Category Archives: Movies

Movie of the Week: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

There is no point in denying that I’m a big Star Wars fan. I’ve seen the movies countless times, read a lot of Star Wars books and played a lot of Star War video games. When Disney bought the rights for the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas I wasn’t sure what to expect. But when it was announced that J.J. Abrams would direct Episode VII, the next Star Wars movie, I was mildly optimistic. He had after all managed to breathe new life into the Star Trek franchise.

The story of Star Wars: The Force Awakens takes place 30 years after the events in the original trilogy.  A fanatic group called the First Order has risen from the ashes of the Empire and seeks to destroy the Republic. Leia Organa leads a military force called the Resistance that tries to stop the First Order’s advance. Her brother Luke Skywalker has disappeared and both the First Order and the Resistance are desperately looking for him. The Resistance hopes to gain a powerful ally while the First Order wants to eliminate a dangerous threat. When the Resistance’s mission to acquire a map with Luke’s location fails a lone droid is once more on the run with information that could decide the fate of the galaxy.

The movies from the original Star Wars trilogy are among my all-time favourite movies. For over thirty years I’ve been waiting for a proper successor to Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. The prequel trilogy had its moments but was overall disappointing. Fortunately the long wait is finally over. Star Wars: The Force Awakens brings back the magic into Star Wars. There are no annoying muppets, no boy group members and no midi-chlorian. The movie is instead darker and more grown up. An ensemble of the old heroes and new likeable characters tell both a human story and a great adventure in this latest instalment of the epic space opera.

Silke and I both greatly enjoyed watching this movie. It was the movie we were both hoping for. If you already know Star Wars it is an absolute must. If not this film is a very good way to get to know this fascinating universe. I’m already looking forward to Episode VIII.

Movie of the Week: The Martian

After reading Andy Weir‘s novel The Martian I wondered how long it would take until somebody tries to turn it into a movie and more importantly if that movie would be any good. When I learned that no other than Sir Ridley Scott would direct the film adaption I was sure that it would be either epic or absolutely awful.

In The Martin NASA’s third manned Mars mission has to be aborted because a powerful sandstorm is threatening to destroy the space ship that the crew needs to leave Mars. During the emergency evacuation astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead and left behind. Stranded on an uninhabitable planet with limited resources he needs to figure how to survive for four years until a rescue mission from Earth can reach him. But as NASA doesn’t even know that Mark is alive that rescue mission might never come.

The film adaption of The Martian is very close to the original book. It doesn’t change the excellent plot much and features all the important characters. The second half of the original story is however strongly compressed, most likely to keep the run time of the movie under 2.5 hours. The only letdown is the Iron Man Sequence towards the end of the movie. While the science in the rest of the film seems plausible (even if it isn’t always correct) this scene features the usual unrealistic and over the top Hollywood action. It is even more annoying because one of the characters points out that the plan cannot work in the first place. But it is carried out nevertheless and succeeds in complete ignorance of the laws of physics. The spectacular but unobtrusive special effects, the breathtaking Mars scenery (in particular in 3D) and Matt Damon‘s excellent portrayal of the main character fortunately make up for that. The latter aspect is very important considering that most of the movie features Mark Watney by himself .

Film adaptions of books often butcher the original. This is fortunately not the case for The Martian. The movie is instead an excellent visualisation of the source material. I greatly enjoyed watching it even though I had very high expectations. But I’m now wondering whether we will get a Director’s cut on Blu-ray which features more of the plot from the second half of the book. That would make an already good movie even better.

Movie of the Week: Edge of Tomorrow

I like the 1993 comedy movie Groundhog Day. It tells the story of a misanthropic weatherman who is stuck in a time loop that forces him to relive the day again and again. But he is the only person who is aware of this phenomenon and who remembers the previous instances of Groundhog Day. Over a long time and hundreds of repetitions he slowly becomes a nice person and wins the heart of his lovely assistant which finally breaks the loop.

When I saw the trailer of Edge of Tomorrow it immediately reminded me of Groundhog Day. The movie promised to be a science fiction and action take on the same idea which appealed to me a lot. But as Silke and I often don’t feel like going to the cinema anymore (high ticket prices, not enough leg room, ridiculously expensive soft drinks, etc.) we waited for the Blu-Ray release which finally came out last month.

In Edge of Tomorrow an alien species called Mimics has invaded earth. Their sheer endless number of fast and powerful warriors have worn down all human military forces and conquered most of Europe already. Major William Cage, a PR specialist working for the US military, who tried to blackmail a superior officer to avoid a dangerous assignment suddenly finds himself with a combat unit that is going to take part in the invasion of continental Europe the following day. Branded as a deserter he receives no support from his unit and enters the battle on the following day without any combat training. The invasion turns into a massacre for the human forces. The aliens seems to expect the invasion force and manage to contain it at a beach. In the resulting slaughter Cage’s unit gets wiped out until finally Cage himself dies while blowing up an alien. In the next moment Cage is alive, unharmed and back to the previous day. He remembers the invasion including his own death but nobody else seems to. Cage tries to warn his superiors but nobody is listening to him. He is again forced to take part in the invasion and dies another death which returns him back to the previous day once more. This cycle keeps repeating while Cage is frantically looking for a way out. He finally meets Rita Vrataski, a hero of the Earth defending force, during the battle. Rita immediately seems to understand what is happening to Cage and asks him to contact her after he has returned to the previous day. Together they try to find a way to use Cage’s extraordinary ability to defeat the aliens and save mankind.

The Edge of Tomorrow is a very good action and science fiction move. Aliens that actually look and act alien, impressive fighting scenes and a clever time travel plot all contribute to that. But there is also room for the human aspect. At the beginning Major Cage is a slippery opportunist who only cares about himself. But the crucible of the time loop slowly turns him into a hero and somebody who actually cares about the people around him. It is very commendable that the makers of this movie managed to preserve the essence of Groundhog Day this way.

The Edge of Tomorrow definitely met my high expectations. Prior to watching the film I wasn’t convinced that Tom Cruise was a good choice for the lead role. But the role fits him like a glove and he plays the character very well. Overall I wish there were more science fiction movies like this one which combine a good plot with impressive special effects.