Rogue One: A Movie Review

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I don’t do a lot of movie reviews here, seeing as I’m running an action figure review site and all, but the Star Wars franchise, more than a lot of franchises, is almost entirely built on the action figures that can be sold to go along with each new film release.  As with last year’s The Force Awakens, I’m sure that this next week will see Rogue One reviews galore, but I figured I may as well throw my hat into the ring.

THE ACTUAL REVIEW

Spoiler Free:

Let me start out by saying I did really like the movie.  It didn’t have perhaps the same awe-inspiring feel I got out of The Force Awakens, but quite frankly, it was just a very different sort of movie.  Where prior entries in the franchise have placed a heavy focus on the “Star” portion of the name, this movie flips over to the “Wars” part.  There is no denying that this is a movie about war.  A lot of reviews have cited it as a fairly straight war movie.  I personally would cite it as having the trappings of both a war movie and a heist movie. It’s a very different feel for the franchise, but it offers a plethora of new ground to be covered in future “stand-alone” movies.

jynbseadu1Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso presents a slightly different type of lead than we’re used to.  Unlike Luke and Rey (and I suppose Anakin) who are unrelated innocents dragged into a grander conflict, Jyn is in it from the start, albeit in reluctant manner.  There’s a sort of a drive to Jyn that keeps her going, but at times it seems to just appear out of nowhere.  She’s certainly given motivation for each part of the mission, but sometimes her resolve seems stronger than her outward rebelliousness would indicate.

Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor takes the role of dashing rogue in this film.  However, where Cassian is still a charmer, he is perhaps one of the more compromised Rebels we’ve seen on screen.  Luna does a good job of conveying some of Cassian’s internal struggle, and he’s certainly likable, but he’s not a Han Solo clone; he’s cut from a rougher cloth.

cassianeadu3Alan Tudyk as K-2SO delivers what is easily my favorite performance in the film.  It’s an interesting commentary on the states of the various characters that he, a reprogrammed Imperial Droid, is the least compromised member of the titular team.  K-2 is, of course, CGI, but he’s built on Tudyk’s actual performance, and it really shows through.  There is a brief moment where K-2 passes another Security Droid, and just the way the two carry themselves when walking speaks volumes to what sort of a character K-2 is.  K-2 is sort of like Chewbacca, if Chewy happened to speak in a posh Brittish accent.  He lumbers about in the back of scenes, speaks to all of the characters with brash and blunt sort of innocence that makes him quite amusing and very relatable.

Donnie Yen and Jian Wong as Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus add another inseparable pair to the Star Wars universe.  The two have a lot of chemistry and feel like they’ve been companions for a good long while before the movie’s start.  They also offer up some of the movie’s best action sequences. Chirrut’s careful, plotted take down off the Stormtroopers on Jedha is beautifully choreographed, and then wonderfully contrasted with Baze’s portable lawnmower approach.

Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook is this sort of sad, well-meaning guy.  He’s sort of key in getting the movie’s action going, and is a genuinely likable guy.  Perhaps the only oddity to Bodhi is how alone he always seems to be.  While the rest of the crew seems to naturally form into these little teams, Bodhi never seems to find his comfort zone.  There’s a slight hint of a possible friendship for him and K-2, but the movie’s frantic pace never really allows for it.

Forrest Whitaker’s turn as Saw Gurera is important, because he’s actually the first cartoon character to make the jump to the big screen.  It’s a smaller part than I think a lot of us expected.  He still leaves quite an impact on the story, and provides us with a well-meaning but misguided extremist, the likes of which we haven’t really had before (in the main movies, anyway).  Whitaker gives a very convincing portrayal of a shell-shocked veteran who is just in too far over his head.  His interactions with Jyn are an intriguing analysis of the problems with a warrior trying to take on a paternal role.

Speaking of paternal roles, Mads Mikkelson’s Galen Erso continues the franchise’s trend of troubled parent-child relationships, but with with a different twist.  Galen is sort of a tragic figure, and his relationship with the Empire calls to mind Wernher Von Braun’s with the Nazis.

What good are heroes without some villains, though?  Well, the main villain is Ben Mendlesohn’s Director Krennic.  While the Imperial command have always been rather spineless, I don’t think we’ve ever gotten anyone quite as detestable and slimy as Krennic.  He’s an opportunist, and a manipulator, and it’s clear that even amongst the other Imperials he’s not very well-liked.  What’s interesting is just how separated from the rest of the cast Krennic is.  He spends much of his screen time scheming just off to the side of the main heroes, but rarely does he directly interact. 

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Spoilers after the jump!

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Star Wars – The Force Awakens: A (Pseudo) Movie Review

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Hey look! Another movie review!

I’m sure that everyone and their mother will be weighing in on the latest Star Wars film in the next week or so. I mean, there are already several hundred reviews out there by now. There’s a lot of buzz about this new movie, especially after the poor showing of the last three Star Wars films. Could the franchise reclaim the magic? The short answer? Yes.

I saw the film last Thursday night, and I really, really liked it. Now, as I said, there’s no shortage of reviews covering tons of different angles of the film, and all its various merits.  So, to set myself apart from all the other reviews, I’m gonna handle things a little differently. I’m going to examine the film through the lens of how it impacts all those action figures I bought. This is, after all, and action figure review site, is it not?

IN BRIEF

All in all, I really loved this movie. Sure, it didn’t top the original trilogy, but it was very definitely a worthy successor. It was a fantastic experience, from start to finish, and the whole “event” around it has really done a bang up job of reigniting my excitement for the franchise.

The general plot is very similar in structure to that of A New Hope (with a little Empire thrown in for good measure).  A lot of the story beats are going to feel very familiar, but not in a bad way.  The similarities are important to the story, and are key to recapturing the feel of the older movies.

Now, let’s look at some specifics:

 

 

 

—-THERE BE SPOILERS BELOW!—-

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Terminator Genisys: A Movie Review

I don’t write movie reviews. This is an Action Figure review site, after all. However, I’ve just seen a movie about which I want to write.

The movie in question (hey, that would be a catchy name for a movie review site, wouldn’t it?) is Terminator Genisys. I’m a pretty big fan of The Terminator and I’d probably rank Terminator 2 in my top five favorite movies.  It goes without saying that I was more than a little disappointed by the two films that followed. I’ve never actually been able to get all the way through T3, and most of Salvation left me cold. I had pretty much written the franchise off, and I kind of figured it was more or less dead.

When the first trailer for Genisys showed up, I was surprised. Somehow, I’d entirely missed the fact that another film was in production. It actually looked pretty decent, as if this might be the movie to turn the franchise around. I was optimistic, if cautiously so. I was still pretty excited, so when it started showing Tuesday night, I headed out to see it. Without saying too much, my optimism paid off and I thoroughly enjoyed the film.

THE ACTUAL REVIEW

Spoiler-Free:

First off, let’s address the film’s biggest draw: Arnold. His return to acting was one of the driving forces of getting the movie made, and a lot of the film’s marketing focused on his big return to the role. This time around, he takes up a part not unlike “Uncle Bob” in T2, operating as Sarah’s father figure “Pops.” The film seems to draw from the learning ability of the T-800’s CPU established in the extended cut of T2. Here it’s been in operation for a while, allowing Arnold to play a character with a little more warmth and human understanding. That’s not to say he’s completely abandoned his robotic nature, though; it makes its way to the forefront a few times, generally in the more action oriented scenes, but also in a few humorous moments.

The film has more than a few humorous moments, sprinkled throughout. It feels like they’ve gotten the mix of humor and drama right this time around. Part of what I enjoyed so much about T2 was its seamless blending of humor and serious moments. The movies that followed never got this balance down. T3 went too goofy and Salvation went too dreary and hopeless, resulting in both films suffering. Genisys gets it right.

Humor is one thing, but a movie is hardly a proper Terminator movie without some action. Genisys offers a nice selection of action sequences. There are lots of call backs to older movies (especially in the first battle with the T-1000) but there’s a lot of new stuff too, which keeps things interesting. Some sequences relied a little too heavily on CGI, but it never gets distracting to the point of pulling the viewer out of the film. The newest version of Terminator plays a big part in making the action feel new and exciting. One of my biggest problems with the last two films was the stagnation of the Terminators. The T-1000 offered a significant upgrade over the first film’s T-800, and this movie’s magnetically-charged nanite-powered Terminator felt like a worthy upgrade to the seemingly unstoppable T-1000.

I spoke about Arnold’s performance, but what about the rest of the cast? Well, if there’s a weak link, it’s probably Jai Courtney’s Kyle Reese. The biggest issue is that he really doesn’t look like Kyle Reese. Michael Biehn has a particular look, especially in Terminator. He’s not a clean cut, stacked action hero. Jai Courtney kind of is. His performance isn’t terrible, and he had grown on me by the end of the film, but he still felt a little off. Perhaps if Anton Yelchin’s turn as Kyle in Salvation hadn’t been one of that film’s few redeeming qualities, I’d be more forgiving.

Emilia Clarke, on the other hand, feels like a pretty worthy successor to Linda Hamilton. She plays Sarah with a lot of strength and presence, calling back to the T2 version of the character, but she also manages to still play up a lot of the uncertainty we saw in Terminator, giving us the best of both worlds. She and Arnold Schwarzenegger have a lot of chemistry, which really helped to make the movie work.

Jason Clarke takes over from Christian Bale as John Connor, and is probably the strongest of the re-cast parts. He actually plays the role in such a way that you can understand how this guy could lead the resistance to victory.

Byung-hun Lee gives a good performance as the T-1000, though he feels a little under-utilized here. I’m not sure rehashing the plot of T2 would have been the best way to go, but I felt like he should have had a little more to do.

JK Simmons and Matt Smith both give good performances in their respective roles. Simmons once again feels a little under-used, but the few scenes he does take part in use him pretty well. I’ll talk about Smith’s performance more in the spoiler section.

The film has a running theme of “old, but not obsolete.” This line is said more than once by Arnold’s Pops T-800, and it really
feels like it applies to the franchise as a whole as well. The movie strives to show us that this franchise may be old, but it’s not quite outmoded.

Spoilers after the jump.

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