Dragon Ball Super: Broly- Everything we’ve ever wanted

We asked for it every time STAR Cineplex had brought a new movie in. But to be quite honest, we didn’t think we’d live to see the day when we’ll watch an anime in Bangladeshi theatres. When we sat down to watch it for the first time, it felt like a dream come true!

And as for the movie itself, all we can say is that he is back, for good this time. Somehow, he is better than ever before. Dragon Ball Super: Broly blows all expectations out of proportion.

Dragon Ball and Broly

Fans of the Dragon Ball series have long adored it for a multitude of reasons. For most, the series defined their childhoods. That is a very subjective statement. What is objectively great about Dragon Ball is its massive and varied gallery of supporting characters, especially the villains. Arguably the most intriguing of who is Broly, the legendary Super Saiyan.

Fans obsess over Broly- the mysterious and savage warrior of seemingly no principle aside from pure mayhem. For many, he is the favorite character in the series. Established from the first Dragon Ball Z movie of his, Broly is one the last surviving members of Goku and Vegeta’s race, an untamable and monstrous individual of pure power. He is the only Dragon Ball villain to be featured in more than one movie. However, the thing about him is, he is a movie villain only and thus not part of the greater Dragon Ball canon. Toriyama and Co. decided to change that, and the result is marvelous.

Read more: https://hifipublic.com/en/2018/09/17/why-everyone-should-watch-anime/

New and improved: Not even his final form

Dragon Ball Super: Broly brings the titular character into the main universe continuation of the series and thus gives him a brand new origin to suit. It is still as close to the original as it needs to be though. Fans tend to get somewhat touchy about rehashes and revisions of their favorite characters. This movie pulls off the reboot as well as can be.

A large part of what made Broly into such a favorite in the previous continuity was the mystique surrounding him and his violence. There was some explanation to it, but it did not feel satisfactory to me and Broly felt like a really cool but incomplete character. This one does a much better job of portraying Broly as an actual person and his driving forces. Not to worry though, he is still as cool and as buff as ever. He is still out to get everyone unfortunate enough to anger him (mostly Goku). Just now, he has a reason to.

One would expect the movie to follow the character into being a complete revamp, but thankfully it is not so. It does not just ignore the previous incarnation of Broly, the movie is self-aware in the sense that it often throws shade to the past incarnation of Broly and his tale. We found that very rewarding as a long time follower.

About the movie itself

First, we need to talk about the animation quality. Super started with objectively bad animation quality. We have come a long way from there. It was evident in the anime and more so in this movie. Dragon Ball: Super is one of the most gorgeous looking animated movies we have ever seen. The animation is not just beautiful but crisp and consistent. You can notice the amount of effort that went into producing this. Toriyama himself mostly made the character designs, so you can bet on its quality. The signature fighting scenes of Dragon Ball have arguably never been better. Scene transitions are seamless. At no point do you not want to be looking at the screen.

The story is surprisingly rich by Dragon Ball standards.

At least in the movies, Dragon Ball has been mostly about cool fight scenes, of which this has no shortage. However, the importance of story has been paid attention to, evident from the fleshed out origins and motivations at work behind each character. Previously fans have complained about the lack of consistency in the storytelling of Toriyama. In this movie, the story is wonderfully structured and perfectly addresses previous storylines that follow up to the movie.  The redemption arc every Dragon Ball villain seems to have is a bother for many fans. Nevertheless, do not worry. Frieza is still as evil as ever.

Verdict

Dragon Ball Super: Broly is a wonderful film experience for newcomers and longtime fans alike. 9/10 from us easily.

It is a beautiful, emotional and action-packed ride that made the old and cynical partisan in us smile and hope for the future of the story introduced in this film. So, hurry up and go watch it.

Book your tickets from here.

Aquaman: A strong comeback for the DCEU

When we sat down to watch Aquaman, right after its release in STAR Cineplex, little did we know that Jason Momoa in an orange suit would deliver such a glorious chapter in the DCEU.

After Justice League and the countless behind the scenes drama that constantly mar the DCEU, fans can be excused for being a little sceptical about its next instalments. But let us assure you, Aquaman is not your average DC flick. It is perhaps the first decent DC movie in years. For fans of Jason Momoa, the actor, you’re in for a treat.

The Premise

Aquaman: A strong comeback for the DCEU 5
Nicole Kidman as Queen Atalanta

Aquaman starts out being straightforward. No drama, no twist, jumping straight into the story. The childhood of Arthur Curry and the conflict between Atlantis and the surface world. The immortal story of a journey of a king to claim his rightful place. Aquaman delivers all of it in a skillful method. Aquaman is surprisingly true to its comic origins. Yet, so very original that it brings a fresh flavor to the entire comic book movie genre.

Technical aspects

Aquaman: A strong comeback for the DCEU 6
Amber Herd plays Queen Mera

Director James Wan can be lauded for his mastery with the camera in the dynamic action shots. 2 and a half hours of explosive action, chase scenes and underwater world exploration did not deliver a single moment of boredom.

The massive world of Atlantis that was built for the movie is absolutely praiseworthy. A fresh perspective to world building was much needed for fans of pop culture.

The 3D experience of Aquaman’s underwater world in STAR Cineplex was one of a kind.

The Verdict

Aquaman: A strong comeback for the DCEU 7

A DC film that in our humble opinion, delivered. Finally.

Aquaman was more than just a comic book movie. It was a Sci-Fi adventure, a treasure hunting mystery, a journey of a king, the mythical tale of becoming of a hero. James Wan’s visual masterpiece passes every test with flying colours.

With a 4 out 5 rating from us, Aquaman breathes life into the DC movie universe. And crafts the path for a better class of DC movies in the future.

Aquaman is playing in Star Cineplex as we speak. Click the button below to secure your seat in the next show.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before: are our expectations of teenagers too low? What to watch instead?

Netflix recently released its teen romance film, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. It quickly took its audience (read: young girls) by storm. A major reason for its success is definitely the male lead’s good looks; the movie has also received praise for charming characters and a lovable plot line. However, a question lingers, if a movie about two teenagers faking a relationship and then falling in love (big surprise) makes a good movie, how low are our expectations from films about teenagers?

The absolutely ridiculous plotlines

teenagers, to all the boys i've loved before

Our teenage pasts may always return to haunt us. But I bet that none of you were ever stupid enough to try any of the following methods:

1. Keep an archive of secret love letters with the one plan of keeping them unsent, but with the correct address and a stamped envelope for each of them.
2. Write one of those letters to your older sister’s (then) boyfriend.
3. Accidentally send a love letter to someone. Then try to convince them that you do not like them by avoiding them and faking a relationship with someone else.
4. Have a huge misunderstanding with your (fake) girlfriend because she doesn’t let you talk at all (for the sake of having a plot). One wonders how easily the situation could have been resolved by texted explanation.

Even if I ignore these absurdities, the entire plot can be predicted after the first 10 minutes by a 5th grader.  Depicting teenagers as vapid idiots for the sake of lazy storytelling seems like a strange choice considering the intended audience are teenagers.

The plastic complex characters

teenagers, to all the boys i've loved before

Movies exist in which the teenagers are treated as multidimensional human beings with a wider emotional range than a teaspoon. Take Me, Earl and the Dying Girl serves as examples of such storytelling. There are movies where teenagers act like species so dumb that no other generation can grasp them, like Mean Girls. And then there are movies like To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which desperately try to build an emotionally complex teenager by forcing it upon them through ridiculous backgrounds.

In this movie, both leads are without a parent; this gives the girl severe abandonment issues causing her to avoid telling her fake dating guy that she likes him back for real. Embedding insincere complexities feel like an insult to teenagers because the writers, who created the edgy backstory overlooked how characters can rationally develop and change with context. This reflects a thought process which is the equivalent of telling your teenage daughter “I trust you, I just don’t trust the rest of the world!” The writer seems to underestimate teenagers’ intelligence, and your mom clearly doesn’t trust you.

Aren’t all teen movies like this?

teenagers, to all the boys i've loved before

The short answer to this would be, yes, most movies about teenagers make the same assumptions about the demographic. This also the reason most movies about teenagers are also bad movies. By no means am I asserting that all teenagers are infallible intellectuals. Rather, the mistakes one makes as a teenager are the kind that alters their perspective of the world. Usually, the mistakes are not objectively and obviously moronic choices. It is an age when they develop their own sense of the world. Therefore, any movie for this audience should reflect the shifts in maturity and personality that teens experience.

Movies that get it right

An example of this being done right is Juno. The lovable and quirky protagonist has sex, just like 48% of teens in American high schools. She learns to make hard decisions that reflect her personal growth over the course of the pregnancy. Another fantastic teen rom-com movie is the grossly under-the-radar Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Unlike Juno, this movie doesn’t grapple with the subject of maturing in your teens. It only focuses on an adorable love story, where both lead characters are intelligent and quirky. The movie is succesfully relatable and, more importantly, a good story.

Movies such as Scott Pilgrim vs the World, The Breakfast Club, Submarine, Call Me By Your Name, and Perks of Being a Wallflower, are additional evidence that it is possible to write, produce, and direct stories about teenagers in a non-disdainful manner.  I am sure the list is long of teen movies that misunderstand young people and feel written by condescending adults.

My main objection with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, is not just the subpar story. My main objection is if we think this is acceptable and a ‘good’ movie, we encourage flawed storylines and set the bar too low.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout blows all competition out of the water

An Overnight Success, Twenty-Two Years in the Making

I can scarcely believe what I am saying, but Mission: Impossible might just be the best action franchise of the last 20 years. While the jury may still be out on the former, it’s safe to say that Mission: Impossible- Fallout is this year’s best action movie by a country mile.

Each Mission Impossible film is different. The last film, Rogue Nation, had ambitious oeuvre and panache. In some cases, the movie felt similar to the likes of Sam Mendes’ Skyfall; instead of gunning for that same appeal of tuxedos and intrigue, Fallout aims to create a tense atmosphere of paranoia. All of that is only matched by the breakneck pace of a sharply written plot.

Although Fallout is the sixth installment in the series, it’s the first time a Mission Impossible film feels like a true sequel. Much of the feeling of continuity has to do with returning director Christopher McQuarrie, who has worked previously with Cruise in both Rogue Nation and the first Jack Reacher.

Another Mission, Another Race Against Time with a Stellar Cast

Two years after Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) caught ex-MI6 anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), he and his team have to deal with a new nuclear crisis, engineered by the acolytes of Lane’s Syndicate. As he races across the world to connect the dots, he crosses paths with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) and has to team up with brawny CIA assassin August Walker (Henry Cavill).

Their character growth is tightly plotted but effectively portrayed. Each principle characters shines brightly in action sequences, with their distinctive builds and fighting styles. Cruise, Cavill and Ferguson ooze chemistry. The standout fight scene of the film, a sink-busting slobber knocker in a Parisian bathroom, features all three working in tandem against a common foe.

Henry Cavill gets to flex both his muscles and his brains in a way that we haven’t seen since he donned the red and blue suit in Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. He bristles with machismo and confidence, and is also the voice of reason in many early espionage and action sequences. Rebecca Ferguson continues to impress as a deadly femme fatale, with a penchant for efficiency that would give Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow a run for her money. Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames are competent in their supporting roles, and Angela Bassett and Alec Baldwin are respectable during their brief screen time.

Knowing and Playing to its Strengths

The plot, for the most part, offers a fresh and thrilling take that acknowledges and often pokes fun at the traditional tropes of the franchise. From a very early point in the film, it is apparent that certain characters aren’t who they seem to be.

The screenplay, thankfully, anticipates this and instead focuses on character layering to build rapport with the audience. McQuarrie peppers moments of camaraderie between scenes of instant and high-stakes action. The team members bond as they squabble over their individual methods, the ridiculousness of face masks, and marvel at Hunt’s penchant for running quarter miles more often than driving them.

If Fast and the Furious is a ridiculous franchise built around cars and family, then Mission Impossible is built on impressive stunts, superb action sequences and, of course, a whole lot of running from Tom Cruise.

The ethos of the franchise is voiced clearly a few times in the film. The keyword of the franchise may be “impossible”, although Hunt’s IMF team always finds a way to do their job. No matter what the odds, and how many times he has been betrayed, Ethan Hunt has an uncanny knack for figuring out how to handle the situation and come out on top.

Celebrating Cruise’s Hyper-Human Endurance

To call Mission Impossible: Fallout an accomplishment isn’t an overstatement. At the heart of this kind of achievement is the maddening drive of the last action hero standing. Tom Cruise has found a way to channel all the darkness and upheavals of his personal life into a film career, maintaining a manic momentum for the last two decades.

We are left pondering, is Tom Cruise a superhuman? He holds his own while teaming up with Cavill. His fighting style is deadly, precise and within certain moral limits. For Fallout, He uses the Keysi fighting style, developed by Andy Norman.  He has used this style since Jack Reacher, and it contrasts nicely with Cavil’s hulking, brick-like brawling style.

The fighting choreography, McQuarrie’s directing, Rob Hardy’s cinematography produce a very convincing illusion of authenticity.

The Verdict

As great as the film is, it falls short of being a masterpiece. And that is okay, because the film had no such aspirations. McQuarrie and Cruise set out to, and succeeded in, making the best action-adventure spy thriller yet filmed in the Mission Impossible franchise.

In the eighteen days since its release, the film has amassed a combined gross of $439 million. While these aren’t Marvel numbers, they are very respectable for a spy franchise. We can expect it to finish ahead of Rogue Nation, which earned $877 million in 2015.

—-

Originally published on Medium and UpThrust on August 15, 2018.

Incredibles 2: worth the wait?

When Pixar Animation Studios came out with the Incredibles in 2004, it preceded the superhero movie franchises that we know today and the cult-like obsession with them. The Incredibles is a classic close to our hearts not just for the suspenseful action, but we also got attached to the family. In the Incredibles 2, Director Brad Bird succeeds in meeting 14 years of expectations and satisfying our craving to see more of this superhero family while delivering a dazzling entertainment.

*spoilers ahead in this review*

The movie picks up right where we left off.

We were kids when the first Incredibles came out, but went to the theater in our 20s, for the sequel. The Parrs, however, have not aged since we last saw them.  The story begins with Helen taking up an offer to perform a publicity stunt to make Supers legal again, leaving Bob as a struggling stay-at-home father dealing with teenage drama, math homework, and Jack-Jack’s 17 undiscovered powers.

More time with Jack-Jack

Jack-Jack’s development was hands-down my favorite thing about this movie. In the last movie, we got to learn that Jack-Jack has powers in the last 15 minutes of the plot remaining. Thankfully, Incredibles 2 gives us plenty of time with Jack-Jack, with two iconic scenes of him fighting a raccoon. It is also commendable that the director did not try add unnecessary new characters and instead gave us more time with the Supers we already know and love.

In 2018, we’re all about women empowerment, and Pixar knows it!

Pixar shows that it is acutely aware that Incredibles 2 is for a much different society than its prequel was. The second movie uses Helen and Bob’s role reversals to subtly deal with relevant and timely topics such as the changing concepts of masculinity and femininity and how it affects family dynamics. We see Bob being confused and hurt at first that Elastigirl is being preferred over Mr. Incredible for the grand operation. We see Helen grappling with motherhood and her responsibility as a Super.

Pixar does not sugar coated this role reversal. The movie portrays the difficulties of the situation realistically – capturing the bitterness, insecurities, fears – and show you healthy resolutions of it. 

Screenslaver dishes out social critiques.

Where this sequel falls short, is in its villain. It is too easy to tell which one of the Deavors siblings will be the villain. In fact, if you said Evelyn Deavors out loud, it actually sounds like evil endeavors, so maybe they didn’t try to hide the villain very well anyway. It’s very hard for the audience to relate to Evelyn’s backstory. Comparatively, Syndrome’s story line of being resentful of the Supers over rejection was more memorable and relatable. Evelyn’s views on Superheroes, particularly with her brother’s polar different perspective, feels too feeble for her actions.

That being said, Screenslaver is perhaps the most terrifying and lifelike villain from all Pixar movies. Even the name, taken literally, is a powerful nod to our own addictions to screens today.

“Superheroes are part of a brainless desire to replace true experience with simulation. You don’t talk, you watch talk shows. You don’t play games, you watch game shows. Travel, relationships, risk; every meaningful experience must be packaged and delivered to you to watch at a distance so that you can remain ever-sheltered, ever-passive, ever-ravenous consumers who can’t free themselves to rise from their couches to break a sweat, never anticipate new life.”

This monologue of the Screenslaver plays while Elastigirl is on the hunt for her. This haunting statement lingers with the audience. Pixar truly knows the time its movies are for: the era of social media. We don’t experience much in real-life anymore but would rather consume packages of the second-hand experience through a screen. In a very Black Mirror way, the villain forces us to evaluate to what extent we are actually living versus just watching other people live.

A self aware superhero movie touching on Big Ideas

Another way that the movie is self-aware is through its comment on superheroes. Between the first and the second Incredibles movies, we saw more live-action superhero movies coming out and gaining popularity than ever before. Would we rather obsess over superheroes saving the day to serve as a distraction from saving the day ourselves? This idea is reinforced throughout the movie in the villain’s backstory: her parents died because they waited for a Super to save them instead of doing anything themselves.

The third, and most important, comment that Pixar makes on modern society is embedded in the very plot of Incredibles 2. The movie revolves around Superheroes trying to change their illegal status, and Bob and Helen actually explicitly argue, if the rules are unjust and unfair, should we challenge them or play along? This particular question seems pertinent in context of global politics, from Trump’s migrant separation policy which puts children into cages, to even the quota reform movement here which does challenges the injustices in the system. Once again, Pixar makes Incredibles 2 incredible not just through the visuals and the storytelling, but by making it fitting to our times.

Would we rather obsess over superheroes saving the day to serve as a distraction from saving the day ourselves?

So what’s the verdict?

Unlike other recent Pixar sequels (I’m looking at you, Cars 2), Incredibles 2 does not feel like an unnecessary needlessly filled sequel made just for the money. Rather, it feels like a continuation of our relationship with the Parrs and Frozone and Edna. The Incredibles is one of the best Pixar movies till date and no matter how many times you watch it, it always leaves a meaningful impact. Incredibles 2, thankfully, did not try to mimic that impact, but rather deliver excellent entertainment with characters who have already won our hearts. Is Incredibles 2 as brilliant as the first one? Not really. But does it do the first movie justice? Absolutely.

TV shows to look forward to in 2018

2017 gifted us a wonderful year of movie and TV, but trust me when I say things are only going to get better. As TV series like Taboo and Making a Murderer make a return in 2018 with brand-new seasons, some interesting new TV shows are debuting in 2018 as well.

Castle Rock

Stephen King is an incredible writer, and recent years have seen quite a lot of adaptions of his famous works, such as IT and The Dark Tower. Castle Rock is another one of Stephen King’s work which is getting adapted into a TV series in 2018, and will star the actor behind the role of Pennywise the Clown from IT, Bill Skarsgård.

The Dark Tower

Another one of Stephen King’s brilliant work got adapted into a movie, which is The Dark Tower. Although it opened with lukewarm reception from critics, Sony Pictures Television is still moving forward with the TV series which will follow his novel, “Wizard and Glass”.

Maniac

The awesome Jonah Hill and the mesmerizing Emma Stone are set to star in Maniac, which itself is a remake of a 2014 Norwegian TV series. Revolving around the fantasy world of two psychiatric hospital patients, it is certainly set to being one of the unique TV series to look forward to in 2018.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcSUiVoy1vU

Judge Dredd : Mega City One

Fans of the 2000 A.D. comic series will be pleased as the stylistic world of Judge Dredd makes another return in Netflix, starring the protagonist from the Dredd 3D movie, Karl Urban.

Snowpiercer

Based on the French graphic novel “Le Transperceneige” which saw a movie adaption in 2013, Snowpiercer stars Jennifer Connelly and is set to release in 2018.

On My Block

On My Block is a coming of age comedy about four teenagers in high school, living their life in the city of South Los Angeles. The show features the perils of high school and also the hardships kids face while growing up in a gritty neighborhood. The show features a diverse cast and talented actors from Teen Wolf and The Get Down.

Krypton

Granted, works in DC Extended Universe aren’t quite critically acclaimed, Krypton is a fresh new work set on the Universe, seeing the struggle of Superman’s grandfather on his native planet, Krypton. Set to debut in Syfy, this one is sure to be an interesting watch.

The Alienist

Starring the brilliant Daniel Brühl from Rush (2013) and Luke Evans from the Fast and the Furious film series, The Alienist debuts in 2018 as Evans plays crime reporter John Moore,  who is meeting with Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, to investigate a serial killer in the 19th century.

The Runaways

If one ever wondered how a Marvel TV series catered to teenagers would look like, it would look like The Runaways. Runaways follows a group of six high schoolers who discover their parents are members of an evil mastermind group known as “The Pride”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=plyJQG-nRN0

Rian Johnson was perfect for Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The following article was written before the global premier of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and we decided to keep it up because it proves a significant point – that our predictive powers are other-worldly. Forget what the “fans” say, it was a thoroughly entertaining affair and that was the whole point of the movie. – Editor in Chief.

Let me begin by being completely honest here: Lucasfilm is spoiling us. We went from having no Star Wars movies for fifteen years, then a trilogy of overstuffed, misappropriated, and darn near irredeemable prequels, then another decade of zilch, to there being at least one Star Wars movie released every year starting with 2015’s The Force Awakens and seemingly no end in sight.

Don’t get me wrong, I love this franchise. I think George Lucas achieved something truly special with the original trilogy. Which is why I am so troubled by this new status quo knowing that every year will bring with it either a new entry into the main episodic saga (i.e. Episodes I to ?), or an anthology film (i.e. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story), it’s an unfamiliar and quite frankly an unsettling sensation.

Star Wars Force Awakens - HIFI Public
A poster that spawned a thousand fan theories. Oh no, Rey is holding her stick thing at the same angle as Kylo Ren?! And she’s bathed in a red glow. She MUST be evil. Also, fighting stance – exactly like Darth Sidious. HAS to be Palpatine’s daughter! Image: The Walt Disney Pictures

When J.J. Abrams was announced as the director of The Force Awakens, I was equally ambivalent. On one hand, Abrams is an excellent character writer with an unparalleled eye for casting, and has experience tooling pilots for new franchises than most in Hollywood (just take one look at his IMDb credits). It made sense, Disney hiring Abrams to helm a movie meant to resurrect a beloved space opera franchise that had failed its fans in the past. He had done it before with 2009’s Star Trek reboot. They required his expertise in crafting new characters that equally be as lovable as the originals’. And judging by the overwhelmingly positive response Force Awakens received from the world  on Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron, BB-8, and even Kylo Ren and his cross-guarded lightsaber, we can conclude that J.J. has done the job he was hired to do (not to mention the $2 billion the movie raked in at the box office).

On the other hand, Abrams lacks a basic story sense that  holds back  most of his directorial credits from  creating a lasting impact on the audience. The Force Awakens was no exception to this. Sequences in the movie were slapped together with a great sense of momentum masked in familiarity, simply shuffling characters along to the next scene, a trick Abrams  uses in order to hide the fact that there is no actual through line to his film’s story. One sequence stands out to me as particularly jarring:

As Rey and Finn are fleeing from First Order forces on Jakku, and the Millennium Falcon just happens to be sitting among a pile of garbage. Okay, fine. The most iconic vehicle in the entire franchise dropped in their laps as part of a run-on joke with no story significance whatsoever? I’ll accept it. So then, Rey and Finn commandeer the Falcon and escape Jakku, only to be captured immediately by none other than Han Solo and Chewbacca…

Star Wars Force Awakens - HIFI Public
“I know we’re running away and all, but look! 20% off on Disney merchandise. Can’t we stop for a bit?” Image: The Walt Disney Pictures

What? There has been no precedent set in the story thus far for such a monumental return. Is the galaxy really that small? Have Han and Chewie done nothing but search for the Falcon for 30 years? How did they find it so soon after Rey and Finn (vanguards of the new films) steal it? Such questions are played off with throwaway lines (and growls) from Han (and Chewie).  The scene felt exploitative of the fans waiting for a meaningful return of these ironic elements of the original film. Abrams capitalized on the yearning we all knew the audience had for the return of the original characters in order to expedite his story and deliver a film that is quickly but surely realized to be a beat for beat reread of the original Star Wars from 1977 (as A New Hope was first called upon theatrical release). Things just happen inexplicably in his films with little to no application of cause and effect, a basic tenet of storytelling in any medium. But it’s all good for Disney and Abrams, because the new characters are now beloved and perfectly capable of carrying the franchise forward and making some more billions. Star Wars is now a safe bet for Hollywood once more.

Star Wars original poster - HIFI Public
Mark Hamill wishes he had abs like that. Image: The Walt Disney Pictures

But is that all the Star Wars legacy is supposed to be? A box office footnote? In 1977, the original Star Wars was a groundbreaking sci-fi fantasy masterpiece precisely because George Lucas chose to approach making the film from entirely outside Hollywood’s conventions. It was unlike anything that came before it, innovative enough to change what was possible in theaters forever. It came with a galaxy that felt  familiar, and was rich with  lore. Most of all, the original trilogy contained well written and remarkably directed stories that felt relatable and mature while being about space samurais that can move things with their mind if they focus real hard. And I think this is all part of what makes this franchise so captivating and fruitful. It is the reason why we are still talking about it and Disney is spending billions after it in the age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If Disney continues to make safe bets without giving innovative filmmaking a second thought, there is no way they can remain relevant.

George Lucas, Star Wars set - HIFI Public
“I’m an old man, George. Couldn’t we have gotten set chairs with better padding?” “Shh Alec…you’re supposed to be a Jedi master. They don’t complain about backaches.” Image: The Walt Disney Pictures

Well, lucky for us next up is The Last Jedi, written and directed by indie darling Rian Johnson. Johnson is the mind behind great films such as Brick, The Brothers Bloom, and Looper. And every single one of his movies are cinematic wonders. If you haven’t seen it yet, Brick is a highly stylized neo-noir that takes place in and around a high school. It’s played vehemently straight as the characters fire off rapid, tongue-biting dialogue at each other with reckless abandon. They take turns evoking cool, sultry, menace, all the hallmarks of real noir without ever touching a shred of irony. And it actually works. Brick is a genius idea that sees itself prime into one of the best debut feature films ever made because of Rian Johnson’s thirst for taking the familiar in cinema and flipping it on its head to amplify those same ideas. And  by doing so he creates something truly new.

So, now that we’ve established that Johnson is more than willing and capable of going the extra mile for his stories, let us consider what he might do in the genre sandbox of sci-fi fantasy. Oh hey! It seems his last feature effort, Looper, is an original sci-fi story set in the future  involving time traveling hitmen who are all forced to kill their future selves as their final victim in an attempt to protect the syndicate that employs them. Oh, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a young Bruce Willis.  Might sound like the most cliché action film ever, but the film’s high concept themes are all grounded in just about the most human story imaginable: that of a mother protecting her son ,a powerful telekinetic prodigy. I’d rather not spoil any further but it is needless to say the movie is powerful and vulnerable at the same time, amplifying each side of the story using the other. Looper sees its sci-fi concepts all the way through in every aspect of its cinematic execution, from its electric cinematography to its grandiose projection of a desolate but fantastical future world, to give us another enthralling Rian Johnson original.

Rian Johnson, Star Wars: Last Jedi - HIFI Public
“I want you to stop missing your targets. Stop missing your targets. Seriously. How did the Empire ever conquer anything at all with hundreds of thousands of you if you’re this bad at shooting things?” Image: The Walt Disney Pictures

All of which makes him precisely the storyteller Star Wars needs right now. Even from what we have seen of the film from the unyielding teasers so far, The Last Jedi looks immediately more visually striking than Force , the story feels fresh and more urgent, and Luke Skywalker’s disavowal of the Jedi Order is an angle that looks increasingly like the upending of our very comprehension of the Star Wars universe that it didn’t even know was missing. After J.J. Abrams’ cursory attempt at filling out the storied sci-fi world of Star Wars, Rian Johnson’s eye for detail and world-building, mastery over cinematic storytelling, and undeniable alacrity to create something new from something old is the trifecta that might just make The Last Jedi one of the most fulfilling Star Wars films ever made.