Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

24 12 2016

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Five years ago, you could have never told me a Disney standalone Star Wars spinoff movie would be a good thing. That sentence alone would have conjured up images of the wonderfully nightmarish Star Wars Holiday Special. Plot twist: Rogue One delivers a story worthy of the Star Wars universe, and one that can stand right up there with the original trilogy (I’m giving a stink eye to you, prequels). By the way, if you’re new here- the chances of spoilers ahead are high, very high.

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The Rebels standing in a base, probably built on hope.

While some of the official posters for this movie look like a Celebrate Rebel Diversity Day promo flyer, each one ended up helping make Rogue One memorable (except maybe Forest Whitaker- didn’t really get his character). Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso fantastically anchored the movie with the right amount of grit and heart, and it’s difficult to imagine any other actress filling her role. However, the highlight for me was the darkly sarcastic K-2SO, due to Alan Tudyk’s  timed delivery. Donnie Yen was essentially a blind samurai, which yes, we’ve all seen before, but hey we haven’t seen it in Star Wars! His bro time with Wen Jiang‘s Baze Malbus was great to watch (even their bro deaths), which brings me to the biggest downer. Rogue One‘s all like, “Here’s your new favorite characters! Now they’re all dead. Haha!” This wasn’t really a plot twist (otherwise where were these people later?), but at the same time I’m surprised nobody at all made it out to, I dunno, some far planet to help the Rebellion from there. In the end, it was the right decision.

It was great to get back into the world of the original trilogy- the Rebellion vs. the Empire. We got Mon Motha and Bail Organa, Admiral Ackbar’s extended family, classic Rebel ships, X and Y-Wings, and plenty of screaming Rebel deaths, just like old times. In the absence of any Jedi, the Empire is indeed more formidable, and it was fun to see the plucky Rebels ever-so-barely come out with a (costly) victory. Also, the Death Star eclipsing a sun and nuking a city was terrifyingly epic.

 

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Pew-Pew-Pew-Yaaaay!

 

Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic was memorable, but his character seemed to consistently fail throughout the movie, and didn’t seem that menacing anymore by the end. He didn’t spot Galen’s treachery, he lost the plans, lost the base, even lost the reward for his part in the Death Star creation, and got fried by the Death Star (should this movie just be called “Krennic’s Really Bad Day“?). He also had the cards stacked against him whenever he appeared in scenes next to more iconic Imperial villains such as Vader and Tarkin.

Speaking of Tarkin (how about that segue?), his CGI resurrection has brought mixed feelings among  fans. I for one had no idea he would appear (since Peter Cushing has passed on), so his reveal in the movie was initially a shock, but a happy shock. Grand Moff Tarkin is a notorious villain and is inherently tied to everyone’s memory of the first Death Star. But it was also wildly distracting for me, as the CGI technology (although impressive) took all my focus. Is it, as some people state, disrespectful to bring back an actor from the grave? It wasn’t a perfect replica, but it was far, far better than other posthumous creations I’ve seen, and seemed to be in line with Cushing’s original portrayal. A hologram might have done just as much justice (and in a meta sense felt like a ghost), or they could have gone full prosthetic on a similar actor, but would that have been any more respectful by giving his role to someone else, or would the recast even have been less distracting? I’m not sure.  That said, by all accounts Peter Cushing would have loved to have been in more Star Wars movies (ironically unlike Sir Alec Guiness), so all things considered, we didn’t really answer this question at all.

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My favorite character, and the main character.

 

Now let’s talk some Darth Vader!  Basically, he was fantastic, and brutal. As in, “I probably shouldn’t be cheering for Vader as he murders the faces off all these heroes, but isn’t this awesome?!” With just two appearances in the movie, they redefined Vader. His massacre moment aside, this is someone who gets cut up and burned on a volcano planet and years later builds a freakin’ castle on it, because he can. Joking aside, I liked the trip back to Mustafar because it gave a glimpse into Vader’s psyche. He either views Mustafar as his true birth place, or he prefers to feed off the anger and emotions it gives him, or both. His character has always kicked butt, but this movie provided a wonderful reminder why he’s the most feared in the galaxy. Gone are our memories of Anakin not liking sand, because “it’s coarse and rough, and gets everywhere.” That said, Vader DIDN’T get out and fight on the Scariff beaches…

My list of drawbacks for the film is quite short. Some of the easter eggs were a little too on the nose, mainly the Ugly Face Duo from the Tatooine cantina, who just happened to be on a different planet across the galaxy at the right time. Also, to put on my nerd glasses, but Darth Vader originally mentions plans being beamed onto Leia’s ship, vs. handed over in the world’s scariest relay game of Pass The Plans Along Before Vader Chokes You To Death (still working on that name). Oh, and CGI Leia was FAR worse-looking than CGI Tarkin. Besides those few things, there were a few cringe-worthy lines that were in the trailer (Jyn’s “I rebel” line) but were removed from the movie, so kudos to you, Disney.

 

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When you barge into the boss’s sauna.

In the end, Rogue One does a better job at setting up the original trilogy than Revenge of the Sith did, and I immediately felt a strong urge to watch A New Hope (I still haven’t, but it was a nice feeling). Disney/Lucasfilm effectively kept this separate from the numbered episodes (no opening crawl, no John Williams, texts over locations), and it paid off by feeling fresh. The creators of this film did a great job of using familiar toys in the Star Wars playground in new ways, giving us a slightly darker, more unique take on their universe- one filled with hope, sorrow, and star dust.





Star Wars- The Force Awakens Review

9 01 2016

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It’s now been long time ago in a theater not that far away that I watched the new trilogy in the Star Wars saga begin, but that doesn’t mean I can’t write a review a month later, does it? Thanks to the power of procrastination, this late review is later than I ever thought it would be, but at least no good movie ever gets released in January (looking at you, Dirty Grandpa, The 5th Wave, etc). Also, this seems relevant, because not only did this movie break almost every box office record in the books, but it has achieved enough popularity for hipsters to now dislike it.  Depending which one you ask, it’s either a blatant theft of Episode IV’s plot, or it’s a complete departure from the series that makes no sense.

Like many fans, I was nervous- what if this was the ghost of the prequels rising again to destroy the original characters that everyone loved? What if they killed off a beloved character? Wouldn’t that be a debbie downer?!  But hey, mission accomplished- this film didn’t suck. In fact, in this fanboy’s opinion, The Force Awakens is miles ahead of the cheesy, CGI filled sequels.

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Why? Well for one, the new set of actors/actresses were great (Daisy Ridley as Rey steals the spotlight), and they weren’t instructed to speak in the wooden manner of the prequels. Harrison Ford, stealing every scene? Check. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega bringing us two likable new leads? Check. Adam Driver being a combination of psychotic Sith trainee and hair product model? Check. Carrie Fisher with a voice like she smoked too many death sticks? Uh, check.

The writing was also light years ahead of our past three movies, with the majority of the jokes actually being funny (why was that so hard, prequels?!), although maybe was a little too heavy with joke volume at times. It’s nice to have jokes based on timing and humor instead of Jar Jar dropping the ENTIRE tray of tools (hysterical, right?) or Anakin saying a one-liner so bad your brain melts out your ears. Some of the best moments weren’t even spoken, such as stormtroopers walking the other way from Kylo’s tantrum or Han’s childlike joy using Chewie’s crossbow.

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After the first viewing, my thoughts on the music was that it didn’t fall flat, but I didn’t pick up on any new themes. Since I love John Williams and the memorable music he always brings, this was somewhat disappointing. However, after my second viewing, I couldn’t understand how I missed them all the first time- Rey’s theme, The Resistance’s march, etc., are all welcome additions to this saga’s musical legacy. Hopefully we’ll get some Imperial March or Duel of the Fates successor in the next entry.

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On that note, basically every part of the movie got better the second time I watched this film. I picked up more details, twists and changes from what seemed at first to be a bit of a rehash of certain storylines. I could set aside years of expectations of what a Star Wars sequel should include, and just enjoy the second viewing. I honestly didn’t realize how much I missed this universe until I was in the middle of experiencing it again. And yes, it was somehow even more sad to see (SPOILER) my favorite character, Han Solo, die, and his lil’ Wookie friend deal with sudden loss. (END SPOILER)

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Time will tell where this is all going (hopefully someone has this all planned out). Hopefully we’ll have more Mark Hammill in Episode 8. He looked good in this film during his intense staring scene, but I guess we know why Luke wasn’t very prominent in the marketing now, huh? One of my only real disappointments with the movie was how we never (nor ever will) got to see Luke and Han Solo meet again. It just seems like a missed opportunity for a film that seemed to be all about fan service. However, I can say besides that point, this was a genuinely fun ride back into the legend of Star Wars.

Final thoughts:

  • Why do they keep building giant explodable weapons? Why not put eggs in other baskets, too?
  • I like how Kylo Ren story continues the Skywalker saga, but where does the supreme leader fall into this?
  • What if Supreme Leader Snoke was just four feet tall in his real form?
  • Captain Phasma- aka Chrome Trooper- was way underused for the amount of marketing that went into her character. You can’t just look Boba Fett cool, you have to BE Boba Fett cool (fight a little).

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One Fanboy’s Reaction to Disney’s Star Wars

1 11 2012
NOOOOOO

Short version of this article.

 

Tuesday’s news that Disney now owns Lucasfilm, and thus Star Wars, came charging out of nowhere like a stampeding Bantha. Everything’s up for grabs now, and a new trilogy is in the works. But is this a victory for the light or the dark side?

 

George Lucas and Mickey

Before Tuesday, this would have been a Photoshop.

 

At first, I was all like, “Don’t touch my childhood! What if they ruin the original trilogy and make disappointing movies…oh, wait. Never mind.”  Let’s be serious, what’s the worst that can happen? Star Wars completely sells itself out? Bad dialogue? Jar Jar? C’mon, it’s all been done, and I really don’t see Disney possibly letting down fans any more than George Lucas arguably did. Expectations are incredibly low, especially with Mickey Mouse piloting the Death Star.

Let’s not forget Disney’s idea of a “space epic.”

 

However, I’m not sure anything Disney comes out with could even gain the same  “wow” effect level, even with Star Wars fans. Ignore all other factors besides story- director, actors, cinematography-everything. There’s only so many routes they can take.

Perhaps the most dominant theory is a Return of the Jedi sequel trilogy, (the new movie’s already referred to as “Episode VII”) and this is even hinted at by Mark Hammill. But here’s a problem! Carrie Fisher, Mark Hammill, Harrison Ford, and very much Carrie Fisher are all old. Ford still does movies, and Hammill does Joker voicework, and Fisher is doing… (cricket noises). My point is, it’s been a while, and even though some works go into the years after ROTJ that feature an older Luke, Leia, and Han, I’m not sure that’s what fans want, and less want a movie with digitally-younger actors (hello, Tron!). Not to mention every one of those stories eventually turn into the same plotlines of the original trilogy (sith take over, new killer space weapon, the fall and redemption of Skywalkers), so it’d be a strange case of deja-vu.

The other option would be the (bloated) expanded universe of Star Wars, told through such non-canon media as comics, cartoons, books, video games, and the prequel trilogy (ha!). I admit, there’s vast potential here, but at the end of the day, it’ll be hard to put it on the same level as the two trilogies, which for all their problems tell a single epic dealing with the Skywalkers, and the absence of Vader or Obi-Wan or Luke would be a giant zit on whatever polished story they conceive. That’s at least what it would be to anyone who hasn’t been exposed to anything but the movies.So, at the end of the day, I gotta admit the idea of a new trilogy is exciting, but there’s a lot of gas in this burrito. Unless, of course, they follow my fail-proof idea- make the “new trilogy” a reboot of the three prequels. And Maul lasts all three movies. And kills Jar Jar Binks. Violently.

 

Jar Jar Killed by Darth Maul

Here’s one suggestion.