Star Wars: Episode III


Viewed – 11 October 2011  Blu-ray

Revenge Of The Sith

It’s easy to see what many Star Wars fan boys have taken issue with in regards to the new trilogy.  The reliance on CGI and poor dialogue and misplaced ‘comedy’ has seemed to take away much of the mystique and grandeur of the saga they grew up loving.  George Lucas whilst a talented visualist, is not really the best director of actors, shown with such seasoned heavy weights like Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson and even Ewan McGregor coming across as hammy and wooden at times.  Yet much of these complaints can’t be levelled quite as easily at the concluding first half of this epic saga.  Lucas and his talented staff of effects wizards and production designers seem to have finally delivered the Star Wars movie fans have been waiting for.

With the Clone Wars in full swing, Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) and Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) are given a mission to rescue Chancellor Palpetine (Ian McDiarmid) from the clutches of Count Dookoo (Christopher Lee) and droid leader General Grievous.  Yet the rescue of Palpatine causes Anakin to question his faith in the Jedi council as Palpatine begins to manipulate him with regards to his secret marriage to Padme (Natalie Portman).  Anakin’s journey to the darkside looms ever nearer.

Darker in tone and with a more confident performance from Christensen, despite still delivering lines like a spoilt brat … there is something about this third entry that feels much more akin to the Star Wars movies of yesteryear.  Anakin’s journey to the darkside is well written and convincing, with very emotional support from Portman and McGregor hammering home the real intensity of the situation, making this feel more like a Shakespearian tragedy than a throwaway sci-fi blockbuster.  The encounters, which are plentiful and brilliantly realised build with intensity and at times the action really took my breath away, helped immeasurably by John Williams’ epic score and some of the finest special effects I have ever seen.

Lucas’ struggle with dialogue still rears its head, with some laughable lines (and a little too many ‘classic’ quotes), but overall this is streets ahead of Episode I & II, and although clearly rushed towards the end, comes together well to make the older movies, set some time after this, fit seamlessly.

The Blu-ray is gorgeous.  This is probably the best looking of the newer trilogy, with little of the soft-focus of episodes 1 & 2, and with a vibrant colour palette and a booming soundtrack, this should please any cinefile out there.  Again we have commentaries and a whole extra disk of documentaries and interviews, so again any fan should have nothing to grumble about.

Verdict:  4 /5

Star Wars: Episode II


Viewed – 22 September 2011  Blu-ray

Attack Of The Clones

I remember on first seeing this at the cinema, I really didn’t like it.  I enjoyed Phantom Menace, but this one really rubbed me up the wrong way.  Subsequent viewings have made me change my mind however and appreciate what this entry in the saga offers – but it can’t be argued, that like it’s predecessor, it still has significant problems.

Following an attempted assassination of newly elected Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) are given the job of investigating.  Obi-Wan travels to a remote uncharted planet chasing a bounty hunter called Jango Fett, whilst Anakin protects Padme and begins to fall in love with her, leading to a forbidden romance.

One of the major things that lets this down where it should have triumphed, is the very mushy and totally unconvincing love story, which feels forced rather than natural.  This is not helped by the fact that Hayden Christensen’s performance is more bratty school boy than bad-ass Jedi.  Portman fares better and is sensibly more developed and centre stage than her thankless role in Menace, but even someone of her talent can’t make the love story work (but still looks hot throughout).  Ewan McGregor, now the teacher rather than the apprentice, is excellent and confident, proving himself admirably in the wake of Liam Neeson’s absence.  The action however, although spectacular and boasting some gorgeous special effects and set design, feels a lot like a video game meaning that at times it’s a little absurd.

Thankfully we have the presence of screen legend Christopher Lee as Count Dooku to show everyone how its done, and although his appearance is brief, it’s very memorable and shows that director / creator George Lucas still knows how to craft superb villains.  The story this time around is also more absorbing and moves along at a good pace, with little of politics of before.

So an improvement in some ways, but still stumbles in key areas where it really needed to impress.

The Blu-ray looks better than The Phantom Menace, and although still troubled by a soft focus look, certainly seems more detailed.  The sound of course like before is exceptional, with John Williams’ timeless score shining, and the action really booms around the room.  Again we have two commentaries, from Lucas as well as cast and crew, and that’s it until you delve into the wealth of extras on the other disks in the box set for your documentary and behind the scenes fix.

Verdict:  3 /5

Jumper


Viewed – 19 February 2008 Cinema

In an age where concept is king, then as far as the idea thrown on the table is concerned, Jumper presses the big red button. You see, Star Wars’ Hayden Christensen (proving himself a credible action hero) plays a kid who after a near-death experience discovers he can teleport himself to anywhere in the world, in just a blink of an eye. Now that’s a talent, and at first it’s his key out of a crappy life where the girl at school hardly notices him (The OC’s Rachel Bilson), and he comes home every night to a drunken father who just yells at him, after the Mother walked out on them years previously.

Before long though, his new found life and riches (he’s become the ‘perfect’ bank robber), is interrupted by Samuel L. Jackson’s shady Government agent, who seems to know all about him. What follows is a very unique action adventure as this kid struggles to make sense of his abilities whilst running for his life. Hence some stunning action sequences that really knock you out of your seat. A worthy mention must also go to Jamie Bell’s vigilante who has the same skills as Hayden, and pretty much steals the movie.

Director Doug Liman, honing his talents on Bourne Identity and Mr & Mrs Smith once again delivers a unique, gritty spin on the action movie and brings to the screen what I think the Matrix sequels should have delivered a few years earlier. Roll on whatever this director comes up with next!

Verdict:  4 /5