Star Wars: The Last Jedi

ratings5

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the latest installment in the most popular film franchise of all time, and I can’t tell you anything else about this one, because if you’re a huge fan like me and most of the world’s population, you don’t need a plot description to get you to go see it. This movie picks up right after The Force Awakens left off, and as soon as the movie begins, the return to the galaxy which the world has grown to love over the last 40 years feels intriguing from the first scene. Like its predecessor, The Last Jedi is completely unpredictable and this one is even more different than the last film.

The cast once again knocks it out of the park, from the original characters portrayed by Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher, the returning characters from the previous sequel including Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac, and new additions to the universe played by Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran. Hamill is as terrific as he’s ever been as Luke Skywalker, the most beloved hero in the history of cinema. His performance and his character’s arc over the last forty years has been tremendous, and the addition to his arc here is an unexpected turn which Hamill portrays so well, as he expresses the loss of heroism and his giving up of hope after a mistake he made prior to the events of the trilogy. Fisher’s scenes are great as well, and her final film performance that was shot before her tragic death last year is poignant and the film does her justice, paying tribute to her like it should. If you loved Daisy Ridley as our new protagonist Rey, you won’t be disappointed in the path she takes in this movie, as her journey through the ways of the Force continues under Luke’s guidance. Ridley does a terrific job conveying the emotional conflict her character experiences and how she finds her place in the battle of good against evil. Driver is back as the menacing and superb antagonist of Kylo Ren, who is a complicated villain but perfectly developed, and experiences changes after he did something in the last movie that shocked us all. We root for the good guys and against him but we feel that he isn’t all-evil like his master Snoke, speaking of whom is very intimidating and well-acted by Andy Serkis. John Boyega as defected stormtrooper Finn is another one of my favorite members of the cast, and although the storyline he has with new character Rose isn’t as compelling as the rest of the film, Finn is still a character we enjoy going on an adventure with thanks to his great writing and acting from the awesome Boyega who had his breakout when he first played the character two years ago. Isaac as Poe Dameron has more to do this time around, and his clashes with authority and his morals are interesting to explore. Of course, expect appearances from your favorite creatures like the lovable wookie Chewbacca, droids such as C3P0, R2-D2, and BB-8, the adorable new birds from Luke’s planet known as the Porgs, and a shocking appearance from one of everyone’s favorite Star Wars characters.

As a middle installment that has the expectations as many set as high as Empire Strikes Back, The Last Jedi definitely reaches those standards for what has been set with The Force Awakens, which introduced us to this magnificent new setting within the universe we already love, and here we dive deeper into those characters and experience some dark twists and turns on the way. Many fan theories have been developed ever since everyone saw the first film in this new trilogy two years ago, but no theory was able to predict the events that happen in this movie. I loved J.J. Abrams’ direction of Episode VII, and although he will return for the last installment in the trilogy, this one is directed by Rian Johnson, who previously directed the high school mystery Brick and the sci-fi thriller Looper. Johnson does a very impressive job building on what’s already happened and bringing to life the new planets and settings. The cinematography is beautiful and so are the visual effects, capturing the memorable action scenes and sets magnificently, just like a Star Wars movie should. Reception from fans has been mixed, but I can’t see why. I was on the very edge of my seat for the entire movie, and stunned at what this had to offer. It’s risk-taking, unpredictable, and deprived of the familiar 3-act story structure, making it even more suspenseful, and it’s got plenty of originality for the eighth film in a franchise. It holds onto what people have loved about the series since 1977, but it still has room for lots of creativity and trust me, I was quite shocked by what happened in this film. It’s not the cheerful blockbuster that most big studio sequels are nowadays, but it’s a dark, thrilling epic that will have everyone, Star Wars fan or not, cheering throughout.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the movie everyone will be going crazy about, and whether or not you like these films, you really should see the definitive blockbuster of the year. As an enormous fan of the series, I was not let down by the amazement I got here. Star Wars has brought people together all around the world since the first film was released 40 years ago, and this movie brings back what fans have loved since then but also lots of surprises. Although a few minor moments/plot points were weaker than others, the cast, visuals, story, writing, and emotion redeem the film, and at best this is an epic and marvelous sequel that is strong with the force.

Star Wars The Last Jedi.jpg

Advertisements

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

ratings4

Set before the events of the original Star WarsRogue One follows Jyn Erso, whose past connects her to the Empire and the construction of the Death Star, as she joins a team of Rebels on a seemingly hopeless mission to steal the plans to the Death Star and stop the Empire from using it to take over the galaxy.

Rogue One is definitely the movie that all Star Wars fans, including myself, have been waiting to watch this year. I was excited to watch this movie like any fan would be, but I was slightly skeptical as this is Lucasfilm’s first Star Wars spin-off. I was mostly satisfied with what I got. By no means does it reach the heights of The Force Awakens, but my inner Star Wars fan had a blast watching Rogue One. The impressive action sequences, terrific cast, and gorgeous visual effects make this film a treat to watch on the big screen. The style feels somewhat different than what we’ve received in previous films of the saga, and the action doesn’t feel too similar or borrowed, either. There’s a different approach to the violence and buildup because of this movie’s efforts to feel like a grounded war film, which it succeeds at very well. The fight scenes which include the classic X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter battles, Stormtrooper-filled shootouts, and other nostalgic callbacks are all shot and directed very well by Godzilla director Gareth Edwards, whose ambition for this story and franchise mostly pays off. Felicity Jones plays a strong female lead with a great backstory and lots of reasons to root for her. She and costar Diego Luna both bring lots of fun to their characters and carried the film very well, although Luna’s Captain Cassian Andor could have used more development. Ben Mendelsohn stars as an antagonist who opposes Jones and brought a great new character to life through his interesting performance. The supporting cast, including Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, and Alan Tudyk are all phenomenal, although some of the heroes we are rooting for aren’t fully realized and lacked some of the development that I wanted from them. You’ll definitely also recognize Forest Whitaker in an over-the-top but fun and key role in the film.

Although Rogue One‘s visual appeal and high enjoyment level make this a must for all fans of the series, it fell slightly below my expectations. Like I said before, not many of the characters are fully developed and although they’re all awesome to watch on screen, some of the writing for their backstories and motivations were missing. The opening act is too rushed and passes by a lot, with editing that could have been stretched out a little longer and scenes that could have been made more memorable and meaningful. The film just kept getting better as the run-time went on, though, with the themes soon becoming more powerful and relevant and the style becoming more distinct than the previous films. The final act of the film is when I was really convinced that this was the Star Wars film we deserved – the last 45 minutes alone are worth the ticket price, perfectly setting up the original movies and giving us a great touch of what we love from ’70’s and ’80’s sci-fi. Rogue One also features tons of memorable cameos from our favorite characters from 1977 and onward, which is guaranteed to be nostalgic for all audiences. With its surprisingly thoughtful and interesting themes that younger viewers will enjoy as well, and a spirit that brings us back to the golden age of sci-fi cinema, Rogue One will not disappoint Star Wars fans looking for a serviceable spin-off with a satisfying plot, cast ensemble, and jaw-dropping nostalgia.

Packed with great action and visual effects, as well as a strong cast and themes, Rogue One is the prequel all Star Wars fans have wanted since 1999. It’s not as great as I think it could have been, as some characters are underdeveloped and the editing and pacing could have been more effective in the first act, but overall, Rogue One is a must-see for all fans of the saga and one of the most entertaining action films this year.

Rogue One, A Star Wars Story poster.png