Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Spoiler Free Review

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Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker comes with so much baggage it actually feels difficult to write a full review after my initial viewing.

I came out with some hugely conflicting feelings, so rather than a fully considered review, this might best be considered a collection of immediate, post-screening thoughts.

The film, of course, is the conclusion not only to this most-recent Disney backed trilogy (comprising The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi), but it also concludes the entire Skywalker saga (preceded by the films in the Prequel and Original trilogies).

Many fans will, I suspect, find The Rise of Skywalker to be a hugely satisfying ending to the nine film cycle, as returning director J.J. Abrams and his team play far safer than The Last Jedi’s controversial Rian Johnson and pack the film to the rafters with many fan-pleasing elements. Perhaps too many.

And this seems to have been done to the detriment of a cohesive movie, as Rise lacks a certain elegance in narrative to play very episodically, with MacGuffins galore leading our heroes from one set piece to the next.

While Johnson seemed determined to use his film to kill off certain elements of past Star Wars films to suggest a new future path, Abrams and co have apparently paid careful attention to the howls of outrage over this approach from the hordes of man babies and over-entitled toxic fans and dialed back on this by making a film about resurrecting the dead. And boy, do the dead rise up in this film. Literally and figuratively.

There are tantalising glimpses of a thematic element, present in all three films of the Disney trilogy, of the Rebellion against the evil Empire spreading out beyond the usual resistance fighters and causing “the people” to find the will to rise up against their oppressors, but it’s almost too casually thrown away here, and not developed strongly enough to add depth to the narrative. A definite missed opportunity which could have given these films a far greater resonance.

It’s also difficult to see that these films were created with a firm road map, rather each feels like a reaction to the previous film, and so this might just be the least satisfying trilogy, thematically and in terms of overall arcs.

The trilogy leads (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Issac and Adam Driver) all do excellent work, even when their roles are not developed as well as we might have hoped – yes Finn, I’m looking at you. Personally, I’d like to have seen more emphasis on Boyega, who the camera loves, than on time spent with the introduction of a pointless droid or even (sorry, Bill Dee Williams), the largely irrelevant Lando Calrissian.

The film deals pretty sensitively with the death of Carrie Fisher and just about manages to give Princess Leia/General Organa a useful role and an emotional send-off. No mean feat, under the sad circumstances.

And, as mentioned previously, there are (many) nods to fans of all three trilogies (and event offshoots like Star Wars: Rebels), familiar faces and voices and callbacks, visually and thematically, that this mostly works as a wrap-up of the saga with a big bow on it. And of course, much of this may play well on repeated viewings, but it might have been a stronger film had it concentrated on finding its own identity instead. In fact, I’m not sure I could see the film working for newcomers to the saga, and those resistant to the charms of George Lucas’ creation will find nothing to persuade.

Now all this sounds as if I didn’t have a good time. I did, and will almost certainly enjoy revisiting The Rise of Skywalker. As a fan, I can say it certainly leaves the characters where I might have expected them to end up. And, as with all Abrams films, it moves like a bullet and looks beautiful. There’s also a rather nice coda which plays against the expectations of a vocal area of fandom with a central character, and leaves us with a touching return to the saga’s beginning.

Perhaps the film simply had too much baggage to be the conclusion of over forty years of filmmaking, or perhaps my own baggage won’t allow me to enjoy it for what it is.

Right now, however, I’m satisfied but lacking that triumphant, gleeful feeling something with less reliance on its own past might have left me with.

The Mandalorian – Simply Star Wars *spoiler free review

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If I tell you that the first episode of The Mandalorian – the new high profile, live action Star Wars series helping to launch the Disney + channel – is simple, I trust you’ll understand that I’m complimenting it.

Set five years after the fall of the Empire, as seen in Return of the Jedi, the extremely straightforward storyline of this premiere episode follows the adventures of a Mandalorian bounty hunter (played by Pedro Pascal, though so far he remains firmly under the helmet) hired to round up or exterminate a mark. And for the first 38 minutes, that’s pretty much it.

Carl Weathers crops up, as does (in a much-ballyhooed, sublime piece of casting) existential German film director, Werner Herzog, who appears to be having a blast in his role, plus we meet (sort of) Nick Nolte and Taika Waititi (director of Thor: Ragnarok and Jojo Rabbit). It’s a heckuva cast for what amounts to a little spaghetti western in space.

What you really want to know is: does it feel like Star Wars? Yes, it does, and it feels like exactly what I had hoped for, Star Wars without the Skywalkers, or Jedi, or the Force (at least so far), and what a lot of fun it is. The Mandalorian comes across as if show creator Jon Favreau and pilot director Dave Filoni are just kicking back and enjoying themselves in the Star Wars universe. They even manage to throw in a deep-cut gag taken from the infamously reviled Star Wars Holiday Special TV show from 1978.

The Mandalorian looks and sounds totally Star Wars too, with some really top notch VFX and creature FX (many of which, I’m overjoyed to say, are practical). Whoever thought we’d live to see a weekly Star Wars TV series with movie level special effects? Not this kid who saw the original movie more than twenty times at the cinema in 1977 and 1978, that’s for sure.

There’s no great human drama, so far, but we get a lot of world-building in just over half an hour (with no necessary Star Wars knowledge needed, but plenty of nods to fans), events are set neatly in place and some intriguing threads are left dangling. We’re offered just enough of what might make the title character of interest (he’s a bounty hunter with a heart of gold), but the main point here is to make us want to come back for more. And if the showrunners can ensure this level of pure enjoyment for the next seven episodes then that won’t be a problem.

Simply put, The Mandalorian is uncomplicated fun.

The Final Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker Trailer

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Okay, I know what you’re here for, so here’s the final Star Wars trailer ever…

Yeah, well, I lied, obviously. This isn’t the final Star Wars trailer ever, Disney have way too much invested into George Lucas’s baby for that, but it is the final trailer for the nine films which will comprise the Skywalker saga.

And in customary J J Abrams style, it looks beautiful, with some really stunning ‘trailer moments’. Let’s just hope he and the crew are able to pull this together for a satisfying film – it comes with rather a lot of baggage, of course, not least the ire of a lot of entitled man-babies who shed copious fanboy blood and fury blood over Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi.

Personally, I’m rather excited to see how this all wraps up, and now we’ll find out – after forty two years and eight previous movies. I guess I’ll see you in the queue for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker on December 20th…

Rogue One Writer For Disney Plus Star Wars Show

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Tony Gilroy, co-writer of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, has jumped aboard the Disney Plus series based on that film’s central character, Cassian Andor.

Variety just dropped an exclusive report, stating that Gilroy would write and direct several episodes for the forthcoming, as yet untitled, live action show for Disney’s streaming channel.

The series will star Diego Luna, reprising his role from Rogue One, and follows Rebel agent Andor in adventures set before the events of that film, in the early days of the Rebellion against the Empire. Alan Tudyk will also return as K-2SO, Andor’s droll droid sidekick.

Gilroy was originally an uncredited writer on Rogue One, and came onto the production to handle extensive reshoots on the film, earning a screenwriting credit in the process. After the reshoots, he is also said to have worked closely with director Gareth Edwards to supervise the editing of the film.

No air date has been set for the show, but previous reports suggest it will launch in 2021. Disney Plus launches in the US and other markets (but not here in Norway, curse you Disney) on November 12th.

The Skywalker Saga Ends – Rise of Skywalker Trailer

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Okay, moving swiftly over that lackluster poster released at the D23 expo this weekend, let’s cheer instead for the minute or so of new footage revealed in this “special look” at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

..well, it certainly looks lovely, but there are a lot of folks out in internet-land worried that J J Abrams will not bring this nine film saga to anything remotely resembling a satisfying end. Of course it’s internet-land and that’s what internet-land folks do, but still, there’s some substance in those worries.

Love it or hate it, Rian Johnson took some intriguing chances with The Last Jedi (chances I mostly loved, by the way) and many feel that Abrams is more likely to play things safe, as he did with The Force Awakens.

We’ll all find out soon enough, as this final film in the Skywalker saga is due to hit our screens in December. Are you excited, scared or just plain bored? Sound off in the usual places for comments.

Time To Get Excited About Star Wars Again – The Mandalorian Trailer Has Arrived

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The trailer for Jon Favreau’s new live-action Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian, has arrived, and it looks amazing:

So much to unpack from this: bounty hunting in the Star Wars universe, movie quality special effects, a wonderfully gritty look and, yes, Werner Herzog. This thing looks crazy and crazy good. Even if you’ve found your enthusiasm for all things Star Wars waning in recent years, you have to admit there’s a weirdness to this that Lucas’s (and Disney’s) universe has been calling out for.

Creator, writer, and director Jon Favreau (that’s Happy Hogan to YOU, sir and Madam) has promised The Mandalorian will dig into the “darker, freakier” side of Star Wars and it doesn’t look like he was kidding.

Set after the fall of the Empire (in Return of the Jedi) and before the rise of the First Order (in The Force Awakens), the series stars Pedro Pascal (in the title role), Gina Carano, Nick Nolte (really!), Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Carl Weathers, and Omid Abtahi. Yes, and Werner Herzog appears.

Disney have a lot of faith in this show, so much that they’ve already announced Season Two will begin shooting this autumn.

As noted in many other pieces here, because this autumn Disney will take over our viewing habits entirely, the new Disney Plus streaming service launches on November 12.

“Hello There!” – Ewan McGregor To Return As Obi-Wan Kenobi

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Deadline have just confirmed that Ewan McGregor is in talks with Disney to reprise his role as Obi-wan Kenobi.

The actor played the Jedi Knight in the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, The Phantom Menace (1999), Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005), and revisited the role as a voice-only cameo in the The Force Awakens (2015).

Now McGregor is close to signing on the dotted line for a new TV series to air on the forthcoming Disney + channel, which will begin streaming later this year.

The Obi-Wan Kenobi series would join two live action Star Wars series already in production, The Mandalorian, from director (and everyone’s favourite Happy Hogan) Jon Favreau, starring Pedro Pascal, and an as yet unnamed prequel series to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, based on the adventures of Cassian Andor and K-2S0, with Diego Luna and Alan Tudyk reprising their roles from that film.

Disney + has a whole slew of other tantalizing shows on their slate, including a comic shop full of Marvel Cinematic Universe tie-in limited series, plus the likes of new productions of High School Musical and a live-action remake of Lady And The Tramp.

While the Prequel Trilogy is widely regarded as, at best a creative misfire (it’s Friday and I’m in a good mood, work with me), McGregor was never less than watchable and did his darndest to bring life to the often risible dialogue. So this possibility seems like a win to me. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below.

The Rise of Skywalker Trailer Is Here!

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If ever there was an instance of me not needing to write a single thing for a piece, I guess this is it – the teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode 9 – The Rise of Skywalker…

Just launched at Star Wars Celebration in Chicago, this teaser will be sure to have us all speculating like crazy, I know I already am.

We’ll discuss the film in more detail when a fuller trailer hits, but for now let’s just gear ourselves up for December and the end of the nine film Skywalker saga.  But hey, BILLY DEE WILLIAMS AS LANDO CALRISSIAN, EVERYBODY!

Star Wars opens on December 19th.

Disney + Targets Your Wallet With New Marvel TV Shows

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As reported here on Out Of Dave’s Head last September, Disney/Marvel are planning a bunch of limited run TV shows with characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, played by their respective movie actors, to help the entire world decide to subscribe to its new streaming channel, Disney +, launching in late 2019.

Alongside the already announced shows for Loki (with Tom Hiddleston) and Scarlet Witch (with Elisabeth Olsen), word came down the pipeline recently of a Falcon & Winter Soldier show (starring Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan).

Now Variety are reporting that Marvel are developing a Hawkeye limited series, running six to eight episodes and starring Jeremy Renner as the titular archer.

The article also says that the show will introduce the character of Kate Bishop, who became Hawkeye’s replacement for a while in the comic books, before going on to share the codename with Hawkeye’s alter-ego, Clint Barton.

The shows, to be produced by Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige, are expected to have larger budgets to similar television projects, and will be much more closely tied-in with the Marvel movies than the previous runs of Netflix shows, including Daredevil and Jessica Jones.

The channel launches with new shows from Marvel, Monsters Inc. (also featuring original voices, Billy Crystal and John Goodman), High School Reunion and, of course, the two highly anticipated live-action Star Wars shows, The Mandalorian and the Rogue One tie-in adventures of Cassian Andor, starring Diego Luna.

So I suggest submitting your will to Disney and giving them all your money now. Resistance will be futile as Disney take one more step towards world domination of your viewing habits.

Your New Star Wars Live Action Series Is… The Mandalorian

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Jon Favreau has just announced the title of the new live-action Star Wars series and, yep, as revealed in our headline, it’s The Mandalorian.

For those of you not versed in Star Wars-speak, fan-favourite character Jango Fett (from the trilogy we don’t talk about) was a Mandalorian, and he adopted his clone son, Boba Fett (from the trilogy we do talk about) .

According to Favreau, the series will feature “a lone gunfighter” hailing from the same planet as the fan-favorite bounty hunter Boba Fett and his father, Jango Fett.”

“After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe,” Favreau announced in an Instagram post. “The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.”

So we have a series taking place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens leaning heavily on the legacy of a pair of secondary characters from the first two trilogies. My immediate reaction is that this concept doesn’t overly thrill me, seeming to be a bit too-fan fiction heavy for me, but your Star Wars mileage may vary.

Either way, The Mandalorian bound to be a huge draw for the nascent Disney Play streaming channel and the news of this, plus other shows such as the previously-announced live action Marvel shows (featuring the likes of Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch), plus shows based on High School Reunion and Monsters Inc., are certain to have Netflix execs feeling a little uneasy right now.

Disney Play (or whatever it ends up being called) launches late 2019.