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

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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: 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

Batman: Mask of The Phantasm – Review

PART FIVE: Batman: Mask of The Phantasm

Directed By: Eric Radomski & Bruce W. Timm

Written By: Bob Kane and Alan Burnett

Starring: Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach, Abe Vigoda, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Mark Hamill

Gross: $5,617,391

Production Co: Warner Bros. Animation

Release Date: 25 December 1993

Runtime: 76 min

Batman, the costumed crime-fighter who prowls the night skies in Gotham City, soon finds there’s another vigilante in town knocking off prominent mob figures. Despite the scythe-like blade for a hand, a mechanical voice and the cloud of smoke that follows the figure wherever it goes, the police and outraged officials mistake the homicidal crusader for Batman himself and demand that the city’s longtime hero be brought to justice. Meanwhile, Andrea Beaumont returns to town. She is the lost love of Bruce Wayne, the billionaire playboy who is Batman’s alter ego, and was an integral part of Wayne’s decision ten years earlier to don the cape and cowl. Now, she is back in his life and is no less a disruption than the return of his old archenemy, The Joker, who has a stake in seeing the annihilation of this new vigilante, whoever it proves to be.

This animated Batman movie did something for the franchise that the live-action movies didn’t. The tension and mystery surrounding The Phantasm coupled with the fact that most of Gotham City were turning on their once beloved caped crusader makes this a brilliant movie. In my point of view many elements of this movie as well as other Batman graphic novels, such as Batman: Year One, were vital in creating the new direction of Batman in the more recent Nolan films. The Mask of The Phantasm was dark like the animated series and yet it was very effective in portraying a story and some backstory as well. For example what Bruce Wayne did as a vigilante before he donned the disguise of Batman. There are many other animated Batman films and TV series out there but this is by far one of the best.

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm: Average