Casey Kuhlemeier | Contributing Writer

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny

Great special effects, good dubbing, fantastic storyline, and renowned actors reprising their unmistakable roles as martial artists and swordsmen/swordswomen in general. Michelle Yeoh takes on the remarkable martial know-how that Bruce Lee and even Jackie Chan have displayed in the past, making her one of the most well-known, yet completely underrepresented actresses in the world of martial arts films.

The beautiful illustration of honor and death marred by moral corruption is evident in the work, as the protagonists, characters who pass on screen, are given loving and emotional remembrances for their services and contributions to the Iron Way. The most fully shocking scene in the whole film is not of a great battle, but of understanding emotions and where loyalties lie. Sure, a fight scene in the finale brings the graciousness and subtlety to an end, but it’s the characters who drive the story here, not the other way around. Without their complex and realistic reactions and stories, the film would not be as amazing or comprehensive in the “jaw drop” factor.

Captain America: Civil War

Kind of stale, but a great family film for those of us still dreaming of superheroes. A bit forced, but special effects are as always on point and easy on the eyes. However, due to a lack of plot, the film doesn’t have that drive that other films do and will probably fade into obscurity in the next 20 years. The singlehandedly most awe-inspiring moment in the whole film is probably the appearance of the underrated but highly revered Black Panther, who got a standalone film in the last few months.

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

This production was originally supposed to be all about Carrie Fisher, but instead, after the actress died, it became more about her counterpart, Mark Hamill, who she regarded both on set and off set as a sort of “real life” brother to her. They frequently laughed, played jokes, and cried together, making them one of Hollywood’s most beloved interstellar couples. Hamill certainly takes on the persona of Luke Skywalker as both an on-screen burden and a gleeful sort of giddiness, as Fisher’s posthumous depiction of General Leia brings back all those nostalgic memories of her in that “wonderful bikini outfit” and of her more charismatic moments as the galactic space princess in the past. Daisy Ridley brings the heat as Rey, a fiery, iron willed, and strong female Jedi in training, whose determination to find the truth drive the plot of this film.

Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver, more effectively known on the internet as “the newer, whinier version of Anakin” brings new meaning to the terms “dynamic duo,” as he and Rey dance and twirl in a burning, twisting, and sparking dance of passion, truth, and deception, both onscreen, and off the stage.

The most jaw-dropping moment of all is not when any of these characters are on screen, however. It comes in the form of Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, a character bristling with complexities and nuances so deep, that we actually needed to get to know her more in the form of a comic book after the movie. Her final action in the film brought the audience to a complete pinnacle of silence, marred only by the screen’s images of utter and absolute destruction.

All in all, this film for the most part has NO plot. But what this film lacks in drive, it makes up for in character development. Luke’s training of Rey and his connection to the full circle failure of the Jedi to rid the galaxy of the dark side gives way to a new sort of fight: evil’s drive to dominate, and good’s challenge to light hope through the darkness.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

If this film could be given a second chance, it would probably deserve it. The way that the producers and actors played it all out onscreen doesn’t do justice to the overall first impression that we as an audience received in the theater going to see the very first film in the series. The plot feels forced, the characters, once vibrant and vivacious, are now dead in personality and their charisma tampered with by editors and actors alike. However, as with all newer films, the special effects and practical effects are out of proportion to the actual value of the film. Who needs a giant dividing line in the ocean to play out a battle between zombie-ghost pirates and real swashbucklers searching for Poseidon’s trident? It’s overkill for a film that deserves better treatment and even a re-edit entirely. If the public were given a chance to change the film, personally I think many would rescript and rewrite in entirety, instead taking ideas from what actually became the final copy of the film instead of the other way around.

This one gets an “A” for effort, yet fails in giving satisfaction and complexity to the story and the characters alike. No one should have to try to beat something back into existence, and somehow this film feels exactly as such; a complete attempt to bring something back that lost its shine and lustrous edge.