DC’s latest superhero film Aquaman reviewed and discussed!
At a loose end on a Sunday evening? Need some inspiration for what film to relax to? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.
First of all, I should be clear; this list will not be a rundown of my favourite films (although some do make an appearance) but rather flicks that I can put on if I’m at a loose end. Like picking up the phone and calling that friend you haven’t spoken to for months on end, you find you’re right back to where you were. Well, these films offer that same familiarity and essentially provide a comfort zone to ease into for me. Don’t get me wrong, there are going to be eyebrows raised at a few of these picks as some of the choices aren’t exactly what you’d call modern classics, but I trust we all have our guilty pleasures, which is why I’m sharing this with you today to remind you that you’re not the only one. Now, let’s get into it with the first barnstormer of a movie;
If you’ve just rolled your eyes, fair enough. This wasn’t universally loved on release, despite gaining praise for its visual presentation, which at the time was really remarkable and stylistic. The plot is relatively formulaic, characters are serviceable but without many dimensions to their overall persona, but for some reason, I keep coming back to this film. The score, which was overseen by Daft Punk is one reason. It seamlessly blends with the futuristic setting of the film and perfectly compliments the on-screen action when those moments do arise. There’s plenty of callbacks to the previous film from the 80s and even a nice little plot twist, which I won’t spoil here, and overall there’s just something about this film which pulls me back in time after time and provides a visual attraction to “zone out” to and enjoy.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
Okay, I promise there will be films on this list that are universally accepted as being “good” or even great films and I recognise that this is yet another film that probably falls short of that yardstick in many people’s opinion. However, for me, this film is an absolute riot. Nowadays, the Fast and the Furious (FAF) franchise is a juggernaut, with billion dollar films to its name and A-List actors seemingly queuing up to star in the series. However, back in 2006, this was not the case and along came this film, which seemed almost to act as a spin-off in many ways. Gone were lead actors Paul Walker and Vin Diesel (save for a small cameo towards the end) and instead, we had one of the most wooden actors I’ve ever seen in a lead role, of any film. But, this is such an important bookmark in the FAF lore. For one, it was the first film in the series which Justin Lin worked on. It was his direction on subsequent films that re-launched the franchise and propelled it into the mainstream once again and arguably he helped revive the career of Vin Diesel. Secondly, we were introduced to the character of Han, who has been beloved ever since, garnering a cult following that earned him additional roles in subsequent films within the franchise, and giving us one of the series’ more compelling and complex characters. That aside though, this instalment has such a diverse range of cars and introduced us all to the Japanese style of tuning, styling and of course, drifting. I was captivated by this and it’s definitely left its mark on me; I have owned a black Mazda RX-8 for 8 years now. So why do I love this film? Apart from the soundtrack, which is as good as all FAF releases, for me it just has this otherworldly feel about it; Japan is such an interesting culture to me and I think the film perfectly captures the “fish out of water” experience that a Westerner would go through upon arrival. Aside from this, I just love the cars, the atmosphere and how this film, which was so overlooked previously, became a lynchpin in the FAF timeline.
See? I told you there would be films that are absolutely undeniable in their quality, execution and legacy. Goodfellas is one of them. If you haven’t seen this film, I implore you to make time for it. Based on a true story, which for me, immediately adds a compelling layer to any film right from the off, this 1990 crime film ticks every single box for me in terms of being a perfect film. Beginning with the characters, it was as if every single actor in the role was born to play their respective parts. Ray Liotta as Henry Hill managed to give us, as viewers, the inside look into life as a gangster and even had us rooting for him, before reminding us that he is indeed a villain and has moments of sheer madness, which see him spiral out of control in the end. Robert De Niro as James “Jimmy the Gent” Conway masterfully showed us the multitude of personalities one might expect from a ruthless mafioso; on the one hand kind to his peers, yet he could easily have you “wacked” the next day. Joe Pesci as Tommy DeVito perfectly portrayed the lunatic of the bunch, a loose cannon who often acted before thinking and the scene which perfectly encapsulated all of their traits was the murder of Billy Batts. The rolling narrative is given from the perspective of Henry Hill and has a very “Scorsese” feel about it; long cuts, personal close-ups, fast introductions to characters, it’s a living, breathing vibrant collection of personas that live in this world and you feel every single one of them as real as you would a friend. The rags-to-riches story is as dramatic and enthralling as you’d expect and it’s honestly one of the greatest films of all time. Hands down.
Frank Miller’s graphic novel 300 was lovingly recreated in 2006 with director Zack Synder at the helm. Miller himself served as executive producer and consultant for the film and his influence is felt throughout the stunning action movie, with some scenes pixel for pixel recreations of the comic. The movie boasts over the top action sequences with hyper-violent and stylized deaths that are matched with stunning visual effects to provide the unique colour palette of the imagined world. Whilst the story is based within History, liberties have of course been taken to dramatise the reality. The result is scantily clad shredded Spartans vanquishing wave after wave of would-be-invaders, spouting quote after quote all the while revelling in the fury of their attack. I simply love it. It’s so over the top, so easy to enjoy, it just demands sweets being thrown into the face. I’ve seen critics take this movie apart and I can’t fathom why; of course it’s stupid. Of course, it’s silly fun. It’s not meant to be a historical masterpiece, it’s just good action, an easy plot and a damn good time.
The year is 2000. Leonardo DiCaprio is at the absolute peak of his popularity with teenage girls after his roaring success in Titanic and director Danny Boyle wanted to take full advantage of that. What transpired though is many audience members went into this film expecting heartthrob Leo to be as charming and innocent as he was in the aforementioned blockbuster. What they got was a dark tale depicting the descent of a character into the depths of madness and saw a side of Leo that many never experienced before. His acting here is superb, as it would be for many years afterwards, but even this early on you get hints of how great he would be that is echoed in later films such as The Wolf of Wall Street. The film itself is strange in that to me, it can be perfectly dissected in half and almost treated as two separate identities, much like the main character (Richard). At the start, we have an optimistic, bright-eyed American traveller seeking adventures that differ from the norm and the film follows this journey. Richard reaches his mythical destination, along with his two accomplices and it’s not long after this that things go wrong. The lifestyle of the insular community of those who inhabit the island turns the narrative around and suddenly we see this film takes a dark spin with the death of a character. It’s here things drastically shift in tone and we are hurtled towards a bitter end. A favourite of mine, as it reminds me of my own spectacular travels in Thailand (where the film is set) and it’s an easy watch, in that you can appreciate some great acting and dark screenplay.
Crazy, Stupid, Love
The title of the film acts as a good breakdown for love itself and also for the actions within the film. It’s at times crazy, sometimes stupid and I love it. A star-studded cast blend effortlessly together and create nothing but magic, as this tale which starts off with a bang, weaves and unfurls into one of the best romantic comedies of all time, in my opinion. Normally, those words (shortened to “Romcom”) have connotations with another genre of films; “chick-flicks.” Well, I’m here to tell you as a red-blooded male that this is anything but. The comedic aspect of this film works incredibly well, helped massively by the lead (Steve Carell) portraying a charming, yet slightly bumbling middle-aged man seeking to find himself after a split from his wife. Ryan Gosling enters the fray and acts as a mentor of sorts, guiding Cal (Carell) in the ways of womanizing. Gosling, however, is eventually matched with Emma Stone’s character and the two have electric chemistry, which was later rekindled with the smash-hit musical, La La Land. It’s here where the movies’ heart shines through as Gosling’s character shifts from one night stand to one man girl. Offering a different spin on the Romcom genre, I love this film for its light-hearted, yet realistic look into relationships and their complexities. This film, like its main character, has a heart of gold.
Someone who certainly does not have a heart of gold is Patrick Bateman. A sociopathic serial killer from New York and thriving in the Go-Go 1980s, a life of decadence and more money than sense has led Patrick to become bored. He has it all; rich friends, an easy, well-paid job, any girl he wants and yet he can’t fill the void in his life. American Psycho is the adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis’ novel of the same name and whilst the movie leaves out some chapters and reimagines characters, it’s a very accurate adaptation. For me, this is Christian Bale’s best performance. The method actor gets into the best shape of his life to slip into this role and he attacks every scene with such an explosion of emotions that it’s impossible to see anyone else in this role. The film is filled with dark humour and is honestly one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen. The way Bateman lurches from one emotional space to another, over minor events, is hysterical. The narrative is given from the perspective of the clearly unhinged Bateman, so immediately we, as the viewer, can question the authenticity of what we see. Are the horrific murders really happening or is this all just a figment of Bateman’s imagination? That’s what I love about this film, the sheer ambiguity of it all. There are clues littered throughout the production that can either be for or against the theory that this is all really happening and every time I watch it, I spot something new.
The Lord of the Rings – Extended Editions
Very rarely is the word “epic” used in the correct context, but here, there is simply no other way to describe Peter Jackson’s trilogy. Stunning visuals, an iconic soundtrack, some of the best CGI ever seen and a cast that is as enormous as it is talented. It’s almost impossible to note down why I love this film so much in a short paragraph or two, so this is something that will undoubtedly be explored again on another day. For now, though, it’s my duty to explain why I not only love this film but how I can watch it over and over again. The answer isn’t as long-winded as you may expect, it’s just I simply love being transported into Middle Earth. It’s as easy as that and the film makes that transition just as simplistic. Thanks to some expert directing, real-life locations and storytelling, it is incredibly comfortable to sit back and allow myself to be fully immersed in this multi-faceted universe. Of course, it has to be the Extended Editions as to me, they add so much more to the story, such as additional dialogue to further flesh out characters, or interesting action beats that were unfortunately cut due to time constraints. There’s such a charm to this film that’s quite intangible and difficult to explain, but I’m sure many of you feel the same way. Timeless and classic, The Lord of the Rings is in my view, the greatest movie trilogy in history.
Pumping Iron/Raw Iron
The docu-drama that launched the career of one Arnold Schwarzenegger, I was introduced to Pumping Iron after I began my fitness journey back in 2012. I’d always loved Arnold of course; films such as Terminator, Predator, Red Heat and many more had been on my DVD shelf for years. This, however, was one that had escaped my viewing, due in part to my ignorance of bodybuilding as a sport. How I wish I had seen this earlier. Rather than being a pure documentary of the 1975 Mr Olympia competition, it is a showcase in how Arnold dominates the screen and can portray any character he is asked to. For in this, he is not himself. He is a reimagined, overboard caricature of Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is exemplified in his one on one interviews throughout the film. Arnold admits this in the follow up “making of” documentary, Raw Iron which itself is as intriguing as the film. I typically will watch one or the other, but both have been never far from view, as they are so relevant to me now and so thoroughly entertaining. Indeed, Pumping Iron served as a wonderful motivation for me during the days leading up to my first competition (which you can read about here) and helped me truly get into the zone for my big day. So, this is quite a niche and personal reason for inclusion on the list, but nevertheless, I’ll not grow tired of watching Arnold’s antics anytime soon.
My final entry and something that is dear to my heart; Aladdin. This film gave me my first nightmare that I can remember (the scene where the cave closes in and Aladdin is trying to escape on the carpet, yeah, that) but also my fondest memories of watching this with my parents and sharing in the joy of the brilliant storytelling and voice acting in particular by show-stealing Robin Williams. Back in the 90s, Disney was positively killing it with their animated films. This, along with Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, Hercules and Pocahontas are in my view compulsory viewing for children and make for excellent films to be enjoyed by all ages. Aladdin takes the mantle for me, however, thanks to iconic songs, another rags-to-riches story and as mentioned; an amazing cast. The back and forth with Jafar and Iago is hysterical, Aladdin sounds like an authentic and atypical hero, whilst Jasmine set the tone for female characters in Disney films to no longer be damsels in distress, but independent Princesses who could dish out some punishment when the time arose. The main reason though I can watch this time and again is simply Robin Williams’ character; the Genie. Exuding life and personality that is simply not seen from animated characters this is once again a case of someone being born to play the part. Williams is able to add so much magic into this role with his intoxicating personality and the comedy is an absolute hit; there’s nothing cringe-worthy or anything that falls flat, it all works and it certainly puts a smile on my face.
That concludes my list. I hope there has been something in there you might want to watch on a dreary Sunday evening or any other time! I’d be interested to learn what your go-to film or collection of films are as well, so why not leave me a comment below or send me a message on Instagram or Facebook?
We have arrived at last to the culmination of a ten-year journey that has spawned multiple films, sequels and of course, massive team up movies. When Avengers: Assemble was released in 2012, I couldn’t believe it. To me, seeing comic book heroes from multiple films co-exist in the same universe and fight against a singular foe was nothing short of spectacular; it had never been done before and it truly felt like a comic book had been brought to life. Of course, the film was an enormous success and continued to fuel the very profitable and entertaining freight train that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Their competitors have failed spectacularly in their attempt to try and jump on the bandwagon and create a cinematic universe overnight and as such, Marvel Studios (owned by Disney) are not only setting the bar, they are the bar.
It’s no surprise then, that excitement and anticipation for the latest film (Avengers: Infinity War) has reached fever pitch. Everywhere you look, you see the iconic symbolism and characters plastered on billboards, posters and even illuminating towers. This has filtered down to the public, myself included and I simply can’t remember being as excited for a film since X-Men: Days of Future Past. (Full disclaimer, X-Men are my favourite comic book heroes bar none, period.)
The first trailer is something I’ve probably watched over fifty times by now, and each time I never fail to get goosebumps as the “Avengers Theme” blares out at the climax of the trailer. It’s been an ever-present in the films and is the perfect backdrop to the epic visual image of the heroes charging into battle.
Death, Darkness, and Doom
With that said, however, there is a slight cause for trepidation. The trailers, clues and other such media are all hinting at this film having serious consequences; i.e. big character deaths and a villain that is not going to be taken lightly. It’s foolish to compare Thanos to anything we’ve seen before in terms of antagonists, but my cause for concern comes from Ultron. All the marketing and trailers centered around a very dark tone, with Ultron being portrayed as a huge threat that would cause our heroic team to be really against it. The first trailer really epitomizes this for me and I believe many others felt the same, which is why some fans were left disappointed with the film, as they weren’t served what they thought they ordered. Instead of a menacing, dark and serious villain, we got a quick-witted James Spader voiced robot trading quips with Tony Stark. Although there were consequences (Quicksilver dying) this wasn’t as impactful, as he was a new character. The trailers and “reading in between the lines” had Hawkeye earmarked as the sacrificial lamb, but this clever misdirection from Marvel kept the true death a secret, albeit a somewhat underwhelming one.
The point is that yes, the media so far is nothing short of amazing, but I’m going in with expectations slightly tempered, as I’ve been burned before. I’m hoping that Thanos is going to live up to all that we expect, after all, ten years is a hell of a time to build up a villain, so he should be foreboding and powerful at the very least. My prediction is that he will be given plenty of screen time to flesh him out and may even have a backstory that garners sympathy from the audience in some way. Complex villains are always the best, the layers and depth of character are far more interesting than a bizarre CGI monster suddenly appearing and wrecking everything for no real reason. (Okay, last shot at DC taken, promise).
Something that will lead to this development of Thanos is that he will kill Nebula, his daughter. I know I sound confident, but I think her death will serve as a pivotal plot device to portray how unforgiving and powerful he is, as well as giving his other daughter, Gamora a reason to go all out against him. Unfortunately for the Guardians, I can also see Mantis being axed, again to add some emotional weight and gravity to the situation. Her sweet relationship with Drax will be heavily leaned into in order to really hit the point home and I think it’ll be a heart-wrenching moment for the audience.
Ready for more death? Good. Pepper Potts is next. It’s a gut feeling, not really based on much, but there’s something about the first trailer that points me to this. When Thanos punches Iron Man, the body language and mannerisms look quite feminine to me. So my theory is that Thanos transported Pepper to that location in order to again, demonstrate his power and cruelty to us and in the last moment, Tony is able to affix an Iron Man suit to her to give some protection – much like he did in Iron Man 3. This is probably the least likely of my predictions, but one I’ll stick by nonetheless as it will again have gigantic ramifications, especially if it happened fairly early into the movie and really help set the tone for what’s to come.
Captain America. This seems to be the one death that everyone is sure about and I’m not going to buck the trend here; I think this is the end for Steve Rodgers. Being a fan of wrestling, there’s often “real world” events or facts that can help one deduce the outcome of a storyline, and I think the same thing could be happening here. Chris Evans is reportedly done with these films after Avengers 4, which follows Infinity War, so my theory is that he will appear in the fourth Avengers film in some kind of flashback/time travel capacity, but his present-day body will be very much broken and crushed by our big bad and this will lead to how I think the film finishes; a snap of the fingers on a fully completed Infinity Gauntlet and fade to black. Half of the Universe wiped out, just like that.
Loki. I have a bad feeling for Thor’s adopted brother. Again, possibly a red-herring from Disney, but in the trailer, Thanos has Thor’s head in his hand and I believe he’s making the God of Thunder watch Loki’s execution at the hands of the Black Order, who we also see attempt to pry the Mind Stone from the forehead of Vision, who I think will actually survive, rescued by Captain America and Scarlet Witch who then flee to Wakanda for medical assistance, and to mount a formidable defence.
Moments to Make Your Mouth Drop
Okay, so while that’s a lot of bleak moments to endure, I think this movie will also more than balance this with an outrageous outlay of amazing action sequences and scenes, one of which will take place in Wakanda. There are three things I would love to see during this battle. Firstly, I want to see Hulk explode out of the Hulkbuster armour. I very much think it will be Bruce Banner operating the Hulkbuster, as he doesn’t wish to turn back into the Hulk again. However, at some point, I think he gets overwhelmed and is being torn apart, literally, and that’s when our favourite green rage monster appears to cause havoc. The next moment that would make me wide-eyed with joy would be seeing Thor appear to somewhat save the day. Picture this; the Avengers are completely overwhelmed, Cap is on the verge of death at the hands of Thanos, yet there’s a grin emerging on his face. A puzzled Thanos asks why he’s smiling and Rodgers simply says “thunder” and that’s when we get a wide shot of the battle and an enormous lightning storm strike, with Thor descending into battle, flanked by the Guardians in their gunships with “Immigrant Song” echoing in the background. With Thor’s arrival, we would see the tide of the battle turn and to amplify this, Tony Stark arrives with Doctor Strange, Spiderman and whoever else is left. What follows is a beatdown on Thanos by the entire team, in a sequence similar to Civil War, where Bucky and Cap’ hammered Iron Man. Of course, it wouldn’t actually defeat Thanos, but offer a great visual nonetheless.
It’s crazy to me now, but prior to Thor: Ragnarok, I was getting a bit of “Marvel fatigue”. Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was okay and Spider-Man: Homecoming didn’t really grab my attention, but then after Ragnarok I was back in and now I’m fully on board. I compounded this with a recent watch of many of the Marvel films and now Friday simply can’t come soon enough. Let’s see what happens and hopefully, we’re all blown away. What do you think will happen? Let me know below or reach me on social media!
The Marvel machine manufactures another solid film with Black Panther, but whilst critics have been raving, I was left a little unfulfilled. Lately, the Marvel films have dwindled in importance from “can’t miss” to “catch on DVD later.” With that said, there was certainly plenty I enjoyed, including the majority of the characters, the setting and the score (which felt very appropriate as the backdrop to the mystical Wakanda). Something was missing, almost like the soul (yes, a pun on the absent Infinity Stone). Much like the aforementioned stone, it was hinted at, but not fully fleshed out and things were skirted over.
To expand, the introduction of the Black Panther and its history was wrapped up in a segment at the beginning that lasted a few minutes, which for me was too rushed and simplified. I had the impression they wanted to just get on with the story with minimal time spent on the “origin”, which I can understand to a certain degree, yet for me, Black Panther was never a staple of my Marvel childhood like the X-Men or Spiderman, so having a bit more history and exposition would have helped.
On that note, as Black Panther has never been at the forefront of my superhero knowledge or investment, my expectations for this film were quite tempered; I wasn’t predicting it to be as good as Iron Man or Captain America: The First Avenger or even Thor: Ragnarok, and it wasn’t. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For me, this film needed to establish Wakanda as a unique entity and build it almost in the same way as a character, and I think this was achieved with aplomb.
Helped with a fabulous score that felt true to the African heritage without being overbearing, Wakanda was presented in all its glory. The technology made sense, the scenery was majestic and the people felt authentic and real. This brings me on to the cast, who I thought were all incredible. The fierce women by the side of the King all played vital roles and transcend being “strong female characters.” They were simply strong characters. Their impact on the film can’t be underestimated and it’s another stride forward for women in Hollywood.
Black Panther manages to blend modern day issues, such as immigration and world aid, with ancient culture, dreamland tech, and family problems. This for me is the film’s greatest achievement, as it held a poignant relevance that isn’t necessarily explored in other titles in the Marvel Universe, whilst still feeling part of the familiar world we’ve been shown so far. Circling back to the family fall-out, I thought this was handled brilliantly and added another layer to the former King of Wakanda and helped complicate the narrative as it spawned us a villain (Killmonger) who was sympathetic. The best villains are the ones that believe they’re doing the right thing, and from a certain point of view, you could argue that giving the oppressed and underprivileged assistance to rise up is coming from a place of goodness, rather than outright evil world domination, mustache-twirling, and puppy killing.
As a side note, Ryan Coogler (director) and Michael B. Jordan (who portrayed Killmonger) continue to be an excellent pairing together. Jordan is one of the brightest stars of today, turning in outstanding performances consistently, and it’s no different here. Which is why I was so disappointed when he was killed off in the end. I had hopes he would survive and be in Infinity War, helping the good guys defend Wakanda and be part of that running shot towards the camera; Marvel often swindles us by removing characters for trailers (Spiderman in the running shot for Civil War for example), but alas it seems this time it won’t happen.
On the subject of the villain, it’s time to start delving into the problems I had with this film. Despite liking the antagonist, it still fell into the familiar Marvel trope that we’ve seen; the bad guy is just a mirror reflection of our hero. Think Ironmonger, (Iron Man), Yellowjacket (Ant-Man) and Abomination (The Incredible Hulk). If they’re not this, then they’re dull, one dimensional and not fully fleshed out (Malekith from Thor: The Dark World and Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy). Marvel have seriously struggled to give us compelling enemies, perhaps only really succeeding with Loki, who at this point is practically an anti-hero. This is also a fear I have for Thanos, yes the trailer looks convincing, but the same dark tone was presented to us for Age of Ultron and again, this was a let down of a “big-bad”.
The standalone Marvel films are also pretty formulaic; hero starts off bright eyed and bushy tailed, adversity (suspense is never there, more on that in a moment), baby-face comeback, villain vanquished, roll credits and the two extended scenes. It’s a formula that gets results I suppose, but a change up would be welcome. Logan, for example, was drastically different from many modern day superhero films and was a real breath of fresh air because of it. Back to suspense; when T’challa was hurled off the edge of the cliff, was there anyone who honestly believed that was the end of him? Apart from the fact that he’s the main character, we’ve seen him appear in the Infinity War trailer, which happens after this film, so there’s that. Again, it’s a part of the formula and there’s never any real stakes involved. Once more, I hope Infinity War changes this and gives us some big deaths that will impact the Universe and have us as an audience guessing once more.
Another issue for me was killing off the compelling villain, Ulysses Klaue, portrayed by the legendary Andy Serkis. His character had an unstable nature, coupled with a threatening vibe that made him someone not to mess with, yet he was finished off by Killmonger in an empty airfield. A mistake certainly, as I felt this enemy had more to offer and could be a continued thorn in the side of the King, perhaps not during Infinity War, but after. Alas, this is another missed opportunity (unless everyone is revived by the Soul Gem, which would be both awful and funny at the same time).
A sense of urgency was also lacking in this film. There weren’t any real-time constraints on anything, apart from Martin Freeman’s character (who is forgettable and quite frankly, third-rate) being shot at by a plane, but honestly, if he had been killed, who would have cared? This meant that the climactic fights didn’t have any real bearing on anything, apart from seeing the women yet again kick some serious ass, some cool armored rhinos popping up and seeing T’Challa exert his power by casually blowing away many of his foes with his charged up suit, but in terms of having me on the edge of my seat? Unfortunately not.
To wrap up then, whilst I certainly enjoyed the movie and will happily heap praise on the characters, and by extension, the actors (save for Martin Freeman), there was something missing for the film to climb into the upper echelons of greatness. It, therefore, sits firmly in the “good” category for me and I am excited to see more of Wakanda, which we’ll get in the upcoming Avengers ensemble film, so that’s a bonus. The comedy was good throughout and the film certainly did its primary role of world building and giving us some depth into another main character, but it just wasn’t quite on the level of some of the other entries into its lore.
The teaser for the new Star Wars standalone film is here, so what did I think?
What on Earth did we just watch?
Full disclosure, I enjoyed The Last Jedi, but it took me an entire day to process; that’s how vastly different and thought provoking this film is.
There are numerous points of contention. Huge character decisions and plot turns that leave the audience wide eyed and open mouthed, either in shock or disgust. Visually breathtaking scenes that remind you how truly awesome cinema can be are placed adjacent to scenes that have you scratching your head in confusion.
The film is not perfect. (What film is?) But it has already established itself as a decisive moment in Star Wars film history. It’s explicitly stated in the trailer by Luke Skywalker himself – it’s not going to go the way you think.
So what did I think going into this film? Like a lot of fans, I had spent the better part of two years since the Force Awakens came out imagining what was going to be revealed next. Much of the speculation and theories revolved around Supreme Leader Snoke, the mysterious yet seemingly all powerful leader of the First Order. Rey’s lineage was also a big topic of discussion amongst many. Related to Kylo and by extension, the daughter of either Han or Luke, or was she a Kenobi? Hell, maybe even a descendant of Palpatine, just look at how she fought Kylo at the climax of Force Awakens! Lastly, the burning thought at the forefront of my mind was how Luke would be portrayed. Self imposed exile would no doubt see him as somewhat of a recluse, but I believed we would be seeing new ground with what the Force can do.
In a way, I was right.
Ironically, however, the first “that’s not how the Force works” moment didn’t come from Luke, but rather his sister, Leia. If you’ve seen the film (which you should have, this is a spoiler filled look at the film, after all), then you know already what I’m about to say. Superwoman Leia. Flying so casually through space to save herself after being blown out of the bridge. Jaw dropping, eye popping WTF moment number one. I had a real issue with this, mainly because of the time difference between getting sucked into space and floating back to the safety of the ship. Surely, she would have died. Secondly, we haven’t seen anything from Leia in terms of Force ability apart from being able to communicate with Luke across vast distances and also feeling Han’s death when it happened. Bit of a leap to then get what we saw. A brave and bold choice by director Rian Johnson, who had no qualms in taking what we thought we knew and flipping everything on it’s axis.
Following on, Rian had another twist up his sleeve. Moreover, we come to my biggest disappointment in Supreme Leader Snoke. Or as I believed for a long while, Darth Plagueis. (It could still be true, you never know…) His introduction into this film sets him up again as a being of great power. He’s able to drag Hux onto the ground and embarrass him in front of his entire crew through the hologram projection and then when we see him in the flesh, boy does he give Kylo a dressing down. Making Kylo “take that ridiculous thing off” as well as summon a crack of Force Lightning to firmly put him back in his place, we see how vast the chasm of power between the two is, figuratively and literally. So we’re definitely going to see big things from Snoke, surely? No, he gets cut in half by his apprentice mid-way through the film and that’s the end of that. I mean, what? Really? That’s it? All the build up, the teasing and mystery led to that? In my eyes this was the biggest waste of a villain since Darth Maul died. Yes, I know he came back in other media such as novels, comics and two TV shows, but to the average viewer who only partakes in watching the films; Maul was killed in The Phantom Menace.
I understand however, why Snoke was killed. He served his purpose in the story. He was there to have us believing we had the next Palpatine that Kylo would eventually overthrow in order to join the light, however, as is the recurring theme, this was blown away and instead we get Kylo killing Snoke to further his own ambitions to become even more cemented in the Dark Side.
As I said however, it took me a while to get past my vision in my head of Snoke and accept the plot point laid before me. This is something I think a lot are struggling with currently.
Back to the good however and for me, the opening space battle was one of the best we’ve seen in the franchise. Again, it has a spin on the usual narrative. We’re accustomed to seeing the Rebels have their backs against the wall but rallying to victory in the end, yet this time, we got complete destruction of the majority of their force and the hot-head pilot leading the assault rightly chastised. I really bought in to this, as it reflects a realistic outlook on the grim prospect of fighting a war against a large machine such as the First Order; there’s going to be bloodshed on both sides.
Sticking with the Resistance (or Rebels, both interchangeable names can be used) we got one of the most striking scenes in any Star Wars film to date. You know what I’m talking about, jaw dropping, eye popping WTF moment number two (more positively this time, however).
Engaging hyperspace. Through. The. Fleet. Wow. Just absolutely phenomenal and something that I didn’t know I wanted. The self sacrifice by newly introduced Admiral Holdo is a redeeming moment for her otherwise bolshie character (she goes against our boy Poe, I mean that’s not cool) but what a way to go out with a statement. Unbelievably well shot and another defining moment in the saga.
Finally, the last big piece to talk about is Luke’s untimely demise. When he faded into the distance after yet another new interpretation of the Force was shown (essentially made himself into a hologram to “fight” Kylo) I was stunned and not happy. This is Luke Skywalker. Likely the most powerful Jedi ever, or so he should be and yet, what did he do, really? Blew a wall up, stopped himself from falling over and fake-fight Kylo. I wanted to see him wreck the Knights of Ren (conspicuous by their prolonged absence) or take on Snoke in a raging battle of Good vs Evil in Episode 9, but instead he goes out without much noise. Now, the other side of this is that the scene itself was amazingly shot, beautiful in it’s execution and evoked strong feelings of nostalgia, hope and yes, sadness. But even still, my expectations were not met. So again, another disappointment for me, but once more, a strong choice from Rian Johnson.
You can see a pattern emerging here. For every imagined theory or expectation, there was the unseen and unconsidered conclusion. Surprising, provocative and unpredictable, we certainly got something else with this film. More questions and analysis remain and be sure to check back soon for further in depth looks at other characters and aspects of this brave new direction for Star Wars.