Rogue One: Trailer Analysis

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2016 has become a bleak year. It’s a world without Bowie or Prince, and a world where Donald Trump may well be elected president of the United States. It’s also a year where in mass media, the heartache of lost legends has been punctuated with a number of disappointing — but hotly anticipated — releases. Big-budget marketing campaigns and fan anticipation have grown to almost farcical proportions. In the last month alone we’ve seen the not-what-we-promised universe of No Man’s Sky and the Leto-less Avengers-lite, Suicide Squad, divide public opinion.

This makes Gareth Edward’s foray into the Star Wars universe, set for a December release, a difficult prospect. Catalysed by the weight of one of pop-culture’s most beloved franchises and a number of forced re-shoots; the extent Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be a success remains naturally unclear. Yet despite its turbulent production — with rumours spanning from an ‘un-Disney like’ first-draft to additional continuity tweaks — Edwards’ vision for ‘WWII in Space’ seems to live on within the material we’ve seen. The initial teaser, released last year, introduced Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Mon Mothma’s Rebel Alliance tasked with securing the fabled Death Star Plans. It alluded to a more traditional — if not inherently better — style of filmmaking, with models and replicas in lieu of ‘dense’ CGI. This approach was cemented by a short ‘Celebration Reel’, which gifted a number of production clips displaying extras to intricate set-design. In such, Edwards also gave something of a mission statement: ‘I’ve been making a film that’s right touching my favourite movie of all time. But then if you’re too respectful of it [and don’t] take a risk, then what are you bringing to the table?’. Which is encouraging, to say the least.

Today a new trailer dropped, a video already screened to Star Wars Celebration Europe attendees under an Imperial-grade data protection act. It expanded upon previous footage and gave us greater insight into Edwards’ creative ‘risk-taking’. But it is a trailer that gives me faith. Both in light of its worrying re-shoots and this terribly disappointing year. Everything from the art direction to the casting suggests Rogue One will not only be a good film — but the film — that Star Wars fans have been craving. And what follows is an evaluation of such.

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Stranger Things: A Reflection 

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Netflix Original Stranger Things came as a pleasant surprise last month. A bold, heartfelt throwback to eighties pop-culture that crafted something inventive and memorable in the process. From its music to characters, it sparked feverous discussion online and proved to be an instant hit. It is, in essence, a love-letter to numerous films, books and cultural artefacts from that decade. But it’s also something much deeper. Stranger Things is a salute all those who watched such pictures; who read those comics and had their lunch money stolen as a result. It is, put simply, one for the nerds.

The series itself spans eight episodes and gravitates around the disappearance of Will Byers; a child living in eighties Indiana. Backdropped by an Area 51-style conspiracy, we see a relatively lacklustre village face an inter-dimensional monster — a Demogorgon to coin the Dungeons & Dragons phrase — terrorising its local community. This is compounded by a Cold War cover-up, namely MK Ultra to ‘Stay one step ahead of the Russians’, drawing a small-town cop into something well beyond his pay-grade. Yet beneath this, lies something far more relatable. Three young friends and a bereaved Mother trying to make sense of it all.

This mix of fantastical, if not ridiculous adventure, with tangible humanity feels familiar. It’s textbook Spielbergian adventure. It has whiffs of horror, action and sci-fi, but it’s largely a tribute to those great Hollywood adventure flicks. Indeed, Stranger Things is a cocktail of famous texts: from throwaway nods to outright pastiche. But it does so explicitly enough to remain charming in the process. Although such references deserve attention — I discuss them in due course — it’s rather the camaraderie between the boys and the escapee ‘Eleven’ that drives the show forward. It binds it with a youthful optimism that celebrates its more nuanced moments. Making Stranger Things a rather complex, but deeply satisfying blend of nostalgia and creative thought.

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In Defence of Event Horizon


Paul W. S. Anderson’s sci-fi horror remains, to this day, a divisive picture. Almost unanimously condemned as a crass, clumsy and predictable contribution to the genre; Event Horizon receives little time from serious critics. It is, however, my biggest and guiltiest cinematic pleasure.

In short, the film takes after the Alien (1979), Solaris (1972) and later Sunshine (2008) format of spaceship horror. A crew are sent to investigate a distress beacon from the Event Horizon –– a ship capable of interstellar flight –– that has long since been missing. It has retuned from the edge of our known universe and appears unmanned; tasking the rescue team with damage assessment on an intergalactic scale.

The frights are fairly obviously choreographed. An invisible parasite, not dissimilar to John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982) now haunts the ship, whilst a paper trail alludes to the fate of those originally aboard. Anderson purposely sidesteps from explaining too much here, leaving the fragmented and jarring fate of this crew relatively unexplored –– only to receive ham-fist conclusions towards the end. For this reason, I believe the general criticism regarding the film’s writing to be rather fair. It is inconsistent and at times feels as if it was written on-set.

But as the crew explore the ship, there is a tangible sense of horror. Laurence Fishburne establishes himself well as the stubborn Captain Miller, at odds with the irrational designer of the Horizon, Dr. William Weir (Sam Neil). They’re joined by a sortie of apathetic space servicemen who all, in turn, lose their minds aboard the ship. Although none of the characters feel particular inventive: the stern military man and obsessional scientist are hardly new arcs, they drive the narrative adequately enough. The downfall, it seems, is that the focal point is about them: their inner turmoil and subsequent breakdowns.

‘This ship […] knows my fears, it knows my secrets!

It gets inside your head and… it shows you!’

The crew are possessed with little nuance; the mix of cabin fever, repressed trauma and imploding personal chemistry feels too abrasive to be particularly meaningful. The themes it touches upon, however, prove powerful. Where the Horizon has been, what it has brought back and how it is presented. Indeed, my affection towards this film is not for its overarching tale. But rather the fleeting moments that occur inbetween. The artistic direction, the editing and the overall tone that can be extracted –– and celebrated –– despite the murky shell that embezzles it.


To call this film a ‘diamond-in-the-rough’ is an understatement. It scatters a number of great ideas throughout its ninety minute running time. The film’s aesthetics represent a good example. The use of colour and baroque set design is surprisingly inspired. With an emphasis on drab greys and greens, its colour palette reinforces the gritty, industrial feel that Kubrick and Scott established. The interiors throughout the ship(s) compound this further: with an enclosure that accommodates the mental episodes that soon escalate. But there is something more creative within this backdrop. It exhibits a strange gothic quality. The Event Horizon is part haunted house, part heavy-metal show. The winding corridors are perhaps a given, but the fabled ‘gravity drive’ is truly a design of its own. This spiralling, spike-laden velodrome leads to the unsightly death of one of the crew members. It also becomes the set-piece for Dr. Weir’s final all-work-no-play breakdown. Its presence is deeply menacing: an unconventional device with a fitting appearance. It extenuates the Oppenheimer quality as well, being a transgressive work of science. It all goes to serve what faults this picture: an important but hardly vital piece of set design seems to have incurred more thought than the screenplay surrounding it.


Another point of contention regards the Horizon’s disappearance. Whilst the film proposes a realistic science fiction aesthetic –– it’s more Silent Running than Star Wars –– the Horizon’s absence beyond the known universe descends into something more spiritual. In the simplest, spoiler-inducing sentence: such a place is hell. Or, indeed, some scientific derivative of it.

‘She’s been to a place you couldn’t possibly imagine. And now it is time to go back. […] Hell is only a word. The reality is much, much worse’

This inversion of perceived realism may be a cop-out. I’m not entirely sure how well it fits with the film that its first half attempts to set up. I do think, however, that it works remarkably well in isolation. In fact, it’s precisely why I feel to defend it. In essence, the rescue team learn of this through recorded material in the Captain’s Log; a grotesque and harrowing sequence where the original crew are tortured by whatever inter-dimensional zeitgeist took hold of it. Albeit the eye-ripping captain to the violently sexual images around him: this sequence does not hold back. He then pans to the camera and recites verses of Latin –– an ancient language in 2016 –– least not for the film’s in-date of 2047. It’s a memorable and damning scene. We are given hints to a haunted presence in anticipation to this, but nothing with such severity.

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‘I thought it said liberate me, save me. But it’s not me. It’s liberate cute me: save yourself. And it gets worse. […] I think that says ex inferis. Save yourself… from hell.’

This use of ritualistic, satanic discourse works well with its unabashed gore. The ship had been to hell and the dissonance between the cold reality of the Horizon with this perverse, graphic force it brought back is jarring. It also offers enough to shock without exposition. For the lack of a better phrase: this sequence is entirely fucked up. The  textbook ’cause and effect’ horror structure allows it to throw the audience without asking too many, plot-hole inducing, questions.

This is further refined by the editing. Flashbacks from the possessed Dr. Weir throw half-frame snippets of the tortured crew: with maggots, blades and sadomasochism to boot. It’s almost a useful exercise to watch this picture with your finger on the remote. Recently, internet forums have capitalised upon its darker imagery, deeming it ‘uncut’ and ‘unseen’ footage from the potentially better film it could have been. These images, however, are not new. They are merely passed over in a blink of the eye. They’re buried within the same picture that Robrt Ebert considered all ‘style’ and no substance. The same film that garners a 24% Rotten Tomatoes score and that one Washington Post critic remakerd:

‘If you want to have that “Event Horizon” experience without spending the seven bucks, try this instead: Put a bucket on your head. Have a loved one beat on it vigorously with a wrench for 100 minutes.’

Yet it is the very ‘style’ that shines brghtest. These flickering moments of shock –– the quick edits and flashbacks –– coupled with its interesting and eerie artistic design brings a gravitas to any narrative misgivings. It may rely on knuckle-dragging spectacle during its action sequences, but it attains a darkness that few of this genre have reached. It is for this reason I consider moments of satanic imagery, especially in flashback, as rationale to defend this film altogether. It cements the Horizon in a unique and troubling universe.

This approach has deeper cuts. Science fiction antagonists can, rather easily, become caricatures of their former selves. The minute Ellen Ripley jettisoned the Alien from that airlock, its caracas launched into space along with any tension we once felt for it. But a ship that has returned from the bowels of hell, that tip-toes around what it has attained –– which proves to be a Biblical iteration of evil –– is undeniably scary. The presentation of such bolsters it. It gets under your very skin, as this haunted-house comes into its own.

Put simply, Event Horizon merges the fantastical horror and modern science fiction to great avail. The vessel takes on fleshy overtones as it becomes increasingly more alive. Again, the contrast between industrialism and mangled human tissue is both striking visually and thematically. It also succeeds in avoiding the reality of the situation to ignite more fear. Whilst, all the same, incorporating supernaturalism better than the average sci-fi flick. In fact, Event Horizon is in the minority of genuinely throwing me after multiple watches. Not because I care about the characters –– that wears thin rather quickly –– but for precisely this graphic content. It presents the unpresentable, the oldest of all evils, with enough vibrance and aurora to maintain dramatic effect.


Event Horizon is, quite frankly, a curious picture. And note I’m not ranking it alongside the Blade Runners and Space Odysseys of the world in writing this. But when it descend into its darkest moments, it does so with a ferocity that deserves high merit. The themes it flirts within the process of Dr. Weir’s questionably-written breakdown are little short of tremendous. It’s also a damn entertaining film. I feel critics overlook that as a mind-numbing escapism –– perhaps Anderson’s forte given his later work –– it’s a bloody good movie.

Yet it remains something unique in my eyes. A rough mix of sci-fi and horror that reaches some truly gut-wrenching moments. A lacklustre screenplay, sure, but coupled with fantastic artistic direction.  And as rumours circulate regarding the now lost Director’s Cut –– a darker,  X-rated redux –– I can’t help but wonder what this film could have been. Nevertheless, for what it is, Event Horizon is worthy of your time. The product of a director clearly in an experimental phase. One, perhaps, trying to put his name on the in-traversable sci-fi/horror map. And whilst it is far from perfect, there is some eloquence in the flaws that bestow it.

Indeed, Event Horizon is more than a ‘good-bad movie’. I also wonder if I’m being harsh calling it a guilty pleasure: the very parameters of guilt are set by a cork-sniffing critical reception. I won’t deny it’s shortcomings, but I will celebrate it’s triumphs all the same. Event Horizon has a truly contagious quality to it. One that I happily re-watch from time to time. It’s a enigmatic experience above all else, with a design and tone that sits with you long after the credits roll. Which perhaps leads to the most pertinent conclusion of all about Event Horizon: ‘it gets inside your head’.


Attack of the Clones: A Retrospective


Edited article published for The Boar in January 2016. Available here:

Attack of the Clones (2002) was the first Star Wars picture I saw at the cinema. Despite being largely considered ‘Worse than The Phantom Menace’, there is no doubt it had a profound effect on my love for film, the franchise and in shaping the person I am today. I recall, at seven years of age, lightsaber in hand; queuing up for the next chapter of something I was already deeply emotionally invested in.

But re-watching it in lieu of The Force Awakens (2015) is like realising your childhood heroes are flawed individuals. Attack of the Clones misses every opportunity to be interesting. Plagued with poor writing, unimaginative direction and truly disappointing acting; it is unsurprisingly relegated to bottom of the pile. Albeit heavy-handed character arcs or tedious political sequences, it sacrifices all humanity and heart — traits that I feel define the best of the Star Wars universe. Its overindulgence in CGI is equally problematic and dates the film greater than its spritely thirteen years would have you believe.


In fact, reflecting on what the film does well proves exceedingly difficult. It has a remarkable ability to feel like a lot transpires — new characters and set-pieces that have nothing to do with a desire to flog merchandise — yet it offers no real movement in terms of plot or character.  The film loosely accounts for the start of the Clone Wars, building upon Palpatine’s transition to Emperor; Anakin’s love interest and his flaky relationship with the Jedi Order. But for the most part, Attack of the Clones drags. If looking at the archetypal trilogy, the second part is typically the darkest chapter. It puts the established characters into new circumstances and allows for the final film to ascertain the resolution. But Clones sits far removed from the eloquence of Empire Strikes Back. (1980) In fact, it’s a far messier film than I remembered.

Admittedly, the politics of Clones didn’t resonate with me as a child. Yet they are the most immediately odd thing about this film upon re-watching it. They dictate an overwhelming amount time for little to no reason. Did we really need three films of Galactic Senate meetings to convey the rise of Evil? Obviously the Sith play both sides — Dooku coercing the Separatists and Palatine pushing the Senate into Civil War. But the anxiety and impact of such a move is non-existent. It’s lost on children and it’s not enough for adults. It’s hard to feel any concern for the likes of Bail Organa or Viceroy Gunray when they feel like expendable characters. Nor is one compelled by the political repercussions, either, when they’re drawn out by such tiresome parliamentary episodes. Where they offer the guise of rationale and relief in-between action sequences, they feel vague and tedious. It’s hard not to switch off. Even the film’s final line even embodies this: ‘Begun the Clone War has’ sounds more foreboding than it really is; as one finds themselves head-scratching as to what has really occurred for the last two hours and how it holds any credence towards the original films.

Worse still, the moments of genuine intrigue are wasted. The conspiracy regarding a Clone Army, commissioned by a deceased Jedi Master, has great potential. The burnt paper-trail in the Jedi Archives has a whiff of Film Noir, yet it is completely extinguished within the context of the film. There is no investigation into why a Jedi commissioned such an army, nor the implication of a Sith plot in its place. Remarkably, no-one in the Council finds it odd to use an Army that no-one [explicitly] asked for. For all their self-proclaimed wisdom, the Jedi Council are remarkably thoughtless in this film. Windu remarks in an opening sequence: ‘We’re keepers of the peace… not soldiers’. Yet the film literally ends with the Jedi roped into a war that need not even happen, with themselves happily fronting legions of troops. No doubt this is part of Palatine’s great scheme –– but it comes across as frustrating in practice. Amalgamating a film later, to our beloved Obi-Wan parading around with soldiers and a military title: ‘General Kenobi, you are a bold one!’


This inherent lack of continuity or defined characterisation overshadows Clones. Lucas makes it hard to sympathise with anyone, Jedi or otherwise. Hell, it’s hard to care about anything in this film. Jar Jar Binks declares Emergency Powers to the Chancellor, instigating a Galactic Civil War [!] — whilst the most powerful Jedi in history, the so-called ‘Chosen One’, enjoys a picnic on Naboo. With fire-place passion to boot; Lucas simultaneously achieves one of the most laborious romances in filmic history alongside the most tedious of plots. The original trilogy triumphed because of relatable characters in a distantly un-relatable universe. Laurence Kasdan crafted perfect on-screen chemistry with Han and Leia in Empire: a human romance that blossomed in the darkest of times. In Clones, we see parallels, a vague attempt to find love in a hopeless place — but the jump from the pre-pubescent: ‘Are you an angel?’ in The Phantom Menace to ‘I’m haunted by that kiss you should never have given to me’ is almost vomit-inducing. It’s simply not believable. It’s uncomfortable to watch. Albeit it the age gap or the fact that people, even in a Galaxy Far Away, do not speak like this; the script does little to convince audiences about this newfound love.

Anakin’s seduction to the Dark Side is equally fallible to this half-baked writing style. The sequence where he massacres Tusken Raiders represents another missed opportunity. It reveals his aggressive and possessive instincts — a penchant for the Dark Side in lieu of his late mother — but the character developed up until this point is so unbearable, that the scene caries no weight. It is for this reason that Anakin’s ‘dark’ moments, just as his romance with Padmé, feel like an after-thought. It is as if the pressure of turning him into Vader hangs awkwardly over Clones; forcing abrasive dialogue and clunky character development.

All that said, there are some commendable efforts within the film. Credit should be bestowed upon Ewan McGregor; there is little doubt that his role within the prequels stands above the rest, something that became increasingly apparent upon re-watching these films. He bought his all, it’s just a shame no-one else did. Temuera Morrison (Jango Fett) also shines amidst a sea of mediocrity, which is commendable given the material handed to him, although he never feels fully fleshed-out. Christopher Lee provides a curious role as master-swordsman Count Dooku — a character whose potential seems incredibly missed. It seems whilst actors can rise above the weakest script; Lucas et al fail to develop them beyond their action-figure value. In fact, this continues an idiosyncratic trend within the Star Wars saga — one of squandered, potentially brilliant, on-screen villains. (See also: Darth Maul, Jango Fett, General Grievous)


Above all else, re-watching Attack of the Clones, is a conflicted experience. For all its whimsical action, it has not aged well. The combat is excessive and CGI in place of thoughtful spectacle feels shallow in retrospect. Nothing comes close to that opening shot of A New Hope (1977) and the whole film is tinged in a strange digital processing, with every shot leaning upon once state-of-the-art technology to construe meaning.  Its visual style is jarring; jumping between mind-numbingly fast edits and poorly constructed backdrops. (See: Kamino and Arena Sequences) Equally, if viewing it as sophisticated political drama, it feels ill-conceived.  The plot is malnourished, dragging its feet for the two hour running time. It’s hard to care for characters and their meandering problems, nor process a clumsy Gungan quite literally changing the fate of the Galaxy forever.  As for its performative value? Bar a few commendable efforts, it’s not an easy watch. Hayden Christensen’s insufferable moaning is both coarse and irritating — and now remains in Star Wars canon as the precursor to one of Cinema’s greatest villains.

Ultimately, if one takes nostalgia out of the equation, Attack of the Clones deserves a thousand years in the digestive transit of the Great Sarlacc. It is a misguided and heavily confused picture. But by the same token, I do find it hard to scoff at a movie that for better of for worse, shaped my relationship with science fiction. My cynical, adult self will never forget that unobtainable sense of escapism I enjoyed as a child. It is for that reason, and that reason alone, I might just dig out my lightsaber for an IMAX Anniversary Cut. Just don’t expect me to enjoy any Special Edition-style adjustments.

After all, George, we already hate sand.

Spectre Review — [TL;DR, Minor Spoilers]


Sam Mendes’ second-helping to the Bond franchise has been long awaited. His last effort, Skyfall (2012) bolstered the franchise back onto the path that Casino Royale (2006) so brilliantly laid out. It balanced homage to the ‘classics’ whilst remaining fresh and relevant — a perfect tribute to a fifty year old franchise.

But its successor is little short of a disappointment. Daniel Craig — whom is appearing increasingly jaded with his role — performs in one of the most lacklustre Bond films in years. Spectre intensifies the action, the scale and the tempo; at the cost of meaningful story. To some extent, it undoes all of the interesting development his films have made — relegating Bond back to an era of exhausting stereotype.

Of course, many will ask — what do you expect from a Bond film? As a whimsical action film, Spectre is marvellous. The production value is high and Bond has never looked this good. But for those hoping for something sharper will find that beneath the spectacle lies a clunky script and a regurgitated plot. It’s not an inherently bad film, but the faults are so easily avoided, it makes for a frustrating watch. What follows is a long-form piece breaking down my thoughts regarding Spectre — with a minor spoiler alert for those pedantic about such things. (Not that anything in this film will surprise you…)

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