Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview



Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, rated PG-13
*** ½

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker is the ninth and concluding film in the   Skywalker saga, bringing together the original films, the prequels, and the sequels. In order to achieve that, the film has to address various plot holes and threads from previous films and resolve questions. The result is an entertaining conclusion, and one of my favorite films of the year. The film is directed by two-time Emmy winner J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Westworld, Lost), who took over from Colin Trevorrow, who left after “creative differences”. The film was written by Abrams, Oscar winner Chris Terrio (Argo), Derek Connolly (Jurassic World films), and Trevorrow (Jurassic World films). The film had an estimated budget of $200 million. Continue reading

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Solo A Star Wars StorySolo: A Star Wars Story

Solo: A Star Wars Story is the second installment of the Star Wars anthology series, following 2016’s Rogue OneSolo is a stand-alone film that takes place approximately ten years prior to the events of the 1977 Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. The film tells the early story of Han Solo, a much-loved character that was made popular by Harrison Ford. The film is exciting and enjoyable; how much you enjoy the film may be based on your personal expectations of it. Some Star Wars purists have been very negative about the film, which was troubled early on when co-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired over creative differences with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and screenwriters four-time Oscar nominee Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill, Grand Canyon, The Accidental Tourist) and Jonathan Kasdan. Although I have seen and enjoyed all of the Star Wars films, I am not an expert on the franchise with its prequels and now anthology films, instead just wanting to see an entertaining film, which is what I found with Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Two-time Oscar winner Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind), was called in to direct the film after the original directors were fired after about five months of work on the project. It has been reported that Howard re-shot more than 80% of the film, which had a budget of approximately $250 million. The musical score is by Oscar nominee John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon). The legendary five-time Oscar winner John Williams (Jaws, Fiddler on the Roof, Star Wars, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler’s List) composed the main theme.  The film is visually stunning, with Oscar nominee Bradford Young (The Arrival) handling cinematography.
We first meet the cocky Han Solo, played by Alden Ehrenreich (Blue Jasmine, Hail, Caesar!) on his home sewer of a planet Coreillia. He is an orphan and a thief. He’s been living on the streets with his partner in crime Qi’ra, played by three-time Emmy nominee Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones). When they try to escape, only Han succeeds. He will spend the next few years developing his pilot skills while trying to get back to Qi’ra.
During this time, Han meets several characters who help shape him into the character we are familiar with – Chewbacca, played by Joonas Suotamo (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Star Wars: The Force Awakens), the outlaw Tobias Beckett, played by three-time Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, The People vs. Larry Flint, The Messenger), and the smuggler Lando Calrissian, played by Golden Globe winner Donald Glover (Atlanta). Phoebe Waller voices Lando’s co-pilot, L3-37, a robot. Dryden Vos, played by Paul Bettany (Iron Man films, A Beautiful Mind), plays the boss that Beckett works for.
We see Han team up with Beckett on a job in order to make enough money to purchase a ship to go back to Coreillia to rescue Qi’ra. When that job goes poorly, it sets up the plotline for the rest of the film.  The film plays like a space western and includes some excellent action sequences, and good use of humor.
Content concerns include typical Star Wars action violence and some light adult language. The acting performances of the main characters are all solid.
Solo: A Star Wars Story is a fun and enjoyable, though probably not an essential adventure film that does a good job of answering questions about Han Solo’s story. My favorite aspect of the film was seeing the early friendship of Han and Chewbacca, who is 190 years old when they meet. We also see how Han ultimately becomes the owner of the Millennium Falcon ship. “The Force” a significant feature in Star Wars films, is absent in this film. The film would be considered “family friendly” for older children, and contains some intense battle scenes, humor and solid acting.

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My Review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

rogue-oneRogue One: A Star Wars Story, rated PG-13

This is the first installment in the Star Wars: Anthology series. This film is set anywhere from a few weeks to a few days before Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope (1977). It is directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla), and is visually stunning. The script is written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy. The music by Michael Giacchino is excellent, and it’s the first Star Wars film not to be scored by the now 84-year old John Williams. The film had an estimated budget of $200 million.

This film is perhaps the least “kid friendly” of the Star Wars films, being a war film at its core, featuring an outstanding battle in the final part of the film. On the other hand, the film includes some excellent humor, primarily provided by the sure to be a crowd favorite K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial enforcer droid, voiced by Alan Tudyk. Christians will also notice that the “Force” is emphasized more in this film, particularly by Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), a blind, but still effective warrior-priest. Several times throughout the film he offers the prayer-like Jedi incantation “I am the Force, the Force is with me”.

Fans of Star Wars will enjoy the many homages to previous films and characters. For example, the planet on which Jyn Erso (Oscar nominee Felicity Jones) is retrieved from the Empire early in the film by the rebel alliance is called Wobani, an anagram for Obi-Wan. In addition, R2D2 and C3P0 have a brief cameo making Anthony Daniels the only actor to appear in all the Star Wars movies so far. And longtime Star Wars fans will be thrilled with a few powerful appearances from Darth Vader, voiced by James Earl Jones.  We both thought we caught a glimpse of Chewbacca during the battle scene.

The film opens with Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), living in a remote area with his wife and young daughter Jyn. Galen was one of the Empire’s star (pun-intended) weapons designers, before retiring to a life of farming. Now, his former boss, Director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial Military, Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) has come for him, needing his help to finish the project they had begun together, the Death Star, a weapon intended to be able to destroy an entire planet. SPOILER ALERT – The young Jyn loses her father and mother, and is largely on her own, though we briefly see Saw Gerrera (Oscar winner Forest Whitaker) check in on her to see that she is safe.

We next see Jyn on Wobani, one of the Empire’s prison planets. She is unexpectedly freed by a team of Rebel Alliance agents led by Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). The Rebels have become aware of Jyn’s father’s involvement in the Death Star project and hope that Jyn will be able to help them locate him and secure the plans for the weapon. Jyn doesn’t believe that her father would willingly aid the Empire, but she has not seen him since she was a small girl.

The film shows us that there are different factions in the Rebel Alliance. Jyn eventually begins to embrace the Rebel’s cause and recruits a small band of misfits who feel the same as her. In addition to Andor, Imwe and K-2SO, there is Imwe’s best friend, the marksman Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) and former Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Golden Globe nominee for The Night Of, Riz Ahmed).

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The story is relatively easy to follow, the visuals are stunning, we are introduced to some new characters and there are several references to previous Star Wars films. It is still basically a good vs. evil story. Parents need to be aware of the intense battle scenes and the prayer-like incantations by Chirrut Imwe.