Movies: Rogue One Review (or ‘A Proper Prequel To A New Hope’)

December 16, 2016

From the off I feel I should warn you; this Rogue One review contains spoilers. It has to. So if you haven’t seen it yet, close down this page and come back again when you have.

Ok?

Has everyone who needs to go gone?

Good, I’ll begin.

I knew very little of Rogue One going into it. While I knew it was about members of the Rebel Alliance stealing the plans for the Death Star, for some reason I had it in my head that it would take place a few years star-wars-rogue-one-posterbefore the events of A New Hope.

But I was wrong.

And that’s the masterstroke of Rogue One.

It takes place right before it, finally culminating in a scene that actually leads in to the opening scene of the first Star Wars movie.

And in doing so, it has repercussions.

The first is that every heroic character created for this movie dies. They had to, otherwise you could ask why they weren’t in any of the original movies, and I thought it made for a refreshing change to what we’ve come to expect from Hollywood.

We now live in a world where the sequel is king. Nothing of any real consequences happens to the heroes in movies now because they are obviously being protected for a raft of inevitable follow-ups. But here, every character was expendable. They were one-and-done creations that had no use beyond this movie.

So they are all killed off and as a result, Rogue One became more believable and dramatic.

I should point out as well that I was pretty saddened by that despite loving that they ended up dead, because there were some great characters in there, from the Sheldon Cooper-esque K-2SO droid to the fantastic Oriental double act. These were some of the best and most well-rounded characters we’ve seen in the Star Wars universe, but like I say, they had to die.

Anyway, the other main repercussion that stemmed from setting Rogue One right before A New Hope is that certain characters needed to be a part of it.

Obviously Darth Vader was easy enough to bring back, even though he sounded very old thanks to James Earl Jones’s declining voice, but you’d assume that Grand Moff Tarkin might be a little tougher to replace seeing as Peter Cushing is long since dead.

And yet you’d be wrong. I was genuinely shocked to see that for all intents and purposes, Peter Cushing is in this movie. Technical wizardry – a use of CGI that is actually head turning in these days of over-reliance on computer imagery – means that they were able to have another actor play the part and then super-impose Cushing’s head onto him.

It was a bit freaky, but it added so much authenticity to the movie.

You can keep your constant ‘New York gets destroyed’ use of CGI, Hollywood, this is the proper way to use it!

Speaking of CGI, while I’m sure that it was employed all the way through Rogue One, what I liked about this movie was that it seemed like it didn’t rely too heavily on it. Maybe I’m wrong, but a lot of the sets, scenery and worlds it visited looked like they were brought to life with old-fashioned costume and set design. To me that makes a difference; it makes the Star Wars universe seem more complete than the cold and clinical CGI wankfests you see in the likes of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them and the Marvel movies.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Rogue One had an interesting and engrossing plot and a sharp and at times funny script. That’s the most important thing isn’t it?

Even though it lasts for 2hrs14m, it didn’t feel like it dragged at any point.

If I had any complaint, it would be that the inevitable battle scene towards the end went on for a bit, but as I say above, the fact that it had repercussions softened that blow a little bit for me.

So, to sum up, maybe I’m biased because I love Star Wars, and maybe it’s that I’m still on an initial high from seeing it at the cinema, but for me, Rogue One is the best movie of the year.

I won’t bother saying that you should see it, because if you’ve read this far then you must have already.

So do you agree or have I been too generous?


Star Wars – The Force Awakens Review (Spoiler Free): Can It Live Up To The Hype?

December 17, 2015

The problem with any new Star Wars film is that it will likely struggle against the weight of expectation that a passionate and intense fan-base will have for it.

If you ask 100 people what they thought about Episodes 1-3, around 90 will say they didn’t like them.

Episode 1? Sure, I get that.

Episode 2? It has aged terribly thanks to an absolute over-reliance on CGI, and it also had some really bad acting.

But Episode 3? That, for me, was great. Everything that needed to happen in it happened. I’ve watched all six movies over the last week and I enjoyed that one the most.force

Expectation is a big thing though. Anyone who grew up in the 70s or 80s grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy. Are they great films? Well they are very good, set in a rich and well realised universe, but they are hardly brimming with sparkling dialogue or exceptional acting.

But because we watched them time and again growing up, we have a huge softness and affinity for them; perhaps through rose-tinted specs.

Can Star Wars: The Force Awakens compete against those idealised views of what a Star Wars film should be?

Is it as good as fans want it to be?

Or is it just a decent film in its own right?

For this review, I will avoid spoilers completely. After all, it’s only 13:22 on release day in the UK. The chances are many of you won’t have seen it yet, and if you’re anything like me, you probably want to avoid even the slightest indication of what it’s about.

So I’ll abandon my usual format and get straight to the point…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Review – Was It Any Good?

The short answer is yes it was.

By every standard that you would individually measure a film like this on, it came up trumps. It looked great, the acting was fine, the plot moved along briskly, it kept my attention, it combined drama with some comic (but not played for laughs) moments and it had plenty for old fans like me to get a nostalgic kick out of.

The long answer is the key to whether or not it will be remembered by the many as being in the same league as the original trilogy.

As much as there was to praise it for, I think to a large degree this was a retelling of A New Hope. Many aspects of the plot seemed to be lifted out of that to the point where you could question the lack of originality involved.

The same could be said for the characters.

In The Force Awakens you’ve the likes of Rey, Kylo Ren, BB-8 and Snoke who are essentially Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, R2D2 and The Emperor with a new lick of paint. And while Rey (the very good Daisy Ridley) and BB-8 are more than a match for their original counterparts, the villains aren’t a patch on what came before them. The fact that they have tried to replicate Vader and Palpatine is slightly baffling; they were never going to be as good.

But I suppose to have the same type of villain is the safe choice.

And that’s what The Force Awakens is; it’s safe. It plays to what has worked well in the past without trying to push the boundaries or be unique.

Is that what the Star Wars franchise needed to get back on track? Probably.

Will fans like it when they see it? Yes.

Will those same fans look back on it in 5 or 10 years time and talk about it in the same breath as Episodes IV – VI? For the reasons I’ve already mentioned, probably not.

But I still enjoyed it, and will likely go to see it at the cinema again.

And that – as far as I’m concerned – is a mark of quality.