting of the planet Cantonica and the city, Canto Bight were interesting, nothing that happened in that setting was of any use or importance. Finn may have had a bit of character progression where he might have learned to stop trying to run away but other than that, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), ‘DJ’ (Benicio Del Toro), getting aboard the Supremacy, fighting and killing Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), it was all in the end, pointless and pretty uninteresting. On that too, one of the main issues people had in The Force Awakens was the lack of screen time for Captain Phasma. How did they address that in this film? They gave her less. The running with the Fathiers (space horses) was probably my least favourite scene in the entire film (worse than ‘Super-Leia’, more on that soon), it felt so much like a Harry Potter scene and the John Williams score didn’t help that either. As great as the score was, it added to the Harry Potter vibe. The film improved a lot more after Finn and Rose left Canto Bight.

Onboard the Raddus (the Resistance’s flagship), the heads of the Resistance are trying to work out how to escape the First Order when BOOM! Two TIE fighters blast the bridge and everyone is sucked out into the cold, dark vacuum of space. Admiral Ackbar, General Leia, almost the entire leadership is gone. That is until Leia (Carrie Fisher in her last on-screen appearance) uses the force and pulls her self back into the ship in a scene that can best be described as ‘Super-Leia’. Now I didn’t hate this scene. I didn’t love it either. There were definitely some ways I would have changed the scene to make it a little less corny while still keeping the ‘Leia uses the force to save herself’ element. Hell, all you need to do is cut out the shot where she opens her eyes and the whole scene is more believable. While we’re on the Raddus and the topic of believability, Vice-Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) is an unnecessarily complex character. She chooses to not share basic information with Poe (Oscar Issac) that leads to his mutiny. Only for him to be the one to announce to the audience that she can be trusted just before she drives the Raddus straight through the Supremacy and the First Order fleet. That being said, that scene and the sound design especially in it. Breath-taking. It feels like for that brief moment, all the air is sucked out of the cinema and you’re just watching something truly amazing.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a lot to process. One recommendation I will make, this movie does need to be seen a few times to comprehend it all. It amazed me. I often write that one of my favourite parts of a film is when you think you’ve got the plot pretty much worked out and it goes in a completely different direction. There are many moments like this in The Last Jedi. Plenty of fan-service while also taking the thousands upon thousands of hours fan spent speculating who Snoke is and who Rey’s parents were and throws them out an airlock.

My score hasn’t changed since the first review.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Above Average

Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Spoiler Free Review

This is a Spoiler-Free Review. My plan is to do a spoiler review after watching this film again and go more in depth with the story. Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes many expectations of fans after The Force Awakens and turns them on their heads it takes risks and goes in a direction that Star Wars has been before.

The Last Jedi picks up almost straight after Episode VII, the First Order retaliates after the destruction of Starkiller Base, heading straight for the Resistance base in the middle of the new band of rebel’s evacuation. Meanwhile Rey learns what has happened to Luke, why he is on the planet Ahch-To (the planet we find him on in The Force Awakens) and she seeks to learn the ways of the force.

We see our beloved characters from the original trilogy, Luke and Leia and our new heroes from this trilogy, Finn, Rey and Poe. In these characters we see better more rounded performances, Carrie Fisher especially doesn’t feel as rusty as she did in the last chapter and Luke Skywalker returns to the screen in the best way possible. I feel Finn and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) were sent on a mission mostly because Star Wars expects all characters to be doing something. That being said Rey and Poe have a lot to do, both characters have a lot of screen time and I felt very invested in them. On the darker side, our villains, the leaders of First Order, Supreme Leader Snoke, Kylo Ren and General Hux, in a similar way to the heroes, are treated very well and I was very happy to see where these characters’ roles went. No actors dropped the ball in this film. Stand outs for me were Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren.

While The Last Jedi is very satisfying, there were a few things that I didn’t like. Some parts of the film, particularly a few of the bits of humour and some of the choices some of the characters made weren’t my favourites, there are even some scenes that I felt didn’t quite belong. However at this point, after just seeing the film, they are pretty insignificant to the highlights. The film is a culmination of every Star Wars film that has come before it, like previous entries, you feel that ‘poetic rhyming’ the franchise is said to have. By that, I mean this film is definitely not like The Force Awakens, in which the whole thing felt very A New Hope. No, this film takes little hints and vibes from the whole of the Star Wars saga. As well as drawing in (in my opinion) similarities from other big franchises like Harry Potter, Battlestar Galactica and Lord of the Rings.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a lot to process. I have only just seen this film at the time of writing this and I plan to see it again in the next few days. That is one recommendation I will make, this movie does need to be seen a few times to comprehend it all. It amazed me. I often write that one of my favourite parts of a film is when you think you’ve got the plot pretty much worked out and it goes in a completely different direction. There are many moments like this in The Last Jedi.

It’s been a long road to The Last Jedi but it is where Star Wars goes next that is so much more interesting because of this film.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Above Average

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Review

In 2012 it was announced that Disney had bought Lucasfilm and without hesitation, the announcement was made that a new trilogy of Star Wars films were on its way starting with the then titled ‘Episode VII’ in 2015. Fans were both elated and a little worried that the franchise might become more in line with Disney’s ideologies. The fear around it was unnecessary as Star Wars was already the family-friendly franchise that many were against. It was because Star Wars was so family friendly that the people that harboured this fear were able to see Star Wars as kids and carry that love into adulthood. Despite the excitement and the fear, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released in December, 2015 to the World’s largest opening weekend at the Box Office in history and, in my opinion, it was a pretty damn good film.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens ushers in a new generation of characters while having many of our old favourites return. The story centres around these new and old characters as they attempt to secure a map that would lead to the missing Jedi, Luke Skywalker. We see the state of the Galaxy thirty years after Return of the Jedi and we’re in a similar place. The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa is a secret, underfunded, unofficial army of the New Republic who was formed to combat the new threat in the First Order. Both want to find Luke Skywalker, the Resistance, to seek his help and the First Order to finish the Jedi off once and for all.

Our new heroes are engaging characters, developed by director and co-writer J. J. Abrams and returning scriptwriter from the original trilogy, Lawrence Kasdan. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a mysterious young woman who is clearly gifted in the Force, Finn (John Boyega) is a First Order defector who while trying to escape the regime helps the Resistance to combat them and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is the Resistance’s top pilot. Coupled with return appearances from Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han (Harrison Ford) the cast of good guys is very reminiscent of the ‘Original Trilogy’. With only one film in this new trilogy under our belts, I’m confidant to say that the characters were well fleshed out and we knew each of their motivations and intent – something the prequels did not offer very well. There have been many calls that Rey was very overpowered for her first outing in to the Force but I feel that most of that is an over exaggeration and everything fit with her character.

While Star Wars has historically shown what the villains are up to while the good guys are doing their thing, The Force Awakens shows them in a slightly different light. That most likely comes from (and here’s a spoiler for a two year old film) Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) being the fallen Padawan of Luke’s and the son of Han and Leia. The story has to spend a little more time with him so you feel a connection to him. He has conflict in him, a ‘pull to the light’ that Star Wars has never shown before and I think that’s where there is more depth to the villains. General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) is however a very black and white bad guy and he pulls off ‘Nazi’ in a pleasing and menacing way. We don’t spend that much time with Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) but from what we’ve seen in the trailers for The Last Jedi, that will hopefully be remedied in the sequel.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens sports a brand new look. The franchise now exists at the time that creator George Lucas always wanted it to. A time where computer graphics can achieve near reality and the film can become a fully immersive experience. If the first Star Wars film was created now, (the world of cinema and CGI would be a much different place, but that’s not the point I’m getting to) there would be no need for re-tooling and re-releasing ‘special editions’ because Lucas would have made them how he wanted the first time around (most likely). Everything is crisp and clean from the Lightsabers to the blaster fire to Maz Kanata (mo-capped by Lupita Nyongo). The Star Wars films finally feel as real as the can be, you don’t need the suspension of belief that you would have when watching the original films nowadays. All that being said, this film, Rogue One and every other Star Wars movie to come is here because of the 1977 original and ILM’s never ending push to improve CGI.

In the spirit of returning, as well as a writer and many cast members, John Williams a man who with out a doubt, helped Star Wars to become what it is, returned give the new trilogy that classic feel. He did not disappoint, the score for The Force Awakens is what I hoped for and some of these new characters’ themes have hints of old themes gone by which just connects the universe and wraps it all up in a nice package.

I loved this movie, did it beat The Empire Strikes Back? No. Did it take a little more than a few story beats from A New Hope? Maybe. But it definitely cleansed the palette after the prequel films and it opened up the Star Wars universe to bigger and better things. At the time of writing this we are two films in to the new era of films, The Last Jedi is just around the corner and Solo: A Star Wars Story is queueing up behind it. Until they make a bad one, which will probably happen one day, I will be 100% behind these new Star Wars films and I can’t wait to see more.

The good news is. Star Wars: The Last Jedi comes out at midnight! Check back tomorrow for a review, but for now…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Above Average

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