Film Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Release Date: December 10th, 2016 (Pantages Theatre Premiere)
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Written by: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, Gary Whitta
Based on: characters created by George Lucas
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker

Lucasfilm Ltd., Walt Disney, 133 Minutes

rogue-oneReview:

“I have a bad feeling about th…” – K-2SO

I would never say something like this carelessly; I may have a new favorite Star Wars film. Time will tell if it holds up for me but it is the closest thing to the Original Trilogy that we have seen since it ended in 1983. Also, Rogue One really just magnifies how flawed last year’s The Force Awakens is.

Rogue One is its own film. It is not a rehash of anything you’ve seen before in the Star Wars cinematic universe. It is also darker and a lot more realistic. It is the grittiest Star Wars film but it is also full of optimism, more than any of the previous pictures.

When it comes to the art of filmmaking, I would have to say that Rogue One takes the cake out of all the movies in the franchise. It’s the most beautiful Star Wars film ever made. It is also the best written and the best acted. The cinematography is beyond majestic. The score, even though it isn’t done by John Williams, is pretty fantastic. While Empire Strikes Back will probably still reign as champion, as far as the majority’s favorite movie, Rogue One is a better film. And to be completely honest, I didn’t think that was possible.

Sure, this film isn’t perfection. It has some flaws. But it has less flaws than any Star Wars film before it. And compared to The Force Awakens, this picture has some really big balls. It isn’t built with the blueprints to an old house. Also, it isn’t afraid to draw from the Prequel Trilogy, as it brings in some characters and vehicles from those films. It was actually really cool to see Disney acknowledge the prequels, as I thought they were trying to ignore them.

I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen Rogue One yet but there are several familiar faces that pop in and out of this movie. Great characters from the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy. Some of these are very iconic characters.

Before this movie, the world probably assumed that a Star Wars movie devoid of Jedi would be a boring ride. Rogue One proves that to be completely false. While the Force is mentioned heavily, there is only one actual Force user in the movie but he doesn’t even do anything until the end and it happens very quickly.

The big final battle in Rogue One is breathtaking. It reminds me a lot of some of the great battles you could have in the old Rogue Squadron games. They feature classic Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire warships, X-wings and TIE Fighters. There are even some cool new vehicles mixed in. The planet is a pretty sight with its pristine beaches and the AT-ACT is a really cool alternate version of the iconic AT-AT from the Battle of Hoth in Empire Strikes Back.

When I wrote my review of The Force Awakens, last year, it was really long because there was so much to pick apart. I just can’t find anything to really criticize this film for. Everything about it just felt right. It gave me the experience I have craved since being disappointed with The Phantom Menace in 1999. And being that it is the best looking movie in the franchise, it gets extra kudos for that.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Film Review: Doctor Strange (2016)

Release Date: October 13th, 2016 (Hong Kong)
Directed by: Scott Derrickson
Written by: Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson, C. Robert Cargill
Based on: Doctor Strange by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt, Scott Adkins, Mads Mikkelsen, Tilda Swinton

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios, 115 Minutes

doctor-strangeReview:

I kind of lost faith in Marvel Studios awhile ago. It has been some time since I’ve truly enjoyed a Marvel picture from the Disney side of things. Although, growing up, Doctor Strange was one of my favorite comic books because it was so different than the other Marvel titles. So there was a part of me that was somewhat excited to finally see Marvel’s Sorcerer Supreme on the big screen.

I’m just going to put it out there, this was my favorite Marvel film after Guardians of the Galaxy. I guess the main reason was because it was so different, like Guardians, and it wasn’t a cookie cutter origin story like all the other Avengers’ first movies. Sure, it is an origin story but it isn’t bogged down in that and it moves past it pretty quickly. I think the film benefits from the passage of time being fairly ambiguous.

This is also one of the most visually stunning motion pictures I have ever seen on the big screen. It doesn’t have the enormous scale of Guardians of the Galaxy but the magical realms are just so interesting and vivid. Doctor Strange is definitely a movie that should be seen on the big screen.

Benedict Cumberbatch was pretty much perfect for the role of Dr. Stephen Strange. And since Strange was originally modeled after the great Vincent Price, maybe Cumberbatch could start a side gig of playing Price’s roles in remakes of some of his classics. Just a thought.

Mads Mikkelsen is an actor I always enjoy to see but I do feel like he was somewhat wasted in the film. And really, this is my only gripe with Doctor Strange. His character, the main villain of the story, just feels thin and should have been developed much more. He’s essentially just an evil force of nature who was a great student of the light that was tempted by the dark side. Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius is pretty much any Sith from Star Wars but a lot less interesting.

Some people have a problem with Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One, who in the comics is an old Asian dude. I didn’t take issue with it and I thought she did a good job with the role. Was it accurate to the comics? No. But Baron Mordo also isn’t black but no one seems to care about that. Why? It really isn’t that important. The next thing these “purists” will do is start complaining that the new Ghostbusters are all ladies. Oh, wait…

Speaking of Mordo, Chiwetel Ejiofor served the role well. Although, I thought his slip into villainy was almost too quick and easy. He was the Ancient One’s second-in-command and he turned his back on the order because of stubbornness that he should have probably been able to get past if he was a master sorcerer with extreme discipline. He didn’t even take a second to process it or talk about it, he just walked away, offended and sad, ignoring his own advice throughout the entire film: “forget everything you think you know.”

In the end though, no one was as awesome as Wong.

Doctor Strange also boasts one of the most impressive and interesting scores in the Marvel film franchise.

The film also isn’t drawn out to eye-rolling lengths and is thankfully, just under two-hours. I swear, Captain America: Civil War felt like a four-part miniseries I was forced to watch in one sitting.

And there are a few other things I could talk about but I don’t want to spoil too much of the film, even though film reviews by their very nature are spoilers.

Doctor Strange is a well-acted and well-directed comic book movie. It flows really well and it is great eye candy. It is one of the best Marvel outings, ever. I hope the future films in the franchise take their cues from this film and from Guardians of the Galaxy because Marvel tends to give us their best when they aren’t following a specific formula.