Posts Tagged ‘ Andy Serkis ’

Star Wars: The Force Awakens


The Japanese poster, because it has Kylo Ren at its center.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Release date: December 25 2015 (India)
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Cast: Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Carrie Fisher, Lupita Nyong’o, Anthony Daniels

Back when the “original” Star Wars came out, i.e. A New Hope, in 1977,  I wasn’t even conceived yet. I got around to watching the initial trilogy and wound up watching the later prequels in just about 2012 and some time later, the announcement of a reboot was made by Disney after their acquisition of Star Wars creator George Lucas’ Lucasfilm. A New Hope, as compared to films that have been made in its succeeding four decades, appears to be very basic in its design and inception. It uses silly fade-ins and fade-outs to transition between scenes, often done between disconnected scenes. What it shows you is a strong groundwork for fairy tales set in space. (Lucas himself described it as a fairy tale with a cohesive reality)

It brought along with it, Jedi knights, Sith lords, stormtroopers, tribes of Ewoks, talking droids, a grizzly wookie, an extraterrestrial life guru who’s just a bazillion years old, some messed up familial relationships, and the biggest of them all, telekinesis being used in a non-horror film. It created a universe which demands of you to suspend your disbelief. Cementing its legacy, film by film, fictional creature by fictional creature. The similarities between being a pro-wrestling fan and an avid Star Wars follower are many, and I know them. And just like how the former don’t approve of conversations about the match results of a show they haven’t seen, the latter frown at the slightest mention of a film ‘spoiler’.

The characters of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess/General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) have aged well into their grey-hair and wrinkly-skin years, and have went down their own paths of satisfaction and fulfillment in life. A long time later, in a galaxy far, far away, The First Order has risen from the remains of the fallen Galactic Empire and is out to find Luke and establish its supremacy. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is a a Resistance fighter-pilot who crosses path with Finn (John Boyega) and makes a journey to the barren land of Jakku, where Rey (Daisy Ridley) is a scavenger who sells her finds for a living.

There’s an intersection of paths and an adventure ensues.

That’s the shortest plot description I’ve ever written. You can guess why.

As the title of the film goes, there’s an awakening of The Force and it is felt by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), your new age Darth Vader and Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is the new Emperor Palpatine. Ren is the same amount of Vader as he his own person, he takes off his mask when he wants, and he’s as evil, and a little more unpredictable. Snoke is slightly more accommodating of his disciples, but vindictive in equal measure. Han Solo and Chewie are back and thankfully, their sense of humor and wisdom is still alive and kicking.

J. J. Abrams retains the best of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and spins his story with the right dash of nostalgia thrown around, here and there. He brings back the bar-bands playing sick tunes, gritty pawn shop owners, lightsaber duels, beautiful landscapes reminiscent of Episode V, the Millennium Falcon and John Williams’ epic background score! He knows that his audience wants instant gratification, and he uses that fact to give away a lot of layers of the film’s characters in a short time. The motivations for the characters’ actions are made clear by neat backstories for them.

The Force Awakens has a mouth-popping, jaw-dropping, flabbergasting moment which leaves you pretty much like this…

The face you make when Ren does the unthinkable

And the ridiculousness stays intact with the silly fade-in, fade-out transitions!

The film takes you on a journey you’ve taken before, probably even multiple times, but it makes it enjoyable all over again.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Avengers: Age of Ultron


Avengers: Age of Ultron
Release date: April 24, 2015
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Cobie Smulders, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Andy Serkis, Claudia Kim, James Spader, Julie Delpy

To rehash the opening lines of my Avengers review from 2012, a superhero film is nothing but people dying, buildings crumbling, the heroes rising and the villains falling. It is the same and will continue to remain the same. Avengers have a certain air of magnanimous extravagance around them, because you get six nine saviors in cloaks and costumes, and a few more waiting to climb the ranks.

Also, what separates this collection of superheroes from X-Men is the lack of a common lineage shared between the unearthly egos. Every Avenger has a different story to tell, and some of their respective pasts are touched upon in this installment of a most certain trilogy. These flashbacks and peeks into their psyches are assisted by the introduction of Pietro/Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) as the American hating or rather Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) hating twins from Sokovia.

Joss Whedon tries to recreate either the origins–like in case of Black Widow–or a vantage point of the superhero characters’ demons and fears. Stark and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) get their hands on the scepter which was previously wielded by Loki, and start deciphering what exactly it holds. They realize there’s an artificial AI in the scepter, and in an amusing scene, JARVIS and ULTRON, two AIs hold a conversation between them. And they are perfectly sentient and verbal, unlike C3PO and R2D2.

In an Empire Strikes Back-esque turn of events, the ULTRON raises an army of innumerable other flying androids or robot drones to cause human extinction and to neutralize the greatest force which could stop them i.e. the Avengers. What ensues is an exhilaratingly long battle and the Avengers falter, only to regroup and fight the robotic armies. Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) gets the due attention which his character was deprived of in the last film. Not just attention, he also gets a fun chemistry with another sharp and agile team member.

Age of Ultron successfully charmed me with all its wit, even in the scenes where the supposed world-saviors are getting their ass handed to them on a platter. The film retains the zany nature of the earlier film and goes on to build an unbelievably relatable universe. It’s not relatable in terms of the destruction and aerial-duels between flying harnesses, it’s relatable with respect to a feeling of familiarity where the silly one-liners never run out.

Unlike last time, the heroes have more subtext in the current film, as against requiring the viewer to be completely abreast with the individual films of Captain America, Iron Man and Thor. The premise for a dark film on the origins of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is finally laid in place. Again, unlike Empire Strikes Back, there is never a dearth of emerging helping hands for the floundering A-team. The suspension of disbelief hardly ever kicks in.

Avengers: Age of Ultron is an escapist’s paradise with incredible technical finesse. Every frame is almost a feat of technological wonder and sheerly spectacular. If you want to live in a dystopian universe, witness to superhumans guarding it from extraterrestrial and inhuman villains, substantial destruction and civilian deaths are minor casualties you’ll have to live with.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5) 

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