Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021): This Ring-Filled Story Had Me Engaged Until the End

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Just Mercy, The Glass Castle) and stars Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience, Taken), Awkwafina (Raya and the Last Dragon, Crazy Rich Asians), Meng’er Zhang (Oliver Twist, Finding Destiny), Fala Chen (The Undoing, No Regrets), Florian Munteanu (Creed II, Bogat), Benedict Wong (Raya and the Last Dragon, Annihilation), Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Crazy Rich Asians), Ben Kingsley (The Jungle Book, Gandhi), and Tony Leung (Infernal Affairs, In the Mood For Love). This film is the 25th feature-length project in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is about a guy named Shaun, also known as Shang-Chi, who reunites with his family and faces his past as he encounters the ten rings organization.

The Marvel train can’t stop, the Marvel train won’t stop. And honestly, despite a couple duds over the years like “Thor: The Dark World,” I am glad this train has yet to grind itself to a halt. Even though they were not perfect, I enjoyed the few Marvel shows we’ve gotten over the past number of months. I will also say that I enjoyed “Black Widow.” But additionally, as I watched some of this content, part of me became a tad worried, because I had a feeling regarding Marvel that I last felt in 2017 when “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” came out. While both movies had their moments, I think both “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” brought some level of disappointment to the table. And honestly, this feels weird to say, I may have had mixed feelings on “Thor: Ragnarok” too, even though I did find joy in it. Much like 2017, the 2021 Marvel slate has given viewers a fair share of “good” but it has yet to deliver that one gem that is comparable to say “Thor” or “Captain America: The Winter Soldier.”

Let me tell you something, I’m going to confirm straight out of the gate, “Shang-Chi” is not my favorite comic book movie of 2021. It’s got some tough competition with James Gunn’s “The Suicide Squad,” which received my first perfect score of the year when I reviewed it, but I think that Marvel greatness is coming back with “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.” I would say that as a Marvel fan, I was excited for “Black Widow” when they first announced it, and they executed it in a way that could please a Marvel fan like myself. But with “Shang-Chi,” I think it is going to do a better job at getting a wider audience to appreciate it over time. This is not just your standard Marvel movie with all your heroics, big booms, and such. This is a story that I feel could appeal to almost anyone. I would be SHOCKED if anyone comes out of this movie giving it a 1/10. Why? Because at the end of the day, this movie has one fun scene after the next with dozens of cool ideas and likable characters along the way. While I would not call this movie the next “Back to the Future,” I would put it aside that film in terms of accessibility to all audiences. Because that film is sci-fi, romance, comedy, adventure, and action all in one. It has a little something for everyone and each “something” is done to perfection. “Shang-Chi” I would say is a fine mix of action, mythology, comedy, family drama, and adventure.

I have never said this about any Marvel movie. Maybe with the exception of “Guardians of the Galaxy…” I would show this to my mother someday. For the record, she is *not* in the target audience for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I know the MCU can appeal to a wide number of people (Look at “Endgame’s” box office!), but these movies were not ever something that would appeal to my mother specifically. Maybe if I was 8, dad was busy, I could not go to the movies by myself, or if we had some sort of family outing, she would have gone to see one of these Marvel films with me, but I would be surprised if she went to one of these films because she wanted to or if she had any excitement to check one out. I would not be surprised if I had to maybe bribe my mother to watch this film on one occasion or another, but if my mother asked me, “Would I like ‘Shang-Chi?'” My answer would be a “Yes.” And part of that is because of the heart of the film. The heart being, Simu Liu and Awkwafina as Shaun and Katy. These are two people who have been best friends for years and to me they are arguably the most fun pair in recent cinematic history. While I will say that “The Suicide Squad” is still my favorite comic book movie, not to mention favorite movie in general of 2021, I think “Shang-Chi” is going to arguably end up being this year’s biggest crowd-pleaser.

Speaking of, shoutout to Simu Liu for giving a great performance as the character of Shaun. I have not seen much of Liu’s work. I know he is one of the starring roles in “Kim’s Convenience,” which I hear is a really good show, but I have not seen much of it. Frankly, Liu’s performance as Shang-Chi, which to me, evoked a vibe between fun and brooding, made me excited to see what else he could do in the MCU. As for “Kim’s Convenience,” who knows? Maybe I’ll get around to it. But I have way too many things on my plate when it comes to content and life, so we shall see. Also, the man is quite the action star! In the first half of the film, there’s some choreography that comes off as butter smooth. It feels natural, exciting, and fast. I love it! There’s not much evidence in the film that Liu ever needed a double while doing the action scenes, which if anything, pleases me to no end. One of my favorite action stars today is Tom Cruise because he will take any opportunity, practically to meme-worthy points, to do his own stunts. I’m glad that Simu Liu is taking an opportunity to do the same.

You want action? This movie’s got it! This movie does what Marvel does best and delivers one of its finest examples of quality. “Shang-Chi” does a great job at mixing epic action with gutbusting humor, and this is heavily exemplified in the bus scene. The scene is simple. Shaun and Katy are on a bus together, a guy comes up to Shaun, wants his pendant, and he just starts busting everybody in this magnificently fast series of punches and kicks. I won’t go into what makes the scene funny, as I had no idea what was going to happen going in so I’ll let everyone else do the same. However, what makes this scene so awesome is that it sort of grounds the movie despite being in something as fantastical as the MCU. There’s not really any superhuman crap going on here. Well, kind of… There’s some suspension of disbelief that could be brought to the table. It’s just martial arts and trying to survive. Not only is this a breathtaking scene from the heavy duty stunts and eye-popping camerawork, but it also does a good job at progressing the story of the film and establishing a key point of Shaun and Katy’s relationship. Katy’s reactions to this incident could not have been written any better.

Now, you may have seen in the trailer that Wong of “Doctor Strange” fame was going to make an appearance in “Shang-Chi.” If you wanted to know, Wong is in the movie for a number of minutes, but he does not have too much of an impact on the plot from start to finish. He’s in the fight club, he’s in the movie a little later, won’t say when, but if you are a fan of Wong, which I am, I’m sure that his appearance in this film won’t disappoint. Honestly, this movie made me like Wong more, because it did a good job at making him show off a fun personality. Here it is shown that Wong seems to be the kind of guy that you would not mind going out and a having a few drinks with.

As far as origin stories go, “Shang-Chi” excels. In fact, it is up there with “Thor” as one of my favorite origin stories of the MCU. When it comes to the story of this film, much like “Thor,” one of the core aspects of the film is the family drama a good number of the characters experience for themselves. Much of “Thor” was a battle between two brothers trying to impress their father, and in “Shang-Chi,” it’s a situation where the main protagonist is doing whatever he can to disassociate himself with his father. The family drama in “Shang-Chi” had my attention all the way through because I cared about the characters and there comes a point where Shang-Chi’s past catches up to him and he seems to regret everything that happened in his childhood. This is what makes him a broken hero, not so squeaky clean, and much of the backstory and flashbacks regarding what made Shang-Chi who he is happened to be incredibly compelling.

Oh yeah, Awkwafina is a goldmine in this movie. I already mentioned that the relationship between Simu Liu and Awkwafina in “Shang-Chi” is one of my favorite relationships in recent cinema, but part of what makes that relationship blossom is Awkwafina’s performance in the film as Katy. She feels so hyperactive, fun, and the real life version of caffeine! I already admire Awkwafina as a performer, just look at what she did in “The Farewell,” one of my favorite movies of 2019. But “Shang-Chi” proves that one of her strengths is comedy. And honestly, she’s having one heck of a year as far as her resume is concerned, because I already loved her in “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which turned out to be at one point, what I would consider to be the year’s best film. While I will say I like “Raya and the Last Dragon” a bit better than “Shang-Chi,” I think “Shang-Chi” will be a better reference to Awkwafina’s talent as a performer as it gives her a space to be dynamic and all over the place. I went through this entire movie wanting her to be my best friend, I think that is the best thing I can say about her. Honestly, if there is one thing I want after seeing “Shang-Chi,” it’s not just more of Katy, it’s more of Awkwafina in general. After seeing her in this film, I went from liking her, to legit wanting to treat her to lunch.

The flaws present in “Shang-Chi” are minimal. Again, I go back to my “Back to the Future” comparison, this is a film that I think just about anyone could enjoy, but it does not mean it is perfect. Before posting this review, I saw this film twice, and both times, I walked out saying the same thing, which is weird to say as a Marvel fan. This film becomes way too extravagant towards the end. You know how a lot of Marvel movies by the end like “The Avengers” or “Iron Man 3” will end in this big climactic battle? Everything is balls to the wall and flying in your face! CGI is everywhere! You can feel the production budget right in between your eyes! “Shang-Chi,” much like those movies, has that. But in the case of “Shang-Chi,” even though the film is by no means small, it feels weird seeing this big climactic sequence when the first half of the film feels natural and clean in terms of its action scenes. I will not do a deep dive into the second half of the film, but a lot happens and sometimes it can be overwhelming. It’s good stuff. Sometimes it’s great stuff, But when you take the fight choreography in the beginning of the film and compare it with everything towards the end, I find it to be a weird change of pace, even though it does at times match the opening scene, which by the way is an incredible opening scene, one of the best in the MCU. My question to myself is, if the story and characters were unlikable, how much would my opinion differ? It’s just something I want to keep on the backburner.

If you read my review for “Black Widow,” one of my complaints about that film, even though I liked it, is that at times, it felt like it was trying too hard to set up other MCU content. And this also brings in a growing complaint, or concern depending on how you look at it, that I have with the Marvel Disney+ shows like “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” My worry for the future of the MCU is that I will either have to watch a movie to understand what goes on in a television show, or the other way around. I am accustomed to seeing all of the MCU’s content on one specific medium, specifically feature films. As much as I like some things about the MCU shows, watching the MCU is starting to feel like homework. That’s not the case with “Shang-Chi,” and I say that for a couple reasons. First, the movie in general kicks ass. Second, the film feels like a contained story. Sure, it has Abomination in it. Sure, it has Wong in it. But “Shang-Chi” focuses best on being a great movie first as opposed to being a commercial for other MCU content. If you are not an MCU fan and want a place to start, I would not stop you from watching this first. It’s fun, action-packed, hilarious, and it has a little something for every viewer.

Also, I want to just say two words… Hotel. California.

In the end, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is one of the best movies of the year, and also one of the easiest to recommend to people. Going back to what I said about “The Suicide Squad,” which to be clear, is currently my favorite movie of the year, perhaps by a long shot. That is a film that I immensely enjoyed, arguably because it was made for someone like me. When it comes to “Shang-Chi,” there’s obviously a target audience, but I would not mind showing this movie to someone outside of that target audience and seeing what they think of it because I think they would get a kick out of it. The action is big, the pacing is fast, and I am looking forward to seeing more of Shang-Chi in the MCU. As for his pal Katy, I would like to call her my new best friend. I’m going to give “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” an 8/10.

“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” is now playing in theaters everywhere and it is also available in 3D and IMAX.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for “Malignant” which has been out for over a week. Take this statement however you want, but I’ve had a lot of thoughts on this movie. Let’s just leave it at that. Also, just recently I went to a local theater to check out “Copshop,” so I will have a review on that coming your way as well. If you want to see more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings?” What did you think about it? Or, what upcoming Marvel project, I’ll even include television shows, are you looking forward to the most? For me, it’s “Eternals.” The concept sounds engaging, the cast is incredible, a lot of it is done on location, and Academy Award-winning director Chloe Zhao is the director. THE COUNTDOWN BEGINS. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Snake Eyes (2021): A G.I. Joe Spinoff with Dice, But No Spice

“Snake Eyes” is directed by Robert Schwentke (RED, R.I.P.D.) and stars Henry Golding (Crazy Rich Asians, Last Christmas), Andrew Koji (Warrior, Fast & Furious 6), Úrsula Corberó (The Secret Life of Pets, The Emoji Movie), Samara Weaving (Ready or Not, Bill & Ted Face the Music), and Iwa Uwais (The Raid, Stuber). This film is a spinoff set in the “G.I. Joe” franchise and follows the origin story of Snake Eyes, whose father was murdered during his youth. Since that tragic day, the character seeks to avenge his father as he grows into a full-blown martial arts fighter.

G.I. Joe: The Revenge of Cobra (TV Mini Series 1984) - IMDb

No lie here, I have never watched anything related to “G.I. Joe,” nor have I grown up with the franchise. I have never played with the toys, never bought any of the merch. This was my first “G.I. Joe” anything… Ever. I saw the marketing for this film and quite frankly it was never my in my top block of movies to see this summer. If anything, it may have been closer to somewhere in the middle. The trailers never looked awful, but I cannot say they looked great either. If anything I felt rather indifferent while watching them. That may be partially due to my lack of commitment to the “G.I. Joe” franchise in addition to just simply looking forward to other movies like “The Suicide Squad” more. The trailer that I usually saw over the past few weeks at the theater just felt like it lacked a flavor that could individualize this film from others. It felt kind of cookie cutter and surface level. But if a movie like “Ralph Breaks the Internet” has taught me anything, it is that even movies with not so great trailers can turn out to be watchable.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with “Snake Eyes” as I walked out of the film thinking it was one of the biggest bores of the year.

One of the movies I had the most fun with this year is the new edition of “Mortal Kombat.” It was definitely worth the theater experience and was a fun blend of fantasy, action, and gore. But the real draw for the movie was not that it was constructed perfectly, it was that the film was a product of entertainment before anything else. That film was, unsurprisingly, done by a writing/directing combo who had little experience. The action scenes, while fun, were also cut very quickly. It was just too much going on at once, therefore everything was not presented in maybe the most effective manner. For the case of “Snake Eyes,” the directing/writing team of this film unfortunately have been working for a long time. In fact, the director of “Snake Eyes,” Robert Schwentke, does not have the best track record according to critics in recent years. “R.I.P.D.,” which released in the summer of 2013, has a 12% on Rotten Tomatoes critically, and the audience score is not great either with a 37% total. He also directed the last two “Divergent” movies. I will admit, of the movies that came out in that franchise, I would have to say the first one he did, “Insurgent” is probably my favorite and one of the more visually stunning films of 2015. But I cannot say the same for its sequel, “Allegiant,” which was one of the most horribly paced action films of the last six years. The visuals in that film at times looked like something out of a Wii game!

While “Snake Eyes,” thankfully, is no “Allegiant,” it is also not good. In fact, I am having trouble remembering certain parts of it. But one thing that I do remember is that the main character, gosh the writers did try to make him likable, but it felt weird trying to root for him as he was technically working for the bad guys. Plus, by the end of the movie, there is another character who I think is more of a “hero” than he is.

I will say one thing about the character of Snake Eyes, I do think the guy who plays him is charming. Snake Eyes in this film is played by Henry Golding, who I have not seen a lot of on screen, but I have seen him in a couple things. I do think that after seeing him in “Snake Eyes,” he would be a great leading man in an original Bond-like spy film. By that I mean a spy film where Golding is the one who is front and center on the poster, he carries the movie. I think Golding has that potential. I just wish “Snake Eyes” as a film did the actor, along with others involved, a tad more justice.

This film, at times, just looks plain atrocious. No, seriously, if you want to talk about terribly crafted shots in cinema, look no further. Just watch a scene in the middle featuring Samara Weaving as Scarlet, and no, I’m not exactly talking about the picture above. To call that scene an eyesore would be an understatement. I mean, sorry for the digression, Samara Weaving being an eyesore would be a lie. First off, she is good-looking, on top of being an incredibly talented actress. Just watch “Ready or Not.” Although I do think her performance in this film was not one she’d want on her resume. I don’t think Weaving truly had a chance to showcase the best of her acting abilities.

One of the complaints I have about the action in “Snake Eyes” is that it dives into that trend that was made popular by films like those in the “Bourne” franchise, shaky cam to be specific. You know that thing where they move the camera so rapidly it’s almost like the camera is simulating the beginning of the end of the world? That happens in “Snake Eyes,” and at the worst possible times. Seriously! Sticking with what I said about shaky cam, there is literally a scene in the movie where Scarlet walks down a hall and the camera is moving all over the place! It’s so incomprehensible and deranged! Why does someone walking down a hall have to appear as action packed as Snake Eyes trying to slash people to death? Tell me!

This movie, obviously like all others, are made for the purpose of profit. With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, the idea of profit is questionable. Either way, profit for a film like “Snake Eyes” could have meant more than just a success or a sequel. For me, it could have gotten me more into the “G.I. Joe” franchise. I’m not saying I will never watch another “G.I. Joe” movie, but “Snake Eyes” did not make me want a sequel, and I was just too uninterested to say that I will go back and dive deeper into this franchise’s source material or other spinoffs. I think “Snake Eyes” obviously would have done better without a pandemic, but I think even without one, the movie would still struggle to justify franchise expansion. My first thought when I saw the trailer for “Snake Eyes,” regardless of how well put together the trailer was, happened to be “Okay, whatever.” My first thought after seeing the movie “Snake Eyes” was, “Ehhh….” Yep, I don’t think I want to see a sequel at this point.

In the end, “Snake Eyes” is not an eye-roller, but it’s also not a high roller. Again, this is my first dive into the “G.I. Joe” franchise, so as a newbie, maybe I chose a poor place to start. At the same time though, first impressions matter. It’s like trying to get someone into “The Simpsons.” Because that series has evolved so much and has continued to remain a part of our popular culture that as newer pieces of it releases, the differences between the new and old content begin to become noticeable. Do we go with glitchy animation and classic humor? Do we go with hi-def episodes and the mocking of modern trends? Do we go with “The Simpsons Movie?” There’s a lot to pick from! But all things considered, “Snake Eyes” was not my cup of joe. I’m going to give “Snake Eyes” a 4/10.

“Snake Eyes” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! I also want to let everyone know that my next review is going to be for the all new Disney theme park ride-based film, “Jungle Cruise.” I just watched the movie last Thursday and I will have my thoughts hopefully shared by the end of the week. Speaking of the end of the week, I want to let everyone know that I will be seeing “The Suicide Squad” this Saturday and I will have my review for it up sometime next week!

Staying on the topic of next week, stay tuned for Monday, August 9th, because I will be starting the all new review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” This is a series that I personally felt has been long overdue given my attachment to these movies, or more notably the first one, in addition to “King of the Nerds,” the reality competition series inspired by the film franchise given how it is hosted by two of the actors who appear in the movies, Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong. I cannot wait to share this series with you as we continue celebrating 5 years of Scene Before!

If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Snake Eyes?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite spinoff? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017): Jack Sparrow’s Least Memorable Quest Yet

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for the fifth and final installment in the ongoing review series “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!” So far, each film I have talked about has impressed me in one way or another. I cannot say any of them were totally perfect, but I do recommend them for various reasons. If you want to find out more about why I recommend these movies, read my reviews for “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” “At World’s End,” and “On Stranger Tides.” Now with that out of the way, it is time to talk about “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, two directors known for their work on 2012’s “Kon Tiki.” This film stars Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow), Javier Bardem (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, No Country For Old Men) Geoffrey Rush (Ned Kelly, Finding Nemo) Brenton Thwaites (The Giver, Gods of Egypt), Kaya Scodelario (Skins, The Maze Runner), and Kevin McNally (The Phantom of the Opera, Conspiracy). “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is the fifth installment to the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and follows Jack Sparrow as he is pursued by a notable, ongoing threat, Captain Salazar, who was killed some time ago by Sparrow but now he returns to end Jack Sparrow’s life.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”..The villainous Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pursues Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the trident used by Poseidon..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

So far, the “Pirates” films have all been at the very least… “competent.” Even “Dead Man’s Chest,” which I ended up giving a 6/10, still had its moments of joy and fun. I think Gore Verbinski did a wonderful job at finding a fascinating balance between goofiness and seriousness with the first three films, even though as the trilogy progressed, the darkness kept creeping up. Although given my personal tastes, I would not call that a huge negative. As mentioned in my review for “On Stranger Tides,” Rob Marshall took on directing duties for that particular installment, which ended up providing mixed results. I enjoyed the movie. It’s a serviceable “Pirates” adventure, but I feel like Marshall, the writers, and Disney spent more time trying to think about how the film could look good in 3D as opposed to crafting a story, which is kind of unfortunate because I was rather interested in the Fountain of Youth concept.

On that note, I will address that my first positive regarding “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” despite it ultimately being released in 3D, the directors of the film did a better job at not going over the top in terms of making the film feel more like a gimmick. At the same time though I will jump to my first negative, this film is arguably my least favorite film in the “Pirates” franchise in terms of story.

On paper, I feel like this fifth film was made more or less to get people paid rather than provide an entertaining experience. I mean, come on! Was everyone so desperate for a fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean” film? But as I have learned with “The LEGO Movie,” any movie can work if you execute it properly. Did they properly execute “Dead Men Tell No Tales?”

Well, kinda. Like all the other “Pirates” films, this is an enjoyable watch. But it may also arguably be the one of the bunch that has the least potential in terms of replay value. Or at least replay value mixed with excitement. I do like how they go down the Turner lineage in this film. In the original movies we obviously see Orlando Bloom play Will Turner, a character who I have grown to admire throughout the franchise. Unfortunately, he did not have a presence in the fourth movie. In this fifth installment, we mainly focus on his son, Henry Turner. We see him early on, he’s ordered by Captain Salazar to deliver a message to Sparrow. Then we eventually see him alongside Sparrow throughout the film. I think Thwaites is one of those actors who definitely has the physique, or lack thereof in this case mixed in with some hints of charisma, to play the type of character a script like this one needs. I did not like “Gods of Egypt.” I think it is one of the worst films to have come out in 2016. But the main problem was not Brenton Thwaites as a performer. I think of the direction given to him and some of the other cast members is a hindrance on the film itself, but Thwaites is not the problem. In the same way, “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is probably my least favorite of the “Pirates” films. But there are also things to like about it, Brenton Thwaites’s performance is in fact one of those things. Although when it comes to Turners, Henry is no Will. I feel like Orlando Bloom was born to play Will Turner. As much of a match Thwaites is as his son, Will’s just a slightly more likable character. I bought Orlando Bloom as a brave apprentice in “The Curse of the Black Pearl” and ever since he has grown on me. If they make a “Pirates 6,” which seems less likely by the day given what’s going on with Johnny Depp, who does a good job in the movie, I would be curious to see Henry Turner again, I just don’t know if he’ll maintain the charisma that his father had.

If you want to get a simple perspective of my thoughts on “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” I will just sum it up like this. Even though “Dead Man’s Chest” earned a lower grade than the other four films I reviewed before this one, I at least remember a good portion of that film. I am increasingly forgetting “Dead Men Tell No Tales” by the second. It’s not that I want to forget it. It’s just not as great of a film as maybe I would have hoped to have gotten. In fact one of my complaints regarding “Dead Man’s Chest” that is also one of my complaints regarding “Dead Men Tell No Tales” is that Jack Sparrow goes through this event where he almost arguably should die. Now, it’s probably not as absurd as the one in “Dead Man’s Chest,” where we see Jack falling from such an enormous height and being completely okay. But if I put myself in another mindset, it also kind of is more absurd. It’s hard to compare these two unrealistic events in terms of which one ticks me off more. I’m not gonna say exactly what happens, but if you’ve seen “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” you probably know what I am referring to as soon as I say the word “guillotine.”

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”..The villainous Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pursues Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the trident used by Poseidon..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

I think if there’s one thing that I like about “Dead Men Tell No Tales” it’s that there is a sense of maintained consistency between this film and all the other ones that have been done so far. A lot of the familiar music returns in this installment. Some characters like Jack Sparrow, Barbossa, and Gibbs return as their charismatic selves. Per usual, the movie does make me want to immerse myself in a high-seas adventure. Although I feel like the fun that I had in this film is a far cry from the fun I had with say “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” The supporting characters in this film, and I will also admit that the first movie had this problem to a degree, were not as fascinating as the script was trying to make them out to be. Although I do think Kaya Scodelario and once again, Brenton Thwaites, gave competent performances.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES”..The villainous Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) pursues Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) as he searches for the trident used by Poseidon..Ph: Film Frame..©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

In the end, I have already forgotten a good portion of “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” and I did not want to say that. This is easily my least favorite of the “Pirates” films. I do want to watch it again at some point. Maybe it’s better the second time, but based on the collective consensus, I think most people would agree with my statement. The film looks good, sounds good, is performed decently, but they just couldn’t stick the landing. It seems as if the directors did everything they could to recapture the magic of the original movie, but as they tried to do it, they just ended up making something that would make me tune out every now and then. The vibe is okay, I just wish that it were in a better movie. Do I want to see a “Pirates 6?” I wouldn’t say no. But if we do get one, I just hope it’s better than this. I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” a 5/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” is available wherever you buy movies including DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. You can also subscribe to Disney+ and watch the movie there at your convenience.

Thanks for reading this review! Also, thanks for tuning in to my “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews” series. I hope you enjoyed reading these reviews! Speaking of Disney theme park rides, be sure to stay tuned for my eventual review of “Jungle Cruise.” It won’t be my next post, I still have to review “Snake Eyes.” But it is coming!

Also, stay tuned for August because I will be diving into a cult classic series that I often look back on, “Revenge of the Nerds.” That’s right! On August 9th, we will be doing a brand new review series titled “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review!” This means on Monday, August 9th, I will be talking about the first “Revenge of the Nerds” installment, which has become one of my more rewatched comedies in recent years. On August 16th, I’ll be discussing “Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise.” AND YES, I’ll even discuss the TV films. Look forward to my reviews of “Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation” on August 23rd and “Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love” on August 30th. I’m doing this review series, in addition to a bunch of others in honor Scene Before’s fifth anniversary. I have always wanted to do a “Revenge of the Nerds” themed month, so I cannot wait to share my thoughts on this long-awaited series. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account, and like the Facebook page, so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales?” What did you think about it? Or, give me your ranking of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films from best to worst. Which swashbuckling adventure is following its compass into the right direction? Which high-seas escape sinks into the ocean? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011): A Time of Battle, Piracy, and Three Dimensions

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today we continue sailing the high seas and venturing forth on our quest to complete the Scene Before exclusive review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” Just want to remind you, if you have not already, check out my reviews for the “Pirates” films I have covered so far including “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” and “At World’s End.” Just a reminder for the “At World’s End” review, it does contain spoilers. This week, we will be discussing “On Stranger Tides,” the fourth installment in the franchise and the first one without Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, or Gore Verbinski, otherwise known as the director of the past three films. Can director Rob Marshall craft a fine “Pirates” adventure? Find out in my review!

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is directed by Rob Marshall (Nine, Chicago) and stars Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland), Penélope Cruz (Volver, Vanilla Sky), Ian McShane (Kung Fu Panda, Deadwood), Kevin R. McNally (The Phantom of the Opera, Conspiracy), and Geoffrey Rush (Ned Kelly, Finding Nemo). This film is the fourth installment in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and follows Jack Sparrow and Barbossa as they go on a quest to find the fountain of youth. Meanwhile, franchise newcomers Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and his daughter Angelica (Penélope Cruz) are after the fountain too. The film was also interestingly enough inspired by the book, “On Stranger Tides.”

After watching three “Pirates of the Caribbean” films that are not only done by one man with a singular vision, but crafted almost as if there was a whole story that could have arguably been told in three movies of buildup. Now as we get into this fourth film, it feels like we are in a clean slate. We’re starting fresh with a new director and a ton of money. No, seriously. This film is the most expensive ever made at a grand total of $379 million (before gross). Part of it has to do with Johnny Depp, but still, if you watch the film, you’ll know that it ain’t cheap. In fact, this is also the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film released in 3D in addition to IMAX 3D. We’ll get into that aspect of the film for sure.

One of the reasons why I was somewhat nervous going into “On Stranger Tides” is that Gore Verbinski’s name was not attached. After all, his touch was complete, at least from what I would expect. However, the writers of the original films, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio returned to do this project. To know that these two returned pleased me to say the least. In a world of unneeded sequels, was “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” worth watching?

I’d say it was.

While I won’t say this film is as rewatchable as “The Curse of the Black Pearl” or “At World’s End,” the film is nevertheless a fun addition to a franchise that has become perhaps the definition of a modern pirate movie. Seriously, what else comes to mind nowadays? It was fun to see the franchise utilize one of the most famous pirates in history, Blackbeard, played wonderfully by Ian McShane. One of the things that I often note that “Pirates” does spectacularly is a balance between seriousness and goofiness. There are multiple scenes where we see Sparrow and Blackbeard together and I often note that Sparrow has the goofier traits at hand and Blackbeard is more grounded. I like that this franchise is keeping the balance together and not letting this see-saw collapse.

The best parts of this movie are not necessarily the story or anything of extended concept. The reality is that this film’s best parts come from concepts that resemble obstacles. There’s a scene where we some pirates on a boat facing a ton of mermaids, which was spooky and somewhat action-packed. There was a clip of the film where Jack and Barbossa are on a boat and they could barely move a muscle and the boat would nearly fall in such a dramatic fashion. The film also started off with a really entertaining sequence in Britain. We see Jack trying to rescue Joshamee Gibbs, he’s interacting with King George II while still maintaining his goofy stride. There’s a chaotic yet decently choreographed action sequence towards the end, it’s a fun welcoming back to the “Pirates” franchise. Meanwhile, not long afterwards, we are introduced Penélope Cruz as Angelica. I think she brought the same swift, swashbuckling swagger that say Orlando Bloom did in the original “Pirates of the Caribbean” films. This also brings me to my next compliment. I am pleased to know that this film manages to craft an interesting story despite not having Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly, who play two of my favorite characters in the franchise. Do I prefer those two over Penélope Cruz? Absolutely. They are incredible actors who play characters who I have grown to appreciate. But to know that this film, not to mention franchise, can work without them, goes to show that maybe even the most unnecessary movies can work. Did we need a fourth “Pirates of the Caribbean” film? Not really. Then again, what movie is necessary to begin with? But the point is, this movie managed to entertain me without relying on everything that made “Pirates” great to begin with. It goes to show that the franchise is capable of evolving.

Once again, I cannot go on without noting Johnny Depp, that expensive son of a gun. For the record, Depp was paid $55 million. Was his performance truly worth $55 million? As far as big fantasy style movies go, it is arguable. I am not going to address anything regarding the current controversy regarding him and Amber Heard, but I will address that Depp has practically aced his Jack Sparrow character every single time. While I think his performance in “At World’s End” may honestly be my favorite from him, his dive into the character “On Stranger Tides” does not disappoint. I’d also say that this may be, and it feels weird to say this, the most relatable that Jack Sparrow has been in the franchise. Yes, he continues revealing unusual quirks that only he could possess, but still.

“PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES” Blackbeard (Ian McShane) Photo: Peter Mountain ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Although I do want to address something. I missed this movie in the theater, and part of me regrets not going. Because this film came out during a time where 3D basically dominated the big screen. Every other movie that came out at this point in time was either shot in 3D like “Avatar” or converted to 3D like “Clash of the Titans.” In the case of “Pirates 4,” this film was shot with the Fusion Camera System, so it was filmed in 3D off the bat and did not need any conversion in post-production. First off, I wish in a world where 3D still has slight relevancy that we get more films that are actually shot for the 3D experience instead of being post-converted. Second, I feel like the 3D in “On Stranger Tides,” while somewhat pleasing to the eye, occasionally felt forced. There are a few scenes in the film where there’s swords pointing at the lens and it’s basically an invitation for viewers to take their hand out and touch it. Once again, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is the most expensive film of all time. If they spent all this money on making the film 3D for nothing more than a cheap gimmick, then what’s the point? I want to watch the film in 3D at some point. I do have the 3D Blu-ray disc, but I do not have a 3D TV. Part of me is curious as to how much the 3D could enhance the movie for me. However, the gimmick does not take much away from the fun I had watching the movie, and believe when I say that the film itself is a lot of fun. The action’s great, it’s clever, Johnny Depp is really good in it, and the cinematography is eye-popping. In fact, Dariusz Wolski, who did the cinematography for all the other “Pirates” films returned to do this one, so to say that this film looks nice is not a surprise.

In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is a fun, expensive thrill ride. Some of the original cast has returned and gave it their best. Penélope Cruz is a welcome addition to the franchise. Rob Marshall did an okay job helming the film between balancing the light and dark vibes together, crafting magnificent sequences, and delivering another great performance out of Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. Is it as memorable as some of the other films? I would not say so, but in its own way, it is a fun time, and I personally think it is better than “Dead Man’s Chest.” Was the 3D necessary? I don’t think so. But it did not take away from the enjoyment I had watching this film. I will also add, unsurprisingly, Hans Zimmer delivered a great score and I love his theme for Blackbeard. I think it is one of the best tunes in this entire franchise. I am going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” a 7/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” is now available wherever you buy movies including DVD, Blu-ray, and 3D Blu-ray. The film is also available on Disney+ and as of writing this, it is also available on Starz.

Thanks for reading this review! This concludes week 4 of 5 in the “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews” series. Next Thursday, July 29th, I will be reviewing “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” the most recent installment in the franchise. This is the last “Pirates” movie I will be discussing in preparation for another film inspired by a Disney theme park ride, “Jungle Cruise,” which will be in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access on July 30th. Expect a review for that movie soon. I might plan on seeing it opening Thursday depending on how my schedule unfolds. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie that you thought was made better by seeing it in 3D? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007): Gore Verbinski’s Swashbuckling Trilogy Comes to a Crazy End *SPOILERS*

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the third installment of the Scene Before exclusive review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” Before we begin, I want to remind everyone that if you want to read my reviews for the previous “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, you can click the highlighted links to read my thoughts on “The Curse of the Black Pearl” and “Dead Man’s Chest.” Also speaking of my reviews, click the following highlighted link to check out my review for “Black Widow.” But enough about the past. Let’s focus on the present! Well, by going back to 2007. It is time to talk about Gore Verbinski’s third, and depending on what his future career choices may be, final “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, “At World’s End!”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is directed by Gore Verbinski, who also directed the first two “Pirates of the Caribbean” films and stars Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sleepy Hollow), Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Ned Kelly), Keira Knightley (Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Bend it Like Beckham), Stellan Skarsgård (Good Will Hunting, King Arthur), Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) Chow Yun-fat (The Killer, Hard Boiled), Geoffrey Rush (Ned Kelly, Finding Nemo), Jack Davenport (This Life, Coupling) Kevin McNally (Doctor Who, Conspiracy), and Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Glengarry Glen Ross). This film is the third installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise and follows Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann as they search for Jack Sparrow. After a long, hard search, Sparrow and others must unite and form alliances to save piracy in one last battle.

If you read my reviews for the previous two “Pirates of the Caribbean” films, you’d know that I enjoyed both of them. I think the first is far better than the second, but it does not take away from some of the fun that the second does provide, especially in the second half with the kraken. One of the best parts of the second movie is the way it ended, because it left us on a cliffhanger that teased the third movie and managed to do so in an exciting way. Evidently, this was supposed to be the end of a planned trilogy given how Gore Verbinski helmed the first two films and came back to do this one. You may notice that he has not directed “On Stranger Tides” or “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” but we’ll probably talk about that more once we get to those films depending on whether or not it is truly worth addressing.

As for this third movie, a lot is riding on this between a couple films of build up, a popular IP, and a $300 million budget. Just for context, that budget is higher than all three “Lord of the Rings” films combined. This budget is higher than every “Star Wars” movie ever made. At the time this film came out, it was the most expensive movie ever made. The only movies that have ever had a higher budget are the three most recent “Avengers” movies and weirdly enough, this film’s sequel, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” Granted, this big gamble paid off, partially because it became the highest-grossing film of 2007 with a worldwide total of $960.9 million at the box office. But also because unlike another $300 million film, “Justice League,” which at times looked rather fabricated and artificial, this film maximizes the use of its bloated budget into crafting an insane finale and one dazzling sequence after another.

Of the few films that we have seen so far in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, this perhaps has my favorite opening of all of them. This is because we get a sense of the dark times ahead and a reminder that in the case of this film’s story, there is a solid chance that no pirate is safe. The film did a really good job at establishing a potential threat and made me curious to see where things could potentially go from scene one.

Although one thing that has been consistent in all three films so far is that even though there are varying dark themes and moments, they have all been balanced in this weird, but also delightful vibe where the movie is nearly unashamedly goofy. I said this has worked in the first film, it’s worked less in the second film, but in this third film, Gore Verbinski and crew did a good job at making me believe that what I was seeing could actually happen in this universe. While Jack Sparrow as a character has obviously changed from one film to the next, there are glimmers of his personality that feel permanent and signature to his character. The film has this thing where we see multiple Jacks, where in reality this is an effect of Sparrow being consumed by Davy Jones, and it is almost the most “Jack Sparrow” thing to happen in this franchise yet.

Speaking of which, I may be beating a dead horse, but when it comes to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Jack Sparrow, there is no denying his abilities to encapsulate a character like this. Despite being a live-action movie, Depp’s performances in this franchise have always had some feel of hyperactive animation within them. This is not a bad thing, nor is it too surprising considering how this comes from the Disney brand, where goofiness and lightheartedness has been known as one of their strengths, but I find it fascinating how we have this dark, intense, PG-13 film and one of the first things that comes to mind is a character as goofy as Jack Sparrow, and I mean that as a positive. If “The Princess Bride” were made today and turned into a trilogy, Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies would be quite the comparative.

But oh my gawd. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT THE CLIMAX. HOLY F*CKEROO ON A S*ITFACE CRACKER IS IT EVER EXCITING! As mentioned before, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” has a production budget of $300 million, making it one of the most expensive films ever made, and it freaking delivered! The final hour of this movie, while not part of one of the best movies I have ever seen, has to be one of the most exciting things I can remember seeing in cinema. This is a big budget battle for the ages. So much is happening at once between people swinging in the air, Sparrow and Jones duking it out on a ledge with swords, character arcs coming full circle in satisfying ways, Calypso going crazy and intensifying things even further, and perhaps the craziest marriage proposal I have seen EVER.

SPOILER ALERT, although this movie is over a decade old, so who cares? Will Turner proposes to Elizabeth Swann. The two have been love interests since the first movie and there is a point where these two are fighting for their lives and could potentially die any second. Will Turner just pops the question and it is followed by Elizabeth Swann reasonably asking, “Do you think now is the best time?!” Guess what, in just a split second, Barbossa is right in front of them OFFICIATING A WEDDING! It may just be the most wonderfully insane, romantic, and flat out fantastical thing I have seen in cinematic history. I know some weddings can be crazy. Tell me the last time two people were wed like this! For the record, swords are flying in these two people’s faces, another ship is attacking the ship they’re on, and if that’s not enough, they’re in a freaking whirlpool! BEST. WEDDING. EVER.

If there is ever a film that I think my mind will positively dart to as wonderfully expensive, and not just going balls to the wall with the budget just because it can, this would probably be the one. Well, maybe this and “Avengers: Endgame.” Granted, it is not perfect. Like the other two films, it is long, but I also will say that the pacing for this film is arguably the best in the franchise given how little boredom I’ve had in a near 3 hour runtime. This film is everything a movie like this should be on the surface. Dark, silly, and fun! And by the end of it, the whole thing becomes a rollercoaster. Both literally and emotionally.

I also want to note this scene, which may just be this franchise’s greatest exchange yet.

This is accurate! This is spectacular!

In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is an extended but thrilling conclusion to Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy. If anything, the big question on my mind is which film am I more likely to watch again? “The Curse of the Black Pearl” or “At World’s End?” Because I really like both movies for different reasons. I feel like as a story I will go back to watch “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” It is finely tuned from start to finish with great characters. “At World’s End” has an okay story too, but by the end of it, it is more focused on spectacle than anything else, which is not a bad thing because the spectacle is bloody fantastic. I mean seriously! The budget for “At World’s End” is more than double what it cost to make “The Curse of the Black Pearl” and somehow it does not feel like a gimmick. Granted, I’m sure the actors like Johnny Depp had something to do with it, but still. The movie earns its budget, and by the end, it therefore earns my respect. Technically speaking, this film is wonderful from the effects to the framing to Hans Zimmer’s score, it is all worth my three hours. For that, I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” a 7/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” is now available wherever you buy movies including DVD and Blu-ray and you can also watch it on Disney+.

Thanks for reading this review! Now that we’ve finished talking about Gore Verbinski’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy, it is time to move onto a new director, Rob Marshall, as he takes on “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” which stands today as the most expensive film ever produced. Is it truly worth the money? Find out in my fourth installment of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews,” coming Thursday, July 22nd.

Also, I want to remind everyone that next week I will have a review up for “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” starring LeBron James, the long-awaited sequel to the 1996 original starring Michael Jordan. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End?” What did you think about it? Or, of the three Gore Verbinski “Pirates” films, which is your favorite? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006): Jack Sparrow Goes Bigger, and the Rules Get Dumber

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Welcome to the second entry of the Scene Before exclusive review series, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!” Today, we will be diving into the second film in the franchise, “Dead Man’s Chest.” If you read my review for “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” you’d know that I had a lot of fun with that film. It’s a solid mix of old fashioned Disney vibes mixed in with some darker and more mature elements to create something special. Can this sequel capture the same feeling that I got from the original? Here’s my review!

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is directed by Gore Verbinski, who also directed the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. This sequel once again stars Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood) as Jack Sparrow alongside Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Ned Kelly), Keira Knightley (Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Bend it Like Beckham), Stellan Skarsgård (Good Will Hunting, King Arthur), Bill Nighy (Shaun of the Dead, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Jack Davenport (This Life, Coupling), Kevin McNally (Doctor Who, Conspiracy), and Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Glengarry Glen Ross). This film once again follows Jack Sparrow as he embarks on a quest to find the heart of Davy Jones to avoid enslaving himself to his service. Meanwhile, others are after the heart as well, but for their own reasons.

I really enjoyed the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. It’s pretty to look at, it’s fun to watch, it is overall simply crafted with a sense of sheer magnificence. Gore Verbinski did a good job at not just making a great film that I will likely watch again in the future, but also finding a fine line between genius and stupid. In my review for “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” I pointed out that if anything, the film is essentially a modern day version of “The Princess Bride” because it is a great watch for both kids and adults, it’s got terrific sword fights, and both films seem to place themselves in a position where they can be goofy while also realizing it can be smart. When it comes to Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, I will stand by him being perfectly cast, and his presence in this sequel certainly proves my point. Jack Sparrow feels like a role that only someone like Johnny Depp can play. I cannot imagine anyone else taking on this role after watching these two films.

Unfortunately, this sequel is not as good as the original, as the old saying goes. However, it is not a bad movie. The second half is what kept my attention. This is not to say that the first half was bad, but compared to the second, it is kind of forgettable. On top of that, the one specific part that I remember most from the first half is perhaps the film’s biggest deterrent. In the current post-modern era, there is a tendency from studios, distributors, and producers to constantly create content that lacks originality. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing. In case of these first two “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, I’d say it’s a good thing, but it does not mean it is perfect.

As you may or may not know, this property started out as a theme park ride. A lot of movies these days tend to have a theme park-like experience. The Marvel movies are varying visual feasts for the eyes and ears. The “Fast & Furious” movies are ridiculous in concept and crazy in execution because of their messing with physics and what could be done with supercharged cars. In fact, “F9” honestly took that theme park-esque experience a little too far for me to continually suspend my disbelief. Honestly, I do not know where the next “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies are going to go, but part of me worries that they’re going to go down the same path that “Fast & Furious” followed since the fourth movie. Now to be clear, I am not saying that every “Fast & Furious” has sucked since the fourth one. The only installment I hated since the fourth one is “F9.” But the reason why I hated “F9” is because each film manages to surpass the last in some degree of absurdity that it is too much for my brain to handle. There’s one or two scenes in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” where Jack Sparrow arguably should have been seriously injured or dead, but he isn’t! He walks off every other incident as if nothing happened! I am keeping an open mind at this point given how this is a fantasy film, but this is nevertheless something that does irk me internally. The first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film, even though it was a bit ridiculous, it still felt like there were rules. In “Dead Man’s Chest,” there is less verisimilitude and a greater sense of absurdity.

This complaint does not take anything away from the fun that I had.

Throughout, the film has a lot of the strengths that the first one has. Some great lead characters. No seriously, I love Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom when they’re put together. I think they would make a great pair for a buddy cop movie one day. The visuals are breathtaking and hold up fifteen years later. In fact, I am not totally surprised considering how this film happened to win the Best Visual Effects Oscar for the year it came out. The entire encounter with the kraken is worth the watch alone. Keira Knightley is back as Elizabeth Swann and I really liked seeing her here too. There’s this funny scene towards the end of the film where Sparrow is supposedly flirting with her and her reactions to this are one of the better parts of the movie.

As for new characters, this movie adds Naomie Harris as Tia Dalma, and I think she was a perfect addition to this movie. She has this fantastical presence to her that could only work in a movie like this. I’m not gonna lie, by the end of the movie, I almost had a crush on the character. Naomie Harris shines as this mysterious being who used to be a sea goddess, Calypso specifically, and her voice is perfect for someone who helps someone else who happens to be trying to fulfill their destiny. I like this character and of the many supporting characters this franchise has introduced so far, this one was perfectly cast.

Without spoiling anything, I also really like the way they end the film. It is exciting, thrilling, and gets me stoked to see the third movie the more I think about it. I feel like Gore Verbinski is really passionate about everything that he has put to screen in these first two films and he has a serious idea on the direction to take the third film. They got a couple of the writers who worked on the first film to come back as well. Something tells me they all work very well together and love what they do. I am very excited to see where they go from here.

In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is worth a watch, but compared to “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” it is not exactly as Shakespearean. “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” despite being in the fantasy genre like “Dead Man’s Chest,” seemed to acknowledge that there were some rules that had to be followed. Maybe if I were a young kid watching this I’d let the absurdity of the film fly over my head, but at this point, it didn’t, and it is a reason why the movie lost some points. Nevertheless this is a serviceable sequel with a kick-ass second half. I cannot wait for the third movie, part of me thinks that it will be better than this one. I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” a 6/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” is available wherever you buy movies including DVD and Blu-ray, and you can also watch the film on Disney+.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week we dive into the deep waters of world’s end! My review for “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” will be available on Thursday, July 15th! Stay tuned!

This weekend I have a couple new posts coming your way including a brand new installment to the CINEOLOGY podcast, where I am once again joined by my good friend Millie as we talk movies. Also, I will have a review up for one of the biggest movies of the summer, “Black Widow!” The film drops in theaters and on Disney+ this weekend, I’ve already got my tickets, and I cannot wait to share my thoughts on this movie that we REALLY should have gotten three or four years ago! I cannot wait to see this! I love Marvel! I love Scarlett Johansson! I love the fact that we are getting big movies again! The experience will hopefully be worth the wait! If you want to see this and more on Scene Before follow either with an email or WordPress account or check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite Johnny Depp film? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003): Jack Drees Reviews Jack Sparrow

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is time for a brand new review series that will extend all the way to the end of July, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CHEST OF REVIEWS! Today we will be focusing on the first movie in the franchise, “The Curse of the Black Pearl.” Unlike the previous series of old movie reviews done on Scene Before, otherwise known as the 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS series, I have much less familiarity with the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. So for a few of these movies, I will be getting a fresh take. Without further ado, let’s dive into my review for “The Curse of the Black Pearl.”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is directed by Gore Verbinski (The Mexican, The Ring) and stars Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Ed Wood), Geoffrey Rush (The Devil’s Rejects, Double Impact), Orlando Bloom (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Ned Kelly), Keira Knightley (Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Bend it Like Beckham), and Jonathan Pryce (Brazil, Glengarry Glen Ross). This film is based on a Disney theme park ride and follows Jack Sparrow, an eccentric captain who joins forces with blacksmith Will Turner to save Elizabeth Turner, otherwise known as the governor’s daughter, and fend off some undead pirate allies.

My first time watching “The Curse of the Black Pearl” occurred when I was eight years old. I just came back from a trip to Disney World, and one of the more fun memories I had on that trip was getting to experience the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Naturally, it would only make sense that days later I would make the trip to my local Blockbuster and rent “The Curse of the Black Pearl” on DVD. I watched it once, and of course, since I had no concept of what a good or bad movie really was, I just took it as it went. Prior to this review, I have not watched “The Curse of the Black Pearl” since that Blockbuster rental period. Not even for fun. I have pretty much avoided the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise altogether. I had nothing against it. But it was just something I never dedicated my time towards. To me it is like “Game of Thrones.” I have not seen one episode, but I am trying to find a single time I can get myself in the mood to watch it. But, having owned the Blu-ray for a number of years, I figured now would be a good opportunity to utilize it. After all, I figured this would be one of the few review series I would tackle in honor of Scene Before’s fifth anniversary. So was my dive into Caribbean piracy worth it?

I’d say it was. I can see why people love this movie. It is fun, it’s nearly campy even though it does have a sense where it kind of takes itself seriously, and the actors are great in it from Johnny Depp to Orlando Bloom to Keira Knightley. This is also the first Disney feature to be rated PG-13, and I’d say that this was a solid introduction to slight maturity. The action in the film is pristine, seeing the chemistry between Jack Sparrow and Will Turner was a treat, and having seen this film in the 2020s, I do want to point out that looking back, I can see why Johnny Depp seemed like a good Willy Wonka on paper. Say what you want about the end result of that role. But Jack Sparrow was written with great balance of goofiness and seriousness that combine for a recipe of greatness.

To me, Jack Sparrow sort of reminded me of the very objective that Disney seems to pull off with its younger viewers. You know how kids often pretend to be their favorite characters or they’ll buy merch related to them or costumes overtime to play as them? You’ll see young girls as Cinderella or young boys playing with their Buzz Lightyear action figure? I felt like, even though we get that slice of seriousness within Jack Sparrow’s character, he’s almost like a young kid who really wants to be a pirate, but he does not understand the full gig so he just improvises in almost every other step. If anything, I think this is a good way to get younger viewers attached while balancing that PG-13 rating for the more mature viewers.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is between Depp and Bloom as they’re engaging in a duel. I’m watching this scene and it sort of takes me back to why I love “Star Wars” so much because it is a film that manages to find that fine line where almost anyone could end up watching it and enjoying it. This duel from the first half hour or so is a perfect combination of establishing your characters, what they want, what they need, and showing off their personalities. Jack Sparrow has this weirdly suave outlook to him because in actuality, he’s a flawed character, but he does the best he can to hide said flaws. It kind of reminds me of that show on HBO, “Avenue 5,” where we see main character, Ryan Clark, who is the captain of a ship, but he gets by as the captain more because of his personality rather than actually knowing any of the technical details that go into running a ship. Sparrow, from what I can suggest, is smarter than Ryan Clark on “Avenue 5,” but they share a tendency to establish themselves with their personality before anything else.

One more thing I want to point out, and I cannot go on without mentioning this, because I think anyone who has ever heard of “Pirates of the Caribbean” will get one thought in their head aside from Jack Sparrow and swashbuckling adventures, the theme music.

The music in “Pirates of the Caribbean” is too good for words. It is one of the best movie themes ever created. It is up there with “Lord of the Rings,” “Star Wars,” and “Inception” in terms of how epic and iconic the “Pirates of the Caribbean” theme truly is. I can imagine myself driving my car into the ocean and listening to this until I inevitably realize that I am a terrible driver and need to reconsider whatever the heck it is that I’m doing. Klaus Badelt, you’re a mastermind.

If I had any major flaws with “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” it would probably be that some of the supporting characters are somewhat forgettable. It’s like in “The Hobbit” where you have so many of them that it is difficult to keep track of them all. Plus Sparrow outshines them all significantly. Granted, he’s the lead, but it is still something to bring up. Other than that, this movie is a great first attempt for Disney making a PG-13 feature. If anything, I’d say that “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is a modern day “The Princess Bride.” Say what you want about the film’s timelessness, that is up for debate. But the film is great for both kids and adults, it’s got hypnotizing sword fights, and it does not always take itself seriously, which is not a bad thing. “Pirates” is a bit more serious than “Bride,” but it is worth noting that there is almost a tonal consistency from one film to the other despite being set in different universes.

In the end, “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is in a word… Fun. It’s good ol’ fashioned Disney fun for a slightly more mature audience. I often make fun of Disney because nowadays it almost feels as if they don’t have a single original idea in their tank. In fact, this whole review series is being done because Disney is coming out with “Jungle Cruise” in just a few weeks, which like this movie, is based on a theme park ride. But as much as I make fun of Disney for never going after original ideas with the exception of maybe Pixar, I will give them credit for movies like this where they take a concept that already exists and end up going balls to the wall with it. In short, I really enjoyed “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” I think Johnny Depp was perfectly cast as Jack Sparrow, and I am looking forward to talking about the sequels, even though I hear that they are not as good as this movie. I’m going to give “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” an 8/10.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” is available wherever you buy movies including DVD and Blu-ray, and you can also watch it on Disney+.

Thanks for reading this review! Next week I will be reviewing “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.” That review will be up on Thursday, July 8th, and stay tuned for more in the ongoing Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews series! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite PG-13 film from Disney? Yes, I’ll even count Lucasfilm, Marvel, or even any of the Fox stuff they own now. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015): The Biggest Blast in the Galaxy

Hey everyone! Jack Drees here! It is the final day in the epic Scene Before event, 7 Days of Star Wars! We finished the prequel trilogy! We finished the original trilogy! And now, it is time for the sequel trilogy! Now as you may or may not know, I already reviewed “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker” on this blog before. Therefore, I will not be diving into those movies here because doing so would be somewhat repetitive. And if you are unfamiliar with the “Star Wars” franchise by any means, this implies that today I would be talking about “The Force Awakens.” This film has been one of the most impactful I have ever seen in my life. It is the only movie I have watched four times in the theater. It is the first film that I bought on Blu-ray in Steelbook form. And like many people, it revitalized my interest in “Star Wars.” Not to say I wasn’t interested before, but it practically gave me “Star Wars” fever in the same way that the original movie did to people back in 1977. The question is… Does it hold up five and a half years later? It is time to find out in the final episode of a miniseries I’m calling… 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Super 8) and stars Harrison Ford (The Fugitive, Air Force One), Mark Hamill (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Batman: The Animated Series), Carrie Fisher (The Blues Brothers, Family Guy), Adam Driver (Lincoln, Girls), Daisy Ridley (Silent Witness, Casualty), John Boyega (Attack the Block, 24: Live Another Day), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina, Sucker Punch), Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave, Non-Stop), Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), Domhnall Gleeson (Ex Machina, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1), Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Max von Sydow (Minority Report, Flash Gordon). This film is set 30 years after “Return of the Jedi” and follows a group of people trying to seek the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi. At the same time, an ex-stormtrooper, a desert scavenger, and a BB droid must unite with Han Solo and Chewbacca to search for said Jedi all the while dealing with the currently enormous threat to the galaxy, the First Order, which is in control of the Death Star planet hybrid, Starkiller Base.

Imagine this… You are a mega fan of “Star Wars.” You saw all the movies. It’s been ten years since the prequels came out, when it seemed as if this franchise was done for good. But since Disney bought Lucasfilm, they’ve had plans to expand it since. This is where “The Force Awakens” comes in. Maybe one thing comes to mind, and that one thing is hype. After all, the trailers seem to promise a sense of direction that relates more to what we’ve experienced in the original films as opposed to the prequels, which have seemed to divide fans over the years. I think the hype that has been built up going into “The Force Awakens” is almost unlike any movie I’ve seen in my life aside from “Avengers: Endgame.” For the record, I think only one “Star Wars” movie surpassed “The Force Awakens” in terms of all time hype, specifically “The Phantom Menace,” but I was not born yet. But in the time that I’ve been alive, I remember the feeling I had going into “The Force Awakens.” I bought tickets in advance for what would end up being my SECOND screening of the film, which was for Tuesday December 29th, when I went to see the movie with my father. My first screening was purchased around the weekend it came out, amazingly there were still tickets available. I went with a few people I know, including one of my close friends who was mainly a Trekkie, but she watched the original films in preparation for this event and she enjoyed them. The hype was F*CKING REAL. Was “The Force Awakens” worth all that hype? Or was it something that would let me down in the end?

You bet it was worth the hype. And having rewatched it in preparation for this review, if anything, it has gotten better since my first viewing. I will admit, part of it may be because I watched it for the first time in a while, whereas in a year like 2016 I would watch it almost every other night over the spring, so it almost maintains a feeling of freshness, but this is a film that evokes the feeling of excitement. If the prequels have style and the originals have substance, then “The Force Awakens” probably has both! When this film came out, it was by far one of the most presentable “Star Wars” films yet. Granted, a lot of it has to do with maybe a greater sense of detail that has been built up over the years and better effects. But I look back at the original “Star Wars” and also notice that in this film, they do a lot more movement with the camera and attempt to make this newer installment slightly more immersive. The flight sequences in “The Force Awakens” are probably the most dazzling in the franchise. We see the camera attached to the side of an X-Wing, maybe we’re inside an X-Wing, maybe we’re flying in the air and the camera goes through an explosion as we head into it. There is a lot to love in this film in terms of flight. And it’s not just the craft we fly like TIE Fighters and X-Wings, but the characters we meet along the way.

Poe Dameron : What’s your name?

Finn : FN-2187.

Poe Dameron : F… What?

Finn : That’s the only name they ever gave me.

Poe Dameron : Well, I ain’t usin’ it. FN, huh? Finn, I’m going to call you Finn. Is that alright?

Finn : Finn. Yeah. Finn. I like that. I like that.

Poe Dameron : I’m Poe. Poe Dameron!

Finn : Good to meet you, Poe!

Poe Dameron : Good to meet you too Finn!

The scene where Finn an Poe first meet is up there with one of my favorites in the franchise. Because after a series of three movies where we see semi-unrelatable Jedi who almost have no emotion whatsoever, we get these two individuals who let out any single sense of emotion they have within them. There’s this moment where Finn takes out a couple cannons on a Stardestroyer and the next thing we see is them cheering out of satisfaction. Finn just lets himself loose and Poe soon joins in. They’re having the time of their lives. While it is noticeable that Anakin and Obi-Wan have become good friends over the years, they honestly don’t feel like “buds” or actual people with things in common other than the Jedi way. These two in just a matter of moments let out more emotion than we’ve seen in a couple of entire prequel movies.

In fact, that is something I really want to talk about. This movie, much to my delight, goes into a direction that truly humanizes “Star Wars.” And it is not to say that the series has not done that already. “A New Hope” is about being a larger than life individual and the steps that a hero takes to get to that larger than life status. But here, they go as far as to humanize Stormtroopers, who we find out are actual people who can remove their helmets. To be fair, this should not be TOO surprising, as Darth Vader had a helmet that could be removed, but it is something that at least in the movies, has never been seen in “Star Wars” before. There is a scene Finn removes his helmet and we see his pain, his exasperation. He just finished his first battle and he is clearly not thrilled with what he has witnessed. I feel like writers J.J. Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt were in a room together and constantly asked each other what ways they could evoke more actual human emotion into the franchise, because they not only manage to do that with something as robotic as Stormtroopers, but with the brand new villain, who I would argue is my favorite of the Disney “Star Wars” characters, Kylo Ren.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

When it comes to “Star Wars,” Darth Vader is seen as the biggest of all baddies. That is written in stone. None of the prequel villains like Darth Maul ever surpassed Vader’s legacy in terms of how they were represented in the movies. There are days that I look at Kylo Ren however, and see something in him that makes him come off as more likable than Vader. And I’ll tell you why… He’s not exactly fearsome. He talks a good game. He wields a sparkly red lightsaber that almost looks like it’s on life support, but somehow it looks pretty badass. He stops blaster bolts with the force, which provides for one of my favorite shots of the film where we see Poe getting dragged to Kylo by a couple troopers. But he is so busy fanboying over Vader’s legacy, trying to be him or surpass him. After all, as people, we all look up to someone and hope their qualities that we may take from them will lead to a successful path in life. And Kylo kind of reminds me of myself a little because he sometimes will lose his temper and take his anger out on electronic devices. He kind of feels like an angry gamer playing “Cuphead” and he can’t make it past the one boss that will lead you to the next island. It’s HILARIOUS. I don’t know how this statement will be received… But aside from Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren may be the character in the “Star Wars” franchise that I relate to the most. Feels weird to say, but it is true. In fact, that is part of the humanization of this film that really stands out, the humor. “Star Wars” is one of those franchises that comes off as funny to me without the characters exactly being funny. That has stood true in films like “The Empire Strikes Back.” But this film takes the humor to another level.

Poe Dameron : Wha- why? Why are you helping me?

Finn : Because it’s the right thing to do.

Poe Dameron : You need a pilot.

Finn : [chagrined]  I need a pilot.

There is so much that goes on in this film in terms of attempts at comedy that honestly don’t feel forced. They feel like a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie where every humorous quote blends naturally into the conversation or scene. Every shining character from Finn to Han to Chewbacca to Rey has at least funny moment in the film, even if it is minor or something that could be glossed over. And speaking of Rey, let’s talk about her.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

I went into “The Force Awakens” during my initial screening thinking I’d like Rey, but after multiple rewatches, I practically admired the character more and more. Kind of like Luke Skywalker was, she seemed somewhat hesitant to go on her journey, but also like Luke, it made the character somewhat relatable. She was emotional, sometimes giddy, observant of her surroundings, and she has great chemistry with Finn. I think the first three to five minutes with her are some of my favorite in recent “Star Wars” history because it comes without any dialogue, at least none out of her specifically, and in those moments, I have practically learned the base of what I need to know about her. She lives in a slightly ruined, but also civilized desert, she lives by herself and makes the most of what she has, but she’s looking for an escape at the same time. This is well established by her exiting her unusual home, sitting in the sand, and watching a spacecraft fly up. She clearly longs for a way out of her life and the movie did a great job at encapsulating that.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

But this film is not all about the new characters. Because these new characters get to journey alongside Han Solo and Chewbacca, and every time I watch this movie, I think Han Solo gives a good performance, but it is arguably his worst when it comes to this specific character. Maybe it’s because the character is not in their prime and seeing a grizzly Han admittedly takes a little getting used to, but it’s nice to know Harrison Ford is still going strong in these films. As for Chewbacca, he is played by two people. In some scenes, he is portrayed by Peter Mayhew, and in others he is played by Joonas Suotomo. It’s nice to see Han and Chewie back together because I think their relationship, and this was also highlighted in the “Solo” spinoff movie, has been one of the franchise’s biggest standouts. To see them both together feels natural and fun. There’s also a great gag where Han Solo tries out Chewbacca’s gun, and he seems to be quite impressed with it. Admittedly, as fun as it is in the movie, one SLIGHT nitpick I have with that, and it is a very small one, it does not take too much away from the film itself. It feels very weird to know that in the extended number of years that they’ve known each other, Han has supposedly never tried Chewbacca’s gun out. Maybe there’s a reason. Maybe it’s the typical instinct thing that Wookies have that kind of makes them go wild. I mean, if Chewbacca can tear off somebody’s limbs after losing a friendly match of a holographic game on the Millennium Falcon, or as LEGO Batman calls it, “Space Checkers,” you can only wonder what would happen if somebody touches his gun. Then again, he probably trusts Han after many years of standing by each other. Who knows? Just something I wanted to bring up.

We also have Leia, who as of this movie, has been deemed a “Disney Princess.” But in this movie, we see that she and Han, somewhat unsurprisingly, have stuck around over the years. And I will admit, when it comes to “The Force Awakens,” the first scene that we see of her and Han in the same frame is the one that arguably gets me the most nostalgic about the “Star Wars” franchise aside from Han admiring the Falcon cockpit and Han referring back to the old days where he remembers his skepticism about the Jedi and how his thoughts have changed since. And speaking of nostalgia, let’s dive a little further into it.

“Star Wars” has become part of many people’s lives. And for lots of them, their first exposure was the original movie, which is phenomenal even by today’s standards. “The Force Awakens,” according to many people, feels like a ripoff of “A New Hope.” To me, I do not like to use that word. Because to call it a ripoff would mean that I did not like the movie. To me, this film took the plot lines of “A New Hope,” tinkered with them, and successfully made an extremely effective picture. To me, “The Force Awakens” is more like a homage and tribute to what makes the franchise great than anything else. “Star Wars” has always been revered mainly because of the success of the original trilogy. People like it for other things too, but mainly the original trilogy. So I have a feeling that J.J. Abrams or Lawrence Kasdan or Kathleen Kennedy wanted to consider the people who did not like the prequels, and give them something that they’re probably more likely to enjoy. And to do that, there was a sense of nostalgia every other step of the way between X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Death Stars, characters we already knew from prior films, and so on. In a way, this is basically a VERY WELL DONE “Star Wars” greatest hits album. It takes everything people like about “Star Wars” and puts them all into a beautiful package. And I’m surprised that people feel like this movie is too familiar. Yes, some of the story beats are similar to the original trilogy. There’s a big planet killer, a guy with a red lightsaber and helmet that wants to destroy the galaxy, there’s someone else with a blue lightsaber trying to save the galaxy, there’s a space battle towards the end, there’s a scene where the Millennium Falcon gets caught in a tractor beam. There’s a lot that this film takes from entries prior. But I’d say that it is, as people say, similar to the original “Star Wars,” and I’ll add, it comes with a hint of darkness from “The Empire Strikes Back” sprinkled in between. There’s even blood in this movie! I like that little detail they added in!

If anything, and I say this as a huge fan of “Revenge of the Sith,” this feels like a “Star Wars” reunion party that has been built up for years. One that in a way, semi-apologizes for the prequels. Disney is the host, the mass audiences are all invited in, we go to the theater, head to the auditorium, and once that opening crawl commences and we get to the nitty gritty of the film, the movie is basically screaming “WELCOME BACK!” to all of our faces. This film is most certainly nostalgic to the tenth degree, but manages to interweave that nostalgia with a brand new story and set of characters that I have grown to admire over a couple of hours.

One last thing before we get to the final verdict. I really need to know this. If John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, or anyone else who worked on the film can confirm, I have a question about… This scene. Because I think I may have interpreted it much differently than a lot of other people who saw the movie.

In this moment, is BB-8 giving a thumbs up or is he flipping Finn off? I know the video title goes with the former, but still! When I saw this film at the theater, I always thought BB-8 was flipping Finn off. After all, when you present a light of fire at somebody, it almost signals a threat. Besides, BB-8 originally tried to electrocute Finn on Jakku. And yes, he’s kind of warmed up to him, but it’s almost like BB-8 smells a rat and is telling Finn, “I’m onto you.” At least that is what my interpretation is of what is going on. So if anyone involved with Lucasfilm or “The Force Awakens” could confirm this to me, please do.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm 2015

In the end, “The Force Awakens” puts the fun back in “Star Wars” after years of emotionless movies with somewhat dull characters. We now have humanized individuals, including the big bad villain who unlike Vader, is much more man than he is machine. If anything, this almost reminds me of an animated film because you know how in animated films like “The Lion King” or “A Bug’s Life” they’ll take creatures that are not human and personify them by giving them human voices? This reminds me of that because they took characters like Stormtroopers and others who are robotic and gave them all personalities. Every single character in this film feels like they have some understanding of the human condition and have at least a single ounce of relatability. The film looks amazing and one of my nerdy pieces of nostalgia I’ll bring to the table, this movie was shot in 35mm, although there is one sequence, specifically the escape from Jakku, that was shot on IMAX film, which was marvelous to watch on the IMAX screen the two times I saw it in that format. Plus there is also footage shot with an Arri Alexa XT. The film is funny, it’s happy, sad, everything in between. It has everything I could want in a “Star Wars” movie. Is it familiar? Sure, but again, familiarity in this case is not a weakness. For this movie in particular, it is used as a technique to get us to appreciate the joys of the past in “Star Wars” while also looking to the future. When I first reflected on the film, my one hope was that when Episode VIII comes out, it is not a copy-paste of “The Empire Strikes Back,” because this copy-paste technique worked in the favor of “The Force Awakens,” as it was trying to remind people what “Star Wars” *is*, but the next film also had to differentiate itself from what came before in the franchise.

Well… It was different alright. But it doesn’t mean it was great.

I walked out of “The Force Awakens” as a 16 year old geek in 2016 with a feeling that could only be described as orgasmic, and each time I watch the film, I enjoy it as much as the first. I’m going to give “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” a 10/10.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” did everything it should have done and more. It made me feel like a kid again in the best possible way. This movie is so good, that I almost forgot to put in my obligatory statement where I appreciate John Williams’s score. And by the way, John Williams killed the score in this film, if you must know. I love his theme for the Resistance, Rey’s theme is soft and smooth, and Kylo Ren’s jingle has been catchy since early viewings of the film.

Much like the original trilogy, “The Force Awakens” has an insane replay value. I saw it four times in the theater, many more times on home video. In fact, I’d watch it almost every other night in April, May, and June of 2016, and I’d occasionally watch it on television. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a fantastic setup for what was to come. Unfortunately, what came after was not so fantastic, and I say that despite giving “The Last Jedi” a positive review. I was in a much different mindset when I saw the movie compared to long after it. That’s the power of thinking things over and watching a movie a second time.

Thanks for reading this review! This concludes the 7 Days of “Star Wars” event! I want to thank everyone for reading this review, along with those who read my reviews for Episodes I through VI. If you want to read any of my other “Star Wars” movie reviews, I have links for them down below. I have always wanted to talk about these movies to an extensive length, and I finally got the chance to do it, so I hope you enjoyed reading these reviews as much as I enjoyed making them, even if it did take a lot of time for me to sit down and complete, but it was worth it. I do have plenty of reviews for new movies coming soon including “Wrath of Man,” “Army of the Dead,” and “A Quiet Place Part II.” I do apologize if I end up getting these out somewhat late, but I have mainly been focused on the 7 Days of Star Wars event in regard to my recent goings on here at Scene Before. Therefore, everything else has been put on the backburner. Although I am also excited to announce that I will soon be doing another Blu-ray collection update. In all likelihood, this will be done in June, but depending on my schedule and how things go in life, I may end up doing it in July.

I also will share with you that my next review series, which is being done in preparation for the Disney ride to film adaptation “Jungle Cruise.” This series is going to be focused on “Pirates of the Caribbean.” I have admittedly not watched these movies in YEARS. I have also never seen even a minute of the fourth and fifth installments, and I don’t think I have any memory of watching the third one either. I could be wrong though. Find out my thoughts on all five sea adventures this July in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews.” Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account or like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Star Wars: The Force Awakens?” What did you think about it? And I’ll end with three more questions… One, what is your favorite “Star Wars” film? Two, what film have you seen the most times in the theater? And three, what is your favorite franchise continuation or reboot? And I don’t just mean sequel, I mean a sequel that has been long-awaited like “Jurassic World” or “Mad Max: Fury Road” or “Blade Runner 2049.” Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

May the force be with you. Emphasis on the May.

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ATTACK OF THE CLONES: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/24/star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-2002-a-revisit-to-my-first-star-wars-movie/

REVENGE OF THE SITH: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/25/star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-the-sith-2005-my-favorite-star-wars-prequel-ever/

STAR WARS/A NEW HOPE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/26/star-wars-1977-an-ageless-adventure/

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/27/the-empire-strikes-back-1980-i-love-you/

RETURN OF THE JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/28/return-of-the-jedi-1983-i-see-the-good/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

Return of the Jedi (1983): I See the Good

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! It is day 6 of 7 in 7 Days of Star Wars, and today we will be finishing the original trilogy reviews! We’ve already talked about 1977’s “Star Wars,” 1980’s “The Empire Strikes Back,” so by process of elimination, it only makes sense that today we talk about 1983’s “Return of the Jedi.” When it comes to “Star Wars,” my childhood was quite a weird one. Because regarding the original trilogy, I saw “The Empire Strikes Back” first, and I ended up watching “Return of the Jedi” before “A New Hope.” But then again, I was of single-digit ages and I did not care what order I watched these movies in as long as things moved on a screen. But as an adult, much like the other two films in the original trilogy, I should note that as I picked up certain things and opened my imagination a little more, my appreciation for “Return of the Jedi” only grew. We will dive into this during the review.

It is time for the penultimate entry to the epic Scene Before saga, a miniseries I’m calling… 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!

“Return of the Jedi” is directed by Richard Marquand and stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, and Frank Oz. This film is the final installment in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. Taking place one year after the end of “The Empire Strikes Back,” our heroes journey to Jabba’s Palace to retrieve Han Solo, who has previously been frozen in carbonite. After a daring adventure, the rebels are tasked with destroying a second Death Star, this time set above the moon of Endor, where tiny, furry creatures known as Ewoks reside.

Okay… When it comes to the original trilogy, I was excited to talk about “A New Hope.” I was arguably even more excited to talk about “The Empire Strikes Back.” But after watching “Return of the Jedi,” I think I became absolutely freaking stoked to talk about what I saw. Much like quite a few other movies in this 7 Days of Star Wars series, I have watched this film countless times on physical media and television. So this should already tell you what I think of this movie.

I will be straight up with you. Regardless of what I think about “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” both of which are technically beautiful and marvelously written masterpieces, I’d say that “Return of the Jedi” had the biggest impact on me of the three original films. Some of my best memories of watching “Star Wars” as a kid harken back to some of my earliest viewings of “Return of the Jedi.” It is a film that I would stop every once in a while to watch when it is on TV too. To this day, I can say that like some of my favorite films, which I will not list for the sake of time, this is a film that gets better the more I watch it. But I will say, and this won’t affect my score, it is probably by far the worst of the “special editions” between Jedi Rocks, the odd-looking CGI creatures in Jabba’s Palace, and Darth Vader’s “no” scream towards the end of the film.

Let’s dive into the tone of the movie, but before we do, I want to point out to those who are not in the know, to me, “A New Hope” is a lighthearted space adventure. “The Empire Strikes Back” maintains a lot of elements that made “A New Hope” great but also dives into a route of depression to give itself a new flair. “Return of the Jedi,” is honestly somewhere in between. It has the lightheartedness and excitement of “A New Hope,” not to mention a Death Star, but also some darkness that you’d find in “The Empire Strikes Back.” We see our heroes’ journeys and where they have led to at this point. Many of the characters we have come to know in the previous films maintain their admirability and charisma here in this installment. In fact, remember how in the other two films in the trilogy, I mentioned Luke Skywalker was a whiner? Not anymore! He’s a Jedi Knight now, not to mention one of the most badass individuals in the galaxy. He’s got a green lightsaber, which probably helped sell more toys for a period of time. From the first scene he’s in, I have gotten the sense that I DO NOT want to f*ck with Skywalker. He just steps into Jabba’s Palace, walks up to a couple guards and chokes them. It is a truly bold sight for the eyes. “Return of the Jedi” easily has the most likable version of Luke because he is still a great pilot like he was in the previous two films, but now he has gone from occasional whiner to… sorry, I literally have no other definition that could be better… guardian of the galaxy.

Speaking of Jabba’s Palace and other similarities to “A New Hope,” we get to see early scenes in the film exclusively with R2-D2 and C-3PO, and the first sight we get of the iconic duo in the film is of them walking to Jabba’s Palace and seeing if they can get in. Much like “A New Hope,” this is a very well done, not to mention wonderfully placed scene because it lets the movie kick off in an intimate manner and it overall just builds up, getting bigger by the second. “Return of the Jedi” understands that we got to start small before we go big. Plus the droids themselves have amazing chemistry. They’re almost like two roommates who barely have anything in common but the things they do have in common, which is very little, perhaps makes them inseparable.

I also really like the Rancor fight. It felt like a strategy video game where Luke had to learn the tricks of the boss as he went along. It’s not like he was just able to find its weaknesses straight up and go for the kill. He had no choice but to open his eyes and his mind. It was rather exciting to watch. Only thing is, and I know this is somewhat intentional, the lighting in some clips of it is rather dark, I feel like turning up the light just a tad would have had me as a viewer look back and not feel lost in that underground space. Then again, that may have been the intention.

But speaking of brightness, let’s talk about the Sarlacc Pit scene. It is to this day, one of the most exciting and fun “Star Wars” scenes to date. First off, the music in it, unsurprisingly smashed by John Williams, is incredible from the slow build up to the glorious blow that brings us into the iconic “Star Wars” theme tune that you hear either in the crawl or the credits. It just screams “Star Wars” whenever I think about it. There’s a lot going on here between Luke trying to retrieve his lightsaber from R2, who is busy serving drinks, Leia being chained by Jabba’s side, and… Boba Fett? Wait, where’d he go? Oh, that’s right. Yeah, he comes and goes instantaneously. Well, kind of, depending on whether you’re watching “The Mandalorian,” which I do need to catch up on. But this is a fast-paced scene from gunslinging to saber-wielding to chain-honking. Lando is there too, and there is some action between him and Han. Everything building up to the final blow at the end led to a sense of satisfaction.

Let’s move onto Dagobah. Going back to what I said about this film getting better the more I watch it. I do not just mean it gets better despite its age. Although like the other two films in the original trilogy, I can declare “Return of the Jedi” is timeless. There is a quote that I picked up from Yoda during the film.

Now I am just gonna warn everyone, even though I did not get into heavy spoilers for “The Empire Strikes Back,” this quote does contain an important point from the film, and I’m sure it is one a lot of you know even if you missed out on the movie. So sorry in advance as this does dive into spoiler territory.

Luke: Master Yoda… is Darth Vader my father?

Yoda: [avoiding the subject] Rest I need. Yes. Rest.

Luke: Yoda, I must know. If you know, tell me.

Yoda: Your father he is.

[pause]

Yoda: Told you, did he?

Luke: Yes.

Yoda: Unexpected this is. And unfortunate.

Luke: Unfortunate that I know the truth?

Yoda: No! Unfortunate that you rushed to face him… that incomplete was your training. That… not ready for the burden were you.

Not only does this confirm the exciting twist from the previous film, but it goes a step further. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” you may remember that Luke was discouraged by Yoda from going into Cloud City to confront Vader. Luke went regardless of the advice, but he did promise that he would return, as he did in this very film. While I will agree that it is unfortunate to know that Luke’s father is a power-hungry half man half machine overlord who is capable of chopping off hands, Yoda just states that Luke rushed into action without thinking things through, even though Luke foresaw grave danger for his friends. Not only were his skills incomplete, but he had no idea what would lie ahead in regards to emotional attachment. I often look back at “The Empire Strikes Back” and I think of the scene where Yoda tells Luke to avoid going to Cloud City as a warning that Luke’s skills as a Jedi still need work, which they did. But little did I realize after all these years, Yoda, along with ghost Obi-Wan, was likely trying to protect Luke from losing control of his emotions. After all, they knew who Darth Vader was. They knew he was Luke’s father. Yoda took Luke under his wing and not only treated him like a student, but almost as if he was his own son. And like many parents, Yoda perhaps became slightly overprotective of Luke’s inner and outer thoughts.

I will also add, that last line from Yoda, where he notes Luke’s training was incomplete, this feels like the “Star Wars” way of saying, “I’m not mad. I’m just disappointed.” Luke, despite his seemingly on track instincts, had no idea what he was in for. That is the power of being an inexperienced Jedi who barely has any attachment to the force. Yes, Luke did screw up. But part of me also wants to think that even with the amount of doubt that could have been brought to the table, Yoda, or perhaps even ghost Obi-Wan had an inkling of faith in him.

Not long after we see plans for a second Death Star, our heroes go to the moon of Endor, where we get a FUN speeder chase between Luke and Leia who are trying to keep themselves from getting shot by Stormtroopers. There’s no music. No other sounds except for the speeders themselves. It feels like the extreme version of riding a bike in the woods. But of course, when I talk about Endor, I have to talk about the Ewoks.

I have seen people talk about the Ewoks and how they tend to be annoying. I even remember watching “Ride Along 2” of all movies and the characters were talking about “Star Wars” and one character said they enjoyed “Return of the Jedi” to which another pointed out how annoying Ewoks are. Here’s the thing. Unlike Jar Jar, the Ewoks actually come off as useful. Yes, they emit weird sounds every once in a while, but it’s a delightful kind of weird. They have their own army, they’ve become civilized in the woods, and the movie does a really good job at highlighting their sense of community. When it comes to the final battle at the end of the film, seeing them get creative with how they go about killing troopers is nearly goofy, but also kind of exciting. Plus, we do get to see them, along with the wookie Chewbacca in an AT-ST, which was pretty badass. But to me, this movie’s second half comes in three tiers. These tiers, starting with the lowest and going to highest, are “awesome,” “extraordinary,” and “perfect.”

The “awesome” tier goes to the Battle of Endor, where we get to see our heroes on the ground fighting troops with the Ewoks and destroying a base that has an effect on how the “extraordinary” tier task goes, which is destroying the Death Star.

If the space battle at the end of “A New Hope” was exciting, then the one in “Return of the Jedi” is SUPER exciting. I will admit, it does suffer from not having Luke in it because I admittedly have become much more attached to Luke compared to Lando, who is a great character, but not as involved in the franchise as Luke has become. Then again, Luke’s off doing something else which we’ll get to momentarily. This battle has a ton of ships on the light and dark sides. We get to see the Death Star blowing ships up. People are dying left and right. And what makes this even more interesting is that the outcome of this battle could not be realized unless the Battle of Endor likely ends up going in the heroes’ favor. But BY FAR the best part of the movie, is any scene between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor.

I want to avoid giving a ton of spoilers for this review. In fact I had a whole thing planned to talk about one particular problem I had with the film. It’s NOT A BIG ONE, it does not even affect the score that much, but it makes want to see another version of the film if you will. Let’s just say, if I have the time, I may end up doing a separate post on it. The thing I will say about it is that it is about death. But that is about it. Luke and Vader meet in Endor, they flock to the Death Star, where the Emperor introduces himself to Luke and looking back, this provided for some of my favorite close-up shots in the franchise.

I mean, look at the Emperor’s face!

And the Emperor, at least in this film, has such a way with words. It’s almost like he spent an extended period of time studying poetry.

The Emperor : You want this, don’t you? The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. Give in to your anger. With each passing moment you make yourself more my servant.

Luke : No.

The Emperor : It is unavoidable. It is your destiny. You, like your father, are now *mine*.

I cannot think of a time in this franchise, maybe with the exception of Palpatine perhaps doing the same wordplay thing to Anakin and maybe Count Dooku getting into that same character’s head, where words have been used so effectively as a weapon. Plus that voice… It’s so grizzly and old. IT IS PERFECT. This is quite literally, the “perfect” tier. And this is in addition to the badass lightsaber stuff that goes down at the end, which I really don’t want to talk about because even though “Return of the Jedi” has been around for 38 years, it’s kind of like “The Empire Strikes Back.” The less newcomers know, the better. I’ll just say this, I often talk about in the prequels how one of the better things about those movies is the choreography in the lightsaber fights. That is true. That is clear. But in “Return of the Jedi,” there feels like there is a reason to occasionally have a lack of choreography. It shows more of the emotion between characters. The final lightsaber duel of the movie feels rough. It feels tough. But the strokes that come out from one specific individual just feel like they are coming through because of pent up emotion. This is, well… perfect.

I want to talk about the thing that happens afterwards, I really do. But it involves heavy spoilers. If you have never seen “Return of the Jedi,” PLEASE watch it. If you want to avoid spoilers… Skip this next paragraph. Go to the part that IS NOT italicized like so.

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My favorite part of the film comes around the time Luke slices off Vader’s hand. BAM! Hammurabi Code! Almost like payback for the last movie! This may have been part of why the original title for this film was “Revenge of the Jedi,” until it was changed at the last minute. But the Emperor tries to convince Luke to join the Dark Side, to which he just denies the request after looking at Vader on the ground. At this point, the Emperor’s a little pissed and disappointed, he casts out his hands and unleashes force lightning, which has been used in the prequels by multiple characters, but “Return of the Jedi,” in terms of release, was the movie introduction to the force lightning concept. He continues his wordsmith tendencies, and he just goes all out on Luke. The hero is screaming for his life, he’s going to Vader asking for help. But no dice.

“Now young Skywalker, you will die.”

We have a brief beat, but the Emperor ain’t done yet because he momentarily unveils more lightning and Luke is just screaming and spasming. He has never been in so much rapid physical pain in his entire life. But the other great part about this is that the camera is getting shots of Vader and we can tell based on the directions he turns his head, he’s almost conflicted. But he decides to do the right thing and lifts the Emperor from the ground and throws him down the shaft. The Emperor perhaps lets out the most epic death scream in film history, and he is just TOAST. Why did “The Rise of Skywalker” bring him back from this? Who knows? But it is not over. Because Luke and Vader reunite, just experiencing whatever sense of relief they need to. Unfortunately for Vader, the journey does not end well for him.

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People often argue that the later additions to the sequel trilogy, specifically “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker,” feel like nothing more than pieces of course correction. They take what was previously shown in the last movie and try to divert from it to a degree hopefully going in a competent direction, perhaps one that the primary filmmaker or producer prefers, that will not end up being a slap in the face (hopefully). While there are definitely many ideas that felt like they could have been sprinkled in later into production, “Return of the Jedi” is the end of a trilogy that feels perfectly planned and realized from start to finish. The original “Star Wars” trilogy is up there to me with “Lord of the Rings” and “Toy Story” as one of the greatest trilogies of all time. And at the same time, there may have been some course correcting here. This movie feels a lot lighter than “The Empire Strikes Back,” especially with the Ewoks in the mix. So part of me wondered if Lucas wanted to win some fans back by making the series “fun” again. He even brought back the Death Star concept, which despite being in “A New Hope,” did not feel entirely repetitive. And ultimately, the darkness of “The Empire Strikes Back” still exists here in some places, but the mix between the light and dark tones oddly enough never felt out of place or disorienting. They’re two tones that combine together to form something special, whereas “The Phantom Menace” had a plethora of tones to combine together to form something… well, it’s special alright. What an ending. Well, kind of. Before the prequels and the sequels, but my gosh this movie is a work of art!

In the end, I often have trouble deciding which of the original “Star Wars” movies is my favorite. Is it “A New Hope?” “The Empire Strikes Back?” Or is it “Return of the Jedi?” They’re all great for different reasons. But of all of the movies, I’d say “Return of the Jedi” had the best climax and conclusion, which really says something because this is something that the “Star Wars” franchise, even on its worst day, at least goes out of its way to make “fun.” Here, they just go balls out with it. Three different interweaving storylines that do not feel convoluted and I actually care about. Each one is about as thrilling as the last. From the heroes and Ewoks taking down troops on Endor to the Rebels and Empire duking it out in space to Vader and Luke dealing with their father and son issues in the Death Star. This film has the best interpretation of Luke. It comes with great chemistry amongst our heroes. And on top of that, the best lightsaber action of the original trilogy. LIGHTSABERS. ARE. AWESOME. You cannot convince me otherwise. With all this, and considering this film’s insane replay value over the years, I’m going to give “Return of the Jedi” a 10/10!

Would ya look at that? All three films in the original trilogy have earned a 10! These films truly are timeless. I will say once again, there is one particular “problem” with the film I wanted to discuss, but I won’t for the sake of spoilers. It won’t affect my score, but I may bring it up another time. Once again, it has to do with death. I do not know my fate regarding this topic, but if I am ever in the mood, I will discuss it.

Thanks for reading this review! Just a few days ago we have finished the prequel trilogy, and now we finished the original trilogy, which means it is time to move on to the SEQUEL trilogy! For the record, I have already reviewed “The Last Jedi” and “The Rise of Skywalker,” so we will not be talking about those films. By process of elimination, tomorrow I will have my review up for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens!” Disney’s first foray into the world of “Star Wars” movies and one of the most successful films of all time at the box office. What do I think of it? You’ll find out tomorrow in the FINAL installment of 7 Days of Star Wars! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account and also like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Return of the Jedi?” What did you think about it? Also, two questions. First, what is your favorite movie in the “Star Wars” original trilogy? AND, what do you think is the greatest trilogy of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ATTACK OF THE CLONES: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/24/star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-2002-a-revisit-to-my-first-star-wars-movie/

REVENGE OF THE SITH: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/25/star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-the-sith-2005-my-favorite-star-wars-prequel-ever/

STAR WARS/A NEW HOPE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/26/star-wars-1977-an-ageless-adventure/

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/27/the-empire-strikes-back-1980-i-love-you/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/

The Empire Strikes Back (1980): I Love You

Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today is day 5 of 7 in the epic Scene Before 7 Days of Star Wars saga! We have finished the prequels earlier this week, we just tackled the original “Star Wars” yesterday, but now it is time to move onto what some consider to be not just one of the best “Star Wars” movies to date, but one of the greatest sequels of all time. Of the original “Star Wars” films, this is actually the first one that I tuned into. I still remember renting the widescreen copy of the 2004 edition from Blockbuster Video. Man, I miss that place. I rented the film one or two more times, until I finally got the full screen 2006 edition that came with both the 2004 special edition of the film and a bonus disc that had a somewhat poorly mastered DVD transfer of the original film. While it was widescreen, allowing the viewer to see more picture, it was also grainy and would not adjust for an actual widescreen television. Although for this review, much like Episodes IV and VI, I decided to use the most up to date versions of the film through recent 4K Blu-ray transfers that have released in stores in 2020. Safe to say, this film looks gorgeous to this day, and of all the “Special Editions,” I’d say that this one is the least offensive, although that statement will likely not have much of an effect on my review.

We would be honored if you would join us, because it is time for a miniseries I’m calling… 7 DAYS OF “STAR WARS!”

“The Empire Strikes Back” is directed by Irwin Kershner and stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, David Prowse, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, and Frank Oz. This film is the sequel to 1977’s “Star Wars” and follows our heroes who have a base on the planet Hoth. But not for long, because the Empire takes its swift strokes on the rebels. Soon thereafter, Luke Skywalker journeys to Dagobah to learn the ways of the Jedi under the wing of Master Yoda. Meanwhile, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia, R2-D2, and C-3PO flee from the dark forces on the Millennium Falcon, but with an unfortunate hyperdrive problem.

Since 1977, “Star Wars” has become a part of many people’s lives. Similar to 1975’s “Jaws,” the film went on to become one of the biggest phenomenons of the decade. The turnout was enormous, the box office was immense, the force was with everyone. Characters like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo have been ingrained in many people’s minds for extended periods. While the film itself is a throwback to stories that may have come before and shares many of the traits of the ordinary “hero’s journey” rubric, it comes with a flavor that could have arguably been created by Willy Wonka. “Star Wars” has, as you may have noticed, become one of the most acclaimed and iconic films of all time. With a film that good, it is almost hard to imagine how they could have made a sequel that could have surpassed it.

…Well they did.

To know that such a feat could be pulled off is utter insanity. I mean, it’s been done in similar instances with other franchises. The first “Godfather” was critically acclaimed, but today there are many people who would argue the second one is as good, if not better than the original. The same can be said for “Toy Story.” The same can also be said for “Blade Runner.” Maybe even “The Terminator!” In the case of “The Empire Strikes Back,” the reasoning is simple. It maintains the fun of the original film despite being darker in tone, it builds on the characters we’ve come to know and love with impactful depth, and it subverts expectations, which feels weird considering how “The Last Jedi” tried doing that to rather poor results. Although speaking of “The Last Jedi,” I remember when that film came out and people started bringing up comparisons to “The Empire Strikes Back,” but not for a positive reason. When “The Last Jedi” came out, I would occasionally be online, maybe on YouTube or something and someone would say that “The Last Jedi” is a film that will get better with age. When it came out, it was incredibly divisive. The fans of the film were quite passionate, and so were the haters. But nevertheless, “The Last Jedi,” despite being well-reviewed, had a strong number of people who felt it ruined the “Star Wars” franchise to a degree. Back in 1980, “The Empire Strikes Back” received the same treatment. There were people who liked the film. But there were also others who expressed displeasure or disappointment with it mainly because of how dark and not so fun it happened to be.

Today, it is one of the most universally revered films in not just the sci-fi genre, but in all of movie history. It has one of the most talked about twists of all time. Despite being darker, I’d almost argue it not only knows how to crack a joke here and there, it is actually somehow funnier than the first one. And this feels weird to say, because when I’m looking back at lines I could bring up on the spot to make someone laugh, I do not usually think of “The Empire Strikes Back,” but that’s because the film does not try to go for humor. What it does is it takes lines that usually would not mean anything. The lines are not even that funny, but in the context of the film, they can get a laugh out of me for some reason. A line as simple as Han Solo’s “Never tell me the odds” is chuckle-worthy to say the least. Leia shouting “I am not a committee” feels like it could come out of only Carrie Fisher’s mouth with pristine delivery.

Speaking of characters, let’s talk about Luke Skywalker. I mentioned in my review for “A New Hope,” one forgivable concern for Luke is that he is kind of a whiner. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” the case is no different. But like in the previous film, Luke’s tendency to be a downer is also what makes him an interesting character. Because again, he is relatable. As humans, we all have a tendency to say we want do something, but we never end up actually doing “that something” and it is an idea that is always in the back of our minds. During Luke’s training with Yoda, we see glimmers of this as he lifts rocks and his X-Wing fighter that is stuck in the dirty water. There’s periods of refusal, self-denial, lack of confidence. It is a perfect encapsulation of a student/mentor relationship where the student feels like they are worthless and they cannot advance in their studies. In the last movie, we got see the pilot side of Luke, and that has been excellently built up throughout the film all the way to the end. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” we get to see more of the Jedi side of the character. And yes, we get to see parts of that in “A New Hope” too, but that is Luke simply learning how to use the force, he barely touches a lightsaber. Although it does help him in his piloting mission where he is tasked along with his rebel fleet to destroy the Death Star. But now that Obi-Wan is dead and likely just sitting back in the Jedi afterlife needing nobody’s company, he commands that Luke will go to Dagobah and learn the ways of the Jedi from Yoda. Oh yeah, and Yoda is awesome in this film.

Let me just say, I really like the prequel version of Yoda. But here is the thing about prequel Yoda, he is quite different than the original Yoda. Because in the prequels, Yoda is seen as one of the most powerful Jedi with one of the higher midichlorian counts and an enormous sense of wisdom. Also, screw midichlorian counts. In “The Empire Strikes Back,” we got to see that wisdom intact, but it does not take away from the fact that Yoda is one of the funniest characters in the original trilogy. Remember how in the prequel trilogy George Lucas tried to make Jar Jar Binks the big comic relief that stole every scene, which then turned out to be one of the most cringeworthy things in the entire franchise? Yeah, Yoda is ten times funnier because he is just a nut. He’s that interpretation of an old man who I hear is on his last legs but then I hear they are in “good spirits.” I always think of that as someone who is able to utilize a sense of humor while also showing signs of weakness. And this is yet another example of lines that really are not that funny, but in the context of “The Empire Strikes Back,” they can get me to laugh for some reason. And I think part of it is not just the lines themselves and how they are brilliantly delivered by Frank Oz, but maybe even Yoda’s laughter. It just proves that laughter is contagious and without any argument, the all-time best medicine.

But when I’m not busy laughing at Yoda’s antics, I am busy admiring Darth Vader’s fiendish will to rule the galaxy. In the previous film, we did get to know Vader as a character a little bit, especially considering how he was the main threat at the end. In this film however, we get to dive into his character and see another side of him aside from being just a big baddie. And he still is. He still force chokes his own allies, he still wields a red lightsaber. But in “The Empire Strikes Back,” there is more added to his story that makes him who he is, and it also affects other characters in the movie. For those of you who have not seen the movie, I will do my best to not say anything about a specific scene towards the end, even though it has been parodied and talked about millions of times, but if you don’t even have an inkling of how the end of “The Empire Strikes Back” goes down, just wait. It was brilliant back in the 1980s (maybe depending on what language you spoke) and it has aged like a fine wine since.

But also on the topic of the dark side, going onto a recurring category in these reviews, the score in this film, composed by John Williams, is bonkers good. In some cases, it might even be better than the original “Star Wars.” In addition to some themes that make a reappearance to a degree, “The Empire Strikes Back” adds exciting new music that can be heard as the Falcon flies through asteroids, as the heroes run around Cloud City, and as Luke tries to defend himself against a Wampa. But by far the most iconic original theme from “The Empire Strikes Back,” for good reason, and this is what I mean when it comes to talking about the dark side, is the Imperial March.

This music is literal perfection. You know how in times of war they have these propaganda songs to get people to join the military? You know, songs like “Over There” by Nora Bayes? The patriotic song that has been used since the 1910s during World War I? If the Empire wanted a way to convince me to join their fleet as a soldier or officer, this would perhaps be more effective than them saying “We have pizza, AND you get ten million bucks on the spot.” It is so… weirdly catchy. Again, I think part of it is because “Star Wars” is so ingrained in our culture whether we like it or not, but for some reason, this song goes to show the power of John Williams. The man knows how to do a killer track and as much as I see myself more in line with the values of the Jedi, this goes to reveal how fascinating the dark side is. If I ran a dictatorship where I had obnoxious power, which I do not see myself doing, I would use this as its theme music.

I think the best part of “The Empire Strikes Back” however is the fact that, and this maybe makes me a hypocrite, because we kind of see this in “The Last Jedi” too and that film was a disappointment, it’s that failure is a common result in this film. The title is as it suggests, the Empire strikes back with as much force as it can, putting the pressure on our heroes, and in the couple hours that everything goes down in the film, I manage to care about everyone on screen. I want to talk about some of these blunders, but the reality is that if I do, I’d be going into spoiler territory, and even though this is a 41-year-old film that has been celebrated by many people, I would doing a disservice if I did not let people who have not seen the film avoid going in blind. There is so much I want to talk about, everything from *bleep*, to *bleep*, all the way to the end where we *bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeep*. But I can’t. I’d be doing the newcomers a lack of a favor. I’d be ruining the experience for them. Yes, I talked about failure, but I don’t want to get into how much failure or the specific contents behind all of it. I want you, the people who have not seen “The Empire Strikes Back,” to finish reading this review, buy the movie in whatever way you can or watch it on TBS On Demand or Disney+ or something and experience what truly makes this film so extraordinary. The less you know, the better.

On another note, I just want to say that Lando Calrissian is a great addition to the franchise and he almost steals the show in every scene he is in. Whoever cast Billy Dee Williams as the character, well done. You deserve a pat on the back. Kind of like Han Solo, he has that rogueish, ladies-man vibe, but he also delivers it in his own way. I truly think he is one of the standouts of the movie.

One last thing before we go any further. Again, I want to be as secretive as possible, but the way this movie ends when we get to the final scene, it has one of the most unique feels not just in regard to how a “Star Wars” movie ends, but how any movie ends. Because the scene before the end is almost an adrenaline rush to the final second and at this point, just about every potential arc has developed. Without giving much context, we see our characters and the sense that I have at this point is satisfaction. Then after one particular incident is resolved, the music just swells up as we see the characters gaze out at a window and look at the galaxy that lies within. To me, this just says one word. Relief. We’ve had failure along the way, but the journey has paid off to where not just us as an audience, but our characters, get a moment to breathe. Yes, they have to live with their recent failure, but they finally get a break where they get to relax, unwind, and process what they just went through. In war, there is no rest. But this ending represents that relief which would come with taking a break every once in a while. So as a viewer, I feel satisfied, but I am also left longing for our characters to move on and see what they do next. The ending is bittersweet to say the least. It’s sad that the previous events happened, but it is heartwarming to know they have come to an end.

Remember when I reviewed the 1977 “Star Wars” and I talk about how “fun” it is, in addition to how often I feel like flocking to that universe in my imagination? Well, that has not changed. To me, this just goes to show the true genius of “The Empire Strikes Back.” It almost reminds me of, going to a more modern example, “Avengers: Infinity War,” because that is a film that like its predecessors, is fun from start to finish, but is full of emotionally charged moments that affect certain characters in less than positive ways. If the film still has glimmers of fun and imagination in it despite being depressing every other moment, that is not a good movie. It is an incredible movie.

In the end, “The Empire Strikes Back” strikes forth as one of the greatest sequels of all time. To me, this is a film that gets better with age, and how they answer certain questions in the next film probably solidifies that. The original “Star Wars” became a timeless classic through its likable predictability and familiar feel and story, but by offering a blend of that familiarity that audiences could easily fall in love with. “The Empire Strikes Back” on the other hand goes in for the kill and tries to warp your mind into something new even if has traces of familiarity as well. The film is subversive, exciting, and eye-popping. The effects still hold up to this day. The asteroid scene looks beautiful even in 2021. The duel towards the end with Luke and Vader offers some of the best shots in the franchise and an epic feel despite coming off as occasionally intimate. Again, it’s probably another reason why people look at “Star Wars” as if it were a western instead of a traditional science fiction or fantasy story all the time. “The Empire Strikes Back” is one of the greatest, most magnificently crafted pieces of art ever known to man and it is a film that is likely only going to continue to get better as years pass by. It is a film truly deserving of a 10/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the final film in the original “Star Wars” trilogy and that is going to be for “Return of the Jedi.” Get ready for Ewoks, the Emperor, and Jabba the Hutt! That review will be up tomorrow, Friday, May 28th! And after that, I will be doing the final review in the 7 Days of Star Wars event, which will be for “The Force Awakens,” the first film in the sequel trilogy. If you want to see these upcoming reviews, follow Scene Before either with email or WordPress account, and if you’re on Facebook, like the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The Empire Strikes Back?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite sequel ever? It doesn’t even have to be a movie. It can be a book. It can be a video game. Heck, it can even be Diet Coke! A worthy successor and slightly healthier edition of an iconic drink! Not sponsored, I promise. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

THE PHANTOM MENACE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/23/star-wars-episode-i-the-phantom-menace-1999-worst-for-chronologically-first/

ATTACK OF THE CLONES: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/24/star-wars-episode-ii-attack-of-the-clones-2002-a-revisit-to-my-first-star-wars-movie/

REVENGE OF THE SITH: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/25/star-wars-episode-iii-revenge-of-the-sith-2005-my-favorite-star-wars-prequel-ever/

STAR WARS/A NEW HOPE: https://flicknerd.com/2021/05/26/star-wars-1977-an-ageless-adventure/

ROGUE ONE: https://flicknerd.com/2016/12/16/rogue-one-a-star-wars-story-a-movie-built-on-hope/

THE LAST JEDI: https://flicknerd.com/2017/12/15/star-wars-episode-viii-the-last-jedi-2017-another-year-another-star-wars-movie/

SOLO: https://flicknerd.com/2018/05/25/solo-a-star-wars-story-2018-somehow-this-star-wars-movie-exists/

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER: https://flicknerd.com/2019/12/20/star-wars-the-rise-of-skywalker-2019-the-final-word-in-the-story/