Tag Archives: Ben Mendelsohn

Captain Marvel (2019) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Captain Marvel Review, Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe's most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.

Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Writers: Anna Boden (screenplay by), Ryan Fleck (screenplay by)
Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Lashana Lynch, Annette Benning, Gemma Chan, Lee Pace, Clark Gregg

When it comes to superhero movies, I suppose kicking franchises off with an origin story is almost unavoidable. After all, not everyone’s a comic book reader, so explaining what compels a guy throw on a cape for the public good makes narrative sense (though Tim Burton’s Batman never bothered and it turned out just fine).

Even if that has a tendency to render a lot of superhero films somewhat predictable, Marvel has done a pretty remarkable job introducing everyone populating their cinematic universe. And rather ingeniously, Captain Marvel actually gives us two origin stories.

First, of course, is the story of Vers/Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), whose circumstances leading to her emergence as the titular character are more interesting than those of Doctor Strange or an umpteenth reboot of Spider-Man. After a rather mundane opening act – a flashy-but-rote clash between the Kree and Skrulls – once Vers arrives on Earth in 1995, the story really takes off. She already has her considerable powers and stands-out like a sore thumb, leading to some amusing moments and frequent clashes with the shape-shifting Skrulls. Larson’s confident performance is enjoyable, displaying just the slightest bit of superiority over us puny humans (at least until she begins to remember where she came from).

Vers also meets Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Captain Marvel’s other origin story. At this time, Fury is just another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (made plausible by some Oscar-worthy CGI that makes Jackson look 25 years younger). One long-standing criticism I’ve had of the entire MCU is that, with the possible exception of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Fury has never been given anything interesting to do. Here, Fury arrives early and does a lot more than provide exposition. Jackson is great, of course, like he’s been unleashed to make Fury funnier and more charismatic than we’ve previously seen, especially once he befriends Goose the Cat. How he came to need an eye-patch provides one of the film’s biggest laughs.

Elsewhere, Captain Marvel tells an interesting story that not-only fits comfortably within the MCU, but provides a few welcome, surprising twists. Speaking of which, can we give another tip-of-the-hat to Ben Mendelsohn, once-again stealing every scene he’s in? As Talos, not only does he make a terrific initial adversary, he’s personable and often very funny, no small feat considering he’s covered in alien make-up for most of the film.

Of course, Captain Marvel has plenty of the action and visual fireworks we’ve come to expect from the MCU (as well as a few moments of wonky CGI). But like the Ant-Man films, it never threatens to collapse under the weight of its own spectacle. As origin stories go, this is one of Marvel’s better recent ones.

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Captain Marvel (2019) Movie Review By The Movie Couple

Captain Marvel Review, Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe's most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.

Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
Writers: Anna Boden (screenplay by), Ryan Fleck (screenplay by)
Stars: Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn 

Movie Couple here!  We rushed out to see Captain Marvel this weekend!  Remember we are just a married couple that loves movies!  We’re here to tell you if we liked it.  Film students we are not!  Just a quick reminder of our rating system.

Mrs. Movie Couple and I, rate films on whether they are worth the cash spent on a night out.  we use a 1-6 Dollar Bill system.  1-2 Bills equal a waste of both our time and money!  3-4 Bills equal Meh to Pretty Good, money well spent!  5-6 Bills equal Wow!  Well worth the price of dinner, movie and sitter!  Please take our money again!

I love all the MCU films and have not missed one in the theatres yet!  I have read comic books my whole life, so I can remember the character of Captain Marvel from the printed page,  back when she was Ms. Marvel!  Mrs. Movie Couple  does not.  She has seen all the MCU movies, but her history of the characters does not go much beyond the films.  This is just to let you know the type of familiarisation we both are bringing with us to see this film.  We both were anticipating this movie the way we do most Marvel films, we expected this to be connected to the MCU, but also an introduction to a hero we had never seen before. Much like Ant Man and Doctor Strange. Black Panther was in Civil War prior to his solo film (which we loved BTW), but Captain Marvel seemed to remind us of Ant Man and Strange as we have never seen her until this film.

I will do the set up for this review but since we saw it on International Women’s Day, we will let the actual reviewing be done by Mrs. Movie Couple this time!  The film starts in space, on a Kree homeworld, if you don’t remember the Kree alien race brush up on your Guardians of the Galaxy films to not feel lost.  This is where we meet Carol Danvers as an amnesiac known as Vers on this planet played by Brie Larson and Yon-Ragg portrayed by Jude Law.  We get introduced to some very alien concepts very quickly.  The Kree seem to be inconstant war with an alien species called the Skrulls that can shape shift and are a somewhat conquering, terroristic race.  How Carol (Known on this world as Vers) is a part of the Kree soldier squad and has the ability to fire energy from her glowing hands is part of the mystery and teased early on.  The Kree has a Supreme Intelligence that all Kree meet sparingly and seems to rule all.  Imagine a space Wizard of OZ if it helps.  It appears to each Kree as the person they admire most.  To Carol, that is the form of the amazing Annette Bening, for reasons you will learn later and we will not spoil.  We are shown part of the conflict, as the secret “Star Force” encounters a nasty cell of Skrulls during a mission gone wrong.  Suffice to say, Carol ends up escaping to Earth (circa the 1990’s, as we are shown constantly thanks to a Blockbuster video store, Nine Inch Nail T-Shirts and slow internet) where she encounters not only a Skrull infestation, but a young Nick Fury and Agent Coulson (played by Samuel L. Jackson and Clark Gregg with a little CGI help)!  Oh and she learns a lot about her true past and how she got her amazing powers.  There are a few twists along the way, that we will not spoil.  A great cat sidekick, some human allies, a surprise call back to Carol’s comic book origins and a final fight scene that sets Captain Marvel up as the “Superman” level power house of the Marvel Cinema Universe!  We are not here to tell you the entre movie, so that’s all you get in the form of a description.  Did we enjoy it?  Take it away, Mrs. Movie Couple!

Mrs. Movie Couple here!  So let me get right down to the brass tacks, I loved Wonder Woman!  It was one of my favorite superhero films and I was super (forgive the pun) excited to see another solo female hero given her very own film!  Bottom line though, this movie was bad.  Brie Lawson as Carol Danvers gave a wooden almost forced performance in my opinion.  She was amazing in Room and I expected so much more from her.  Sam Jackson was his regular self, but the chemistry the script tried to create between them never came across on film.  Their banter and jokes fell flat as if they were reading from a script rather than bringing words to life.  I felt more chemistry between Jason Mamoa and Amber Heard in Aquaman and I wrote that they had zero chemistry!  Not sure if the fault lies with the script itself or the direction of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, but it was notable.  The action scenes were a bit on the shaky cam side, which I find distracting, but that’s a preference.  The entire train fight scene and chase set piece had a TV energy level and was no where near the movie cinema quality I expect from these huge Marvel blockbusters.  The comedy fell flat as well, other than a scene or two featuring the cat Goose (a scene stealer) and a joke or two involving the Skrulls all other attempts were grown inducing.  Most Marvel films have a great use of comedy!  See The Thor films or the Guardians of the Galaxy movies to see it done in spectacular fashion!  Even Paul Rudd’s Ant Man series has a nice and easy flow to its comedy.  Even tense or serious solo MCU films have found natural ways to drop humor in their movies, look no further than Black Panther or Dr Strange for how to do this correctly.  Speaking of groan inducing!  My eyes rolled halfway into my head, during a scene where Carol is tossing bad guys left and right just as No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” plays in the background!  I am not kidding!  Subtle this is not!  Besides the observations of lack of chemistry or good humor, this movie just bored me.  I did not feel any stakes, never for one second felt that Carol was challenged, she overcame any and all obstacles with nearly zero effort.  This MCU entry felt like a cash grab at worst and at best an introduction forced just so we all know who Captain Marvel is before she shows up to pick up Thor’s hammer, grab Captain America’s shield and kick Thanos tail all by herself and save the Avengers in Endgame, as Alicia Keys “This Girl is on Fire” plays in the background.  I was really disappointed.  The acting, plot and directing all ranked this in my book,  as the weakest Marvel entry yet.  Here’s hoping for Wonder Woman ’84 to come quickly.

So here we go!

Mr. Movie Couple:  Who am I to disagree with my wife on International Women’s day?  I agree with most of what she already said.  As a lifelong comic fan I loved seeing the Skrulls on screen!  Not sure I agree with a twist involving them toward the end of the film, but those of you that are comic readers can judge for yourselves.  Again, the comic fan in me wanted more explanation about where her powers come from and how she uses them, but maybe that will come in Captain Marvel 2. Sadly, all that Mrs. Movie Couple said about acting, chemistry and balance of comedy and action all ring true. This movie will get far more positive reviews then negative, because its simply not acceptable to be hard on this movie without being labeled a misogynistic, anti feminist.  This is a shame, because the character is fine, but the film just isn’t good. Marvel has many strong females portrayed in film, Wasp in the Ant Man series, Shuri from Black Panther, The Black Widow, Scarlet Witch from the Avenger films and of course, Agent Peggy Carter from the Captain America films who also starred in her own TV series! They are all strong female characters, that is not the issue.  The issue is this movie isn’t nearly as entertaining as the previous Marvel films. Just being honest. Mrs. Movie Couple hit it right on the nose!

Mrs. Movie Couple:  She hated it!  She found its message as subtle as a hammer to the head and the direction, acting and script well under par. On the drive home she told me she wanted to watch Aquaman on demand to cleanse her palate and she didn’t even like Aquaman!!!

Mr. Movie Couple:  I was really disappointed as well.  Larson and Jackson let me down.  The script was dull and the direction was choppy and lacking.  The largest sin for me was that everything felt forced and due to that it was not enjoyable.  Even the worst Marvel films so far have been enjoyable.  Just a huge let down for me.  Please don’t label me.

The car ride home comments were all negative, so we both decided to give this movie 2 Bills.  Mrs. Movie Couple wanted 1, but I say 2 for the Cat and Skrulls alone!  Captain Marvel gets 2 Bills!  A waste of both our time and money!

So until we head out to the cinema again, See you next date night at the movies!

Darkest Hour (2017) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

DARKEST HOUR

Director: Joe Wright
Writer: Anthony McCarten
Stars: Gary Oldman, Lily James, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn

Darkest Hour is set during the early days of the second world war. The fate of Great Britain hangs on the newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill who must decide whether or not to negotiate with Adolf Hitler or fight against incredible odds.

Gary Oldman is playing Winston Churchill? Gary Oldman? The Gary Oldman? yes it is That Gary Oldman and what a performance by him.

I love historical movies and in particular the second world war ones that delve more into the characters of the war. Sure some folk have said this film compliments the recently released Christopher Nolan epic second war film “Dunkirk” released last year and vice versa. Yes the events in “Darkest Hour” are based around the events of Dunkirk but this movie is more character driven and gives us an insight into the pressures of one man against not just the Nazis but his own party who had little faith in him. Not comparing by any means but this is similar to the 2006 movie “Downfall” a more ground level character based story in amongst the chaos and as I said don’t think for one minute I am comparing Winston Churchill to Adolf Hitler. I’m comparing the way the story is based more on the man rather than the army.

Going back to Gary Oldman and his physical appearance in this movie is staggering to say the least. His performance and delivery are always going to be the most important elements to any actor but the look of him in this movie is equally as important and I don’t normally say that as performance should overshadow the cosmetic side of acting but it is essential here as Director Joe Wright loves a good close up and to be fair Gary Oldman spent over 200 hours in makeup undergoing a radical transformation that necessitated ‘fattening’ his body with prosthetics weighing half his own weight and this is thanks to the Makeup Department.

What I found fascinating was the different relationships Churchill has with certain characters in this movie and how he changes depending on the person. His interactions with Elizabeth Layton (James) are very tense at first and Oldman portrays a very uptight and angry man easily frustrated with incompetence and nervousness around him. On the other hand, his slightly sheepish nature around Clementine Churchill (Scott Thomas) shows another softer side to him that displays his much needed support from Clementine and in turn her strong willed persona in front of her Husband. Both Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas are enjoyable to watch and every scene they are in is intriguing and actually humorous at times.

The relationship of King George VI (Mendelsohn) and Churchill is also an interesting one. Mendelsohn’s performance is rather subtle and underplayed in comparison to Colin Firth’s portrayal in “The King’s Speech” The personal and political relationship between both men during the conflict is one that has been largely overlooked throughout history, yet the trust and loyalty these men both shared helped Great Britain navigate its perhaps most trying time and thankfully this is there in this movie. Oldman and Mendelsohn portray their characters in this spirit and their scenes are very well done.

As I said, Director Joe Wright seems to revel in close up action and it works in Darkest Hour. The heavy dialogue and intensity of the situation is aided by the facial expressions and reactions of the actors. You can sense their emotions in every scene thanks to Wright’s style. His previous work relied on this in Pride & Prejudice, Atonement and Anna Karenina and also worked well in these movies.

Darkest Hour should be viewed with an open mind. Do not go into this with your own political baggage or personal view on Winston Churchill. This is the story of one man and his vision and stance against large odds, not only against a fascist regime but also his own party doubting his morals and decisions in the country’s hour of need. I personally enjoyed this movie because of the plot, the acting and the stakes involved. Oldman has to be nominated for an Oscar on this performance and I will be very surprised if the English actor is overlooked once more. The supporting cast add so much more to the story and James, Scott Thomas and Mendelsohn are as equally important in their roles.

I have been a fan of Gary Oldman for such a long time now and I will be surprised if he doesn’t win an Academy Award for his portrayal of Winston Churchill. He thoroughly deserved the accolade. For me Darkest Hour is Unmissable.

Knowing (2009) Movie Review by Stephen McLaughlin

KNOWING

Director: Alex Proyas
Writers: Ryne Douglas Pearson (screenplay), Juliet Snowden (screenplay)
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Chandler Canterbury, Rose Byrne, Ben Mendelsohn 

Knowing was released in 2009 and is Directed by Alex Proyas who you may know from such films as Dark City, I, Robot and Garage Days.

Knowing is about M.I.T. professor John Koestler played by Nicolas Cage who links a mysterious list of numbers from a time capsule from the past and predicts future disasters and he sets out to prevent the ultimate catastrophe. It’s similar to the Final Destination series where the main character Alex Browning foresees disasters before they happen although in Knowing it’s The End of the World. Movies like the Number 23 and even The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy that mix Science and Numbers have always fascinated me. This movie is no different in that aspect.

I have to admit that I was concerned that the reveal of what these numbers meant and where the story was going was all explained within the first 45 minutes of the movie and I knew the running time was just over 2 hours that this movie would be running on empty after the first hour.

Thankfully the pacing of this film wasn’t rushed an although a lot happened within that first 45 minutes the story actually doesn’t feel rushed.

Koestler lives with his young son Caleb (Chandler Canterbury) in an isolated house in the woods. After his wife passing it is clear to see that John Koestler is a man struggling to get by from day to day and this is clear in his alcohol intake.

The list of numbers that were passed to Caleb at the opening of the 50 year old time capsule intrigued the youngster enough to hold on to them to show his father who after stumbling across the number of specific dates in time of disasters with the number of fatalities and the coordinates of the position of these disasters becomes an obsession with professor John Koestler .

Cage’s portrayal of the professor is one of frustration “knowing’ this information and “knowing” there is absolutely nothing  you can do about it. Worryingly though for Kestler there are still numbers within the code that have yet to happen.

I must say “knowing” is an interesting plot and if I am honest I enjoyed most of the storyline. Similar to “Signs” there must be an explanation and a conclusion but how do you conclude a plot that has already emphasised to the audience that there is nothing you can do about these disasters, forthcoming disasters and the end of the world as we know it?

It is not clear who these men who visit Caleb as it is not established if they are angels or aliens. The movie isn’t heavy handed on the religious aspects although there are hints throughout the film they aren’t overly emphasised and it left up to the audience to decide how they wish to perceive the story in that aspect.

Interestedly this is the Film debut of Liam Hemsworth who has one scene in as a student in Koestler’s class. The rest of the cast is contained and I felt Rose Byrne and Ben Mendelsohn were great additions to the cast.

The Cinematography is eery and nice to look at. Even the CGI although from 2009 still holds up and the airplane crash sequence is still pretty impressive. I was a fan of the 1990’s Nicolas Cage and although i must admit that I strayed away from his work after the turn of the century. Knowing is the one that made me come back and look at his work and I must say I’m glad I gave this movie a chance. Recommended.

Slow West (2015) Movie Review by John Walsh

SLOW WEST

Director: John Maclean
Writer: John Maclean
Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael Fassbender, Ben Mendelsohn

John Maclean isn’t a directorial name I’ve ever heard of before, a fact which conjures up a degree of shame with him being a fellow Scotsman and all, and his zany, intriguing, 2015 feature film debut Slow West also managed to fall under my radar. It’s a rapidly quick paced, fairly short little film that belies it’s titular name. Excellently casted, featuring a predominantly European cast and perfectly crafted by the ex-musician come filmmaker. It’s a surprisingly good western on the surface that’s about a lovesick boy, but also attempts to convey the real struggle that native Americans faced at the hands of their colonial settlers.

The film opens with the attention very much on the aforementioned lovesick chap, 16 year old Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) journeying on his lonesome and heading towards a Native American settlement that looks to be under attack by union soldiers. Even without uttering a word in the first five minutes you get an immediate sense that he’s way out of his depth in the alien ‘New World’ landscape of North America (actually New Zealand, but that’s another story). Skinny, with more than a hint of naivety, he’s got a certain ballsiness and continues making his way forward despite thick smoke obscuring his vision and ash falling. When he meets a group of soldiers using a fleeing man as target practice things turn rather pear shaped, with the leader paying no heed of the youngsters protestations at being British and meaning no harm. Step forward Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender), an experienced outlaw with a hidden agenda to save the day.

He kills the soldier dead without a second thought and immediately advises the bewildered and rather flustered looking Jay that he’ll be in need of a guide in those parts. A role he’s only too happy to volunteer for at a price. The basic premise of the story thereafter is essentially the blooming relationship between the pair of them and their journey together in search for Rose (Caren Pistorius), the previously mentioned girl he’s infatuated with. There’s ups and downs, dark humour aplenty, no holds barred violence, an ill judged attempted escape from Jay which leaves him stranded in the middle of an expansive desert with an uncooked egg to his name and several hilarious scenes between both Jay and Silas. The best of which involves the drinking of absinthe after the arrival of one Silas’ old acquaintances Payne (Ben Mendelsohn), a dodgy figure and leader of an outlaw group closely trailing our protagonists for much of the film.

I like the way Maclean fleshed out the backstory of Jay via a series of flashbacks set in the Scottish highlands the character calls home. It allowed the viewer to be given an insight into his motivations, whilst slowly introducing us to him, Rose and her dad John (Rory McCann). and also the reasons behind their decision to leave. It also allowed for a nice change in tone from the present day action which was absolutely relentless in its ferocity and pacing. It’s a quite short film at an hour and twenty odd minutes and they really utilised each and every second of those effectively. The growing bond and relationship between Silas and Jay was very nicely handled too. Both were able to help each other out with the latter showing Silas that there was hope and reasons for optimism even in the Willd West, meanwhile Silas did his best to imbue the younger gentlemen he was growing increasingly fond of with a dose of reality.

There’s some really good performances in this film, most notably from Smit-McPhee. The character of Jay was awkward and slightly eccentric, and Kodi was perfectly cast for it, filling that role with a confidence belying his relatively young age of 19. Michael Fassbender was also outstanding as the outlaw Silas, a cynical man with a plan who starts out as a cold fish and eventually mellows as the film progresses, developing an unlikely bromance with his younger companion. Mendelsohn’s part as Payne isn’t quite as big as the other two, but he lights up the handful of scenes he features in and that majestic fur coat of his almost deserves a mention of its own. Shoutouts to Pistorius as Rose, she steals the finale with an emotionally powerful performance and the main man Rory McCann as John. He doesn’t have an enormous role, but such is my love for his character in Game of Thrones, it would be sacrilege for me not to mention him and he does do a decent job in a relative cameo role.

The film doesn’t hold back in the violence stakes with plenty of murders occurring, never shirking away from showing blood. Having said that, it’s a rated 15 film and it’s not terribly violent by any means. Still, there is some striking moments in there. One scene in particular involving a desperate mother and father in a store with their young children waiting outside was particularly profound. The ending had a unique way of sequentially panning to every single person killed in the film, which to be honest, I thought was rather cool. Which brings me onto the cinematography. It’s was stunningly shot by Robbie Ryan. There was several beautiful moments, such as that scene I mentioned in the wide, expansive desert and even the sweeping vistas of the Ross’ prairie house at the end where just a delight on the eye.

I really, really enjoyed this film. I went in with zero knowledge of its existence and was pleasantly surprised at the quality. The ensemble performances were for the most part excellent and the story whilst rather simplistic at heart was still very well implemented and there was the obvious underlying thematic elements in regards to the Native American mistreatment. I can’t really think of any glaring negatives in there and would have no problems recommending it.

Rating: 3.5/5

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Movie Review By Kevan McLaughlin

ROGUE ONE.png

Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Chris Weitz (screenplay by), Tony Gilroy (screenplay by)
Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen

Right, if you haven’t seen it by now then it really isn’t my fault if I destroy your day with spoilers like the Empire destroyed Scariff. Oh, no! Did I just ruin everything? Well, tough luck. The title of this review is ‘A Spolier Story’ so if you don’t want any more you shouldn’t have read this far, although you really should have seen the movie by now.

The first thing we have to encounter about this Star Wars side-adventure (and there are a LOT of new things for us to get our collective heads around) is that we have a whole host of new characters we haven’t seen in the movies before. A Battalion’s worth of new characters. A whole rebellion full of them. Sure, a lot of them are introduced in the much grander Star Wars universe through cartoons, animated series, comics and novels but this is the first time we get to see all of them together in the live-action format. And their names don’t role off the tongue like Luke, Han, Leia and Chewie. But with multiple viewings (and you will be viewing this movie a lot for the next, say… 40 years) Cassian, Chirrut, Baze and co will be just as familiar.

The story, if you don’t know by now, is about how the Rebels obtained the plans to destroy the Death Star. We already know they succeed. So, why bother? BECAUSE, COOL STUFF. Let me elaborate. A New Hope succeeds without an introduction. It has for almost forty years. It doesn’t need Forest Whitaker and Felicity Jones scrabbling around 10 minutes before Leia ejects her bleeping pedal bin stuffed with a hidden message onto Tatooine to make it the perfect movie it already is. And that’s kinda the point. A New Hope doesn’t need the story before the story and vice-versa. Rogue One’s band of tired freedom fighters don’t need to see the fruits of their sacrifices realised by an exiled Jedi, a Princess, a farmboy, a smuggler and his walking carpet. Both of these movies work perfectly well by themselves, but together…well, it’s a thing of flawless beauty. It is actually seemless. Watch Rogue One in the cinema and rush home to watch Episode IV and see for yourself. I guarantee everyone will be doing it when the Blu-ray is released.

In Rogue One we start with Galen Erso, played to understated enigmatic brilliance by the always compelling Mads Mikkelson. Galen is a brilliant scientist and pacifist who has come to realise that his intellect and vision are being exploited by the Empire’s scheming Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) to build a gargantuan weapon of global destruction. We join him in his new life on a farm on Lah’mu with his wife Lyra and their young daughter Jyn. Krennic shows up with a smile, a hoard of Death Troopers and a puny argument about how their work on the Death Star is all about promoting peace in the Galaxy because, you know, you should always trust a guy who shows up on your farm with a squad of Imperial killers in slick armour.

Galen lies to Krennic that Lyra is dead right before she pops up, wounds Krennic and he kills her. The well-hidden Jyn evades the Death Troopers ordered to hunt for her and Krennic, the freakishly tall murderers-for-hire and a devastated and dejected Galen leave to continue to work on Krennic’s intergalactic Nobel Peace prize project. And that’s where Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera comes in to rescue the Erso youngling and take her under his wing.

Next we’re introduced to Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). Cassian learns from his mate that an Imperial pilot has defected and is telling people that the Empire are making a planet killer using Kyber Crystals and Galen is involved in the construction. It’s here we see how ruthless and desperate the Rebellion have had to become because, in order to escape and avoid detection by the clostraphobic presence of the Empire, Cassian kills a couple of Stormtroopers and his panicky, paranoid pal. Because it had to be done. That’s the real shift in tone in this movie. We don’t have the luxury of the Force morally guiding our heroes to always do the right thing. They do what’s necessary and that includes shooting your pal in the back if you think he might be a liability.

From there we go to Jedha to see this defector pilot (Riz Ahmed) for the first time. He’s looking for Saw because he claims he has this message from Galen. Naturally, Saw’s pals are a little dubious. The pilot, Bodhi Rook, is taken to Saw and is then mentally tortured by a mad psychic squid thing to make sure he’s telling the truth. This is the measure of Saw. Although I don’t be distracted by the larger Star Wars universe, it’s important to note that Saw has been fighting this war for a very long time and he’s become paranoid and dangerous, even by the Rebellion’s standards.

When Saw is interrogating Bodhi he’s revealed to be horribly disfigured through years of fighting and losing. He clunks onto our screen as it’s revealed he’s more machine than man in a not-so-subtle, yet awesome, nod to Obi Wan’s description of Darth Vader in Episode IV. Saw Gerrera continues to mirror Vader by taking a long, deep inhale of his breathing aide whilst looking hard and equally long at Bodhi and his reaction. Bodhi is frightened. Through the fear Ahmed brilliantly portrays, we’re given an idea that Bodhi has seen Vader before and this powerful, radical man in front of him now bares an uncanny air to the Sith Lord.

And then Peter Cushing makes an interesting career move by appearing on our screens for the first time since he was in Biggles in 1986. Bold. Except, of course, this isn’t Peter Cushing but the combination of actor Guy Henry’s motion capture performance, Disney and Industrial Light and Magic creating something wonderfully exciting. To some, using the image of a long-dead and much loved thespian is a step too far. For this piece, I’m not getting into that argument. Nor am I going to debate the Uncanny Valley. I’m not. It’s my belief that Tarkin HAD to be in this film. He had to. And it’s with great effect that he’s in Rogue One. It’s also my belief that the CGI was brilliant. If you can tolerate Binks and Jumping Jack Yoda then you can certainly enjoy this next stage of computer-based technology enhancing our screens. All of these arguments detract from Henry’s performance, which is incredible.

Yes, Cushing made the character his but Guy Henry takes it and runs. He’s still as deliciously sly and arrogant as ever, outpacing the impertinent and overly ambitious Krennic. And that’s the joy of having Tarkin in this movie. He’s a cunning foil to Krennic’s slimy charm, seething jealousy and combustable temprament. Henry nails it and should be applauded for HIS portrayal of this character.

When we meet Jyn again years later it’s clear she doesn’t exactly have a life plan. We find her in the back of an Imperial paddy wagon waiting to be transported to a fresh hell, not that she looks all that bothered by her grim circumstances. Jyn is then ‘rescued’ by a gang of Rebels and thanks them for their efforts by slapping them silly. As she tries to flee, the surprising comedic hero of Rogue One introduces itself by ragdolling her to the ground (I’ll talk more about Alan Tudyk’s amazing turn as K-2SO shortly).

It’s revealed in the subsequent interrogation at the Rebel base on Yavin that Jyn doesn’t know where her father is and hasn’t seen Galen for 15 years and hopes him dead. Mon Mothma (more on Genevieve O’Reilly’s take on this character later) and Cassian question Jyn about her relationship with Saw Gerrera, knowing he has the defected pilot, information about the Death Star and that it was Galen who sent Bodhi. It’s apparent that Jyn is their only way to speak with the extremist, having severed ties with the increasingly erratic and paranoid Saw. If Jyn helps the Rebellion with this meet-and-greet with Saw, Mothma is hoping to extract Galen and have him testify to the Senate regarding the Empire’s dastardly plans and also give Jyn her freedom.

The scene switches tone from an inquisition to a moral barter, with a little bit of blackmail and bribery thrown in. It’s subtly implied that the Rebellion is offering Jyn the chance to atone for her father’s perceived crimes. For Jyn it’s the chance to see her father and, perhaps, finally know the truth about him. Cassian, on the other hand, has no plans to capture Galen safely, not that he’s letting Jyn know that. Galen is the enemy and he must be taken out. And with that Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO are off to Jedha to have a chat with their buddy Saw.

With barely half an hour into the movie it’s apparent that almost every one of the main characters has an ulterior motive. Galen is helping build the Death Star yet he has a secret plan that involves dispatching a pilot with his secret message. Jyn is a wonderful mess of contradictions. She hopes her father is dead but wants him alive to finally get some answers. She doesn’t have the luxury of political opinions but spent her formative years with a man too extreme for the Rebellion. She’s indifferent to the Rebellion but takes on increasingly difficult missions as the film progresses. Cassian is cold. As I’ve already said, he has to be. He outright lies to Jyn about extracting her father. He has one sole purpose and that’s to assassinate the man he thinks is single-handedly responsible for the construction of the Death Star. Krennic is more obvious with his intent. He’s a psychopathic careerist. His aspirations consume him to the point where he’ll almost choke to death to get what he wantsbut he’s not adverse to using his slyness and cunning to advance his position.

This is what makes the movie so compelling in parts. The mistrust. Two of the most honest characters in the film are a guy who used to pilot for SpaceNazi airlines and the neurotic Universal Soldier, and when Bodhi is confronted by the derranged Gerrera he struggles to make his case that he’s not a spy because of the years of espionage, guerilla warfare and doubt within the Alliance. Even when Saw sees Jyn for the first time in years he is unsure of her motives and even asks if she’s there to kill him. Jyn Erso was like a daughter to him and now he’s fearing that she might be the one to end HIS war. This is how insane things have become since the days of the old Republic.

We’re reintroduced to a familiar face in Rogue One. Caroline Blakiston, in her own words, spent a grand total of “twenty-six and a half second” as Mon Mothma in Jedi. And although Genevieve O’Reilly spent a considerable amount of time learning Blakiston’s mannerisms and speech patterns, her role was diminished to a non-speaking part in Revenge of the Sith and a couple of deleted scenes in the DVD and Blu-ray extras. For a character to make such a considerable impact in the Star Wars universe is an outstanding accomplishment, considering most people still don’t know what a Bothan is, or how they died. It’s with enormous relief that O’Reilly had another shot at the role because she is simply excellent. O’Reilly captures the solemn essence of Mothma and makes us realise how vital her diplomacy and rationalism is in this turbulent and fragile alliance. Even when all around her everyone is losing their minds she remains the calm and reassuring voice that’s sorely needed.

As alluded to in Part Two, K-2SO is the comedic foil of the piece. A tad more optimistic than Marvin the paranoid android and not quite as neurotic as C-3PO, Alan Tudyk’s reprogrammed Imperial security droid is more like The Big Bang Theory’s Sheldon Cooper in that he has trouble filtering “whatever comes into his circuits”. The scene in which K-2SO pretends to be a not-umprogrammed-Imperial-security-droid slapping Cassian around is genuinely one of 2016’s funniest moments in cinema. In a movie filled with tension, Turyk’s stroppy robot is a much needed boost for the audience and a far cry from Binks. Thank the maker.

It seems unfair to only talk about Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) and Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) in relation to each other because both characters are brilliant to watch, but it’s hard to seperate them as they spend most of their screen time together. Donnie Yen does his Donnie-Yenniest since Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen. The blind Chirrut is the only glimpse of the Light side of the Force we see in Rogue One and his faith is as beautiful as it is tragic. Chirrut’s mantra of ‘I’m one with the Force; the Force is with me’ as he embraces insane danger is perhaps even more inspiring than Obi-Wan or Luke bending the will of the weak minded or mind-lassoing a lightsabre from a snowdrift. Chirrut has faith. Chirrut and his protector and companion Baze are Guardians of the Whills, protectors of the ancient Temple of the Kyber. Or at least, the were. Now, they’re begging and preaching on the streets of Jedha. Baze is an enigmatic fellow. He works in harmony with Chirrut and Jiang’s performance is more than adequate. But, simply because Yen has more screen time, has a lot more to say and it’s great fun to watch him treat Stormtroopers like piñatas, he’s much more memorable over the course of the film.

Think back to the early 90s. For those of us of a certain age Star Wars had been part of our entire lives. To most of us, it was a huge part. A sizeable chunk. And Darth Vader was the baddest baddie of them all. But it was done. No more on-screen adventures for Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie, Obi-Wan, the tin-can twins and the man on black.

We could, of course, always stick on the video of Return of the Jedi that we’d taped off the telly at Christmas and enjoy Speeder Bike chases, Jabba’s Palace and not being able to read Bib Fortuna’s subtitles because widescreen TVs hadn’t been invented. In the 1980s George Lucas had been adament that he had no desire to return to the Star Wars universe he’d envisaged whilst creating the first film in the saga.

By the 1990s Star Wars saw a resurgence in popularity, largely because of the Dark Horse comics and Timothy Zahn’s trilogy of novels. There was STILL an audience. We already knew that but it was the confimration Lucas needed to think about returning to his idea of a prequel trilogy. In October 1993 Lucas announced in Variety exactly that – there would be more Star Wars. More Darth Vader.

In the days before the internet was in every home and on every phone (and before it was even useful to most people) information on the subject was scarce. Non-existent would be more accurate. In 1998 we were given a gift in the form of a very simple teaser poster – a young lad on a sandy world, casting an awesome and eery shadow.

It was everything. We were going to see Darth Vader: The Early Years. Two more trailers would follow and they melted many a dial-up modem.

Fast forward through Midi-chlorians, Podracers, Yippeeees, teen-angst, an unconvincing romantic plot, a scene where he doesn’t understand how democracy works, younglings, a pretty awesome, if completely unrealistic (they were 6mm from lava – they would’ve been sitting in puddles of gravy made of their own legs) lightsaber duel and a burned, broken and disfigured Anakin.

This is what we were waiting for. The disillusioned and vengeful young man who lost everything was now fully transformed. Yes, Palpatine had made him a Sith Lord and gave him his new name but THIS was the moment he was truly Vader. And what did we get afte six years of Binks, endless Parliamentary debates, horribly racist stereotypes, a criminally under-utilised Samuel L  Jackson and Boba Fett needlessly shoe-horned into the plot? Hayden Christensen in his Halloween costume.

We could forget the fact that we were promised The Omen on Tatooine but got Little Orphan Anakin. We couldn’t forgive that all we got in the end was a skinny Vader crossing his arms and looking into space. NOOOOOOOOOO!

It feels like Rogue One has finally delivered on some of those earlier promises. We get Vader. With a lightsaber. Being outstanding. We find him on the only unnamed planet in the movie.

Seriously, every other planet is named onscreen but, by omission, we know it’s Mustafar. It’s only right that this is where he’s set up shop, as this is the planet where Vader was born. This planet made him what he was to become. Mustafar is a not-so-subtle- metaphor of Vader himself. It smoulders and rages. It’s violent, not through cruelty, but by it’s nature. Curiously, we also see Vader without the suit, albeit through smoke and steam, bobbing around in an unsettling, vulnerable state in his bacta tank. We’re reminded (however you may feel about him) that this is a disfigured Anakin. That same little boy who built C-3PO.

When Vader summons Krennic to his Castle we’re reminded of his feelings regarding the anything non-Force related. While Krennic is busy worrying about who’ll receive credit for the Death Star it’s clear Vader is irritated by such trivial distractions. The Death Star, to him, is a mere tool. It gets the job done. It gets Vader a step closer to what he wants. Krennic is even less important than that. And he does what Vader is prone to do when he’s annoyed by insigificance.

He chokes Krennic to remind him of his place, like a master rubs his mutt’s nose in it’s own mess. Vader really springs to life in the closing moments of the film, effortlessly cutting his way through a band of infuriating rebels who get in his way with a series of deft swipes of his lightsaber, returning blaster fire like Rafa Nadal and flinging them around like dirty laundry. But, of course, he doesn’t to get those annoying Death Star plans in time.

There is an argument to be made that, perhaps, the person to have the biggest effect on the Star Wars saga, other than George Lucas, is John Williams. His overall contribution to music in film is immeasurable with his majestic and unmistakable scores giving us the soundtrack to our collective childhoods. Williams is synonymous with Star Wars.

So, when it was reported in March 2015 that Alexandre Desplat would be composing the score for the new stand-alone Star Wars adventure some were…curious. Was this the ultimate statement that Disney could make regarding their most recent and expensive acquisition regarding the direction they sought for the franchise?

Maybe not considering that two years prior they had announced that Williams would be returning for The Force Awakens. It was, most likely, their intention to indicate that having a new man in charge of the score would set this new movie apart from the saga. This was a a new movie that just happened to be set in the Star Wars universe.

The proverbial spanner was thrown into the works when in September 2016 re-shoots on Rogue One meant that Desplat was no longer available and Michael Giacchino was to step in.

With the Premiere scheduled for December the clock was ticking and fans were anxious.  This was not inspiring confidence in Disney’s direction for the franchise. In four and a half weeks Giacchino, fresh from composing the score for Doctor Strange, had done it. Maybe this wasn’t such a huge risk after all. He already had a couple of Star Trek films under his belt along with Lost, Jupiter Ascending and Jurassic World.

This is a reknowned and highly respected composer. And he had a vision for the film. He called it a “World War II movie” at it’s heart, and “it was also an incredibly emotional movie as well”. Seemingly, he got the essence of Rogue One and incorporated Williams themes into the movie, so it wouldn’t be the radical departure we feared. Right? Well, yes and no. It becomes apparent that, yes, his score is based on (and incorporates) Williams’ previous work into the film, but he not-so-much pays homage to Williams as hangs on his coat-tails. Some elements of the music are akin to Star Wars parodies such as Space Balls or Ace Rimmer’s theme in Red Dwarf.

Unfortunately, this was always going to be the criticism, no matter who composed the music or what it actually sounded like. It’s even more unfortunate that Giacchino is obviously a hugely talented composer and Disney view him as such as he’s scoring Spider-man: Homecoming.

It seems like Kathleen Kennedy is determined to kill off every fanboy in the galaxy, with either massive coronaries or them choking to death on a combination of disgust and Cheerios.

No John Williams, no Skywalkers and no opening crawl. “We felt that’s so indicative of what those saga films are. Initially, we probably will begin the film in a way that is traditional, with just the title”, Kennedy said in November. This was how serious Disney were taking their stance that this should be a film that stands alone. The lack of crawl doesn’t harm the film but, on first viewing, it’s a little distracting. Uneasy even. But like the score we’ll get used to it. Not that either of these actually harm the film in any way. It’s just that we’ve become SO used to how a Star Wars movie should be.

Maybe it was about time someone slapped us and gave us something a little different. Thanks Kathleen.

It’s clear that Director Gareth Edwards is a Star Wars fan. Even if he hadn’t spoke on numerous occasions about how the original movie inspired him to become a filmmaker, it’s clear how much the saga means to him. It’s not just the inclusion of blue milk, Gold leader or his cameo. It’s the fact he’s comfortable enough to take the existing material and add something without trying to change it entirely. And he’s not just paying homage to the ‘good’ trilogy.

Take the bacta tank scene. Seeing Vader simmering in the tank reminds us that Anakin is an amputee and a burn victim. In a robotic suit. It’s easy to think of Vader just as the shiny black-suited, lightsaber wielding psycho. He’s also that little boy on the sandy planet. The stroppy teenager. And the guy who’s best friend chopped his legs off and watch burn. It mirrors the helmetless scene in Empire so well without trying to compete for its level of shock. It seems ridiculous to consider anyone but Edwards as the logical choice for Rogue One, given his history in visual effects. It’s where he shines in this movie, not in the CGI Tarkin scenes, but in using the effects to tell the story.

Rogue One is its own movie. In fact, without it (in a bootstrap paradox kind of way) we couldn’t have Star Wars. Episode IV would’ve been about an irritating dweeb living on a farm, talking endlessly about power converters. In its essence it’s a tragedy. Yes, it’s science fiction, action and adventure. But it’s ultimately the sacrifices our band of new heroes make that defines this film (if you don’t at least gulp when K-2SO is destroyed you’re a monster). That’s not to say there isn’t brevity, suspense, drama and epic space battles. That’s what we want from a new Star Wars film but it’s the ultimate price our Rebels pay that sets it apart from the saga, not the lack of crawl or the score. Then there’s the realisation of what this film is leading to – Princess Leia about six minutes away from hiding the stolen plans in R2-D2. The transition into Episode IV is flawless. The final seconds of Rogue One leave you with a sense of…hope.