Movie review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi!

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

A film that needs no introduction has finally arrived. It’s the nerds’ Christmas also known as Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi!!!

IMDb summary: Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn, and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.

Just before we get into the review, I have done a few Star Wars related posts and I’ll link them all here, in case you want to check them out: my general thoughts on Star Wars, The Force Awakens review, Rogue One review.

Also, the majority of my review will be spoiler-free, while some spoiler-y ideas will be included down below (after the rating and the poster). However, I advise you to proceed with caution as the things that I deem unspoiler-y, might seem spoiler-y to you if you are trying to go into the film completely clueless.

Rian Johnson

Star Wars 8 was written and directed by Rian Johnson. The filmmakers previous writing and directing credits include Looper, The Brothers Bloom, Brick(his indie directorial debut) and some of the best episodes of Breaking Bad. While Johnson’s credits list is not extensive, its qualitative worth cannot be disputed. Moreover, Kathleen Kennedy and other producers at Lucasfilms seem to believe in his filmmaking talents, as it was recently announced that Johnson will be creating a new Star Wars trilogy. Anyways, let’s talk about the writing and the directing of The Last Jedi – both of which were excellent.

Writing: the story and the reveals

To begin with, I loved how the writing for The Last Jedi went for more: more humour (this was honestly the funniest Star Wars movie out of all of them), higher emotional stakes (I have never cared for the nameless background characters more in my movie watching experience), and more action (literal action and just stuff happening plot-wise). Speaking about the plot, it was quite saturated with twists and turns: the picture had 4 storylines all interwoven very nicely (the villains, Rey/Luke, Poe/Leia/Resistance, and Finn/Rose). Nevertheless, while I enjoyed all the points of the narrative, I’m not entirely sure whether the reveals of The Last Jedi will be impactful in the long run – more on that in spoilers.

Thematically, The Last Jedi, more than all Star Wars movies before it (again with the idea of ‘more is more’) traversed the line between the darkness and the light. It also had a varied portrayal of heroism which was quite refreshing. It also presented a never before seen side of the galaxy – the glamours one (Casino Royale in space), and, through it, The Last Jedi was able to explore the concepts of privilege and war benefit. I also liked the film’s idea that wars can be won ideologically as well as physically (more on it in spoilers). Lastly, while The Force Awakens was a narrative rehash of A New Hope, The Last Jedi was somewhat similar to The Empire Strikes Back thematically, in that, both the Resistance and the Rebels have taken heavy losses in their respective stories. However, Episode V did not even come close to the having a hopeful ending of Episode VIII. Although The Last Jedi was about loss, grief, and sacrifice, it also carried within itself an undying spark of hope.

Directing: the action and the visuals

The Last Jedi’s action was vastly entertaining and exciting. It was also varied: the epic space battles (at least 3) were accompanied by amazing hand-to-hand fights (at least 3 as well). The visuals of the settings as well as the designs of the new characters/animals were gorgeous and unique. Luke’s island and the white/red plane of Hoth, which both could be glimpsed at in the trailers, were magnificent to look at. Porges (or the pigeons of the Star Wars universe) were cute and not annoying (that was my worry).

The pacing was also very good – the movie was a bit long but it never dragged or got boring, again, mostly because so much was constantly happening. Lastly, John Williams’s score was as impactful as it has always been. My conclusion after watching The Last Jedi is that I completely trust in Rian Johnson to continue expanding the Star Wars canon with that new trilogy of his.

Acting

  • Mark Hamill delivered the best performance of his career as Luke Skywalker. I highly enjoyed the complex portrayal of the character. It was a bittersweet feeling seeing Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa. She didn’t have the biggest role in the film but her presence was felt throughout it. Also, she had one incredible scene that made up for the lack of quantity of scenes with her. The dedication to her at the end of the picture was heartbreaking.
  • Adam Driver (Midnight Special, Logan Lucky) was absolutely brilliant as Kylo Ren – he owned the role and was a pure joy to watch. Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express) was equally brilliant as Rey – I feel like she grew more confident in her acting abilities and that definitely shined through in the character. Her personal confidence also fit the character’s arc really well as Rey herself has also grown bolder and braver.
  • John Boyega (The Circle, Detroit) reprised his role as Finn and was amazing. He got a chance to show off his comedic talents. I also loved his chemistry with the newcomer Rose, played by  Kelly Marie Tran (she has played a handful of minor characters on TV and in films before but hasn’t done anything even close to the scale of this franchise).
  • Oscar Isaac (The Promise, Suburbicon, X-Men: Apocalypse) was wonderful as Poe Dameron – a.k.a. a bundle of charisma. His and BB-8’s interactions were just great. Laura Dern (recently appeared in a limited TV series Big Little Lies for which she is receiving a lot of awards’ nominations) played quite an unexpected and a very unique character. Her character’s and Poe’s standoffs very superb.
  • Andy Serkis (War For The Planet Of The Apes, Avengers 2, directed Breathe) did his thing motion capturing Supreme Leader Snoke, while Domhnall Gleeson (Goodbye Christopher Robin, mother!, American Made, The Revenant, Brooklyn, Anna Karenina) was a bit caricaturish as General Hux but still somehow fitting – probably mostly because the characters around him were aware of his cartoonishness and enjoyed slapping him around.
  • Gwendoline Christie (Game of Thrones) appeared as Captain Phasma and, while she did have a great fight with Finn, I still think that the actress was wasted in this role. Lastly, Benicio del Toro (Sicario, soon the sequel Soldado) had a little but a very interesting role in the film – would love to see more of his character in the future.

In short, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was an immensely satisfying addition to the Star Wars franchise. May it continue for many years!…and May The Force Be With You!!!!

Rate: 4.7/5

Trailer: Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer

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SPOILERS

Throughout my review, I mentioned a few times that I don’t know if The Last Jedi’s reveals will be impactful. Let’s go through them and I’ll explain what I mean.

  1. To begin with, the most speculated thing of the past two years – Rey’s parentage – was somewhat revealed. Kylo stated that she is a nobody and that her parents were nobodies and, even though Rey keeps looking for father figures in Han and Luke, she is definitely not related to either of them. I have few reservations about this: first of all, is Kylo a trustworthy source? Also, what about that idea that the main three trilogies are Skywalker-centric – how could one of them have a lead character who isn’t a Skywalker? And yet, I also sort of love the idea that Rey is a nobody – it’s quite an inspirational message to spread that everyone can become a hero.
  2. The trailers have been toying with the viewers, making it seem like Rey was turning to the dark side. However, Kylo is the one who ends up turning…but not really. His character’s arc is just brilliant – I feel like these past two movies have been his growth as a villain rather than redemption as a hero. I immensely enjoyed his and Rey’s back-to-back fight against the imperial guards – it was certainly my favorite smaller scale action scene of the film.
  3. Another great hand-to-hand dual occurred between Luke and Kylo. It wasn’t as visually pleasing as the Kylo/Rey one but it was highly enjoyable because of its meaning for the characters’ shared backstory – Kylo’s darkness scaring Luke into a shameful and regretful act.
  4. The aforementioned fight also resulted in a very interesting goodbye to one of the characters of the old cast – Luke. His way of passing – with peace and purpose – was just so deserved and fitting for the character. However, I don’t think that this film was the last time that we see Luke – I expect him to reappear in the next feature as a force ghost (like Yoda in this one – his cameo was a lovely surprise).
  5. The dual between Kylo and Luke was not only important for Luke but also significant for Kylo, who got a double defeat – physically and, more importantly, ideologically. Kylo has been on a quest to defeat the past, however, as The Last Jedi’s ending proved – the past cannot ever be defeated. It will be reborn and repeat itself, as evident in the closing shots with the force sensitive child.
  6. You know who else’s force sensitivity was finally shown on screen explicitly? Leia’s! It took this series a while to give Leia a great force related scene but the one in this picture was worth the wait. The bait-and-switch aspect of it only added to the emotional turmoil of watching that scene.
  7. Another significant death in the movie was that of Supreme Leader’s. The fans have been speculating online about who he actually was but we didn’t get a chance to find that out before his demise. It seems a bit cruel to play with the fans like that – hint at something in Episode 7 and not deliver on it in 8. I wonder whether he will somehow come back in 9 or whether he was truly just a stepping stone/a development point for Kylo?
  8. Lastly, I don’t know if I was reading into the characters’ interactions too much but I think we will get a love triangle in the next film. There appears to be something brewing between Finn and Rose; Finn and Rey also have a connection; and Poe, having finally met Rey, also seems to like her (I mean, who wouldn’t, she is awesome!).
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Movie review: Passengers

Movie reviews

Hello!

I am closing the holiday season by watching and reviewing the last big movie of 2016 – Passengers.

IMDb summary: A spacecraft traveling to a distant colony planet and transporting thousands of people has a malfunction in its sleep chambers. As a result, two passengers are awakened 90 years early.

I have been really looking forward to this movie, as it stars two of the biggest stars of today. However, then the paycheck news overshadowed the film and, later on, its critical scores, as well as the box office haul, were lesser than expected, so, I started having some reservations. These reservations were also the reason why I didn’t go out of my way to see this film before I made my best film list for the year. It was probably a good thing, as this movie, most likely, would have ended up on the worst list since  I had quite a few problems with it.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Writing

Passengers was written by Jon Spaihts, who also wrote Prometheous (one big plot hole of a movie), co-wrote Doctor Strange (how?) and is penning the upcoming The Mummy reboot. The majority of the problems I had with the film were because of its narrative. Let’s just go straight to the case: while the big reveal was not surprising to me, as I find out about doing my research before the film, it was still infuriating. I don’t know if I am the only one who finds the fact that Pratt’s character picked a gorgeous young female to keep him company more than unsettling. So, should we all make important decisions that our survival might depend upon based on purely physical attraction? Having read that sentence back, I suddenly realize that this actually happens in the real world constantly. Well, I still don’t want to see that in the sci-fi movies that are supposed to portray the better and brighter future.

Moving aside from the big spoiler-y reveal, the story by itself was not the most original. The movie was mostly a slow and sappy love story, so don’t expect to find any elements of a sci-fi thriller in Passengers (if you want an engaging space opera, just watch Gravity, Interstellar or The Martian). The plot was super predictable for the most part and the action really only picked up when one of the crew members woke up. But, yet again, the movie went back to its romance aspect and had a cliche ending.

The writing for the main female character was not the best either. I didn’t find her to be a particularly likable – she was a bit annoying and pretentious. I know I have championed unlikeable characters before but only if they were interesting. I didn’t find Aurora interesting at all. Her name, in reference to the Sleeping Beauty, might have been the most exciting thing about her.

Despite me hating the bigger part of the story, I want to mention at least a few things I liked. First, the whole discussion about humanity and culpability was interesting even if not handled efficiently or correctly. Secondly, the set-up, the backstory of the ships and the company its belongs to, and Pratt’s Jim’s character development were all quite good. Thirdly, the movie did have a few cute moments and a couple of funny lines that didn’t make me cringe or facepalm.

Directing

The director of The Imitation Game (absolutely adored that picture) Morten Tyldum directed Passengers and did a good job. I loved how the film looked visually: the design of the ship (both the inside and the outside) was stunning and the CGI effects of space and the stars were gorgeous too. All the space walk scenes, as well as the gravity loss at the pool scene, were my favorite (because they didn’t involve a lot of talking, just the visual part of filmmaking). The pacing could have been neater, but overall, I felt that Tyldum did the best he could with a flawed script.

Acting

Chris Pratt (The Magnificent Seven, Guardians of the Galaxy, Jurassic World) was magnificent in the lead. He was charming and likable and made that awfully misogynistic character of Jim seem passable. I liked the fact that his character was an engineer, though, at least that added some logic to the film.

Jennifer Lawrence (The Hunger Games, X-Men, Joy) was also good in the film but that’s a no brainer. What baffles me is why she even took on this role: it wasn’t challenging at all, just a role of a cliche female love interests. It just seemed way bellow Lawrence’s, Academy Award WINNER’s, level. If she only took it for the massive paycheck – well, that is even more problematic, as she doesn’t really want to add the adjective ‘greedy’ to her already sinking image. In addition, the movie’s opening weekend’s domestic box office didn’t even cover her paycheck! If she is not a draw for the movie goers, why would you pay her this much, especially, when this role could have been played by any other young actress.

The film didn’t really have a supporting cast, it was mostly a two people show. Nevertheless, Michael Sheen (Nocturnal Animals, Alice 2, Far From The Madding Crowd) was great as the android bartender, while Laurence Fishburne was also okay in the few scenes he had. His story and passing were probably more emotionally appealing to me than the whole romance of the two leads.

In short, Passengers was an okay movie with some problematic ideas (if you just think about it longer than a minute), stunning visuals and great performances from the overpaid cast.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Passengers trailer

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