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.
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 Casino Royale 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 (Quantum of 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.
Spring exudes elegance and subtlety. This isn’t the kind of movie you sit down to watch with a group of your friends, hoping to have a blast of a time; it’s the kind of movie that’s slow paced, doesn’t have much action, that’s “arty”, where every single line of dialogue is a clue about the character, where so much is implied through speech. To really appreciate it, find some quiet-time for yourself and give it a watch. It’s a masterpiece and nothing short of it.
I didn’t know a thing about this movie before I watched it – not the genre, general plot, actors, director, nothing. I didn’t know what to expect from the movie because, honestly, I had never heard of it before. It’s quite slow paced, more so in the opening 30 minutes. But those first 30 minutes tell you so much about the protagonist without throwing a ton of exposition in your face like a lot of other movies. It’s a wonderful mix of three genres – romance, horror and dark comedy, but somehow, it isn’t a convoluted mess that can’t find its own identity. Moving on to the plot — here’s the thing, I really don’t want to say anything about the plot because it would be tantamount to a crime. The story flows so beautifully and spontaneously like a calm brook. Most similarly-slow movies end up having these long and frankly, boring scenes that are praised by highbrow critics to be “Oh so wonderful!” For example, 12 Years A Slave was a great movie no doubt, but there were some scenes that had no dialogue or for that matter, any people in them; they would just depict a field or some aspect of nature and I felt that they didn’t add anything to the movie. This movie avoids those pitfalls and is intriguing and engaging throughout.
The Mission Impossible series has always been one of my favourite action movie series. I have fond memories of each movie in the franchise. Each movie is somehow completely different from the previous outings. The first one is a slow-paced (well, compared to its successors), espionage thriller; it was intriguing, had good action and yes, was sometimes boring, but was good enough to launch a stellar franchise. The second was an out-and-out action movie from John Woo; the plot wasn’t bad, but I got the feeling that the movie wasn’t about the plot as much as it was about those ridiculous, albeit entertaining action sequences. The third and my favourite managed to mix elements of its predecessors – it had a thrilling story, excellent action (oh, that bridge sequence) and such an amazing villain (Phillip Seymour Hoffman R.I.P.).
Then came the fourth one. Now, here’s my criticism of the fourth movie – it was a great action movie, yes, but was it truly a Mission Impossible movie? Not in my opinion. After MI:3 brought the series back on track following MI:2’s derailment of it, instead of trying to continue with the same formula, they tried to make Ghost Protocol a thriller/action/comedy flick. Benji was a damn clown, Tom Cruise did some serious overacting and I just didn’t feel any urgency in the movie even though there was the threat of a nuclear strike and possibly, World War III. Honestly, I didn’t have high hopes for Rogue Nation because by the time a series reaches its fifth installment, it starts to really suck (Die Hard, I’m looking at you). But, I was pleasantly surprised.
I was very excited for this movie for one reason – Arnie was back. After the failure of Terminator Salvation, I thought the series would die, but I was wrong. The teaser trailer looked very promising and brought back everything I love about the series, with a twist and higher stakes of course. When the reviews came out, I was quite taken aback by how harsh they were with this movie. They criticized every aspect of it and some called it the worst of all the Terminator movies. Consequently, the first thought that rushed into my head after I walked out of the movie theatre, thoroughly satisfied, was “Did the critics even watch the right movie?”