Category Archives: Star Wars

My review of ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars story’…

‘Rogue One’ is the ‘Star Wars (SW)’ movie that I have been waiting for since I was a kid. Seriously, it is. Back then my mother, brother and I had a routine of enjoying the original movies (yes, even the one with the Ewoks. Hey, I was a kid!) every Friday evening and so obviously we were fans. I saw and enjoyed ‘The Force Awakens’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/h4j3lng) when it was released last December but I felt that was a rehash of the classic 1977 movie redone for a modern audience and, though I have absolutely no problem with that, it wasn’t quite enough for me. That movie is fun and it zips along but, in the opinion of this reviewer, ‘Rogue One’ is easily the best SW movie since ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. It might even be the best one altogether! It’s an absolutely brilliant, genuine SW movie that features pretty much everything I want this kind of film to contain. Before I go any further, as with my previous reviews, there will be spoilers so if you want to see it unspoiled go and do so before reading on…

rogueone_logo-0-0

As I said, this movie has everything I wanted: character arcs with actual growth, epic space battles, sacrifice in the name of a greater cause, all that good stuff! Sure, the plot is quite simple (we must get the plans for the Death Star at all costs!) but it works and we all know that they succeed, for the first Star Wars movie depends upon it, but what matters is the cost of succeeding (which one’s were the Bothans, by the way?). Jynn is a decent protagonist, the journey she goes on is completely appropriate for the subject matter, and the crew that she assembles are also enjoyable (especially the sarcastic droid, who’s jokes land well). The battle sequences are some of the best I can remember seeing in any movie of this kind, and the ending is suitably brutal (did anyone actually have a problem with it, cause I sure as hell didn’t). The only thing that even slightly bothered me was the inclusion of a digitally-resurrected Peter Cushing (could they not have just written him out and someone else in?) but that was a minor niggle in an otherwise impressive experience.

rogueone_onesheeta_1000_309ed8f6

Unlike in the prequels or in ‘The Force Awakens’ where they seemed in such a rush to keep moving forward that they barely had time to breath, the actors have actually been given the space to act. Actually, I think the three principle actors in ‘The Force Awakens’ did a commendable job with the space that they had but those in ‘Rogue One’ have much more to do and more room in which to do it. And what a ride Gareth Edwards, the director, has been on! My wife and I have been fans of the Kermode and Mayo movie review show for many years and I remember his interview for his debut movie, ‘Monsters’, some time ago. That was a very enjoyable character piece that features very few actual monsters (but when they do appear they are stunning!) but it did showcase the directors talents and it was obviously seen by the right people. Then Kermode and Mayo had him back on for Godzilla, a movie that I very much enjoyed both times I watched it, and now he has directed what I consider to be the finest ‘Star Wars’ movie since Empire. Blimey, that’s some career trajectory!

rogue-one-cast-photo-d23

I heartily recommend that you see ‘Rogue One’ in the cinema, it’s a wonderful experience and it deserves to be seen this way. I look forward to revisiting it when it is out on home release but I am so glad I dragged myself to the pictures to see it. I loved ‘Rogue One’ much more than any of the other SW movies in the past few decades. Now, however, I do hope that we get to see something new in this universe, something different that isn’t a rehash or a prequel but instead moves the series forward from what it has always been towards the new stories it is now (hopefully) going to tell. And with directors as good as Gareth Edwards and J.J. Abrahms I have high hopes indeed! Can’t wait!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

matthewjames-series-f

Advertisements

My ‘rambling’ review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (spoilers!)

Seeing as the new Star Wars film has finally arrived and I saw the movie last weekend with my wife and family I thought I would offer my thoughts on it for my next blog post. Before I do so, I’ll tell you a little about my relationship with this universe and what it means to me. I should also say that I will be talking in graphic detail about the events in this movie so everything will be spoiled. And I do mean EVERYTHING! If you haven’t seen it yet don’t go any further, go and see the movie and then come back to see what I thought. You should experience it as unspoiled as you can, I did and I was glad! If you’ve seen The Force Awakens then please continue…

Star_Wars_The_Force_Awakens

So, I am a fan of Star Wars. Not a huge fan, but a fan nevertheless. When I was quite young my mother, my brother and I would watch one of the original trilogy movies every Friday night while my dad was out playing squash with his friends. Consequently I saw them a great many times while I was growing up and I know them quite well. When the Special Editions were released I then saw SW in the cinema for the first time. And recently I revisited them in their original versions when I discovered that a friend had the versions of the DVD’s that came with the original prints. Having done that, I have to say that those versions of the movies remain the best ones, in my opinion. Nothing added to the movies since have improved them in any significant way, and some of the additions detract from the pacing of the movies. So, despite some shaky effects, I definitely think the originals are easily the best versions of the films.

Also, seeing the movies recently I revised my opinions of them significantly. I realised what a great piece of cinema the original Star Wars is, how quickly it zips along and how it expects the audience, despite being dropped into a new universe, to keep up. It treats them with respect and that pays off. The second film is quite brilliant and that movie was superbly directed by Ivan Kershner. Since then none of the subsequent movies has quite captured that excellence. Return of the Jedi is a car crash of a movie, especially given the information available as to what it could’ve been had George Lucas not fired the director and taken the reigns himself. Nothing in it works like the first two and most of the plot can be dismissed as silliness. Until my recent viewings I quite liked Return but having seen it as an adult with something of a film education, I now cannot see it as anything other than the disaster that it so clearly is. It sucks. I’m also not going to discuss the terrible prequel trilogy as the less said about those the better.

Anyway, onto The Force Awakens. Before seeing this movie I’d heard pretty good things. The critic whose opinion I value most, Mark Kermode of the BBC Radio 5 live show and Wittertainment, very much enjoyed The Force Awakens and so I went in with my interest piqued. My impression of the film wasn’t helped by the projector breaking fifteen minutes into our showing and my wife, my family and I then having to reschedule for a showing later in the day. Despite that I really did enjoy it. It was fun, it zipped along like the original and I had a really good time. The new characters were excellently played by the young cast and the original cast members all did their jobs well, helping to please returning fans. The effects were stunning, as they should be, and the joy of returning to this universe was tangible.

Focusing the plot on the new characters and only using the original cast members sparingly also worked really well and I’m glad this is the approach they took. Clearly, they want these new characters to be the next generations SW and for them to be integrated into the existing cast without the reboot that Star Trek required. And I can also see that Abrams and his team have achieved what they did with Star Trek by reinventing this universe for a new audience who’ve grown up with the prequels and cartoons available to the current generation. There’s no doubt that this movie has been handled well by a smart director with a good team putting together a modern version of Star Wars and that’s exactly what it is.

So, the plot twists, (and, as I said, SPOILER!) for some reason I managed to see them all coming and I am usually terrible at seeing things like that. My wife often figures out the twists before they happen but in this instance it was me who realised that Kylo Ren was either Luke or Leia’s son, that Han was going to be killed, and that Rey was also the offspring of another original cast member, most likely Luke. Despite seeing all of this coming, every twist still worked really well and impacted as it should. Killing Han echoes information available online for events that were in the original Return of the Jedi plot and making this movie about the offspring of the original characters gives the film a lovely legacy approach that I like. Actually, my other primary experience of the SW universe is in the SW Legacy comics, of which I own the entire run in nice hardcover volumes, and I can see the influence of this run in the movie. Besides focusing on a descendent of Luke Skywalker, the comics also include tales told from the perspective of Stormtroopers and that part of the movie feels directly influenced by Legacy.

But, despite all that I like the movie does feel like a very well done, modern Star Wars greatest hits with original cast members thrown in because to do otherwise would be silly. You have, among others, an attack on a new Death Star (which they even joke about), the goofball scene where Han and Chewy grapple with a monster (a la the trash compactor scene) and Rey running around inside an imperial base, avoiding stormtroopers in a manner similar to Episode IV. There’s little that I feel is new and that detracts from the experience somewhat. Of course, the scenes where Leia and Han interact are just superb and I don’t mind admitting that I shed a tear or two during them. I was also moved by Han’s death, as anyone who loves the original movies must surely be (where was his funeral?!?) and I look forward to seeing the impact of these events in upcoming films.

I guess that my overall impression of the movie is that I enjoyed it, it was tremendous fun and I came away thinking that it is definitely a Star Wars movie and that is a huge compliment. Not since the end of Empire has that been the case. But I was also a little underwhelmed, certainly more so than I had been during parts of the film when I had been immensely enjoying myself. Now that The Force Awakens has been released and Abrams and his team have established where things are and the new status-quo I would really like to see the next film exploring new territory and doing something more interesting than simply attacking yet another Death Star (even if they say that’s not what it was). It was still a lot of fun and a pleasure to see all of the characters that I grew up watching back on the big screen. I just hope that the next movie does something more with all that it has established. Here’s hoping!

 

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

OnlyanAtheistFinal