Rotten Retrospective: The Star Wars Prequels

It was bound to happen. After all, you can’t have a Star Wars week without talking about the most controversial entries in the franchise. Even the new director of the sci-fi epic J.J Abrams couldn’t go through an interview without being questioned about his opinion on them.

Of course, I’m talking about the prequels. Whilst any sort of art is subjective, it’s pretty much scripture that the films are awful additions to the Star Wars universe that fail to capture the same magic and appeal of the originals. You’ll have saw countless articles about why the prequels are so awful, Red Letter Media’s reviews are the most accurate of the lot, but what I’m going to do is try and balance it up: three things the prequels did wrong (easy task) and three things they did right (difficult task). Without further ado, let’s get started.

Anakin Skywalker Is An Awful Written, Cringe Inducing Emo 

I think I’m right in saying that everybody disliked the character of Anakin in the prequels. It’s very hard to defend someone who goes from whiny annoying fuck to heartless kid killer in the space of a few scenes and while this is a problem of mine, a lot of my problems with the prequels are linked to the man himself.

The Phantom Menace was definitely brought down by Anakin’s involvement in the narrative and it could have easily been avoided if he were a teen rather than an annoying child with the most cringe inducing dialogue possible. This quality of dialogue is consistent throughout Attack Of The Clones with the most excruciatingly bad romance I’ve seen since The Room and yes, I understand that this was necessary to make the events of Revenge Of The Sith more hard hitting but that’s the thing: they weren’t. This leads me onto my next negative but let’s calm down on the hate and move onto a positive…

Villains

When I gave myself the difficult duty of finding some positives in the prequels, I struggled. Big time. While I eventually got the other two, the first thing that came to my mind almost immediately was my appreciation for the villains.

Yes it does feel a bit weird to praise Lucas for once rather than scrutinise him and call him a husk but he was wise to introduce us to one of my favourite villains: Darth Maul. There’s just something so sinister about him and while as a kid I loved him just because of his double sided lightsaber, over time I’ve began to appreciate him even more especially with all the Expanded Universe material as well. While it was a massive mistake for him to be “killed off” in The Phantom Menace and not to have him a constant threat that would act as Obi Wan’s Vader throughout the prequel trilogy, it was still one of the few great glimpses.

Then there’s the obvious choice of Palpetine who, in my opinion, is the only character in the prequels who feels like he’s going through any sort of character development and whilst I feel his plan is a bit far fetched and is too convenient, I still enjoyed seeing it unravel. Then there’s General Grievous who, I don’t care what anyone says, is a great villain and if you have seen the Clone Wars micro series you’ll know why. His death in ROTS actually packs a bit of a punch with that prior knowledge. So yeah, well done Lucas, you might have done a lot of things wrong but your villains were at least great. Although the Siths were well portrayed, the Jedi on the other hand…

The Jedi Are Stupid, Dumb Fucks

Jedi: wise, powerful beings who are essentially defenders of the galaxy far, far away. So why did Lucas have to make them so fucking stupid? Don’t believe me? Here’s a short list of the absolute moronic decisions the Jedi Council made that inevitably lead to their demise in one way or another:

  • Allowing Jar Jar Binks to be part of the Galactic Senate when anything he did was by complete accident because he’s an absolute embarrassment who set black people in films back by 50 years. Also he pretty much results in the jedi becoming mince meat by the end of episode III
  • Confronting Palpetine with only three jedi when you’re almost convinced that he definitely has an army of troopers ready to kill your entire organisation with one order.
  • Making Obi Wan train Anakin when you know fine well that his high *sigh* midi-chlorian rate makes him one of the most powerful potential jedis there is as well as sensing he has a lot of emotional issues.

That’s just three of the many stupid decisions that make it even more difficult to like the prequels, knowing that the heroes you’re meant to root on are so naive and careless. In a series that built itself on the foundations of great characters both good and bad, it’s a shame to see the prequels fail to do either.

The Music Is As Amazing As Ever

Liam Neeson, Ray Park and Ewan McGregor in 'The Phantom Menace'

If there’s one thing that even haters of Star Wars can admit, it’s that John William’s score for the films are impeccable. The main theme that opens every film as the text scrawls down the screen is arguably the most iconic piece of movie music ever.

So when it comes to what the Prequels actually did better than the Originals, it’s not the lightsaber duels: it’s the score. Duel Of The Fates accompanied the best fight in the prequels and is synonymous with the franchise: hum the tune to anyone and they’ll tell you it’s from Star Wars. Not to mention the other classic numbers like Anakin’s Betrayal have managed to escape the critical bashing of the prequels to stand out as some of the best in the series. At least if the on screen acting blinds you, there’s still a treat for your ears with the soundtrack.

Overuse Of CGI

Star Wars: The Changes - Part One

While this is my final negative point, there’s a hell of a lot of bad things regarding the prequels that I’ve failed to mention: the space politics that will bore adults to death and lead kids to focus on their toys, JAR JAR FUCKING BINKS, racial stereotypes, no friendship between Anakin and Obi Wan, the list is near enough endless.

So why is overuse of CGI a bad thing? Surely CGI allows film-makers to create grand spectacles that previously couldn’t be done before. You’d be right to say that and I’d agree with you. The thing is though that most directors don’t see CGI in that way: they see it as a way of excusing lazy stories and uninteresting characters with big set pieces and fancy looking settings. Don’t believe me? Let’s ask the man himself George Lucas.

“Special effects are just a tool: a means of telling a story. People have a tendency to confuse them as an ins themselves. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.”

I don’t think I need to say anything more about this but what I will say is that J.J Abrams move away from relying on CGI gives me hope for The Force Awakens and from what I’ve heard it’s definitely paid off. If only Lucas listened to one of the few smart things he’s actually said.

Pod Racing

It really says a lot about this trilogy when one of the few saving graces comes in the form of an event that has little to do with the story. However, I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t enjoy the pod racing as a kid and even as an adult I still find it insanely cool.

Not only did it look great, and somehow still looks alright by today standards, but it’s one of the few actually character developments you seen in Anakin. Here’s a character who for his whole life has lived as a slave yet is now given this freedom, limited yes, and his passion as well as his natural skill as a pilot allows him to win. While I may sound like an idiot trying to create some sort of progression there, this scene is still a treat and as an extra bonus, has a minimum amount of Jar Jar Binks as possible. Perfect.

So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you thought of the prequels down below in the comment section. Tomorrow’s post is my collaborative Best of 2015 with a great number of talented writers so look out for that!

Big love, Liam x

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5 Things I Want From The Force Awakens

Since the very first teaser trailer, even since the rumours themselves started circulating, I’ve been waiting in anticipation for Episode VII. Why not? Star Wars is one of my favourite movie series of all time, from when I was a young up till now where age has only made me love the films more.

With the premiere of the latest entry taking place last night, social media was greeted with a surprisingly positive reception from those who attended.

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All of this has definitely calmed my nerves down a bit though bare in mind we heard the exact same reception from critics about another film: The Phantom Menace. With the general public still having to wait till Thursday to see The Force Awakens, I’ve decided to list what I want from the most anticipated film of the decade. Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section below. Anyway, let’s get started.

1. Less Choreograph Heavy Duels

First things first: yes, the prequels looked cool, slick and every positive adjective in the dictionary. The problem with them though was that despite how extravagant and visually glorious they looked, they left me quite unsatisfied: they looked great but where was the emotional aftermath?

There was the death of Ben Kenobi in A New Hope that despite not being much of a fight had an impact on the audience and the characters. Yes, you could argue that Revenge Of The Sith’s finale between Anakin and Obi Wan was great but it’s hard to find yourself being invested in a 10 minute + fight when you care very little for either character in contrast to Darth Vader and Luke.

I’m not saying I don’t want any exciting fights, not at all. Maybe it’s more of a personal thing but when I was a child, having pretend duels was the most fun ever which was mostly down to the fact that it was so much like the originals. Maybe complaining about fights in a film set in space with alien races is a bit ridiculous but instead of incredibly looking fights, let’s have some more emotion heavy confrontation. What we’ve seen between Kylo Ren and Finn in the trailer looks promising so here’s hoping it’s an improvement.

TLDR: Less choreography in battles, more focus on the emotions the combatants actions represent like Return Of The Jedi with Vader and Luke.

2. Strong, Clear Lead

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If you’ve ever watched the Red Letter Media reviews of the Star Wars prequels then you’ll know that the major criticism they have is to do with the series having an unclear protagonist. While many say it’s Anakin, if he were the protagonist he’d have the proper development and whilst Obi Wan is in for a shout, he never feels like he’s at the focus for a lot of the films as well as being a sub par written character, only saved by the great acting of Ewan McGregor.

Unsurprisingly I wasn’t at the premiere last night so I’m just as oblivious as you reading this but with this new set of characters coming along, I think what this new trilogy (or expanded universe) needs is a clear cut protagonist: Rey.

Yes, John Boyega is the one who is holding the lightsaber on the poster but the way I see it, or rather predicting it, is that Finn will be more of a Han Solo type of character: someone with a dodgy past where he’ll spend his time trying to redeem himself and become a better person by the end of his journey. Rey on the other hand is our Luke as far as I’m concerned and it’s great to see that director J.J Abrams called Daisley Ridly out on her “wooden acting” as soon as possible so that we don’t get a repeat of Hayden Christensen. Time will only tell how this will play out.

TLDR: Rey should be the clear cut protagonist like Luke from the originals.

3. Leave Interactions With Old Characters To Minimum

Now don’t get me wrong, I love all the characters from the original trilogy (aside from the ewoks). I cannot wait to lose my shit whenever I see Han and Leia on screen after decades have passed since the events of Return Of The Jedi. I cannot wait to see Han also being the bad-ass rogue with faithful furry friend Chewie by his side. And when Luke shows up (which I’m expecting the final shot of the movie to be), the whole cinema will scream with excitement.

I don’t want too much of a good thing though and it’s a new trilogy after all: I want to grow as attached to Poe, Rey, Finn as I did with all the other characters from the original trilogy. If this new batch of films is going to redeem the series then it needs to keep its focus on the present and keep the glimpses to the past at a minimum.

TLDR: More focus on new characters, not ones from original trilogy. 

4. Don’t Underutilise The First Order

If you read my friend Sean’s recent blog post about why you should be excited about Episode VII (which you can read here), you’ll see how he pointed out the importance of the Dark Side in the previous films. After all, your movie’s characters are only as good as your villain and not many films can claim to have an amazing set of both.

This time around we’ve got The First Order which can be described simply as a Darth Vader Fan Club(!) In all seriousness, this new threat to the galaxy seems just as threatening as the Palpetine lead force from A New Hope up till the inevitable collapse in Return of The Jedi. This is what brings me to my next point: solidify this threat.

We had Vader, Boba Fett, Palpetine and more last time around and from what I know, we’ve got a great array of characters who are in control and taking part in this Galactic Empire 2.0: Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). If J.J Abrams can provide some great new heroes then surely he can do the same with our villains.

TLDR: Give us villains as threatening as the Empire and as developed as our heroes. 

5. A Fresh New Look At A Galaxy Far, Far Away

Let’s be honest: as much as we all say that certain characters are our favourite thing in the Star Wars universe, we all know that it’s the universe itself that’s the greatest thing about the franchise.

From the icy, beautifully snow covered planet of Hoth where we witness a heavy defeat of the Rebel Alliance to the planet of Endor, dense with wildlife and luscious trees everywhere, the planets are pretty much characters themselves. We love them and it’s not just them that make the universe so incredible as on top of that, we’ve got the hundreds upon hundreds of different races that make the galaxy so very varied.

We already know we’ll be seeing Jakku, a planet that is yet to make an appearance in any other film so far as well as locations like Maz Kanata’s Castle which is what Mos Eisley Cantina is to A New Hope. I’m already excited as can be about The Force Awakens and for good reason too, I can only hope that all these hopes I have are fully realised when The Force Awakens hits screens this Thursday.

Big love, Liam x

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Ranked: The Star Wars Saga

Undoubtedly the most iconic film series of all time, Star Wars has made a colossal impact not only on entertainment but on the world. With a universe packed with lore, action and amazing characters, the series managed to become a sci-fi epic of massive proportions that is still yet to be beaten in terms of how iconic it is and how successful it has been, only rivalled by the likes of Harry Potter. 

I’ve grew up with the series so I’ve got a strong attachment to George Lucas’ masterpiece, meaning that I’m one of the many who booked tickets to see The Force Awakens this week. In celebration of this, I’ve decided to spend the week building up to it, covering a wide range of topics as well as a review of Episode VII this Friday. To get things started though, it’s time to separate the Jedi from the Sith and find out which entry comes out top. 

Here’s the Star Wars saga ranked.

6. Attack of The Clones (2002)

Looking back at the trailer of Attack Of The Clones, it’s not surprising that many got excited to see the film regardless of how abhorrent the previous entry to the series was (don’t worry, we’ll get to that soon enough).

Just look at it. The battles, the sense that Anakin was going to go through this thing that George Lucas was oblivious to called “character development” as well as a collection of other entertaining scenes like we had witnessed from previous Star Wars film. Also JANGO FUCKING FETT.

“There’s no way it could possible be worse than the previous entry” was the mentality that dominated fan’s minds yet what we got was something so jarring that I’ve tried my best to forget about it. 

Instead what we got was a plot dominated by a non nonsensical romance by the awfully acted Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman while the only vaguely interesting storyline regarding Palpetine was underutilised and forgotten like…well the Star Wars prequels. The romance itself totally ruins the film because we’re given no reason to care about a little whiny emo and a woman with the personality of a plank of wood.

I’m not saying that romance shouldn’t be allowed in the Star Wars universe. Just look at Han and Leia, a chemistry that didn’t ever feel like it was unnatural or going too fast. It felt like a genuine connection and you couldn’t deny that whereas with Anakin and Padame, it just feels like a plot device to simply explain how Luke came about and nothing else.

And the dialogue. Oh god the dialogue.

“I hate sand. It’s rough and it’s irritating and it gets everywhere.”

 “I wish that I could just wish away my feelings, but I can’t.”

  “I’m haunted by the kiss that you should never have given me.”

The tagline for this movie read “A Jedi shall not know anger. Nor hatred. Nor love.” In this case, a Jedi shall only know how to tarnish the reputation of an entire series.

5. The Phantom Menace (1999)

What can I say that hasn’t already been said about this infamous film?

I could tell you that it was the worst mistake Lucas could have ever made to not only start filming The Phantom Menace after ONE DRAFT. I could tell you that there was no heart put in the film, instead primarily about the money (Lucas himself only ever worried about not grossing more than Titanic). I could tell you that the characters in this film, especially Liam Neeson who signed up without even reading the script, are all unbelievably stupid and/or dumb. It was a mass amalgamation of terrible decisions and stupid ideas that ultimately made this film so terrible, forever existing as a “fuck you” to fans who waited years for this. 

And then there’s him. I don’t want to talk about him. It just makes me feel physical-

OH GOD, NO, FUCK, NO, I’M GONNA FUCKING PUK-

Let’s not dwell too much on Jar Jar though (another post for another day). In fact there are some *shock* good things about this movie like the pod racing which was the best thing about this film back when I was younger though that doesn’t make these films any better since I also thought sticking Lego up my nose was a good idea back then. Then there’s Darth Maul who to this day I think is an amazing villain who was so under utilised that it’s a sin.

At the end of the day, Phantom Menace’s sins far outweigh any minuscule positives it may have. Avoid it like the plague.

4. Revenge Of The Sith (2005)

When your film is described as the best of the bunch, you’d consider it an achievement, something to be truly proud of. The thing with Revenge Of The Sith is that it was taking part in a prequel derby where the two other horses had no jockey and a brain cell between them.

Now to call the Revenge Of The Sith bad would be harsh but it’s certainly not good. Not only does it nearly ruin Yoda’s entire character but Anakin is yet again treated awfully, especially in the final 10 minutes where he goes from a sulky, angst ridden man to a child killing monster like from 0-100. Real quick.

That’s not to say it doesn’t have any positives. Palpetine in my opinion was the only character treated appropriately and whilst I wasn’t surprised at all that he turned out to be evil, it felt like a natural development. The man who started off with a taste of power in The Phantom Menace manipulated others to get what he wanted, treating others like pawns which really shows that he is the most evil character in the series. Darth Vader is just another notch on the dark side’s bedpost which makes the originals somehow better with this knowledge.

Everyone seems to defend this film for being the best of the prequels when actuality, it is just as bad as the others. The saving grace of the film isn’t the final duel, which has nearly zero significance seeing as we care very little about both characters, but the transformation of Palpetine into one of the most diabolic enemies in cinematic history.

Watch with caution.

3. Return Of The Jedi (1983)

Concluding the Star Wars trilogy was never going to be easy. Following the critical success of the previous films, everyone was well aware that Lucas and co. could screw this up. The threequel is undoubtedly the most difficult movie to pull off yet somehow ROTJ was an amazing way to say goodbye to the series at the time.

First things first, let’s get the gripes out of the way with. Yes, the ewoks are annoying as shit and were Lucas’ first step into appealing far too much to kids with the introduction of bland characters that would ultimately lead to you-know-who. Also, a death-star? Again? 

There’s some jaw dropping amazing action set pieces, especially the Sarlacc battle sequence that still stands out as one of my all time favourites where Luke shows how much he has progressed as not only a jedi but as a person, no longer showing any glimpses of the shy, naive boy from Episode IV. Then there’s the speed bike chase on Endor as well as the final battle between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker which I cannot put into words. The moment where Luke snaps and just goes crazy with his lightsaber is both cool yet frightening, very subtle symbolism. 

At the end of it all, we get a ending that is a stark contrast to what we got in previous entries but one that is still enjoyable, if still a bit sad due to the fates of certain characters. All in all, a more than satisfying end to one of the greatest trilogies of all time.

2. A New Hope (1977)

I’ll try my best to not ramble on about this film too much. After all, it’s my first Star Wars film I watched and one of the first I can remember ever watching on VHS. Countless times I’d rewind the tape with a pencil so I could re-watch it all because both at a young age and even now, I’m yet to experience a film that’s drawn me in so well.

Just that opening scene of Darth Vader storming a rebel ship gives me chills with that iconic James Earl Jones voice that manages to convey the evil behind the mask so well. Not to mention how taken aback I was to see the space ships that even more than 20 years after they were made still amazed  little four year old me.

Not only do we get an excellent villain, we get introduced to a great pack of heroes to root on. We have a clear protagonist in Luke Skywalker, a naive and inexperienced boy who has no idea what’s in store for him. Then there’s Obi Wan, a legend who after the events of the prequels we assume just went into hiding (though there is cannon lore that explains what happened) and informs Luke of his abilities. Finally there’s the greatest character in the series Han Solo and his trusty, furry buddy Chewbacca who are the bad assess of the film, undeniably slick and make the film what it is essentially: a tale about redemption.

Choosing A New Hope in certain places stands up with the rest on a visual and storytelling level especially when you consider the absolute shambles that was the development, it’s a surprise that this film from little known Lucas would become arguably the most important movie of all time.

It was a film full of action, emotion and most importantly, heart. Unsurprisingly, this is the best starting point for any new fan.

1. Empire Strikes Back.

This is it. The movie every sequel aspires to be. A film so iconic that many other sequels that take note of the grand improvement of this follow up to A New Hope are often called the Empire Strikes Back of their respective series.

Empire Strikes Back is the absolute pinnacle of the series without a shadow of a doubt, a movie that actually makes you feel the despair and hopelessness of the rebel alliance as they try and do their best to defend themselves from the imperial forces. While A New Hope was a film, unsurprisingly, full of optimism while hinting of the danger of Vader and his force, Empire Strikes Back is the full realisation of this, being significantly more bleak than any other Star Wars film.

This new feeling of helplessness never lets up, from having to cut open a dead tauntaun to survive to the betrayal of Han Solo by Lando to Luke still failing to defeat Vader after excruciating training from Yoda. As a kid, it was unusual and rare to see a film have such a depressing ending and because the idea of a sequel was foreign to me at the time, I was under the impression that it was all done. That moment of realisation will always stick with me as one of the most important times of my life regarding film.

There’s nothing I can say about Empire Strikes Back other than the fact that it’s one of the best films in cinematic history. When all is said and done, this entry is what made the series the absolute marvel that it is and explains why we all eagerly anticipate The Force Awakens. We want another film that has us on the edge of our seats. We want another film that has us invested in the story and characters. We want another Empire Strikes Back.

Will we get it? Who knows.

Big love, Liam x

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Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens final trailer review

I feel like a spoilt child at the moment, like it’s Christmas came early. Last week there was the release of the Star Wars Battlefront Beta, which you can read my thoughts about over here (unsubtle beg), which for a lot of people had them reliving the PS2 days of fighting on Hoth with their pals until the early hours of the morning. Then 2 days ago we got this amazing poster that was meant to tantalise our sci-fi tastebuds until last night.

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“But what happened last night” you most likely won’t ask. This happened.

Released in the early hours of the morning for us over here in Britain, the trailer didn’t exactly make a Beyonce style entrance by coming out of nowhere. In fact, it was quite the opposite as the trailer itself had two teaser trailers to promote it, sort of like how Deadpool did it *cough* which you can read my thoughts about over here *cough* though what else do you expect from one of the highest grossing film series of all time. Even if you don’t like Star Wars, it’s become a staple of pop culture and many scenes and characters have been inscribed in our heads, fact this is.

Which is why I’ve unashamedly watched the trailer a total of five times already and no doubt I’ll watch it another fifty times before the film releases on December 18th. I, like many other people my age and older, have grown up with the series, watching them on loop whether it be on VHS or the countless repeats on ITV2.

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So if you couldn’t tell already, I loved the new trailer and I’m more than aboard the hype train, something I told myself I wouldn’t do due to the sour taste the prequels left in my mouth. The fact that the movie isn’t out for another two months is probably the only problem I have with it (that and the absence of Luke), even then I doubt I’ll get to see it as soon as it is out anyway with how fast tickets sold out for its first day of release.

Letting J.J Abrams take the helm of the project was probably the best decision Disney have made since greenlighting a Guardians Of The Galaxy sequel as the Star Wars universe has never looked so damn good. Even the shortest scenes like the brief dogfight featuring the millennium falcon had me amazed as well as engrossed, something that the prequels failed to do. With his success rebooting Star Trek as well his work on Mission Impossible and Lost, I’m more confident than ever that he’ll be able to balance the story and set pieces that made the original trilogy such a classic.

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One of the main problems with the prequels was how terrible the characters were, not wanting to name names but a certain Jamaican talking, rabbit looking thing lives in infamy as being one of the worst things since bubonic plague. Right maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement but with an unclear protagonist in The Phantom Menace, forced vomit inducing romance in The Clone Wars and a moody emo Anakin for Revenge Of The Sith, it was very difficult to like any of the characters.

With the glimpse we’ve had of The Force Awakens, we’ve got a set of new faces as well as old. We have Finn (John Boyega) who plays a Stormtrooper that, from what I know, witnesses something that results in him leaving The First Order, leaving him alone and confused which is something that viewers can relate to as they return to a universe that has changed since we last saw it 30 years ago. Speaking of First Order, there’s Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who leads this new empire in order to, as he tells the decimated helmet of Darth Vader, “finish what you started”. (Bonus points to you if you spotted the symbolism!)

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Last but not least, we have Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger who a lot of fans suspect has some link to Kylo Ren. Despite this, it seems like she’ll be a welcome change to the tired damsel in distress trope that both men and women are growing sick of. With Han Solo himself showing up alongside Chewie and Leia, the trailer was not only a welcome introduction to what we can expect from this new trilogy, it was a trailer made for the fans.

Will Episode VII be any good? Who knows. We all got ourselves way too excited about The Phantom Menace and look what happened there. However, from what we know and from what we’ve seen, things are looking far more positive. If the final film can evoke the same emotions the same way the trailer made me feel when Finn and Kylo Ren drew their lightsabers to fight, then The Force Awakens will be a worthy addition to the Star Wars franchise.

So what are your thoughts about the Star Wars trailer? Excited? Dissapointed? What’s your favourite moment? Leave your thoughts in the comments below since I’d love to see what you thought of it. Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @blinkclyro for some more fanboying.