Thursday, 14 December 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

How to talk about this film? Especially right now while it’s new and people want to be kept in the dark about everything. I’m going to play things a bit differently today, to keep this review SPOILER FREE I am not going to talk about any plot, but instead just my experience of the film and the non-specific elements that worked and didn’t. I hope it doesn’t come across as too vague but you need to see this film without knowing anything prior because there are moments in The Last Jedi that you are only ever going to experience once.
There is nothing more exciting than experiencing a new Star Wars film, I’m a bit of cliché’, it was this franchise that kick started my obsession with film and storytelling leading me down the road I am on now; an aspiring screenwriter. There’s a lot of hype on my end when going into the cinema to see a new Star Wars film and there definitely was a lot of it last night when I went to the midnight screening. Because of this hype, expectations can sometimes be set too high, it is just a film after all, and history has proven it is difficult to make a Star Wars film that is going to please everyone. And this film is not going to please all fans. I will hold my hands up and say that for the first half of this film, I was enjoying it, but I was not blown away by it. It’s fast paced and action packed but it lacks an edge or an element of something to grip you, to make you feel you are truly watching something special, however this does change, most notably in the third act when every story, every character, every piece of set up begins to get paid off, and paid off, and paid off. And the pay offs are some of the best Star Wars moments in the franchise. I had to control my excitement in the cinema at times as I grinned from ear to ear, it elevates the film to something greater and surpasses expectations, both good and bad.
This is going to be a film that gets talked about a lot, there’s a lot of controversial decisions made for the sake of the story and characters that not every audience member will be on board for. Even I had my gripes with some though I am generally more forgiving since this franchise was built on crazy ideas and they should not be playing it safe as they try to make this something new. Talking of which, this film is not a carbon copy of The Empire Strikes Back like many, including myself feared, there are elements (it’s like poetry after all!) but I would say this film is part Empire, part Return and part its own off the walls, insane thing. There are parts that feel like Star Wars and parts that feel completely different, and not all those parts work, there is some disjointedness along the way but the overall product is very much its own film, it doesn’t even feel like a middle chapter with no beginning or no end, and I am so glad that Director Rian Johnson has been able to pull this off.

An incredible score, great cinematography and mostly awesome special effects are something to be expected from Star Wars now, but what blew me over this time were the performance’s from the cast, both new and old. This is very much a character based story and everybody gets their time to shine as layer upon layer is added to increase the richness of each, which in turns helps push the plot to new and interesting avenues. You’ll hear a lot of talk about Mark Hamil’s performance over the next few weeks, and rightfully so, but the real MVP’s for me were Carrie Fisher and Adam Driver as General Leia and Kylo Ren. Carrie Fisher didn’t blow me away in The Force Awakens so I was slightly worried about her having a larger role in The Last Jedi but I was not to be concerned, she was incredible, she acts her ass off and delivers some of the most amazing and soon to be iconic moments of the film/saga. Her passing last year was a very sad and painful time for a lot of fans but to see her play this character to the fullest and near stealing the show whilst doing so is an amazing tribute to her. And now on to Adam Driver, if you didn’t like his character in The Force Awakens (I still think he was the best thing about that film as well though…), get ready to have your mind changed as he plays the most interesting villain the franchise has ever had. He takes Kylo to new heights, adding so many dimensions to the character and really stealing everybody’s thunder whenever he’s on screen. Big blockbuster films need to take a page out of this films book when it comes to creating compelling and relatable villains. I don’t usually try and campaign for Oscars for pop culture films because it rarely ever happens (or deserved, which is usually the case), but his performance in this film is probably my favourite of any this year, he honestly blew me away and it would be a shame if he didn’t get any recognition for it.

Overall this film has a few problems but with a third act that pays off in such a satisfying way and whole host of characters developing in unique and interesting paths; this film is still a very, very good film. It’s a film about mistakes and becoming better because of them, something that could be said for the series as a whole and this film overall. Rian Johnson has made an amazing Star Wars film that’s packed with so much content that I’m happy we’re getting a two-year break before the next one just to process it all. And talking of processing, this film is definitely going to need a re-watch before any views of mine are fully solidified, there’s just too much going on to react to it all but upon a first watch, I am rating The Last Jedi a 4.5/5.

What did you think of episode 8? Better than Empire or worse than Clones? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Thor: Ragnarok

I’ve been waiting to see this one for a little while now and to start with, this is a great film to watch in the cinema, especially with a large crowd which, even after a few weeks of being out, my cinema had. As great a ride as it was, it wasn’t without its flaws.

Marvel has had a shaky time with Thor, his films have been released to a mixed response but the characters are still very much beloved in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Third time round the studio decided to hire Taika Waititi to direct Ragnarok, the brilliant New Zealander who directed films like What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. And Waititi definitely brought his humorous style of filmmaking with him. When a director as unique and original as Waititi comes along, you expect a different flavour of film and Ragnarok definitely feels like Waititi in the dialogue department. However, it doesn’t really do anything different with Marvel’s formula of storytelling, despite poking fun at it throughout.

There’s signs that Marvel are changing their ways; female characters aren’t love interests (and are allowed to be villains), Earth doesn’t have to play a significant role, the film has some weird and wacky design elements and the old cast is out for a new take on the god of thunder. However, the story is just another case of the big bad being bad and the hero needs to stop the big bad in the final act. There’s a lot of fun to be had in between the setup and the conclusion but ultimately this is another film that follows the basic tropes of what Marvel has already perfected many a time. Spider-Man: Homecoming looked to be the start of a different kind of Marvel film but ultimately we’ve gone a step backwards with Ragnarok. If I hadn’t enjoyed the comedy and characters so much then I might have disliked this one a lot more.

This film really does rest on its characters backs. Chris Hemsworth proving once again he’s a comic to be reckoned with, with his brilliant timing and almost Monty Python esque Thor. Tom Hiddleston kills it as Loki again although that was always to be expected. Cate Blanchett hams it up in a good way as Hela and although the villain is better than most of the bad guys Marvel has put on the big screen, she still didn’t feel iconic enough to be classed as a truly great antagonist. Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie was a very cool addition to the cast, she’s a drunk and a badass, it’s a fun combination. Mark Ruffalo returns with a more developed version of The Hulk and Jeff Goldblum essentially plays himself and it’s a much-welcomed addition to the franchise.

The middle act of the film is primarily set on the planet Sakaar, a junkyard planet with weird and wonderful characters and some odd and medieval cultures. This section of the film is the best, it’s a love letter to artist Jack Kirby and also features some great synth scores. This should have been the film in my opinion, with Hela maybe left to make an impact in the future and the crazy adventures of Thor, Hulk and Valkyrie the main show.

I feel like I’m criticising a film I enjoyed watching, so if nothing else, Thor: Ragnarok is a Saturday morning cartoon come to life complete with some cartoon-y CGI. It’s a fun ride, it’s got a lot of humour but the story just might feel a little familiar after sitting through seventeen entries in the franchise. Mix it up Marvel, we’re going to watch a film with your name on it either way. However, the characters endure and are a joy to watch together as well as being very funny. I’m rating Thor: Ragnarok a 3.5/5.

What did you think of the film, the best Thor of the bunch or the worst? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!