*NEW* STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI REVIEW *NEW*

The last hurrah?

Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares for battle with the First Order.

After repressing the belly laughs from spotting Vivien from The Young Ones as a First Order officer, I was thrown into the chaos as the Resistance unleashed the mayhem.

The special effects were brilliant. The action was intense. I loved the cockpit panoramic camera work as Dameron maneuvered the X-Wing.

Speaking of which; someone must have read my Force Awakens review. The one new face writer/director Rian Johnson made sure to have plenty of screen time was Poe Dameron. Oscar Isaac was brilliant. Highly comical and entertaining. His hazing of Hux in the opening sequence was cheesy but well played. Reminded me of a young Solo.

After commending Domnhall Gleeson for his stand out performance as Hux in Episode VII, I felt his delivery this time around was almost pantomime. He was dreadfully OTT and annoying. Whether they realised Emo-Ren was lacking that sinister edge, I’ll never know.

Adam Driver was very good as Kylo. A much more sombre turn that worked a lot better for the character and he got rid of that ridiculous helmet!

Ren’s conflicted conscience continued to tease throughout. Had he truly turned to the Dark Side? Was there any hope left for him?

I loved how the old faces mixed with the new ones. Andy Serkis got to feature a lot more as the creepy Snoke. The CGI and detail on the super Sith (Seriously how tall was that guy? Was he even a guy?) was impeccable.

Carrie Fisher delivered a sterling turn as Leia. There were a couple of question marks about her character that surprised but also annoyed me. BUT don’t FORCE me to spoil anything. I respect the team for keeping the finished scenes after her tragic passing BUT I can’t help but feel that it might cause problems for the next installment.

However, her appearance allowed for a wonderful reunion that (I’m not going to lie) plucked at the old heart strings.

BB8 stole the show yet again. Delivering the laughs in this super serious saga.

BUT there was one face I was happy to see return and that was the man himself. Luke “Robo-Hand” Skywalker.

Hardly a spoiler as we left Rey presenting the miserable Jedi with his old lightsabre. I was surprised at how comical Hamill was BUT it added an extra humanity to this flawed veteran. A man defeated and desperate to avoid the call to action once more.

I loved the bitterness. Ridley and Hamill were a fantastic duo, which made the dynamic work that much more, as Luke reluctantly helped the stubborn Rey channel the Jedi within.

Ridley still carried the film where it counted. Her Force telepathy conversations with Ren were intriguing.

I loved how Johnson and co. brought so many new creatures and wonderful set designs to life. The nun toads and the PORGS (My God. Those PORGs are going to be the next craze fo’ sure) being particular highlights.

There were a few surprises and twists along the way. Plenty of fitting nods and references to keep the new SW and (the long suffering) old fans happy.

The only problem with focusing on particular characters and bringing in new faces was that some had to face the cut. Chewbacca, C-3PO and ol’ R2 were pushed into the background far too much.

Well, maybe C-3PO was the right decision. Don’t get me wrong, they stole the show whenever they had the opportunity BUT I wanted more.

At the same time, that showed confidence in the new faces that it wasn’t too much of a concern. I was a little worried at how Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Trico was going to fare. Her initial irritating introduction had me wincing BUT the loveable rogue soon grew on me and I was actually rooting for her by the closing act.

She worked well with Boyega and allowed an increasingly absent Finn back into the fold.

I have to say I enjoyed TLJ a lot more than FA (Force Awakens). FA had a stronger first half but withered out with a retread of A New Hope while TLJ got better and better and made the story its own.

I expected so much worse after the Twitter hate BUT was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t perfect. The pacing was a little testing in places and some scenes were a little hokey. The casino sequences at Canto Bight were a little . . . strange.

And there were a few plot holes. *Cough* Light speed chase *Cough* BUT there was enough fun, adventure and drama to keep things gripping, riveting and entertaining. I would have no qualms watching this again.

I can’t wait for Episode XI and any other spin-offs (that we already know are on the way) if they can continue to maintain this standard.

3.5/5

*NEW* LOGAN LUCKY REVIEW *NEW*

Is this really the movie that drew Soderbergh out of “retirement”?

Meh.

Two brothers attempt to pull off a heist during a NASCAR race in North Carolina.

Ocean Eleven goes Deep South.

This had all the Soderbergh traits. The dry humour, the stylish look, the crazy characters.

I enjoyed the Ocean movies BUT always felt they were a little overhyped (Sacrilege, I know).

BUT despite the director’s best efforts and ol’ Mike trying to work his magic, this crime caper just didn’t quite work.

A real shame as I was looking forward to seeing what these guys could do.

  

What? Hehehe. Moving on . . .

The pace was a real drag. The opening 30 minutes was a real bum-number. The slow style didn’t help matters despite Jimmy’s (Channing Tatum) luck fading fast. Battling unemployment and a possible custody battle.

Tatum delivered a sterling turn and carried the film as much as he could BUT it just wasn’t enough.

I was disappointed in Jimmy and Clyde’s fraternal relationship. Driver (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Tatum had good chemistry BUT they spent too much of the movie apart.

Riley Keough, I’m in love. What? She was heavily underused as the other (resourceful) Logan sibling.

“I know all the Twitters”.

The soundtrack was decent and the script did deliver some funny quips. Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson were hilarious as the dim-witted Bang brothers. I think the movie focused on the wrong family. Seriously, I’m not even joking.

The actual heist was okay and made for an entertaining and silly middle act. My grumbling was subdued and there were some suspenseful moments BUT it all felt a little too easy.

The strangely disjointed subplot (if you can call it that) with Sebastian Stan’s (Captain America: Winter Soldier) frustrated racer was terrible. It bared no significance to the plot and felt like a poor interlude between the heist sequences. It didn’t work for me. I would have preferred the flicking back and forth focusing on the actual protagonists instead.

Speaking of terrible? What was the deal with Seth MacFarlane’s dreadful Mockney accent? You can normally bank on the Family Guy comic to deliver the goods BUT he really got on my nerves as the pretentious British racing tycoon.

I was happy to see James Bond take a complete change in role as the eccentric Joe Bang. BUT despite a reasonable performance, Craig just wasn’t as good or as funny as I’d hoped. From the trailers, I expected something more. Wasted opportunity.

His heated debate with the Logan brothers over explosive ingredients (mid-heist) was entertaining enough.

I just wish there was more of that. Sarcastically doodling chemical compounds while making a bomb out of blue tack and gummy bears drew a titter from me.

There was too much smoke and mirrors guff that (despite preaching boredom) I was actually getting a little lost in what was going on.

BUT thankfully the unravelling of the mad robbery redeemed a real droll affair.

I knew things were getting desperate when Soderbergh threw in a cheeky Ocean’s Eleven reference to get a laugh (Admittedly it did get a guilty chuckle from yours truly).

Hilary Swank was completely wasted in her role. She literally appeared in the final act. Promising so much and giving us absolutely nothing. To be honest, her character’s frustration mirrored mine as she scratched her head at this ludicrous heist. I really hoped her hard ass FBI agent would bust some balls and pick up the tempo. BUT alas, it was not to be.

The female roles were pretty weak in general. Katherine Waterston’s (Alien: Covenant) character was reduced to nothing more than a forced cheesy romance that felt tacked on. Katie Holmes’ scornful ex wasn’t too bad BUT again more could have been made out of her.

And that’s my review in a nutshell. More could have made out of this. It wasn’t quite as gripping, funny or as clever as it could have been.

It passed the time, delivered the odd quip and had the odd moment. BUT there was something missing.

Watchable but memorable? If it wasn’t for this review, I probably would have forgotten it already. Unlucky.

2.5/5

*NEW* ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY REVIEW *NEW*

rogueone_onesheeta

Good film this is.

BUT cut pace they should.

Right, enough of that! In a nutshell, the Rebel Alliance makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.

If I could post a sound clip of that shrill Death Star siren for my spoiler warning, I would BUT I can’t . . .

So heads up, I may mention plot points.

When I heard that Gareth Edwards was at the helm, I had mixed feelings to say the least.

Monsters and Godzilla delivered on the special effects, creatures and set pieces but on characters and story . . .

Let’s just say Godzilla was in my worst films of 2014 (https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2014/05/21/godzilla-review-2/)

I enjoyed The Force Awakens BUT felt the whole final act was one big retread of A New Hope(https://youtheman77.wordpress.com/2016/01/10/new-star-wars-th…akens-review-new/)

None the less, I was still excited for another Star Wars flick (Lucky because we’re going to be getting a whole lot more).

I sat down awaiting the infamous and iconic opening theme music. Ready for the credits to deliver those tiny chunks of back story that scroll up into the ceiling.

However, NOT THIS TIME! I know, whaaattt? Edwards got straight to business. No messing about.

The only problem was that it was all a little bit slow . . .

I found myself a little fidgety as we followed another rebel origin story. It felt like it was going through the motions. Loss of loved ones. Tough upbringing. Believe in the force. Been there done that. Got 7 movies now.

It didn’t help that I just wasn’t emotionally caught up in Jyn (Felicity Jones) and Galen’s (Madd Mikkelsen) relationship. A shame considering the two leads involved.

I mean, come on. Even Attack of the Clones left me with a little lump in my throat when Anakin finally reunited with his mother.

Edwards and co certainly delivered on the effects and the creatures.

It flicked about from one wonderfully shot planet to the next as our rag team bunch of dysfunctional rogues were introduced and inevitably united. And what a supporting cast?!

BUT as well as new faces, we had a new (and annoyingly quotable) phrase: “I am one with the Force; The Force is with me”

I’m sure you’ve seen that mantra all over the Twitterverse. I could have done a drinking game with the amount of times that quote was uttered.

All thanks to Donnie Yen’s blind Kung Fu fighting kick ass Jedi, Chirrut Imwe. A legend in the making. I will say no more.

Riz Ahmed has come a long way from Four Lions and was very good as the defected Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (What a name!).

BUT there was another character that just stole the spotlight for me. No, not Felicity!

Alan Tudyk delivers his vocal gravitas to yet another memorable robot (Another? Sonny from I, Robot? No?).

I don’t know what it is with Star Wars movies BUT they always have a knack for making scene stealing robots.

k-2so

K-2SO was brilliant as the re-programmed Imperial droid. Every time the pace (tragically) lagged, this long-lost relative of The Iron Giant would stumble in with some quick-witted one liners and sarcastic jibes. C-3P Who?

Ben Mendelsohn (Mississippi Grind) wasn’t as strong or as memorable a villain as I’d hoped. Shame. BUT he was always going to play second fiddle when the darkest intergalactic duo in cinematic history were involved.

Oh yes, Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth are back!

Cudos to the visual effects team. A CGI’d Peter Cushing drew more chills than anything Mendelsohn’s Krennic could muster. The CGI was a little cartoony BUT what do you expect when bringing back an actor that has long passed? If anything, it made him even creepier.

darth-vader

And as soon as that rift blared out of the speaker, goosebumps were on the back of my neck. Darth Vader proved in his minute and savage cameo why he is still one of the most iconic super villains going.

If it wasn’t for all the little nods and cameos that popped up in this, I don’t think I would have quite enjoyed Rogue One as much. It tried to stand on its own two feet BUT the story was still the same old guff.

BUT the last 30 minutes, however, had me in awe. It was racy, riveting, action packed and delivered a fitting finale that led perfectly to the next chapter.

It certainly pushed the 12A marker with its darker undertone. BUT SW films have never been afraid to take risks with characters (Jar Jar Binks, no! I’m kidding).

Felicity Jones played a solid heroine BUT I felt her character got lost in the mix. There was almost too much going on with the Scarif beach battle that I actually forgot what Jyn and Cassian (Diego Luna – The Book of Life) were up to.

Luna and Jones worked well together. I just wish there was more of that relationship between the two.

Forest Whitaker’s strange performance as Saw Guerrera left question marks. I mean what did he actually do? Seriously. We didn’t see anything. And for those who have seen Rogue; what was he inhaling in that mask?

It’s always tough to follow on from such an iconic trilogy (*COUGH* Ep IV, V, VI *COUGH* Obviously. Just making sure) BUT Rogue One does enough to stand out in this ever-growing series.

The final act was fantastic and delivered that emotional punch I was looking for and I have to say I enjoyed it just a tad more than The Force Awakens.

A little long at the tooth BUT the force is still very strong with this latest adventure.

3.5/5

*NEW* THE JUNGLE BOOK REVIEW *NEW*

jungle_book_ver6_xlg

Ooh-bee-do, oh-bee-do I wouldn’t see this if I were you-ooooo.

Okay, it wasn’t as bad as that feeble pun. BUT now I have your attention. Disney take a trip back to the jungle with mixed results.

After a threat from the tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) forces him to flee the jungle, a man-cub named Mowgli (Neel Sethi) embarks on a journey of self discovery with the help of panther, Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) and free spirited bear, Baloo (Bill Murray).

I was hardly surprised when I heard that Disney were going to reboot the classics. A sign of the times that even the best were running out of ideas. However, I really enjoyed Kenneth Branagh’s lavish adaptation of Cinderella (What?). If the rest of the classics could deliver the same standard then my doubts would happily be washed away.

BUT not even this perfectly cast and visually stunning little reboot could take on the king of the jungle that was the original. It was certainly watchable and (at times) even enjoyable BUT something somewhere along the line was missing.

The rapid and incredibly disorienting opening didn’t get things going for me as Sethi jumped from one badly CGI’d tree to another. Desperately praying for the sequence to stop.

Sethi delivered an impressive debut and captured Mowgli perfectly. He couldn’t look any more like his Disney counterpart if he tried. His whining and insufferable commentary did grate against me in parts BUT that always did with the original.

I liked how writer Justin Marks shook up the story structure. It was a breath of fresh air. NOT all of it worked BUT a change nonetheless. A lot more time was spent with Mowgli and the wolf pack. It gave more depth and allowed a better connection between Mowgli and his “mother” Raksha (Lupita Nyong-o/Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

BUT maybe a little too much time was spent on that dynamic. Things perked up when the feral feline Sher Khan appeared. I was on the fence with Elba’s initial introduction BUT he killed it by the fiery finale. His gravelly undertones bringing the sinister CGI monster to life.

The animation and detail on the animals were superb. The jungle was captured in all its colourful glory. The watering hole sequence was a sight to behold.

The rest of the story pretty much followed along the same lines as the classic. It’s easy for me to make comparisons between Disney movies when I never read the original source material from Rudyard Kipling.

Kingsley was everything I expected. A perfect Baghera. He wasn’t in it enough. Scarlett Johansson nailed Kaar. Her strangely alluring and seductive voice doing justice to the role. She even managed to keep the “Trust in Me” rift. Didn’t quite go into the song which was a shame.

It was always going to be a tough act to follow the iconic Phil Harris. The voice that heralded several Disney favourites; O’Malley the alley cat, Little John and (of course) Baloo the bear. I couldn’t think of anybody better than Bill Murray to give it a crack. He was hilarious. Even if his grumbling may have reminded me of another another animated favourite. A certain fur-bag that loved lasagna.

The pace did test in times and the whole thing was a little too cheesy for my liking. BUT what did I expect from a family film? And even more so, a Disney one? As much as I got a little smile out of hearing Murray sing ‘Bare Necessities’, it almost didn’t fit in with the tone of the film.

I couldn’t believe that Christopher Walken was voicing the King-Kong sized King Louie. The monkey mafioso angle was a different touch. His singing was a little hooo-oooo-ooooorrendous. BUT fair play to the chap for giving it a go.

It was easygoing fun BUT for every little change, I felt a little piece of the charm that made the original such a classic melt away. There were no Beatle-esque vultures. No elephant soldier marches. Just a load of pretentious guff about the elephants being the Gods of the jungle. Really?

The man village angle barely scraped the surface. If anything, it wasn’t needed. It was only brought into the mix for “the red flower”. Sher Khan’s real agenda. The power to make fire. It certainly delivered a strong environmental message about the damage of wildfires and the woes of man on nature BUT it just wasn’t enough.

To be honest, I had the same gripes with the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake. When I have little sprogs of my own, I wouldn’t want them to watch the Michael Jacko/Johnny Depp reboot, I’d grab the Gene Wilder classic any day of the week. If you asked me the same question about the Jungle Book, I’d still be reaching for that animated 1967 classic.

Don’t get me wrong. It killed the time. There was fun to be had and you will certainly keep the little ‘uns at bay. Depending on big a Disney fan you are will probably determine how much you’ll love this.

BUT for a me, it’s a 3/5

*NEW* MIDNIGHT SPECIAL REVIEW *NEW*

midnight-special-movie-poster

Not that special.

A father (Michael Shannon – Man of Steel) and son (Jaeden Lieberher – St. Vincent) go on the run, pursued by the government and a cult drawn to the child’s special powers.

Overhyped, drawn out and disappointing. A patchy affair, to say the least.

The opening 30 minutes was everything I expected. It was tense, slow burning and mysterious as we watched Roy (Shannon) and Alton (Lieberher) hiding out in motels. Only travelling at nightfall. Evading capture at any cost. A suspenseful encounter with a state trooper after a late night car collision was nail-biting.

All the questions with none of the answers. Hook, line and sinker! Joel Edgerton (Warrior) worked well with Shannon as his friend and partner in crime. Lieberher excelled yet again (after a stellar turn in St. Vincent) as Alton. He felt like a cross between ET and D.A.R.Y.L. If said aliens were brainwashed by a religious cult.

I did expect more from Shannon’s performance. He didn’t impress as much as I hoped. Was a leading role a stretch too far after so many iconic supporting roles (Man of Steel/Boardwalk Empire)? He just wasn’t charismatic enough. I wanted to care for the pair. BUT as the film drudged along, my patience was soon tested.

Thankfully Jeff Nichols didn’t explore too much of Sam Shepard’s (Mud) crazy ranch cult. I was happy NOT to be stuck with that dreary subplot. It felt like a pale imitation of Big Love (A show I would highly recommend). The perception that Alton was a gift from God was different BUT it didn’t really go anywhere.

Kirsten Dunst (Fargo) was wasted in her role. Her character was so weak and one dimensional. There was NO connection or chemistry between her and Shannon (or their characters) and by the time the frenetic finale came to a close, you realized how unnecessary her character really was.

NOT even Kylo Ren could save the day. Adam Driver’s (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) initial introduction was annoying and dull. His communication babble and co-ordinate guff put me into a mini-coma.

It probably didn’t help that he looked like Matt from the hilarious Saturday Night Live Star Wars Undercover Boss skit (Check it out – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaOSCASqLsE). However, Driver’s nerdy shtick soon won me over and was a much needed boost in this increasingly drawn out yarn.

The mystery throughout the first half of the film was the only thing keeping me going. The fact we didn’t know why Alton was special. Why did he have to leave? Who was coming for him? Did he even have powers? Was it a hoax? Mere pandemonium from a bunch of deluded zealots?

All we knew was that he had to wear goggles during the day and stay out of the sunlight. BUT the second half of this sci-fi snooze-fest threw that out of the window with Alton blazing light out of his eyes like Cyclops from X-Men. Pulling satellites out of the sky and babbling in radio frequencies.

Don’t get me wrong, when it (finally) kicked off, there were moments to be had. The special effects were brilliantly executed and the chase sequences soon stopped me fidgeting in my seat.

BUT I think it would have worked much better if Nichols had played out whether Alton was an alien or not up to the very end. The sci-fi stuff was revealed far too early. Killing a lot of the tension and suspense for me.

I loved the Close Encounters of Third Kind vibe to the piece BUT it was far too patchy. There were only so many sweeping shots from Adam Stone’s beautiful cinematography and brooding scores (from regular Nichols stalwart David Wingo) to keep my interest.

The finale was frantic and baffling BUT ultimately by the closing credits, predictable and disappointing. A bizarre set design, that was supposed to be breathtaking and captivating, looked like something from Tomorrowland.

Nichols left it on a strange climax with more questions. I could see what he was trying to do BUT by the end I really didn’t care. For all the mystery and tension, it couldn’t hide what was a rather weak and tame alien road movie that (despite all the promise) lacked in depth or originality.

It was watchable BUT far too patchy and overhyped. Personally, Mud is still my favourite out of Nichols’ works.

2.5/5

*NEW* THE REVENANT REVIEW *NEW*

revenant_movie_poster

A revelation? An Oscar worthy performance from the man of the hour?

In a nutshell, NO.

A frontiersman (Leonardo DiCaprio) on a fur trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.

Overlong, over-rated and disappointing. I really wanted to like this. For all the praise, Twitter craze and reviews, I expected a well-acted visceral and brutal tour de force with one man seeking vengeance. Is this really the film that gave Leonardo his overdue Oscar? Really?

The first 45 minutes were slow burning BUT engrossing. Inarritu’s long takes used to full effect. A tense encounter with a pack of bloodthirsty natives made for a tense and brutal watch. It was a shame that momentum wasn’t kept for the rest of the piece.

DiCaprio delivered a good turn. There’s no quarrelling about that. BUT an Oscar? He certainly carried the piece as much as he could. BUT there was only so many picturesque landscape shots (from the Oscar winning and Innaritu stalwart Emmanuel Lubezki) and grunting from the leading man that could keep me interested.

I was more impressed by the underrated British and Irish supporting cast. Domhnall Gleeson continues to impress yet again in another scene stealing supporting role (Ex Machina and Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Will Poulter (The Maze Runner) was equally as good as the conflicted Bridger. A great transition from the Son of Rambow star.

And once you were able to understand Tom Hardy’s (Legend) incessant Southern mumbling, he was the perfect foe. He really looked the part. A weasel of the lowest denomination. Back stabbing and plotting at any given opportunity. If it wasn’t for Hardy’s performance, I don’t think I would have persevered to see the outcome.

The grizzly bear attack sequence was nail-biting stuff. The animation and a little improv from DiCap made this a tense show down and almost realistic, to an extent. The elongated attack kept me on tenterhooks. Thinking our hero was safe. Only for the grizzly menace to come back for more.

The only problem was that the rest of the film was spent watching DiCap crawl, growl and shiver across the frozen terrain and woodland. Broken up by metaphorical imagery and flashbacks that were pretty self-explanatory. I was more interested in Hugh (DiCap) and Hawk’s (Forrest Goodluck) relationship. Something that was barely touched on and reduced to a few scenes.

DiCap really went through it. Putting his Bear Grylls skills to work. Chewing raw fish and enduring arctic conditions. BUT I wasn’t hooked. I wanted to be rooting for the guy from the first minute. Tom Hank’s turn in Cast Away had me transfixed. I never felt so sad about a man losing his volleyball. Matt Damon’s Oscar nominated turn in The Martian had me praying for his return home.

I love Innaritu’s works. Birdman was one of my favourite films of 2015. It was different and featured a resurgent performance from Keaton. DiCaprio is a superb actor BUT I felt that he got the Oscar for the wrong film.

A good portion of Hugh’s “journey” tested my patience. I don’t need horse back chases and natives attacking every minute of the movie to keep my attention (Although it might have helped) BUT for two and a half hours, I needed something more. The showdown made for a redemptive finale in every aspect. Both for our hero and yours truly. And that was down to Hardy’s turn. I really wanted to see him get his comeuppance.

Maybe this was a case of too much hype. From all the reviews, you would have thought that nobody had ever seen a Western before. The plot was hardly original, the pace was too much and DiCaprio did his best BUT I would struggle to watch this again. Let alone put this on a top movie list.

Watchable BUT nowhere near as rewarding as I’d hoped.

3/5

*NEW* STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS REVIEW *NEW*

starwarsposter

Was the force strong with this one? Was this the sequel I was looking for?

In a nutshell, hype help it did NOT.

It was always going to be tough to follow on from such an iconic trilogy (Episodes IV, V and VI) BUT it was still an enthralling and promising effort from J.J. Abrams. After the successful Star Trek reboot, I had full confidence in the director to continue George Lucas’ legacy.

As soon as those infamous credits came up, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away . . .” and that iconic John Williams score boomed through the surround sound speaker system, this film nerd bellowed a Wookie cry in rejoice.

It was hard NOT to get that buzz and excitement as the plot scrolled up the screen into nothingness. Thankfully, there was no dense mumbo jumbo about taxation. *Cough* Phantom Menace *Cough*

Three decades after the defeat of the Galactic Empire, a new threat arises. The First Order attempts to rule the galaxy and only a ragtag group of heroes can stop them, along with the help of the Resistance.

Don’t worry. I will do my utmost NOT to spoil anything. Promise.

I always went out of my way to avoid getting into the Star Wars films. BUT the force was too strong. I couldn’t resist the score, the characters, the very world that Lucas capitulated.

The humour, the action, the corny exchanges. Thankfully they were all still there. It probably helped that Abrams teamed up with Star Wars scribe Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back/The Return of the Jedi. Ugh. Those Ewoks. Man oh man).

The first hour I was hooked. Engrossed. Fantastic special effects. Frenetic energy. Great characters. SOLD.

The introduction of several new faces spiced up the mix. John Boyega (Attack the Block) and Daisy Ridley (Mr Selfridge) were worthy additions and certainly held their own.

Oscar Isaac’s (Ex Machina) Poe wasn’t in this enough. His quick witted one liners reminded me of a young Han Solo. BUT after making an impressionable introduction, he was largely absent. Shame.

Ridley was superb. It was a breath of fresh air to see a female heroine after following Luke and Anakin. She carried the film and was a likeable protagonist. Boyega was very good as troubled trooper Finn. Come a long way from Attack The Block.

We also had a new villain in the form of the mysterious Kylo Ren. Channelling his inner Vader. I was transfixed. That was until the chap took off his helmet. Sorry, Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You). I can see why that Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account exists. His isolated conversation with Vader’s broken helmet was haunting.

Domnhall Gleeson (About Time) also delivered an underrated performance as General Hux. By the end, I was more entranced with him than Ren. Rivalling Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin as the creepy underling. His unsettling Hitler-esque speech made the hairs stand on the back of my neck.

However, the biggest scene stealer was the adorable android BB-8. Hilarious. I’m sure a lot of people will be wanting to buy one of these little bots. I know I want one.

 

bb-8-work

 

Of course, the heavily flogged trailers revealed the return of some old faces. It was great to see Han Solo and ol’ Chewie. They were fantastic and haven’t changed a bit. Perfect. Harrison Ford was on fine form. Showing the newbies how it’s done.

Believe it or not, this really will be down to how much of a Star Wars fan you are. Go figure. If you’re anything like me, you would have already had your Star Wars marathon. The Good (Episode V), The Bad (Episode II) and the Ugly (Episode I).

If you haven’t then I would highly recommend that you don’t. As much as Abrams and Kasdan changed a few things, introduced new faces and brought back the old ones, there was only so much you could do with the story arc.

The closing act felt like one enormous retread of Episode IV: A New Hope. Different characters doing the exact same thing with the same end result. Predictable and frankly a little disappointing.

It didn’t help that the pace got increasingly patchy as the film carried on. A drawn out bar sequence with Maz Kanata (voiced brilliantly by Lupita Nyong’o) certainly didn’t help matters. The force waffle went on too long and I couldn’t help but think of Madge from Benidorm while Kanata spoke. Anybody else see it? Nope?

 

Maz_Kanata_VD

 

I knew that Episode VII was going to be a continuation BUT I was still expecting more. Maybe it was a case of hype being a hindrance after setting the bar so high. Don’t get me wrong, it was a vast improvement from Episodes I and II. I know some of you will say, “Well, that wouldn’t take much”.

BUT as much as Abrams and Kasdan tried to create a little mystery around the old faces as we wondered what had happened in 30 years, it was pretty easy to piece together.

Carrie Fisher was wasted in her role as Leia. Gutted. I couldn’t make head or tail of what Andy Serkis’ (The Lord of the Rings) Supreme Leader Snoke was supposed to be.

The pace tested. The plot was disappointing. BUT I was still happy to be taken back to that crazy universe and once I saw a particular piece of space junk take flight, I was beaming from ear to ear.

An enjoyable enough romp and a welcome return for a franchise. BUT if there is to be more, retread old ground we must NOT.

3.5/5 (Just)