I know there’s a lot of debates about Star Wars on the internet but for me, it wasn’t something I grew up watching. I didn’t watch the original trilogy, and then the prequel trilogy, until I was at university and in my early 20s so The Force Awakens was the first Star Wars film I saw in the cinema and it is the one and only Star Wars film I fell wholeheartedly in love with.
A big part of that was the new trio of heroes and the first one of the three that I fell for was Poe Dameron. It helps that I really like Oscar Isaac as an actor and he’s not bad to look at, but Poe is such a cool character. He just oozes charm and charisma but he’s also pretty smart and competent, and he’s an amazing pilot.
Something I’ve realised over the course of writing these A-Z posts (I’m trying to get ahead with the scheduling) is that something that makes me like a character more is if they have interesting or likeable dynamics with other characters – even ones I don’t like. Characters, like people, should be well-rounded and while their personality could be something I’m drawn to, I feel I get to know a character better by seeing how they treat others or how they interact with other characters – especially if they only show certain parts of themselves to certain people.
With Poe I really love the dynamic he has with various characters in the Star Wars film and the comics. I’ve read a couple of volumes of the Poe Dameron comic and I love the art and think they’re a good place to get some of Poe’s backstory and context for his actions that probably should’ve been in the films. In the comics his relationship with his squadron is explored, and you see the dilemmas he has at being a leader but also someone who’s a bit reckless. In both the comics and the films, I really like his dynamic with Leia. It’s a great commanding officer/subordinate dynamic while also having hints of her also being an almost mother figure for him and the respect they have for one another, even when he does something stupid is clear to see. My absolute favourite dynamic is between Poe and Finn. It’s probably an obvious one but it’s great. In the few scenes they have together in The Force Awakens you see how Poe can be calm and caring (how he asks Finn if he’s OK with Poe calling him that name is one of my favourite small moments in that film) and also supportive and pragmatic.
I think Poe Dameron is just great. He’s charming and brave and loyal, even if he is a bit impulsive and reckless. He’s flawed but he tries and he learns and he’s a great friend and someone that you’d easily follow into battle.
With Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) seemingly back from the dead, an old but deadly force threatens the galaxy. While Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) seeks him out, Rey (Daisy Ridley), under the guidance of Leia (Carrie Fisher), finishes her training.
The Rise of Skywalker is almost too much film. There is so much going on as Rey, Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) go on an adventure together, the Resistance prepares for battle and new (and old) characters are introduced. It goes by at a relentless pace but it works because seeing these characters interact, working together solving seemingly insurmountable problems, is still one of the highlights of these films.
The cast are still as charming as ever. Unfortunately some characters are pushed to the side (Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose being the biggest casualty of this) while some new characters don’t get too much to do at all. Adam Driver continues to be a standout in the series, giving a nuanced performance as Kylo Ren and his continuous struggles with his heritage.
The Rise of Skywalker continues the Star Wars tradition of having interesting and quirky alien creatures, brilliant set design and costuming, and great cinematography. Every planet the heroes (and villains) visit is different and the space battles and lightsaber fights are a way to show off different sides to a characters personality while still being engaging.
The final act of The Rise of Skywalker is pure spectacle and completely Star Wars. There’s the battle of good vs evil, inner conflict, hope, and more spaceships than you could shake a stick at. It’s exciting and is such a rush of space wizard magic – especially when John Williams’s wonderful score kicks in.
Some of the issues I have with The Rise of Skywalker comes from the issues I have with the new Star Wars trilogy film as a whole, like how some plot/character elements I feel are a wasted opportunity. As they can be applied to all the films and not just this one, it feels unfair to solely judge The Rise of Skywalker on the fact it didn’t capitalise on elements that the series hasn’t really revisited since The Force Awakens.
It’s a joy being with the characters of this new trilogy again and while some aspects of this saga are wrapped up too neatly while others aren’t wrapped up enough, The Rise of Skywalker is thrilling, action-packed and a lot of fun. 4/5.
EDIT: I wrote and scheduled this review after seeing The Rise of Skywalker on Thursday. Since then I’ve been seeing all the debates and thoughts (both positive and negative) about this film on social media. Some of it I agree with to an extent or understand, some of it I don’t. My opinion of this film may change when I see it again, or it may not. I just know I was so very happy to see Rey, Finn and Poe going on adventures together and working together that I can forget about or forgive some of the things I might not have liked as much.
My review from when I first saw The Last Jedi is here and as this is the first time I’ve watched this film since the cinema, and it’s been a few years, there’s probably going to be spoilers in this review.
As Rey (Daisy Ridley) urges Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to train her in the ways of the Force, the Resistance is on the run from the First Order.
I’d not seen The Last Jedi since I saw it in the cinema, I did watch it twice then and was left feeling a bit meh about it. Over the past two years there’s been many people screaming about this film on the internet, both championing it and slating it, having problems with it that boil down to straight up misogyny or racism, or having genuine issues to do with characterisation and story. Honestly, the environment surrounding The Last Jedi online makes me somewhat hesitant to mention it, whether I had good things or bad things to say about it.
But after rewatching it now in preparation for The Rise of Skywalker, and just a day after I rewatched The Force Awakens which I love, I can safely say I don’t like The Last Jedi. There are some bits I enjoy, and the film looks great, but overall I just don’t like what happened to a lot of the characters or how (at least at the moment and The Rise of Skywalker could change this) it feels like a standalone film and the events of this film won’t have much of an effect on the next one.
My main problem with The Last Jedi is that it feels like a filler episode for a TV show. It is a very character-driven film. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it spends so much time focusing on its characters that the overall plot doesn’t really move forward. These characters do things, but often what they do is pointless because it doesn’t move the plot forward, or they don’t achieve anything and in fact more often than not what they do hinders the heroes in some way. Having characters fail isn’t a bad thing, it allows them to learn and grow and seeing characters fail can be interesting, but when their failures are for nothing, then there’s a problem.
Then there’s the characters and their characterisations. Firstly, I while I like Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) I do not like how Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Rey spend 95% of the film apart from one another. One of my favourite things about The Force Awakens was the relationships between Finn and Poe and Finn and Rey. Those characters instantly gelled and their chemistry was off the charts and I wanted to see more of that, and for Rey and Poe to finally interact. Instead there was a kit of stuff with Finn and Rose, which again I liked how their relationship developed but I wish it had done so when they were with the rest of the heroes.
Then there’s the characterisations. I think Rey and Kylo Ren’s (Adam Driver) arcs were the most consistent with what was seen in The Force Awakens but Poe seemed like a completely different person which is even more weird when you consider the fact that The Last Jedi starts immediately where The Force Awakens finished. There’s a fine line between cockiness and arrogance and Poe just leaps over that line. Considering in The Force Awakens he very much cares about what happens to his fellow pilots and follows General Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) orders, it’s just unbelievable he’d be willing to sacrifice so many lives in order to blow up a ship. Over the course of The Last Jedi Poe learns humility, battle tactics and to trust his superiors – all things that someone who is a Commander in the Resistance should already know, considering they are an experienced pilot and Commander.
With Finn it feels like this was a waste of potential. Finn is an ex-Stormtrooper and that could lead to so many interesting things instead of him just casually being able to tell people plans for various First Order ships when needed. You could have members of the Resistance not trusting him, Finn not trusting himself, Finn having guilt over killing those who used to be his brothers in arms, Finn wanting to help other Stormtroopers defect, conflict between Finn and Poe when he realises Poe’s the one who killed his friend and thus helped snap him out of his brainwashing in The Force Awakens. A lot of the time in The Last Jedi it feels like Finn is a secondary character; to Rose, to Poe, to Rey, when he should be one of the leads.
I feel like I’ve just been talking about the problems I have with this film, but I do like some things about The Last Jedi. Even though he’s not in it much, I really like Benicio del Toro’s character, he’s a conman and a thief and not a nice guy but I do have a soft spot for that kind of character. I like the action sequences too. The fight in the throne room between Rey and Kylo Ren is fantastic to watch and it’s exciting to see these two enemies fight side by side if only for a moment. I also think the fight between Kylo Ren and Luke is clever and I like what it allows the rest of the heroes to do.
I also like the idea of Luke being ashamed for what he did – or didn’t – do when training Kylo Ren and how he failed him and his family. I like how resistant he was to train Rey and how scared he was of her strength. That all made sense to me, but I don’t have the nostalgia or strong love for the original Star Wars characters. Perhaps that’s why the choices made about the new characters I fell in love with in The Force Awakens hurt so much.
All in all, I found The Last Jedi to be rather disappointing on rewatch. In some ways it’s almost style over substance as it’s a very visually appealing film and there’s sequences that are entertaining in isolation but when you look at the broader story and how the characters act, it’s just not an enjoyable time. 2/5.
I reviewed The Force Awakens when it was released. You can read my original review here. As a good chunk of time has passed and I’m rewatching the sequel films on the run up to The Rise of Skywalker’s release, there may be more spoilers here than in a normal review – you’ve been warned.
Three decades after the Empire’s defeat, a new evil threatens the galaxy – the First Order led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). After meeting Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), defector Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) gets caught up in the fight against the First Order along with scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) and they struggle to find the Resistance and help in the search for the missing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
I love The Force Awakens. I didn’t grow up watching Star Wars (I first watched all previous six films when I was at university) so there wasn’t the nostalgia or added fear and excitement that came with seeing a new Star Wars film when I went to see The Force Awakens. Still, I was blown away by the spectacle, the magic and the characters in this story that simultaneously felt new and exciting, and comforting because of how familiar the themes and the score were – because even if you’re not a huge Star Wars fan, some of those motifs are a part of popular culture.
The Force Awakens juggles the old and the new really well. It gives space for the original characters who everyone knows to be a part of this story, while also introducing us to new heroes and villains. The new trio of heroes; Rey, Finn and Poe are all wonderful. The immediate chemistry between Isaac and Boyega is palpable and how Poe and Finn meet and immediately put their lives in each other’s hands make their relationship so strong. With Rey and Finn, it takes them longer to really trust and understand one another, with each of them running away from different things. For Finn it’s his past while for Rey it’s the future and the unknown. It’s when the two of them start letting the other in that they relationship goes from annoying siblings to firm friends. Finn is the first person who ever came back for Rey, while for Finn, Rey is someone who makes him want to be brave.
The action in The Force Awakens is exciting and fun. The sound effects, the way things are shot, along with the score makes it all come together into these wonderful fun sequences. The aerial battles between the Millennium Flacon and TIE Fighters or between X-Wings and TIE Fighters are almost awe-inspiring to watch. It’s fun to see Finn and Rey or Finn and Poe work together to take down the bad guys. And it’s always great when after hearing a character is really talented at something, you actually see them do it. In this case it’s Poe being the Resistance’s best pilot. It’s even mentioned in the opening title crawl and you see how good he is multiple times.
Kylo Ren is an interesting character. He’s still feeling like he’s being pulled towards the light and he prays to a Darth Vader helmet to keep him on what he perceives to be the right track, but he’s also kind of scared and inexperienced. I love that he looks like such a normal guy when he takes off his helmet for the first time. Due to his costume and his actions, torturing Poe and killing villagers, he seems like such an imposing figure, but beneath it all he’s just pretending to be stronger and more in control than he is.
The lightsaber fights between Finn and Kylo Ren, and Rey and Kylo Ren are absolutely brutal. They tear chunks out of each other and cut down trees as they go at it. Finn is wholly unprepared and while he does get one hit in against Kylo Ren, ultimately, he is bested. It’s when Rey steps up, the lightsaber flies to her hand and the music swells that it’s really impactful, and once she lets the Force in, she is just as strong, if not stronger than Kylo Ren and it is beautiful to see her absolutely wreck him.
The thing I love the most about The Force Awakens is the characters – both the old ones and the new ones. The whole cast give such great performances (quick shout out to Harrison Ford for playing a believably world-weary Han Solo but still retaining that attitude) and their chemistry is wonderful. Even though you don’t see a lot of some characters or their relationships with one another, there’s enough hinted through the script and the actor’s performances that you can see the history between them. One such example is Poe and Leia (Carrie Fisher). It’s clear he’s told her all about Finn, that she trusts his judgement on Finn and his tactics, and that Poe is clearly relatively high up in the Resistance due to how easily he can talk to Leia and in a relatively familiar way.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is just brilliant. It’s funny, thrilling, emotional and just a joy to watch. There’s so much to fit in but there’s never a dull moment or a moment wasted. The quieter, character driven moments are just as important and as engaging as the dogfights and action sequences. The Force Awakens is truly something special and I’ll always love it. 5/5.
The story of a young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich) who joins a group of smugglers and thieves led by Beckett (Woody Harrelson) to take on an almost impossible heist for crime lord Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany).
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a prequel to the original Star Wars films, showing us how Han Solo became the Han Solo we know and love. Is this film needed? No. Is it a good film? I’s alright and its downfall is that it has the same problems that so many prequel films have no matter the genre. You know the characters who you’ve seen in films that are set later on survive this adventure and you know any characters you’re introduced to in this film who you haven’t seen before will either die, turn evil, ride off into the sunset or just generally not have a big role in this film. Sometimes it’s a combination of more than one of these potential outcomes. The new characters are mostly decent but aren’t particularly fleshed out or, in the case of Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), are suddenly given multiple different facets towards the end of the film that it feels a bit like whiplash.
Alden Ehrenreich does a great job as a younger version of Harrison Ford’s jaded Han Solo. This Han Solo is a guy who doesn’t really know where he fits in, he tries being good, he tries being bad and a lot of the time he’s just very lucky. Donald Glover is also very charismatic as a young Lando Calrissian and seeing how Han and Lando meet is great and the two of them bounce well of each other. Another great first meeting is Han and Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) seeing the friendship grow between these two was wonderful and any of their interactions or the scenes that featured the two of them were the best. Chewbacca probably has the most well-developed and interesting character arc in this film to be honest.
The action and fight scenes are good with the heist on a train being a standout moment. However, the pacing of Solo: A Star Wars Story leaves much to be desired. The first thirty minutes or so is a bit of a slog, but it does pick up once Han meets Beckett and his crew. The first thirty minutes or so were also incredibly dark. I honestly found myself squinting at the screen a few times as it was difficult to make out characters reactions to events that were happening around them. While scenes that take place at night or on grimy planets will naturally be darker, it seemed like everything was so poorly lit that when something interesting did happen, it was hard to actually see it.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a perfectly fine film. It’s mostly fun and the characters you’ve already met are great. There’s a few surprises in Solo: A Star Wars Story and a lot of references to the franchise as a whole (some of which are eyeroll-inducing and really aren’t needed). Overall, it’s a film that doesn’t add much to the Star Wars mythos but it’s a mostly fun adventure featuring some much-loved characters. 3/5.
While Rey (Daisy Ridley) attempts to learn the way of the Force with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), General Leia (Carrie Fisher) leads the Resistance as the First Order threatens them all.
All the characters we met before in The Force Awakens (2015) have returned, plus some new ones. Two of the key new characters are Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) who befriends Finn (John Boyega), and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) who hotshot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) clashes with.
A lot of the film focusses on Rey’s training as she learns more about the Force and what made Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) turn to the Dark Side. Rey and Kylo are often portrayed as equals or two sides of the same coin and their interactions are often tense and fascinating. These two are the main focus of the film, which then means characters like Finn are side-lined which is unfortunate. To be honest, the Finn and Rose’s whole plot could’ve been much more condensed so they get back to the main group of heroes sooner. That being said, all of the cast give excellent performances and Hamill and Fisher add so much more to their iconic characters.
The Last Jedi is an action-packed sequel with a lot of humour, some of which doesn’t always hit the mark. There’s a lot going on in this film with characters splitting off and going on their own missions, but at the same time, all of this stuff doesn’t do much in terms of progressing the overarching plot. This film seems to focus more of character development, which is not a bad thing at all, though it is sometimes heavy handed and by focusing on this there doesn’t seem to be any form of resolution in the battle of good vs evil. Naturally this is the second film in a trilogy, so there’s time for things to be resolved in a satisfactory way.
The action is well shot, and the blend of CGI and practical affect is once again to the highest quality. The Last Jedi is also a good-looking film, with some stunning locations and interesting new worlds and creatures to meet.
The Last Jedi combines the family fun with dark themes, to varied affect. Sometimes these opposites are too extreme while in other cases it allows for a moments rest before these characters we know and love are in peril once more. There’s a lot of twists and turns in The Last Jedi, taking the franchise to places it may not have gone to before and it’s an unsettling thing. This makes The Last Jedi a fun ride but it’s not a flawless one. 3/5.
*Side note* I will be seeing this film again next week so I’m interested to see what I make of it after I’ve had time to think about it – will the flaws be more noticeable, or will I find more things I like? Who knows?
I couldn’t figure out what book I wanted to read recently (the great thing about the Read the World Project is I’ve got a lot of interesting options but it does sometimes feel like homework) so I went back to my comic shelves and read a few of my unread volumes. I have stuff to say about them but not a lot so here’s some mini reviews.
Poe Dameron Volume 1: Black Squadron by Charles Soule and Phil Noto
I really loved this comic! Poe Dameron stole my heart in The Force Awakens so when I heard he was going to have his own comic series I knew I had to read it. Black Squadron is a prequel to The Force Awakens and Poe, along with his friends in his squadron, are tasked by Leia Organa to find Lor San Tekka (the old guy Poe’s talking to at the start of The Force Awakens – boy I’ve said The Force Awakens a lot in this paragraph!).
So, the comic is all about the mission but also the downtime and you get to see Poe interact with his team which is great. It’s a funny comic, Poe’s charm shines right off the pages and it’s a nice way to learn more about the character. Plus, his relationship with BB-8 is brilliant, there’s a scene where the whole plan depends on BB-8 and some other droids and Poe has complete faith in them.
I also love the art style in Black Squadron. Phil Noto draws some gorgeous stuff (his Black Widow run is also fab) and I love the colours. It is a bit funny seeing Oscar Isaac’s face in a comic, but I soon got used to it. This is such a fun comic with good adversaries for Poe and his team and they kind of go on a heist at one which was wonderful (heists are my favourite thing ever) and I can’t wait till Volume 2 is released. 5/5.
Yesterday I spent the day going to many bookshops in London with a lot of book loving people. It was the London Bookshop Crawl which was organised by the wonderful Bex and it as so much fun!
Going into the Bookshop Crawl I didn’t know anyone. Bex had set up a Twitter list of the people who were going on the crawl so I’d followed them all to try and learn names and get to know some of them but really, I didn’t know anyone when I arrived at Foyles at 9:30am.
When I got there, there were already some people sitting in the café with hot drinks and pastries. After having a hot chocolate I went browsing the shelves of Foyles with Annette and Lauren, we talked about what genres we liked and recommended books to each other which was great. In Foyles I bought A Darker Shade of Magic and The Man in the High Castle – two books I’d been meaning to get my hands on for a while. I did start the crawl saying I’d only get one book per shop but that failed straight away! (more…)
Thirty years on from the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises in the form of the First Order. When former Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) meets desert scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) they get caught up in the fight against the First Order as they struggle to find the Resistance.
The Force Awakens is a really fun movie. While there are some quieter character moments, it starts with a bang and never really lets up. It is wonderful to be in space and to see different planets and creatures. One thing that The Force Awakens does so incredibly well is merge CGI and practical effects, whether it’s BB-8, the most adorable droid ever and a great sidekick, which really did roll around after everyone or the deserts of Jakku which was a real location – it just makes the whole thing feel more real and lived in.
The cinematography coupled with the score that has a lot of nostalgia beats make The Force Awakens a beautiful film. The aerial dog fights between TIE fighters, X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon are easy to follow and thrilling. When there’s a lightsaber duel (it’s Star Wars, there’s going to be at least one of them here) it is well-shot and brutal. (more…)
Gosh Lupita’s beautiful isn’t she? And super talented! It’s so unfair.
12 Years a Slave (2013) is a tough film to watch for a number of reasons but Lupita’s performance as Patsy is truly incredible and heart-breaking. I don’t think I’ve wanted someone to get the Oscar as much as I wanted her to get it that night.
I was in part expecting all the film roles to open up for Lupita after she won the Oscar (and just about every other award going) but that hasn’t really been the case. She’s in the new Star Wars film which is cool and I really want her to be a badass Queen or Jedi. I’ve got the book The Queen of Katwe by Tim Crothers though I haven’t read it yet, I definitely will be soon since Lupita will be starring in the film adaptation.
I also love Lupita Nyong’o’s sense of style, I mean I’ve never seen her look bad on the red carpet and her dresses are always gorgeous. She’s just so wonderful and I can’t wait to see what she does next.