Tag: Harrison Ford


Retro Review: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

December 18, 2020
the-empire-strikes-back [Source StarWars.com]

To mark its 40th anniversary and the sad passing of actor David Prowse today we are reviewing the original version of what many (including myself) consider to be both the best Star Wars film and one of the best films ever made, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.


Three years after destroying the Death Star, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and the rebels are hiding from imperial forces. Who are led by Darth Vader (David Prowse & James Earl Jones). After the rebels retreat from the planet Hoth, Luke leaves for Dagobah. To continue his Jedi training with Master Yoda (Frank Oz). Meanwhile, Vader, at the behest of the Emperor (Clive Revill), relentlessly pursues Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), and C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) to use them against Luke. The story culminates at Bespin’s Cloud City where the battle for the galaxy changes forever.

Empire Strikes Back
Vader and Luke’s lightsaber duel from The Empire Strikes Back [Credit: Lucasfilm]

What did I like?

Empire’s production work is astounding. Sequences like the asteroid field chase required an incredible amount of work to accomplish, in terms of effects. But it feels more fluid and dramatically engaging than many modern action films. Wonderful creations like Yoda, despite being a puppet, feel very real. Thanks to the great puppetry and direction. And I must mention John Williams’ score. Which weaves between, romance, mysticism, blistering action, and oncoming doom without ever feeling overdone or misplaced. And contains the introduction of arguably film’s most iconic musical piece, the Imperial March.

Then there is Empire’s fantastic script. Which makes each character, even minor ones, feel fully rounded. While managing to be both funny, with plenty of moments of levity. And brave, as many characters end the movie having lost something. But because these emotions are built-up effectively and feel in keeping with the character’s personalities it all works. Also many may not notice Irvin Kershner’s direction thanks to the film’s natural flow. But subtle touches, like showing Vader’s power through his ship’s shadow falling over the imperial fleet, or the slow-motion Dagobah cave fight, create an effective foreboding atmosphere. Without being distracting.

And there’s the fantastic cast. A New Hope’s leads (Hamill, Ford, and Fisher) now feel more comfortable in their roles and really show their range. Believably taking their characters to brave new places. Billy Dee Williams (Lando Calrissian) is an intriguingly complex addition, who effortlessly navigates many conflicting motivations and emotions throughout his journey. Frank Oz’s Yoda is fascinating, with his weary voice and broken speech hiding the galaxy’s wisest being. Clive Revill and Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett) leave a great impression with incredibly brief screen time. But the MVPs are James Earl Jones and David Prowse who have more time to shine as Darth Vader. Prowse’s intimidating figure and mannerisms and Jones’ deep vocals make Vader feel like a terrifying force of nature. But they also give Vader a lot of depth through subtle vocal ticks and physical actions. Making him into the perfect cinematic villain.

Empire Strikes Back [Source Empire]
David Prowse and James Earl Jones as Darth Vader [Credit: Lucasfilm]

What did I not like?

Reluctantly, some criticisms of Empire are worth addressing. Firstly, the special edition releases, which update the film’s effects and included elements to fit later series continuity e.g. including Return of the Jedi’s Ian McDiarmid as the Emperor, aren’t needed. The original version is so brilliantly constructed that even minor green screen glitches never ruin the experience. Other changes serve only to remind you of other franchise films. Or to fix what didn’t need fixing (e.g. Luke screaming as he falls in Cloud City) rather than improving the story. The original version is superior.

Some also feel that Empire isn’t as strong without the first movie to attach us to the characters. However, through action and dialogue, Empire does a great job at filling in the gaps. Allowing us to easily invest in our players without needing prior knowledge.

Finally, many point to storytelling elements like the time scale and Luke’s ready belief of the twist, as narrative flaws. Regarding the time scale – Luke appears to train with Yoda for days while the Millennium Falcon crew appears to be fleeing for only a few hours – there is no concrete timeline for the length of each story. So there’s enough room for it to not affect the overall narrative flow. And while initially, Luke appears to swallow the twist too easily, plenty of information is seeded about his father’s dark past and Luke’s downfall is his unwillingness to believe the seemingly impossible. Making Luke’s ready belief make more sense.

Luke Skywalker [Source StarWars.com]
Luke Skywalker learns the truth [Credit: Lucasfilm]


Empire’s only flaws are either softened upon repeat viewings, problems of public perception, or the product of unnecessary re-editing. Everything else about Empire is perfect. Whether it’s the writing, directing, performances, the score, or the production work. The Empire Strikes Back is, for me, the greatest film ever made.

Verdict: 5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Also Read: The Mandalorian: A New Hope For Star Wars

Like this article? Get the latest news, articles and interviews delivered straight to your inbox.


Retro Review: Blade Runner 2049 (Spoilers)

September 18, 2019
Blade Runner 2049

The original Blade Runner has proved eerily predictive of many things for its 2019 setting. OK, there are no flying cars or high functioning androids. But the images of smog-choked streets, ruled by mega-corporations and a workforce that is treated as subhuman because of their origins feel very relevant today. And there was, of course, the unfortunate passing of actor Rutger Hauer. Who died in the same year that his character Roy Batty did.

With the first film making a monumental impact on popular culture, and it’s increasing relevance based on unfortunate happenstance I thought I would take the opportunity to look back at the long-awaited sequel to blade runner. Which picked up the story 30 years later and took 35 years to be released.

It’s always difficult making a sequel to critically acclaimed films, especially when they are released so long after the original. But during its release, Blade Runner 2049 was called one of the best sequels ever made. Perhaps even better than the original. But two years on does the sequel still stand as sturdily as its predecessor?


In 2049 old replicants (human-like androids used for manual labour) are being hunted down and killed by newer models. However, when K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant employed by the police to retire other replicants, discovers that a replicant was able to produce a child he begins to tug on the threads of the mystery. Eventually leading to him to the attention of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his nefarious forces. And into the path of former blade runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).

What did I like?

Firstly, Blade Runner 2049 continues the originals trend for stunning visuals. Everything about this movie looks amazing. Whether it’s the set design that perfectly blends the futuristic, the modern and the mythical into a unique world that feels thematically appropriate for the characters and story or the beautiful Oscar-winning cinematography from Roger Deakins. Which makes every frame look like a piece of art. Or the special effects that never once look fake or out of place. Everything in this world feels authentic and organic, doing a lot to tell the story without dialogue.

The cast is also fantastic. Everyone does a great job inhabiting their roles. Making their characters feel like characters and not merely actors reciting lines to you. The standouts are Ryan Gosling, who does a great job inhabiting the stoic replicant K and Harrison Ford who reprises his iconic role as Rick Deckard; even with his comparatively limited screen time, Ford still manages to steal the show.

And like the first film, 2049 also concentrates on both weighty philosophical questions about identity, technology and corporate greed that feel truly relevant to today’s world. But it also incorporates spectacular action sequences. Which makes for a very entertaining and thought-provoking watch. There are some very interesting set pieces and concepts peppered throughout this film which will give you much to think about and remember long after the ending credits. Including, holographic AI and the question of their sentience. Underground replicant resistances and a tense fight scene taking place in a glitching hologram nightclub.

In fact, as its own standalone film, 2049 works quite well. Creating a fully functioning world with some good performance and great philosophical ambitions. While never forgetting to be an entertaining movie.

What did I not like?

However, as a sequel to Blade Runner (1982), 2049 really falls short. With the main problems being the story, pacing and characters.

2049’s story is unfortunately bogged down by lots of exposition. With several characters frequently explaining the plot to each other, something noticeably minimal in the original Blade Runner. And it never fails to draw the viewer out of the experience because of how obvious it is. The story is also rather lightweight because of the lack of significant consequences. For example, we are told that replicant reproduction will break the world. But aside from one scene with the replicant resistance, nothing in the film’s world indicates that our characters actions are having any impact. Lessening the tension of the film’s story.

There are also plot elements that feel extraneous e.g. K’s hologram girlfriend who can almost pass for being human. An interesting concept, but it serves no narrative purpose aside from illustrating that no one is special. Something which is already dealt with when K learns his true origins. This concept feels like padding. Which makes the narrative feel unfocused and causes the pacing to drag significantly.

Lastly, 2049 suffers from bland characterisation. K is a boring lead. He’s stoic and by-the-books, lacking the edge that made Deckard a compelling protagonist. The occasions when he emotionally conflicts with himself are too few and far between to make him engaging. And because he’s a virtually invulnerable replicant, the movie lacks any sort of tension on a character level. But the worst offender of flat characterisation are the villains. Niander Wallace is a typical capitalist with a god complex and Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) is your typical hard staring badass. Compared to Blade Runner’s replicants who had relatable goals, wanting more time to live their lives, these villains just come across as dull.


Blade Runner 2049 is not a bad movie. The set design, cinematography and special effects are all fantastic. Nothing feels out of place in the world they’ve created, and it makes for very stimulating viewing. Everyone in the cast gives a good performance with Ryan Gosling really fitting the part of K and Harrison Ford doing particular justice to his iconic role from the original blade runner. And the blend of action and interesting concepts will definitely keep you entertained.

The problems come when you begin viewing the film as a sequel to blade runner. When faced with the memorable characters, cinematic storytelling and overall cohesiveness of the original, Blade Runner 2049 really feels like an unfocussed pale imitation.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Blade Runner 2049 (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Harrison Ford: Nerf Herder or the Grave Robber?

#mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; width:100%;} /* Add your own Mailchimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving this block and the preceding CSS link to the HEAD of your HTML file. */ #mc-embedded-subscribe-form input[type=checkbox]{display: inline; width: auto;margin-right: 10px;} #mergeRow-gdpr {margin-top: 20px;} #mergeRow-gdpr fieldset label {font-weight: normal;} #mc-embedded-subscribe-form .mc_fieldset{border:none;min-height: 0px;padding-bottom:0px;}

Androids And The Actors That Play Them

August 23, 2019

A staple of the science fiction genre, robots and androids can sometimes be interchangeable, (although there is a difference). They are often some of the most iconic characters in a science fiction story, whether that be because of their unique design or their personality, there are many memorable machines in films brought to life by talented actors, this list takes a look at a wide variety of the spectrum, including robots, androids, cyborgs and everything in between.

“C-3P0” played by Anthony Daniels (Star Wars)

Daniels has portrayed Threepio in several projects outside of the live-action films

C-3P0, along with his companion R2-D2 are the first characters we are introduced to in “Star Wars”, and have appeared in every chapter of the saga since, including a cameo in spin-off “Rogue One”. Daniels has played the droid in over 20 different projects since the original film. He is also the only actor to appear in all nine films in the main Star Wars saga, all the more impressive when the first film was released in 1977, and that he wasn’t a science fiction fan. Despite their numerous adventures together in space, Daniels reportedly did not always get along with his costar.

“Ava” played by Alica Vikander (Ex Machina)

Promo image for Ex Machina, featuring Ava (Universal Pictures, 2014)

Ava is an android designed with artificial intelligence, so advanced that she is capable of independent thought and consciousness. The android challenges the traditional “Turing Test”, a common method used to determine if a machine has consciousness used in tons of science fiction by her body clearly being mechanical. Vikander was nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for her role as Ava. She later went on to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in “The Danish Girl” the following year. While she had some success in her native Sweden, “Ex Machina” was a role that made her a name in other countries.

“Alita” played by Roza Salazar (Alita: Battle Angel)

Rosa Salazar as Alita (20th Century Fox 2019)

Alita is based on the Japanese manga of the similar name. Originally James Cameron’s passion project Robert Rodriguez eventually took over. Alita is based in a near-future where most people have cybernetic enhancements. Alita herself is a highly advanced combat unit, rescued and rebuilt who slowly gains her memories over the course of the film. Salazar plays the character via a mix of motion capture and CGI, with the cyborgs look inspired by the original manga and anime, with the medium’s traditionally large eyes transferring into live-action as a tribute, as well as reinforcing the idea the Alita isn’t human.

“T-800” played by Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator)

The Terminator is a metal endoskeleton, that disguises itself as a human in order to carry out its mission (Tristar pictures, 1991)

Arguably the most iconic character on this list, the T-800 is a killing machine from the year 2025 (or whatever year the updated timeline moved things to), it disguises itself as a human and is incredibly durable. Although it is his most famous role, Schwarzenegger was originally approached for the role Kyle Reese, despite the fact that the Terminator is designed as an infiltration unit and Arnie sticks out in a crowd.

“Chappie” played by Sharlto Copley (Chappie)

Chappie is a police robot given intelligence and taken in by gangsters

Chappie was created as part of the new police department, but when his creator imbues him with artificial intelligence, Chappie is forced into hiding and is taken in by gangsters, as his consciousness is new, he is childlike, with the gang members taking advantage of his naivety. Unusually for a film like it, the title character was actually not created with motion capture, but Copley performed as the robot on set which was used for reference, before being created both digitally and physically for some shots.

Honourable Mention- Rick Deckard? – Harrison Ford (Blade Runner)

Deckard spends his life hunting replicants, but is he one of them?

In a list about androids, it wouldn’t seem fair to not include a character from “Blade Runner”. While Pris and Batty or even characters from the sequel are all memorable, the debate about whether Deckard himself is a replicant is one of the reasons the film is so iconic. Even the sequel deliberately avoided answering the question definitively, offering clues to sway audiences on both sides of the debate. Ford himself thinks that the character is human, while director Ridley Scott, thinks he’s a replicant, leaving it up to viewers to decide who to believe.

Also Read: 5 Horror Films And The Real Events Behind Them