Rogue One

Vampire Owl: The title of this movie has already made me think about Rogue Two.

Vampire Bat: It is the problem due to thinking too much about sequels. I don’t think that there will be another Rogue, as this is supposed to be a spin-off standing alone.

Vampire Owl: Some movies have too many sequels anyway. I can’t even remember when I first heard about Star Wars. Maybe we should see the rings and live only for seven days, so that the memory works better.

Vampire Bat: It is something that goes beyond centuries for humans, so I have heard.

Vampire Owl: But it hasn’t been that much known throughout the world, I wonder why.

Vampire Bat: Well, even Star Trek became popular only in the last few years – before that they had copied the same to make Captain Vyom.

Vampire Owl: Yes, I remember that it had such an uncomfortable timing that I ended up missing the food provided for many wedding, betrothal and house warming functions for watching it.

Vampire Bat: But, during those times, we never knew the original.

Vampire Owl: Star Wars was more popular than Star Trek during those days.

Vampire Bat: Now, there is the twist – everyone we love around here loves Star Trek more.

[Gets three cups of breakfast tea with a piece of orange cake].

What is the movie about? :: Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), an expert in weapons research is hiding on a planet, away from the dictatorship called Empire and its sinister motives which include but are not limited to enslavement of people. Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), who is in charge of the weapons research for the Imperial Military Force finds him and forces him to build a superweapon called the Death Star, which is capable of destroying planets from a long distance away, thus giving supreme power to the Empire. While his daughter is saved by the wanted rebel and an extremist Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), his wife is killed by the Empire in the conflict. Galen is left with no other way, and is forced to go with Orson to provide his expertise, while Saw and his forces continue to resist the Empire which only grows stronger and stronger with time, while the rebels focused on newer methods to take down the Empire.

So, what happens next in the movie? :: Years later, a cargo pilot of the Empire, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) turns to the side of the rebels, as he brings a message from Galen to Saw, and he is captured by the extremist rebels. Meanwhile, Jyn Esro (Felicity Jones) who is a prisoner of the Empire, gets rescued by a rebel officer, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) who takes her to the rest of the rebels, and there, they convince her to find more about her father and the Death Star so that they can make good use of the information; their true intention is to kill him though. They will be joined by a re-programmed droid from the Empire, a blind but skilled warrior Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and his fighter friend Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) who would have more than what they could handle on a normal day. Can they figure out Galen’s message, find him and stop the Death Star before it begins destroying the rebel bases, or even the planets on which they stand? Is there hope against the Empire which stands so strong?

The defence of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story :: Despite it not becoming that much of a popular thing here, this movie continues in the path set by its predecessors in the franchise, and does the same thing again, and provides the entertainment beyond the known world. Well, Star Wars is something that doesn’t age, and can go on to make more and more sequels, and shall continue to become success for many years to come. The message about rebellion continues, as the dictatorship also continues to do what it has been doing. The nostalgic feeling should work for those who had grown up watching Star Wars – those VCR and VCP days had more than one cassette of this franchise, with the first Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi; these used to be the special movies which looked too good, but not many people had watched them. The visuals and the special effects are too good, and you are going to love the final battle scene for sure, with all the splendour. Well, a stand-alone spin-off Star Wars movie is good to keep you strong while waiting for the next flick.

The claws of flaw :: The lack of popularity of Star Wars around here has hurt the possibilities with a lot of people no aware of how this series is progressing; about where it all began, where everything is going, and who all are these people, you wonder – well, not many people who have watched those earlier Star Wars movies are there to watch the newer flicks in the theatres, you know, and a stand-alone spin-off will only confuse them. Well, if people are confused about this, you can’t blame them, and they can only enjoy parts of this one in that case. Also, the one point to note is that there is not much of a change or variety in proceedings in this movie, as this becomes more Star Wars, rather than bringing a new special element. Star Wars: Force Awakens was certainly a better movie than this, and it seemed to try to be something by itself unlike this one which goes on and on with its usual stuff. Also, its attempt to work on the nostalgia that we have for this movie works not that much with the audience here. The emotional side is rather weak.

Soul exploration :: Well, Star Wars has always been about the rebellion against the dictatorship, as we had felt a long time ago. But during those times, the need was not this strong, and with a lot of things forced on us for no meaningful reason, one has to wonder if we are all the rebels against that part of the society which steals our individuality from us, for which new rules are made; when rules are not really made for people, and it is just for a certain group of people, we wonder if this situation in Star Wars is not so different from what we have now. There is so much hate in the world that hope seems too far away, as far as the stars are. Star Wars also has the message of hope, and battling against all odds. But how strong is everyman against the troops which are controlled by fascism which threatens to destroy not just worlds, but also the idea from the minds of the people? Star Wars movies keep bringing that hope in one way or the other, against the mighty Empire which would call for fake patriotism and not rebellion, but revolution happens in one way or the other.

How it finishes :: As it is clear for many people, people in India are not really much of fans for the Star Wars franchise, even though I remember having watched the series, and becoming interested in the same – I was among a few people who did, for Star Wars surely had no takers in the schools, tuition classes or even among the cousins. The presence of some of the Star Wars games was what helped me further to keep the interest alive, and while those earlier games had the Jedi Knight hero, there was also Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds which provided the feeling of playing Age of Empires II: Age of Kings again. Even though it keeps making so much money in the United States, and maybe also in Europe as well as other English-speaking nations, it would have to try hard to make it work better in India for better collections – but you never get bored of watching a Star Wars movie as far as I am concerned, and I have enjoyed watching this one too. We await the real sequel of Star Wars: Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi releases with Daisy Ridley and John Boyega after this one from the director of Godzilla. So, may the force be with you.

Release date: 16th December 2016
Running time: 133 minutes
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Jimmy Smits, Genevieve O’Reilly, Anthony Daniels

@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.

The Hunger Games

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As we wait with that patience which would be intolerant in the absence of the movies like Pacific Rim for the arrival of that possible sequel of magnificent wonder and unparalleled inspiration, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and HBO Asia finding it a part of their interest to show its prequel on a number of occasions, it is only a matter of a few micro-seconds when that expected decision is taken to write on this movie which began the adventures of Katniss Everdeen, the girl on fire – the beautiful protagonist of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy on screen. The question would remain though, about how much of an impact these movies can create, on those undesirable factors which prevail throughout the current world, even as the movie is set in the future. On my records, this is among the best movies of 2012, sharing the honour for third place with The Cabin in the Woods, but in a perfectly assigned scoring system which I would implement when I came back from the grave, this might come fourth. But isn’t it catchy enough already with its name itself – the games of hunger, or the games for getting rid of hunger, in a future dystopia where inequality thrives with its roots going deep into the soil of human nature? Well, the games would continue in November 2013 and until now, there is this completed game.

A post-apocalyptic situation has lead to the nation of Panem consisting of a wealthy city of Capitol and twelve poor, struggling districts. As a punishment for a past rebellion and riots, each district is forced to provide a boy and a girl as tributes to compete in a virtually created environment in the form of a real world where they would have to struggle for survival, and the last man or woman standing would be rewarded. The tributes are supposed to be between the ages of 12 and 18 and are selected by the lottery method which they called the Reaping. These tournaments of magnificence are called the Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and her family come from District 12, a coal-mining district which is incredibly poor and less populated, having not a good record or good chance at the annual games. They struggle to survive in situations of hardship. When her sister Primrose Everdeen (Willow Shields) is chosen to fight till death in her first Reaping, Katniss volunteers to take her place in the games. Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a baker’s son, is chosen as the other district tribute. Katniss and Peeta are taken to the Capitol in a luxury train and is provided with high level accommodation and the facilities which would have been unknown to them in their district.

They are accompanied by their mentor and past Games victor, an alcoholic Haymitch Abernathy (Woody Harrelson). They are informed that they should make them likable enough for the sponsors to send them anything helpful during the match. The find the tributes from Districts 1 and 2 who are trained to win the tournament from the early age itself, and have a big chance of murdering the rest of the participants early. Katniss and Peeta succeeds in making early good impressions with their first public appearance as well as the interviews, and the former does exceedingly well with her archery skills. Peeta’s love for Katniss is also revealed during the period of preparation. About half the tributes are killed in the beginning of the game itself, and Katniss, while on the run forms an alliance with a little girl Rue (Amandla Stenberg) from District 11 as the others come up with their own unholy alliances. After her death, Katniss joins with Peeta and tries to survive with only a few contestants left. This process is affected by a number of interventions by the tournament controllers and their plans to keep the tournament at a level which would be the most favourable.

With no surprises, this is Jennifer Lawrence’s movie, as the whole world is centred around Katniss Everdeen. This is third movie of hers that I had the opportunity to watch, after X-Men: First Class and House at the End of the Street, and doubt me not when I say that I shall also watch Silver Linings Playbook. She has set new standards for the leading character of a movie which is a deathmatch with the rules of the last man standing, something which takes a gamer back to that game mode in Unreal Tournament, and whatever followed as the other first-person shooter computer games. Even with doing nothing spectacular, she keeps her character strong, powerful and attractive. Katniss’ extraordinary display of courage is not only portrayed through her one huge life-changing decision to replace her sister and save her life, but also in her words,from the moment she is chosen as the tribute and her existence was possibly going to be a very short one: “No. You can’t. Not like when dad died. You’re all she has. No matter what you feel, you be there for her, you understand. Don’t cry. Don’t cry”. She traverses around that forest with her bow and a quiver of arrows like Artemis, the Greek Goddess of hunting. Josh Hutcherson progresses in the role of Peeta in the exact same way as the viewer would expect.

Meanwhile, Donald Sutherland as President Coriolanus Snow delivers those powerful quotes to be remembered: “I mean, why do we have a winner? I mean, if we just wanted to intimidate the districts, why not round up twenty-four at random and execute them all at one? It would be a lot faster. Hope. It is the only thing stronger than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. Spark is fine, as long as it’s contained. So, contain it”. This dialogue defines the movie in a scene – what The Hunger Games is all about. As the primary antagonist of the series, and the autocratic ruler of the Capitol and all of Panem, it also defines the character and lest us know what to expect from him in the upcoming movies. There is a lot more to come from him, and one can be sure that some of those moments won’t leave one that easily. Foxface is the female tribute from District 5 played by Jacqueline Emerson is the next interesting character, even as the tribute makes very less impact on the storyline. Alexander Ludwig’s Cato and Isabelle Fuhrman’s Clove makes the skilled and heaviy trained District 2 tributes who work as the major antagonists inside the tournament.

The movie lacks in the intense action sequences and use of good special effects and CGI which could have made this one even better, and the slowness gets a little uninspiring at some moments. But what it losses in its lack of pace, action and effects is gained by some great acting and its own powerful theme. Katniss herself is a symbol of a rebellion for the twelve poor districts against the rich Capitol’s oppression, and even as this movie only begins a procedure, and Katniss has only become the shadow of what she can do later, this is one message against inequality and oppression which the movie has conveyed wonderfully. “War, terrible war. Widows, orphans, a motherless child. This was the uprising that rocked our land. Thirteen districts rebelled against the country that fed them, loved them, protected them. Brother turned on brother until nothing remained. And then came the peace, hard fought, sorely won. A people rose up from the ashes and a new era was born. But freedom has a cost. When the traitors were defeated, we swore as a nation we would never know this treason again. And so it was decreed, that each year, the various districts of Panem would offer up in tribute, one young man and woman, to fight to the death in a pageant of honor, courage and sacrifice. The lone victor, bathed in riches, would serve as a reminder of our generosity and our forgiveness. This is how we remember our past. This is how we safeguard our future.”

What is said in these lines are the lies that the common man is forced to believe; and as the dictator himself says, it gives them hope which rises over their fear. But this is that fake hope which helps them to rule over the common man and continue to be rich at their cost. The need for rebellion is asserted, as it is the Capitol that rules them all, and it is that one city that has everything, and when the rebellion for their own basic needs is termed as treachery and the people branded traitors. The theme of self-sacrifice is there, as Katniss’ substitutes herself and becomes willing to die for her younger sister, like Jesus did for the atonement of the sins of humanity; Peeta also rises from under the stone, and the symbolism of bread prevails throughout the movie. The human battle for survival, the influence of the media and the need for freedom are also seen throughout the movie. There is the rise of the underdog, a common popular thing, and his defiance which changes the world upto an extent, and will define it further. The movie strikes, and it inspires, and Jennifer Lawrence does the rest. This is one movie which makes you think on many lines, and the most significant thought is defiance. Remember the story of the demi-god Theseus and the Minotaur, in which the Minotaur is fed with a certain number of boys and girls from the city, for there are some cycles which need to stop.

Release date: 23rd March 2012
Running time: 142 minutes
Directed by: Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields, Dayo Okeniyi, Isabelle Fuhrman, Alexander Ludwig, Paula Malcomson, Jacqueline Emerson, Leven Rambin, Dayo Okeniyi, Jack Quaid, Amandla Stenberg, Wes Bentley, Toby Jones

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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.