The Watchers

The Watchers

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Programme 11: The Hunger Games, Wrath Of The Titans and Guilty Pleasures

Programme 11 is now available to view (click here to view it on!

We review The Hunger Games and Wrath Of The Titans whilst also discussing films which we class as 'guilty pleasures'- films we shouldn't like or enjoy as much as we do, but we do!

Do you have any cinematic guilty pleasures? If so, and you're willing to admit to them, please let us know in the comments below.

A YouTube link will follow shortly - and podcast versions are available here and here.


Programme 10: Rampart, Safe House, This Means War, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Programme 10 is a bumper edition, filmed in March 2012, which reviews not one, not two, not three... but four movies! Crime drama Rampart, action-cum-romantic-comedy This Means War, CIA thriller Safe House and British comedy-drama The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel all come under the Watchers' appraising eye. But which did we rate and which did we slate? There's only one way to find out...

In the news, we saw The Avengers change its name, Dr Watson change gender and the Razzie nominations announced.

Click here or here if you would like to have this episode as a podcast!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Review: The Cabin In The Woods (UK cert 15)

Filmed in 2009 but left in distributor limbo after MGM went bankrupt, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard's The Cabin In The Woods finally picked up a new distributor (Lionsgate who distributed the Saw franchise) and has finally made it to the cinemas. I have to say, it would have been a crying shame to have left such an inventive, funny and downright bizarre movie on the shelf.

We know the set-up. Five young and nubile guys and gals- jock Curt (Chris Hemsworth), wild girl Jules (Anna Hutchison), good girl Dana (Kristen Connolly), studious Holden (Jesse Williams) and stoner Marty (Fran Kranz)- take off from the city for a weekend away at the titlular dwelling. Everything seems primed for a Texas Chainsaw Massacre type of scenario - a sinister local, dilapidated cabin, the characters morally transgressing (sex, drink and drugs, oh my!)- and, true to form, the cabin comes under attack. It's a fight for survival and not everyone will make it out unscathed. So far, so-so. A well-worn tale, I'm sure you'll agree.

But then you have to factor in the genius of Joss Whedon. If you've seen the extended trailer, this won't be a spoiler in the strictest sense of the word: the events in the cabin and its surroundings are being manipulated by a shadowy underground team (played perfectly by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford). But why? This plot reveal is where things go into the truly surreal- it kind of comes out of left-field- and I'm certainly not going to spoil it for you. I think this twist will be the test of what people think of the film: you may, like me, think it was a reasonable (if slightly insane) explanation or it may be a preposterousness too far. You be the judge.

For me, I really liked the film. I'm not a huge fan of horror, having been repulsed and bored by many subpar slashers who think that breasts and blood come first with a decent plot limping in at the end. The Cabin In The Woods plays with this notion quite well; the film comes off as a bit of a mix- taking Scream's self-referentiality and mixing in a bit of The Evil Dead's comedy-horror blend. The gore is not excessively over-the-top (until the end) and some moments are a bit jumpy. There's also a great deal of comedy to be found- Marty gets some of the best lines which had the audience in stitches and there's a particularly funny scene involving a telephone call on speakerphone which had me giggling.

In the last thirty minutes or so, things do get a bit out there but there's a stunning cameo which I didn't expect. All said, the film is a bit crazy but very enjoyable nonetheless.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Revisiting A Classic: The Star Wars Saga (Part Two, Episodes IV – VI.

And so we begin where we left off – munchies at the ready and time to begin….

 Episode IV: A New Hope

Not seen this in about two years! So, hairs on the back of neck already, the music fanfares us into what is the original Star Wars. The iconic massive starship flies over the screen and were aboard Princess Leia’s ship. The opening scenes with Vader are very different now after watching his back-story; you see he’s not just an ‘evil’ man, but a man who has chosen the wrong side, the side who happen to be in power. As with any dictatorship, Vader is a victim of his own choices?

The cut I’m viewing is the 2003 DVD Special Edition – and the picture quality is outstanding; you’d think it was shot a few years back, not thirty-four! Already though, the dialogue and actors involved are a class above the prequel trilogy – the words just seem to flow and are not forced.

What’s brilliant is how, in Episode III, Lucas built the Droids’ relationship up, so now when we meet the some twenty years later in Episode IV and they are bickering on the sand planet, Tatooine – they’re like the ultimate bromance! I feel already that with watching the prequels and now pretty much straight into this one- the back-story is heavily there and it influences you while watching the original trilogy in ways I hadn’t thought of or would expect myself to feel (like how the droids are a lot more rounded out by this point and how I know what’s behind Vader’s mask and he’s not a mysterious black knight as when I watched these as child). Lucas truly has given these films a new lease of life and viewing enjoyment – I heartily encourage fans to try this marathon – I would be interested in what others notice now watching these again with all the blanks filled in of Episodes I-III?

And we also have to give the film licence (or suspend our disbelief!) The droids arrive by chance at the Lars moisture farm, where a 3PO with a wiped memory was, many years before, with Anakin and Padme. Then of course, R2 knows exactly where he is and who Luke is! How convenient!

‘Ben’ Kenobi enters the film and Alec Guinness has such a presence to him, it’s uncanny and the transfer from Ewan McGregor to him is awe inspiring (a credit to McGregor’s performance in Episode III). What’s clever is how Obi-Wan recognises R2 when Luke’s unconscious and then makes out he doesn’t when Luke’s awake. The scene where Obi-Wan informs Luke of the half-truth of his father has much greater weight to it now we the viewer know the complete truth, also in Obi- Wan wanting Luke to study the force and train to be a Jedi (with the knowledge that Luke is the son of the chosen one).

“I find your lack of faith disturbing”… A classic line and still haunting to this day. Peter Cushing is fantastic as the Grand Moff Tarkin, commander of the Death Star. Cushing brings a gravitas to the role that brings the villains heads above the dangers of been cartoony or unbelievable. His performance brings a sincere sinister edge to a dark man.

The Cantina scene is a classis western saloon in space. What’s nicely woven across Episodes III and IV is Chewbacca and how Obi-Wan approaches him to get safe passage across the universe. Chewbacca is a trusted ally of Yoda. Then it’s ruined by Greedo shooting first – yes, the old debate. But my stand point is that Han Solo is a space pirate, a rogue; he would shoot first in this scene showing he’s the gunslinger. His story is he redeems his past by becoming a rebel fighter- he shouldn’t be a hero from the get go, that’s the whole point of him, yes?

“That’s no moon!” The Death Star is introduced in such a grand way – shot after shot to give it the scale it deserves. The space station is a character in the film by itself- you could argue that the Death Star is the villain of A New Hope. What does come to mind though – at the end of Episode III, we saw the Death Star being built and now it’s only been completed some twenty years later, but in Return Of The Jedi a new Death Star is nearly built in less than six years? Come now – this is a major flaw?

“Boring conversation anyway!” The cell-block escape, which leads to the trash compactor scene (a scene that, every time I watch the film, I find it unnecessary and a little too pantomime for my liking). Then, of course, the great running-around-Death-Star-corridors and the iconic swing across by Luke and Leia, which leads us to the rematch between Anakin and Obi-Wan, which feels very underwhelming after the prequel duels. What is heightened though is Obi-Wan transcending into the Force as Vader kills him and the knowing smile that his sacrifice will fuel Luke onto become the new hope for the Jedi.

The finale- the Trench, the X wings and the Tie Fighters! What makes this a fantastic sequence is it is made so simply. It takes moments from classic war movies- it treats the space battle as a fantastical dogfight. We are introduced to the pilots – Red 2, Red 3, Red 4 etc- we see them all, we know their faces and when they die, we do care. The trench runs- three in total- give us a great pace for the battle, also using that great rule of thumb in movies- great things come in threes! Vader being shot, rolling into space at the last moment, by Han Solo sets up Luke- and the Death Star is no more! Awards and credits!

This film is a classic – no one can say anything else to argue the fact. It is the original blockbuster – nothing comes close for its originality, its use of mythology to engage us within the characters and the universe. This film is as fresh now as it was thirty-five years ago. Let the Hollywood suits never dare to remake this film. This is the film I will show my kids and it will be the film I will watch and own until I die. Just perfection.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

The film opens with Luke trapped out on the Ice Planet of Hoth. Solo rescues him and then he is in the medical bay being repaired (which is because Mark Hamill had his face reconstructed after a car accident!) What follows this is the gut-churning, most horrific thing of the entire saga- the kiss. The incestuous kiss between Luke and Leia. Everytime I see it, I say to myself “No tongue, it’s all good, there was no tongue – was there tongue? Was there? NO, surely NOOOOO!!!!” So moving swiftly on… Of course there’s no tongue because Lucas had this al mapped out down to the final details when he wrote the original trilogy…right?

The battle on Hoth is by far one of the greatest of all the battle scenes in the saga- what I love is the Empire have the upper hand and the rebels are buying time for everyone to evacuate and re-group. The AT-AT walkers are a great piece of cinema and effect work for the time, hand-animated (using stop-motion) and they look great; the jerkiness of this animation actually lends some realism to the mass and size of the walkers, which sells their believability.

Our heroes on the Falcon escape and are under pursuit by TIE fighters- they end up flying through an asteroid field. John Williams’ score here latterly invokes a classic 
Hollywood feel, giving the sequence a romantic feel of adventure which brilliantly compliments the whole idea of a modern version of old cinema serial sci-fi adventures (like Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers). Harrison Ford embodies Han Solo; he is perfect as the rogue smuggler and the blossoming romance between Leia and Han is superbly handled- delicately done and brilliantly intimate when needs to be.

The introduction (or now, should I say, re-introduction) of Yoda is genius, Yoda makes out he’s some eccentric recluse and then the character sweeps back into the Jedi Master. As the viewer, you forget you’re watching a puppet- Frank Oz brings an amazing life to this puppet; we look right into the puppet’s eyes and are completely immersed into the character and don’t doubt it for a second.

“This is no cave!” Yeah, that never gets old. The Falcon was hidden inside a giant cave-dwelling creature- they had landed inside its belly and then managed to fly out of its mouth! Right! A step too far, you say? No. Never. Never! Why? This is Star Wars; this is the Holy Trinity of cinema. We do not question the Holy Trinity. It just is; it just is right. Well, that’s how I rationalise this (it’s also how I rationalise Jake Lloyd and Jar Jar Binks!).

Now, meanwhile on Dagobah, Luke enters another cave! He enters a cave, Darth 
Vader walks towards him in this dark-side-of-the-Force cave and Luke slices his head off, Vader’s mask explodes to reveal Luke’s severed head within the mask! (Did I mention it’s all in slow motion?) OK? To this day I have no idea what this is about – answers on a postcard please (or email us at!

The training on Dagaobah has a nice slow pace, without falling for the training montage technique; instead we see Luke’s powers grow – lifting rocks while hand standing to lifting his X-wing (a little)! We also see Luke use the Force to see across the galaxy that his friends will soon be in danger and he cuts his training short – which leads us to discover that there is another new hope for the Jedi (but we already know that – now this is a six-part saga!)

Across the galaxy our heroes have found refuge on Cloud City and we are introduced 
to Lando – the token black guy in the universe. No, I’m not joking; this is pretty much why Lando is played a black actor – the studio received complaints about the fact that there were only white actors in the cast. Yeah, Star Wars is racist– never mind the green, the blue, the Wookies and all the other races in the galaxy who live as one large universe!

But, of course the refuge is shattered as Lando has made a deal with the Empire (now that’s something for those playing the racist card- the only black guy in the universe is a criminal!) Moving swiftly on! The film starts its way to the end and, as the viewer, you do recognise the signs of middle-act syndrome (where a trilogy of films has the second film as the middle act), or ‘we put our heroes in the darkest, most hopeless of escape places’. But this was the first trilogy of blockbusters, remember, and they are the blueprint!

So, the carbonite – by far, the most heart wrenching scene in the original saga. Brilliantly handled by the cast and by John Williams’ score. “I love you’; ‘I know”. Everything about this scene is handled with real passion for the story – the doom and the tragedy that Leia realising she loves Han at this moment.  Leia a small week figure surrounded in Chewbacca’s arms. He’s alive! “Skywalker has landed, my lord”; a report that things are going to just get worse as the film reaches its climax!

The light-sabre battle between father and son is visually exciting – I love the way they fight in a very dimly lit room that happens to add the visual presence of the sabres!  The fight is of course fantastic- but what makes it a step above is the underlining issues involved. Vader wants to bring out the fear, the anger within his son as they fight, leading him to the dark side. This culminates in Luke losing his hand in the fight and discovering he is facing his father. Vader wants to rule the galaxy as father and son and destroy the Emperor – this gives us a whole new dynamic to the saga. Luke leaps into the abyss of the inner workings of the city rather than take his father’s offer. Our other heroes have escaped capture – but failed to rescue Han at the hands of Boba Fett. They save Luke and we have probably the bleakest ending to a film ever (well, maybe second bleakest – anyone seen The Mist?)

The Empire Strikes Back is, by far, the perfect example of a sequel and a perfect example of a middle act of a three-act play/trilogy. Nothing compares to this film. Every time I go to see a sequel, this is the bar that I have set for the films. I can make a long list of sequels that has failed- The Matrix Reloaded to name one excellent example of a sequel FAIL! This film ticks so many boxes – you end up running out of boxes to tick. Again, just perfect – literally nothing wrong with this in any way.

Rating: 5 out 5

Right, watched them as a double bill, no break- so need a break now. After a coffee, I’m ready for more!

Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi

And so we face the final curtain! Once more into the breach my friends, and so on. We start the film at a much slower pace than Empire – we’re back to New Hope pace, building the tension at very nice ease –brining us the viewer back into the universe, as the droids are sent into Jabba The Hutt’s to see what happened to Chewbacca and Lando. We discover that Han Solo is still frozen in carbonite. Jabba’s palace is a dismal, dreary castle – a far cry from the imperial designs of the Death Star and star destroyers. 

And then- oh dear God, NO! I had forgotten about the travesty that is the sudden music number at the palace in the Special Edition cut- three letters to sum this appalling sight– WTF! What’s even worse about that godawful new CGI music scen is that budget could have gone on the next scene: Luke in the Jabba Banther pit. This creature effect has not stood the test of time- it’s blatantly a hand puppet meant to be a giant beast and if I’m honest, it’s laughable by today’s standards and even more laughable by the rest of the film’s superb standard of effect work. This is where the special edition money should of been spent!

What is still great today as it was then is the escape from Jabba over the desert sands. The heroes literally being forced to walk the plank is sweet nostalgia mixed seamlessly into a sci-fi setting. Luke shows in this opening action scene just how powerful he has become since we last saw him (three years ago on a cinema screen, of course!).

The Emperor arrives on the new Death Star greeted by Vader. What is great about this scene is the dialogue between the two of them has such a different slant now with the information we have from the first three films now in place in the saga. Just superb – you really see here how well written Episode III was?

“Do not… do not underestimate the power of the dark side…” Even at thirty-four, I still get a lump in my throat when Luke and Yoda talk of the truth of Luke’s father and Yoda passes away. “There is another Skywalker”

The speeder bike chase is a great bit of cinema – well paced, excellently edited and just a fab action sequence. Love it – never gets old and the effects do not look nearly thirty years old!

The Moon of Endor means Ewoks. Now, the Ewoks have split debate just as much as Jar Jar Binks does. Love them or hate them, they’re here and they’re here to stay for the rest of the movie. Personally I’ve always liked the Ewoks. They’re a great tribal edition to the already massive Star Wars universe. I love the fact that these little creatures beat the Empire using bows and arrows – it’s a great juxtaposed message.

Father and son together again. Luke gives himself up so he can see his father – in a amazingly well written and performed scene – which is surprising as one of them wears a mask. Poignant even more so now we finally know who really is under the mask.

“It’s a trap!” The finale of finales – a three way split. The attack on the shield generator on the planet below, the battle between the space armadas above and Vader against Luke on the Death Star. The mind games from the Emperor with Luke is fascinating – this is where the dialogue becomes more powerful than any blaster or light sabre could ever be: “Give into your anger”.

The battle rages on below- what makes this finale so much fun to watch, is it is so well made. The timing between battles- when the filmmakers choose to switch settings, the tragedy of Ewok Wicket dying, the dog fights – everything is just perfectly organised. So many blockbusters since this film have copied and even cloned the structure of final battle scenes.

“I am a Jedi, like my father before me”. The shield is destroyed and the second act of this finale begins.  To this day, I’m amazed that a mask can show so much emotion as the Emperor is about to kill Luke – you can actual see the conflict within Anakin.  But, what’s really well made is Anakin faces the same choice as he did in Episode III when Mace Windu was about to die – which does he save, the Emperor or his friend (and now his son)? Well, blood is thicker than water. We cut into the new trenches and the effect work here is just outstanding for the time the film was made. Ships weave in and out of construction pipes – explosions and small victories leading all the way.

“Tell your sister you were right about me”. The death of Anakin has never been more powerful now all the pieces of the jigsaw are in place – the tragedy, the corruption and finally the redemption. And so the Death Star is destroyed, with the Emperor dead, freedom once again comes to this galaxy far far away. Everything is great… until we remember that Lucas added Hayden Christensen as Anakin’s ghost at the end of this version! Oh well!

Jedi is a great swansong to the saga – serious, scary and villainous when needs be. Tongue in cheek, humorous and loving when it also needs to be. In all, a very well balanced masterpiece – this is the blue print for a blockbuster and has been cloned many times since.

Rating: 5 out 5

So this brings me to an end, after two six hour sittings, twelve hours of re-watching one of my (if not the) favourite movie franchises I have ever seen.

My inner child and fond memories of watching my VHS copies as a child has not been ruined by the tweaks and the changes by Lucas. These films have lived with my generation and they’re not going away. I will have my children on my knee watching these films and I’m sure grandchildren too. With the soon-to-be-seen television series (Star Wars: Underworld) which charts the time between Episodes III and IV, I don’t doubt we will see the rise of the rebellion and who knows when Lucas needs a retirement plan, we might even see Episodes VII, VIII and IX.



Monday, 9 April 2012

Review: The Cold Light Of Day (UK cert 12A)

I went and saw this on a free Sunday evening, the cinema was half empty and I didn’t know what to expect. From the trailer, I thought I was in for a run-of-the-mill thriller.

How wrong was I! What we have here is a very well-executed espionage thriller with what could have easily been a very simple premise. Our hero Will Shaw (played by Henry Cavill) is suddenly thrown into a spy game. His family is kidnapped while on holiday in Spain and he discovers his father (Bruce Willis) is and has been a spy for all of Will's life. Will must track down his family while avoiding the cat and mouse of various factions out for their own game.

The web of spy games here is so well written- without using spoilers. This film, like I said, could have been a very simple tale: family kidnapped, hero runs around action scene by action scene getting closer, while being used as a puppet in a spy game. But what this film manages to do is, at every key plot point the story takes a twist and not a twist where you the viewer screams “oh come on!” No. This film keeps the twists very believable and even a film buff like myself wasn’t sure who was telling Will the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (It's hard to talk plot with this film)

The pace, direction, editing, music and cinematography comes together superbly here, which is not surprising when you see the credits and realise it's very much a European movie (and it shows). After various films I've watched the last few months, it is a refreshing change to actually see a film well crafted and well written

The actors involved give brilliant performances. Sigourney Weaver plays a real, believable, strong female character and Bruce Willis as ever is on form. But my real reason for wanting to see this film was Henry Cavill (the actor will be seen next summer in Superman: Man Of Steel). He was a fantastic, believable, focused and= when needed- vulnerable leading man. He will make an amazing Clark Kent and I, for one, am now so excited about Man Of Steel.

This film, however, is well worth a watch – it's a seat-of-your-pants action adventure with (most importantly) a well written script and characters with depth. Enjoy.

Rating: 4 out 5


Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Revisiting A Classic: The Star Wars Saga (Part One, Episodes I – III).

So, a movie marathon (the first for The Watchers)– and where better to start than the Star Wars saga itself? Some might say that the problem with a Star Wars marathon is that “there are too many of them” or that they “don’t like the look of this”? However, the main problem with doing a Star Wars marathon is the old debate of which order to watch the films in- original trilogy then prequels or vice versa?  Well, I’ve gone for the order of episodes as film maker George Lucas intended (well, for now- until he makes some new Director’s Supreme Edition).

So let’s begin, A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Far Away……

Episode 1: The Phantom Menace.

The main problem with doing a Star Wars marathon is the order I’ve chosen is having to watch The Phantom Menace first- then again, it gets it out the way!

The opening of the movie is as ever impressive- you’re instantly into the universe of the saga. It sets the scene well with the Trade Federation blockade over Naboo and the invasion of the planet below. The film begins well, introducing a few important characters – namely Obi Wan Kenobi, even if Ewan McGregor’s performance within this film is wooden and flat to say the least.

Jar Jar Binks arrives in the film as the invasion begins and befriends our two Jedi Knights. The obvious debate- is he annoying or is he a great comedy relief? My opinion: by far the most annoying character to ever grace the saga and even (in some ways) cinema history. The excuse of the chance to create a fully generated main character in a “live-action” film for the first time was overused and the animators indulged and delivered unforgivable character quirks coupled with an annoying vocal performance by Ahmed Best. What you end up with is by far the most irritating character to grace the cinema screen. We’ll leave Jar Jar there, as we could rip apart his involvement within the film scene by scene – but I wont, as he just doesn’t deserve the mentions or my time. Forgive his creation? Never! Overlook him to enjoy the film? Of course!

Where the film can lack in characterisation and dialogue, it does evoke a real sense of universe. The landscapes and scope of the film is huge. For the time it came out (1999) nothing had been seen like it before and even now the general views of Naboo, Coruscant and Tatooine make you sink into a wider galaxy than the individual planets that the characters visit alone. Tatooine helps you re-immerse yourself into the universe after the gap between the two trilogies – it’s like you the audience are revisiting a familiar place yourself.

On Tatooine, we are introduced to the most important character of the saga – Anakin Skywalker. Unfortunately here he is played by the young Jake Lloyd, who has the screen presence of a door mat mixed with the essence of a wet dog! Seriously, between Jar Jar and Lloyd, this film struggles on so many levels. The child actor has an annoying way of speaking, walking and even breathing! So yeah the fact that he grows up to be Darth Vader is about as believable as George Lucas’s care for his fans!

The Pod Race: it’s like watching a futuristic version of the chariot race from Ben-Hur. Exciting, well-paced and just pure Star Wars. This scene manages to pick the film back up in quality and you almost forgive the drivel that got you to this point within the film.

The film builds into a much more rounded plot with the character arriving at Coruscant, the capital of the Republic – here we meet Yoda, Palpatine and of course Mace Windu (played by Samuel L Jackson). The scenes here show the back room bargains and politics of the universe – namely Palpatine’s puppetry skills in which leads him to become the President (this is who ‘the phantom menace’ is). The Jedi Council scene is intriguing in itself – giving us a look at the doubts and misgivings in training the young Anakin Skywalker and if he truly is the chosen one!

The final battle of the film is superb (as ever with these films!) – the usual cross between locations is used to great effect, where the action bounces from the fight between the Droid army and Jar Jar’s people, to the fight inside the palace, to the dogfight in space and of course the Jedi Vs Sith first encounter. Darth Maul (played by Ray Park) is a superb villain – the short screen time that he has is made up for by the sheer evil that is behind the eyes of the character. The light sabre fight is by far one of the greatest in the saga – you’re left breathless by trying to keep up with the action taking place, which comes at you from all angles.

So, all in all, the film is a mish-mash of good and bad. If we watch it for what it really is – a space adventure designed for the family to enjoy, and a stepping stone to a wider story.-then, yes, it does deliver. Leaving Jar Jar and Jake Lloyd’s acting aside, what we actually have is a film that has stood the test of time since the 1999 release- the effects look as fresh as they did then and the story (if a bit slow to get going) is a well thought out first chapter.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

After a quick shower and a fresh mug of coffee, we start again…

Episode 2: Attack Of The Clones

Originally released in 2002 and (unlike the others in the Saga) this one- and Episode III- were filmed at Fox Studios Sydney, Australia.

Within minutes of this film starting and the initial political intrigue scenes in Palpatine’s chambers, you know you’re in a more adult adventure. The saga is the story of Anakin Skywalker- The Phantom Menace was a film surrounding his childhood and the feel was a lot more childish in tone. With this one (Anakin is now eighteen and played by Hayden Christensen), we are in a dark toned universe, which is reinforced by the first third of the film being set on Coruscant – the capital planet. A planet that is one large endless city. We are treated to a Star Wars speeder/car chase through the depths of the citadel: fast paced, well edited and well performed by the actors (as they would have just seen green screens).

Already this small way into the film Ewan McGregor’s performance is what you expect from the actor of his calibre – the Obi Wan in this film is so much more rounded out and feels the same man as played by Alec Guinness in the later films of the saga.

The middle of the film is an interesting and somewhat strained affair. The middle of the film deals with Obi-Wan discovering a clone army being created for the republic – but the Jedi Council or senate know nothing of it being asked to be created. This is the interesting section which provides both a massive plot point – the clone troopers/storm troopers, which leads to becoming the army of the Empire. What’s nice is it’s very cleverly handled and under played and obviously a great nod for the fans when you first watch the film.

The strained affair I’m talking about is the romantic plot between Anakin and Padme, played by Natalie Portman.  The two characters are to fall deeply in love and as a fan we all know where ends – tragedy. But what’s strained is Christensen’s performance and the chemistry between the two actors is less than none, making it painful to watch the scenes- you’re literally thinking: where’s the fast forward button? Get to the action! (Which is a great shame).

The CGI in this film has not stood the test of time. It looks overly synthetic and there are obvious generated lighting effects. You can literally tell which scene was shot on green screen stage and which are shot in real lighting and real places. Also the CGI of characters is poorly handled; a lot of the animation of characters feels juddery and unnatural.

The major saving grace of the middle of the film is one character – well, two really! The Fetts are introduced: Jango and Boba Fett. The iconic characters added to the film could have easily been an easy trick to please fans – but what’s nice is how they are woven into the fabric of the plot. We learn that Jango is the subject that clones are cloned from and he is in fact in league with the dark side at work!

As the film nears its climax we have a few interesting scenes laid out for us- Christopher Lee as Count Dooku at a meeting with separatist leaders. What’s great is they are talking over plans of a new weapon- the Death Star. Of course, there is the tragic reunion between Anakin and his mother and then the vengeance he commits upon a village of Sand People. Slaying them all- men, women and children- this is his beginning to the dark side.  Most notable is the action scene with Anakin and Padme in the droid factory as they jump, fall and manage to survive a conveyer belt of obstacles!

The finale of this film lasts for over half an hour, starting with an amazing action sequence with our three heroes fighting it out gladiator-style in a giant arena against three large alien beasts, then the arrival of the purple light sabre and what follows is just geekgasm! Jedi battle on a scale never seen before! Twenty to thirty Jedi fighting outnumbered odds, with a showdown between Mace and Jango that’s just simplistic and sets up Boba for the rest of the saga- Mace swipes Jango’s head from his shoulders without breaking a sweat! A great way to show the power of a Jedi Master and the futility of this villain, Jango Fett.

Yoda arrives with the New Army of the Republic- the clone army- and the battle goes up a gear once again. Now not confined to the arena, a massive war field erupts. The finale ends with a light sabre dual between Obi-wan, Anakin and Count Dooku. Then Dooku goes against Yoda in what is either the most amazing fight ever or the most laughable. In some ways, I look at it as the first, but I feel as a fan I’m blinded. What this finale does is stamp this film as a Star Wars – this is what a blockbuster should be; all out brash (but with a decent plot) and helps you escape the world for a few hours.

This instalment brings us into the start of war with a bang, even if some of the effects don’t stand the test of time, and half the time you’re trying to figure out if this can be counted as a live-action film or a CGI film? All round good family fun with a hint of geekgasm!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

So after a break here we go again…..

Episode 3: Revenge Of The Sith

Twenty minutes into the film and I can catch my breath! Of all the films in the saga, this is the one I have seen the least – this is probably only the fourth time I’ve watched it! I had completely forgot the flip that Lucas did with this film- this film begins as the others end. A twenty minute sequence where we join the characters in mid-battle: we have a dog fight between space ships and a whole armada of two fleets battling it out, with scope and scale never seen before in any of the films. There are two light-sabre duels, the death of Count Dooku and the rescue of Palpatine – you don’t have time to process any of this and then you realise you’re only twenty minutes into the film and its only just begun! Outstanding; just outstanding.

And then we have the core of the film that falls flat again. The core of the film is a love tragedy – a space opera Romeo and Juliet. What falls short, yet again, is the chemistry between Portman and Christensen. The dialogue doesn’t help them, mind – with insipid lines like ‘love has blinded you’. Pass me the sick bag – we need Harrison Ford to write the lines again – ‘I love you’; ‘I know’!

On the other hand, the reverse can be said for the relationship between Obi Wan and Anakin – the chemistry of a friendship gaining cracks and falling apart between Christensen and McGregor is very well portrayed and written. It’s obvious that Lucas has real issues with writing and directing the romantic plotlines. This can be said also for the scenes with Palpatine and Anakin – it’s wonderful in these scenes that, as a fan, you’re watching Young Vader and Palpatine. As the film progresses, so Anakin progress into Darth Vader- which is great as he becomes him without the costume to make the man.

The CGI in this film seems to have stood well with time, it still has a annoying unnatural synthetic feel, but it has improved since Episode II - this is not surprising as it came out in 2005 and less time has passed by. It’s also fresh seeing Coruscant in daylight more, which gives the setting a fresh perspective.

The Obi Wan vs General Grievous sequence is a fantastic action scene – but also forms a midpoint; a line is drawn in the sand right here – this is where the film itself starts to turn to the dark side of viewing. A dark cloud begins to overshadow the rest of this tragic dark tale! There is a choice – a choice for Anakin and, with the death of Mace Windu, the choice is made and, once made, there is no turning back (well, until the end of episode 6!!).

The fall of the Jedi is not an easy watch and nor should it be – Jedi after Jedi butchered to death, with the eerie scene where Anakin ignites his light-sabre to kill the children at the height of your thoughts. Leaving your imagination running wild with how he killed those children… it’s not surprising this is the only film in the saga to be given a rating of 12.

The finale of this film sees Obi Wan pitted in fierce combat against Anakin – or should I say Darth Vader- what can only be described as the greatest light-sabre duel of the entire saga. The speed at which the fight takes place is insane and a wonder to watch. The bittersweet victory for Obi Wan and the death of Padme as Vader rises from the ashes gives this film the weight the prequels deserve.

A film that is truly the dark film of the series – this is an amazing midpoint within a glorious saga. This film can be forgiven for its badly written romance – this is what Star Wars is about. Love, Tragedy, defiance and here the rebellion is born.

So ends my Marathon of the prequels …… To Be Continued with Episode IV: A New Hope.

Rating: 4 out 5 stars