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Star Wars: The Last Jedi [Film Review with Spoilers]

Film Score: 2 out of 5 (Below Average)

Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Benicio Del Toro, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Domhnall Gleeson, & Laura Dern

Director: Rian Johnson

Synopsis: Taking place directly after the events of The Force AwakensThe Last Jedi encompasses three story lines: the First Order who is attempting to vanquish the dwindling Resistance forces, the Resistance who is struggling for survival, and Rey who has located Luke Skywalker and is beseeching him to train her in the ways of the Force. All the major characters return from the The Force Awakens sans Han Solo (pour one out for the galaxy’s best smuggler). The Last Jedi runs for a two hours and a half making it the longest movie in the Star Wars saga. Sadly, that is not a good thing.

——————– Spoilers Ahead ——————–

 

 

 

Some people have praised Rian Johnson for taking Star Wars in a new direction. But I ask, did the movie even leave its docking station? The plot largely rotated around the First Order hunting down the Resistance’s remaining forces who were packed into three vessels that were running out of fuel. This meant that the Resistance could only stay outside of the First Order’s short range fighters (which for some reason did more damage to the Resistance fleet than the First Order armada’s heavy artillery? I think this was due to the fact that their TIE fighters could penetrate the Resistance’s shields?). This charade continued for two thirds of the movie. I kept wondering if the First Order lost the the plans to the Empire’s tractor beam technology. The Death Star sucked in the Millennium Falcon while the space station was so far away it appeared to be just a small moon. Even if the tractor beam wasn’t strong enough to pull in Leia’s smaller vessels, couldn’t Snoke’s flagship stall them? Or could the First Order not hail one of their dreadnoughts? Hyperspace jumps only take an hour or so. I realize I may appear to be arguing a trivial point, but THE ENTIRE MOVIE revolved around this chase. It bored me and removed “the fun” that so many people love in Star Wars films .

I longed for the scenes on Ahch-To, the planet where Luke hid for the entirety of The Force Awakens (TFA). On the planet, Luke slowly caves to Rey’s wishes to train her. This plot line held the most promise, yet turned out to be the most disappointing. In Rey’s first lesson in the Force, Luke asks her to feel it in all its vastness. Rey sees the Light side, the energy of the Force, every place it resides, and finally, she sees the Dark side. It reaches out to her and she immediately heeds its call. Her failure to resist its beckoning frightens Luke and it gave me hope this movie would not be a knock off of The Empire Strikes Back as TFA largely mimicked A New Hope. Rey going to the Dark side or at least testing the waters of the darkness with the possibility of Kylo turning to the Light would lead to new territory for Star Wars. However, this plot line never formed. Instead, when Rey journeyed to the place on the island where the Dark side resided it turned out to be an infinite mirror that failed (or refused?) to tempt Rey. That’s not the Dark side that existed in previous entries into the Star Wars canon. The Dark side always tempts. It makes Force-sensitive beings long for their darkest or most selfish desires. I also hoped (even though it would be a copy of Empire) that Rey would face a trial in Dark side pit like the test Luke faced in the cave on Dagobah.

luke v vaderYoda testing Luke in The Empire Strikes Back

There were many other aspects that irked me about The Last Jedi. I felt the concept of Leia surviving a proton torpedo, space, and then unconsciously Force pulling herself to safety was ridiculous and it looked even more silly watching it. The movie’s humor elicited laughter from me and everyone in the theater, but seconds after the laughter quieted, I realized it pulled away from the gravity of certain scenes. The one at the top of my mind was Poe’s “I’ll hold for Hux” that occurred at the outset of the movie. It subtracted from the fact that the diversion he was creating was saving the entire Resistance movement. I read one review that stated, “If the characters in the movie cannot take these life and death situations seriously, how is the audience supposed to?” I felt the film’s humor that also arose in TFA seemed more in the vein of a Marvel film. That’s not to say I disliked all the humor. I thought Chewie chowing down on a roasted porg as its former brethren looked on was fitting and hilarious (Yes, I liked the Porgs. No, they did not subtract from the film the way the Ewoks and Jar-Jar unhappily diverted my attention away from previous films’ plots.).

Snoke. Why did Johnson have to kill off Snoke so soon? I thought he was one of the more brilliant creations of J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan from TFA. He raised questions like who is he? How’d he find Kylo? How’d he come to become Supreme Leader of the First Order? What’s his role with the Knights of Ren? What happened to the Knights anyways? Some naysayers may counter that audiences seeing Return of the Jedi never got that satisfaction with Emperor Palpatine. Unlike Palpatine, learning more about Snoke would have driven the plot and helped me better understand Kylo’s motivations to turn to the Dark side. Sure, Snoke tempted him after he fled Luke’s Jedi academy, but how did Snoke learn Kylo’s heritage and make him want to succeed his grandfather? One of my friends pointed out to me that killing Snoke in this film will allow Kylo (a highly conflicted character) to lead the First Order, something never before seen in the Star Wars saga. I agree, this could potentially be an exciting point, but I still feel cheated by Snoke’s quick death.

Now, what I’m about to say next some will accuse me of heresy, but it needs to be said. One of the elements that was instrumental in making the original trilogy iconic was John Williams score. However, in this film, besides his old themes (i.e. Luke’s theme, the opening crawl, etc.) his songs started to sound generic. I don’t know if he’s getting too old or if he was as bored with the film as I was, but I found his newer themes lacking.

The moment where The Last Jedi truly lost me happened when Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) “saved” Finn as he was trying to sacrifice himself so the Resistance could escape the clutches of the First Order. After “saving him, she gave some speech that sounded ridiculous and is currently eluding me but roughly it was “We have to live otherwise our cause is for naught.”  If Luke hadn’t shown up, by saving Finn she would have handed over the remainder of the Resistance to the First Order, which undercuts her speech. In both scenarios someone was going to die, yet with her interference, she consigned her brethren to almost certain death.

The Last Jedi was not a total loss. I loved the fact that Johnson brought back Yoda (thankfully the non-CGI Yoda from Empire) and I thought the advice he gave Luke was timely. The Force tunnel between Rey and Kylo was a new use of the Force and allowed the two characters to bond and show some of their weaknesses. Thank god Adam Driver is in this film. He brings sympathy to Kylo’s struggle, showing the character’s turmoil to make the right choices in light of masters who betray him. The hyperspace attack by Laura Dern’s character Vice Admiral Holdo was visually stunning and gloriously captured. The pinnacle of the movie was Rey and Kylo’s lightsaber fight with Snoke’s Praetorian guard and Kylo’s decision to stay in the Dark side immediately after. I don’t think there has been a more kickass fight in the history of Star Wars.

Sadly, these elements were not enough for me to enjoy The Last Jedi. By the end, I felt like the Resistance: beaten down with a poor outlook on the future. To be completely honest, I don’t care what happens to any of these characters in Episode IX. The Last Jedi sucked the fun out of Star Wars. Hopefully, Solo will win me back. If you enjoyed the film more than me, and want to read a positive review, Saul thoroughly enjoyed it. You can read his review here.

By Hagood Grantham

For trailer, see below.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review (Positive with No Spoilers)

Film Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer, Oscar Isaacs, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie, Domhall Gleeson, Laura Dern, Beneicio Del Toro, Kelly Marie Tran, Anthony Daniels

Synopsis: Immediately after The Force Awakens, the Galactic Republic is no more following the use of Starkiller Base’s superweapon. Hounded by the superior power of the First Order, the Resistance is a remnant struggling for survival. Against this backdrop, Rey (Daisy Ridley) struggles to adapt to her new powers despite finding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

A film’s purpose is to push the audience, to guide us into the unexpected and therein find resonance with the tale. The Last Jedi does its job very well. Pushing the viewer between dismay and revelation, The Last Jedi leaves you in awe when the credits roll. Upending characters, uprooting expectations and ladened with twists, The Last Jedi is a stark contrast to The Force Awaken’s recycled nostalgia. The grandiose orchestra between good versus evil which has been Star War’s hallmark is sidelined. In its stead, The Last Jedi is a thread of different characters’ parallel journeys between the past and the future. Rian Johnson’s focus on characters moulds The Last Jedi into a film not seen before in Star Wars.  

A bold departure from the franchise’s foundations, The Last Jedi will be praised for its maturity and originality in the years to come. In the present, Rian Johnson’s choices will disgruntle and divide fans expecting a rehash. An absence of answers to questions raised two years ago will cause many, myself included, to feel cheated by differing degrees . Viewers of Looper will notice Rian Johnson’s repeated error of focusing on characters over plot details. This mistake pushes The Last Jedi to commit the worst sin of The Star Wars prequels, outright omissions and references to unknown past events which steal away much needed exposition. The differing fate of two major characters at The Last Jedi’s conclusion veers away from the rest of the film’s commitment to originality. Yet in the moment of viewing, all misgivings dissolve away in the rush of pure adventure amid a galaxy far, far away.

I watched the original Star Wars trilogy on VHS. I remember The Return of the Jedi beginning as the tape unspooled in the machine. Luke Skywalker appeared and  I knew he would be victorious. Silent and collected, draped in the black attire of a Jedi, Skywalker emanated an invulnerability and a purpose regardless of his surroundings. The Last Jedi swipes away all certainties. Every character is conflicted, their purpose tested and their perceptions of the world ultimately changed. From Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaacs) to Luke Skywalker, The Last Jedi is a lesson taught across different characters about what strength, weakness, and success really mean. Through this lesson, the characters learn who they really are. Atop this moment of conviction or failure is layer of moral ambiguity alongside a willingness to kill off characters.

Despite the desperate times humour pervades The Last Jedi.  A lot of the gags bear Johnson’s hand as his previous film Looper does have its laughs. Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron have their expected comedic moments but more unexpected jokes come from Luke and Leia (Carrie Fisher). Leia’s interactions with Poe as both teacher and friend have their chuckles. Luke has the goofy kookiness of an exile which Yoda displayed in The Empire Strikes Back. Part of Luke’s comedy comes from Rian Johnson letting Mark Hamill be himself, especially when he interacts with his old droid companions.

From extras to old favourites, every actor and actress excels in their role. Adam Driver bears a menacing teenage angst as Kylo Ren, without wallowing in the self pity which rendered Anakin Skywalker needlessly morose. Some of my favourite moments in The Last Jedi were the exchanges between Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Kylo Ren. Unlike the originals which did not develop the relationship between Darth Vader and the Emperor; Snoke treates Kylo as a student, offering him kernels of wisdom between rebukes. Growing up watching Batman cartoons and others, only to discover Mark Hamill was behind many of the voices, proved to me that he was a great actor. The Last Jedi will prove to many beyond the cartoon world that Hamill is just as good as any major star today.

Only one character falls flat despite the actress’ great performance. The character Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and her arc underscore my personal issue with The Last Jedi, that Rian Johnson’s voice is bookended by J.J.Abrams and Disney. The overlap creates a disjointed transition between two directors creating different films with no shared source material. Atop of this is Disney ultimately dictating events. Following a spectacular opening space battle which may be Johnson’s best visual work, Rose arrives. Throughout her arc, Rose exudes an artifice, a clear purpose to create emotion and add meaning. Despite the actress’ attempts Rose never feels genuine, feeling more like a mouthpiece for what we are supposed to feel rather being a real person. This is contrasted by DJ (Benecio Del Toro), a character introduced in the same plot who with fewer words, conveys what he is meant to yet still belongs to this universe. Rose’s conclusion and its effect on The Last Jedi, while building on Johnson’s themes, were an artificial insertion preparing for the final instalment. Rather than bind me closer to the story, Rose’s purpose as an emotional device intermittently brought back all disbelief.

Certain moments in The Last Jedi were clear attempts to prepare for episode IX, with one scene causing me to cackle and remember I was in a small cinema screen full of people requiring cough medicine. Beyond Rose are a lack of answers to mysteries from The Force Awakens. Major plot details gain no explanation and earlier details from prior films are overlooked. Yet The Last Jedi never feels threadbare. Johnson’s talent for characters and visual knack distracts from the flaws until the film ends.

Looper had a visual imagery grounded in the minute which weaved into the past and the future of the story. In The Last Jedi, Johnson’s attentiveness imbues Star Wars with a vividness close to Blade Runner. Surveying every payload in a rebel bomber during the opening battle immerses you in this grand scale event. Johnson’s use of wide angle lenses and inclusion of the actors’ full body in the frame gave lightsaber battles a fluid poetry. Never have these alien lands felt so real.

I am giving The Last Jedi 4 out of 5 stars. Rian Johnson had the onerous task of the new trilogy, to go beyond the old and forge something new. Star Wars is moving beyond George Lucas, transcending what we expect from the franchise. When episode IX releases, The Last Jedi can be praised as middle chapter in Star Wars’ new generation.

For those who have seen the film and disagree with my review, Hagood’s reaction was the complete opposite to mine. It can be read here.

By Saul Shimmin

For the trailer, see below:

Star Wars: The Last Jedi [Official Trailer]

Ok. Wow. WHAT. Those were my first thoughts after I first watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s official trailer. It is chock full of twists or what the trailer editors made us die-hard fans believe are plot twists. In this post I want to put down my thoughts and theories about what some of these twists could be, and then both Saul and I would love to hear your theories.

  1. During Snoke’s voice over, I came to wonder who is he speaking to? His words were, “When I found you, I saw RAW, untamed power and beyond that, something truly special.” During his monologue, the trailer mainly displays footage of Kylo. However, as Snoke’s words are echoing away, Rey appears, igniting her saber. We know from later in the trailer that Snoke and Rey finally meet and it appears Snoke tries to break her through torture. Why couldn’t Snoke’s speech actually be directed at Rey? Maybe he’s making it as he’s attempting to make her feel special since she sounds lost and seeking guidance. If you’re thinking “Snoke could not have ‘found her,’ she was on Jakku and after that she went to the find Luke. When could he have ‘found her.'” I’d reply, who put Rey on Jakku? Where did Rey come from? Who are her parents? Maybe Snoke is her father or creator much as Palpatine was Anakin’s likely creator. Or possibly Snoke stole Rey from her real parents and placed her on Jakku till he was ready to tap into her power. I admit this theory is far-fetched, so if Snoke was indeed speaking to Kylo, it sounds like he’s dressing down Kylo in disappointment. For instance, “You [Kylo] were so great when I found you, so full of potential. And you’ve done nothing with it.” Could this be the origin of Kylo’s return to the Light side? Maybe Snoke is favoring Rey over Kylo and drives Kylo back to Luke and draws Rey to him.
  2. Rey pleads to Luke: “Something. Inside me has always been there. But now it’s awake. And I need help.” We all know the Force is unbelievably strong in Rey after she dominated Kylo at the end of The Force Awakens. I believe it was in this fight that Rey realized her full power and even the existence of the Dark side, since hatred can be seen on her face after the defeats Kylo. Luke also quickly realizes her power and appears to abandon her because he doesn’t want to unleash that power like he did with Ben/Kylo. The trailer shows us the price of that mistake: his temple decimated in flames and his padawans slain. If Luke does abandon Rey, this act would be doubly powerful because she already felt disowned by her parents after they left her on Jakku and she’s begging Luke for guidance as a potential father-figure. Maybe this is the motivation for her turning to Kylo and possibly Snoke.

screen-shot-2017-10-09-at-10-26-25-pm-e1507602636520

Luke realizing Rey’s full power and potential for both Good and Evil

3. Kylo’s words, “Let the past die. Kill it,” intrigued me. This voice over occurred as he was supposedly speeding towards Leia’s flagship with a payload of torpedoes to kill her. I say supposedly because there were so many cuts that it’s impossible to know if Leia was actually on the ship Kylo was targeting. I believe, this voice over, once again, could be aimed at someone else at a completely different moment in the movie. Who is Kylo talking to? Luke? Leia? Snoke? Rey? I’m wagering he’s talking to Rey and attempting to sway her to the Dark side. I’d be curious if he was talking to Snoke. If it were Snoke, which past does Kylo mean? His past with his parents, Han & Leia, his time with Luke at the temple, or his Dark side tutelage under Snoke with the Knights of Ren? If he’s talking about his time in the Light with Han, Leia, and Luke then that means he’s just continuing down the path of the Dark side after murdering his father in The Force Awakens. He probably is considering blowing up Leia if that’s the case. If he’s talking about his time as Snoke’s apprentice then he could be renouncing his Darkness and returning to the Light. Smashing his helmet could be Kylo’s rejection of his attempts to turn to the Dark side. However, this action could also portray his hatred for his grandfather, Vader, who he was trying to mimic with the helmet. Maybe Snoke told him he ended up turning to the Light as he was dying and this enraged Kylo so much that he wanted to kill his past. There is not enough information in the trailer for us to know which path Kylo chooses, and I applaud Disney for not giving us any more.

4. My favorite line from the trailer was Luke’s. He said it as he was on his back, speaking to someone above him. My guess is that it’s Rey who is about to leave Luke. He warns her, “This is not going to go the way you think.” This statement harkens back to The Empire Strikes Back when Luke left Dagobah to fight Vader in Cloud City and save his friends. Yoda and Obi-Wan both warn Luke he is not ready to face Vader. I think this line is Luke warning Rey that whatever “this” is, that she is ill-prepared. Maybe she’s going to face Kylo or maybe it’s Snoke. In Empire, Vader tried to tempt Luke to the Dark in Cloud City. Maybe whoever Rey faces will make the same attempt, but will Rey be strong enough to stay with the Light? The ending of the trailer gives a deafening no as Kylo extends his hand.

Star Wars poster

The new The Last Jedi poster released yesterday with the trailer

I will end there. Each time I rewatch the trailer another tid-bit or line catches my eye or ear. Frankly, there is too little information for any of us to draw definite conclusions about the plot or outcomes of The Last Jedi. I am so happy Disney, Lucasfilm, Rian Johnson, and Kathleen Kennedy refused to give us fans much more than this.

vf-benicio-del-toro-feaured

Benicio del Toro’s character, DJ

Personally, I still have plenty of questions. Like what did Snoke mean by “Fulfill your destiny.”? How does he know what Rey’s destiny is? Where was Benicio del Toro’s character, DJ? Where will Laura Dern’s character, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, fit in? What planet does the bad ass battle take place with the new AT-AT’s and the Mad Max land speeders? Why is Finn back in First Order fatigues? What is the spark that Poe is talking about? A trailer is supposed to raise such questions without providing answers. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t hypothesize and make our own plots and theories. Saul and I would love to hear yours. Please leave them in the comments below.

By Hagood Grantham

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi [Behind the Scenes Trailer]

Today, July 15, in its measured roll-out in anticipation of The Last Jedi‘s December release, Disney delivered its second “trailer” for the film. While it is not a real trailer, the short video reveals just under three minutes of riveting tid-bits. We’ll discuss some key aspects of it below, but first, here is the trailer:

Key aspects:

  1. During their interviews, Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill hint that The Last Jedi will depart from the Star Wars norm. I, and I’m sure many other fans, would welcome such a departure after The Force Awakens highly derivative plot.
  2. In a brief clip, Kylo Ren appears in front of an elevator and walkway that looks incredibly similar to The Emperor’s throne room in Return of the Jedi. Maybe we will meet Snoke here, face-to-face. But once again, I hope this does not indicated that Rian Johnson is ripping off the earlier films like J. J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan did with Awakens.
  3. Who are the Stormtroopers with the black, First Order emblem emblazoned on their arms and wielding weird claw weapons?
  4. This video is laden with intriguing creatures and characters. I hope they mean that multiple, rich and well-thought out planets will fill The Last Jedi, unlike the two, rather boring planets from The Force Awakens.
  5. I’m extremely excited to meet Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro’s characters who we see for a few seconds in the trailer. The only thing I know about del Toro’s character is that people call him DJ. I also know he was a bad ass in Sicario so hopefully his savageness will carry over.
  6. We see Finn exiting his bacta tank so he is obviously alive and Kylo doesn’t appear too badly injured from the slash Rey dealt him at the end of Awakens. Also, who are the two young gentle sparring with him? Possibly, Luke’s padawans that Kylo and the Knights of Ren massacred? Rey seems to also have some sword fighting ahead.

Sorry if I criticiseThe Force Awakens too much here, but after each viewing, I dislike it more and more. Its dialogue failed to fit into the Star Wars universe, its world building seemed lazy, and, as I mentioned earlier, its plot relied way too heavily on A New Hope‘s.

I have high hopes for this installment, in no small part to Rian Johnson.I hope his skill at film making remains iconic and deft in this endeavor into the Star Wars universe.

Kenobi [Movie Poster]

First of all, this movie is not real. Not yet. It’s a fan-made poster, but, according to The Hollywood Reporter, it has gained serious traction among Star Wars fans on reddit.

obiwan posters

Twenty-year old British artist Tom Lathom-Sharp created the poster. He posits George Miller in the director chair. You probably best know Miller for his latest film, Mad Max: Fury Road. With the spaghetti western/Tarantino aesthetic Lathom-Sharp imbues the poster, Miller is a perfect choice. He also credits Tyler Sheridan as the movie’s writer, but no notable Tyler Sheridan exists. When I Googled Tyler Sheridan, “Did you mean Taylor Sheridan?” popped up. I want to ask Lathom-Sharp the same question because if he did mean Taylor Sheridan then this movie would likely be the most likely Star Wars film to win Best Picture since A New Hope. Taylor Sheridan is known for his writing credits on modern-western powerhouse films like Sicario and Hell or High Water. The combination of George Miller and Sheridan on any film would attract major attention. Get them to collaborate on a Star Wars film, Kathleen Kennedy would be looking at a rare breed of critical darling and blockbuster.

Even though the Star Wars community desires a Kenobi movie and Ewan McGregor said, “I’d be happy to do it, if they want to do it” that does not necessarily mean Lucasfilm will create an Obi-Wan standalone film. This is because Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Story Group, a writer’s room tasked with keeping Star War’s timeline in check, must approve any idea or movie concept and make sure it can seamlessly weave into their overarching narrative. They have already approved a Marvel comic chronicling Obi-Wan’s time on Tatooine called Star Wars #7, so maybe they’d be open to expanding upon Obi-Wan’s time as Luke’s invisible guardian or translating the comic’s action onto film.

Such an action from the Group is not unthinkable. 2016’s Rogue One, the first Star Wars anthology film, bloomed from an idea Lucasfilm creative director John Knoll had while watching A New Hope’s opening title crawl. Even though Knoll is a higher-up at Lucasfilm, Rogue One proves that the Story Group is open to outside ideas. Maybe someone within Lucasfilm will pitch this idea to the Group. I cannot think of a better setting for a space, spaghetti western than the desert planet of Tatooine.

The Last Jedi [Teaser Trailer]

Outlook: Face-melting excitement

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Benicio Del Toro, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, & Kelly Marie Tran

Last Jedi Poster.jpg

Hagood’s Review: 

To be perfectly honest, I cried when Rian Johnson introduced the trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. I am beyond excited for this movie. But I must steel myself and try to be logical.  I was equally excited for The Force Awakens and after three viewings of it, I must admit, I’m a bit let down. Rogue One was a much stronger movie and I’m hoping that Kathleen Kennedy and Lucas Film have learned that Finn’s modern dialogue/humor and a hackneyed plot do not belong in the Star Wars universe.

Now, to the trailer. It begins during Rey’s training. The first shot shows her scared and out of breath with Luke’s voice telling her to breath. This harkens back to Luke’s training on Dagobah when he entered the cave to face his fear. I’m sure Luke will not take his training of Rey lightly, especially after losing all his former padawans to Kylo and his Knights of Ren. He’ll want to overly train her so she can survive another bout with the new Dark Lord. Also, during The Last Jedi panel, Mark Hamill mentioned that Daisy was his “dog” then he caught himself and said “companion,” which I’m sure means Luke puts Rey through hell.

I was quite fond of the shot of Rey standing above the sea pit during another training session and the next shot of her training with the lightsaber as Luke looks on. Kylo’s crushed and smoldering helmet is certainly intriguing. Why did Kylo destroy it? Does he feel he finally realize that he needs to forge his own path instead of trying to follow Vader’s? Was he even the one who destroyed it?

Also, what are in the Jedi scrolls Rey touches? How did Luke get them? Didn’t the Sith destroy them after they executed Order 66? I was happy to hear Rian Johnson say that The Last Jedi will uncover more of Rey’s backstory. That was another one of my qualms with The Force Awakens. It just stated stuff (i.e. Maz having Luke’s lightsaber) without backing things up. Some mystery is fine, but I hope this movie substantiates such plot holes.

There was a distinctly Mad Max-esque shot on a desert plain that seemed to have AT-AT’s in the distance fighting Alliance (?) land speeders. This match-up will hopefully best The Force Awakens land-air battle between The First Order and the Alliance on Maz Kanata’s planet of Takodana. I found that battle to be an unfulfilling tease due to a great set-up but poor payoff.

Another question that arose for me was the fire scene at the end. Was that a flashback to the Knights of Ren destroying Luke’s training academy or in the present? Thankfully Kylo is back (my favorite character) and he seemed to be in the present because you could see the scar on his face that Rey dealt him.

Finally, what does Luke mean by “It’s time for the Jedi to end?” Does he mean they need to evolve like the Sith did when they transformed into the Knights of Ren? Or does he mean something completely different?

I loved this trailer. This is how trailers are supposed to be made. It gave away no plot, but instead raised many questions without answering them. Kudos to Disney, Lucas Film, Kathleen Kennedy, and Rian Johnson. I cannot wait for The Last Jedi. 

Saul’s Review:

Given the striking opening to this trailer, The Last Jedi may be the best directed Star Wars film so far.

In the teaser trailer, we see the First Order retaliate following their loss of Starkiller Base, mirroring The Empire Strikes Back. Captain Phasma walks towards a burning settlement while a rebel base is attacked. Clearly the First Order are going to be a far more ubiquitous menance in this film, instead of threatening the galaxy via a doomsday weapon hidden on a remote planet. It would be interesting to see the First Order begin to take over more of the galaxy, and finally expand beyond the edges of space. Hopefully, we will not lose old man Luke Skywalker due to the First Order’s wrath.

I have two questions following the trailer. Firstly, what will Finn’s role be? He briefly appears in what seems to be a medical capsule, but no other information is given. More importantly, does Luke’s belief that the Jedi must end mean that he is now between the lightside and the darkside? If he is, what new order will emerge?

For the trailer, see below:

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – Teaser

star-wars-the-last-jedi

On January 23, 2017, almost a month after Disney’s release of Rogue One, the studio released the title of its next Star Wars film: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Once again LucasFilm and Disney decide to keep in line with The Force Awakens and drop the episode connotation from the title.

We here at Title Roll Reviews are nervously excited about the new title. We hope that “The Last Jedi” refers to both Rey and Old Man Skywalker surviving the film since Jedi is both the plural and singular form of a lightside-warrior.

Rian Johnson (Looper) helms the film as both writer and director. Looking at the IMDB page for the movie humorously Tom Hardy is supposedly going to be a “Stormtrooper.” While we would dig this outcome, we doubt that Johnson will pull another major-Daniel Craig type cameo.

We are both looking forward to seeing Benicio Del Toro’s role in the movie, especially since the Star Wars films tend to get darker in their respective second chapters.

It will be exciting to see how The Last Jedi answers the questions raised in The Force Awakens about Snoke, the end of Luke’s revived Jedi academy, who the Knights of Ren are and where Rey comes from.

In order to succeed, The Last Jedi must overcome J.J. Abrams’ legacy of liberally borrowing elements of A New Hope‘s plot for The Force Awakens. By doing so, Abrams has set the new trilogy upon the same arc as the original films. The Jedi, once again, have been betrayed and destroyed. One Jedi remains that we know about (Obi-Wan), and a young person of unknown origin (Luke) wishes to become a Jedi. The Last Jedi  must steer away from The Force Awakens’ reliance on nostalgia and deliver a new tale. Failure to do so will render the new films so similar to their predecessors, that they will effectively be reboots.

Mr. Johnson’s first film, Looper, is a flawed but underappreciated film that deserves a second viewing by most people. The film revealed Johnson’s talent as writer and director through the movie’s reinvigoration of the concept of time travel with new ideas. At times, Johnson’s attempts in Looper did falter, but five years have passed since Looper’s release, giving Johnson time to hone his craft.

We are both confident that Johnson will deliver a bold departure for the Star Wars series due to his competency as sci-fi writer and director who creates plots replete with unorthodox concepts. After three prequels, a spin-off and a soft reboot, Star Wars needs to take a risk.

Disney will likely soon release a trailer for the movie in the coming weeks so check back here for that and may the Force be with you.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Remember those secret Death Star plans R2 carried throughout the original Star WarsRogue One: A Star Wars Story is about the Rebels who stole them from the Empire during the darkest of times when the Empire was at its mightiest. The plot sets off with the Rebel Alliance rescuing  Jyn Erso, portrayed by the beautiful and talented Felicity Jones, from an Empire work prison to help contact her father, Galen Erso, played by veteran actor Mads Mikkelsen. Galen is one of the architects who designed the Death Star. The plot rockets away from this moment merrily easing to lightspeed as the movie progresses. Rogue One is directed by Gareth Edwards and was written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.

Film Score: 4.5 out of 5 (nigh perfect)

Hagood’s Review (Spoilers ahead)

Thanks to Rogue One I now (happily) have a new order to my favorite Star Wars movies: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars, Rogue OneThe Force AwakensReturn of the JediRevenge of the SithClones, Phantom. I found few things wrong with it and a galaxy and a half that I like about it.

I’ll start with my criticisms: not enough character development, especially with Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus. I loved them and hurt when they died, but a few minutes more about their backstory would’ve been welcome so the audience could learn why they were kyber crystal guardians and how they came to know one another. Same goes for Cassian and his wonderful sidekick, K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). Also, more screen time for the Imperial defector, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed). Why did he defect? How close was he with Galen? How did he escape his post? I realize Mr. Edwards, Mr. Weitz, and Mr. Gilroy had to efficiently tell this story and they did a fantastic job of pacing Rogue‘s plot. I’m just being greedy here and wanting another layer to this rich movie.

To discuss my the parts I enjoyed, I’d like to begin by responding to Joe Morgenstern’s review of the movie in The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Morgenstern harshly criticized Rogue One stating that the movie’s connections to A New Hope and Revenge of the Sith and its “epic echoes are just about all this production has going for it.” He also called the movie’s action “chaotic” and believed the plot and its characters are all too dour. His critiques are all unfounded. The references to the other movies and Rogue‘s cameos were fun Easter eggs, not its basis. The movie’s character’s, plot, and action all stood on their own. If the Rebels were stealing plans to the design of Darth Vader’s Bacta tank in his Mustafar lair instead of the plans to the Death Star, I would’ve been just as intrigued and entertained. The build up to the movie’s climax and its climax were all well written and executed. Also, Mr. Edwards purposefully harried its action. The Rebels designed their attack to distract the Empire’s security and buy Cassian & Jyn time, not to make a sensical, thought-out attack, and their stern expressions and attitudes were a reflection of their lives under the cruel rule of the galactic Empire. As Cassian told Jyn, he’d been fighting for the Alliance since he was six and he’d done terrible things for the Cause. Jyn had been fending for herself with the crazed Saw since roughly the same age. What does Mr. Morgernstern expect of Jyn and Cassian? A god awful scene of frolicking shenanigans like Anakin and Padme on that field on Naboo? Mr. Edward’s tone for the film was right. It’s a war movie with intense sacrifices. Rogue‘s grimness was a welcome change, especially after Finn’s stupid, way-too-modern humor in The Force Awakens. In fact, the no-man-left-alive was one of my favorite facets about the movie. It revealed Disney is still open to taking risks and not making the family-friendly movie people have come to expect of the company with their live-action remakes and comedic and upbeat Marvel characters. I hope Rian Johnson takes Episode VIII in the same direction.

Please, go see this movie. It’s well worth your time if you are above the age of 10.

Recommended Audience: anyone above the age of ten (if you didn’t read the review, its a darker movie than most Star Wars movies).

Saul’s Review (Spoilers too)

I am glad to add Rogue One to Green Room and Paterson as the few exceptions to a disappointing year for Cinema.

Rogue One is the ideal movie for Star Wars fans who loathed the prequels, but found The Force Awakens to be a little underwhelming.

My expectations for Rogue One were fairly low when I bought my ticket. Following the rushed job that Disney had done slotting Doctor Strange into the Marvel Universe. I was worried that Rogue One would simply be a cash-in to tide audiences over until Episode VIII. Felicity Jones, who portrays Rogue One protagonist Jyn Erso, also starred last year in Inferno where Jones’s character and acting stood out as poor. Despite all this, Rogue One is the only major blockbuster I have seen this year that did not disappoint.

Whether by design or coincidence, Rogue One is reminiscent of La Bataille D’Alger, the 1966 film about the Algerian War of Independence from France. The rebels, just like the Algerian freedom fighters, are fighting a superior enemy and take extreme measures to survive. Edwards depicts the Rebellion as a clandestine organisation, willing to kill civilians and its own members if they stray too far. The Empire equalled the rebels with its own infighting, operating like an old European royal court with high ranking officers clambering over one another to seek the Emperor’s ear. During the immediate viewing of the film, I was swept away by Rogue One’s plot. Since then, what has impressed me the most was how the Empire and the Rebellion both internally mirrored and differed from each other.

The rebels constantly felt at a disadvantage throughout Rogue One due to the excellent battle sequences. In every skirmish, the Empire had a clear superiority, with the Rebels clutching at guerrilla tactics and improvisation to stave the Empire off.

Rogue One’s enthusiasm to present the Rebellion in a darker light through Captain Cassian quickly peters out once he is alongside Jyn, with no real explanation why. This is Rogue One‘s sole failing but with such a great plot and cast, it is quickly forgotten.

Finally I remember being terrified of Darth Vader as a child, fast forwarding my VHS tape of A New Hope whenever he appeared. The final scene where Vader storms through the Rebel ship, massacring all within the gloomy corridor, gave me the same sense of dread. I hope Disney makes a Vader spin-off too.

Recommended audience: Die-hard Star Wars fans and anyone who wants to watch a decent blockbuster.

For the trailer see below:

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) – Teaser

Spider-Man : Homecoming is the reboot of Spider-Man following the replacement of Andrew Garfield by Tom Holland as the titular character. The film is directed by Jon Watts, whose previous work includes the thriller Cop Car starring Kevin Bacon.

Saul’s Thoughts:

I have yet to see Cop Car, but the film’s trailer showed a brooding figure that recycled many parts of the classic 1995 film Night of the Hunter, where two children are plunged into the adult world, hunted by a monster posing as an authority figure.

Homecoming’s trailer does follow the more light hearted approach of Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange. Although  Holland may only be known through Cop Car, he does have experience in comedy, having directed episodes of satirical show The Onion News Network  in 2011.

I do have my concerns with Spider-Man: Homecoming following Doctor Strange, where Disney slotted a lesser known character into the Avengers-Marvel ensemble. The character of Spider-Man has far more clout in pop culture than Doctor Strange, due to the Spider-Man cartoons and the Spider-Man films by Sam Raimi in the 2000’s. The biggest issue with Doctor Strange was that the film pursued both comedy and serious drama in an origin story. The combination of the three elements shaped Doctor Strange into a rushed introduction of a character on Disney-Marvel’s course to greater and bigger films.

Spider-Man: Homecoming may suffer from the same issues as Doctor Strange in that both characters arrived late to The Avengers film group. Plus Spider-Man and Doctor Strange have not received the slower pace of a Netflix series. Therefore they have to quickly catch up with the wide audience appeal of more established Avengers characters such as Iron Man or Captain America. Doctor Strange did feel like a rushed attempt as mentioned above, and Spider Man: Homecoming may share this flaw.

The replacement of Andrew Garfield by the younger Holland for the Spider-Man reboot, alongside the injection of ‘Homecoming’ into the title, is a ploy to grab audiences in middle-school and below.

The Homecoming teaser trailer supports my theory about Disney’s current strategy towards the film market. Disney appears to be dividing  Star Wars and Marvel into two streams, with the first stream adopting a gritty tone,  counterbalanced by a second stream of action films designed for families and children.

Captain America: Civil War is far more brooding in comparison to the earlier Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. On the other hand, Guardians of the Guardians of the Galaxy reels in the laughs and is being followed by a sequel and Doctor Strange, which was funny in parts. Star Wars: The Force Awakens last year was a rehash of A New Hope for a newer and younger audience.

It is not coincidental that Rogue One is arriving between The Force Awakens and Star Wars Episode 8. Trailers for Rogue One infer a darker tone than The Force Awakens. While the protagonists of the main Star Wars series so far are teenagers trapped on backwaters who dream of adventure, Jyn Erso, the lead of Rogue One is a criminal on the fringes of the galaxy. Her criminal record is gleefully announced at the beginning of the Rogue One trailer, stressing how different and mature this spin off will be.

If Disney’s strategy is to partition Marvel and Star Wars between older and younger audiences through films ranging in maturity of content, then I think that is clever. The strategy does risk a potential overlap where both strands try to entertain different audiences with distinct tastes depending on age, but the films end up not satisfying both.

Disney could succeed, but there must be consistency, particularly with the films designed for older audiences . The Dark Knight series was about a superhero that attained critical and commercial success, while containing darker themes such as the human condition, nihilism and redemption. Disney just needs to take a risk and really step outside its comfort zone of entertaining children, teenagers and families. Otherwise, the I.P conveyer belt will become lacklustre.