Category Archives: Action

Review: Tag

Director(s)Sion Sono
Principal CastReina Triendl as Mitsuko
Yuki Sakurai as Aki
Release Date2015
Running Time 85 minutes

One day while randomly browsing YouTube, I found an raw trailer for this movie and was left in shock. It looked cutesy but then devolved into seemingly disparate situations of violence. I knew that I had to see what it was all about, so I waited till it came out with subs and proceeded to experience an audiovisual piece the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

The story picks up on Mitsuko, a shy high-schooler who’s busy writing poetry as she and her classmates head off on a trip. However, soon after this start, a gust of wind comes through and kills everyone on the bus besides Mitsuko. Streams of blood and guts envelop the screen and Mitsuko is forced to run away from the wind to survive.

What follows is a story that never lets up with WTF moments and sequences. Every time I thought I had a grasp on what the movie was, it went in a completely different direction, each as violent as the one preceding it. If you’re someone who likes having answers immediately, then this movie is going to get under your skin. Answers only come near the end of the third act and they’re still ambiguous at that. It’s a movie that assaults the senses with gore and absurdity while dragging the audience at breakneck speeds through a story that seemingly makes no sense. However, once things start clicking, the movie becomes something else entirely. I was floored with everything I had seen. The movie takes a lot of risks and I thought they more than payed off by the end.

Without getting into spoilers, I can say the movie’s analysis of agency is interesting and provocative. Just like Mitsuko, the audience never has a stable foundation to begin to determine what is and isn’t real. That’s because those perceptions are conditioned not only by our perspectives of ourselves but by the perspectives of those who control the levers of society. If we’re taught that certain protocol is the only way forward, then it becomes easy to see how true freedom can become hidden away. Sono takes this idea and then wonderfully infuses both a queer and feminist subtext into it, giving the idea a sense of nuance that most movies can only dream of. Multiple people can watch this movie and all of them can come away with different interpretations (outside of the blatant message of the movie). Even now the ending gets to me and makes me really think both of the meaning of the story and the way I contribute to a society that strips people of agency.

Now for my more squeamish readers, you might want to watch this one with a friend who can let you know when the gory stuff is over. The movie is filled with splatters and grotesque murders. The first time I watched it, I had to look away a few times because of how visceral the experience would get. I think it gives the movie a really distinctive feel, but I can see how it could turn people away.

Report Card

TLDRTag is a movie that deserves to get seen by more people. It’s a masterclass in storytelling and has one of the most unique plots I’ve seen in a story. The way the mystery builds and resolves itself is shocking and thought provoking. If you like gore or art-house movies, you owe it to yourself to watch this.
Rating9.8/10
Grade A+

Review: Weathering with You

Director(s)Makoto Shinkai
Principal CastKotaro Daigo as Hodaka Morishima
Nana Mori as Hina Amano
Shun Oguri as Keisuke Suga
Release Date2019
Running Time 112 minutes

I’ve always liked Shinkai’s work (5 Centimeters per Second, The Garden of Words) but I’ve never fallen in love with anything in the same as I did with Your Name.Like tons of other people around the world, I couldn’t stop gushing over the 2016 runaway hit. As such, I came into this movie with high expectations. I know ,I know, bad idea. Thankfully, Lady Luck was looking out and I got more than what I expected. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the way the movie ended or been able to stop humming the main theme, so suffice to say I think it’s pretty good.

If you haven’t seen trailers- don’t. I think most trailers for this movie spoil too much and the experience will feel more magical if you go in “blind”. The story follows Hodaka, a high-school boy, who runs away to Tokyo and runs into Hina, a girl with the magical power to change the weather. Such an ability would be an amazing in the ordinary, but in this world where huge downpours and flooding are commonplace, a ray of sunshine can mean the world. The movie explores homelessness, climate change, and humanity’s spiritual connection with the environment with almost seamless execution while telling a fun fantastical romance.

I really like the post-apocalyptic/slow apocalyptic feeling the movie has. Hope in spite of the crushing weight of everything is something that I can relate to, especially in relation to the climate crisis we’re in that shows little hope of being reversed. Eventually, when events like mass flooding become more commonplace ,humanity is going to be forced to adapt or be eliminated. Can there still be hope and optimism in a world where everything is slowly being subsumed ,doomed to eventually disappear? Is a world like that tragic or can life still be happy in spite of it all? The story does a good job introducing these beats and developing them in ways that are bittersweet.(Mostly) Nothing feels unearned or easy.

The movie is gorgeous when it wants to be (so most of the time). There are scenes from the 3rd act that I don’t think I’ll be forgetting any time soon. Backgrounds look life-like and the rain is mesmerizing. The sheer power of nature comes through each and every frame. There are a few moments of CGI that feel abrupt and really took me out of the movie. The movie is just so beautiful that any incongruous element feels even more off putting than it would be normally. If you liked the soundtrack from Your Name, you’ll be pleased with what RADWIMPS has cooked up for this story.

My problems with the movie lie with the execution of certain sub-plots. The issue is most of the plot lines in the movie are executed almost impeccably. The moments and relations are grounded even though they’re mystical at the same time. Unfortunately, one of the more important plot threads for the third act falls short of the above. It’s not given the same sense of realism and feels more gimmicky. It’s not that big of an issue because thematically the thread is great. I just wish it didn’t come at the cost of the meticulous sense of consequence that had been building up till that point.

Report Card

TLDRWeathering for You is a beautiful fantasy romance that delivers a thematically rich story with wonderful characters. There are only a few plot issues, but by the end of the movie you won’t be thinking about them. If you liked Your Name, check this out. If you’re looking for a meaningful tale about our relationship to the planet , I’d also recommend giving this a view.
Rating9.3/10
GradeA

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

 

Review: Bad Boys For Life

Director(s)Adil El Arbi
Bilall Fallah
Principal CastWill Smith as Mike Lowrey
Martin Lawrence as Marcus Burnett
Jacob Scipio as Armando Armas
Kate del Castillo as Isabel Aretas
Release Date2020
Running Time 124 minutes

I’ll be upfront and say I don’t really remember Bad Boys or Bad Boys II outside of a few moments, and I wasn’t going to go through the effort of re-watching them for this newest release. Thankfully for me, the movie doesn’t require knowledge of the previous movies, but does reward people who have kept up with Mike and Marcus’s journey up to now. I left the movie immensely satisfied and think this movie will please old and new fans alike.

The movie follows a more mature Mike and Marcus, the former desperate to continue fighting bad guys while the latter is getting ready to retire and enjoy the comforts of life, including his newly born grandchild. However, a string of murders brings the two together for one last ride (pending the imminent sequel). While I may not remember the last two movies, I know I will remember parts of this one for a bit. The reveals in the third act were fun and well-earned- definitely not what I expected when I was walking in. That’s not to say the story is perfect. It definitely has some moments of fat that could be trimmed off, especially in the second act which feels like it goes on for a while. There’s a lot of “find X” guy sub-plots happening which feel like they could have been condensed and streamlined. But in spite of all of that, it’s entertaining.

If you were a fan of the frenetic cut based directing of the previous movies, you may be upset with how tame this movie feels. There’s still a ton of action and movement, but it feels more contained and refined. I personally enjoy this style way more and appreciated how clean the action sequences looked. I could tell you exactly what was happening on the screen as it happened, which I rarely can in modern action movies.

Like the action, the character development and pacing of the plot feel more refined than ever. Both Mike and Marcus have meaningful character arcs in this movie. Martin Lawrence’s performance as the latter proves he still has his acting chops. He’s just as funny but has a clarity about him. Even the side characters get some love here. The buddy-cop duo find themselves joined by tech-driven operations team (AMMO) and each member brings a little spice to the formula. I loved watching them bounce off the main duo and their interjections keeps the movie feeling fresh. The crazy part is – none of the above are even my favorite character from the movie. That honor goes to the villain Armando, a man who’s as complex is he as dedicated to executing justice. He’s a hardened criminal who has a moral compass and nothing about it feels off. Ruthless and violent, but not a deranged monster. I dig it.

Honestly, my biggest issues concerning the movie stem from its identity crisis. The movie wants to be funny (which it most certainly is), serious, have a message, and be action-packed. The issue is that it mixes those elements in ways that make them oppose one another. For example., there are moments where something serious happens and then someone makes a funny joke almost undercutting the impact of what was said. I get that it’s funny and is poking fun at the scenario, but it really takes you out of the moment. Likewise, the humor compounded with some missed opportunities, takes away a lot from some of the themes presented in the first act.

Report Card

TLDRBad Boys for Life should satisfy fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. It’s bold and has genuinely fun moments that set it apart from predecessors, but it never takes the following steps to become something truly innovative. Good popcorn flick and one of the better buddy-cop movies.
Rating8.0/10
GradeB

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

 

Review: Cats (2019)

I’m someone who normally gives pieces a more positive and optimistic shot than most. My higher than normal review scores are indicative of that. I always try and find something good to latch on in a movie and have fun with it. I saw the reviews for this movie on opening day and realized the potential horror of what I was walking into. I held onto some hope, because I loved Les Miserables, and thought that even a bad Tom Hooper musical would be okay. I was wrong. Not just wrong – horribly mistaken. By the time the first hour had passed I was literally just praying for the movie to end. This isn’t just the worst movie I’ve seen this year – it’s one of the worst I’ve ever seen.

The movie follows a series of horrific anthropomorphized cats as they talk about this vague competition that leads to an eventual rebirth. I’ll be the first to say I never saw or read about the Broadway show, and the plot was near incomprehensible to me. I’m someone who likes subtitles, so the fact that most of the exposition in the movie was sung hurt my ability to comprehend the movie. That normally wouldn’t be an issue but the film never takes a break to develop any themes or ideas. It literally follows the same structure the whole time- introduce cat – have song – maybe Macavity (Idris Elba) makes a slight cameo- then repeat. The lack of change in editing makes the whole movie drag on and I felt like I was being forced to endure the length of the film. The whole thing would have felt better 30-40 minutes shorter because at least then the absurdity of the film would stop while it was fresh.

Unlike most typical good bad movies like Troll 2, this film takes its sweet time being subpar so you can’t even laugh at the monstrosity at hand because it never stops or changes. There are few movies that have ever made me want to walk out in frustration – this film has joined the not so prestigious list. It’s not just that its bad- it’s that it won’t stop being bad so you can never laugh at how bad it is because you’re constantly being bombarded by worse elements.

The film goes at a breakneck pace but also feels incredibly slow because nothing meaningful ever happens. The movie could best be described as almost non stop exposition followed by an ending that tries to be emotionally resonant but fails on every note. This is because literally no character arcs or emotional bonds are ever set up in a way that could be conducive to any meaningful development. It’s a shame that the “antagonist” feels like a plot device instead of a meaningful character. I love Idris Elba and seeing him being used in such a poor fashion is upsetting. At least let him give the character some personality as opposed to be being a random bad guy. The only characters that give the movie any personality are Old Deuteronomy (Judie Dench) and Gus (Ian McKellen). The former takes command of the scene whenever she appears and makes the events feel more justified even though they’re just as haphazard as we think. The latter adds some emotional panache that gives the film much needed personality and actually helped jolt me awake near the end of the second act (or third act it’s confusing). The lack of real character motivation or explanation makes the whole movie feel like it’s a series of meaningful unrelated events. It literally feels unfinished.

Tonal whiplash is the name of the game and experiencing the shift from puns/comedic moments to the more serious nature of the competition the movie sets up(?) feels out of place. James Corden and Rebel Wilson are usually funny, but their style of humor and incorporation into this film feels forced and out of place. I can’t take the movie seriously if the characters in it make jokes about it and poke fun at the holes. Normally this tactic would be fine if the movie didn’t take itself seriously – but it does- and worse than that – it tries to be emotionally resonant. That’s a no-no and absolutely took me out of any immersion I had tried to feel.

Honestly, the biggest issue with the movie is how unappealing the film is. Forget a boring plot. Forget the uninspired songs. Forget the fact that most of the movie feels like an exposition reel through song. Hell, you could forget about all of that if the movie was at least fun. But it isn’t fun. It’s hollow and feels like a quick cash grab. The characters are one dimensional and just repeat lines with no personality. No one’s motivation is explored. The CGI looks unfinished and terrifying at the same time. Some of the characters literally look like humans with “cat” like additions which feels at odd with other characters and makes the shoddy CGI more apparent. The characters are also all strangely sexual. Parents please don’t take your kids. The way the cats licked the milk, flicked their tails, and stretched themselves had me cringing not only in embarrassment but also sheer dread at how horny the whole thing felt like. I guess maybe if you’re a furry you could get something from these moments- but that’s a pretty niche market group.

Rating

TLDR: Cats broke me. I used to say “no movie is that bad.” But no – some are. You can’t find something great in every piece of media.

Final Rating: 1.8/10. This movie is hard to positively react to. If you’re a furry maybe you might like it if you can ignore all the awful portions. If you take a shot every time there’s an awful cat pun or a strange sexual moment you might find something fun – but I can’t guarantee anything. Honestly – there’s not a lot here and I’d recommend staying away unless you really like bad movies. At the very least the movie might make influence the zeitgeist so that a future Cats like movie is never created again.

Is there a point in a spoiler section? I don’t think so . Save yourself.

Review: Solo

Theatrical Release Poster

I saved this review till the end for my Star Wars movie journey for a reason – if Episode IX wasn’t what I wanted it to be I wanted to leave my reviews off on a good note- the franchise has meant a lot to me in the short time since I’ve started binge consuming it and I want the love to show. When I first watched Solo, I had a surprisingly fun time. I say surprising because so many of my friends said the movie was a dud. Box office sales and the internet told me it was a disappointment. Thankfully, I saw the film from a different point of view and was exuberant about the whole package. The movie is packed with passion, humor, fun action scenes, gorgeous visuals, memorable characters, and is a movie Star Wars fans and movie fans alike can enjoy.

First off let me say – if I had gone in and saw this movie with no understanding of Star Wars I still would have liked it. That’s not to say it’s bland or unremarkable in any way – it’s definitely a Star Wars movie. What I mean to say is the movie never really relies on having to know or be familiar with anything. Everything obviously becomes more interesting and fan-servicy in great ways if you’ve watched the other movies in the saga, so I felt doubly intrigued by the way everything unfolded. The story expands the lore of the characters we know and love without ever sacrificing the integrity of future moments. It’s meaningful past retconning – it only serves to make moments and ideas in other movies more resonant. There are also cute additions to the lore of the galaxy so that the rise of the Empire feels more grounded.

The acting and characterization of the major (and even minor) players serves to make the narrative more appealing and memorable. In particular, I loved Alden Ehrenreich’s portrayal of Han Solo. He’s more hopeful and optimistic – with outlines of the rogue we got to know in Episode IV. He doesn’t try and act like Harrison Ford, which I love – no actor can ever really copy another so trying to give life to the character is more important. In this case, I completely believed in him as Han, and as someone who didn’t love the character as much as other fans (namely because of his depiction in Episode VI) , I can say without a doubt this movie made me appreciate him more. Alongside Ehrenreich, we have great performances from both Emilia Clarke as Qi’ra and Woody Harrelson as Beckett. The latter came off as an alternative timeline Han and serves as as a great foil to the title character. The former is phenomenal at playing his childhood friend/love interest and brings out a new dynamic I didn’t expect to see. Donald Glover is likable as Lando and feels and acts like how I imagine a younger Lando would act. The biggest surprise of the movie is Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo). He gets a real sense of agency in this movie and I feel like I finally got a chance to know him in a meaningful way as opposed to the hairy sidekick. Watching all the pieces come together, play out, and evolve is a treat.

The plot plays out without a lot of surprises, but the few that do come up are amazing. I won’t spoil them, but I do genuinely want to know how Disney plans on following some of the threads from this film. There’s a lot of potentially cool situations that could play out. While the film mostly plays it safe, the execution of a ton of scenes are top notch. the score is absolutely phenomenal. I mean like- wow – I did not expect it to be this amazing in a spin-off movie. John Powell has done an amazing job and making compelling and epic sounding pieces. If you haven’t seen the movie at least listen to some of the music. This section of “Marauders Arrive” should be enough to convince you. Add onto this the amazing action scenes, gorgeous visual effects, and sharp hitting humor (for the most part) and you’ve got a fun, enjoyable romp to a series of interesting locale.

The production issues become slightly apparent near the end of the film . Lord and Miller are hillarious and I wanted to see how they’d play around with the humor revolving L3-37(Phoebe Waller-Bridge). I enjoyed the character and thought she could’ve been used more effectively. Some of the fan service also becomes a bit egregious (never awful but we could’ve done without parts of it). Ron Howard did a great job with the position he was put in and definitely helped preserve a lot of decent moments. There are some strange plot points in the third act that I wish were more fleshed out. But all in all , I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and hope that unanswered threads in this movie get resolved in a satisfying media release in the future.

Rating

TLDR: Solo is a fun movie that adds a lot to the backstory of characters we know and appreciate. I for one, think I’ll enjoy Episodes IV and V more on the re-watch given the way Lando , Han, and Chewie get fleshed out. There are some missed opportunities, slight pacing issues, and a bit of overindulgence in fan service but it never takes away from the fun time at hand.

Final Rating: 8.7/10. I think this is a movie any Star Wars fan can enjoy. There’s something in here for everybody and the story only plays on the elements we all love. The best part? You can show the movie in group settings with people unfamiliar with the setting and they’d still have a good time.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: Star Wars:Episode IX- The Rise Of Skywalker

Theatrical Release Poster

NOTE – Like all reviews I do this – this is spoiler free, but given how big the movie is, I felt like mentioning it again.

So for those of you who have been following my Star Wars journey so far, you must’ve noticed that I was really loving a lot of the movies. Much to the surprise of a lot of my friends, I was actually a really big fan of The Last Jedi, and eagerly awaited Episode IX – honestly excited to see how J.J. Abrams would take and conclude the different thematic threads and character arcs. Unfortunately, I was left far from impressed. Despite being gorgeous to watch and having more than a few amazing iconic scenes, The Rise of Skywalker, feels hollow and emotionally vacant. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the movie – I’ll certainly go watch it again – but it was disappointing to say the least.

I have a lot I don’t like so I’m going to start with some positives – because there are quite a few and I don’t want them to get overshadowed. John William’s delivers some of my favorite renditions of tracks in this film. If I didn’t have Spotify, I’d be inclined to buy the score. In particular, “The Old Death Star”, sent chills down my spine as soon as it started playing. The echoes of Vader’s “Imperial March” feel even more captivating and alluring here. The film is also visually stunning. There were multiple moments that had me giddy with excitement and getting to see the absolute vastness of the Force was a joy to behold. The power of the characters felt palpable (pun intended) and I genuinely appreciated how badass space wizards could actually be. Great set design helped heighten battles and made them feel that much more metaphysical and grandiose. I had goosebumps more than one time and know that the spectacle is going to delight more than a fair share of people. If you like space ship fights, this movie has some jaw dropping ones in terms of scale and design. There are multiple shots in this movie that you could print out and frame and subsequently get lost looking at.

Acting in this movie is also off the charts. Even when I wasn’t invested in the plot and felt betrayed by how the story unraveled – I was always at least partially invested because character moments felt genuine. Adam Driver has been my favorite part of the Sequel Trilogy and I’d watch this movie again just to see his portrayal of Kylo. It’s astounding just how many different emotions he can put on display – and his constant journey and inner struggle between the light and the dark felt real and emotionally resonant. Every time he was on the screen I cared. It probably helps that his character arc is the only one I genuinely enjoyed – so kudos for that. Daisy Ridley is phenomenal as Rey and makes the new Jedi’s inner conflict feel as justified as the plot will let it. Even though I really didn’t like the way the story took her arc, I appreciated passion and effort put in to make it believable. My review would be remiss if I didn’t mention just how much I loved the inclusion of older cast members. Billy Dee Williams is infectious as Lando and constantly had me smiling when he showed up. Ian McDiarmid’s is over the top, campy, and perfectly evil as always. Palpatine still oozes with the same familiar dark charisma and the inclusion of of some fan favorite dialogue made his scenes that much more enjoyable. Who doesn’t love the Emperor, am I right?

Plot wise – the story picks up well after the Battle of Crait. Palpatine is back , Kylo is attempting to shore up his control of the First Order and the galaxy as a whole, and Rey is off training. From the first scene – the movie feels rushed and constantly jumps all over the place. This is especially noticeable in the first half of the movie – but pacing is whack. It’s almost like a four hour movie was packed into the 2 and a half hour run time. We constantly travel from planet to planet – from one chase scene to another brush with danger. While it all looks visually stunning, there’s an noticeable lack of tension because there’s never enough time to really get settled in or invested in what’s going on. Huge emotional moments get undercut as a result which takes a lot of the impact of the movie away. Furthermore, the movie plays out a lot like a video game with a lot of fetch quests., which is a shame, because some of the items the main crew look for seem like they could’ve been more interesting if they were mentioned or alluded to in previous films or developed more in this one. Their inclusions are also made less relevant because each “item” only seems to lead to another so it diminishes their significance.

Most of these plot issues stem from the identity crisis the film seems to have. It simultaneously tries to pick up story threads from The Force Awakens, retcon a lot of the interesting elements from The Last Jedi, and pander to a Star Wars fan base that has made its vocal disdain for the Sequel Trilogy known online. Unfortunately, there’s not nearly enough time to make each of these decisions cohesive – we go from fan service to a serious moment and then back , creating a whiplash in expectation and tone. I’m someone who loves fan service, but it just felt overdone and undeserved in a lot of scenarios and dropped me out of the movie more than once. Based on the exposition thrown at us in the earlier portions of the movie, it’s clear to see that J.J and Rian had different visions for character arcs and how the themes of the Skywalker franchise should be explored. It just made me wish one or the other had made all the films so that we could’ve received a wholly consistent trilogy instead of one that tried to do everything. Maybe that way we wouldn’t have had so many strange character interactions, deus ex machina like moments, strange reversals of previous plot threads, and confusing explanations for previous events.

For me – the biggest disappointment (that I can talk about at least) is how flat the movie feels thematically. A lot of the more interesting and nuanced themes from The Last Jedi, are completely discarded and replaced with generic beats and moments from Return of The Jedi. It makes the movie feel cheap because it doesn’t expand or try to take the story to a new philosophical height. Instead, it seems to revel in pandering to an audience that just wants to see a generic battle of good vs evil – which is fine, if not a little disheartening. Say what you want about the Prequel Trilogy- at least it expanded the philosophical discourse of Star Wars in diverse ways. It stumbled in a lot of ways, but it opened up the venue to a lot of , I was almost certain that the movie would play around with the concepts of fate, destiny, the dark side and the light side and what those ideas really mean but instead it seemed to just want to travel down the well-trodden path from the Original Trilogy. That’s not to say there’s no innovation – there were certainly interesting moments and ideas that made the Force seem more mystical and built on its vague nature. The problem is just those moments are few and far between and often times are underdeveloped or straight up undercut.

Rating

TLDR: The Rise of Skywalker is a beautiful mess of jumbled ideas and inconsistent thematic threads. While there were a lot of gorgeous shots and character actions I loved, I had my fair share of moments where I felt apathetic to the pretty visuals on the screen. It’s just sad that what could’ve been the best movie in the franchise turned out to be so topsy turvy.

Final Rating: 7.7/10. If you like Star Wars you owe it to yourself to watch the film. People who loved The Last Jedi might feel let down with the story choices made. However, on the flip side, if you didn’t like the last movie – you might end up liking this even more than me – it’s packed to the brim with fan service and goes over the story beats we all loved from the Original Trilogy. No matter what , you should watch the movie. At the very least it’s a visual and auditory treat.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts! There are quite a lot this time.

Review: Rogue One

Theatrical Release Poster

If I’m being completely honest here, after watching the trailer for this movie and hearing the raving reviews from some of my friends, I expected to be blown away by this film. I couldn’t wait to get an insight into the group that retrieved the Death Star’s plans, and I put in my Blu-Ray all amped up to learn more about the backstory of the Rebels. While Gareth Edward’s addition to the Star Wars franchise, Rogue One , certainly looks and sounds amazing it feels woefully inadequate in the character development department.

If you’ve seen A New Hope, you know that a group of rebels sacrificed themselves to retrieve the Death Star schematics. But that casualty never feels like it has any kind of weight to it. A nameless group of rebels and their struggles is hard to relate to. This film was an attempt at making the efforts of those rebels more discernible by chronicling their journey to find the plans. There are names and faces and I appreciated the struggle the rebels had to get to their eventual goal. The movie also answers some serious questions I’ve had since I watched the first movie and makes certain moments from the original trilogy feel more earned.

The film is also genuinely gorgeous when it comes to action. The CGI is jaw dropping and the space battles feel colossal and exciting. There’s a real sense of scale and scope with each explosion and battle that I haven’t felt as strongly before in the franchise. I could actually believe this was an intergalactic struggle because of the sheer explosiveness happening on the screen. AT-AT’s felt comical to me before, but I could feel the terror from them in this film because we get a beautiful shot demonstrating just how massive they are in comparison to ground forces. Explosions are finally given some real justice and I could feel their heat and size through the screen. There were also two amazing action sequences that I couldn’t keep my eyes off of. I won’t spoil them or who’s involved in them- but I do wish we got more of these scenes.

However, in spite of all the great action moments and beautiful set pieces, the movie feels incredibly hollow. This is because none of the characters are fleshed out and as a result there’s no real investment in any of them. I loved Felicity Jones in Like Crazy and The Theory of Everything, so when I learned she was playing the lead, Jyn Erso, I felt a lot more excited. I wanted to get into her story and learn how she eventually came to be the hero we’re told she is. Unfortunately, she never really has a chance because the script never gives any of the characters moments to really interact and flesh themselves out. We get a nice flashback at the beginning of the movie regarding Jyn’s backstory- but instead of developing her response to it and subsequent life , we flash forward 13 years later. There’s no attempt at showing what happened during that time- instead we’re just told of certain events that transpired in between. This problem is emblematic of the films approach to characters. We’re told a lot about them but not shown a lot to develop or verify those statements. It makes growth harder to evaluate and also makes everyone feel bland and out of place. Yes, there are some character building scenes. In particular, Diego Luna gives an impassioned speech as Cassian – but that’s the extent of his character. We never get a chance to delve deeper into the man underneath which means there’s no reason to care about his struggle. All the other characters feel like they get even less time to be explored- which is a shame because some of the characters really cool.

For example, I loved Donnie Yen as Chirrut and Alan Tudyk as K-2SO. The latter is hilarious without ever ruining the serious tone, while the former helps expand and make the Force feel more mystical and realistic at the same time. While their scenes were great, I couldn’t help but wonder how much better the film could have been if they were developed properly. There could have been some real emotional weight to the movie if it just focused on building up the characters and cementing their natures to the audience. This is the biggest problem with the movie and is the reason it felt empty to me by the end. We already know the ultimate fate of the rebels because of Episode IV. As such, death/suffering doesn’t really have an impact- it’s something we know will happen. Given this, the only way to add tension to the movie is to have us care about the characters who will eventually suffer. Because I didn’t, the movie didn’t move me or or make me feel anything about it. I just didn’t care.

Rating

TLDR: Rogue One is beautiful to watch and had some amazing action scenes. If you can get past the lack of character development, you’re in for a visual treat.

Final Rating: 8.3/10. I probably won’t watch this movie again in its entirety, but there are definitely two scenes I enjoyed and will put on repeat. The movie did make me want to pop in A New Hope afterwards, so I also have to applaud the way the final sequence plays out.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!