I knew from the opening shot of Rogue One that this wasn’t going to be like every other Star Wars movie. It wasn’t just the visual cues that gave it away. The ominous music and the lack of the legendary opening crawl emanated this vibe that this movie was going to be something different, something special. And oh it was. It was Star Wars like I’ve never seen it before.
Rogue One is tonally completely different from Star Wars as we know it. Rogue One is essentially a war movie, albeit one set in a galaxy far, far away (think Guns of Navarone set in space). It takes the happy, relatively fun feel of the other Star Wars movies and drags it down to Earth (or Tatooine, or Naboo, or whatever, you get the point). It’s gritty and realistic (well, as real as the Star Wars Universe can get), but somehow, it’s still Star Wars. That is what makes this movie special – despite being so different, it still feels so familiar.
Ever since Batman v Superman was announced, I was a little sceptical about it because Man of Steel wasn’t all that great and I just couldn’t see Ben Affleck as Batman. I thought the casting was wrong, the director was wrong, but more importantly, the direction the DC Cinematic Universe was headed in was wrong. I watched this movie with two buddies of mine today and all of us went in with low expectations. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the movie because of how true to the comic books it is in certain aspects which I’ll touch upon later.
First of all, let me just say that I am glad I was proven wrong about Ben Affleck – the guy is a great Batman. No, he’s the best live-action Batman yet. It’s not an overstatement; I’ve put a lot of thought into this. He’s the closest any Batman has come to resembling his comic book version or for that matter, his animated series version. Those will always be my favourites, but Batfleck does a commendable job. I think the first step to being the Batman was to look like him. Michael Keaton and Christian Bale had great takes on the character (the abominations that were Val Kilmer and George Clooney’s takes don’t even count), but when I saw Batman in this movie, I thought to myself, “Yup, that’s Batman alright!” He looks the part and thankfully, he can play the part too. He’s a good actor, who was a little limited by the script. He doesn’t really show an abundance of emotions; he’s mostly just angry or grumpy or sad. But hey, comic book Batman is chronically depressed so I don’t mind.
I always had a sneaking suspicion that Kylo Ren was Han and Leia’s son, most probably Jacen Solo as in the original Expanded Universe. He has so much in common with Jacen that the connection was obvious – he’s taught by Luke to be a Jedi, then gets seduced by the Dark Side of the Force, becomes a Sith and tries to take over the galaxy. However, when Han calls him “Ben”, I was a little taken aback at first, but then it started to make sense to me. The Original Expanded Universe was made non-canon so that the people working on the new movies could be afforded more creative freedom instead of being forced to follow a set storyline. Things would get a little too predictable in the movies otherwise and the surprise element would just be non-existent for people who have dabbled in the Expanded Universe. However, the crew clearly didn’t discard the EU storylines because Ben Solo is essentially Jacen, albeit with a different name and naming him “Ben” is a nice nod to Luke and Mara Jade’s son’s name in the EU – Ben Skywalker.
Disclaimer: This post is going to be filled with spoilers about The Force Awakens, so that’s a fair warning for you if you haven’t watched the movie. If you want a spoiler-free take on the movie, read my spoiler-free review that I posted just yesterday – https://beingnickyb.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/star-wars-episode-vii-the-force-awakens-review-spoiler-free/
While watching the iconic opening crawl, I was stumped to read that Luke Skywalker had literally gone missing and that no one knew where he was or why he’d disappeared. My mind was buzzing with different theories about his disappearance and also about the plot of the movie. I initially assumed that this would be a “find Luke Skywalker” adventure where our heroes and villains would scour the galaxy for him and I was disappointed by that prospect, but thankfully, I was relieved to find later on that it was not so.
In my review of The Force Awakens, I said that there was a point very early on in the movie when I just knew that this was going to be a really good ride. I can finally divulge the details of that here. It was when Kylo Ren kills Lars von Tekka (Max von Sydow’s character) and Poe shoots at Kylo Ren in anger and then, Kylo Ren suddenly turns around as the camera zooms in and holds his right hand up and stops the blaster bolt mid-air. I’ve seen people using the Force in many ways in the movies, but I have never seen that. This is one of the things that I liked about the movie – they use the Force in many similar ways, but also add some new things into the mix to keep everything fresh. Another example of the Force being used differently is when Kylo Ren just stopped Rey dead in her tracks – it was like she was frozen by a tractor beam. The film treads familiar paths, but innovates enough to make me feel as amazed as when I watched Star Wars for the first time.
There was a point very early on in The Force Awakens when I just knew that this was going to be one of the most pure Star Wars experiences ever. George Lucas said in an interview and I’m paraphrasing of course, “Disney wants to give the fans what they want and love with The Force Awakens.” And what better way to do that than to let a mega-fan direct it – J.J. Abrams’ love for Star Wars shines through in every scene and the love and effort poured into the movie is evident right from the first shot, which by the way is so reminiscent of that of A New Hope. Actually, the plot of The Force Awakens is very similar to that of that of Episode IV, but for the sake of keeping this review spoiler-free, I won’t delve into further details. Nostalgia plays a huge factor in this movie, not just with its beloved returning characters but also with so many easter eggs. I loved how they acknowledged the events of the previous movies to make the galaxy feel old and like it has many, many stories to tell. Nostalgia notwithstanding, the movie is excellent and can stand on its own two feet without resting on its laurels.
Today was one of the best days of my life. I’m not exaggerating, it’s not just a phase that’s going to pass over soon – today was the day I watched a Star Wars movie in a theatre and what made it sweeter was that it was The Force Awakens. The movie actually released a week late in India, i.e., the 25th, not the 18th because of some stupid Hindi movies that didn’t even do that well at the box-office. Even then, I watched it 6 days after its release in India – seems strange for a Star Wars fanatic like me, but luck wasn’t on my side and I had scheduling problems. I’d made plans to watch it on the 26th with a friend, but the guy was as unreliable as a Stormtrooper’s aim and the plan went blew up like a thermal detonator. For a brief moment, I thought that I may actually miss the movie and I’d never forgive myself for that. So, I was dogmatic in my approach when I asked my father, no, demanded that we (my family) watch it as soon as possible. I was probably this aggressive because we were scheduled to go on a short holiday with my aunt, uncle and two cousins to Bhubaneshwar and Puri and fitting in things such as movies in a holiday is as difficult as quipping better than Han Solo. Thankfully, my father said that all of us would watch the movie on the 1st of January. At the time it seemed like a long way away, but if I could wait over a year for the movie, I could surely wait a few more days.
Seeing the classic Bond Gun Barrel sequence right at the beginning of the movie made me feel nostalgic. Plenty of other scenes in Spectre evoked the same emotion, making it feel like an homage to Bond of old. Many have faulted it for this exact reason, but I embrace it as a welcome change from Craig’s usual Bond formula.
It opens wonderfully in Mexico City on the Day of the Dead with masses of people dressed appropriately for a masquerade. It’s by far one of the best opening sequences in any movie, let alone a Bond one and right from the get-go, I could understand that this was going to be a different ride from CasinoRoyale or Skyfall. Spectre tells a much more personal story than any of Craig’s Bond films. It was a good move because the previous three movies had woven a very intricate story for Bond that was just waiting to be unraveled (Quantumof Solace did very little though). In all honesty, Spectre didn’t exactly do that, but I learned a lot about Bond, his childhood, why he does what he does; I got to see a more emotionally vulnerable side of Bond and seeing him like that made me perceive him as more human than the stoic, one-line spouting killing machine.