“The Fabelmans” is directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Michelle Williams (Venom, My Week with Marilyn), Paul Dano (The Batman, Love & Mercy), Seth Rogen (Neighbors, The Guilt Trip), Gabriel LaBelle (Love Shack, The Predator), and Judd Hirsch (Independence Day, Dear John). This film is slightly based on Steven Spielberg’s adolescence and is about a young boy who uses the power of movies to navigate himself through the ups and downs of life.
I love movies. Obviously, as someone who has written movie reviews for several years, this should not come as a surprise. But I love the process that goes into making them, the marketing, the theatrical experiences, the stories, the fandoms, the lessons we take away. Everything. I love movies. I love cinema. I love everything about it. When I hear Steven Spielberg is making a film, of course I have to pay attention just because his name is attached. But when I hear he is making a film that somewhat has to do with his passion for movies, I am all ears. It is the classic saying, write what you know. If there is anybody on this planet who knows movies, it is the guy who made “Jaws.” It is the guy who made “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” It is the guy who made “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” It is the guy who made “The Post” and “Ready Player One” within months of each other. Safe to say, I was looking forward to this movie where we kind of get a semi-autobiographical tale on Steven Spielberg’s end.
“The Fabelmans” is a spectacular movie in every way. But should I really be surprised? Heck no.
Hollywood has a tendency to create self-indulgent stories where the script highlights the spotlight of the industry. Films like “La La Land” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” have done this with excellence for different reasons. Given the context of the story and what it is about, this is not a movie where Hollywood celebrates Hollywood and instead, gives more of a shoutout to people who are just learning filmmaking or are perhaps working in smaller conditions, limited crews, or tinier budgets. Of course, as someone who has spent his years making productions since high school either for educational, fun, or work purposes, I can say that my experience must have been a lot different than Spielberg’s, and therefore, different than this film’s main character of Sammy Fabelman. Watching this movie made me realize how much easier I have it now with digital technology and editing tools that I did not have to buy a separate space-consuming machine for. Well, apart from the monthly subscription I have to give to Adobe, I realize how much easier I have it.
Above all, this movie is about dreams. Steven Spielberg has obviously accomplished his dream of making films, and he is one of the best to ever do it. Therefore it makes sense that Sammy spends the entire movie hoping to do the same thing. We see him watching movies, making films with his friends, and showing his work off to others. That is all part of the dream. We see Mitzi, played by Michelle Williams, show off some artistic talents of her own with the piano. While she still plays it as a hobby, we come to learn that maybe she could have done something more with it. The one in the family whose dreams are supposedly realized are those of Sammy’s father, Burt, played by Paul Dano. As the movie progresses, we see him talking about his job, moving to a bigger company, and he has found his place in STEM. I think STEM is important, and even though this movie is about an aspiring artist, one of the best things about it is that it does not necessarily come off as propaganda to disregard or ignore STEM. I say this as someone who wants to spend his life in the arts himself. What I took from “The Fabelmans” is that if you have a dream, you would be a fool not to see it all the way through. Unfortunately, sometimes the dreams of others can interfere with dreams of your own.
Apart from this, kind of like some other standout movies this year such as “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” “The Fabelmans” is a win because it has everything in it. Drama. Comedy. Even a little action. Like those two films, “The Fabelmans” does not just check those boxes just to give something for everyone. It is giving something that the audience will be able to take away with them. I walked out of “The Fabelmans” with a dash of happiness because I got to spend two and a half hours feeling every emotion possible.
Spielberg is a name that is taken seriously nowadays, so you must be thinking, “‘The Fabelmans’ is perfect. Right?” I would not jump to that conclusion. As much as I enjoyed the movie, there were certain scenes that felt a bit extravagant or over the top for a story that mainly centers a round a family like this one. While this is a semi-autobiographical movie about a young boy growing up in a Jewish family, there is one aspect of the film, specifically the character of Monica (Chloe East), that felt like a poppy guest character in a sitcom. Monica is a Christian. She is also obsessed with Jesus, it is practically her defining character trait. I think people can be crazy fanatical over anyone, but the way her character was written and executed in this movie felt less down to earth than some of the movie’s other scenes. If Spielberg ever reflects on this movie and the character of Monica, and I find out she is based on someone he actually knew, my thoughts on this aspect of the film could possibly change. But in a film that stays in a lane between drama and comedy, this felt overly goofy.
For those of you who know me outside of Scene Before, you would know that I have a YouTube channel. One of the things I used to do on it for fun was record my trips on various elevators. I would take a small camera or a phone, go up, go down, maybe repeat the process to a varying degree. When I was visiting a particular elevator at a Macy’s one time with a friend, I ran into a mother and her son. The mother saw what I was doing and got super excited because she and her son apparently knew about these videos and watched them in the past. I do not do these videos anymore due to a lack of interest. You may wonder, why on earth would I be telling you this? It is because this movie reinforces why I did those videos and the backbone behind why I kept making content over time, even if they do not have elevators in them. I did it to entertain people. I did it so people can have an experience. I did it so people can be happy. Of course, like Sammy, I make art as a passion. To me, it is not a hobby, it is a lifestyle. But at the end of the day, art is all the more rewarding when you have people you can share it with. Even “Morbius,” as much as I hated that movie, generated a reaction out of me. The people who made that movie, regardless of how little or how much collective passion was put into it, had an end goal to get an audience’s attention. As for the audience themselves, it is up to them to decide whether “Morbius” did an excellent job at accomplishing its goals. I cannot say it did, but someone else on this planet might beg to differ. “The Fabelmans” starts with Mitzi telling young Sammy, “movies are dreams that you never forget.” “The Fabelmans” reminded me of my dreams and made me want to pursue them even more.
Time will tell how much this movie will hold up. Although if Spielberg’s track record shows anything, the likelihood of “The Fabelmans” holding up seems high. I do not say this a lot, and while “The Fabelmans” is not my favorite movie of the year, I think that this is a film I need right now. There is a moment towards the final 10 to 20 minutes where I saw myself in Sammy. Especially as a recent college grad. I think if even if you are not trying to pursue film, you will relate to Sammy in this moment. As someone who is, I would give the moment bonus points if possible. “The Fabelmans” reminds me of why I do what I do. Why I make videos, why I write, why I blog. I do it for you. At the end of the day, I am sometimes the one who calls the shots as to how something gets done or I make a decision that impacts an outcome. But all of that is for the audience to enjoy, or despise because art is subjective, and for people to think about amongst themselves. We all have a story, but it means more when there is an audience to take it all in. If the audience I sat alongside for “The Fabelmans” suggests anything, Spielberg made a story that gets their approval.
In the end, “The Fabelmans” is cinematic bliss. If you are still with family at the moment and need something to do, I implore you to get together, go to the cinema, and watch “The Fabelmans.” It is a movie that not only has something for everyone, but it is a story that delivers some of the best examples of those somethings. This year for movies, if you want me to be honest, while it has standouts, did not have many of them thus far compared to other years. “The Fabelmans” is one of standouts that I will carry with me to the end of the year where it is probably going to get a spot on my annual top 10s. This is a film that I would imagine is going to inspire young filmmakers, not to mention anyone who simply has a dream. Possibly those who have yet to find that dream, and it may come with this film. I am happy to say “The Fabelmans” is one of the best movies of 2022, and I am going to give it a 9/10.
Last but not least, this movie unsurprisingly once again proves that Steven Spielberg may be the GOAT of filmmaking. Meanwhile, I would suggest that it also supports the notion that John Williams may be the GOAT of film scoring. The music in this film, like a lot of movies he worked on, stands out. I cannot wait to listen to it in my own time.
“The Fabelmans” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.
Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see more of my reviews on Steven Spielberg films, I want to remind you that I just recently did a Steven Spielberg Month on Scene Before! Last October, I reviewed “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Post,” and “West Side Story.” Check out those reviews if you have a chance! Also, coming soon, I will be sharing my thoughts on “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.” The film is in theaters for one week, and hits Netflix on December 23rd. If you want to see this and 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 “The Fabelmans?” What did you think about it? Or, which story inspired by glimmers of the director’s childhood is the superior film? “The Fabelmans?” or “Belfast?” Make your choices in the comments! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Last September, I made a promise to those who follow me on social media that I would do a Steven Spielberg Month! And with that promise comes a review of one of his most famous works, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” I mean, how can I not review this movie? Look at my last minute Photoshopped poster! I am committing to this movie no matter what! That said, “E.T.” is one of the films most people think of when they hear the words Steven Spielberg. It might shock you to know that despite this film coming out before I was born and having such longevity, this is my second time in my entire life watching this film. Is the rewatch worth it? Let’s find out.
“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind) and stars Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, Robert MacNaughton, and Drew Barrymore. This film centers around a young boy who finds an alien life form. Despite the foreign nature of this being, the boy befriends and communicates with the alien all the while trying to send him back to his planet of origin.
When it comes to Steven Spielberg’s most influential works, there’s often a debate as to what that film might actually be. “Jaws” essentially invented the modern blockbuster. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” spawned an iconic franchise that other exploration and adventure stories often get compared to. “Jurassic Park” is not only often considered to be the best dinosaur movie, but paved the way for CGI heavy cinema as we know it. However, “E.T.” should also be in the conversation. Even though “E.T.” is a story that brings our world together with foreign territory, it is a film that works because of how tiny it feels. And that is despite the occasional scene where things happen away from home. That is despite an iconic moment where we see our heroes fly by the moon. That is despite the punch-packing score by John Williams. This movie is like being promised a small, delicious pizza, but getting a large at no extra charge.
Safe to say, I had a ridiculously fun time watching “E.T.,” and it is easy to see why people are still celebrating it forty years later.
Even if its video game adaptation is cringe.
I only saw “E.T.” once when I was younger, and while I remember various things about it, this viewing truly felt like an initial watch. Like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” I had the chance to watch “E.T.” at home on 4K Blu-ray. Speaking of similarities to “Close Encounters,” “E.T.” looks surprisingly practical, and that practicality adds a hint of charm to the film itself. If E.T. himself were CGIed, part of me would wonder how off-putting or pixelated that could come off. Thankfully, such an idea remains a mystery.
Speaking of practical, one of the most believable things in the movie is how they handled the connection between Eliott and E.T.. Whether you believe a kid like Eliott would actually take an alien into his home is one thing. As for how they handled the taking of an alien into Eliott’s home makes the journey worthwhile. Seeing their differences in communication provided for glimmers of entertainment. This also goes to show the magic of minimal dialogue, notably on E.T.’s part. E.T. has very few lines in the movie, but each one emits a particular positive emotion that stands out. This is perhaps the film’s biggest strength. The story is simple, but the way it is executed allowed for a great balance of happiness, sadness, and everything in between.
When I look back on my experience of watching “E.T.,” I anticipate to remember select moments where my eyes lit up, and others where my eyes almost watered. And this movie is not short on these. While “Blade Runner” may still be my favorite movie from 1982, I can confirm that “E.T.” is more effective when it comes to inducing character attachments and emotions for everything that is happening.
When it comes to Steven Spielberg’s science fiction slate, I think this is a better movie overall than “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” The biggest strength of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” is not the main character of Roy Neary, as likable as he is. Instead, that honor belongs to the curiosity of Barry, a three-year-old boy. Spielberg is consistent from one film to another in suggesting that children are likely to take steps to determine what strange happenings are going on outside. This consistency is effective because naturally, children are curious. Although for “E.T.,” the child of focus here, specifically Eliott, is the protagonist. His mother, Mary (Dee Wallace) plays a prominent role in the film. However, when it comes to “Close Encounters” comparisons, Mary emits more of the characteristics of Ronnie, who is noticeably less open-minded towards the ongoing alien plot.
If I had to give any problems to “E.T.,” it would have nothing to do with the story. In fact, it is as perfect as can be. I would barely change a single thing about it. That dishonor, instead, belongs to the technical aspects of the film. The film has its highlights from various night shots that look beautiful, a nicely edited action sequence towards the end, and of course, one of the best, not to mention catchiest, scores John Williams has ever done.
“E.T.” came out in 1982. Therefore, after the film’s release, many improvements have been made to how green screen is done. Although you cannot have the improvements seen in movies like “Avengers: Endgame” without the mistakes made in “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” There are a couple flying sequences in this film. At times, they come off as beautiful. John Williams’s score accompanies both of these scenes and allow him to deliver the best music in the movie. However, the green screen, or blue screen in this case, looks obvious. It looks kind of fake. If anything, it makes the shark in “Jaws” look real. I was fully immersed in this flying sequence and nevertheless continue to reflect on it after the movie with positive thoughts. But seeing the landscape move around in the background the way it does is kind of distracting. That said, as far as I know, there is no such thing as a flying bike. Therefore I respect Spielberg and crew for trying to imagine how such a thing could look. The result, per my born in 1999 and viewing in 2022 eyes, is mostly positive.
If I had any other problems with the movie, it would be the first scene between Eliott and E.T. from either an editing or directorial perspective. When E.T. is revealed, we see Eliott react to the sight of the foreign creature. Obviously, he is terrified. I have no problem with the way this is written, but the way it was assembled was a bit jumpy. There are only so many cuts you can do of one person’s face screaming in fear. I think that was a bit overdone.
That said, these are small problems within a film of wonder. The cast is great, the characters are well-written, and the shots are some of the most gorgeous of 1980s cinema. As far as science fiction and alien-based films go, I think Spielberg stepped it up from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” As much as I enjoyed “Close Encounters,” I think I would rather watch “E.T.” again in the near future.
Also, I cannot go on without acknowledging this iconic moon shot. There are few instances in cinema that are as eye-popping as this. There is a reason why this became part of the Amblin logo.
In the end, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is some of the most fun I have had watching a movie recently. They say that moviemaking is a business, which comes with a double-edged sword. The studios always try to follow the money, and therefore quality is sometimes neglected. Not with “E.T.,” because the movie is the highest-grossing project of 1982 by a long shot. It is one thing to be successful, but to be successful and career-defining is another. This film was a win for Steven Spielberg back in the 1980s, and it is a still a winner today. This is a great film for all ages, and I would not mind putting it on again sometime. I am going to give “E.T the Extra-Terrestrial.” an 8/10.
“E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is now available on VHS, Laserdisc, DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K Blu-ray. The film is also available to rent or buy digitally, and you can also stream it on Peacock.
Thanks for reading this review! If you want to see another review from this ongoing Steven Spielberg Month event, check out my thoughts on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind!”
My next review in the Steven Spielberg Month series is a 35 year jump in time! This is a film I have not seen yet, I am watching it for the first time for this review, “The Post.” I have heard decent things about this movie. In fact it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Here is hoping it is good! Also, be sure to stay tuned for my reviews for “Amsterdam,” “Smile,” and “Halloween Ends.” If you want to see this and 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 “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial?” What did you think about it? Or, this might be a dumb question, but it is about something stupid so it comes full circle. Have you ever had the chance to play “E.T.” on the Atari 2600? If so, tell me about your experience. I want to know everything. Scene Before is your click to the flicks.
WARNING: This post is over 12,000 words long. It contains words like “award,” “show,” and “Jackoff.” There are many more, but these are just a sample. Grab some popcorn, get a soda, and enjoy the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards at your own pace. Enjoy.
Hello everyone! Welcome to the The 4th Annual Jackoff Awards! We’ve got a great show ahead where many movies enter, and one leaves triumphant as 2021’s Best Picture. Fun fact, I almost ended up calling this year’s show the Jacks. Because 9 out of 10 general audience members agree, award shows need to shorten their runtime. We’re really putting the “off” in Jackoff. Today is a celebration of everything movies, that is as long as they are not shorts, made for television, straight to DVD, or some Christmas thing featuring Danica McKellar.
We love you, Danica.
Here’s how the show works. Every movie that yours truly, Jack Drees, saw this year has been qualified in advance to be nominated for a Jackoff. Those that have been nominated compete against four other films to win the category, and the winner gets my respect. However, with Best Picture, the ultimate category, that is not the case, as ten movies will compete in that category and the winner has been decided in advance by the people’s vote. I sent out a form for willing participants to fill out, the votes have been counted and the tallies are here! But one thing that is true for every category, I must have seen the film for it to be nominated. Sorry, “Cruella!”
Another rule I must state, 2021 has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has not fully come to an end and that is evident in the entertainment industry. You may have noticed a trend that many films have come out on streaming at the same time they hit theaters. Disney has done this with films like “Raya and the Last Dragon,” which has received a Best Animated Feature nomination. Warner Brothers has also done this with “Tom & Jerry,” which has been nomin— Haha, sorry. Bad example. Either way!! Films that hit theaters and streaming at the same time do qualify for the Jackoff Awards. I am willing to accept just about any film to step into the ring as long as they had a theatrical release. The general rule for the Jackoffs is that the movies featured and nominated have to be in theaters, because if they’re on streaming, then that is technically a TV film. Therefore, films like “The Tomorrow War,” “Home Sweet Home Alone,” and “Vacation Friends” do not qualify for this year’s Jackoff Awards. Apologies in advance, but these are the rules.
We’re gonna start the show the same way we always do, with a little monologue. And if you thought that I would be telling all the jokes this year, it just so turns out that’s not true. Plot twist! I’m being voiced by Chris Pratt! It’s time for “Jack Drees Tells Jokes to Nobody in Order to Please Himself!”
I’m going to state some facts about this year in film, and since there is no audience, there shall be no laughs. But, for those of you checking this out yourselves, feel free to jump into the auditorium and react however you’d like. Even throw tomatoes at me if you please! And I will say that 2021 has been a great year for film. Lots of fun blockbusters, some great animated flicks, and fun times at the movie theater. It’s been great year overall! Unless you’ve been chopped by Venom, eaten by a Sandworm, devoured by King Shark, ran over by Dom Toretto, or sucked into a ghost trap.
I want to congratulate the creative minds behind season 2 of COVID-19. It all started with the ongoing plot of getting the vaccine into people’s arms and ended with an epic cliffhanger… What will the world do without Betty White? What will Impractical Jokers be like without Joe? Will booster shots make you run races faster?! Find out in the hopefully short-lived, season 3!
Last year, you may have watched some award shows like the Golden Globes, the SAGs, and the Critics Choice and may have noticed some degree of virtual technology being implemented. You may not remember this, but at the Golden Globes this year, when Daniel Kaluuya won the award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture he said, “I would like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, this is an honor, and now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna go in my chair, and watch the rest of the show with my pants off.”
“Four Good Days” starring Mila Kunis and Glenn Close has received a Best Picture nomination for today’s ceremony! Congratulations. In addition, Mila Kunis and Glenn Close were nominated for their performances as Molly and Deb, and the film also received a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination. Four good days is also how long it is gonna take the average person to read the 4th annual Jackoff Awards!
I want to give a big congratulations to Denis Villeneuve and his brand-new movie. I really enjoyed the first half of the pilot episode of “Dune.” Very much so that I willingly watched it twice in two days.
“Dune” released this year in theaters and on HBO Max on October 22nd to successful results given the current circumstances. The film is based on a novel by Frank Herbert and centers around a group of people who attempt to bring peace to the sandy planet of Arrakis. It’s interesting seeing a movie where people actually want the desert planet. Isn’t it often the other way around? There’s a reason why a couple Skywalkers went away from Tatooine. You think they wanted to spend their lives in all this freaking sand? What’s so beautiful about Arrakis? Does it have a profitable pod racing industry?
“Space Jam” received its first sequel after a couple decades, “Space Jam: A New Legacy.” The film stars LeBron James, who is joined by his co-star, the green screen.
“Spider-Man: No Way Home” released this year and has been a big success for both Marvel Studios and Sony. Studio executives everywhere all thought the same thing, “We should try making more superhero movies!”
I don’t know EVERYTHING about Spider-Man, partially because the character has existed for such a long time, it’s hard to catch up on every single comic, video game, and television episode. But I do know that “Spider-Man: No Way Home” is said to be one of the top 2 “Spider-Man” films in the past six months.
Speaking of “Spider-Man,” “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” was also a big success at the box office. The film made over $90 million on its opening weekend, which at the time, was a COVID-19 pandemic record. SPOILER ALERT! Tom Hardy has a mask on for most of the film!
Other MCU movies that came out this year include “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi,” and “Eternals.” In the time that it took me to tell you this information, they announced five sequels to each of these movies.
Zendaya’s had quite a year between “Spider-Man,” “Dune,” and “Space Jam: A New Legacy,” all these films have had some degree of success. Fun fact about Zendaya, she once said if she could not be an actress, she’d be a teacher or a basketball player. So she settled for being Spider-Man’s girlfriend.
Zendaya is both a love interest to Tom Holland’s character in the “Spider-Man” movies in addition to the two being real life partners. Things were going great in their relationship until Zendaya found out Tom Holland sleeps on the ceiling.
“Godzilla vs. Kong” released early this year in March! “Godzilla vs. Kong” has received a Best Visual Effects nomination, congrats! SPOILER! The winner of the film is every city that these two titans didn’t destroy.
“Army of the Dead” released in theaters and on Netflix this May. This is Zack Snyder’s first Netflix feature film and second directorial effort ending with “of the Dead” after his attempt at remaking “Dawn of the Dead.” The film is about a group of people in Las Vegas trying to take a lot of money while also avoiding sleazy zombies. In other words, it’s just a weekend in Vegas. Nothing too crazy.
“West Side Story,” the Steven Spielberg-directed remake starring Rachel Zegler was nominated for several awards today. You want to know how many nominations this movie got? It’s a Jackoffs record! 11 nominations baby! Unbelievable! “West Side Story” is arguably the second-best shark movie directed by Steven Spielberg.
It was a jaw-dropping experience.
Steven Spielberg, speaking of which, during last year’s show, he was actually recognized as that year’s Roger Deakins award winner, which is given out to anyone who has an outstanding achievement in film worth celebrating. The achievement, allowing Hollywood to make one dinosaur movie every three years.
Steven Spielberg has film credits going back to 1959. Yeah, Steven Spielberg has been making films for such a long time, that when it came time to make the “Jurassic Park” movies, he reflected on a time of his life when an asteroid hit the Earth. Steven, you invincible son of a gun.
San Diego Comic-Con cancelled their in-person event for the second year in a row, once again resorting to their Comic-Con at Home concept. On the bright side, a lot of the core demographic going will not have to face a certain problem, which is, going out and talking to people.
AMC Theatres had quite a year. Have you guys been following the story about the meme stocks? At one point, everyone jumped on the bandwagon to raise GameStop’s stock, then they did the same with AMC. Over the winter, all these people on the Internet came together to bump AMC’s stock price, which helped the chain in terms of keeping their cash flow deep into the year. Yeah, they had so much dough that they started projecting all their movies in bright digital gold!
WHY IS VENOM HURTING MY EYES?!
Also at AMC, have you seen this? They’re now playing an advertisement starring Nicole Kidman. She’s walking into an AMC, going through the auditorium entry hall, she enamors herself with the wonder of the big screen. This is a first in AMC’s history and has aired a number of times during television broadcasts. I’ll also add, they’re apparently airing this ad in theaters, the place exactly where you happen to be buying AMC’s products! Congratulations, AMC! You figured out an algorithm, it’s called, going to a website, and suddenly seeing it advertised on your computer for the next three days!
I ALREADY bought a house on Zillow! What makes you think I want to buy another one?!
Also, what’s with Nicole Kidman’s outfit? This makes me think that I should not go to the movies and instead buy a ticket to the freakin’ opera!
Speaking of cinemas, this year we lost the Arclight chain. For those who don’t know Arclight Cinemas, they were a small chain of theaters mostly in California. They had locations in other states as well including Illinois and Massachusetts. Unlike some multiplexes, they had a policy that they’d usually play somewhere around seven minutes of trailers, which could sometimes come out to three trailers in total. That’s a great policy! AMC and Regal saw this idea and thought it would be great if they implemented SEVENTY minutes of trailers!
That movie was great! But it can’t beat that 27th trailer!
2021 was the year when everyone and their rich mother went to space. Jeff Bezos. Michael Strahan. Richard Branson. It’s kind of like the space race except that everyone had enough money to upgrade to first class if they wanted to.
One of the biggest stories when it comes to the celebrity space race has to do with William Shatner, one of the most famous actors in all of sci-fi. Known for his role as Captain Kirk, who journeyed strange new worlds in “Star Trek,” Shatner finally got the chance to ACTUALLY go where… Well, in this case, few men have gone before.
Two months after Shatner’s joyride in space, he ended up crashing his Mercades SUV into a sedan. True story. So, I’m assuming in addition to grampy Bill’s car keys, we’re also taking away his piloting privileges too?
“Free Guy” was released this year, which made my top 10 of the year as I wrote it. “Free Guy” stars Ryan Reynolds as a non-playable character in a video game who wants to become a hero. Gamers everywhere are calling “Free Guy” “unplayable,” “broken,” and has received the complaint, “why is this one cutscene going on for two hours?!”
“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” was nominated for Best Animated Feature! “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is one of the year’s best films, unless your name is Siri, Alexa, or Okay, Google!
Andrew Garfield was nominated for his performance in “Tick…Tick…BOOM!”, a spectacular musical! “Tick…Tick…BOOM!” is a great movie, but it would have been better had the title not spoiled the fact that the protagonist failed to destroy the bomb at the end.
You see what happens when Netflix fails to get the rights to “Mission: Impossible?”
One of the biggest movies of the summer was “F9: The Fast Saga.” Now if you have witnessed the second iteration of the Jackoff Awards, you’d be aware that I surfaced a highly missed marketing opportunity that I feel everyone involved with “Fast & Furious,” or in the case of the movies nominated that year, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” should have considered. You may remember that I pointed out that the movie could have really used a promotional partnership with MAACO, the body shop perfect for all your uh ohs and explosions that make Jason Statham and The Rock look totally badass. Unfortunately, MAACO did not come up with a marketing deal regarding “F9.” Although this is a Jackoffs exclusive, another company reached out to the folks behind “Fast & Furious” about a commercial. But much like MAACO, the plan did not fall through. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you what could have been the perfect cross-promotion for “F9: The Fast Saga” and a famous insurance company.
You ready for some awards? No? Too bad! You’re getting awards! It’s time to commence the 4th Annual Jackoff Awards, starting with Best Animated Feature!
Movies have a way of bringing their viewers to worlds they cannot experience themselves. Animated features are no exception. Between robot apocalypses, magical wonderlands where everyone is gifted, and immersive social media worlds, animations this year have brought us to places that take us from reality and plant us in an unfamiliar, but exciting environment. As far as the previous year goes, these five animations are the greatest escapes of them all. Here are the nominees for Best Animated Feature.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
Belle (Nozomu Takahashi, Yuichiro Saito, Toshimi Tanio, Genki Kawamura)
The Mitchells vs. The Machines (Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Kurt Albrecht)
Sing 2 (Chris Meledandri, Janet Healy)
Raya and the Last Dragon (Osnet Shurer, Peter Del Vecho)
And the Jackoff goes to…’
Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Kurt Albrecht for “The Mitchells vs. the Machines!”
“The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is one of my late tagalongs this year, but I ended up having zero regrets when it comes to finally watching this absolute masterpiece of a film. Given how late I ended up watching this movie, I ended up not reviewing it, but in my top 10 movies of the year, I noted that this film is probably the hardest I have laughed at an animation since “The LEGO Movie,” and animations have a way of making you laugh in some ways that most live-action movies cannot. “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” ends up working because of its animated nature, a lot of the styles and choices that are made and implemented into this final product are truly beyond the imagination despite using a concept that has been used in other movies, some of which can be called the greatest of all time. And you know what? I think “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” belongs in that club. It is one of the greats not just for animation, but also amongst movies in general. Congratulations to “The Mitchells vs. the Machines,” you have won Best Animated Feature!
Moving onto Best Visual Effects, this category reflects realism within the imaginary. Authenticity within the imposters. The implementations within the mainstays. Special effects have had a large impact on films over the years from miniatures to puppets to modern day CGI. These five films are the latest and greatest amongst the aesthetically pleasing. Here are the nominees for Best Visual Effects.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Godzilla vs. Kong
Spider-Man: No Way Home
The Suicide Squad
And the Jackoff goes to…
Wow. Wow. Wow. Denis Villeneuve packed a punch, threw it, and it hit us all like a giant sandbag! The visual effects for “Dune” are a literal achievement, because even though the book has been adapted time and time again, Villeneuve brought a modern, detailed, almost auteur-like feel to the film. Everything from the giant sandworm to the spice to the explosive fight sequences. Let’s put it this way. A great blockbuster can show you jaw-dropping visual effects that will take your breath away. An epic blockbuster can make your jaw drop just from seeing visuals in the trailer. “Dune” is a massive, big budget, sci-fi treat. As mentioned in the monologue, I saw “Dune” twice in theaters, and I was easily marveled both times. The locations, the environments, the surroundings within all the locations. It adds up to be one of the most thrilling and inviting film experiences of the year. The visuals for “Dune” only make me more excited for “Dune: Part Two,” because if so much care was put into this film, I think it is safe to say that its sequel could receive similar treatment. Congrats to “Dune,” and this is its first win of the night!
It is time to unveil the first Best Picture nominee of the night! We will talk a bit about what the movie entails, and play a trailer for you all to enjoy. This is the first of ten nominees, and the winner was chosen by you at home. Who won the award? We will find out at the end of the show.
Our first Best Picture is the biggest movie in a couple years. Having broken box office records that we would be accustomed to be seeing broken in the 2010s, before there even was a pandemic, this film was an experience like no other. Finishing the touches of a two year old cliffhanger, Tom Holland returns to the big screen as the masked web-slinger, Spider-Man, to face his most multiversal challenge yet. Also joining him this time is Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, who tries to help Spider-Man in his ongoing crisis, only to lead themselves to a mistake that could mean the end of several civilizations as we know them. Nominated for 5 Jackoff Awards, with great power, it is therefore my great responsibility to tell you that this is “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
2nd place. It is something that most people, despite its occasional prominence, try to avoid. Because why be the runner-up when you can be the best? Supporting actors like these five on the other hand, turn a second position into first. These supporting actors vow to amaze to a point where they steal scenes and bring a balance to the movie at hand alongside the leading roles. Here are the nominees for Best Supporting Actor.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
J.K. Simmons (Being the Ricardos)
Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah)
Jared Leto (The Little Things)
Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man: No Way Home)
Mike Faist (West Side Story)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Daniel Kaluuya for “Judas and the Black Messiah!”
It is has been over a year since my first and only viewing of “Judas and the Black Messiah,” but I was amazed by just about the entire cast from LaKeith Stanfield to Jesse Plemons to even Dominique Fishback. I thought everyone did a great job and offered some of the year’s best collective chemistry. However, if I had to pick one actor to praise above all, it would have to be Daniel Kaluuya, as he carried every scene he was in, and delivered the best mix of physicality and mentality brought to the screen this year. Kaluuya was a force of fire, bringing a real personality to life with a captivating, emotionally thrilling interpretation of Fred Hampton that had my jaw dangling from one moment to another. Kaluuya delivered one of the most attention-grabbing scenes of the year, where he gives a speech at a rally. Let’s just say I looked forward to it with what little I saw in the trailers, but I was even more impressed when we got the actual result. Here is a clip of Daniel Kaluuya from “Judas and the Black Messiah.”
And of course, we cannot have a Best Supporting Actor award without a Best Supporting Actress award. The job of the supporting actress is not necessarily to walk underneath the shoulders of giants, but accompany them on their cinematic journey. These five ladies walked the walk and much more. Here are the nominees for Best Supporting Actress.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Judi Dench (Belfast)
Glenn Close (Four Good Days)
Anya Taylor-Joy (Last Night in Soho)
Ana de Armas (No Time to Die)
Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
And the award goes to…
Ariana DeBose for “West Side Story!”
In a film as sappy as “West Side Story” can come off, it also comes with a little bit of bleakness. Several scenes take place in darker areas or have a more rugged color palette. Whenever Ariana DeBose comes on screen as her character of Anita, it just makes you want to move. Whether she’s busy singing about America, trying to convince people close to her to speak English, or simply talking smack to those around her, DeBose brings every dose of personality to the film that she can. I saw “West Side Story” twice, and while I really loved DeBose the first time around, I got incredibly giddy, almost to level of a kid on Christmas morning, whenever she spoke during the second viewing. Not only because her character was well written, but because Ariana DeBose brought her own flair to the role. “West Side Story” is Steven Spielberg’s first musical, but with DeBose in the mix, it feels more like he already made ten of them. You know DeBose is the winner when you literally grin like an idiot as soon as she starts speaking. Here is a clip of Ariana DeBose in “West Side Story.”
Our second Best Picture is yet another adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, who has been nominated for his efforts, this film is the story of a young boy named Paul Atreides, played by the remarkable actor Timothee Chalamet, who has been sworn to protect the universe’s most valuable asset. Joining Chalamet is one of the year’s most recognizable and talented casts with Jason Momoa, Zendaya, Dave Bautista, Oscar Isaac, Rebecca Ferguson, and Stellan Skarsgard. The film has been hailed as a cinematic achievement, taking a book once considered unfilmable, but somehow marvelously bringing it to life. In this film, we are introduced to a magnificent universe of worlds, rivalries, and sandworms. Nominated for 10 Jackoff Awards, this is “Dune.”
As a guy who often cuts his nails a couple times a month and his hair buzzed as often as he can, I do not often think of makeup or hair as an essential feature of my being. But for these five groups, this is their livelihood, and they utilized said livelihood to let their respective actors and characters shine and simmer. Here are the nominees for Best Makeup & Hairstyling.
BEST MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING
Being the Ricardos (Ana Lozano, David Forrest, Kim Santantonio, Kyra Panchenko, Michael Ornelaz, Teressa Hill, Yvonne Depatis-Kupka)
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (Vickie Lang, Kristyan Mallett, Donald McInnes)
The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Donald Mowat, Love Larson, Eva Von Bahr)
In the Heights (Martha Melendez, Betsy Reyes)
West Side Story (Judy Chin, Kay Georgiou)
And the award goes to…
Donald Mowat, Love Larson, and Eva Von Bahr for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye!”
I’m going to be real with you. “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is a film that I never looked back on because of its story. Because of its screenplay. Because of how much I liked the characters themselves. A lot of what I like about “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is about aesthetic. From the costumes to the color palette to the makeup. The makeup and hairstyling departments receive their award today mostly because of one character herself, Jessica Chastain’s Tammy Faye. Jessica Chastain is one of my favorite actresses, so therefore I have a good idea of what she looks like and how she comes off whenever she performs. I rarely experience this with some actors, but as I watched “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” I felt like I had a true revelation that I was not for once watching Jessica Chastain, who again, is a proper thespian by herself, but she has been heavily enhanced her makeover which very much feels like the real life character she attempts to project. For that alone, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” earns its win. And I should also note the crisp hair job done on Andrew Garfield, who looks mighty impressive. Congratulations!
Now we move onto one of my favorite categories, Best Original Score. The original score of the film can sometimes make or break the production. Sometimes I watch a movie and maybe think it is not too great, but maybe I will listen to the music after. Whereas others utilize the score to their full potential to match the tone and feel of the film, making you more immersed into what is happening. I have listened to parts of some of these scores during my free time this year and have also admired them when watching the film from where they originate. Here are the nominees for Best Original Score.
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
Dune (Hans Zimmer)
Godzilla vs. Kong (Tom Holkenberg)
Raya and the Last Dragon (James Newton Howard)
The Suicide Squad (John Murphy)
Spider-Man: No Way Home (Michael Giacchino)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Hans Zimmer for “Dune!”
This is “Dune’s” second win of the night! It needs eight more for a clean sweep! It also needs four more to tie the record for the most wins in a Jackoffs ceremony. For your information, last year, “Tenet” set the record for most wins in a single ceremony with 6 wins, which included Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Picture. After my second screening for “Dune,” I left the theater around 12:30 a.m. and made a half-hour trek home. My trek consisted of night skies, little traffic, and me blasting Hans Zimmer’s booming tunes in the car. One of my favorite scores of all time is from “Blade Runner 2049,” also directed by Denis Villeneuve. Also, it was partially composed by Hans Zimmer alongside Benjamin Wallfisch. Zimmer returned for “Dune,” making this next collaboration a worthy followup. During the press screening I attended the day before the film came out, I was in an end seat next to a wall. If you have ever been to theaters with two random seats on the sides, you know what I’m talking about. There were times during the score where percussion became enormously present and gargantuan that I could feel the walls shaking. So much love and passion was put into the score of “Dune,” and history shows it. While producing the score, Zimmer drove the team crazy with so many ideas, and clearly some great ideas made it into the final cut. The book was a huge inspiration for Zimmer during his younger years, so I am glad that he is getting to make a project he is proud of. And frankly, I am proud of it too. Congrats to Hans Zimmer! Here is a sample of the score for “Dune.”
Our third Best Picture was voted my #1 movie of the year, and it is almost not even a close competition. In a year of great comic book movies, I have hailed this film as the greatest installment in the Detective Comics Extended Universe to date and another home run for director James Gunn, whose creative freedom is extremely evident. This film delivers the greatest cross between dark humor and heart ever conceived. Anybody can make an R-rated film with tons of blood and gore in it, but it takes a true genius to create one with blood and gore, with emotionally charging scene after scene. This film has a stacked cast from Margot Robbie to Joel Kinnaman to Sylvester Stallone to John Cena to James Gunn mainstay Michael Rooker. With some of the industry’s most awe-striking visuals, the film is a feast for the eyes, and I’m not just talking about mature content. Nominated for 5 Jackoff Awards, this is “The Suicide Squad.”
Just recently, I just showed you a revolutionary GEICO commercial, and you may just be thinking, that’s all the stuff he has today for commercialized content. No, I have another. And you might be thinking, why is this guy showing all this tied in commercialized crap? First off, I’m not getting paid for this, so it’s not tied in. Second, this is such a neat coincidence because I actually have been working on another awards show dedicated to commercials and selling you all sorts of stuff. …It’s called The Game Awards. It’s gonna be great.
With that being said, I am proud to announce the second ad of the night. I want to thank one of the official sponsors for the Jackoffs. I am sure they are having a headache just thinking about our partnership. What do I mean? Just watch the ad. Take a look.
We are moving onto the design categories of the ceremony. What do Best Costume Design and Best Production Design have in common? Well, you cannot wear a building, so that’s one difference. Although as for commonalities, both crafts have their people who dedicate hours upon hours to making sure the talent look as pretty as the backgrounds that surround them. We will be starting this segment of the ceremony by honoring the designers who create labors of love that they wear on their sleeves, and talent wears all over themselves. Here are the nominees for Best Costume Design.
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Dune (Bob Morgan, Jacqueline West)
The Electrical Life of Louis Wain (Michael O’Connor)
The Last Duel (Arthur Max)
Last Night in Soho (Odile Dicks-Mireaux)
West Side Story (Paul Tazewell)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Odile Dicks Mireaux for “Last Night in Soho!”
How could I not pick this film? The film is literally about someone who wants to be a fashion designer! It’s like going to Chicago and missing out on deep dish pizza! What are you doing with yourself? I contend that “Last Night in Soho” may be the most aesthetically pleasing film of the year. Not only is it a breathtaking, time-travelling trip back to the 1960s, it accentuates the beauty and glamour that said era provides. When my grandfather sits in a rocking chair and tells me what happened back in his day, I would not think he would have lived in London, but I would love to imagine that he lived in an era as enchanting as this. All the clothing is Heaven-like from the dresses to the suits, everyone is dressed to nines and makes all the neon surroundings that much more attractive. Congratulations to Odiles Dicks Mireaux!
And speaking of surroundings, it is time to honor five production designers who made the best surroundings of the year. Here are the nominees for Best Production Design.
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
Belfast (Jim Clay)
Dune (Patrice Vermette)
The French Dispatch (Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo)
Last Night in Soho (Marcus Rowland)
West Side Story (Adam Stockhausen)
And the winner is…
Marcus Rowland for “Last Night in Soho!”
THIS. WAS. TOUGH. I mentioned when talking about “Last Night in Soho’s” costumes that the surroundings of the film are a pure highlight. I am not lying. Every frame of this film is infused with color that fits the characters in front of them, from particularly quirky walls to the neon that flies all around the city. The same goes for another nominee, “The French Dispatch,” but looking back, I felt more through the 1960s nostalgia of “Last Night in Soho” compared to the typical Wes Anderson quirkiness of “The French Dispatch,” not to put such an aspect down. Years ago, certain filmmakers fought to keep the art of black and white filmmaking alive, and while such a debate may have been worth having at the time, I would love to go back in time and introduce them to “Last Night in Soho,” which may have one of the finest color palettes in film history due to its similar, but slightly varying environments, and the variety of neon lights that come in scene after scene. When we go back to the 1960s, the movie theater felt attractive to the point where part of me wanted to watch “Thunderball.” Congratulations! “Last Night in Soho” takes home both design categories!
Our fourth Best Picture is a collaboration between acting legend Glenn Close, who you may know from the Oscars as the lady who wouldn’t stop shaking her butt, and a modern actress with the whole package, Mila Kunis. The film is based on a true story that has been slightly changed for the screen, but said changes did not stop the movie from delivering one of 2021’s most compelling and enthralling scripts. Close and Kunis deliver two great performances with Kunis arguably giving the best of her career. At the end of the day, this is a real drama with important issues that showcases the struggle of addiction. Nominated for 4 Jackoff Awards, this is “Four Good Days.”
Every year during the Jackoffs we take a moment to recognize two people who have earned respect in the industry through their craft. Why two? One is alive, and one is not. We will be presenting the first of two lifetime achievement awards tonight, the Roger Deakins award. The Stan Lee award, which is presented for someone no longer with us, will be awarded later in the show.
The Roger Deakins award is given to individuals who are still with us today who have brought a major punch to the movie world. Past recipients include Roger Deakins, a cinematographer known for crafting brilliant shots through films like The Shawshank Redemption and The Big Lebowski. Bill Murray, an actor whose comedy chops have made many movies worth audiences’ time through the years. And Steven Spielberg, one of the greatest directors of all time with a resume ranging from Jaws to Jurassic Park to Minority Report. Coincidentally, those three movies are going to apply to this year’s recipient. Because this year’s winner has created some of the most iconic sounds in film history. And I do not mean sound design, sound mixing, but something you hear almost every movie. Music. This year’s winner was born in Flushing, New York, where his music origins are clear. He ended up being the son of a percussionist for CBS Radio and the Raymond Scott Quintet. During his college years, he attended UCLA and Los Angeles CIty College, beginning his mark on his Angelino background and as one of Hollywood’s greatest composers. When he started, he was a piano player for productions like “Some Like it Hot,” and he even composed a few scores himself during that time during an episode for “Playhouse 90,” more episodes for “M Squad,” and even more episodes for “Bachelor Father.” His earliest film composition was for “Daddy O,” which currently stands at a 1.9/5 stars on Letterboxd, a 2.7/10 on IMDb, and a 4% on Rotten Tomatoes. Obviously, the film of a lifetime. But he went on to craft some of the most iconic movie scores of all time, many of which are continously blasted and hummed today. “Jaws,” “Superman,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Harry Potter.” Chances are if you ever saw a movie, you may have heard this man’s music somewhere. Did I mention he comes from a family of music? Yes? Well, that legacy lives on as he has a few kids of his own, a couple of whom are rock musicians. He is no stranger to the awards scene, having won 5 Oscars, 3 Primetime Emmys, 7 BAFTAs, and 4 Golden Globes. He also holds the most Oscar nominations for a living person with a total of 52. He has collaborated with Boston Pops, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. His work with the latter allowed him to sell the most popular orchestral album of 2020. Perhaps his most famous creation is his scores for “Star Wars,” which have been celebrated as much as the movies which they come from. He composed every movie in the “Skywalker Saga,” including the most recent installment, “The Rise of Skywalker,” which some thought may be his last work in the “Star Wars” franchise. That is until it was announced he would be composing the music for “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” the upcoming show on Disney+. I am also proud to announce that I have very close seats at a concert event he is doing this year at the Hollywood Bowl this September. The world would never be the same without this man’s music. This year’s Roger Deakins Award goes to the maestro of our time, John Williams!
I could play a victory celebration, but unfortunately we do not have time to waste. But hopefully unlike Chewbacca, John Williams ends up getting his award. Congratulations to John Williams, one of the greatest composers of all time.
Now, for those who are new around here, I am currently a college student, and I often find myself doing assignments that I make strictly for the professor to grade and then almost never touch again. Although there is one assignment I did last year for a class called Comparing Cultures Through Film. The assignment was at the end of the term, I had to take what I have learned about films I watched in that class, which takes an aspect of culture that applies heavily in its time and place, and make a film about a culture that speaks to me. So I chose to tell a story that blends YouTube, physical media, and technology. I have the film for you all to watch, it’s just under 7 minutes, I hope you all enjoy it.
Our fifth Best Picture is one of the two animated films to receive such a nomination tonight. Originally slated for a wide release by Sony in 2020, but ultimately dropped onto Netflix and in select theaters in 2021, this film is one of the past year’s most exciting screenplays. Known for producing past animated hits like “The LEGO Movie” and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, among others, deliver another hilarious adventure that support the notion that the animated genre is for everyone. With stars Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, and Michael Rianda as the Mitchells, they all come together to deliver one of the most charming and delightful robot apocalypse movies of all time. Nominated for 4 Jackoff Awards, this is “The Mitchells vs. the Machines.”
Let’s move onto the sound categories. Once again, we are sticking with tradition and starting with Sound Editing, because E comes before M, therefore editing comes before mixing. These are the five movies of the year that deliver the most pleasing sound concepts. Here are the nominees for Best Sound Editing.
BEST SOUND EDITING
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
The Suicide Squad
Spider-Man: No Way Home
And the award goes to…
This is the only nomination “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” had for the entire ceremony, and it wins because of its unique standpoint. I often compare “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” to “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which if I did a Jackoff Awards in 2016, I probably would have nominated for this exact category. Part of it is because of its use of sounds that are nostalgic to the point that the make themselves prominent to the viewer. Because let’s put it this way, anybody can make a ghost scream. Anybody can turn on a proton pack. But “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” delivers an impressive use of nostalgia through what I can only describe as minimalism. “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” despite being one of the year’s most highly anticipated blockbusters, executes each nostalgic sound beautifully by allowing the viewer to take everything in one scene at a time, not to mention one second at a time. I very much enjoyed the sounds in “Dune” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” but those films occasionally feel more chaotic, although I will admit, the former does have plenty of time to breathe. All the films deserve to be nominated, but only one can win, and this is the one. Congrats to “Ghostbusters: Afterlife!”
Now here are the nominees for Best Sound Mixing!
BEST SOUND MIXING
Godzilla vs. Kong
The Last Duel
No Time to Die
And the Jackoff goes to…
This is “Dune’s” THIRD win. Once again, this was a tough one! But I chose “Dune” because all the sound in the film helped bring this story to life. Many people have different interpretations and ideas of how the book would appear in real life, but I think it is safe to say that Denis Villeneuve and a bunch of other people who work on the movie have brought this fantastical universe to our reality in both a grand and compelling fashion. Between the sandworms, the explosions, and the sounds of the sand which is always in sight, “Dune” is a movie that is not afraid to make its presence known. “Dune” is one of the most boisterous films of the year between its booming score from Hans Zimmer and intense action sequences. But it does not imply that there are no moments of subtlety. The sounds for the one on one fight between Paul and Gurney is one of the simplest, yet enchantingly audible sequences of the year. “Dune’s” sound mix is a balancing act at its finest, and that is why a hearty congratulations must be given to the team who put this mix together.
Our sixth Best Picture is yet another animated movie that is being honored at today’s ceremony. From Disney, comes a film where a young girl goes on a quest through the realm of Kumandra, where dragons almost cease to exist. With a voiceover cast ranging from Kelly Marie Tran to Sandra Oh to Awkwafina, this film is as adventurously fun as it is ridiculously funny. Scored by James Newton Howard, whose talents have also been shown through the scores for other 21st century Disney pictures including “Treasure Planet” and “Maleficent,” the film promises a journey of friendship, trust, and discovery. Speaking of music, this is an unusual Disney feature where there are no written original songs, allowing us to focus more on the characters in each one of their moments. Nominated for 3 Jackoff Awards, this is “Raya and the Last Dragon.”
It is time to recognize the Best Screenplays of the year, and we will be starting with the original category. For the newcomers to this awards show, no, we will not be continuing with the sequel category. But before we get to the second of the screenplay categories, we shall honor five original ideas that brought joy and wonder to audiences this year. Here are the nominees for Best Original Screenplay.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Being the Ricardos (Aaron Sorkin)
Belfast (Kenneth Branagh)
The French Dispatch (Wes Anderson)
Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright, Krysty Wilson-Cairns)
The Mitchells vs. the Machines (Mike Rianda, Jeff Rowe)
And the winner is…
Mike Rianda and Jeff Rowe for “The Mitchells vs. the Machines!”
Yes, animated movies can win categories too! “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is one of the most charming movies I have watched in a long time. The film is from Sony Pictures Animation, a studio I do not often think about, but they have been on a roll the past couple years between this and “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” Animations often excel because they try to execute ideas that would not often work in a live-action environment. Maybe something would be too crazy, or hyperactive. “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” embraces that idea and dials it up to an 11 with some of the most intense and insane attempts at humor, yours truly has ever seen. This is the vibe of “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” if someone decided to put it in animated form and give it a style that is almost reminiscent of “The LEGO Movie.” Everything from the inserted bubble texts to the cutaway with the monkey to the massive, outrageous action sequences, some of which I cannot even believe they got away with in a film that was probably meant for families, was top notch. It’s like the crew decided on a rule to be as crazy as possible and went with it. And for that, “The Mitchells vs. the Machines” is a gem. Congratulations!
And when I say we are not moving onto the sequel category, I mean it. Even though we are moving onto a category which contains ideas that are inspired by others, not one of them is a sequel. However it is time to honor a remake that takes inspiration from a sci-fi novel, an idea based off of a news story, a historical event based on a 2004 book by Eric Jager, the true life story of the man who created “Rent,” and a remake based on a popular musical inspired by “Romeo & Juliet,” so many ideas, so many recreations, so much glory. Here are the nominees for Best Adapted Screenplay.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Dune (Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth)
Four Good Days (Rodrigo Garcia, Eli Saslow)
The Last Duel (Nicole Holofcener, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon)
Tick, Tick…BOOM! (Steven Levenson)
West Side Story (Tony Kushner)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Steven Levenson for “Tick, Tick…BOOM!”
Last year’s Jackoffs had an interesting result for the Best Original Screenplay category, and that is almost imitated this year. I say almost, because this involves something that happened with this Adapted Screenplay category. The thing, of the five nominees, the one to win is the only one that was not nominated for Best Picture. “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” was a movie that came out of nowhere for me. I did not watch the film on Netflix, I ended up watching it in the theater. But I feel like doing so allowed me to sink myself in to some of the points this movie was trying to make through its script. “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” feels like the combination of the everyday dreams and nightmares of being a struggling writer. The film has marvelously realized numbers, imaginative sequences, and as an aspiring writer, I felt the words uttered on the screen, especially in one scene towards the end of the film. It took me back to a screenwriting class where I learned a lesson that I had to keep in mind every single day. It is something that as a writer that I understand why I need to hear it, but it is also something that makes me wonder if it limits my creativity. The idea that I should write what I know. I consider writing an escape. I want it to be a travel away from what I know. If you enjoy writing or are an artist of any kind, “Tick, Tick…BOOM!” is for you. Congratulations to Steven Levenson!
Our seventh Best Picture is a tale of perspective and truth coming together. This story is told in three ways, with each one having slight differences compared to the last. Actors like Matt Damon, Adam Driver, and Jodie Comer grace the screen through this gritty epic where questions and bias arise. Directed by Ridley Scott, this film encapsulates what happens when the fight for the truth becomes the fight for everyone’s lives. Trust, companionships, and emotions are all broken in this two and a half hour story that pits friend against friend, allowing for a match that could change the course of history. Nominated for 6 Jackoff Awards, this is “The Last Duel.”
Editing is one of the most essential aspects of any production. Including this one. I edited the trailers. I edited the intro. I edited the sketches together. Just about any production you can think of comes together because of an edit. Whether it was done on Adobe Premiere, Avid, Final Cut, or even a splicing machine, editing lines everything up together and allows a previously existing vision to finalize itself into its ultimate form. These five movies have the greatest edits of the year. Here are the nominees for Best Film Editing.
BEST FILM EDITING
Being the Ricardos (Alan Baumgarten)
The French Dispatch (Andrew Weisblum)
The Last Duel (Harry Gregson-Williams)
The Suicide Squad (Fred Raskin, Christian Wagner)
West Side Story (Michael Khan, Sarah Broshar)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Harry Gregson-Williams for “The Last Duel!”
A few of these films are nominated because of their editing quirks. On the other hand, “The Last Duel” is nominated for how it handles seemingly normal editing techniques. “The Last Duel” has some of the most intense sequences ever created for modern cinema. I do not know what Ridley Scott’s goal was with this film, or Harry Gregson-Williams’s for that matter, but the two have joined forces to make a film that part of me almost never wants to watch again because of how GREAT it is. It did its job from a storytelling perspective of making you care for the characters at hand. The final battle between the two leads was gripping and emotional. The camera lingers on each character long enough to properly highlight their stakes within the situation. If the sound, shots, or interlinks were messed with a single bit, it would be harder to consider this film to be as epic as it is.
“The Last Duel” also has a nomination for Best Cinematography. And joining it happen to be four other truly deserving nominees who have their fair share of beautiful wides, breathtaking closeups, and marvelous shadows. The job of the cinematographer is to deliver the finest and divinest images for the biggest and smallest screens. Here are the nominees for Best Cinematography.
Dune (Greig Fraser)
The Last Duel (Dariusz Wolski)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Bill Pope)
Tick…Tick…BOOM! (Alice Brooks)
West Side Story (Janusz Kamiński)
And this year’s Best Cinematography award goes to…
Dariusz Wolski for “The Last Duel!”
Dariusz Wolski has had an impressive resume throughout his career. Doing everything from blockbusters like the first four installments of “Pirates of the Caribbean” to more adult fare like “News of the World.” With the latter and this very film included, this is Dariusz Wolski’s first win and second nomination. Wolski has a trademark of delivering shots that cover the entire scope of an area. His wides deliver some of the finest pieces of camerawork of the year. With an essence of detail and inclusion, each shot looks as inviting as the next. And there is no wonder why he and Ridley Scott have collaborated from one project to the next between “Prometheus,” “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” and “The Martian.” The two are currently working on a Napoleon Bonaparte project alongside a sequel to “Gladiator,” giving audiences more to look forward to. Congratulations!
Our eighth Best Picture is one of the two Marvel Studios films that has been nominated today. Of the two, this one released first, specifically in September when theatrical exclusives were on the rise again. Having banked a $70 million opening weekend, this film is a financial success by the standards of the pandemic era. Much like “Black Panther,” one of this film’s strengths is its well-executed diversity while also writing a compelling story. Much of the film centers around two characters played excellently by Simu Liu and Awkwafina, the latter of whom also appears in another Best Picture nom, “Raya in the Last Dragon.” With stunning visuals, stunts, cinematography, and Marvel’s trademark blend of comedic and serious nature, this is yet another action-packed thrill that just about anyone can enjoy. Nominated for 3 Jackoff Awards, this is “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.”
They say not every film is perfect. Whoever said that is right, not every movie has the word “perfect” in the title. Speaking of films not being perfect, there have been lots of films over the years that have been great, but if they tweaked one or two little things, they could make for the ultimate Friday night on the couch or at the theater. Can you imagine how much better “Jaws” would be if the shark shot lasers? Can you imagine how much better “Clerks” would be if the convenience store were guarded by wrestling robots? Can you imagine how much better “Cats” would be if… They… DIDN’T make it? When it comes to 2021’s films, I think a lot of them are absolutely fantastic, including our Best Picture nominations. But there’s always room for improvement. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for the fourth edition of Film Improvements!
We are down to the final five and it is time for Best Original Song. Last year we honored four films that made brilliant, compelling originals for all to enjoy. Why four? Because one movie had two songs. This year, we honor five. While times and honorees change, the ideas are still the same. These five movies, artists, and songs, moved audiences everywhere this year. Whether it was animated or live-action, the songs were pitched perfectly and written elegantly. I would also like to note that a couple nominees’ names have been added since announcing them two weeks ago. Here are the nominees for Best Original Song.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG
A Million Miles Away – Mamoru Hosoda, Kaho Nakamura (WRITER), Taisei Iwasaki (WRITER/COMPOSER), Kaho Nakamura, and Kylie McNeill (PERFORMED BY) (Belle)
Down to Joy – Van Morrison (Belfast)
Dos Oruguitas – Lin Manuel Miranda (WRITER/MUSIC), Sebastián Yatra (PERFORMED BY) (Encanto)
On My Way – Alex Lahey (The Mitchells vs. the Machines)
No Time to Die – Billie Eilish (No Time to Die)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Mamoru Hosoda, Kaho Nakamura, Taisei Iwasaki, and Kylie McNeill for A Million Miles Away from “Belle!”
This is the second year in a row where an animated film is the winner for Best Original Song, following in the footsteps of Rocket to the Moon from “Over the Moon!” “Belle” is a film that despite this Best Original Song nomination, is not exactly the most original concept as it was inspired by “Beauty and the Beast.” After all, Belle is a character that is prominent in both of these tales. But one of the best moments of the entire film comes toward the end where one character makes an unexpected choice, and then belts out this song. I will not say anything more because doing so will spoil the movie, but this song helped give “Belle” the proper finale it needed and deserved. I like all these songs. No Time to Die is as epic as can be and I went to a “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” taping a couple weeks ago where Sebastián Yatra played Dos Oruguitas for all of us, which was amazing. That was also a contender because of the emotion such a song can provide, even to someone who doesn’t speak Spanish. But A Million Miles Away wins because it handles its subject matter brilliantly while also being a great song on its own. It is wondrous, emotionally charging, and has wide range of instruments to accompany it by the end. Below I have provided two links to the song. The FIRST is the Japanese version. The movie comes from Japan, so therefore some would call this the proper version. This one is performed by Kaho Nakamura. But the SECOND version, for some of my audience who may prefer something different, is in English. That one is sung by Kylie McNeill. Feel free to listen to one song, both, you choose. These are eight minutes each, so listen wisely! Here now is the song A Million Miles Away from “Belle!”
We are down to the final four! It is anybody’s game! “Dune” could possibly win one or two more Jackoffs! There are a couple films that have not won an award all night that could swoop in and take the cake like “Four Good Days” and “Belfast,” maybe Meryl Streep could come in and steal every award! We still have FOUR categories! We’re almost at the end.
One of the most important positions, in fact, what is arguably THE most important position for all of filmmaking, is the director. Movies like “Dune,” “Tick…Tick…BOOM!,” and “West Side Story” would not have been adapted properly had it not been for the touch and passion their auteurs, Denis Villeneuve, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Steven Spielberg provide. While originals like “The French Dispatch” and “Last Night in Soho” would not be here if it were not for the unique, and sometimes off the wall thinking of the minds of Wes Anderson and Edgar Wright. All five directors deserve the honor, but one will leave the best of them all. Here are the nominees for Best Director.
Denis Villeneuve (Dune)
Wes Anderson (The French Dispatch)
Edgar Wright (Last Night in Soho)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Tick…Tick…BOOM!)
Steven Spielberg (West Side Story)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Steven Spielberg for “West Side Story!”
Last year, he won the Roger Deakins Award! This year, he claims another victory! Spielberg is Best Director. I’m gonna tell you the truth. If you asked me what my thoughts were about Steven Spielberg doing a “West Side Story” adaptation a year ago, I would not have cared. I love Spielberg, but “West Side Story” was never something I watched, never something I listened to, so I did not know what to expect. But the more I watched the teaser trailer, I had an idea that Spielberg may have known what he was doing. While I never ended up watching the 1961 film prior to this ceremony, I have seen the 2021 film twice in the theater. There was a constant between one show to the next. Enormous numbers, epic music, tremendous performances all around, and swooping shots allowing for some of the finest camerawork all year. “West Side Story” was a huge part of Spielberg’s growing up, and now that he has aged to a certain point, he was able to take his child-like wonder and combine it with his perked up experience. Some directors say they want to be the next Spielberg. Many friends of aspiring filmmakers hope said aspiring filmmaker becomes the next Spielberg. Here is hoping that this movie will inspire future filmmakers the same way “Jaws” did for one generation and “Jurassic Park” did for another. Congrats to Steven Spielberg!
This next Best Picture is the latest film from Edgar Wright, known for his fast-paced and exciting previous efforts like “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “Baby Driver.” The film centers around a young girl, played marvelously by Thomasin McKenzie, who moves into an apartment in London with the hopes of taking her dreams of becoming a fashion designer to the next level. And her life is much like a dream as she occasionally ends up in the 1960s, where we meet a dazzling, promising singer, portrayed elegantly by Anya Taylor-Joy, who has a complicated rise to being a star. The film is as attractive through its neon infusion as it is suspenseful through its stellar script. Nominated for 5 Jackoff Awards, this is “Last Night in Soho.”
Now we just presented Best Director, and one of the most important jobs of a director is making sure their actors are competent and comfortable enough to do their job. Because the job of an actor is to convey to the audience that they are believing the lie that is in front of them. Even if it is truth within an adaptation or social commentary. Sometimes actors, like Nicole Kidman for example, play actors. But just because they play themselves, does not mean they forget to do so with talent. It does not mean they forget that the audience is watching them and waiting for that one moment that will take them out of their seats and into the scene, feeling totally convinced and in agreement with the lie that’s in front of them. Here are the nominees for Best Actress.
Nicole Kidman (Being the Ricardos)
Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
Mila Kunis (Four Good Days)
Alana Haim (Licorice Pizza)
Rachel Zegler (West Side Story)
And the award goes to…
Jessica Chastain for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye!”
Much like “West Side Story,” “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” is a movie I never ended up reviewing on Scene Before, but had I been given the chance to do so, I would have been RAVING about Jessica Chastain. For a long while, Rachel Zegler was the frontrunner for me. She packs such enormous talent for a body as tiny as hers. Jessica Chastain came swinging and swooping in at the last minute, delivering an inconceivably on point performance for her character of Tammy Faye. I never grew up with Tammy Faye, nor was she ever a part of my life. But between her almost cartoon-like expressions, accentuating the heavily detailed makeup on her face, all the way to her trademarked voice, Chastain put me in a trance that was difficult to exit. Chastain has had quite the resume thus far with “Zero Dark Thirty,” “The Martian,” and my all time favorite movie, “Interstellar.” “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” as a movie, is no “Interstellar,” but Chastain’s performance here may be her greatest yet. Here is a clip of Jessica Chastain in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.”
It is time for Best Actor, where we honor the male liars! This year, we will be honoring five men big and small, young and old, thin and thick, black and white, these are not lies. But the five men who have been nominated have delivered some of the most delicious and convincing lies of the past year. Here are the nominees for Best Actor.
Javier Bardem (Being the Ricardos)
Jude Hill (Belfast)
Will Smith (King Richard)
Cooper Hoffman (Licorice Pizza)
Andrew Garfield (Tick…Tick…BOOM!)
And the Jackoff goes to…
Andrew Garfield for “Tick…Tick…BOOM!”
WHAT A YEAR for Andrew Garfield! You know how good it has been for Andrew Garfield? Well, aside from being in a film with the guy who made “Hamilton,” let me remind you, Jessica Chastain just won Best Actress. Her co-star in “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” was Andrew Garfield, who also did a great job in that film! I have never known about the story behind Jonathan Larson, I have never watched or listened to “Rent,” I knew nothing about this movie’s subject matter. And in a way, I don’t see myself getting myself too much further down the rabbit hole, but Andrew Garfield not only brings Jonathan Larson to life, but I saw a little bit of myself in him. An aspiring artist who hopes to simply get by from day to day, working on his lifetime masterpiece that nobody actually might see, only to occasionally get close to a semblance of success without actually achieving it. I was floored by this story and as an artist, I can see myself going through some of the things this character goes through, and Garfield embodied that from start to finish. Garfield also sang the numbers like a champ, giving him some extra points if you ask me! Here is a clip of Andrew Garfield in “Tick…Tick…BOOM!.”
It is time for the second of the two Lifetime Achievement Awards, the Stan Lee award. This award is given to someone who is no longer with us as of the past year, but has earned a great deal of success while revolutionizing the industry. Past recipients have been Stan Lee, the cameo master and Marvel creator whose characters are used in television and film. Syd Mead, whose work as a visual futurist helped bring us films like “Blade Runner” and “Tron,” and Ennio Morricone, a legendary composer known for his scores in westerns, some of which have been used in a variety of media to this day. Now, a Golden Girl will join the ranks. The winner of this year’s Stan Lee award is an actor whose movie credits include Lake Placid, Bringing Down the House, and The Proposal. While she definitely appeared in a film from time to time, her forte was television. Every now and then, you would find her on game shows from “Match Game” to “Tattletales,” and even “Password,” which had been hosted by one of her husbands, Allen Ludden. She has become a celebrity game show icon to the point where she is perhaps more well known in the genre compared to some television hosts. Her most famous creation for television is “The Golden Girls,” which aired on NBC from 1985 to 1992, with a total of 7 seasons and 180 half-hour episodes. The show consistently reairs its episodes on television and has become known for its chemistry between its cast and its iconic theme song, “Thank You For Being a Friend.” At age 95, she joined the Academy, making her the oldest new member at the time. Some of her later roles were in big budget animations like “The Lorax” and “Toy Story 4.” In the latter of the two, she played a character kind of named after herself, Bitey White, which she would go on to portray once more in the Disney+ original “Forky Asks a Question.” This would become this legend’s final acting credit, and just one of the 126 she has listed on IMDb. When she was not busy blazing a trail on her own variety show, or earning a Guinness World Record, or doing one of the episodes for TVLand’s “Hot in Cleveland,” she was an activist and animal lover. She has dedicated as much of her life to helping animals as much as she spent living out her acting career. When she died at age 99, people did point out that she got to live a good life, but there were also complaints from some that she did not get to make it to 100. When you are 99 years old and people still think you died too soon, you have made a massive impact on those who look up to you. I am proud to honor one of the most revolutionary actors and personalities of all time, one who is so beloved that Alex Trebek once selected her to replace him when he leaves “Jeopardy!.” This year’s Stan Lee Award goes to Betty White.
Some say that Betty White’s death made 2021 end with a whimper. I prefer to think that she brought gold to the Heavens and the great beyond. And maybe, a little extra gold would not hurt. Congrats to Betty White, may she rest in peace and thank you for being a friend.
Our final Best Picture nominee is proof that not all remakes are terrible. Based on a play of the same name, which takes some inspiration from William Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet,” this film is about the rivalry of two dancing street gangs and the perils of falling in love with someone from the other side. The film has a remarkable cast, led by Rachel Zegler as Maria, who hopes to make herself comfortable in New York City, an enormous, unfamiliar environment as far as she is concerned. Directed by last year’s Roger Deakins Award winner, Steven Spielberg, he continues to prove that he is arguably the greatest director to ever set foot in the film industry. Enchanting musical sequences with booming music and intricate choreography deliver a treat for both the eyes and ears, but it does not stop the film from having incredibly compelling moments from character to character in every other scene. Nominated for a record-breaking 11 Jackoff Awards, this is “West Side Story.”
We have arrived at the final category, Best Picture. First off, I want to give a big congratulations to all of the nominees tonight. Second, I want to remind everyone of how this works. Unlike the other eighteen categories presented during the ceremony, Best Picture is the only one where I do not choose a winner. That is decided by the people at home, the viewers. I have tallied the votes one by one, and I can declare that one of these movies is going home with the biggest honor of the night. Past honors have gone “Avengers: Infinity War,” “1917,” and “Tenet.” So, will another MCU film take home the crown? Will DC steal Marvel’s spotlight this year? Will “Dune” or “West Side Story” acquire yet another win? Will an animated movie claim victory? It’s hard to say… To me… All these movies are winners. I cannot choose one.
I mean that literally and figuratively. I gave the voting power to the public.
Here are the nominees for Best Picture!
Dune (Mary Parent, Denis Villeneuve, Cale Boyter, Jon Caracciolo Jr.)
Four Good Days (Rodrigo Garcia, Jacob Avnet, Jon Avnet, Marina Grasic, Jai Khanna)
The Last Duel (Ridley Scott, Kevin J. Walsh, Jennifer Fox, Nicole Holofcener, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck)
Last Night in Soho (Nira Park, Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Edgar Wright)
The Mitchells vs. the Machines (Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Kurt Albrecht)
Raya and the Last Dragon (Osnet Shurer, Peter Del Vecho)
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (Kevin Feige, Jonathan Schwartz)
Spider-Man: No Way Home (Kevin Feige, Amy Pascal)
The Suicide Squad (Charles Roven, Peter Safran)
West Side Story (Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger)
And the Best Picture of 2021 is…
This is the tenth nomination and fourth win for “Dune.” The film also won Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Mixing. “Dune” was also nominated for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Director. This is the second Best Picture win for a Warner Brothers film.
To make it to the top, one must not fear! Warner Brothers takes home another Best Picture win, and “Dune” is officially the most respected movie of 2021! In a year where we have three comic book movies nominated for Best Picture, all of them are beaten by the latest adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic! Like many movies of the past couple years, including last year’s Best Picture winner, “Tenet,” “Dune” was on its way to being one of the biggest movies of its time, only to face a significant hurdle. COVID-19. The film was set to release in December 2020, only to be pushed back almost an entire year where it would end up releasing both in theaters and on HBO Max at the same time depending on your market. Again, I saw “Dune” twice in theaters! And both theatrical experiences added up to be some of the most exciting of the year. Denis Villeneuve is one of my favorite filmmakers working today. In addition to “Dune,” he directed my #2 film of the 2010s, “Blade Runner 2049,” a movie that may honestly be better than its 1982 predecessor. While “Dune” has been brought to the screen before, it should not come as a surprise that Denis Villeneuve brought an epic interpretation of Herbert’s novel to the forefront given his knack for great sci-fi. The book was a part of his growing up, much like composer Hans Zimmer’s, who also won an award for Best Original Score during this exact ceremony. Some remember that “Dune” was once brought to the screen by director David Lynch. Despite Villeneuve’s respect for Lynch, he tried to refrain from using his material as inspiration, and Hans Zimmer did not even watch Lynch’s film to begin with. This provided for one of the year’s most unique film experiences, even though I could compare it to franchises like “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.” Although, in actuality, the book came out before the first “Star Wars” movie, so it’s like we have a patterned family tree on our hands. And it is one of greatness. Much like those two franchises, “Dune” is no stranger when it comes to showing off its technical aspects. The sound is obnoxiously beautiful and the effects are a special kind of special. You truly have not watched a movie until you witness a full-scale sandworm. The film has a cast stacked to the brim between Timothee Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Jason Momoa, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Zendaya, Dave Bautista, and Stellan Skarsgard as one of the creepiest looking and sounding villains I have heard in my life. I. WANT. MORE. I put “Dune” amongst the ten best pictures of the year for a couple reasons. Like its nine competitors, “Dune” was a great movie on its own. Some claim that the movie feels unfinished. I prefer to think that the movie finishes the story it sets out to tell. It has a main character who goes through an arc and changes through the runtime, but it promises a new story as a reward for those who sat through this already exciting one. Promises have been made, but not by forgetting to deliver something great with what we already have. “Dune Part Two” releases in 2023 and hopefully this sequel can follow in the footsteps of its predecessor. Congratulations to Warner Brothers! Congratulations to Mary Parent, Denis Villeneuve, Cale Boyter, and Jon Caracciolo Jr! Congratulations to “Dune,” you have won Best Picture!
That’s all the winners! That’s all the categories! Categories like Editing, Makeup & Hairstyling, and even more categories that some award shows may or may not decide to present! Congratulations to all of the movies that have released in 2021, regardless of whether or not they were honored at this ceremony! I want to give a special shoutout to all our winners and nominees! Thank you for making this edition of the Jackoffs a great one! Shoutout to everyone who voted for Best Picture, you made your choice possible by clicking a button! If only life were always that easy!
That’s our show! For those who want to stick around on Scene Before I have reviews coming for “The Batman” and “Turning Red!” I will hopefully see you all for a fifth ceremony in 2023, where I am thinking of changing the name. Apologies to winners of the Twitter poll in 2018. Until then, follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, check out the Facebook page, and Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Yoda: Told you, did he?
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.
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.
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!
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!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Before we begin, I just want to point out that today is May 25th, a very special day in “Star Wars” history. For those who are not in the loop, May 25th, 1977, is the premiere date of “Star Wars.” It was back in a time of cheaper movie tickets, film stock, and despecialized content. The rest is history. Happy 44th anniversary to the “Star Wars” franchise! We might as well celebrate the anniversary by honoring the “Star Wars” name and discussing a film in the franchise that has impacted me more and more as years pass. Yesterday I reviewed the first “Star Wars” movie I have watched in my life, now we review the second! Why did I watch “Episode III” before all the others? Well, I was at Blockbuster and they had a ton on the shelf, and I put it in a portable DVD set during a car ride on a family trip. Given my young age, I was unable to process what a good or bad movie is, so I just watched all the images wiz by and let it happen. But I did rent it over a couple more instances, eventually went to the Northshore Mall Sears to buy it on DVD, and I watched it quite a few more times over the years. And now it is time to talk about it today in my mini review series I’m calling… “7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!”
“Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” is directed by George Lucas and stars Hayden Christensen (Goosebumps, Shattered Glass), Ewan McGregor (Emma, Trainspotting), Natalie Portman (Leon the Professional, Mars Attacks!), Ian McDiarmid (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dragonslayer), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Unbreakable), Christopher Lee (Julius Caesar, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker (Time Bandits, Flash Gordon), and Frank Oz (The Muppet Movie, The Dark Crystal). This film is the second sequel of the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy and takes place three years into the Clone Wars. As Obi-Wan faces off against the sinister General Grievous, Anakin, now a Jedi Knight with a pregnant wife, is lured into a sinister dark plan to rule the galaxy.
In my previous “Star Wars” prequel reviews, a couple common things I have discussed include the “style over substance” mentality and how the characters in the films overall feel like a near afterthought. If I had to guess, George Lucas spent a long time thinking about how he could do a “Star Wars” prequel series from start to finish, but I feel like as the 1990s came along and visual effects were on the rise with movies like “Jurassic Park,” it felt as if the main reason why “The Phantom Menace” was made was because new technology existed. Now, I am one who occasionally watches movies for technological reasons. I think the trend of movies being shot with IMAX cameras has been one of the best things to happen to blockbusters in recent years. I also recently saw “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” at AMC’s Dolby Cinema. TWICE! IT’S AMAZING!
With “Revenge of the Sith,” this film did not feel like an exception, as it is a continuation of “Star Wars” utilizing lots of digital effects. But unlike “The Phantom Menace,” which already looks kind of dated during scenes like the big climactic battle on Naboo, “Revenge of the Sith” has a vast selection of visuals that still look believable to this day. There is not really a single effect I can think of that looks odd or out of place. Granted, some effects look more believable than others, after all this is a fantasy film, but nevertheless. I will also add that this film, in addition to being the best Skywalker saga prequel in terms of effects, is BY FAR the best prequel in terms of characterization. Anakin and Obi-Wan have solid chemistry from the very first flight sequence to the dramatic climax of the film. Christensen and McGregor have improved their performances from the last film, although I will admit that Christensen is still slightly robotic, and I really dig Anakin’s hair. It works for him.
Speaking of Anakin, I do want to talk his balance between the light and dark sides. To me, this is the highlight of the film, because it shows a man having a ton of thoughts invade his head at a time. One of the things I hated the most about the transition from the original trilogy to the prequel trilogy is the greater emphasis on space politics. Apparently we went from a fantasy adventure where a bunch of people try to restore the galaxy by journeying through the stars to dealing with debates over trade routes. Here, it is a tad more interesting partially because the movie deals with such a dramatic shift and it introduces some concepts that made the original trilogy have an intimidating presence in it. It was fascinating to see the rise of the galactic empire and what it took to get there. With Anakin in the mix, you have this man who said as a boy he would come back to his home planet and free the slaves, to straight up wanting power every other second. We see traces of this in “Attack of the Clones” where Anakin often complains about Obi-Wan putting him in his place and his desire to stop people from dying, which by the way is expanded in this film with a subplot involving Anakin and Padme’s love life. And yes, we will get to Darth Plagueis. But not yet.
The romance between Anakin and Padme in “Attack of the Clones” felt unbelievably forced, as I mentioned in my review, but in “Revenge of the Sith” I bought into it a little bit more. Maybe it is because the two characters grew up, matured a bit more. To be perfectly honest, Anakin feels WAY less creepy in this film compared to how he did in “Attack of the Clones,” which is part of why I think “Revenge of the Sith” is the best of the prequels in terms of representing him and a bunch of other characters as well.
I’m just glad this movie BARELY has Jar Jar in it. Thank the space lords!
I will say though, the plot line that was introduced in “Attack of the Clones,” the one that forbids Anakin and Padme from being together, also makes an appearance in “Revenge of the Sith,” but it feels like it is just here to remind the audience of what happened in the last movie with little to no expansion from there whatsoever.
Speaking of “Attack of the Clones,” one of my grievances with the film, and “The Phantom Menace” for that matter, is that we learn a lot of seemingly important things from people standing around and doing nothing except for having obviously expositional conversations. They’re either walking or standing around in hallways. It doesn’t always feel that eventful or intriguing. It lacks any sort of oomph that could possibly be delivered. But I would have to assume this is one of the disadvantages that comes with blue screens and digital environments. All these additions of fake environments make conversations ultimately feel less authentic and more played out for the sake of giving the audience information. The more I look back, physical characters feel more like animated blobs, which is not exactly a good thing. This is not to say that the digital effects in “Revenge of the Sith” are all bad. In fact, it is by far the best-looking “Star Wars” film in the prequel trilogy. I love the new worlds including Mustafar and Kashyyyk.
On the topic of Kashyyyk, I really like any moment we get to see that world because first off, we get to see Chewbacca, and who doesn’t love Chewbacca? But we get to see this really big Wookie army fighting off Battle Droids, which by itself is pretty badass. It has the same scale and polish that the climactic battle at the end of “Attack of the Clones” had if you ask me. One highlight for me, and to my surprise, we actually got this in “Return of the Jedi” as well, but I never really paid much attention to it when it happened, is hearing a wookie yell like Tarzan. I don’t know what it is, but it is just satisfying to say the least.
In case you missed the subtitle, “Revenge of the Sith” is easily my favorite of the “Star Wars” prequels, and I am including “Rogue One” in this conversation, despite how great that film is by itself. Part of this is because of the way they go about the Jedi and Sith side of things. This film EASILY has the best lightsaber duels in the franchise, which really says something because the one between Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon against Darth Maul was pretty sick to watch. I really enjoyed the duel where the Jedi try to arrest Palpatine, as goofy as it is to think about Palpatine being able to do a spinny thing and land carefully on the ground without breaking a leg. The music in that scene is great too, but I am very disappointed it is not on any of the official albums. The duel between Obi-Wan and Grievous is just plain great from seeing how Kenobi deals with a quad-lightsaber individual to Grievous being ridiculously over the top in the best possible way. And of all the “meme” scenes in this movie from “I have the high ground” to the youngling asking Anakin what is going to be done about all the Jedi being killed, this duel contains the one that I’ve been thinking about the most these days.
I want to have an exchange in real life like this. I just want to meet up with one of my friends and go “Hello there,” desperately hoping they respond with “General Kenobi!” There’s just something about this exchange and how soothing it is to the ears.
This “Hello there” line is literal perfection. Not only does Obi-Wan appear out of the blue making a grand entrance with a superhero landing, we get some dead air for a second, he could say anything, but sometimes the simplest exchange is always the best. “Hello there.” Now, McGregor saying that phrase alone is great, but the way he enunciates it is just spectacular. He sounds like he could be a tour guide on a safari or something. Maybe a receptionist. If I check into a hotel in London, I want someone with that voice to greet me. And of course, we get General Grievous being his over the top self. It’s just great. Almost cartoony, but in a likable way. What makes this even better, and I bet George Lucas wrote this specific line down on purpose, is that in the original “Star Wars,” the first line out of Kenobi ever is him saying “Hello there.” Only thing is instead of it coming out of Ewan McGregor’s mouth, it is being said by Alec Guinness. This is a little thing, but “Star Wars” has been ingrained in my mind for years that I have to point out the little things every now and then.
The first duel of the film where Anakin and Obi-Wan face off against Dooku is a crowd pleaser. Per usual, the music from John Williams is golden and the choreography is top notch. Plus, we get to see a hint of rising conflict amongst Anakin.
In another universe, there is a chance that this film has a nearly similar title to another one in the franchise that already exists. Specifically, “Return of the Jedi.” For those who are not in the know, “Return of the Jedi” was originally going to be called “Revenge of the Jedi,” but they changed the name at the last minute because Jedi do not typically seek revenge. After all, revenge is sometimes seen as a negative concept and one that may be deadly. As Mace Windu said in “Attack of the Clones,” Jedi are “keepers of the peace, not soldiers.” They are there to protect others, but killing is not the Jedi way. Now in “Revenge of the Sith,” we actually get to see a Jedi, Anakin specifically, let himself loose. One standout moment of the film for me is the moment where we see Anakin wield two lightsabers. Those two sabers being his own and Dooku’s, and he intricately places them near Dooku’s face. After being ordered by Palpatine to “kill him,” Anakin looks at Dooku with bewilderment, but he goes with it anyway. He instantly regrets his choice, but this is a great way to show that Anakin’s mind could easily be twisted. I think the buildup to these moments have been perfect because while Anakin swears on his life to protect others, he has also shown signs that he is 1: somewhat selfish, and 2: constantly lusting for power. He sometimes overreacts about how he is treated by Obi-Wan, he sliced Tusken Raiders out of rage after his mom died, and now this is just his latest release.
In fact, later on in the film, when we see Anakin’s appointment to the Jedi Council, I sort of felt his pain when being denied the rank of Master. Which by the way, that is amazing. I say so because this trilogy has been riddled with moments where I couldn’t give two craps about anything going on or the characters, so to see Anakin experience disappointment and have me gain a sense of sympathy for him is already an improvement over much of “The Phantom Menace.” This is all bad news for Anakin. But I’d argue there is great news for the viewers. Why? Because Anakin is forced to spy on Palpatine, which leads to the scene where we get to hear about Darth Plagueis the wise, arguably the only time I cared about midichlorians.
For those who have not seen this movie, this is not really a spoiler because it probably has less of an effect on the plot, although it does give an idea as to where things could be going. Anakin and Palpatine sit down next to each other, and at one point Palpatine asks Anakin if he’s heard of Darth Plagueis, to which Ani says no. Turns out, Darth Plagueis could use his power to influence midichlorians in order to create life. He could also simply put, save people from death. Now if you remember “Attack of the Clones,” when Anakin goes off on a rant in front of Padme, he mentions that he will learn how to stop people from dying. That was some great foreshadowing, because Anakin soon asks Palpatine, “Is it possible to learn this power?” Palpatine then responds, “Not from a Jedi.” This is perfect lore building. Not only does it expand on a foreshadowed comment, not only does it provide some cool backstory, but it even promises excitement in the future. Plus, Palpatine’s comment is kind of glorious to say the least because if anything, you would think the Jedi would be the ones to save people from death as that is kind of their purpose at times. But in a way, I could see why the dark side would use something like this. After all, part of the Jedi is selflessness, and there may be an argument to make that stopping people from dying could be personal, kind of like seeking revenge. This kind of makes the Anakin and Padme storyline very intriguing because from Anakin’s point of view, he hopes to save Padme’s life, but in reality, he may be going against his own morals. I will also add, this is one of the weird times where one of the better “Star Wars” moments throughout the franchise is just from two characters almost doing nothing except for sitting down and having a conversation. But if you like characters doing things, prepare for the climax.
The climax of “Revenge of the Sith” has my favorite action sequence in the entire franchise, not to mention one of my favorites in film history. The fight against Anakin and Obi-Wan is EASILY the most emotionally charging fight in the entire prequels. Everything has built up to this. Obi-Wan has a job to do where Anakin must be kept from causing any more havoc amongst the galaxy and even himself. I do not want to go into everything, but the choreography in this duel is legit. I feel like the Jedi at some point in their lives are trained to just show themselves off in front of everyone around them. Every lightsaber flick, move, and trick that is done in this duel is orgasmic to say the last. And speaking of epic, the music throughout the battle may be my favorite music in the entire franchise.
John Williams, as mentioned before, is a goddamn genius. I would not say so unless it were true. Towards the end of the battle, where Obi and Ani float on pieces of debris on the lava, there’s this gigantic chorus that lets themselves loose and they mean business. Everything about the music here, including the recently posted track, “Battle of the Heroes,” is perfect. It’s dark, brooding, massive, and much like “Duel of the Fates” in “The Phantom Menace,” “Battle of the Heroes” is perfect for many incidents of impending doom.
In the final moments of battle, there is a brief exchange between Ani and Obi that is honestly incredible as it shows how far their friendship has fallen.
Obi-Wan: I have failed you, Anakin. I have failed you.
Anakin Skywalker: I should have known the Jedi were plotting to take over!
Obi-Wan: Anakin, Chancellor Palpatine is evil!
Anakin Skywalker: From my point of view, the Jedi are evil!
Obi-Wan: Well, then you are lost!
Anakin Skywalker: [raises his lightsaber] This is the end for you, my master.
They say that Jedi mind tricks only work on the weak minded, but it is just fascinating to see what happens when a Sith takes control of a Jedi’s mind. How they can brainwash them essentially. Granted the Jedi started this whole thing too by not letting Anakin be a Master, but nevertheless. You know what’s also great? Simultaneously, we have ANOTHER amazing duel between Yoda and Palpatine! The buildup and action all the way to the end is exciting and thrilling. It also reuses “Duel of the Fates,” which I personally approve.
“Revenge of the Sith” easily tries harder than any other prequel to tell a great story. In fact, part of me imagines that George Lucas almost reluctantly went through the first two episodes hoping to get to the third one as quick as possible! Heck! It is the beginning of the end of the Jedi! It is the freaking Clone Wars! It is the origin story of Darth Vader! There is so much to like on paper when it comes to this film, and thankfully, the execution of this film is not terrible. The order 66 scene becomes more chilling with each watch! The lightsaber duels are off the hook! The space politics are SOMEHOW not boring! If I had to name any other noticeable flaws, it would be that some of the dialogue is sometimes cliché or corny, but it is not as bad as “Attack of the Clones.” There’s not much else that stands out. “Revenge of the Sith” is a special “Star Wars” movie for me because it is my favorite prequel and has what I consider to be some of the personal bests for the franchise. It has the best score. It has the best lightsaber duel. It has arguably one of the top lore expansions with Darth Plagueis. This is a film that I enjoyed in my childhood, but have become increasingly in love with after repeat viewings.
In the end, “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” is easily my favorite “Star Wars” prequel to date. I will be completely honest with you. I could easily take out Episodes I and II and be perfectly okay with keeping III. Story-wise, it is exciting. Visually, it is breathtaking. Musically, it is bonkers. Of all of Ewan McGregor’s performances as Obi-Wan, this is easily the best one. Although I want you to notice something. Occasionally I will call this film the best “Star Wars” prequel. But I should note, in my subtitle and earlier in this paragraph, note my choice of words. I use the word “favorite,” not best. Part of me would argue in terms of story and concept, “Rogue One” may be slightly better. Although I had to pick one to watch over and over due to replay value, the option would definitely be “Revenge of the Sith.” There is so much to love about it, and the fan in me wants to give it a 10/10, but given the numerous flaws I mentioned, I do not see myself doing that as a critic. So despite me loving this film SO MUCH, I will take a couple points off and give “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” an 8/10.
I think this is a somewhat fair grade. Of all the prequels, this is the only one where I did not feel even an inch of boredom, even in slower scenes that mainly just involve dialogue. The space politics, again, actually feel like they matter. Anakin’s balance between light and dark gets more hypnotizing by the minute. And unlike “The Phantom Menace” that occasionally looks like some of the effects come out of a cereal box nowadays, “Revenge of the Sith” still holds up in terms of presentation and CGI. Overall, I would EASILY recommend this movie, and despite not liking the other two Skywalker Saga prequels, this is something that I would recommend to people starting to get into “Star Wars.” The positives easily outweigh the negatives, which I have not been able to say for the prior two episodes. “Revenge of the Sith,” despite being a brooding movie about one man’s transition to darkness, is a bright spot in the “Star Wars” universe for me.
Thanks for reading this review! This concludes my reviews for the “Star Wars” prequels and now it is time to unleash my thoughts on the original trilogy! Tomorrow I will post my review for “Star Wars,” or “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope” depending on which generation you’re in. Stay tuned, get excited, get ready! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or a WordPress account and like the Facebook page so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Star Wars” prequel? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today I want to talk about one film in the “Star Wars” franchise that has meant a lot to me. My first ever introduction to the name “Star Wars,” that is aside from hearing about it from other people when I was in kindergarten. This also excludes a time I was over my cousin’s house, and he would be playing “LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game” on his Xbox. I do not know what episode he dove into first, but nevertheless. I also do not to leave out my memories having to do with a Millennium Falcon memory game at my grandparents house. That was something I often played in my younger years, but little did I know it was actually “Star Wars.” It was not too terribly long after that LEGO video game experience that I would go to the Sears at the Northshore Mall, which sadly does not exist anymore, and buy a widescreen DVD copy of “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.” I would watch the film every now and then, have almost no idea what was going on, but because there were grand things and lasersword fights going down, I was entertained. Granted, as time went on, I had a greater understanding of everything, but keep in mind, I was around the age of 6 and I was not the brightest bulb in the room. That DVD was one of the most replayed I’ve had through my childhood, and despite upgrading to the Blu-ray in 2014, I still own the DVD to this day.
Long story short, “Attack of the Clones” was my first “Star Wars” film. What do I think of the movie today? Find out in my second review in a miniseries I’m calling… 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!
“Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” is directed by George Lucas, who directed two “Star Wars” films prior to his 2002 outing. This film stars Hayden Christensen (Goosebumps, Higher Ground), Ewan McGregor (Emma, Trainspotting), Natalie Portman (Leon: The Professional, Mars Attacks!) Ian McDiarmid (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dragonslayer), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Shaft), Christopher Lee (Julius Caesar, Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker (Time Bandits, Flash Gordon), and Frank Oz (The Muppet Movie, The Dark Crystal). This film is the first sequel in the prequel trilogy. Try saying that three times fast. This sequel takes place ten years after “The Phantom Menace.” Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi have grown to be well-connected partners, and speaking of partnership, Skywalker wants to be romantically involved with Senator Padme Amidala. Only problem, Jedi code suggests followers are forbidden to love. Meanwhile, Obi-Wan Kenobi attempts to discover more information regarding an assassination attempt on the recently mentioned senator. On his journey, he discovers a clone army.
Few franchises have defined not only my childhood, but pretty much my entire life like “Star Wars” has. It is a franchise that one can get attached to at any age for a variety of reasons. As I have said before, “Attack of the Clones” was my first “Star Wars” film and one of my initial forays into the franchise, so like the film or not, I admittedly owe much of my gratitude to “Attack of the Clones.” I grew up with the prequel trilogy, and as you may have seen in my review for “The Phantom Menace,” that does not necessarily mean that I am a fan or avid supporter of said trilogy. It just means that it sort of defined my life for a period of time. I am well aware that the prequels get a ton of hate from a multitude of fans, and I am not going to stop them from having an opinion, whether I agree with it or not. It is a situation like this that makes me wonder what life will be like in ten years. How will we remember Episodes VII through IX? Will they be looked at in the same way as the prequels? Maybe better? Worse? Who knows?
I just want to reiterate, as a kid, “Attack of the Clones” was one of my most rewatched “Star Wars” films. As an adult, it is an utter snoozefest. Boring. Dull. Uninteresting. You name it.
Fun fact, one of the reasons why I remember “Attack of the Clones” being one of my most rewatched “Star Wars” films as a child is because I went through a phase in fourth grade, or at least I think it was fourth grade, where I would fall asleep to it every night when I played it on the television. Out of all the “Star Wars” movies I could choose that could make me fall asleep, that was usually the one because there were a lot of slower parts, and at the time, it seemed to be one of the lighter installments in the franchise, specifically in the first hour. Why? Because maybe I should have realized this when I was younger, NOTHING HAPPENS!
My lord! I often complain about Jar Jar in “The Phantom Menace,” and thankfully he is toned down in “Attack of the Clones,” but at least there was enough insanity going on in that first prequel to suggest that stuff was actually going on. Every other scene in this film is people walking and talking with no conflict, exposition, or a boring ripoff of “Romeo & Juliet.” Look, if I were alive in the “Star Wars” universe, there is a chance I would want to take Padme out for dinner, even if it meant going against code, but it is nowhere near enough to make a good movie.
Much like “The Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones” is yet another example of style over substance. Let me be fair, “Star Wars” is known for big pretty things. It has been since it first came out in 1977. But since George Lucas did “The Phantom Menace” in 1999, that’s pretty much been superior to characterization. It’s been put above good themes, good acting. Real human emotions. Now, do I think Hayden Christensen’s Anakin Skywalker is more likable than the one played by Jake Lloyd? Yes. But for the most part, when it comes to the performance, Skywalker feels like a robot. I know one of the complaints about Luke Skywalker’s character in the original trilogy according to some people is that he is kind of a downer, somewhat of a whiner if you will. But at the same time, Mark Hamill did a really good job at encapsulating any emotion that came his way. He was not just someone who could shoot a blaster or fly an X-wing like a boss. Hamill put a significant amount of effort into a genuinely fun and entertaining character.
I may talk about this film having tons of style and how much of an achievement this prequel trilogy has been for CGI, but this film proves once again, “Star Wars” on location will always have more depth than green screening. It allows for the film to feel more raw despite such a fantastical vibe. Although I must say one perk that did come from all the green screen filming is the fact that this film manages to have more otherworldly designs than in the original trilogy. As much as I prefer the rustic, dirty feel of the Tatooine sands in the original trilogy, I must say that Coruscant is pleasing to the eye. It has the look I would want out of a galactic city and getting to see more of it in this movie was one of the highlights.
Speaking of Coruscant, one of my favorite parts of the film, partially because it is one of the more action-packed sequences in what is actually a somewhat dull picture, is the chase between Obi-Wan and Anakin as they go after Zam, played by Leeana Walsman. The chase is not too long, not too short, it is just right. Plus there is so much that happens at once between Obi-Wan holding onto a drone ship for dear life, the two Jedi showing off in the air without a ship, Anakin being cocky in front of his master, and a solid mix of flying and running. Plus, there is a moment where Obi-Wan sits at a bar and let’s just say that it is one of the funnier moments of the prequel trilogy.
Elan Sleazebaggano: You wanna buy some death sticks?
Obi-Wan: [using a Jedi Mind Trick] You don’t want to sell me death sticks.
Elan Sleazebaggano: Uh, I don’t want to sell you death sticks.
Obi-Wan: You want to go home and rethink your life.
Elan Sleazebaggano: I want to go home and rethink my life.
Remember kids, hugs not drugs.
While this film’s “character moments” from what I gathered are relatively few and far between, one of the better parts of the movie is seeing Anakin lose his temper. Now this movie is from 2002, but I will try to be as secretive as possible because there are potentially people reading this who have not watched “Attack of the Clones.” Let’s just say that there are a few moments through dialogue and various actions where Anakin clearly needs a therapist. I won’t go into everything, but I feel like that these moments, regardless of how much they have helped or destroyed the movie quality-wise, because I will admit, watching this was slightly awkward at times, perhaps effectively showed Anakin’s darker traits. Take Yoda’s dialogue in “The Phantom Menace” where fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. There is one scene where this partially culminates through Anakin’s words when he is on Tatooine with Padme. He is clearly depressed, and perhaps rightly so, but it is beyond difficult for him to control his emotions.
And you want to know why these character moments from Anakin stand out? Because they’re shoehorned into a lifeless, wooden film that barely has any semblance of emotion attached to it from the start! Every other performance in this film feels questionable to say the least. These actors do have talent, but there are moments were the actors sort of feel like they are not saying lines and instead reading words off of a teleprompter. They say that actions speak louder than words, but in this film, there is sometimes little action, but too many words. The thing that works about the original, and I’ll also mention sequel trilogy is that every other conversation not only feels dramatic or real to a degree, but there seems to be a sense of conflict while each hint of dialogue is uttered. Something is happening, some impending doom or incident may be coming. But in the prequel trilogy, we have to settle for random casual talks in hallways or well put together rooms. It’s like walking into a nice Italian restaurant, ordering a presentable chicken parmesan, only to have it be delivered as a hologram. There’s something taken out of the experience of “Star Wars” through all of the blue screen work being done in the prequel trilogy and it is occasionally depressing to think about.
Although I must say, if “The Phantom Menace” did not showcase this already, the prequel trilogy does mean business when it comes to the lightsaber battles. The final fights of the film where the Jedi duke it out with Count Dooku are stylish and amazingly choreographed. Christopher Lee (RIP) shines as Dooku, trying to intimidate his foes by getting into their heads while his lightsaber tries to get into their skin. But the best part of Dooku, is not even Dooku himself, it’s Yoda.
“Attack of the Clones” came out theatrically when I was two years old, so I did not get to see it in the cinema, but boy oh boy, I would have KILLED to have been at one of the first shows when the duel from Yoda and Dooku happens, because DAMN that is some entertaining stuff! Seeing this fun-sized green creature who we previously knew as a wise figure turn into the tiniest badass in the galaxy is nothing short of glorious. It is a little awkward watching him jump around trying to keep up with Dooku, but he still manages to come off as perfection nevertheless.
One Jedi battle that was unfortunately, slightly more disappointing… Came prior to the final battle against Dooku, and that is the big Jedi fight in the arena where Anakin and Padme were supposed to die.
First off, I did not really feel that much emotion as these two were being dragged to their deaths, and their performances in these moments gave me no reason to feel anything whatsoever. But that’s not the main thing I wanted to discuss.
You know that conceptual saying about sequels regarding how “bigger is better?” Well, for this first sequel of the prequel trilogy, they did go pretty big. In the main saga, this movie contained the biggest Jedi battle yet. Yay! Was it cool to see so many people wielding lightsabers at a time? You betcha! But again, this just goes to show that this trilogy is more concerned about style than it is with substance. There are lots of Jedi! Lots of battle droids! Lots of creatures! But I do not care about nearly anybody in battle! I’m just watching it happen. It’s visually pleasing, but it does not mean I will remember it as one of the more iconic moments in “Star Wars” history. Yes, there are some cool moments like seeing C-3PO in a Battle Droid body and getting to see the connection between Boba and Jango Fett, but there is not much else to say except that the battle is big and it happens.
But seriously. C-3PO as a Battle Droid, the more I think about it, it is increasingly legit.
While that “death sticks” exchange was one of the best moments of the movie in terms of dialogue between characters, there are several contenders I would argue as qualifiers for the worst.
Padme: We used to come here for school retreat. We would swim to that island every day. I love the water. We used to lie out on the sand and let the sun dry us and try to guess the names of the birds singing.
Anakin: I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything is soft and smooth.
Padme: Ani? My goodness, you’ve grown.
Anakin: So have you, grown more beautiful… for a senator, I mean.
It’s almost like George Lucas got advice from the writers of “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation!” This is just bad!
But I think the worst part of the film as a concept… Remember midichlorians? Well, this may arguably be worse.
Jedi are not allowed to love.
So in a way, this film really is like “Romeo & Juliet,” except that “Romeo & Juliet” had a forbidden love that felt like it had a place in the narrative. This “Star Wars” prequel does bring a new concept to the universe, but it feels forced for the storyline and almost out of the blue! I would have liked to have known this in any of the prior episodes, because this is a storyline that feels as if it is dropped like a bomb. Not like the “I am your father” reveal where it was so amazingly shocking (maybe unless you knew what Vader meant), but more like the “midichlorians” reveal where it brings nothing but boring change.
You know how in my review for “The Phantom Menace,” I mentioned that despite an overwhelming amount of negatives, there actually are some positives sprinkled in between? One such positive I discussed during my review was John Williams’ score. Because for the most part, that is one thing that feels somewhat consistent between the original trilogy and the prequels that came before it. Although in the case of the prequels, Williams did not just go for a big nostalgia fest. He introduced a ton of new themes, and “Attack of the Clones” has a pretty amazing one, specifically the “love theme” known as “Across the Stars.”
One of my goals that I recently put on my imaginary bucket list is to see John Williams live in concert. The man is a goddamn genius and one of the reasons why I listen to more film scores when I’m alone compared to any other form of music. The music here solidifies my case because I consider “Attack of the Clones” to be one of the low caliber “Star Wars” installments. But I will not lie to you that I get chills listening to Across the Stars. But just like “The Phantom Menace,” I just want this movie to be actually as good as the music.
I will recommend “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” for one reason above all else. If you really need sleep, this is about as effective as melatonin. Say you’re in the middle of a “Star Wars” marathon, you just finished watching “The Phantom Menace,” you need a nap, but you gotta be wise and finish the marathon by a deadline. Go to your bedroom if you are not there already, turn on “Attack of the Clones,” get under the covers of your bed, and shut your eyes! Just make sure your sleep is only a couple hours, because then you can put in the next movie. I assure you the early Anakin and Padme scenes will put ya right out.
In the end, “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” is yet another attack on the “Star Wars” franchise. The “Star Wars” name is once again being destroyed by its own creator and I will also mention, it felt like George Lucas occasionally sleepwalked his way through this movie, because just like “The Phantom Menace,” there are signs that Lucas stood by his “poetry philosophy…”
I know people talk about “The Force Awakens” ripping off “A New Hope,” but at least it did so in an entertaining way. And yes, when I get to the “Episode VII” review, that is a topic I will be discussing. I’d almost argue that there are elements of “The Empire Strikes Back” that are translated into “Attack of the Clones” but it does not save the movie from being as boring as it is. Is there romance? Yes. Are we introduced to a “Fett” bounty hunter? Sure. Do hands get chopped off? Yeah. But poetry does not always equal art. Well executed ideas, which “Attack of the Clones” lacks throughout, are perhaps a greater measure of the word. To put it short, this was my first “Star Wars” movie, and now it is almost my worst “Star Wars” movie. It is sad, but true. I’m going to give “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” a 4/10.
Thanks for reading this review! Tomorrow I will have my review up for “Episode III!” That’s right! Tomorrow I will be giving my thoughts on “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” I cannot wait to continue this special week that I am FINALLY getting around to, after all this time! Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account, and like the Facebook page if you want to stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you watch “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever read “Romeo & Juliet?” What are your thoughts? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! Today is May 23rd! Here’s hoping you are feeling the force today and every day! Today we are going to begin an all-new miniseries, 7 Days of Star Wars. We are going to talk about a “Star Wars” film for each day that we progress through this week. I have reviewed most of the core “Star Wars” movies such as a couple of the sequel trilogy installments and Disney spinoffs like “Rogue One.” However, this is a project I have waited to do for years. Partially because of time constraints, trying to find the right days to pull something like this off, and the typical human issue we all have, hesitancy towards actually sitting down and doing something. Some say they are gonna write a novel, but never actually get to the point of starting to write a novel. I am not saying that me doing “Star Wars” reviews is like me writing a novel, but I have been pondering over this idea since maybe 2016, perhaps 2017. I had a friend or two request me to talk about these films. Although I don’t usually take requests and I wondered how I wanted to go about doing something like this. That is why during my 5th anniversary of Scene Before, we are going big. 7 “Star Wars” movies. One new review per day. All for your entertainment. Ladies and gentlemen, it is time for the first entry of… 7 DAYS OF STAR WARS!
“Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” is directed by George Lucas (American Graffiti, THX 1138) and stars Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List, Michael Collins), Ewan McGregor (Emma, Trainspotting), Jake Lloyd (Jingle All the Way, The Pretender), Natalie Portman (Leon: The Professional, Mars Attacks!), Ian McDiarmid (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dragonslayer), Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker (Time Bandits, Flash Gordon), Pernilla August (The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, The Serpent’s Way), and Frank Oz (The Dark Crystal, The Muppet Movie). This film tells the journey of two Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi Wan Kenobi, as they escape a hostile blockade and find themselves with a young boy on Tatooine. This young boy, Anakin Skywalker, is prophesized to bring balance to the force. Although the Sith, arch rivals of the Jedi, are desperate for a return to glory.
Wow. Can’t believe it took me this long, but here we go. “Star Wars Episode I” is an interesting film from the surface because as a kid, it is the one that I watched the least. I say that as someone who grew up with the prequels and not the originals. And it is not because I did not like the movie. I had little to no concept of what a “good” or “bad” movie was as a kid. I borrowed my cousin’s DVD at one point, I MAY have rented it from Blockbuster, and I am pretty sure that is the most exposure I had of the film as a kid except for when it aired on Spike. I owned all the live-action “Star Wars” movies as a kid, except for “The Phantom Menace.” I even owned “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” on DVD as a kid and I still never owned “The Phantom Menace.” I did not own “The Phantom Menace” until buying a used Blu-ray copy of The Prequel Trilogy at the Northshore Mall Newbury Comics.
I will be completely real with you about the “Star Wars” prequels. There are some genuinely good things about these movies. They are marvelous to look at. Then again, which “Star Wars” movie is not? While they may not be the goto standard these days in regards to visuals, they have been a major influence to CGI and digital effects. And even though they kind of harm the lore that was previously established in the original trilogy, they also introduce some new ideas to the universe that we have not been exposed to yet. We’ll definitely be talking about Darth Plagueis the Wise when we get to Episode III, but unfortunately we are talking about Episode I which I would consider to not just be the worst prequel, but perhaps arguably the worst “Star Wars” movie ever.
I was not joking in the subtitle when I said that the worst comes chronologically first. Because OH MY GOD, there is so much that is wrong with this movie. I don’t even know where to start. The movie admittedly starts off fine because one of the things that separates this trilogy from the original is the fact that this takes place in a time where Jedi were more likely to be found. They were in their prime, they were badass, and the opening scene of the film were we see Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan slice heads off battle droids solidifies that. “The Phantom Menace” is like the Bloomin’ Onion from Outback Steakhouse. Sure, having it is great, but if you think too much, it may ruin the experience of taking it all in.
The sad thing about “The Phantom Menace” is that when it comes to the characters, I can almost barely remember a single thing about them. Qui-Gon Jinn wields a green lightsaber, he does some cool stuff, he’s played by Liam Neeson, and that is about it. There is not much depth to his character that would really make me remember him or care about him. Say what you want about the recent sequel trilogy, one thing they did really well in those movies is build some semblance of backstory for Rey and Finn. The backstories for them may have been somewhat bumpy, but they’re backstories nevertheless. Here, George Lucas pretty much goes as far to say, “Well, they’re Jedi Knights. Watch them.” That ain’t enough, Georgie! Give me some backstory! I don’t care about Qui-Gon! I don’t care about Darth Maul! They do cool things in the movie, but it does not make them great characters. It just makes them eye candy! Heck! Jar Jar Binks, the literal joke of the film, has more of a backstory than Qui-Gon! At least a backstory that I can cite for someone who happens to be curious. Jar Jar is clumsy and is hated by his peers. Done.
Oh yeah, about Jar Jar being the joke of the film. All respect to Ahmed Best, I have no intention of harming him as a professional, but wow his character SUCKS. And I must admit, it takes the “Star Wars” name, which arguably is for kids and young adults, and instead makes it for toddlers. Jar Jar Binks is what happens when you let a toddler write a “Star Wars” movie with their dad. The father has all the civilized characters. Jedi, droids, hutts, royalty, and then you have the toddler come in with a character they thought of, and because the father has to be a good sport and avoid disappointing his son, he lets the newly established character into the script. It ultimately ruins the film and divides the tone from the point this character begins to appear. It’s like if you put Peter Griffin in the “Lord of the Rings” universe. Can you imagine how the secret meeting would go?
Aragorn: [to Frodo] If by my life or death I can protect you, I will. You have my sword…
Legolas: And you have my bow.
Gimli: And *my* axe.
Peter: You know what really grinds my gears? Eagles! They’re stupid! They stop flying before you actually get to your destination! And they made the Patriots lose a Super Bowl!
Frodo: For Pete’s sake…
Gimli: Shut up, you dwarf-brained imbecile.
Peter: Oh, sorry sorry. You have my Road House kicks.
Despite living in a world where I happen to be extremely tolerant of everyone regardless of who they are, Jar Jar Binks represents that barrier of tolerance I have for some people, and by that I mean, he crosses it significantly. Binks cements himself as the most annoying nuisance to ever exist in the “Star Wars” universe. There are some characters that have failures or downfalls in the “Star Wars” universe, or in many other stories by the way, who I continue to root for because I want to see them succeed after their recent blunder. Jar Jar Binks, the half-assed comic relief of this “film” is not one of them because he makes one mistake too many. They say that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. Well they also say you cannot teach Jar Jar Binks any tricks whatsoever. Old or new. Everything he does represents embarrassment or failure. I do not want to go into much detail, but this goes into the lack of dimension this character happens to have. I think Qui-Gon Jinn did a really good job at putting Jar Jar in his place as best he could.
Qui-Gon Jinn: The ability to speak does not make you intelligent. Now get out of here.
In fact, speaking of Qui-Gon, I want to go back to something I said earlier on. He’s a Jedi Knight, and we have gotten a sense of this throughout the entire film. Although we see throughout the film, Obi-Wan is considered to be Qui-Gon’s Padawan. Granted, he is rather skilled, but nevertheless. Here’s the problem, and it is a spoiler, so I do apologize in advance. At the end of the film, Obi-Wan is promoted from his role as a Padawan to a Jedi Knight.
Why is that a problem? Let’s look at the opening crawl of the movie.
“While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict….”
Wait! Obi-Wan was a Jedi Knight this whole time? I think we have an imposter! Space security! Put this liar in jail!
This movie cannot even follow its own rules. I have tremendous respect for George Lucas as a filmmaker. He created one of the most iconic stories in not just film history, but the history of storytelling in general. I imagine he had a backstory planned for a number of elements in the franchise for years. But I feel like when it comes to bringing such a backstory to life, he could not take what was on paper and turn it into magic. And speaking of magic… That is LITERALLY gone in this movie and instead replaced with science.
Now, I love science. Dinosaurs are awesome. Computers are amazing. Space is spectacular. But not all science is created equal. Some people consider “Star Wars” to be science fiction. And I would not say those people are wrong, but I’d also argue given how magical elements inserted into the franchise like the force and the fact that this film supposedly happened “a long time ago,” it is technically science fantasy. “The Phantom Menace” turns fantasy into a night terror with a simple question.
Anakin: “What are midichlorians?”
No seriously. WHAT THE EVER-LIVING CRAP ARE MIDICHLORIANS?! Well, according to Qui-Gon Jinn…
“Midi-chlorians are a microscopic life form that resides within all living cells.”
So you mean to tell me… That one can become a Jedi from being born with something? I actually hate this. Like, literally hate this. Hate is a strong word. But I think that is the best word I could possibly use here. In the 1977 “Star Wars,” seeing Luke Skywalker train to become a Jedi did not come off as if a gifted individual, and only a gifted individual, could use the force. At the time, he was just an ordinary boy with ordinary problems. He chose the path of the force not because he was special, but because he wanted to fulfill a destiny and live a life. Sure, Anakin had his problems too. He was a slave after all, but this movie goes to show how far the franchise has fallen. It has gone from choice and magic to prophecy and science. Yes, Anakin chooses to go on to become a Jedi, but again, I had less of a reason to root for him. While Luke had his grievances with being on Tatooine, he was still a somewhat likable character that came off as relatable. He was a dreamer. Anakin is just an annoying brat, and unfortunately, Jake Lloyd failed to sell me on the role. I don’t even know if I can blame Lloyd however, because for one thing, Lloyd was a child when filming “The Phantom Menace,” and at his age, he likely had less experience than Mark Hamill did when he started playing Luke. Hamill was in his twenties whereas Lloyd was not even a teenager when this film was made. But you know, it’s “Star Wars!” One of the most iconic names in film of all time! And you also have George Lucas! One of the most visionary creators of all time! At least “The Phantom Menace” had some good writing. Right?
Queen Amidala : You’re a slave?
Anakin : I’m a person and my name is Anakin.
WOW! Thank you! For a second I was really confused and thought you were an armadillo! Thank you *so much* for clearing that up for me! Anakin, you’re the best!
Anakin, as a character, was just never set up well. Sure, there are increments of his backstory that bring some intrigue to the table, but the execution of the character feels sloppy at times, especially at the end of the film, part of which feels like was written by the same toddlerish mind who came up with Jar Jar Binks! There are some similarities between “The Phantom Menace” and the original “Star Wars.” Both involve Skywalkers. Both have R2-D2 and C-3PO. Both have climactic sequences involving spaceflight. Now about that last thing. In the original “Star Wars,” that last sequence felt planned and as if everything associated with it had a place and purpose. The climactic spaceflight sequence in “The Phantom Menace,” where Anakin goes into space in a ship on autopilot and flies to the control ship, feels like everything in it happens by accident or coincidence. Nothing feels like it matters, even though it leads to something big towards the end of the film. This is practically the Murphy’s Law of “Star Wars!” Nothing matters! Anything that can happen will happen! Let’s try spinning! That’s a good trick! Let’s try pod racing! That’s a GREAT trick! Maybe this would work as a Disney ride, but I can say that it does not work as a sequence in a film.
I will admit though, the pod race sequence was pretty fun. It might even be the best part of the movie. Well, except for one. We’ll get to it momentarily.
But about the pod-racing. This was one of the best set up sequences in the entire film. For starters, we are introduced to it when first seeing Anakin, and we get to know that in a way, it is important to him. His friends see his pod and doubt him. Qui-Gon makes a bet against Watto for the boy and proposes to put his hyperdrive part at risk. And we are warned of some of the dangers that lie ahead in a race like this. In a way, these dangers were met. When the race is on, it is on. We see pods flying, crashing, and there’s a good mix of brains and skill that goes into maintaining the pod, both on and off the track. I would love to see a “Star Wars” movie or series specifically dedicated to pod-racing. I know we have a video game, but I would love to see more of this on screen if possible. Then again, I love the concept of racing in general, so I may be a little biased. Basically, the best way I could describe the pod race in “The Phantom Menace” is if “Star Wars” had a baby with “Death Race.” It is fun, fast-paced, and occasionally off the rails.
Now about that best part… I mentioned in the beginning of the review that this movie did a really good job at solidifying the Jedi as people you do not want to mess with. At the end of the movie, when you have Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon going up against Darth Maul, the movie also does an equally impressive job at making the Sith a worthy opponent. Between his dual-blade lightsaber and his tendency to keep up the pace while dealing with more than one opponent, Maul is a boss in this film. Unfortunately though, the character, similar to Qui-Gon, has very little depth to him other than existing on the dark side and being sent in to capture Amidala while also finishing off the Jedi. This film does such a terrible job at establishing the threat despite having them look cool. Darth Maul has a double lightsaber, but not much else.
In “A New Hope,” we had Grand Moff Tarkin of all people. Grand Moff Tarkin was not much more than a guy who wore a uniform, but he had a sense of intimidation. He had a commanding presence, the entire room could bow down to him at any moment. Even Darth Vader would listen to his demands. Remember that scene where everyone is in the board room talking about the Death Star being the ultimate power in the universe? Someone mocks Vader for following the force, to which he chokes the naysayer and utters, “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” Tarkin then says, “Vader, release him!” He gives in. They say actions speak louder than words. But when I remember the double lightsaber-wielding badass as LESS of a threat than the guy who walks around saying things like “You may fire when ready,” that says something about these two films. Maybe it is not the best comparison, because Tarkin did take control of a planet-killing machine whereas Darth Maul does a bunch of Sith tricks. But again, it goes to show that when it comes to “The Phantom Menace,” the villains just do not strike any fear. They do not make me feel afraid or like I’m going to see them in my nightmares. When it comes to the kickstarters of their respective trilogies, “The Phantom Menace” is eye candy, but “Star Wars” is candy you can eat.
But I’d argue that BOTH films are ear candy, partially because of the musical mastermind known as John Williams. When I saw the last few “Star Wars” movies for the first time at the theater, I would have a playlist set up to blast in the car or on the bus with my headphones on. When doing so, I would make it a priority to put Episode I’s “Duel of the Fates,” arguably in my top 3 or 5 “Star Wars” tracks ever, which SAYS something about the music in this franchise, on the list.
To call this track bonkers and exciting would be an understatement. If “The Phantom Menace” did one thing right, it is getting John Williams to add his musical touch to another portion of the “Star Wars” universe. Williams is just a small fraction of what made those original films so memorable from his opening crawl music that may be the most iconic intro music ever made, to his theme for Princess Leia, to the Imperial March. Again, if these films did something right, it is getting one of the best film composers to ever exist to return and unleash more of his creative juices. And if this film reveals anything, he did not run out of steam after “Return of the Jedi.” If anything, he dialed up his creative meter to an 11. You’ll get this idea as we go along, but even though I have an easily obtainable idea of what my favorite “Star Wars” film is, not to mention what my least favorite “Star Wars” film is, I have a ton of trouble deciding which score, at least in the Skywalker Saga, is my favorite, because Williams smashes it with each go. That is part of why I love the final lightsaber duel so much with the two Jedi against Darth Maul in addition to all the crazy choreography that comes with it. This music is a perfect encapsulation of the future hanging in the balance for almost any scenario imaginable. It can take even an event as boring as watching paint dry and make it exciting. This is the power of John Williams. This is why he has built such an amazing library of “Star Wars” music. The maestro just doesn’t shy away from giving it his all.
I just wish this movie were as good as the music.
“The Phantom Menace” kind of reminds me of “Justice League.” The 2017 version, not the Snyder Cut. Because in that film, the tone was all over the place. One moment it is as light as a feather. The next moment it is moody. It really doesn’t have an identity. In “The Phantom Menace,” we go from a space adventure with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon to a live-action cartoon with Jar Jar to a political debate with Senator Palpatine and all the others that make this movie significantly dull at times (OH MY LORD THE POLITICS ARE A SNOOZE). The odd thing is, even though you could argue that “Star Wars” from 1977 had a target audience of 12 year olds, it was so enjoyable that anyone could watch it, pick up the message from the movie, and embrace it. “The Phantom Menace” almost doesn’t even have a singular tone that it could be defined by, therefore it almost cannot dedicate itself to a single audience. I just look back at this film and ask… Who is this for? It’s got explosions and sword fights! So maybe it’s for younger kids and teenagers! But it’s got space politics! So is it for adults, actually? But then it has Jar Jar Binks and him repeatedly saying “Meesa” to the point where it splits my head open so I wondered if the film was for infants. “The Phantom Menace” goes in a lot of directions at once, but it’s like computer RAM. If you put in too much information, it can get overwhelming. Georgie! Close some tabs, will ya please?
In the end, “The Phantom Menace” is just a film that evokes the phrase “style over substance.” We start off with Jedi being badasses and end with said Jedi fighting a double blade lightsaber guy. Yes, this movie has a story. It has a point A. It has a point B. Unfortunately, it comes with lore expansions that infuriate me the more I think about them. Midichlorians suck. End of story. The best comparison I can give about this movie is that I can imagine it as if it were a chicken nugget. “Star Wars: A New Hope” is like a good old chicken nugget that I get every now and then, I put it in my mouth, and it tastes delicious. I keep coming back for more. “The Phantom Menace” on the other hand, also represents that chicken nugget. But instead of enjoying its god-like taste, I just found out the revolting secret recipe. The force tastes savory, but seeing how it is conceived is best left to the imagination. “The Phantom Menace” adds one or two good things to the “Star Wars” franchise. But the negatives unfortunately outweigh the positives significantly. This film tarnishes the lore in the “Star Wars” universe that has been established in the original trilogy, adds new lore that is uninteresting, and focuses less on characterization and more on looking cool. And that says something because I honestly think there are quite a few digital effects in this film that aged rather poorly to this day. Will say though, if it means anything, Liam Neeson did his best with the material given to him, and Ewan McGregor did an alright job as Obi-Wan. Although he personally gets better in the next two films. Also, one last thing, Coruscant is a cool planet. That’s about it. That was a lot to talk about. I didn’t even talk about everything! I left out Mace Windu for crying out loud! I’m going to give “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” a 3/10.
This was a hard film to grade. The fan in me wants to give it a 1 because of how much it sullies the original trilogy. The part of my brain that likes looking at things on a screen wants the grade to be a little higher. Perhaps at least a 5 or 6. However there are one or two good things about the film that cannot be ignored. Unfortunately, again, these positives are kept to a minimum. But hey, at least Yoda had the right idea all along.
“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
This was not my first time watching “The Phantom Menace,” but having seen it and remembering my horror stories, because I did watch it more than once in some recent years for varying reasons, I went in fearing the results. Then I got angry because of Jar Jar, which made me hate myself for putting in this movie and sitting through it. And of course, I suffered through the rest of it because I had to put out this review.
Thanks, Master Yoda! You really are wise!
One last thing. I think I did a pretty good job with my review for “The Phantom Menace,” but I’m gonna be real. There is someone out there in the land of YouTube that has arguably created a near perfect “Episode I” review. It is one of the most hilarious video reviews I have ever seen. If you want something fun to watch, take a gander RedLetterMedia’s review of “The Phantom Menace.” Part 1 of the video is posted below! Check it out!
Thanks for reading this review! That is one day of “Star Wars” down and we have six to go. TOMORROW, I will be sharing my review for “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.” The second “Star Wars” prequel and it is one that a few of my friends probably consider to actually be worse than “The Phantom Menace.” I won’t give my thoughts just yet. You’ll have to find out tomorrow on Scene Before! If you want to find out, make sure you are following Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account. Also be sure to check out the Facebook page and may the force be with you! I want to know, did you see “The Phantom Menace?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Star Wars” world, planet, or moon? For me, I’d have to pick Coruscant. I’m an urban guy so that pick is a goto for me. Although I do like the idea of Starkiller Base if that counts as a planet. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! We have reviewed four Tom Cruise movies so far this month, now let’s make it five! Before we go any further, if you do want to check out my reviews for “Oblivion,” “All the Right Moves,” “Days of Thunder,” and “Top Gun,” you’ll notice that the titles are highlighted, meaning that you’ll find the links right there! These are all other movies that I have previously reviewed for the purpose of Tom Cruise Month, but we’re not focusing on those right now. Instead, we are going to focus on the year 2054, which looks mighty pleasant compared to 2020. It is time to talk about “Minority Report” as we begin our final installment of…
TOM CRUISE MONTH
“Minority Report” is directed by Steven Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Jaws) and stars Tom Cruise (Risky Business, Top Gun), Colin Farrell (Ballykissangel, American Outlaws), Samantha Morton (Band of Gold, Pandaemonium), and Max Von Sydow (Flash Gordon, The Seventh Seal). This film takes place during the year 2054 and is based on the material once created by author Philip K. Dick. In a future where Pre-Cogs can see upcoming murders and related criminal acts, a special police unit is supposed to stop murderers and arrest them before such crimes are committed. Interestingly, one of the police officers themselves is accused of a future murder.
Prior to making this review, I had not once seen “Minority Report.” And at this point, getting to witness something new, even if it is almost a couple full decades old, is kind of a treat. I bought the Blu-ray when I was in Santa Monica, California, and I figured this Tom Cruise Month theme would give me a solid excuse to pop in the disc. Unknowingly, I was aware of this movie’s existence. I mean, sure, I guess I knew the title and everything, but what I did not know was that this movie was the picture featuring Pre-Cogs. Like every other person under the age of thirty, I achieved a great deal of knowledge, or at least a conglomeration of useless factoids, over the Internet. If it were not for YouTuber Jeremy Jahns referencing one specific scene…
…I would probably not know squat about this movie, or at least acknowledge squat about this movie. So I will say, this movie must have stood the test of time in terms of being recognized in pop culture. Then again, it is a Steven Spielberg flick, and he has a fairly recognizable, prolific, diverse, and masterful library.
By the way, before we go any further, one of the biggest compliments I’ll give to this movie is that the framing is very well done. The scope of “Minority Report” pulls you right in. It does not disappoint. It takes this 2054 type of environment and makes you embrace it. Speaking of which, one of the best shots of this movie, is the first full-on glimpse we get of a Pre-Cog, which is shown in the GIF I would assume you have scrolled through fairly recently. It’s just so clear and crisp. I don’t know why, but the more I look at the shot of that Pre-Cog, the more I want to go into a pool. Although, maybe not until next year, knowing how things are right now. I will say, on that note, even though I really like the way this film looks, it’s not pretty all the way through, because I think the color scheme of many of the shots are a little too somber. Granted, “Minority Report” is not a comedy, it was never supposed to represent the best of times, even though we do get some classy looking cars in the future, but there are some times where this movie doesn’t come off as a soap opera from the script, but the color palette begs to differ. It almost reminds me of the “Point Break” remake from 2015, only this movie is twice as good as that film and in my personal opinion, technically qualifies as a “movie.”
Since this is a Tom Cruise movie, and given how this is the final entry to Tom Cruise Month, let’s talk about Tom Cruise himself. When it comes to Tom Cruise in this film, this is honestly one of his better performances. I think casting was a job well done with this film, not just with Cruise, but with names including Max Von Sydow and Samantha Morton. I bought into all their performances and it helped enhance the movie. I will say though, not that it matters entirely, Tom Cruise with a haircut like the one he has here is probably one of his inferior looks for one of his roles. But that’s just me. Also, if you know me, when it comes to Tom Cruise, I don’t always point out my love and respect for him through his ability to convey a character, even though he’s a respectable actor in that regard, but his motivation to perhaps nearly kill himself. Like some of his other movies, he does his own stunts here. Granted, I never really noticed anything as scary or heart-racing as say his plane hang from “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” as an example, but is nice to know that like some of his other projects, Cruise himself put an effort into the stuntwork.
One of the best parts of “Minority Report” is the concept. You have a special police force trying to stop murderers who are predicted by Pre-Cogs. I think the way that this movie went around executing the concept was worthy of a thumbs up. The movie kind of had me in the beginning alone. I will say when it comes to pacing it does slow down overtime, but the climax is fairly entertaining as well. It ups the pace of the movie when said climax begins, and it makes the viewing experience worthwhile.
Another point of the movie that stood out to me for a reason I truly should have grasped from the very beginning was the score. For the record, the score for “Minority Report” was conducted by John Williams, and I don’t know why for the life of me I didn’t conceptualize that from the beginning. I knew John Williams automatically went hand in hand with the “Star Wars” franchise but for some reason I completely forgot his attachment to Steven Spielberg, the two go together in the same way that Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan tend to go together. They have worked on so many films to the point where their coupling has become nothing short of iconic. When it John Williams, I will say, even though there are fractions of the score that I happened to like, it is one of inferior scores. This movie came out the same year as “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones,” another score that John Williams did. And even though I, along with many others, would point out that “Attack of the Clones” is a lackluster installment to the “Star Wars” franchise, there’s a solid chance I would agree with someone that “Episode II,” per usual had a kick-ass John Williams score. When it comes to his 2002 work, “Attack of the Clones” kicks “Minority Report’s” ass. Although, if you want me to go further, even though I barely remember, I do recall not hating Williams’ score to “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.” But I have to watch that movie again as it has been forever since I saw it. Sticking with “Minority Report’s” score, I will say I enjoyed it, but if I had to say one standout negative about it, I think it’s a little overbearing on drums. Just a little bit.
Little sidenote, this review is being written in 2020, the year that “Cops” was practically taken off the air for a list of reasons, so I will admit, I did get a slight chuckle seeing that apparently the TV show “Cops” was still relevant in 2054. Just thought I’d point that out.
In the end, “Minority Report” is a good movie, and a likable futuristic vision with a clever concept. However, when it comes to futuristic visions, specifically ones that come from the mind of Steven Spielberg, I much prefer his vision of 2045, which was represented through 2018’s “Ready Player One,” as opposed to his vision of 2054, represented here in “Minority Report.” Then again, “Ready Player One” is based on a book by Ernest Cline, and “Minority Report” is based on a short story from Philip K. Dick, so in reality, it’s not Spielberg’s vision. Nevertheless, I think when it comes to movies that are set in the future from Spielberg, I personally prefer “Ready Player One.” Although I will say, one thought that has been in my head for a little bit about this movie is the desire to check it out once more. Not just because I liked the movie the first time, which I did. But I feel like there are possibly one or two crucial points that I may have glossed over that are worth noticing in the future. If your movie can get me to have a urge to go back and see it one more time, no matter what the reason (unless maybe I want to torture myself), I’d say a job well done is in order. There are better Spielberg movies out there, I’d say there are better Tom Cruise movies out there. But this was worth my time, I didn’t really have any regrets. I’m going to give “Minority Report” a 7/10.
Thanks for reading this review! Thanks to all who showed any ounce of interest in Tom Cruise Month! I will point out that July is coming up, and while I have no real theme for the month, I will note that “Tenet” is scheduled to come out pretty soon, so maybe I’ll review some Christopher Nolan movies if I have the time. I will point out though, given how I have not really paid much attention to this year in film all that much, I do want to give this year’s movies a shot before it is too late. So there is a solid chance that a lot of July’s content is going to be of some 2020 movies that I missed. I’ve got a few on Blu-ray, I can probably check a few movies through streaming if I have the proper account setup. And even though I personally don’t have Apple TV+, there is a movie coming to that service that I might end up reviewing if possible, specifically “Greyhound” starring Tom Hanks. Because who doesn’t like Tom Hanks?! Be sure to follow Scene Before either through an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! Also, check out my Facebook page! Speaking of checking things out, if you want to see some more of my Tom Cruise reviews that are not exactly affiliated with Tom Cruise Month, the links are listed down below. These reviews by the way go all the way back to 2017, my second year of film reviewing on Scene Before. I want to know, did you see “Minority Report?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite John Williams score of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!