Rising To The Challenge To Close? Skywalker’s Story Has Balance Issues

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Poster

 

The Force, it binds us, moves around us, and tries to be the tether to all things Star Wars.  Years ago when this legendary series crawled up the screen, movie goers like myself got pulled into a galaxy where anything could happen.  Over the next four decades, the expansion of the world has taken many avenues, each holding promising positives and some limitations that would hopefully be tweaked.  Tonight, the saga of something building for so long comes to an end, one that will hopefully have the grace to close one series and potentially open another.  Much like the two sides of the Force, the reviews of this movie have falling to the bad and the good, showing off the split armies that much like the series are at war.  So I hope to help provide some insight to your viewing choices tonight to determine if this film is worth the investment.  Let’s get started, on a spoiler free review of:

 

Film: Star Wars: Rise Of Skywalker (2019)

 

Director:

J.J. Abrams

Writers:

Chris Terrio (screenplay by), J.J. Abrams (screenplay by)

Stars:

Carrie FisherMark HamillAdam Driver

 

 

LIKES:

  • The Dialogue
  • The Symbolism/Emotions
  • The Nostalgia
  • The New Worlds
  • Better Pace
  • The Visuals and Sound Editing
  • The Twists (surprises)
  • The Action (sometimes)
  • The Comedy

 

DISLIKES:

  • The Choppiness Of The film
  • The Story’s indecisiveness
  • Too Many Characters
  • Trying to Please Too Many People
  • The Action
  • Not Enough Focus On The New
  • The Overkill On Things
  • The Lack Of Emotion At Times
  • The Impasses falling too easily
  • Too much in one film

 

SUMMARY:

 

In the galaxy so far away, the trilogies vary on quality, as it struggles to find direction in the new world of old vs. new fans.  One thing that has improved since the prequels is the dialogue, finding ways to make sensible lines feel both poetic and yet contained.  Rise Of Skywalker tells much of its story through worlds as in visuals along, often filled with symbolic metaphors and emotional displays that had some fans sniffling.  Abrams managed to direct some rather touching moments that hit fans like me, while still stroking the beast of political preachiness that the modern era loves.  While these scenes are certain to hit the fierier, “I need my heroic characters overcharged for me “fans, I myself enjoyed the nostalgia built into the film, be it a quick look at a familiar land mark, a nod to the old presentation style of a classic film, or for those in the expanded universe, plots from yesteryear repainted.  Episode nine tries to find that balance between old and new, and in cases of the old, the nods will keep popping up everywhere.

But Robbie that’s nice and all, what about the movie should we expect in terms of newness.  Alright, I hear you, so let’s go onto the newer features that I think you might like.  First the new worlds, a bunch more uncharted planets roam the stars in this film.  Though not a convoluted as previous installments, these new worlds hold their secrets, opening up cultures, new worlds to battle on, and in some cases holding secret stop previous expanded universe clues.  The pace is much faster in this film, dumping the bloated moving at snail speed from an enemy ship, while we again try to discover the potential and meaning of our lives off to the side, going back towards the action component that fans like me enjoy.  And like the prequels, all of this is still captured in the special effects, that again with major technology improvements reign supreme in bringing the fantasy to life, or at least some of it.  Yes, you’ll still have plenty of diverse use of costumes and creature development to enjoy, it just all depends on again what you are looking for.  However, the real special effects palooza comes in the form of the action, which has taken a step up (somewhat) from the Last Jedi.  This installment tries to ramp up ship battles and lightsaber fighting, and at times it starts hitting the high notes that I fell in love with during the original and prequel trilogies.  Those looking for “story-based action” well, you’ll get that, as much of the fighting feels like those moments in an anime where there is a lot of talking and showing of grandiose moves than full on choreographed duels that the prequels thrived in.  Also in regards to the story, Star Wars this time tries to pass the baton of twists, and several times got me in the direction they took things.  Some of these surprises are simply cannon fodder for jokes, but others do a decent attempt to expand upon the vagueness that was episode 8.  As for the comedy, Disney has not quite figured out how to get back to balanced comedy since Rogue One, though it took steps in the right directions at times.  C-3PO may have been the star for me for much of the movie, as Anthony Daniels and the writing work well to have comedic relief.  Other moments are funny in terms of their predictability or slapstick, so it works for me at these moments., before it once again comes in and sort of derails the plot.

 

For the mountain of writing for the good though, there is also a lot of limitations for me in this film.    Much like the beginning of Rogue One, Rise of Skywalker ran into choppy, fast paced, crunches that were okay at best for me.  A very hasty introduction and moving to different plot components in the blink of the eye led to very water downed story moments that tried to build momentum, but then phased out.  It seems to me that the director/writers could not decide on which way they wanted to take the movie, and because of the focus to please all and the lateness of the film’s placement after two directors took different approaches led to further chaos in the plot.  As such, Episode 9 has too many characters, who have struggled to take the main focus in real storytelling as both old and new generations compete for superiority and closures.  Thanks to that conflict right there, many of the things I’m about to comment on were driven out, all in attempt to tame the hatred the internet had stirred up.

First up the action, while good at times thanks to visuals and special effects, it lacks the heart, the excitement, or even the balance that the preceding films had.  Many bouts are over rather quickly, several timed to last fewer than two minutes before we were back to our quest.  Even the ending felt caught up in the bloated storyline of grandiosity vs. good storytelling, with many moments of the last fight rather simplistic and not having the moves or coordinationIn regards to the lightsaber fights, they win in terms of environment, and symbolism, but failed to impress me in awesomeness when I compare to the prequel fights.  I miss Nic Gillard coaching our duelist in acrobatic fights, where things flowed and did not look quite as blocky or stiff.  And laser fights, well I seem to remember the wars having a lot more struggles and coverage fights than what I got in this movie, so that would have been nice to see in rich detail, instead of pass over shots and montages. 

In regards to the story, well again it’s not that it’s bad for me, but more so too crammed of ideas, plots, twists, and motivating speeches that it seems a fraction of what it could have been.  For one thing, the new components still keep taking hits, and while Rey and Ren get better progress towards wrapping up their stories, Poe and Finn sort of get somewhere, but almost too quickly.  Characters like Rose Tico, or the new girl Zorri Bliss fall once more to the quick information blips, before getting dropped back to secondary status, most likely to be picked up in some novelization like Phasma.  No, once more the two protagonists and the old characters get caught in this dance of preference, neither partner fully rehearsed to get a 10, but also not fumbling around too much to get a 1 either.  It was hard to really get emotional at this film, primarily because impasses and limitations of the mind are rather easy to overcome, or sort of decreased until the moment a plot device is needed.  Throw in that some of the twists were too obvious from the presentation, and you again get the limitations I’ve mentioned before due to lack of direction. And when we finally try to get things back on track… the directors overkill it and make ridiculous displays of power that were best left to the fanfiction, especially when the comical display of skill seems to falter at the just the time they need to flourish. Throw in some rather poor attempts to actually keep characters connected enough to want to cover and well. . you again see the problems I had with the film.

 

The VERDICT:

            I did not love this film like some of the other installments, but I also did not hate it either.  Rise Of Skywalker’s main flaws are the inability to decide what fanbase they wanted to hit, and trying to put way too much into one movie.  The attempt to conclude the movie faltered on uniqueness and cohesiveness, always hinting at awesomeness, but never quite getting there due to the coordination failures.  It exceeds at the superficial ooh and ahhs of visuals, moves much better in terms of pace, gets comedy, nostalgia, and symbolism baked in, and does manage to keep dialogue smart to help twist some things up.  Yet, as I agree with other fans, the movie needs to use this time as a reset for future installments, so that they may bring a new story out that takes the nostalgia, but allows a new legacy to build (see Rogue One Or the Mandalorian).  From there, the story can get back to the adventures we loved, and still gets those overcharged heroes that seem to motivate costumes of the 21st century.  That and please stop making the grandiose ideas be the stars, please find something better to do instead.

 

My scores for the closing chapter are:

 

Action/Adventure/Fantasy:  7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0

That Cute, Wascally Rabbit

Peter Rabbit

 

The beloved tale of Peter Rabbit are stories that many of us remember watching/reading growing up.  Yet like many beloved childhood series, they are often lost to memories and stored away to be forgotten.  So how in the world did this tale resurface after being buried for so long?  Well, get set my friends, because this weekend, Peter Rabbit is back in town to make his mark back on the world and get kids interested in his merchandising.  Robbie K back with another movie review to try and help you answer the question, “should I see it in theaters?”  As always read on to find out my thoughts.

 

LIKES:

 

Animation:  Let’s get over the obvious, Peter’s transition into 3-D, realistic looking visuals was a smooth process. The designs of all the characters are on cuteness overloaded, and are certain to be the next line of plush animals for your young ones to grab on to.  Past the design, the movement of the animated five is fluid, a nice balance of natural rabbit movement meeting anthropomorphized anatomy that really brings the action and gimmicks to life.

 

Cute:  A movie like this relies on being adorable, and by golly this too was a big factor in this film.  Peter and company’s adventure into the new age has adapted well with the times, and the campy, fun, warmhearted nature of the adventure was totally adorable for many.  Both young and older will have a hard time choosing between barf inducing cute and just the right amount, so it really depends on your preferences.

 

Comedy:  Surprisingly enough, Peter Rabbit’s comedic antics are surprisingly humorous on many levels.  From the trailers you can certainly expect two things:  Slapstick comedy and Repeatable Quotes from Kids.  And the film delivers these expectations using a variety of material to have your little ones in tears at the juvenile antics.  Like Home Alone meets Hop, Peter Rabbit pulls out loads of tricks to keep things fun and wasting little time on other tricks.  Yet, what earns major points with me is the cleverer writing that is indicated for adults.  Not so much in terms of sexual comedy, Peter Rabbit uses other forms of comedy to get laughs from older adult groups, primarily at poking fun at how ridiculous the story is itself.  Throw in some comedic jabs at movie stereotypes alongside some movie references and you got yourself some comedic gold.

 

All 5 bunnies used:  Though it may be titled Peter Rabbit, this tale is not shy of utilizing all of the rabbit family into the film.  Certainly, it is going to be for advertising, but this installment did a nice job using all five of the rabbits to further the plot.  From sisterly arguments about being the oldest, to the naïve friend who gets dragged into plots, this film will keep the little fuzz balls as involved as possible.

 

Soundtrack: Props to the music selector for this film, because the movie picked tracks that felt perfect for the sequences.  Sure, many of them are outdated 90s songs, but they are utilized so well many won’t care.  Throw in a few parodies and some dance remixes and you have a nice track list to keep everyone’s toes tapping.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Lacking Emotion:  We all know that the animated films we remember are the ones that tear are hearts out right?  Peter Rabbit does have a few emotional zingers, but none of them really have that childhood ruining edge that will scar your mind.  Thankfully this means no unhappy endings, but Peter Rabbit could have used a little more emotional growth to round out the tale.  Certainly, there are life lessons to be learned, and Peter’s crew does somewhat develop over time, it’s just not in a form or manner that is life changing/memorable in comparison to others.  Therefore, the movie could have used a little more feeling to give it that emotional edge it was looking for.

 

More Rose Byrne:  She had plenty of screen time in terms of montages of laughing, smiling, and skipping, but her character is a little limited compared to the others.  Like the CGI supporting animals, Byrne’s character simply appeared at the convenient moments.  For being a central chess piece to the whole farmer vs. rabbit dynamics though, her character was a little disappointing.  There were few interventions by her character and she didn’t expand much as a character outside of joke fodder and that motherly atmosphere.  For such a big name, they might have made the extra effort to expand on this role.  I mean, even the climactic ending was missing the thrills, partially because Rose didn’t seem to have much enthusiasm in solving the ordeal.

 

The trailers show a lot of the movie:  if you’ve seen the copious number of showings for this movie’s trailer than chances are you have seen much of the shenanigans involved in this film already.  Much of the McGregor bashing has been captured in those short airings, so don’t expect too many surprises or laughs if you are sick of it.  Thank goodness that some of the more adult humor has been left out as a nice surprise, but much of the movie has been revealed in the three trailers.  Don’t you hate over advertising?

 

The VERDICT:

 

          Peter Rabbit is a fun tale that all ages will enjoy.  It holds many movie references and comedic styles to keep one entertained, and is certainly the family friendly movie of the year so far.  One will have a lot of fun at this movie, becoming lost in either the cuteness overload that is the movie or having their young at heart selves chuckling at the craziness within.  However, aside from having fun, the movie suffers from a lack of emotional punch to really drive the lessons home.  In addition, thanks to the simple dialog and over advertising, the movie loses some of its uniqueness/edge to boredom at seeing it a thousand times.  Still, if you can stomach the downfalls and accept it for the cute factor it is… than you should have no problem enjoying this film with the family this weekend.  Worth a trip to the theater?  I would say yes. 

 

My scores are:

Animation/Adventure/Comedy:  8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0

All Aboard! Another Mediocre Adaptation Is Heading To Station

Murder

 

Mysteries, a genre that intrigues so many with complex tales, intertangled deception, and often drama to help build suspense before the big revelation.  While many people try to combine mystery with other genres, there are those who choose to focus on mystery alone.  One of these artists is Agatha Christie, a forefront writer who continues to tease our brains with crimes that dive into deeper levels.  And with great literature, comes great grounds for Hollywood to make movies from it.  This particular tale has gotten a remake this weekend, one with a star-studded cast to try to bring people into the movies in this modern telling.  What’s in store?  Please read on to find out as we review Murder On The Orient Express.

 

LIKES:

 

Setting:  Start off with a simple like, this film is a shining example of green screen visuals blending with real world shots.  The snowy wilderness of the mountains is a dazzling spectacle of symbolism that mirrors the foreboding crime that hangs over the Orient Express.  It’s a breathtaking display of technology that keeps the darker spirit of the movie alive, and may leave you chilled at the menacing nature hanging in the air.  But the highlight is the train and the recreation of those elegant cars and cabins the locomotive industry was famous for.  This recreation takes you back in time and immerses you in the classical setting, while also designing a death trap to which our players partake in.

 

The Mystery:  For a movie that focuses on the classic question of who done it, Murder on The Orient Express did a nice job keeping the mystery going.  The screen adaptation drops enough hints to throw one off the path, all while keeping you engaged in deciphering the identity of the culprit.  As our detective interviews all the characters, you will start getting an idea of how complex the whole case is, further shrouding the scene in a veil that tries to keep you from the answer.  It works, keeping suspense going and the film moving, which isn’t easy in mysteries these days.

 

Kenneth Branagh: Acting wise all the cast do their jobs very well, some better than others in terms of screen time, elegance, and of course capturing their accents down correctly.  Yet of all the group… it was Kenneth Branagh who I enjoyed watching the most.  True, he is the main character and thus gets the most screen time, but his acting was very enjoyable to watch for nearly 2 hours.  His French accent is not the best at times, but he gets the OCD detective role down pat, catching the nervous energy and single minded focus that comes with the disorder.  His explanations of the crime are delivered in such a serious tone, confidence filling the voice as he presents his logic and convinces you of all the facts. Finally, his comedic delivery is also very well done, not too forced and well-integrated into the conversations, Branagh carries a lot of the movie on his sharply dressed shoulders.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Slow: We know mysteries have to go slow to build things up, but Orient’s wheels really slog at times. Primarily when it comes to linking a few backstories together, the movie sort of derails into from the path at hand.  Losing this momentum takes away from the suspense, and sort of gets a yawn if you don’t pay close attention to the dialogue.  And even when they resume chasing the mystery once more… they drag things out in a grandiose display that does hold emotion, but steps far over the line for this reviewer.

 

Unbalanced Characters:  A star studded cast again calls for time management and using your resources well.  Orient took a nice shot, but they failed to really give the characters equal time on the screen.  I don’t know how the book is written, but it was obvious the casting favored certain actors over others.  Certain characters really get the shaft in this installment, brought out of the shadows for mere seconds and a few answers, before dropping off the screen.  This happened with at least four characters for me, brief introductions that were certainly important, but almost confusing at some points.  Certainly, Christie did better in displaying her suspects in the book, but they didn’t do it as well as I think they could.

 

Rushed development:  It’s a plus to have a mystery that moves, it is not so much a plus when your key development areas move like a blur.  Murder on the Orient Express involves one having to listen to the dialogue extensively to piece things together, primarily in the alibis of the characters.  For me, there were a lot of rapid dialogue exchanges that hastily were spilled out in an attempt to give our characters some background.  This background information is incredibly important, so perhaps they should have shifted to a lower gear to clarify this information and establish that depth they were going for.  Such a shame to have all these details smeared in a half-sloppy manner when there was such potential to be had.

 

The VERDICT:

 

Compared to the book and the older rendition of this movie, Murder on The Orient Express 2017 is not the shiniest noire in the box. Great visuals, a luring mystery, a phenomenal main character will carry the audience far in this film and provide the main source of entertainment in the film.  The main problem is that the team didn’t deliver on the potential that this story/cast had.  It was unnecessarily slow at points, characters were lacking in a very character centric plot, and it was rushed in areas that was the sustenance.  Therefore, the movie overall is mediocre, and better left for a free pass/RedBox in this reviewer’s opinion.

 

My scores are:

 

Crime/Drama/Mystery:  7.0-7.5

Movie Overall:  6.0