Tag Archives: Star Wars

Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens (2015) Retrospective Review

Star Wars Episode 7 The Force Awakens

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Science Fiction Themes and Violence
Cast:
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa
Adam Driver as Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Max von Sydow as Lor San Tekka
Director: J.J. Abrams

A scavenger (Daisy Ridley) and a renegade stormtrooper (John Boyega) enlist the help of legendary smugglers/freedom fighters Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to transport a droid carrying information regarding the whereabouts of long lost Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) of the Resistance before it falls into the hands of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order.

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Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens was one of the most anticipated films of all time. After Disney bought the rights to Star Wars, they started on making a new trilogy, and people were looking forward to seeing new movies. While there’s certainly a lot of divisiveness about the sequel trilogy now, I think most people generally liked The Force Awakens, and I’m still one of those people. As a ‘soft reboot’, this is the best this movie could’ve possibly been, and it succeeded very well as that.

To get this out of the way, yes, The Force Awakens is very derivative of A New Hope, and most of its plot points are very similar, but it does enough to differentiate itself from that first movie. Not to mention it was a good way of introducing the current state to new audiences. I will admit that some parts copy just a little too much, like I could’ve done with something else other than a killer star base that’s just bigger than the Death Stars. From beginning to end, J.J. Abrams gives the movie a fast pace, but it also work for the story, it doesn’t go so fast that it skips past important details or anything. Plotwise, I think the only thing I had a problem with was the option to blow up an entire planetary system of the New Republic. Doing this pretty much ensured that there was basically no system or anything, and it was a wasted opportunity for world building. That’s my only big problem with the plot or anything I think. I guess not all the answers to things were given in this movie, but that basically passed it on to other instalments to provide them there.

The newer cast are quite good. Daisy Ridley acts really well as Rey, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding her character and you don’t learn a lot about her, and so it required someone like Ridley to play the role in a way to make her work on screen. I really do feel like John Boyega’s Finn didn’t get to do as much as he could’ve (especially with the setup with him as a stormtrooper, which we hadn’t gotten with other main Star Wars characters beforehand), but Boyega does what he can and is pretty good. Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron doesn’t get a whole lot of screentime, generally because his character was meant to die early on, but was kept alive since they liked Isaac. That was a great decision, because Oscar plays him really well, even in his short screentime you really like him easily, and that’s all because of his performance. The standout actor and character across the sequel trilogy is Adam Driver as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. I’m not the type of person to put characters up against each other, but at the very least, he in this movie is a lot better than Darth Vader in A New Hope, since the two get compared a lot. Kylo is more than just a copy of Vader. He’s conflicted, he’s all over the place, and at least in this movie is trying so much to be like his grandfather. Even just looking at him in this movie, Kylo is one of the best characters in the Star War series. The other main antagonists were General Hux, Captain Phasma, and Supreme Leader SNoke. Domhnall Gleeson plays the role of Hux pretty well, and in this movie it does take him seriously (until he was used as the butt of many jokes). Gleeson doesn’t get many moments to shine in the trilogy, but he does have a big speech before Starkiller base fires a weapon, and he owned that scene pretty well. Gwendoline Christie as Phasma is pretty much the Boba Fett of the sequel trilogy, she looks cool but doesn’t really do anything. I know that her not doing much doesn’t really matter, but I would’ve liked her to have had a little more screentime and things to do. As for Snoke, you only get to see him for a couple scenes, but Andy Serkis added quite a lot to him through his motion captured performance. I really wished that Lupita Nyong’o got to do more as Maz Kanata, she play it fine enough I guess, but she mostly just gives out information. I have no idea why Max von Sydow was in this movie, he was pretty much just a cameo. The main cast from the previous movies returns, with the most notable being that of Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, who both play their roles of Han and Leia very well once again.

J.J. Abrams directed this very well, effectively fast paced. Everything from the production design, practical effects, digital effects, everything on a technical level is great, fantastic on a visual level. The action is also quite entertaining and put together nicely, from the ship battles, gunfights, and to the final battle between Kylo and Rey, which I still think is one of the best lightsabers duels in the series. The exception of these action scenes is of course is the Rathtars scene. At this point I accepted that it exists, but compared to the rest of the movie I didn’t really love it. John Williams scores this movie quite well, but I do think that the sequel trilogy’s scores aren’t nearly as great or memorable as the other two trilogies. The most memorable themes were that of Kylo Ren, Rey, and the Resistance, nonetheless the score on a whole worked well for the movie.

Star Wars Episode 5: The Force Awakens was a great way of bringing back Star Wars to today’s audiences. It’s very well directed, the cast are good, and quite well paced. It set up things for future instalments to potentially pursue, and was a good way to get people on board with Star Wars again. It was at the very least a good starting point for this new trilogy.

Star Wars Episode 6: Return of the Jedi (1983) Retrospective Review

Star Wars Episode 6- Return of the Jedi

Time: 131 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Carlrissian
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
David Prowse as Darth Vader
James Earl Jones as Darth Vader (Voice)
Ian McDiarmid as The Emperor
Frank Oz as Yoda
Director: Richard Marquand

After a daring mission to rescues Han Solo (Harrison Ford) from Jabba the Hutt, the Rebels to Endor to destroy the second Death Star. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) struggles to help Darth Vader (David Prowse) back from the dark side without falling into the Emperor’s trap.

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I remember when I was younger finding Return of the Jedi to be my favourite of the original Star Wars trilogy. In rewatching it more recently however, I admit that I’m not that impressed with it anymore, honestly I was rather underwhelmed by the movie on the whole. It’s no doubt got some great parts to it, and its acted and directed relatively well, but most of the movie is generally just ‘fine’.

I’m not really sure how most people view the early section of rescuing Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, but to me it wasn’t that good, and actually had me a bit worried for the rest of the movie. It keeps you there for quite a while, gradually watch the droids go into Jabba’s place, then watch Leia’s unsuccessful attempt at rescuing Han, then there’s Luke making his attempt. It’s just rather boring and sort of a pain to sit through. One of the absolute worst parts of the movie is the worst scene to ever ‘grace’ a Star Wars movie, which is also one of the worst changes George Lucas made to the original trilogy. I’m talking about what is known as Jedi Rocks. Now originally there was a scene of a band playing a song in Jabba’s Palace, and watching it online, it’s actually alright. The song was subtle, simple, and it lasted for less than a minute. It seems that Lucas was never satisfied with how this was done however, and added way more to this sequence, replacing the song, making it longer, louder, and having these random aliens take up the screentime, and it’s incredibly obnoxious. It’s even worse if you’re like me and you’re just not liking the Jabba Palace section, and it just tests your patience. It’s the single most painful moment to watch in the entire series. Back to that whole first act, it improves a little when Luke appears (and established himself as a much more powerful Jedi now) and ends up fighting a Rancor, but it really starts to pick up to being kind of good once he gets his new green lightsaber and starts fighting Jabba’s people, along with the other main characters. That action scene was satisfying and almost made up for everything that came before… almost. Also, every time I hear about Boba Fett being apparently great, I’m instantly reminded of his part in this movie where he gets accidently knocked down by a partially blind Han Solo and then eaten. Just thought it was worth mentioning as well.

So the first act wasn’t all that good, but I really didn’t care much about the storyline on Endor either. This is where they are going to down the shields on the second Death Star. This is the big conclusion, and I felt like I really should’ve felt the stakes, or some degree of emotion really. However it feels oddly inconsequential and nothing much happens in here. There’s not even a lot of scenes between Han and Leia where they talk about things that aren’t the objective. It’s just about the rebels trying to take the base, and also the Ewoks are in it. Now as for the Ewoks themselves, I don’t hate them but I don’t particularly like them either. Maybe if they were Wookies or some other species that was at least more credible (or one you can take somewhat seriously), I would’ve liked it a lot better. But as it is, it honestly felt like Lucas just went with these just for making toys. Let’s just say that the Ewoks are something that you’d expect from The Phantom Menace more than any other Star Wars movie. Not to mention, I almost feel like they only just pad out the runtime so that this section isn’t 20 minutes long. However it’s not like they’re the reason I didn’t like the storyline, on its own it wasn’t that interesting or engaging either. When they finally get to the battles at the end it picks up, for the Endor bits the Ewoks unfortunately make it hard to take it seriously. The ship battles to take down the Death Star 2 are pretty good however.

It’s really a shame that I don’t love this movie, because the storyline with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader is pretty much pitch perfection. Luke is a full on Jedi now, and has learned a lot since Empire. The movie really builds up their eventual next meeting that happens in the second half of the movie, with now the knowledge that Luke is his son of course. The movie also adds the part about Leia also being his sister, which I’m all good with, but their kiss in Empire Strikes Back is still going to feel weird forever. It all comes to a head in the throne room scene during the attack on the second Death Star, and there’s a fight between Luke and Vader. I also liked where it actually showed Luke for a brief moment give into the dark side as he even chops off Vader’s hand, but doesn’t follow through with killing him. This moment along with bits in Empire Strikes Back cements Luke as an imperfect and flawed character instead of a perfect Jedi (which The Last Jedi also follows along with), which just made him all the more compelling. Then there’s the moment where The Emperor is electrocuting Luke and then you have that fantastic moment of Vader choosing to save him by throwing Palpatine over the edge, fulfilling Anakin’s prophecy of bringing balance to the force (until suddenly when the Emperor returned again from the dead in a later movie for some reason but whatever). The worst change from George Lucas is possibly when he added in Darth Vader saying “No. NOOOOOOOOOOO” just before he ‘kills’ Palpatine. It was such a powerful moment requiring no lines at all, just the physical acting by Prowse was enough to convey everything. But for some reason ever since that change was made, it was kept for future versions of the movie, and I’ve never liked it, and its much less to do with the silliness of the lines. Despite this plotline having large stakes, it feels very personal and intimate, and that made it even better. Also while we are on the topic of changes, I’m more than fine with Anakin’s force ghost being updated to be that of Hayden Christensen’s appearance.

The cast are all good. Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams and others return and provide some good work once again. This movie also introduced Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor and he’s having an absolute blast in this role, perfect casting.

The direction isn’t quite as good as the previous movies, but it has its moments. Some of the CGI still looks a little off, the green screen of the speeder section on Endor particularly looked like it was out of a Bond film from the 60s and 70s. Whenever it came to the action with the Ewoks, it was just rather silly, and not in a good way. The rest of the action however is generally filmed well. The fights with the lightsabre are good, especially the end Darth Vader and Luke battle. John Williams of course scores this movie excellently.

Return of the Jedi has a lot of issues, and I’m not really that much of a fan of it. Outside of the cast who play their roles well, as well as some aspects on the technical side, it’s just sort of whatever. The first act drags and is borderline straight up bad, and even much of the rest of the movie after that wasn’t particularly engaging or entertaining. What ultimately saves this movie is that Luke and Vader storyline, which is genuinely fantastic and I couldn’t think of a better way of ending that. The movie has some merit, but ultimately I can’t say that it’s better than ‘just good’.

 

Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) Retrospective Review

Star Wars Episode 5 - The Empire Strikes Back

Time: 124 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
David Prowse as Darth Vader
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda
Director: Irvin Kershner

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) face attack by the imperial forces and its AT-AT walkers on the ice planet Hoth. While Han and Leia escape in the Millnennium Falcon, Luke travels to Dagobah in search of Yoda (Frank Oz). Only with the Jedi Master’s help will Luke survive when the Dark Side of the Force beckons him into the ultimate duel with Darth Vader (David Prowse).

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The Empire Strikes Back has been known as the best Star Wars movie, and for very good reason. It takes the best elements of the first movie and improved them, while taking the story and characters into new territories. Even nearly 4 decades later, it still holds up very well.

This movie is darker than the previous movie for sure, however that’s not the only reason this movie works so well. It doesn’t repeat what the previous movie did, and takes the story and characters on different (and more interesting) directions. I actually don’t have any complaints really with the story or characters. I liked the storyline of Luke going on Dagobah and training with Yoda, I liked Han, Leia, Chewbacca and C-3PO escaping in the Falcon from Imperial forces, and I also really liked the first act battle scene on Hoth and the climax on Cloud City. I’m not one to call movies perfect, but Empire Strikes Back is at least very close to being perfect. I really don’t have too much to say about that aspect.

The cast have improved and grown since the first movie. The biggest improver over the past movie was Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, he’s grown quite a lot as an actor and a character. Hamill also really sold the impact of learning that Vader is his father, which of course is one of the most iconic scenes of all time. There’s also Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher as Han and Leia, who share great chemistry. I found Darth Vader in A New Hope to be just fine, but he’s on another level in this movie, and this movie is where he became great. There’s no Tarkin that he has to follow orders from, outside of the Emperor, he’s really the one in charge, and he’s shown to be really ruthless throughout. The additions to the cast were good as well. Billy Dee Williams was introduced as Lando, and although he’s just in the third act, he does well in his screentime. There’s of course Yoda voiced by Frank Oz, who immediately became iconic upon his first appearance, and he was great as well.

This movie is very directed well by Irvin Kershner. The visuals also mostly hold up pretty well, and there are some spectacular sequences, from the fighters against the AT-ATs on Hoth, to the Falcon flying from TIE fighters, to the final fight between Luke and Vader. That last fight was particularly great, such an improvement over the lightsabre fight in A New Hope. It seems that compared to the other two movies in the trilogy, George Lucas didn’t add so many changes and that was for the better, in fact it seemed the changes helped quite a bit. For example, in the scene with Darth Vader communicating with The Emperor via hologram, they replaced their original version of the character with Ian McDiarmid delivering the lines, who famously played him from Return of the Jedi onwards. Definitely helped with continuity. Also in the scenes taking place at Cloud City, there were windows added in, so it looks a lot better. With that said there was one change to one of the earlier versions which may well have been the worst change of the original trilogy. At the end of the iconic “I am your father” scene, instead of joining Vader, Luke willingly falls down. For some reason in one version, Lucas added in a screaming sound for him, which made it almost like he fell. Thankfully he seemed to have realised that it wasn’t a good idea and removed that bit, which is good because that would’ve actually ruined the scene. John Williams’s score for Empire Strikes Back is even better than A New Hope. The highlight is the new Imperial theme, it was sort of there in the original Star Wars, but in this movie, Williams revamped it into something even more menacing and iconic.

I still feel confident in saying that The Empire Strikes Back is by far the best Star Wars movie. In every other Star Wars movie, even the ones I love, there usually are some clear issues that I have with them. That’s not the case with Empire however, watching it again recently, I couldn’t really find any problems with it.

Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope (1977) Retrospective Review

Star Wars Epidode 4 - A New Hope

Time: 121 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Medium level violence
Cast:
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Harrison Ford as Han Solo
Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa
Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin
Alec Guinness as Ben Obi Wan Kenobi
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca
David Prowse as Darth Vader
Director: George Lucas

Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) joins forces with a Jedi Knight (Alec Guinness), a cocky pilot (Harrison Ford), a Wookie (Peter Mayhew), and two droids (Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker) to save the galaxy from the Empire’s world-destroying battle station, while also attempting to rescues Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from the mysterious Darth Vader (David Prowse).

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Star Wars (or what is now known as Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope) is an absolute classic, and pretty much everything has already been said about this movie. However, since I’ve been going through and reviewing all of the Star Wars movies again, I still have to talk about it, so I’ll do my best. Even with some issues (from the movie as it was released or some changes made later on), it had such an impact on cinema, even just as one movie before it became a series.

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Talking about the movie is pretty hard because so much of the movie practically speaks for itself. I’ll talk more about my personal thoughts, and even some problems about certain things. It was revolutionary for its time, with regards to the story, the world, and the technical execution. I will say that after the opening scenes and R2-D2 and C-3PO land on Tatooine, it does slow down a bit, and there’s a period where I’m not that invested in the story. It picks up when we first meet Obi Wan Kenobi, and picks up even more when we meet Han Solo and Chewbacca. When it’s them on the Death Star, that’s really when the movie shines, all the way to the end with the final attempt to blow it up. From that point forwards, it’s almost perfect and really entertaining. The story is simple but well planned out, and you can really tell why this movie was so influential, especially with the worldbuilding.

The cast mostly do well. Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker wasn’t exactly great in this movie, however he noticeably improves over his next film appearances. Completing the rest of the trio is Carrie Fisher as Leia, and Harrison Ford as Han Solo, and both are great. Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi is also excellent, he really makes the character believable. With the combination of David Prowse’s physical performance and the iconic voice of James Earl Jones, Darth Vader is an iconic character. With that said, Vader wasn’t anything special in this movie, he has a classic look, can choke people with the force, and has a red lightsabre, but you more or less see him pop in and out of scenes, and you don’t really feel such a presence with him. He only really started being great in Empire Strikes Back.

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Considering all the odds and the ambition of the film, George Lucas has directed this excellently. Sure some visual effects haven’t held up, but that’s to be expected, with this movie coming out all the way back in 1977. Ignoring the visually effects, there is the fight between Obi Wan and Darth Vader which wasn’t the best. Of course you know that there it was probably special back then and that they were constrained from being something more than tapping swords. Still, you can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed watching it today. Everything else however is a masterclass on a technical level. The designs for the locations, aliens, costumes, everything is flat out perfect. While the lore of this world hadn’t been fully explored and explained in this one movie, it does very well to immerse you in the one that Lucas has created. Even a lot of the effects hold up today. The action scenes, from the fire fights to the end fighter pilot sequence, are all directed very well. There are some changes that Lucas added in on future versions of the movie for some reason, and not many of them are wanted. When the main characters arrive at Mos Eisley, there are random things passing in front of the camera and things in the background that weren’t exactly needed (probably in an attempt to make the location more active and alive), kind of distracting. And of course there’s the numerous changes to the Han shooting Greedo scene, honestly it doesn’t matter to me who shot first, but it’s fascinating how many times George Lucas kept trying to change this. In the more recent version of the movie (on Disney+), right before Greedo is shot by Han (or they shoot at each other or whatever), he says “Maclunkey”. Aside from that the only other notable change was the random addition of a scene of Jabba and Han, which was originally cut from the movie. Looking at it now, you can really tell that it was cut for a reason. It’s unnecessary already but it’s made worse by the horrible CGI on Jabba. It doesn’t drag down the movie but it does stick out in your mind. John Williams’ score speaks for itself, absolutely iconic and outstanding.

Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope is a classic, and nothing will change that. There are some problems I have with it, but that just affects my enjoyment of the movie. I think it’s impossible to deny the importance and significance of this movie.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Retrospective Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso
Diego Luna as Cassian Andor
Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic
Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe
Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso
Alan Tudyk as K-2SO
Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook
Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus
Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera
Director: Gareth Edwards

All looks lost for the Rebellion against the Empire as they learn of the existence of a new super weapon, the Death Star. Once a possible weakness in its construction is uncovered, the Rebel Alliance must set out on a desperate mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. The future of the entire galaxy now rests upon its success.

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I always liked Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ever since its release, it was the first spin off in the Star Wars series and it had me interested in what other spin off movies they could make in the future. I don’t love it as much as I did when I first saw it, and I don’t consider it to be among the best Star Wars movies by any means. I still think it’s quite good though, and has a lot of great parts to it.

Rogue One does very well to establish itself as being very different kind of Star Wars movie, with more of a war movie feel to it. However you still feel like you’re in the Star Wars universe. I’m aware that some people found the movie a little boring. I was interested in the movie all the way through, but I will say it’s not as riveting as it could’ve been for at least the first half or so. This war movie take on a Star Wars movie certainly provided some things that we aren’t used to seeing in the series, with grey areas and darker places that weren’t explored previously (like how the methods by the Rebels weren’t always ethical). There are some callbacks to the original Star Wars, and that makes sense given that it’s a direct prequel, and for the most part it’s actually done quite well. One of the best parts was how they used the plot point from the original Star Wars with the Death Star having a conveniently large enough hole for a single blast from a fighter to explode the entire station. Now there’s an official canon reason for that being the case, with Galen Erso specifically placing that deliberate flaw in the design.

What shines most of all in the movie is the third act. From what I can tell a lot of it was changed with some reshoots, I can’t say which version would’ve been better. However I did like the third act that we got. It’s large scale, entertaining and was really well handled. It was also fitting that all the main characters died on that suicide mission, we haven’t seen the protagonists actually get killed off for good in this series and it worked for the movie. Then there’s the stand out scene of the movie, with Darth Vader mastering a bunch of Rebels at the end as they desperately try to get the Death Star plans out. I’ve seen a lot of positive responses to it, and I’ve also seen some people who don’t really like it. I can see both sides, on one hand this is Vader at his most vicious and powerful, and this is one of his stand out scenes from the entire series. At the same time, I can see how this makes it feel like another main Star Wars movie instead of the ‘grounded’ war movie it was for the rest of the movie, even with the inclusion of a lightsabre alone. I liked it but I can see why people don’t.

The use of Darth Vader was fitting enough, and so was Tarkin. The Princess Leia cameo I guess was alright, and worked as it was directly leading into the events of the original Star Wars. However there are also some weird callback decisions that are just annoying more than anything else. If you remember back to a New Hope, there were two people who attack Luke, who was then saved by Obi Wan Kenobi. Well those two people happen to bump into Jyn Erso while she and Cassian and K-2SO happen to be on Jedha, it was such a bizarre cameo to have and I have no idea why they decided to include that. Also C-3PO and R2-D2 randomly appear at the Rebel base just before the climax, for no reason at all. I guess just to remind audiences that they’re around at the time.

There is a large cast of characters. While the actors generally do well, the characters are hit or miss, and they are generally underdeveloped unfortunately. Felicity Jones is quite good as Jyn Erso, the lead character in the story, and other actors with the likes of Diego Luna, Donnie Yen and Alan Tudyk also do well. Riz Ahmed and Jiang Wen don’t really get to do as much out of the main Rogue One cast. Mads Mikkelsen played a small but critical role as Jyn’s father, who created the Death Star. He did very well in his screentime. There’s also the addition of Grand Moff Tarkin, who was critical in the original Star Wars, so you can see why they wanted to place him in this movie. I liked his addition, you felt his presence yet he wasn’t overbearing or overused. The recreation of original actor’s Peter Cushing’s appearance however was rather mixed. Although the Cushing voice impression is great, the CGI goes from looking good to looking like a decent video game character, not terrible but in a live action movie with real actors definitely seeming off. Of the cast, the actor I liked the most was Ben Mendelsohn as the main antagonist of the film, Orson Krennic, the director of the Death Star. Although he was quite a different type of Star Wars villain, a big part of why he worked was Mendelsohn’s performance, he’s been playing a lot of antagonists recently but Krennic is definitely one of his best.

I thought that Gareth Edwards’ direction worked very well for the film. The war-movie feel worked so well and it all feels gritty and dirty throughout, as it should’ve. It’s also such a great looking movie, with some really great visuals and very well directed action sequences, the highlights of course being in the final act. I like the music by Michael Giaachino as well, it fit the movie very well, and even gets to shine at certain points. That new Imperial theme in particular is great, creating an alternate theme to one of the most iconic tracks of all time is intimidating for sure, but he managed to create a newer and separate theme which really worked for this film.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story still holds up pretty well a few years later. The direction by Gareth Edwards was great, the cast do quite well in their roles, and it was overall a unique and different entry that we hadn’t seen in the series before this point. It has its annoyances for sure, mostly some lack of characterisation, and parts of the plot could’ve been a little more interesting, but it’s still good on the whole.

Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) Review

Time: 141 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Carrie Fisher as Leia Organa
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker
Adam Driver as Ben Solo/Kylo Ren
Daisy Ridley as Rey
John Boyega as Finn
Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Naomi Ackie as Jannah
Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux
Richard E. Grant as Allegiant General Pryde
Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata
Keri Russell as Zorii Bliss
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico
Ian McDiarmid as Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian
Director: J.J. Abrams

The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more as Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron’s (Oscar Isaac) journey continues. With the power and knowledge of generations behind them, the final battle commences.

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I’m aware that it took a while for this review to come out, I’ve just been a little busy and I felt like I needed to watch this movie twice to be able to collect my thoughts on it before I could write it. Star Wars Episode 9: The Rise of Skywalker was one of my most anticipated films of 2019. Not only was it a Star Wars movie and the finale of this sequel trilogy, it would also essentially conclude the whole Skywalker saga. I really didn’t know what to expect, it was quite a big task that they ahead of them. I’m also not going to lie, some of the initial reactions had me a little worried. Despite some problems I had with it (which I have with every Star Wars movie aside from one), I actually thoroughly liked The Rise of Skywalker as it was.

There’s only so much that I can talk about, I will do my best to keep this review spoiler free as possible. The first act was a little rough. It jumped from place to place, it was jarring, and it just overloaded you with information. Thankfully it does pick up over time. Not that the issues aren’t still there, but it definitely helped watching it again when you know what’s happened in the plot. By the time it reaches the second half, the movie really picks up. The Rise of Skywalker is more plot focussed than character focussed, and the pacing is fast, constantly moving the plot forward in just about every scene. It’s not necessarily a good thing though, as the movie doesn’t really allow for some moments to breathe. In that, this movie really needed to be longer. You’d think that since Disney had Avengers Endgame earlier this year wrapping up a huge storyline in 3 hours, that for a giant conclusion of 3 whole trilogies would be given much more than 2 hours and 20 minutes. Even if those scenes wouldn’t add a lot in terms of plot, it allows time to reflect on what’s happened and not make everything feel so tightly packed. On another note however, it seems that a lot of scenes or aspects have been cut from the movie. For example some details are shown in the visual dictionary of the movie that don’t make it into the final on screen product, and I don’t necessarily mean cut subplots (although that’s also possible), but things that could literally add maybe 5 minutes at most to the runtime, yet add a lot to the movie. For all the reveals that this movie is constantly throwing out, there’s still critical things that aren’t explained, one is a critical part involving Palpatine that I honestly can’t believe didn’t make it into the released movie (if they ever came up with an answer at all). Reveals and answers aside, some of how they are handled them are also a problem at times. It literally felt like some of the characters were just telling the audience what the answers are as quickly as possible, almost like it was in a rush and it wanted to get it out quickly, it felt a little lazy at times honestly.

There have been talks about how The Rise of Skywalker ‘retcons’ parts of The Last Jedi. While I can’t comment on how J.J. Abrams felt about The Last Jedi, I wouldn’t say that it quite does that, although it no doubt would’ve been taken in a very different direction if Rian Johnson made the movie. There’s just a couple of aspects that Abrams seemed to have backpedalled on. One was the unnecessary part with Kylo Ren repairing his mask after he destroyed it early in the last movie. It’s not bad or anything but doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense and really doesn’t add too much to the movie (even if it is a cool looking mask), especially how he keeps taking his mask off anyway. The other is something that I know a lot of people are very split on. The problem about talking about this part is that there’s so much I want to say about this one aspect but I can’t even hint at it too much or I’ll begin to spoil it. What I can say is that I’m mixed about this decision, it ultimately takes things in a less interesting direction for me personally. However, I guess it could’ve been way worse, and looking at that decision separate from the previous movie, I guess I like the idea, and I was able to accept it and follow along with where they took it. On the whole though, I liked most of the plot and the directions they took (key word being most), and there are some great callbacks to the other Star Wars movies. A lot of people throw around the word ‘fanservice’ but for a conclusion of a 9 movie long series, you should be expecting that. I liked most of the ‘fanservice’, and it’s not as obnoxious as say some of what they had in Rogue One or Solo. There are also some great moments and parts to the movie, which I won’t spoil of course. I’m not going to be a conspiracy nut about this movie (yet) but I get the feeling that part of my issues of this movie were things that were caused by problems behind the scenes. For those who don’t know, Colin Trevorrow was attached to direct and co-write but then was fired (or left the movie) over ‘creative differences’, and that’s when J.J. Abrams was brought in to direct and co-write alongside Chris Terrio. However, they kept the same date even though they were already in pre-production when Trevorrow stopped being involved. Now maybe the same choices would’ve been made, but I get the feeling that had they pushed the movie back even a little, parts of the movie would’ve been handled a little better.

The cast generally do a good job in their roles. Daisy Ridley is once again great as Rey, and she’s got quite a lot to do in this movie in particular, and I liked her arc. Even if you’re not satisfied with where they take her character, Ridley more than sells it with her performance. One thing that The Rise of Skywalker does better than the other two was it gave John Boyega and Oscar Isaac a little more to do (though unlike The Last Jedi they didn’t really get arcs of sort, again this is a plot driven movie). Unlike the past two movies, you actually get the trio of Rey, Finn and Poe together, and that was great to watch. Anthony Daniels’s C-3PO is generally a side character in all these 9 Star Wars movies and hasn’t really stood out in them, but for whatever reason he got to do slightly more in the plot of this movie, and even had some standout moments and lines. Adam Driver is once again fantastic as Kylo Ren, and I’m pretty confident in saying that this would be his best performance as the character. Both the performance and the character are great, and truly one of the highlights of this whole sequel trilogy. There was a concern about how they would handle Carrie Fisher’s role of Leia, after Fisher’s death a few years ago. They actually used footage from The Force Awakens to place her in the movie. Some of the ways they used her in some scenes felt a little awkward and you are constantly wondering what the original context of her scenes are, but you can tell that they definitely did the best that they could in a difficult situation, and they pulled it off well enough.

Some of the returning cast unfortunately don’t really get a lot to do in the movie. It was great seeing Billy Dee Williams return as Lando Calrissian, though I would’ve liked to have seen him in the movie a lot more. Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux and Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata also return, but both of them don’t really get much to do. Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico was a prominent supporting character in The Last Jedi, however her role is significantly reduced in this movie, and you feel it more with her than the characters I just mentioned before. It does feel very weird to just reduce her to a background character who really doesn’t get to do much of anything. She could easily be written into being a present supporting character in the movie in at least the first act, but for some reason they deliberately seemed to have given her the bare minimum to do. I’m just hoping it’s not because her character received a lot of ‘backlash’ (to put it mildly) in the last movie. The new cast do well enough. Naomi Ackie and Keri Russell play some supporting roles in the movie and are quite good, however I wish that they could’ve been more in the movie, and I felt like it was possible for them to be involved with the plot than what we got. Richard E. Grant is good as a general in The First Order, and one of the secondary antagonists of the movie. He’s nothing that we haven’t seen before in Star Wars, but Grant does well with what he’s given. I can’t talk too much about Ian McDiarmid as The Emperor for spoilers stake, but I can say that he played the role appropriately. With that said, I had some issues about the Emperor with regard to his involvement with the plot. Let’s just say that he suddenly has a larger part to play in the movie than you’d think based off the teases of him in the trailers, and I have mixed feelings about it. I guess I accepted it, but it could’ve been so much more interesting and inventive than what they ultimately went with. Not to mention it introduces him very quickly and a bunch of information is thrown at us about him that we just have to accept. It probably wouldn’t be so jarring if we knew that he was alive in any of the other two movies.

J.J. Abrams once again directed this very well, delivering on a visually stunning movie. There are so many sequences that are just stunning to watch, with the action being fast paced and rather entertaining. The locations and set pieces are also great, there are some very memorable sequences that stand out amongst the Star Wars movies as a whole. The score by John Williams for the Sequel Trilogy haven’t really lived up to the other Star Wars trilogies (outside of Rey’s Theme, Kylo Ren’s theme, and the Resistance theme) but it’s still pretty good, and that’s the case with this movie as well.

I can’t determine whether or not you’ll like this movie. I can tell that some people who hated The Last Jedi will like The Rise of Skywalker more, and some who love The Last Jedi will dislike The Rise of Skywalker, or at least be bothered by many parts of it. As for myself though, I liked it. I’d say that it’s my least favourite of the sequel trilogy and it has some things that hold it back from being better (I really hope there will be an extended cut released in the future). However, I think there’s a lot of great in here too. The cast are good, it’s directed quite well and visually stunning to watch, and I liked a lot of the ideas that were present, and most of how they ended things. If you are somewhat invested in this storyline, just watch it for yourself whenever you get the chance.

Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (2005) Retrospective Review

Time: 140 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1]
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman as Padmé Amidala
Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader
Ian McDiarmid as Supreme Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu
Jimmy Smits as Senator Bail Organa
Christopher Lee as Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda
Director: George Lucas

Three years into the Clone Wars, the Jedi rescues Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). As Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor). As Obi-Wan (Ewan McGregor) pursues a new threat, Anakin (Hayden Christensen) acts as a double agent between the Jedi Council and Palpatine, and is lured into a sinister plan to rule the galaxy.

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Revenge of the Sith was already the best of the prequel trilogy, so when I was going through my rewatches of the Star Wars series, I knew I’d still like it. However I ended up loving it even more, to the point where it’s one of my favourite movies in the series, flaws and all. After the past two disappointing prequels, George Lucas handled the final film in the trilogy greatly, delivering on a satisfying conclusion and one of the highlights of the series.

Revenge of the Sith at 2 hours and 20 minutes had my attention all the way through. The dialogue is better, with some occasionally bad lines that go through, however they don’t detract too much from the movie. It’s a much darker story, and it really needed to be that, with it being the chapter of Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader. This movie was the first Star Wars movie to be given a PG-13/M rating, and it uses it to great effect. Revenge of the Sith starts out on a high note, with an entertaining action sequence as Anakin and Obi Wan are in fighters as they try to rescue a ‘captured’ Chancellor Palpatine. The CGI and action are good, and it gets you really into what’s going on. The rest of the rescue was great, as they encounter droids, Count Dooku, and General Grievous, and manage to land half a ship. It’s pretty much classic Star Wars.

If there was a weakest section of the movie, it would be the one where Obi Wan is hunting Grievous, not that it’s bad or anything. It’s entertaining and all, but that’s all it really is. It doesn’t really help that Grievous wasn’t that great as an antagonist. While they really only got to shine in the third acts of their respective movies, Darth Maul and Count Dooku still got to show off. As unique as an antagonist as Grievous is physically, he ends up being a mostly normal physical threat. His lightsabre fight with Obi Wan was the most disappointing part of it, with it only lasting 30 seconds and with Kenobi seemingly easily cutting off two of his hands. Nothing bad about this section necessarily, just pales in comparison to the rest of the movie.

Surprisingly I was more interested in Anakin’s story, but that needed to be the case, with this whole trilogy being about him becoming Darth Vader after all. There had been much criticisms about the portrayal of The Jedi Council, and how unheroic and sometimes unlikable they are seen in the prequels. The portrayal is deliberate, and that’s even more so the case with Revenge of the Sith. The part where Palpatine tells Anakin about how the Jedi and the Sith are quite similar in the opera house scene, he really didn’t have to lie all that much. Much of the Jedi don’t exactly stick by their code, a chief example being Mace Windu trying to kill Palpatine even when he pretty much had him already beaten. Also remember back to after Anakin and Obi Wan’s conversation after the mission, where Kenobi lists the killing of Dooku among some of the successful things he did on that mission, whereas Skywalker didn’t feel like it was right and wasn’t the Jedi way, and only did it because Palpatine pushed him to do it. Anakin’s questionings of some of their dealings aren’t unfounded. The Jedi were also very paranoid and distrustful, especially when it came to Anakin. Mace making the point directly by himself that although Anakin was on the Jedi Council, he wouldn’t be a master (which turns out has never been done before), just solidified their distrust for him, aside from Obi Wan of course. A mix of these, along with fearing about Padme dying, would all lead to him on the path to the dark side.

This would all build up until Palpatine is revealed as the Sith lord behind everything, and there’s a direct confrontation. The scene where Palpatine and Windu fight is rather disappointing considering the skill and power of both, but the way Palpatine just kills the other 3 Jedi within like 5 seconds is so silly. It’s not that he’s shown to be quite powerful (that’s what we’d expect) but 2 of them practically let themselves get killed. I noticed that some people really had issues with how quickly Anakin makes the decision to join Palpatine, especially as it’s done right after he says “What have I done?”. Personally I saw this as Anakin reluctantly joining since there was no turning back after being involved with killing Mace Windu and helping Palpatine, mixed with his genuine disillusion with the Jedi Council, and of course still his desire to save Padme. I do remember when George Lucas once said that in this movie you’ll get to learn why he was given the name of Darth Vader. He must’ve forgotten to do that because it’s not explained anywhere here (unless you know that Vader in German means father), not that it really matters though, it’s a small detail.

The third act showing the fall of the Jedi order was really great. The Order 66 is indeed a fantastically handled sequence and one of the highlights of the entire series, as it cuts around to the Jedi being killed by the clones that they were fighting alongside minutes ago. You really feel the weight of everything going on in this last act. The final fights are also really good, with Obi Wan against Anakin and Yoda against the Emperor. With the former you get a bunch of large scale fight scenes in the volcanic planet of Mustafar, and the latter you get both parties using the force plenty as well as using the lightsabres. I do think they went a little overboard with the Anakin and Obi Wan fight, where the fight is so long and they two of them seem to be keep being placed in every ridiculous scenario possible, but the movie seemed to be leaning into the whole space opera thing, and on that end it mostly worked. Outside of that, the only slight problem I had with the Anakin and Obi Wan fight was that I was hoping to see was at least some attempt from the latter to bring Anakin back from the dark side at the beginning of it, given that just before he told Yoda that he can’t do it. I would’ve liked that instead of Kenobi just pretty much going in knowing that he’s already gone at this point. The moment of Padme giving birth being paralleled with Anakin’s turn into Darth Vader was pretty much perfect, and I was even fine with Vader’s freakout over hearing that Padme is dead, it would make sense. But I’m with everyone as not being such a fan of his giant “NOOOOOOOO” at the end of the scene, it was a little too much and rather silly. The rest of the ending is great and set things up well for the next movie. Side note but I never picked up till my most recent rewatch that C-3PO and R2-D2 had their memories wiped at the end of the movie, that made so much sense as to why they don’t recognise some of the other characters in the original trilogy.

Ewan McGregor is once again pitch perfect as Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he gets better with every subsequent Star Wars movie he appears in. He resembles Alec Guinness even more and is completely believable in the role, he’s particularly great towards the third act. Hayden Christensen gets a bad rap for his performances as Anakin Skywalker in these prequels. Indeed, I had some problems with him in Attack of the Clones. In Revenge of the Sith there are a few lines of dialogue that aren’t all that great. However most of the writing for him works, and I don’t actually have any problems with his performance here. The dynamic between him and Obi-Wan for instance was what I wanted more of from the two of them in Attack of the Clones. You just get the first act of them during the rescue, as well as some other scenes involving the council before Kenobi leaves to go after Grievous, but they work so well. It feels so natural, none of these forced “You’re like a father to me” lines from Attack of the Clones which you don’t believe. You can also really see the conflict in Anakin, and that’s something that Christensen nailed as well. Sure, Anakin is moody again, but unlike Attack of the Clones, it doesn’t come across like some whiny teenager. Christensen’s visual acting is fantastic, while I struggled to see him as Anakin in the previous movie, here I buy it. And of course when it came to him as Vader, I really bought it. Of course he does have some pretty lame lines at times that most actors would struggle with (“If you’re not with me, then you’re my enemy”, “From my point of view the Jedi are evil”), but he also delivers them as best as possible.

Natalie Portman gets to do more acting-wise here in this movie, it’s a shame though that her character of Padme is just relegated to being pregnant, being worried, crying, giving birth and then dying, especially considering that she actually did some things in the plot of the other two prequels. It’s really annoying hearing that originally in the script, Padme was involved with forming the rebellion, and that would’ve been perfect for her. Given some of the things she says in the movie, it would’ve made sense, like in one scene where she seems to be doubting the war. Surprisingly the romance between Padme and Anakin actually works here. Sure you get a few bad lines between the two (“You’re so beautiful”, “Only because I’m so in love”), but you are able to stomach it, not to mention the soap opera lines seem a little deliberate, with Star Wars being a space opera after all. You can actually buy their relationship, even with the scenes with less lines. The rest of the supporting cast also do well. Ian McDiarmid is always fantastic as Emperor Palpatine, The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones gradually showed Palpatine’s rise to power, but in Revenge of the Sith he’s at the centre of the story. His scenes with Anakin are great as he’s slowly bringing him towards the dark side, the highlight being the opera house scene, where he tells him the story about Darth Plagueis the wise. Now McDiarmid does go incredibly over the top at points (even more than in Return of the Jedi) and maybe he’s a little silly, but even those moments are just glorious to watch too. McDiarmid and McGregor are the MVPs of these Star Wars prequels, they’re fantastic in their roles. General Grievous was a character that was introduced in the animated Clone Wars series. He was quite a unique villain, a cyborg who had 4 arms, each wielding lightsabres more often than not. So he was known even before Revenge of the Sith came out. It’s unfortunate then that he’s rather underwhelming in the movie. Sure he can pose a bit of a threat, but his fight with Obi Wan was rather disappointing, and there’s not much to him as a character.

I think George Lucas did a great job at directing this movie. While the movie has its fair share of exposition, Lucas seemed to allow the movie to breathe and told the story visually at points. One of the biggest examples is when Anakin and Padme are seemingly looking at each other across buildings, which takes place right after Mace Windu and a few other Jedi go out to arrest Palpatine. Along with the great facial acting from both Christensen and Portman, it’s such an eerie and powerful moment, and manages to convey so much about both characters at that moment without needing a single line of dialogue. There definitely is a lot of reliance on CGI, but the visuals themselves are definitely better than Attack of the Clones. There are so many spectacular sequences that work really well, from the lightsabre fights, to the space battles, and so on. There are plenty of moments that are really over the top, especially some fight scenes, but again, this is a full on space opera, and seeing the movie as that certainly made it make sense. The worlds are also greatly designed and thought out, same with the robots, costumes, etc. John Williams has always been good at scoring Star Wars, but I’m pretty confident in saying that Revenge of the Sith is his best score for a Star Wars movie. It’s large, epic, emotional, tragic, and just fit perfectly with the whole movie.

I always liked Revenge of the Sith, but the more recent viewing of it made me love it even more, and solidified it as one of my favourite Star Wars movies. Its issues are noticeable and hurt the movie a lot, but it’s only because the rest of the movie works so well. It generally accomplished what the movie needed to do, and although the prequels were mostly disappointing, it’s a relief that the final film at least managed to stick the landing.

Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones (2002) Retrospective Review

Time: 142 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains low level violence
Cast:
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman as Senator Padmé Amidala
Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker
Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Sheev Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Christopher Lee as Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus
Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu
Temuera Morrison as Jango Fett
Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda
Anthony Daniels as C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Creator: George Lucas

Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) discover there is more than meets the eye behind an assassination attempt on Naboo Senator Padme Amidala’s (Natalie Portman) life. Meanwhile a Sith Lord orchestrates events between the forces of good and evil, all the while waiting to play the final move that will ensure him control of the galaxy.

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Despite much of the dislike for The Phantom Menace, many consider Attack of the Clones to be the worst Star Wars movie. I’ve always considered it to be the second worst, but decided to give it another go to see if that changed. After rewatching it… I came to the exact same conclusion, although like with my most recent viewing of The Phantom Menace, I liked it slightly more than the last time I saw it. It’s got some good things in there and could’ve been great, it’s just there there’s equally as many bad decisions that prevent it from reaching that level of greatness.

The writing is a mixed bag. I liked pretty much most of the plot and character decisions made, the execution however had much to be desired. The dialogue had the same problem as in The Phantom Menace, still sounding rather unnatural. However, most of the characters does feel slightly less stiff, even if it still comes across as forced at times. While it would take till Revenge of the Sith for the Star Wars series to start receiving M ratings and start being truly dark, The Phantom Menace is the only movie in the series that feels like it was actually made for kids, and not to say that it’s a bad thing inherently, but it seemed to be at the detriment of the movie on the whole. Attack of the Clones does take the plot a little more seriously, and outside of some cheesy moments (that the original trilogy had too), I liked the tone of the movie generally. The political angle definitely improved since The Phantom Menace, it’s very present but shown in small bursts and wasn’t as heavy handed. And again, it’s also interesting seeing the rise of Palpatine. The Phantom Menace in the beginning took a little while before you began to notice the awkwardness creep in, but Attack of the Clones immediately starts feeling quite off. It has a bit of a clunky start and doesn’t really pick up until the chase scene between Obi Wan and Anakin with the assassin, which in itself was a pretty thrilling and entertaining sequence.

From this point until the third act, the first two acts mainly consist of two main storylines, one for Obi Wan, and the other for Anakin and Padme. I’ll start with Obi Wan’s storyline, which is mostly good. After the assassination attempt on Padme, Kenobi investigates the assassin and discovers Kamino, Clones, and more. Not to say that there weren’t some odd moments, like when Kenobi couldn’t find anything about Kamino in the Jedi databases, he had to go to a class being run by Yoda to ask for help, and then a student had to point out the incredibly obvious that maybe someone erased that information. However, for this movie it’s pretty typical to have random and pointless moments like these, and I’m probably just nitpicking. Once Obi Wan actually gets to Kamino, it really picked up and I was generally interested in what was happening. I’m pretty sure that a lot of people didn’t like it, but I actually liked the introduction and formation of clones, who would eventually become Stormtroopers. Maybe linking them to being clones of Jango Fett was a weird and unneeded choice, but it’s one I just went along with. From there it takes him all the way to Geonosis, where his and Anakin and Padme’s storylines would join up in the third act.

The other main storyline is with Anakin and Padme, and the first half of that which takes place on Naboo was easily the weakest portion of the movie. I get that it’s supposed to be building up their relationship, and I’m more than fine with that. The problem is that the writing for them is absolutely terrible. It can range from being cheesy (like that scene in the field), or just ridiculously cringe worthy (when they confess their love to each other and talk about whether or not it should happen). Had the writing here been even just as average as much of the rest of the movie, I probably would’ve liked the movie slightly more, but that portion sticks out as being really bad. Once Anakin has a nightmare about his mother and the two of them head to Tatooine, their storyline noticeable improves, even if it still has some issues. It seemed like the natural way of progressing his story, especially with Anakin’s mother being particularly quite important to him in the previous movie. I will say that I always found it weird how easy it was for Padme to overlook Anakin’s outburst about him killing the sand people. Indeed the actual outburst doesn’t come across as impactful, as a result of a mix of Christensen’s performance and the writing makes him come across as whiny and throwing a tantrum more than anything. Anakin and Padme would then make their way to Geonosis to try to rescue Obi Wan, with a pretty good action scene at the factory, however Padme doesn’t really get to do anything except to get saved by R2-D2, and I have no idea why C-3PO was in there at all.

The third act is even more of a CGI fest than The Phantom Menace was, but I can’t deny I had fun with it. It starts off with a fight at an arena with Obi Wan, Anakin and Padme, and it already was a good setup. Then it introduces the Jedi, the droid army and the clones into the mix. So much of the movie doesn’t feel real and it really doesn’t allow you to get immersed in these scenes, but after a while you do get used to it, and I started to enjoy it. One thing that does irk me particularly however was that they really made way too many CGI clones, especially when it came to actual human actors having to interact with them, it was just way too distracting and just felt rather lazy. The fight with Obi Wan and Anakin against Count Dooku was pretty decent, as well as the one between Yoda and Dooku. I know some people didn’t like the idea of Yoda having a lightsabre and fighting and all that, but I personally liked it. I also liked how the movie led the way for the Clone Wars, I really wished that there was an episode that took place during the Clone Wars as the next episode would take place at the very end of it, but I guess that’s what a lot of the expansion novels and animated shows are for.

Ewan McGregor reprises his role as the younger Obi Wan Kenobi. He showed potential in The Phantom Menace but he resembled Alec Guinness even more here and has improved even more since then. Even with some of the odd lines he’s given, he absolutely sells each of them perfectly. Pretty much no complaints with him here. Hayden Christensen’s performance as Anakin Skywalker in this movie is… a very mixed bag. There is so much here that doesn’t work. To be fair, he’s not got much to work with, from some of the terrible dialogue he’s given, to the writing in general, and to how he’s directed. People have said this many times before, but he really does come across as whiny, even when he’s supposed to be angry, and it’s hard to take these moments seriously. Not to mention the rest of the time the performance and line deliveries are rather bland. Some of the romantic moments between him and Padme come across as creepy more than anything else, and most of that comes from Christensen, from the line deliveries to some of the unnerving looks he gives her. It’s a shame that both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith keep separating him and Obi Wan, since that’s quite important. However, Revenge of the Sith would at least have shown a solid dynamic between the two, in Attack of the Clones however it wasn’t really all that convincing, outside of Kenobi being frustrated that he padawan wouldn’t do what he says and Skywalker whining about how he keeps holding him back. Then there’s that throwaway line that Anakin says about how Obi Wan is the closest thing to a father that he has, although you don’t really believe it. Christensen does get a few good acting moments, such as when he finds her mother before she dies, and then when he starts killing the Tuskin Raiders. Still, you get the idea that he could be better. Thankfully, both the writing for him and his acting certainly improved in Revenge of the Sith. Natalie Portman returns as Padme, for the most part I liked where they took her character, though I wish she got to do a little more. Much of her character is overshadowed by the romance between her and Christensen, which was handled rather badly. On paper, the idea of the romance sounds great and fitting, especially for Anakin (though this might just be from knowing what happens with them in Revenge of the Sith). The problem is that the writing for them and the dialogue between them is disastrously bad. I get that it’s been like 10 years since the two have seen each other and they’d be a little awkward, but you really don’t believe their romance at any point in the movie. It’s at best fine and at worst creepy and cringe-worthy. With that said, like their storyline, their dialogue and writing slightly improves after they leave Naboo, and becomes much more bearable.

On the antagonist side it’s about the same level as The Phantom Menace, but maybe slightly better. Ian McDiarmid of course delivers as Palpatine/The Emperor, and the movie shows his rise in power even more. This movie has Jango Fett (played by Temeura Morrison), related to Boba Fett, the fan favourite bounty hunter. To get it out of the way, Jango Fett is much better than Boba Fett, though to be honest it was never much of a competition. I never found Boba Fett to be that good in the original series, the only credible thing he did in those movies is track down Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back, otherwise he just looks cool, and ends up dead in the most embarrassing way. Here you get to actually see Jango do things, holding his own against Obi Wan, killing at least one Jedi in the final act, and being killed in battle by Mace Windu (Samuel L. Jackson). I’m not really sure why they decided to have Boba being a clone of Jango instead of just his son but whatever. The prospect of Christopher Lee as a Star Wars villain in Count Dooku sounds extremely exciting to say the least. Lee really does own the scenes he’s in but unfortunately you really only get to see him in the last third of the movie. It’s also a shame knowing that he doesn’t last very long in the next movie. Like with Darth Maul and General Grievous, Dooku is a Star Wars villain who seemed to shine more in a lot of the spin offs and shows than in the live action movies, and at least had a lot more to do.

The direction by George Lucas like with The Phantom Menace is a little mixed. The movie generally relies more on CGI than The Phantom Menace did, and it was really distracting a lot of the time, from Dexter’s Diner all the way through to the third act. After a while you just sort of accept it for what it is. There’s even some really good action, from the chase of the assassin by Obi Wan and Anakin, to Obi Wan fighting Jango Fett, to much of the third act. Even with some distractingly fake and empty CGI at times, Lucas generally creates some creative scenarios and makes the sequences at least somewhat entertaining. With all the prequels, the new worlds were always great to see, and Attack of the Clones continued this the likes of Kamino and Geonosis, and it was even nice going back to familiar places like Coruscant, Naboo and Tatooine. The designs of everything, from the costumes, to the production design, the worlds, creatures, etc, were also handled quite well. The score by John Williams is great once again, introducing even more iconic Star Wars themes. Across the Stars in particular is fantastic, and deserved to be used for a much better on screen romance than Anakin and Padme’s.

Attack of the Clones is a very flawed movie. There are plenty of problems, with the overreliance of CGI, the writing, some of the directing decisions, there are so many things that were handled disappointingly and at times badly. At the same time it has some potential, I liked most of the ideas, generally the plot was pretty good, I was invested in some parts of the story, and some of the cast and characters work (mainly Ewan McGregor as Kenobi). So while it’s disappointing and I’m not likely to revisit it often, I don’t think it’s without some merit.

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999) Retrospective Review

Time: 133 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] contains low level violence
Cast:
Liam Neeson as Qui-Gon Jinn
Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Natalie Portman as Queen Padmé Amidala
Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker
Ian McDiarmid as Senator Palpatine/Darth Sidious
Ahmed Best as Jar Jar Binks
Anthony Daniels as the voice of C-3PO
Kenny Baker as R2-D2
Pernilla August as Shmi Skywalker
Frank Oz as the voice of Yoda
Director: George Lucas

Two Jedi Knights (Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor) set out to search for someone who can bring peace to the Force. Their search ends when they come across a young, gifted boy. But the Sith returns to stake claim to the Force.

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With The Rise of Skywalker coming in December, I decided to revisit the Star Wars movies in timeline order. When I was younger I used to watch The Phantom Menace over and over again and I liked it a lot back then. Upon revisiting the movies in the lead up to The Force Awakens however, I found it to be the worst in the series. I had a feeling that with people talking about it, as well as really noticing the fandom’s constant hatred, I decided to take a different look at it. After my rewatch I can confirm that I definitely don’t dislike it, but I don’t think it’s particularly good either. However it’s not without some decent parts (or at least it had potential).

As this is a retrospective review it’s only fitting that this movie is talking about spoilers. So obviously don’t read this or the other Star Wars retrospective reviews if you haven’t watched the movies already. The writing of The Phantom Menace is a very mixed bag, while some of the ideas are fine enough, most of the executions weren’t handled well. The story goes in and out of being interesting, more often than not however I wasn’t very engaged. A lot of the dialogue is very formal, stiff and unnatural for most of the characters. In the case of the Jedi, it works, but I’m not so sure why every other character acts like that too. Not to mention so much of the dialogue is really bland and even cheesy. Not to say that the original Star Wars trilogy was like that (a little more than a lot of Star Wars fans would like to admit), but the prequel trilogy is even more so. One thing I consistently liked about this movie and the prequels was the introduction of new worlds, as well as it expanding upon the lore and the universe. The first act starts off fine enough, but it has its issues. The Gungan parts were handled a little weirdly. Though to be fair most of it comes from the fact that Jar Jar Binks is meant to be our insight to the Gungans, and we don’t really learn a whole lot from him about them (more on that later).

There’s quite a large portion of the movie dedicated to the main characters on Tatooine, which takes up much of the second act. I’ve always found it unnecessary to re-introduce this planet, for all the new worlds that were introduced (and those were greatly appreciated), we didn’t need to come back to Tatooine. It seems like it was done to connect Anakin to Luke from the original Star Wars, but they really didn’t need to do that. It’s a bit of a nitpick but I also really didn’t see much of a point introducing C-3PO in this way as one of Anakin’s creations. He doesn’t really do anything, it’s random more than anything and feels thrown in. On the whole, this whole segment on this planet is surrounding Anakin, but he doesn’t really become the main focus point of the plot. The podracing scene is praised quite a lot from some people. While it certainly establishes Anakin’s skills as a pilot, I personally just think it’s okay, I guess it’s directed fine enough. It just never did anything for me. The Coruscant section was something I didn’t really like before watching this movie more recently. While I still have some issues with it, it does expand the Star Wars universe with something that the original trilogy didn’t have, politics and a political system. Sure it’s not particularly exciting but at least they actually tried something different, so I can’t complain too much (just a little bit). It doesn’t vibe well with the rest of the movie and it really slows to a snail’s pace, and they really could’ve handled the political talk to make it a little more engaging and less bland. The highlight of this segment was how it showed Palpatine’s rise in political power, that’s something the prequel trilogy did well over the entire prequel trilogy. In this segment we also get to see the Jedi Council, and much of how the Jedi act feels purposeful, they’re meant to be a little monotone and all that, and so I was fine with that in the grand scheme of things. I would’ve liked to have seen Jedi more involved in this movie but given the number of issues The Phantom Menace has, that’s hardly a problem even having. A much despised aspect about this movie was the introduction of midichlorians for the force. I do agree that it’s not needed, even if it was made with good intentions to expand the lore. Personally I just ignore this aspect of the plot, it doesn’t matter to me or the movie really. I don’t even recall the other prequels mentioning them.

The third act is quite good and my favourite section of the whole movie. There are multiple battles and I liked most of it, but the whole Gungan vs battle droids was not so great, though to be fair it’s mainly because a large portion of it was just showing Jar Jar’s comedy unfortunately. The rest of that battle would’ve been fine otherwise. Then there’s the ships trying to destroy the Trade Federation station and involving Anakin in the third act, but I’ll get to that later. The parts where Padme is leading an attack was pretty decent. The best part of this segment is of course the fight with Qui Gon and Obi Wan against Darth Maul. For as much as some Star Wars fans complain about some of the dance like choreography in the prequels (and there’s a truth in that), the choreography in this scene is pretty much perfect. It’s entertaining and it really works, I can’t really think of many complaints about this fight. Although this third act is the best part of the movie, it still has its own share of problems. There are 4 battles going on at once, and it can be a little much, not to mention you don’t really care much about any of them, so you’re basically just watching them because they’re entertaining.

The movie doesn’t particularly do a good job at establishing a singular main character or a focus. Not that they can’t focus on multiple main characters or anything, but it definitely would’ve helped to have at least one major character that you could latch onto, but there’s none to be found here. It’s not Qui Gon, we don’t get to learn about him much, nor is it Obi Wan, we spend even less time with him. Padme’s not really the focus of the story, and it’s a whole third of the way into the movie before you even see Anakin. There’s really no emotional connection to be had with any of the characters, at least in this movie. Thankfully despite some problems, the next two movies focussed on the main characters a little more. Most of the characters feels very stiff, but some of the actors break out of their shell at points. Liam Neeson is believable enough as a Jedi, and Ewan McGregor even from just this movie has vibes of a much younger Obi Wan Kenobi. McGregor also worked a lot better due to the fact that he had two additional movies to develop and showcase his character. In that respect, I do feel like Liam Neeson should’ve been the main character, because we didn’t really learn much about him outside of some brief snippets, and then he just dies at the end. Natalie Portman is also victim to the bland monotone acting that much of the cast has fallen to, the direction really doesn’t take advantage of her great talent sadly. However she is trying, and I do actually like the character quite a bit and she does actually get to do things in this movie. I do find it a little weird that the Jedi couldn’t somehow figure out that she had a decoy, given that they have the force and all that, but that might just be a nitpick.

Jake Lloyd plays the young Anakin Skywalker in this movie. In a previous review I might’ve been a little too critical of him. Honestly the problems I have are not to do with the performance. Ignoring the fact that he’s meant to be a younger Anakin/Darth Vader, Lloyd plays the rest of the role as well as possible given the material. His last scenes with Anakin’s mother I actually thought were well acted. However there are some problems with the character. He’s brought in as a side character a third of the way through, he’s shown to be significant as potentially the one destined to bring balance to the force, there’s parts about him being very powerful with the force and him being a great pilot but that’s it. He almost feels tacked on like a subplot then rather a significant driving part of the movie. Considering that the reason the prequels exist was to show the transition from Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader, it was a little weird that in the first movie they didn’t even put him in one of the leading roles. It doesn’t help that towards the end he ends up blowing up the Trade Federation station at the end by accident instead of purposefully. They already established him as a great pilot with podracing back on Tatooine. Even if they were to have him get stuck in the ship flying towards the station, everything he does after the autopilot is switched off is one Jar Jar moment after the other, where he accidentally manages to save the day, and it would’ve been the perfect moment to prove how capable he is. As for the idea of him being just created by the force, I don’t mind that. Jar Jar Binks is… not really all that bad. George Lucas seemed to find him to be hilarious since he’s placed in so many of the scenes, but unfortunately there’s really nothing that he does that’s genuinely funny. I lost how many times Jar Jar would say “How wude!”, to absolutely no laughs whatsoever. I don’t like him and he’s still slightly annoying but not insufferable, I’ve seen countless worse comic relief characters in other movies. If anything the most disappointing part of him is that they don’t really do anything with him as a character. He’s essentially meant to be our insight into the Gungans, but they do basically nothing with that, nor do they give him any form of character outside of being clumsy. Even if you wanted to make him a slapstick character for 80% of the time, a little bit of character would be nice. He’s distracting more than anything, but hardly among the worst parts of the movie.

The Trade Federation villains like Nute Gunray I’ve always found to be rather uninspired and underwhelming. I’m not expecting every Star Wars movie villain to be at the level of Darth Vader or anything, but I’d like to feel more about them than just “what was the point of them?”. They are after all aside from Darth Maul at the end the ultimate antagonists of the entire movie. I’ve always found the battle droids to be rather unimpressive as physical enemies to the main characters. As much as the Stormtroopers are made fun of because of their terrible aim, they had their moments. Aside from having some large droids, I don’t remember them being particularly threatening at any point in these movies outside of the very large scale battle scenes later on. Ian McDiarmid always delivers as Palpatine/The Emperor, The Phantom Menace establishes him very well in this time period and he absolutely nails all of his scenes. Pretty much everything involving The Emperor in the prequel trilogy was great. We also have Ray Park as Darth Maul who everyone likes, even people who hate The Phantom Menace still highly praised him. He became so popular in fact that he was resurrected in spin off Star Wars stories and media, and even cameoed in Solo. I do wish he was in the movie more and we don’t get any sort of idea of his personality or character and he doesn’t get many lines, but what we get from him is great. He’s got a great and dangerous presence about him, and he’s shown to be quite the adversary in the third act.

George Lucas’s direction is a bit of a mixed bag. With the prequel trilogy, Lucas put an even higher emphasis on CGI, unfortunately the CGI hasn’t really held up all that well. Some moments are okay, some aren’t so much. Most of the practical effects and sets are good, there was actually a lot more practical effects used in this movie than I remember there being. The only parts which distract are the Trade Federation aliens, they just look so lifeless from their blinking to the lip movement. And since we are talking about CGI and aliens, we should probably address Yoda, even if he’s a very small part of the movie. Initially The Phantom Menace had Yoda done through puppeteering, and that sounds good on paper, but something must’ve gone wrong because he looked freakish and creepy. In the updated versions of this movie they replaced him with a CGI Yoda like with what they’ve now done with episodes 2 and 3, and honestly I think it’s better than what it was before. With that said, something seems really off about it, the animation really doesn’t fit the voice at all and it can look quite out of place. CGI not always being great aside, generally the action in The Phantom Menace is filmed well. John Williams’s score across the first 6 movies have remained iconic, no matter how much the prequels are hated. Tracks like Duel of the Fates stick out at as some of the most standout songs from the franchise.

The Phantom Menace is still a mixed bag, but I guess at least I like it more than the last time I saw it. I think there’s a lot here to like, I like some of the expansions of the Star Wars lore and worlds, even if not all of it works I appreciate the efforts. There are also some parts like the third act that I legitimately think are good. However, there are just so many missteps and mistakes made here that really hold the movie back from being as good as it could’ve been. I’m not mad at the movie at all, just disappointed, and I’m unlikely to revisit it that much. Still the worst Star Wars movie, but more average than actually bad.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Review

Time: 135 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Alden Ehrenreich as Han Solo
Woody Harrelson as Tobias Beckett
Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra
Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian
Thandie Newton as Val Beckett
Phoebe Waller-Bridge as L3-37
Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca
Paul Bettany as Dryden Vos
Erin Kellyman appears as Enfys Nest
Jon Favreau as Rio Durant
Director: Ron Howard

Young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers, including a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian (Donald Glover), the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission — the Millennium Falcon.

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I was cautiously optimistic about Solo: A Star Wars Story. I’m a fan of Star Wars, I like all but 2 in the entire series and I’m open to some new ideas. However, a Han Solo movie felt very unnecessary. Not helping was the fact that the original directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, were fired and were replaced by Ron Howard due to ‘creative differences’. Howard then reshot around 70% of the movie. I went into the movie expecting it to be decent at least, and Solo actually surprised me quite a bit, it was very entertaining. It has a great cast that does well in their roles, a story that worked and was unique, separating itself from the other films in the series despite some faults and Ron Howard’s great direction.

A lot of people have been saying that we don’t really need a Han Solo movie, and even after watching the movie I don’t have the feeling that we really needed a Han Solo movie. But I was nonetheless entertained by what we got. Something that separates Solo from the rest of the Star Wars movies is that it expands the borders of the universe beyond that of the Skywalker Saga(s). It focusses more on the underworld side to Star Wars which is something that we don’t really get to see in live action until now. So in that sense it is expanding the Star Wars universe, so whether or not you like the movie, I do think that this is something worth praising. Another thing that separates Solo from the rest of the Star Wars movies is that it doesn’t feel like a lot is at stake, and I mean that in a good way. The stakes in other Star Wars movies are on such a large scale, with planets being destroyed, rebellions struggling to survive against empires, etc., so it felt refreshing to have a more personal story for a Star Wars movie. On the whole the movie is quite fun and has quite a lot of heart to it. No it’s not as risky as The Last Jedi and so it won’t irritate fans for doing something different (it’ll just irritate fans in other was like every Star Wars film after the 1977 original). Some of the things that establish what we know about Han are here. Things which include Han meeting Chewbacca and Lando, getting the Millennium Falcon and more are here. Some of them worked, others… felt kind of forced and didn’t quite work, in particularly how Han gets the name of Solo. There are rumours about there being sequels and I can confirm that Solo: A Star Wars Story does seem to set up for sequels in the way some things are left at the end of the movie. I wouldn’t mind there are sequels honestly, as long as it can bring something fresh and new to the table. I want to see where certain plotlines are going in, Han’s story as he becomes the character we all know and love and explore different areas of the Star Wars universe. There is one moment of fanservice near the end which I liked but it is rather out of place, and unless they follow up on it in another movie it’s going to be completely pointless. Also, for anyone who only knows Star Wars from the movies, they are probably going to find this moment extremely confusing. You will all know what it is when you watch the movie. Solo is about 2 hours and 15 minutes long and at times you can really feel the runtime. The first act I liked but it is a bit of a rocky start, with it being rather slow to begin with. I still really enjoyed the movie from start to finish but really the pacing is only perfect from the point that the film introduces Lando.

I guess one of the first questions that people have is whether the lead actor exceptionally portrayed the titular character, and the answer is yes. Alden Ehrenreich really works as a young Han Solo, he’s not trying to do a Harrison Ford impression but you can see little bits of Ford in his performance. This really is Han Solo as he is starting out, here he is naïve, and he has a good heart (or at least that aspect is shown more prominently here than in his prior appearances by Harrison Ford). By the end he has changed a little but isn’t quite the Han Solo we first saw in A New Hope, in that sense I feel like there’s more story to be told with this young Han (and I’m completely open to it now). The rest of the talented actors are great as well. Donald Glover was a perfect choice for a younger Lando Calrissian. We don’t actually get to see him as much as you’d think but he is great in his scenes. Emilia Clarke and Woody Harrelson were really good in their roles and are welcome additions to the Star Wars universe. Another stand out performance is that of Joonas Suotamo as Chewbacca, Chewbacca in Solo gets to do much more than any of the 6 other Star Wars movies he’s been in. The film shows how him and Han meet and becomes essentiely partners, and you can believe the friendship, despite one of them not speaking a comprehensible language. Other standouts include Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Lando’s droid named L3-37 and a character named Enfys Nest. Some of the other actors like Thandie Newton and Paul Bettany don’t really get to do as much in their roles but they are good in their scenes.

Solo is a fast and exciting movie and Ron Howard’s direction really added something to it. It’s a great looking movie as well, the cinematography by Bradford Young truly blew me away. I was surprised at how beautiful many of the shots were. The CGI was also great, at least on the first viewing there weren’t any out of place/really fake looking CGI. The action scenes are all well directed and are very memorable. The way the camera moves and the smooth direction overall were really effective, whether it be a gun battle, a ship chase or a car chase. An example is a train sequence early in the film which is fast paced, thrilling and exciting. It’s already known that most of the film is Howard’s but as for how much of the film is Lord and Miller’s, I couldn’t really tell, it’s not blatantly obvious as some with other movies with multiple directors. There are probably some moments of humour and dialogue that could possibly be their’s but otherwise nothing stood out on a first viewing. Honestly as bad as the situation was and as much as I hate this happening over creative differences, I am glad that Ron Howard directed it in the end as he did a fantastic job with Solo, and I hope that there he returns to direct the sequels, should they be a thing.

Solo: A Star Wars Story is by no means one of the best Star Wars movies but it is a good one. It’s an exciting sci-fi adventure with Ron Howard’s great direction and the talented actors, and it managed to be a pretty good movie surrounding Han Solo. I would say to give it a chance at least, you may very well end up being surprised by what you see. At the same time I will say to keep your expectations in check, the movie does have some issues, mostly with certain aspects of the story but on the whole, Solo is actually quite good and one of the best surprises of 2018.