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TAC Reviews...Star Wars New Episodes + Spin-Offs

 

I could review the previous Star Wars movies but in all honesty I really do not see the point because over the years it is generally widely accepted that the Original Trilogy was awesome and the Prequel Trilogy was shit. Now whilst I have never been a diehard Star Wars fan I have to say that I didn’t think the prequel trilogy was that bad but naturally the original movies were much better.

 

 

Recently George Lucas sold the rights of to Star Wars to Disney (who also own the rights to the Marvel films too)  who announced that there were going to be three more canon Episodes as well as a number of spin-offs.

 

In this section I am going to take a look at each of the Star Wars movies as they are released and see whether Disney does more harm to the franchise than George Lucas himself did when he decided to turn Darth Vader into a whiny pussy that started life Pod-Racing and somehow ended up as one of the greatest villains of all time, one so badass that he needed two actors to portray him.

 

Below you'll find reviews for:

 

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Solo: A Star Wars Story

 

TAC Reviews...Star Wars: The Force Awakens

 

Set 30 odd years after the events of Episode VI this film sees the man who rebooted the Star Trek universe, J.J Abrams, stepping in to direct with Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher returning to reprise their roles as Han Solo and Princess Leia. Joining the cast we have (amongst others obviously) Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega. This is the first of a new trilogy of films that have been spearheaded by Disney after they bought the rights to the franchise from George Lucas.

 

Star Wars The Force Awakens Poster

 

Before we go anywhere let’s get down to basics, the Original Trilogy was really good and the Prequel Trilogy was pretty shit. Both had their pros and cons and obviously Empire Strikes Back featured one of the most famous lines and twists in cinema history (you know the one). Now jumping into the Star Wars Universe with Episode IV left a lot of unanswered questions that the Prequel Trilogy attempted to answer by turning the terrifying figure of Darth Vader into a winy pussy that admittedly had a pretty good lightsaber battle at the end of Revenge of the Sith but took away everything that made the character so scary. Besides we all knew what was going to happen, Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader, if there had been an attempt to keep that a secret then the prequels might have worked but they didn’t and now they are stuck to the Original Trilogy like an inoperable tumour.

 

Since Star Wars has been released, and re-released and re-released again, George Lucas seems to have been doing his utmost to ruin his own franchise or add another hair to Chewbacca’s face that wasn’t in the original version to encourage fans into buying the latest box set.

 

The simple fact is that the original films did not need to have a prequel trilogy tacked onto them as well…however, continuing the canon of the characters seen in Episode VI has a hell of a lot of potential. I mean what happened when the Emperor and Darth Vader were both killed, who rose up to fill the power vacuum?? Did this trigger a civil war with different factions inside what had once been the Empire resulting in a total collapse of law and order in the galaxy?? We know at the end of Return of the Jedi that Leia is the daughter of Darth Vader so surely she could be trained to use the force too and if she was, is she going to training a new generation of Jedi with her brother??

 

With so many possibilities what has the Force Awakens given us…a return to form like the Original Trilogy or yet another cancerous tumour that, like the Prequel Trilogy, the Star Wars franchise is slowly becoming consumed by??

 

Is the force strong with this film??

 

Without further stalling for time here we go…Episode VII The Force Awakens

 

As we know renegade paragraphs drifting through space are a constant issue in the Star Wars Universe and the one that floats past in the opening sequence informs us that Luke Skywalker has disappeared and in the wake of the Galactic Empire a new organisation named The First Order has arisen. They seek to find and destroy Skywalker as well as the Resistance that has the backing of the Republic.

 

One of the operatives in the Resistance has a map that shows where Skywalker has gone, and the First Order want the map. The map ends up in the possession of a droid (that makes a change) and is found by a scavenger named Rey (Ridley). Meanwhile a Storm Trooper turns against the First Order and helps the Resistance guy escape but ends up crashing on the same planet as Rey. Together the two escape (Rey and the Storm Trooper that is) the planet in a ‘piece of junk’ spaceship with Kylo Ren (Driver) a literal Darth Vader-wanna-be and the rest of The First Order in pursuit.

 

The pair are found by a familiar former smuggler and his hairy friend, and attempt to get the droid to the rest of the Resistance.

 

Oh yes, it turns out The First Order have built, or converted, a planet so that it is capable of obliterating entire star systems of planets in a single shot. It is down the Resistance, and their allies to take up the fight against this new weapon and hopefully find the one man that can bring balance to the Force - Luke Skywalker.

 

Let me start off with some of the more basic issues I have with this film…ahem…something important ends up in a droid that will only deliver it to a particular person or group so already we’re rehashing the events of A New Hope. We have a Resistance that is fighting against a superior military force which is exactly what happened in the Original Trilogy. There is a bad guy wandering around in a mask who serves an imposing master and there is a blood connection between the hero and villain. So the plot is not exactly complicated or even slightly original…and there are so many links to the Original Trilogy that you’ll spot them a mile off. I mean take a wild guess what the ‘piece of junk’ actually turns out to be…by the way if you don’t guess then you probably have trouble dressing yourself in the morning.

 

Now whilst I am generally not bothered about spoiling films this is one that I don’t want to ruin for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet. Be warned that what follows is going to gave away some key plot points so if you don’t want to know then stop scroll down the page, you’ll know when it is safe to carry on reading

 

So at this point I am just going to drop this…

 

 

Still with me??

 

Right then, so the main bad guy in this film is Kylo Ren and I was not joking when I say that he basically worships Darth Vader and wants to become like him by embracing the Dark Side, apparently Luke attempted to train Ren but he started to go evil, destroyed what Luke had built so Luke exiled himself. Here’s my question: Your apprentice has gone evil, now why the fuck didn’t you stop him before you decided to exile yourself?? Surely Luke is more powerful than Ren so Luke…why allow him to use your training to become evil and powerful then piss off to leave him to continue. Stop Him!!! You are stronger than he is and if he is turning to the Dark Side then do something to stop him don’t just say “Fuck it” then bugger off.

 

Plus if Ren is looking to become the next Vader, why doesn’t Anakin Skywalker do something?? Remember at the end of Episode VI we saw Anakin become one with the Force along with Yoda and Obi-Wan. Now why doesn’t Anakin himself appear to Ren and tell him that he is wrong to pursue a path that will take him to the Dark Side?? I would think if Vader himself had told Ren to give up attempting to be like him then things would have turned out considerably better. It just seems that no one made any real attempt to stop Ren from becoming evil and just left him to it.

 

Then we have the character of Rey, a scavenger that is living on Jakku waiting for her parents to return, she teams up with the reformed Storm Trooper “Finn” to escape the planet. Then they are found in the most contrived way of bringing characters back that I have ever seen in any film. As the film progresses she starts to pull more and more Force Powers out of her arse, she touches Luke’s lightsaber and suddenly gets flashes of him. She is also able to use the Jedi Mind Trick. She hasn’t received any training, it isn’t established that she was able to use the Force on an unconscious level her whole life, she just starts using the Force out of nowhere. You could argue that the first time she uses the Force it is more out of instinct because Ren is trying to torture her using his own powers but we are SIX films into this canon and we haven’t seen anyone use the Force this way before. It was established that Luke was a very powerful Jedi and he didn’t have any flashes of Vader when he touched his father’s lightsaber. It also seems that Rey is able to use the Force to help her fight as she suddenly becomes a master with the lightsaber during her battle with Ren. If it was possible to get lightsaber fighting knowledge using the Force then why the fuck didn’t Yoda tell Luke how to do that when he went off to fight Vader in the Empire Strikes Back??

 

On the topic of lightsabers it seems that the one Ren has constructed is more unstable than the ones seen previously, this might be because Ren doesn’t really know how to build one so it is a little unstable. This is an idea I would have been absolutely fine with and it would have been far more interesting if Ren’s lightsaber had been outmatched by the lightsaber used by Rey because it was constructed by a true Jedi and not a pretender Sith. Does this happen?? Nope, because that would have interesting and what this film is trying to do is appeal to as wide an audience as possible so does not push any boundaries or try to do anything other than have marketable niche appeal using the Star Wars licence.

 

I think my biggest problem with The Force Awakens is the overall tone of the film, there isn’t one comic relief character here, there are several. Everyone seems to want to get a joke or two in, which just means that I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to be taking things seriously. There are moments when this is almost a parody or spoof of the Star Wars Universe, when the Resistance discover this new weapon they know that there will be some flaw in its armour because there is “always a weak spot” they can exploit. As we all know the first Death Star was destroyed due to a design flaw, not learning its lesson the same flaw was present in the Second Death Star and now this Planet Weapon also has an easily exploitable weakness. The fact that this plot point that has occurred time and time again in the Star Wars franchise could make you think this is indeed a piss take, however, if this is supposed to be a parody or a piss take why do they try to make you care about the characters??

 

Okay let me just drop another one of these…

 

 

If you are still here then brace yourself…

 

One of the main characters dies, I am not going to tell you who, but this is obviously supposed to be an emotional moment when we see the two characters standing face to face, both being torn apart by their emotional connection to one another. Then one dies…unfortunately I did not care. It was so obviously going to happen that it didn’t carry any emotional weight, and was clearly just thrown in so this film could turn to the audience and go “Oh no shit’s getting real”. This should have been shocking, it should have been horrifying, it should have made you want to weep but it didn’t…because the film doesn’t know if it is meant to be serious or not and if the film doesn’t know how are the audience supposed to know??

 

Truthfully I could go on and on questioning what the hell is going on and why we still have a Resistance and a Republic when surely the two elements would have been combined into one after the fall of the Galactic Empire but all I have done thus far is criticise and The Force Awakens wasn’t all bad.

 

(...End of Spoilers...)

 

If you didn’t want to read any spoilers then welcome back…acting wise the cast do a decent job and whilst Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher haven’t aged especially well the stress that their characters have suffered in their lives is etched into their faces. Han isn’t the handsome smuggler he once was and Leia isn’t the spoiled princess. They have been forced to endure Luke’s departure and the rise of the First Order with Kylo Ren as one of the principal forces in that organisation. Finn is also entertaining as the first Storm Trooper we’ve seen that regains his sense of self, he is apparently a new breed of Trooper that were kidnapped and brainwashed to serve the First Order so we have abandoned the clones of previous films. I think this is a little different but wouldn’t trying to free all the brain washed Troopers thus undermining the First Order’s power base be something the Resistance could attempt?? I mean now that we know the Storm Trooper were brainwashed civilians then they are as much victims of the First Order as everyone else so killing them en masse doesn’t have the conscience free nature that it used to. Ridley is convincing as the scavenger Rey and seems as confused about what is suddenly happening to her as the audience is. She’d pretty likable and her clashes with Ren are impressive but Adam Driver is no Darth Vader no matter how hard he tries to be. I guess that is the whole root of his character’s insecurity, but even in his mask Ren just doesn’t have the presence of Vader and when he gets mad he smashes up room after room. This makes him seem to be more like a child having a tantrum than a wanna-be Master of the Dark Side. Perhaps that was the whole point of his character and if it was then he has done his job incredibly well, but The Force Awakens lacks a strong enemy for our heroes to clash with.

 

The special effects are pretty impressive plus there are plenty of ground and air battles, and we get to see a non-Jedi using a lightsaber which we haven’t seen before. There is still an overreliance on CGI with the Supreme Leader of the First Order, Snoke…

 

 

Yes, the leader of the First Order is called Snoke and he looks like something that got lost on its way to a Lord of the Rings convention. Plus he always projects himself as a massive hologram sitting in the throne that towers over anyone standing before him…can you say overcompensating?? Anyway Snoke himself is obviously a creation of CGI, so is Maz Kanata, the owner of a bar that echoes strongly of the cantina seen in A New Hope. She is over a thousand years old but has not been seen or heard of in the Star Wars Universe up to this point. I miss the puppets of the original films and like I said in my Jurassic World review I miss practical effects. There is a wealth of CGI on display but as usual with CGI you can easily identify what is computer generated and what isn’t. It does take you out of some of the moments but simple effects like ships kicking up spray when they are close to water looks nice and that is the kind of subtle use of CGI that I like.

 

Ultimately I found The Force Awakens to be pretty dull, the plot was tired and Ren is no Vader. Some of the action sequences are entertaining and the actors are working hard, sadly I was mostly bored whilst watching this. I rolled my eyes so many times as something incredibly contrived or mightily convenient happened. I fail to see how anyone can find this film to be anything other than a desperate attempt to cash in, yet again, on the loyalty of Star Wars fans.

 

This is Episode VII but it should have been Episode VIII because there is a fuck load that had obviously happened since Episode VI but none of it is explained. Why are the Resistance and the Republic separate entities?? Why was the First Order able to build another planet destroying Doomsday Machine without the Republic intervening?? The Resistance fighters mention that the Republic has a fleet so why didn’t they get off their lazy asses and actually stop the First Order years ago?? Did no one fill the power vacuum left when the Emperor was defeated?? Honestly the only thing I can think of is that they put Jar-Jar Binks in charge…I have literally just thought of that but wouldn’t it make sense?? Maybe the Emperor wrote in his Will that if he and his apprentice died then Jar-Jar was to become the new leader of the Empire because the Emperor knew that Jar-Jar would royally fuck up the rest of the galaxy…it would explain how the First Order could build a weapon without anyone trying to stop them until after the weapon was completed.

 

There is no such thing as a perfect film, and whilst films like Alien or Dredd are damn near perfect they have their flaws. What I view as being the most important thing about a film is if it is entertaining enough that you don’t notice or better yet care about the flaws. When all you are doing is constantly poking holes in what you are viewing then the film hasn’t drawn you into its world. I was not impressed with The Force Awakens but in all honestly that isn’t going to stop me seeing its sequel when it comes out in 2017, although that doesn’t stop me bitching about it, because there was a lot of wasted potential here. As you know I really hate wasted potential and as a result I am going to use my Thumb to push The Force Awakens Down into the Sarlacc pit where it belongs.

 

 

4/10 – I was bored, and that is not a word you wanted associated with you film. There are some positives but on the whole I cannot recommend it. However, I know full well that my negative opinion is not going to stop anyone from going to see it so I have probably just wasted my breath and some of the internet’s time…

 

TAC Reviews...Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

Since Disney bought the rights to the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas they have vowed to release a new film every Christmas until, I dunno, the end of the world I suppose, and it was the reason for last year’s pile of shit, namely Episode VII The Force Awakens. Like I said then, even a shit film in the Star Wars series isn’t going to stop me from seeing subsequent instalments but naturally going into Rogue One I was not hopeful. But that wasn’t going to prevent me watching it, the film itself is a spin-off story which takes place between the events of Episode III and Episode IV.

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

 

First off let me wish you humans a Happy New Year and remind you that death is imminent once my people answer the phone so enjoy every day of 2017 whilst you can. Right now that is out of the way, let’s crack on with the reason you keep coming back to me, to read my reviews of various forms of human entertainment…

 

Like I said above this film is a spin-off that takes place within the Star Wars Universe, and charts a key event in the Rebels fight against the Empire that we had not previously seen. A couple of characters from the established canon appear here to cement this film as part of the universe, Peter Cushing is present in the film, now he died in 1994 so his likeness is superimposed over an actor who takes over his part from Episode IV.

 

Before I get too far ahead of myself let me tell you what is happening…ahem…this is the story in which the Rebels get the plans for the Death Star…that is pretty much it. Naturally there is a tad more to it than that, so let me go into a little bit more detail about what is taking place…

 

The film opens with research scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) living a peaceful life as a farmer on the Planet Lah’mu, an Empire ship lands, and Erso instructs his daughter to hide until he comes for her. His young daughter Jyn does as she is told and Erso is taken by the Empire to help them complete their ultimate weapon. Jyn waits in her hiding place and is eventually rescued by a Rebel extremist Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).

 

Sixteen years later the now adult Jyn (Felicity Jones) is rescued from Imperial captivity because an Imperial pilot has defected and claims that he has a message from Erso that must be given to Gerrera. As a man who has become estranged from the rest of the Rebels, it is hoped that due to their former relationship in which Gerrera raised Jyn, she will be able to approach him without being harmed. She and a Rebel named Cassian (Diego Luna) are dispatched to find Gerrera and his supporters in the hopes of learning about the weapon the pilot was talking about, one that is capable of destroying an entire planet.

 

Meanwhile the Empire is keen to test its new toy, and after his is ousted as leader of the project by Grand Moff Tarkin (Cushing’s face but acted by Guy Henry) former head of the Death Star Project Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) seeks an audience with the Emperor to ensure his contribution is not underplayed.  However, before he can even get close to the Emperor, he has to meet with the formidable Lord Darth Vader, someone who is unlikely to be sympathetic to his concerns.

 

Okay, I might as well just drop this straight away because this whole article is going to be one spoiler after another…

 

 

Hopefully you’re still with me and right off the bat let me make it clear that I thought this film was really good, and was leaps and bounds ahead if the lacklustre Force Awakens that was unleashed upon the world last year. One of the reasons that I think this film works so well is because it is a relatively small story but one that had massive implications, at the beginning of Episode IV the Rebels already had the stolen plans for the Death Star but we had no idea how they got hold of them. This is that story, and that is a massive point in its favour because this film is not about Master Jedi or people pulling hitherto unknown Force powers out of their arses, it is a about a group of scruffy freedom fighters that have little to no chance of success.

 

Plus, I cannot be the only one who has wondered time and time again about the MASSIVE design flaw in the Death Star, how could the Empire have built a planet sized weapon that could be completely destroyed by a couple of human sized torpedoes?? That was a huge plot point but this story explains why that weakness was there and the explanation is not just a cop-out. It actually makes sense. Essentially Erso knew that the Empire would complete the Death Star eventually without his help, so he decided to play the part of the downtrodden scientist, whose spirit had been crushed by his oppressors, he made himself essential to the project and built the weakness into the Death Star. The weakness wasn’t a design flaw, it was a trap, it was a deliberate Achilles Heel. I thought that was such a good idea, the flaw wasn’t a mistake, it wasn’t an oversight, it was intentional, someone put it there on purpose. The Empire couldn’t do anything about the weakness because they did not know it was even there, and the engineer and architect who should have seen it, was the one who put it there in the first place…genius…and has basically silenced so many critics in one fell swoop.

 

Nuff said, do I even need to talk about anything else??

 

Well, I’m going to, so read on…

 

Unlike the Original Trilogy the Rebels themselves are a little more haggard this time around, they know that they don’t really have a hope of winning, and have separated into different factions all of whom fight the Empire in their own way. Gerrera is an extremist and is considered dangerous by members of the Rebellion and the Empire alike. Forest Whitaker effortlessly conveys the menace of an aged fighter who has a soft spot for the girl he raised but has lost contact with over the years.

 

Reprogrammed droids also make up the ranks of the Rebellion, and one of the film’s highlights is K-2SO played by Alan Tudyk, who is basically what C3-PO would have been if he had balls. He speaks his mind and offers some of the comic relief, fortunately even though the overall tone of this film is a bit darker, the slightly more humorous elements are not out of place as they were in Force Awakens.

 

The Rebels are fighting a dirty war, it is not forces meeting on the battlefield, these are terrorists hiding on planets swarming with Imperial troop, trying their best to undermine the totalitarian authority of the Empire. As a result, Cassian is in no-way a nice guy, early in the film another character loyal to the Rebels informs him about the pilot talking about a weapon that can kill a planet, but when he is unable to escape Cassian kills him. Cassian has been fighting the Empire since he was 6 years old and sees things in terms of the bigger picture and knows that one day he’ll die in the service of the Rebellion. He will sacrifice someone if it means protecting the Rebellion as a whole. The equipment the Rebels use has been scrounged from various sources and the leaders disagree on how to move forward and what to do about the message from the pilot. They don’t know whether to believe that such a weapon could possibly exist and if they should attempt to recover the plans based on Erso’s message to his daughter Jyn which only she heard.

 

There are some pretty good space battles with the Rebel forces taking on ships of the Empire, and similarly to the battles in Episode IV the action will follow a single pilot for a while rather than just jumping from ship to ship which allows you to form a connection with a pilot before their atoms are scattered into the void of space. The special effects are first rate and we even get to see the Imperial Walkers that haven’t been seen since Episode V (unless you count the one briefly seen on Endor which doesn’t actually do much) stomping across the beaches killing rebels. Seeing them being taken on by rebels with guns and rockets rather than speeders was also pretty impressive and gave another indication of the power of the Empire’s war machines. A side note, the planet the Rebels go to in order to get the Death Star plans is a tropical world that seems to be a bit of a slice of paradise. If I was a member of the Empire I don’t think I’d object to being stationed on a tropical beach planet on a world protected by an energy shield whilst looking after data. Talk about a sweet deal and it makes a change to see an actually nice location in the Star Wars Universe with people who basically just do data entry, if you’re going to join the Empire, that’s where I’d want to be posted…but anyway I digress…

 

In Rogue One we are seeing people who have been under the boot of the Empire for years and unlike Luke Skywalker who only just entered the Rebellion in Episode IV these characters know that they might be dead at any moment. They are aware that sooner or later they are going to be found and killed by the Empire that they fight against. You believe the struggle that they are all going through, and as the film draws towards the climax you know that they aren’t going to make it out alive.

 

The film naturally isn’t flawless and the fact that it is such a small story some might criticise, but I thought it worked really well. I did have a moment when Jyn’s mother gives her a crystal on a cord that was apparently once used by the Jedi in their lightsabers, I was sooooo hoping that she wouldn’t suddenly plug that crystal into a lightsaber and have a fight with someone, and do you know what, that mercifully doesn’t happen. Jyn is never a Jedi, in fact no Jedi at all appear in the film.

 

The Death Star’s primary weapon is powered by these crystals which is another great idea, because the Empire is using something that the Jedi used to fight for Good to power a doomsday weapon that can extinguish a planet in a single shot.

 

Darth Vader is in this film but he has more of a cameo role, James Earl Jones returns to voice him, but it is obvious that Jones’ voice isn’t as young as it used to be, however, that being said Darth Vader isn’t Darth Vader without James Earl Jones’ voice. Plus Vader has one of the most badass scenes in the history of cinema badasses, forget him pathetically shouting “Noooooo” at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Here is the badass Vader that we all knew and loved from the Original Trilogy, the scene is almost harrowing, and goes to show why everyone in the Rebellion is so terrified of Vader.

 

Rogue One has helped to wash away the bad taste left in my mouth after Force Awakens, it was quite surprising to hear people saying the film was actually good, Star Wars fans seem surprised when a film set in this universe isn’t drivel. It just demonstrates that Star Wars fans are expected to be bad since the Original Trilogy, this film does go to show that these films can be decent when they don’t try to shatter the universe or change the entire universe. I would love it if the next film Episode VIII is as good as this film, but I seriously doubt that it will be. Still that will be a review for early 2018, as far as Rogue One is concerned it is not a film that I am frantically trying to forget, so it earns a Thumbs Up. Hopefully this will become the trend with future Star Wars films but considering the next film will follow the story started in Force Awakens I really doubt it.

 

 

9/10 – There are flaws in the film but unlike Force Awakens the flaws are in the minority, and as I haven’t really mentioned any of them in favour of talking about all the good in this film that should tell you everything you need to know. Rogue One is a great little story that lead on to something bigger and set up the events of Episode IV beautifully.

 

TAC Reviews...Star Wars: The Last Jedi

 

Episode VIII in the long running Star Wars franchise sees the return of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker with Carrie Fisher returning as Princess Leia, in her final appearance before she sadly passed away in 2016. Returning to the cast we have Daisy Ridley as Rey, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, John Boyega as Finn with Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron.

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Poster

 

After the previous Episode made me want to spit blood at what wasted potential it had, I had lowered my standards for Star Wars films so much so that as long as I didn't sit down to watch a movie, and see a couple of hours of George Lucas or Disney's Chief Executives having a pillow fight with bags of money that I would be able to enjoy the film. Then Rogue One came out, and it was a tighter focussed story, which I thought was really good. It explained away the Death Star's weakness perfectly and showed the Rebels as desperate people that are not as squeaky clean as we have seen them previously, which was all good.

 

The problem is the Episodes seem to have to be bigger and better than their predecessors, but all that has happened is a rehashing of the best bits from the original films. Was The Last Jedi a bold step in a new direction or another crappy edition to a franchise that just needs to die already??

 

Well, let's head back a long, long time ago to a galaxy far, far away to find out...

 

Picking up immediately where The Force Awakens left off we have the Resistance abandoning their base after the First Order have located their position. A huge Dreadnaught-class vessel appears alongside the Star Destroyers and obliterates what remains of the base from orbit. Poe takes his lone X-Wing fighter to destroy the vessel's smaller guns, which allow the Resistance' bombers to target the Dreadnaught's weak point (seriously why does the First Order keep building stuff with one huge weak spot??) and destroy the ship. Unfortunately the cost is high and all of the Rebel bombers are destroyed in the attack, plus Poe is demoted in rank for disobeying orders during the mission. The remaining Resistance vessels jump to hyperspace to escape the First Order's fleet of ships.

 

Across the galaxy Rey is standing before Legendary Jedi Luke Skywalker in the hopes that he will train her to master the Force. Unfortunately he is less than enthusiastic about training her as he has abandoned the galaxy to its fate after Ren destroyed his temple and killed the other Jedi Luke was training.

 

Back at the Resistance fleet, the First Order's ships along with Supreme Leader Snoke's flagship appear moments after the Resistance fleet drops out of hyperspace having managed the impossible and tracked them after they left the remains of their base behind. With the Rebels vastly outgunned and their ships rapidly running out of fuel, it is up to Finn and Co to try and save the Rebellion from being crushed.

 

Meanwhile Rey continues to try and convince Luke that she needs to be trained, during which time her connection to Snoke's Sith apprentice, Kylo Ren, appears to be getting stronger.

 

Okay, so the big question is: Was The Last Jedi better than The Force Awakens??

 

Honestly, yes it was.

 

Was it better than Rogue One??

 

No, it wasn't.

 

Let me clarify something, when I saw The Force Awakens I was expecting something epic, the trailers showed this guy practically worshipping Darth Vader. Han Solo and Chewbacca were present and correct, as was Princess Leia. To continue the Star Wars films from where the Original Trilogy left off, my mind ran wild with possibilities as to where the filmmakers were going to take this story. As I sat down to watch The Force Awakens I was expecting something equally epic, and what I found was a film in which basically the key bits from the Original Trilogy had been spliced together in the hopes of creating something good. Instead of the Death Star that can destroy planets, we have a planet capable of destroying whole solar systems. Instead of the Empire we have the First Order, and instead of Darth Vader we have a Darth Vader wanna-be named Kylo Ren. All of these things could have worked but to me it made the struggles of the previous films ultimately pointless because in the wake of the Empire's downfall, something worse was born from the ashes. The Resistance was still fighting on its own with no support from the re-established Republic, which did nothing to stop the First Order rising to power in the first place. Rey was pulling unknown Force powers out of her arse and using the Force in a way that we hadn't seen anyone doing before but with no explanation as to why or how. Finn was a brainwashed storm trooper who regained his sense of self, but again no one else has managed to do that and yet storm troopers are still killed by the heroic rebels on masse.

 

Basically the longer I watched the film, the more annoyed I got, there was so much potential and all of it was completely wasted.

 

I was also left with a strong sense of boredom that made the above factors so much worse because continuing the story was really pointless and showed that nothing good arose from the destruction of the Empire.

 

The thing is that unlike The Force Awakens which left me ultimately angry and disappointed...The Last Jedi left me increasingly bored...

 

Let me just drop this before I go any further...

 

 

So the Rebels are escaping a base that the First Order has found, so far so Empire Strikes Back, as they are evacuating numerous enemy ships appear and start attacking, leading a lone pilot to find the weak-spot so the ship can be destroyed (Luke attacking the Death Star in A New Hope but Poe attacking the Dreadnaught-class ship in this). It costs many lives but the vessel is destroyed. The Rebels flee, however, before they can escape the First Order catches up and basically just decide to run them down as they will sooner or later run out of fuel.

 

Okay, here is my problem with this idea. In space there is no resistance as the vessels are in a vacuum, so why exactly are the Rebels using their engines?? Exert a force on something in a vacuum and it will keep moving because there is no counter-force to stop it. The Rebels could have basically just coasted along to keep ahead of the First Order, this could have been explained if the First Order were pushing their engines to try and catch up and the Rebels were having to push theirs even harder to stay ahead but they don't do that. As each ship in the rebellion fleet runs out of fuel they basically stop, and fall back into weapon's range where they are destroyed. What force is acting against them which is causing them to slow down when they run out of fuel?? If the First Order had a weak tractor beam lock on them, then yep use fuel, if the First Order is gaining, then yes use fuel to stay out in front. It seems that no one who made the film understands anything about inertia in a vacuum, and as someone who has a space ship, I can verify that you can coast between entire galaxies without using any fuel because there is nothing in the void that can slow you down.

 

The majority of the film is about the Rebels being stuck on this ship, and when some of them do escape to a nearby planet where there just happens to be an old Rebel base we get the base being assaulted by Walkers, just like we did in Empire Strikes Back.

 

So, the Rebels don't know about inertia in a vacuum and they need clarification from ex-Storm Trooper Finn when he tells them the First Order has a Battering-Ram Canon that they are going to use to breach the door of the Rebel base. Now I'm assuming that a battering-ram...actually you know what I'm not going to tell you what it is, just take a guess, what do you think a battering-ram canon is?? Well done, you are officially smarter than Poe who needed a further explanation when Finn spots the canon being moved into position outside the Rebel base

 

The majority of the film is about the Rebels being stuck on this ship, and when some of them do escape to a nearby planet where there just happens to be an old Rebel base we get the base being assaulted by Walkers, just like we did in Empire Strikes Back.

 

Rey is the focus and her attempting to persuade Luke to return to the fight, and so the rest of the cast don't really have much to do until she gets back. Finn is the only one given a task, and it is up to him and another Rebel named Rose to get onboard the lead destroyer and disable their tracking device. Which will give the Rebels a six minute window they can use to escape...er...not sure six minutes is going to get you too far ahead guys but whatever. In order to do that they need someone who can crack the codes onboard the ship, so they hightail it to a gambling planet to find a code breaker before returning to the fleeing Rebel ships. So they have a ship that is able to get to another planet, and back undetected, but they have no other vessels capable of escaping the pursuing First Order ships?? Couldn't Finn have made a bunch of trips, taken survivors off the ship taking them to a planet and then returning?? Wouldn't that have saved more lives than everyone sitting around hoing that they come up with a plan before their fuel runs out??

 

So is the stuff with Rey any good??

 

Well tell me if this sounds familiar...ahem...a young Jedi afraid of what they can do with their powers travels to a remote location to seek out a Jedi Master in a self-imposed exile in the hopes of them training them to use the Force [cough...Empire Strikes Back...]. It takes time (well not a lot because the Rebels only have eighteen hours of fuel before they run out) but they win over their reluctant master who is concerned they might join the Dark Side. They also discover a place, which is strong with the Dark Side and they venture inside where nothing much happens as the pacing of the film stops dead [cough...Empire Strikes Back...]. Later there is a moment when our young Jedi has a chance to join the Dark Side and must look inside themselves to discover their own path [...cough...Empire Strikes Back...sorry I don't know why I am coughing so much today...]

 

Basically The Force Awakens was a remake of A New Hope and The Last Jedi is a remake of Empire Strikes Back.

 

Plus, just like the last movie, the tone of this one is also all over the place. There are serious moments when it seems that all hope is lost and the Rebellion with be crushed but then there are completely out of place comedy moments. Poe contacts one of the enemy ships and asks to speak to the General in charge, who promptly calls him Rebel scum and other nasty things. Poe says he can't hear him so the General repeats his threat. Poe again claims not to have heard him, at which point the General is looking a tad embarrassed that his threats are being ignored. Turns out that Poe could hear him and was just distracting him but minutes later the Rebels are being slaughtered so why are we supposed to be chuckling one minute and shocked the next?? Elements like this just don't gel with the rest of the film, have gritty realism, fine, have light hearted tongue-in-cheek, also fine, but don't try to combine the two because you just end up with a jumbled mess.

 

Nothing happens, the characters are all having a who can have the noblest death competition.

 

There is a moment when a Rebel ship enters hyper-space whilst facing the pursuing First Order ships and is able to decimate Snoke's huge flagship and numerous smaller Imperial vessels. The visuals are pretty cool I admit, but it left me wondering why that tactic isn't used more often. If a single Rebel ship can destroy other way bigger and more powerful vessels, why don't the Rebels have kamikaze ships basically loaded with explosives, an auto-pilot and a hyper-drive?? Seriously if a First Order ship approaches, jump to hyper-space and bisect the thing without losing a single Rebel whilst taking down an Imperial Star Destroyer. Use tactics Rebels, you know force the First Order to engage them with smaller vessels rather than large powerful ships...but then these re people whose best pilot can't figure out what a battering-ram canon does.

 

I don't think whoever leads the Rebels is especially smart. In a moment that echoed of Family Guy in Something, Something, Something Dark Side when the Rebels abandon their Hoth base (in Empire Strikes Back), Lois as Leia points out that they have virtually limitless directions that they could go to escape but they have decided to head straight for the Imperial ships in orbit. Guess what they decided to do in this?? Yep, head directly for the enemy fleet in orbit above their heads. It would have been nice if someone could have told us why they opt for this tactic yet again, but naturally no one does or questions why they don't pick a direction other than the one that has an Imperial blockade in place.

 

Plus Mark Hamill is completely wasted as Luke Skywalker and his apprentices all disappeared after Ren destroyed his temple. Some apparently left with him but none of them are seen or mentioned again so who the hell knows where they are now.

 

Carrie Fisher is in the film but she is really more just kind-of there than having anything specific to do. There is a scene in which she is blasted into space, and you know what it is a sad and shocking moment. Carrie Fisher passed away in 2016 so seeing Leia die has the tug of real emotion as you watch the character perish, but she then reawakens in space. Yep, bear with me, and uses the Force powers that she now has to fly through the lifeless vacuum back to the ship and get into a convenient airlock. All whilst being exposed to the cold of space, all without a space suit, and all after having been blown into spaces as the hull of her ship was blasted away. It is so stupid and I found myself humming the theme to Superman The Movie as she flies back to safety, only to spend most of the rest of the movie unconscious, only to wake up again before the end. I assumed she'd have the task of remaining behind to pilot the doomed ship but no, she jumps on a transport to escape with everyone else.

 

I don't understand what these two new Episodes have accomplished or how they have moved the story forward. The Prequel Trilogy was about the rise of the Empire and Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader. The Original Trilogy was about Luke becoming a Jedi and the Rebels overthrowing the Empire. What have these two films done?? How have they moved the story forwards?? At the end of this film Rey is still on the side of good and Ren is still on the side of bad, just as they were at the start, they have some conflict during the film but basically end up back where they were at the beginning.

 

One of my skin-sack's friends has read several books that were set after the end of the Original Trilogy in which it turns out that there was another threat from a neighbouring galaxy that the Empire was also at war with. Which goes along to help explain why the Empire didn't crush the tiny and pretty insignificant Rebellion years ago, but that is beside the point. Anyway, the point is that without the Empire to hold that threat back it was able to march into the Star Wars galaxy unopposed. Now that would have made a much more interesting story, and would have given the Empire a greater context, that they weren't necessarily evil as they protected the galaxy from a worse enemy. Consider a scenario in which Jedi and Sith are forced to unite to fight something none of them have ever seen before, I am not familiar with those stories but from what I was told they sound much more interesting than what we've ended up with.

 

I remember being irritated when watching The Force Awakens because we are seeing Rey do things that no one with Force powers had done previously. No one had picked up a lightsaber and got an insight into the history of the weapon, she did, no one else was able to master the Jedi Mind-Trick without training, she could. Her origins were a mystery, is she Han and Leia's daughter?? Is she Luke's daughter?? Did the Emperor have children or grand-children?? One of these being true would at least help to explain her connection with Ren, sadly these questions are dismissed. Her parents were unknown nobodies, that's it. We don't learn anything more about her than we did in the previous film. We don't learn who her parents are or anything about her past that might explain why she can do the things she can do.

 

The questions were posed in the last film and forgotten for this one.

 

I will admit that there were interesting moments, seeing Luke recount the events that led to Ren betraying him from his perspective, then seeing them from Ren's point of view were good. But as I said the majority of the film I was just bored...and perhaps that is worse than being annoyed or disappointed.

 

I saw the film with another friend of my skin-sack (yes my skin-sack has more than one friend surprisingly) and when we left the cinema he asked me what I thought and all I could do was shrug and go "Meh...". That is my summary of the film, it was "meh". There was nothing in it that was terrible, there was nothing in it that was awesome, but there was so much in it that was just dull. My Thumb can only be Horizontal because this film is as "Meh" a film as I have seen for a long time, some good, some bad, but mostly boring.

 

 

5/10 – Painfully average is the best way to describe this film, I wasn’t angry like I was when I saw Force Awakens and I wasn’t pleasantly surprised as I was when I saw Rogue One. A tedious story, with not a lot going on broken up by the occasional good moment or sequence that ultimately fails to do anything other than bore.

 

TAC Reviews...Solo A Star Wars Story

 

Another of the Star Wars Story entries that focuses on a young Han Solo played by Alden Ehrereich and Donald Glover as the young Lando Calrissian. The film had a somewhat difficult production with development beginning in 2012. The principal photography began in 2017 but the original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller left that same year sighting “creative differences” leaving Ron Howard to take over direction. It is reported that Howard ended up reshooting almost 80% of the film and with a budget of $250 million Solo is one of the most expensive films ever made.

 

Solo A Star Wars Story Poster

 

Another of the Star Wars Story entries that focuses on a young Han Solo played by Alden Ehrereich and Donald Glover as the young Lando Calrissian. The film had a somewhat difficult production with development beginning in 2012. The principal photography began in 2017 but the original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller left that same year sighting “creative differences” leaving Ron Howard to take over direction. It is reported that Howard ended up reshooting almost 80% of the film and with a budget of $250 million Solo is one of the most expensive films ever made.

 

So if the Episodes were hugely disappointing but the first Star Wars Story was really good, would this become a trend?

 

Will the Force be strong with Solo?

 

The film opens on the ship building planet of Corellia where orphans must steal to survive, Han and his lover Qi’Ra (Emilia Clarke) attempt to escape the clutches of the criminal gang that controls the streets, but whilst Han is able to escape, Qi’Ra is captured. Han vows to return for her and joins the Imperial Navy to learn how to become a pilot so he will be able to get a ship and come back for her. As he enlists, the recruiting officer asks for his name, he replies simple “Han” and when he is asked for his last name he simply replies he is alone, so the officer simply gives him the last name of “Solo”.

 

Three years later, having been expelled from the Imperial Navy for insubordination, Han is serving as an infantry man when he comes across a gang of criminals posing as Imperial Officers lead by Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson). After a failed attempt at blackmailing Beckett into letting him come with them, Beckett has Han arrested and thrown in the pit to be fed to a beast...[three guesses what the “beast” turns out to be]. Han is able to convince Beckett to help him and his new friend escape the planet. They agree to join Beckett and his crew on a mission to hijack a shipment of coaxium (which is used as fuel for the Imperial fleet). The mission goes awry resulting in the deaths of two of Beckett’s crew members (including his wife) and the shipment of coaxium is destroyed.

 

It turns out that Beckett was hired by Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany) a high ranking member of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. Needless to say Vos is not happy that the shipment was lost and threatens to kill Beckett for his failure. Han suggests another source of coaxium that they could steal to repay the debt, and Vos agrees. However, he insists that his top lieutenant accompanies them on the mission; his lieutenant is none other than Qi’Ra who also escaped Corellia on her own.

 

What Han neglects to tell Vos was that he didn’t have a ship capable of getting to the planet where the coaxium, fortunately Qi’Ra knows of a man who owns a fast ship, a man named Lando Calrissian...

 

Okay, so basically Rogue One could be summarised with the question “Why did the Empire build the Death Star with such a major design flaw?” and possibly “How did the rebels get the Death Star plans?”

 

Solo asks the question/s: “How did the Millennium Falcon make the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs [when a parsec is a unit of distance not time]?” “How did Chewbacca and Han Solo meet?” How did Han get the Millennium Flacon?” “How do Han and Lando know each other?” “Exactly how did Han save Chewbacca’s life resulting in the Wookiee swearing a life debt to him?”...Fortunately Solo answers ALL of these questions; yes in the space of a couple of hours (and a few in-film days) we see every event that we just heard about Han Solo in the Original Trilogy.

 

Admittedly the Kessel run explanation is quite clever, basically the planet Kessel is in a dangerous region of space and the only route ships can take to it takes them twenty parsecs, but Han manages to do it in twelve. So saying that the Falcon did the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs makes sense within the Star Wars universe but to base a large chunk of the film around something that Han mentioned once when he first meets Luke in A New Hope seems a tad pointless.

 

As you can tell from the questions posed above, Solo leaves nothing to the imagination; we see basically every event from Han’s life that was mentioned in the Original Trilogy without exception.

 

As a result the film lacks a clear focus; it is so intent with showing us every event from Han’s life that we jump from location to location, encounter to encounter without any time devoted to any of them. Lando cheats when he plays Han for the Falcon but his hired to go on the mission to Kessel anyway which results in Han and Chewbacca piloting the ship. Han and Lando have a rematch later on resulting in Han winning the ship before flying off to meet with Jabba the Hut.

 

I also am not exactly sure which era in the Star Wars timeline we are in, by its design one year looks the same as another, a decade or a century may have passed between each film and there would be no way to tell. There are references to the Empire, and the Emperor. An Imperial ship appears at one point so presumably the events are taking place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope but there is a cameo that makes no sense.

 

I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll be as general in my description as possible

 

So a character that we haven’t seen since The Phantom Menace is in this film but when they appear I was just left wondering where the hell they has been since we last saw them, or what happens to them in the later films??

 

Seriously it is a cameo that raises more questions than the film is prepared to answer.

 

For a film that wants to tell us everything about Han’s life to drop this character in without an explanation is more irritating than anything else, and makes me wonder if there is going to be a sequel to this film in which we learn what the cameo person has been doing since they were last seen.

 

Not only is the plot all over the place, the tone also cannot settle either.

 

Droids are an integral part of the Star Wars universe, and it seems that every Star Wars film needs to have a quirky droid. However Solo’s attempt as a quirky droid means L3, who is not quirky “she” is just weird. If you thought C3-P0 could be annoying, he is nothing compared to L3. She acts like she has a chip on her shoulder and directly states that she believes that Lando is in love with her. It is just so out of place. Plus later when she is destroyed and Lando cradles her in his arms, he looks like someone holding a lover as they slowly slip from the world. I don’t know if there are sex-bots in Star Wars but if there aren’t then Lando has made one out of L3. She keeps talking about not being bound to anyone and wanting to free other droids but she is just painful to watch.

 

On the subject of Lando, he was the best thing in the film for me. I am quickly becoming a fan of Donald Glover, and he does play Lando with a certain tongue-in-cheek that is pretty fun to watch. He isn’t especially true to the character seen in Empire Strikes Back but personally I don’t see a problem with that because in this film he is a much younger man and doesn’t have the responsibilities he did by the time he is in charge of Cloud City. He can be arrogant and cheat at cards because he is already established to be a skilled smuggler who has a fast ship at his disposal.

 

Donald Glover is the best thing in the film, because Alden Ehrereich is certainly no Harrison Ford.  He doesn’t do a terrible job but he is basically a generic handsome guy. He has little to no personality, and he is not alone. Paul Bettany is just the clichéd mobster who has weird lines on his face that go red for some reason when he gets angry. Woody Harrelson does a decent enough job as someone like Han’s mentor, but again he is nothing special, nor overly interesting.

 

However, probably the blandest character is Qi’Ra. Han’s reason to learn how to pilot a ship is so he can return for her one day, but the moment he walks onto Vos’ ship someone taps him on the shoulder, and there she is. She harbours no ill will towards him for not coming back for her in three years and throughout the film she keeps hinting that she has had to do some bad things to survive. But she never elaborates on what she had to do. Did she prostitute herself to Vos or the Crimson Dawn higher-ups? Has she become an assassin and killed innocent people? Solo never actually tells you, all you get are hints, so presumably there is going to be another Star Wars Story that focuses on her at some point. I heard that Emilia Clarke had her Games of Thrones contract changed after she started to get famous meaning that she no longer had to do nude scenes. Then she was in Terminator Geniysis which was terrible, and suddenly in the next season of Game of Thrones she did a few topless and sex scenes. Now she has been in Solo A Star Wars Story so presumably in order to get back in people’s good graces she might have to do a full frontal scene in Games of Thrones’ final season.

 

After all the Star Wars films that I have seen over the years, it only occurred to me whilst watching Solo, that planets in Star Wars have only one climate or function. Think about it, Hoth is an ice planet, the cloners planet is a water-world, Degobah is a swamp world, Tatooine is a desert planet, Endor is a forest moon, Corellia is a ship-building planet...I could go on and on but tell me you see it...there doesn’t seem to be a single world in the Star Wars universe that has a varied climate. I have absolutely no idea why either. Earth has deserts, ice covered continents, rain forests, cities and mountain ranges but it doesn’t seem that a single planet in the whole Star Wars galaxy has more than a single function. Now considering this is what was running through my mind whilst the film was playing on the big screen before me I couldn’t have been gripped by what was happening.

 

Fundamentally Solo was just boring, the action sequences are impressive and the special effects are also decent enough, but I was not especially interested in anything that was going on. Glover is a highlight however this is a story that did not need to be told. We learn nothing new about Han Solo or Chewbacca and the film raises some huge questions that it doesn’t answer by the time the credits roll.

 

Overall Solo was a pointless film that didn’t do much more than bore me, it wasn’t terrible, slotting in somewhere between the appalling Force Awakens plus Last Jedi and the far superior Rogue One. In all honesty I could leave my Thumb Horizontal but the Disney has produced a really great Star Wars Story in Rogue One but the same cannot be said for Solo. It is a Star Wars Story but one that did not need to be told and so I am going to give it an overall Thumbs Down.

 

 

7/10 – Yes the film is better than the most recent Episodes but it pales in comparison to the excellent Rogue One. It isn’t the worst Star Wars film to ever hit screen but basically it is a waste of time and only exists to explain how the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel run in left than twelve parsecs. 

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