Game of Thrones S07E03 “The Queen’s Justice” Review

mv5bodvhztfhnmytzwq2nc00nde5lwexzjgtmge5nzu0mzlmzmflxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjk3ntuyotc-_v1_sy1000_cr0014151000_al_Game of Thrones finally delivered the one thing fans have been anticipating for years, decades even if you started with the books: Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen finally meeting. The two have been the de-facto protagonists of the show for quite a while now and their meeting is the one thing the entire series has been building up to; the bringing together of “Ice” and “Fire” in A Song of Ice and Fire (the overall name of George RR Martin’s book series upon which the show is based). But this iconic moment was not the only draw of the episode. The Queen’s Justice delivered plenty of memorable and fantastic scenes in an outstanding episode.

But onto the main attraction itself. Jon and Daenerys’s first meeting did not go as well as some would have expected. In fact it’s hard to see how it could have gone worse. The two clashed almost immediately; but not exactly in the worst way possible. With Tyrion and Davos trying to be the voices of reason in the conversation, we saw Jon and Dany clashing not over policies or ideological differences, but over priorities. While Dany was a bit sceptical over Jon’s claims of an army of the dead, she never exactly indicated she was unwilling to help either. She had set her priorities on the enemy she knows; Cersei whereas Jon has done the same with the Night King. The two clashed over this simple thing; Jon was adamant there was no time to deal with Cersei and the Night King should be the priority while Dany was adamant that Cersei must be dealt with first and expected Jon to honour an ancient vow of fealty to the Targaryens sworn by the Starks long ago.

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Later in the episode, Tyrion rightfully pointed out the flaws in both parties; Jon expected Dany to drop everything to go fight an enemy she had no proof existed while Dany expected to get Jon’s loyalty without offering anything immediate in return. Tyrion’s conversations with the two alone indicated he’s trying to do his best to get the two to do what everyone must do in negotiations; compromise. Neither is going to get exactly what they want so they must talk and settle on something they’re both happy with. At Tyrion’s urging, Dany allowed Jon to mine the Dragonglass on Dragonstone. As Tyrion pointed out; it’s something worthless to Dany so she doesn’t lose anything but it’s something of value to Jon and opens up a path to further compromises and deals down the line. The scene where Jon and Dany talked alone seemed to indicate that there is a spark between them and the two, likely, could become very close allies down the line if both are willing to compromise. Now could this spark be the two feeling they should trust the other, perhaps sensing on a subconscious level their connection currently unknown to them? Don’t forget Dany is Jon’s Aunt; thanks to the reveal last season that Jon Snow’s parents are Lyanna Stark (Ned Stark’s sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen (Dany’s brother).

In King’s Landing, we got perhaps one of Cersei’s most evil acts in the series to date. With Euron delivering the captive Ellaria and Tyene to her, Cersei finally enacted her revenge for Myrcella’s death in perhaps the cruellest way possible. While there is no doubt Ellaria deserves to suffer some form of justice for her murders of Myrcella, Doran and Trystane, I’d find it hard to say she exactly deserved the fate Cersei has given her; being forced to watch Tyene die of the same poison used to kill Myrcella and then to watch Tyene’s corpse slowly rot for the rest of her days. This act was beyond justice. It was evil. Pure and simple. And the fact doing this apparently made Cersei horny is even more disturbing still.

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At Winterfell, Sansa seems to have settled into the role of ruling in Jon’s stead, making many reasonable decisions. Littlefinger’s slight look at Maester Wolkan upon learning Maester Luwin kept records of every letter sent to Winterfell is one to keep an eye on. If Luwin kept a record of the letter sent by Lysa Arryn to Catelyn Stark blaming the Lannister’s for Jon Arryn’s death, when Sansa knows Littlefinger manipulated Lysa into killing Jon Arryn, things wouldn’t end well for Littlefinger. Such a record would expose Littlefinger as the mastermind that started the War of Five Kings and expose how he led Ned to his death and is responsible for the chain of events that kickstarted the entire series and in turn responsible for all of Sansa’s suffering; including the deaths of almost her entire family. If such a record were to exist and be revealed, Sansa wouldn’t be too happy to say the least which would certainly scupper Littlefinger’s plans to rule the Seven Kingdoms with Sansa as his queen. Knowing such records exist, expect Littlefinger to act sooner rather than later. Perhaps a record doesn’t even exist and Littlefinger’s actions to hide his treachery will ultimately lead to it being exposed?

We also saw the reunion between Sansa and Bran, but what should have been a sweet moment quickly turned cold when Bran revealed his gift to Sansa; by telling her exact details about the night she was married to (and subsequently raped by) Ramsay. This scene managed to portray exactly how much Bran has changed over the years. His two years of isolation from human contact besides Meera and Hodor (jury’s still out on whenever the Three Eyed Raven was technically human anymore due to presumably being hundreds to thousands of years old) has certainly affected him as well as the effects of what can only be described as a “transfer” of knowledge from the Three Eyed Raven before his death last season, which now makes Bran the Three Eyed Raven (confused? Don’t worry, Sansa is too). However, you could see that Bran was at least trying to show sympathy for Sansa, even if it seems that sort of thing is beyond him now. In the scene prior, Littlefinger revealed he lives every version of events at once in order to never be surprised. That outlook is Bran’s reality; Bran has seen everything that has happened and everything that could or will happen (Bran briefly saw Cersei’s destruction of the Sept in an early episode last season). Having all that running through your head must make it incredibly difficult for one to engage with the present, so the fact Bran is even trying is commendable even if the result leaves Sansa terrified. But there is no doubt now that anything Bran tells her in the future she will believe without question, which is perhaps why it was worth scaring her in this way.

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We briefly saw Sam and the now healed Jorah, with Jorah setting out to find Daenerys. Sam meanwhile was praised for saving Jorah’s life and was “rewarded” by being given a bunch of scrolls and books to read and copy. But I’m willing to bet Sam will stumble upon some essential information in those dusty old tomes.

In the episode we saw the return of Mark Gatiss as Braavosi banker Tycho Nestoris, who Cersei was attempting to make a deal with. Of course Cersei went about this completely the wrong way, once again proving that even though she may think she’s Tywin, she’s really not. Cersei of course mentioned Daenerys freeing slaves as a reason why the Iron Bank of Braavos should not support her. Except the city of Braavos was founded by self-freed slaves. Oops. Critical lack of research on Cersei’s part. It’s important to note Tycho did not acknowledge that the collapse of the Slave Trade had hurt the Iron Bank, only acknowledging that the Slave Trade was in trouble. I’m willing to bet this huge mistake will come to bite Cersei in the future. Regardless, Cersei was able to negotiate two weeks to pay off the Crown’s debts in full.

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This led to the two major battles of this episode; the battle of Casterly Rock and the battle of Highgarden. In a moment of tactical genius, Jaime withdrew Lannister troops from Casterly Rock, allowing it to easily fall to the Unsullied in order for the Lannister army to take Highgarden; home of the Tyrells, with ease. With the Unsullied now ambushed by Euron and the Tyrells wiped out, Daenerys has now lost all of her advantages apart from the Dothraki and her Dragons. Which might just be enough to push her to compromise with a certain King in the North…

And this all led to the episode’s best scene; the Olenna Tyrell’s final confrontation with Jaime. Olenna showcased the snark and snappiness we’ve come to know and love as well as delivering some incredibly memorable lines (“He really was a c—t” she says when talking about Joffrey). Diana Rigg has been fantastic as the character and has contributed so much to the show. While losing such a prominent character is a sacrifice of the story moving towards it’s end, it’s such a shame that Olenna has to be one of the first losses. Diana Rigg has been such a joy on screen as the character and she will be sorely missed, especially after she delivered the Game of Thrones equivalent of a mic drop.

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The Queen’s Justice was a fantastic episode and easily the strongest episode of the season so far. With massive advancements in the story, the death of a beloved character, a long awaited reunion, an equally long awaited first meeting, along with some excellent character work and writing. While The Queen’s Justice may not have been an action heavy episode, it more than made up for it with excellent character work and story development.

9/10

Useless trivia:

With the death of Olenna Tyrell, House Tyrell is the fifth Great House to be wiped out over the course of the show; following House Martell in The Red Woman, House Bolton in Battle of the Bastards, House Baratheon in Mother’s Mercy, the Royal House of Baratheon in The Winds of Winter and House Frey in Dragonstone, although technically House Tyrell had already been wiped out in The Winds of Winter with the deaths of Mace, Margery and Loras Tyrell; since Olenna does not have any other children or grandchildren. Her death marks the end of House Tyrell.

Other great houses in danger of extinction are; House Lannister (Cersei, Jaime, Tyrion, unknown Lannister cousins), House Greyjoy (Euron, Yara, Theon), House Arryn (Robyn), House Stark (Sansa, Bran, Arya, Benjen) and House Targaryen (Daenerys, Jon).

The title of this episode, The Queen’s Justice, can refer to both Cersei’s revenge on Ellaria and on Olenna, often nicknamed “The Queen of Thorns”, taunting Jaime that she killed Joffrey and asking him to deliver that message to Cersei with her dying breath.

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Game of Thrones S07E02 “Stormborn” Review

mv5bmtu0zwm2mjmtmjlmnc00mwuzlwjinmitytkzodbhnwvlymqyxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjk3ntuyotc-_v1_sy1000_cr0015021000_al_With only 12 episodes of the show left, it was down to Stormborn to set the wheels in motion for the final chapter of the story. And boy did it do that.

Daenerys is quickly moving forward with her conquest of Westeros. After confronting Varys’s treacheries against previous rulers in one of the episode’s most powerful moments, Daenerys was alerted that she had a visitor. This visitor turned out to be Melisandre. This was a huge moment for the show, as not only was this the first official convergence between the “Ice” and “Fire” storylines (or the “Jon” and “Daenerys” storylines in simpler terms), but it also provided a hint at things to come; with Melisandre hinting that Daenerys might be the prophesised “Prince who was Promised” that will save Westeros from the White Walkers (with “Prince” being a gender neutral term according to Missandei). Melisandre however did hint there might be more to it than that, telling Daenerys she “has a part to play, as does another” which might be a nod to the long running fan theory that Daenerys and Jon Snow together are the “Prince who was Promised”. This scene was an excellent way to start the episode, with Emilia Clarke, Conleth Hill and Carice Van Houten all delivering great performances as well as introducing Daenerys to the wider arc of the White Walkers. It also saw Daenerys, with Tyrion and Melisandre’s urging, contacting Jon Snow promising the two meeting very soon.

Later in the episode, Tyrion revealed the strategy for Daenerys’s conquest of Westeros. Rightly predicting that Cersei would use the fear of Dany’s army of foreigners to unite the Lords of Westeros, Tyrion announced that only the Westeros armies allied with Dany would lay siege to King’s Landing so the Lords of Westeros would see it’s not just foreign invaders they’re fighting while Daenerys’s army of Unsullied would take Casterly Rock; the Lannister’s ancestral home and the seat of their power. An excellent plan, in theory. But what made this scene stand out was what happened after, with Daenerys having a small scene with Olenna Tyrell. Olenna warned Daenerys not to rely on Tyrion’s advice all the time and that she might be better suited ignoring him and following her own ideas. Olenna has always been one of the show’s best characters so it was wonderful to see two of the most powerful women in the show finally interact.

And finally we saw Grey Worm and Missandei consummate their relationship before Grey Worm heads out to attack Casterly Rock. The interaction between the two was sweet, as the relationship has always been rather cute. Grey Worm’s comments about fear however make me worried. Is it possible Grey Worm will die during the assault on Casterly Rock?

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At Winterfell, things began to heat up. Well not literally but you get the idea. Jon received Daenerys’s summons, and upon learning Tyrion was her Hand was tempted to accept, hoping Tyrion could help convince Daenerys to join them. And upon receiving Sam’s letter about the Dragonglass mine on Dragonstone, Jon was even more determined to go. However, this seemed to have cost him some support among the Northern Lords, many of whom argued Daenerys’s summons could be a trap and that the North needs the King of the North IN the North. Jon however was adamant that they need allies to fight the White Walkers. They need Dany’s army, her dragons and the Dragonglass. Jon managed to win some support back by leaving Sansa in charge. I can’t help but wonder though if Jon might be risking dividing the North in his attempts to unite Westeros.

We also saw Jon and Littlefinger speak in the Winterfell crypts. Even though it appeared Littlefinger came off the worse here, I can’t help but feel that Jon just proved to Littlefinger that he’s not someone Littlefinger can control. And as has been proven in the past, this is not a good position to be in. With Jon gone, it’s possible Littlefinger could work his way back into Sansa’s head and manipulate her into seizing control and usurping Jon while he’s away. But perhaps Sansa has grown smarter than that? Either way, the ice is melting under Littlefinger’s feet and he’s sure to make one last desperate bid for power sooner rather than later.

Elsewhere in the North we saw Arya reunited with Hot Pie, her old friend and upon learning that Jon is King in the North, she abandoned her quest to kill Cersei and headed back North. And here we got perhaps the most powerful scene of the episode. Arya was reunited with her Direwolf; Nymeria. In the years since the events of Season 1 where Arya forced Nymeria to run away out of fear she would be killed by Cersei, Nymeria has become the leader of a great wolf pack. As Arya pleads for Nymeria to come home with her, Nymeria simply turns away. Arya smiles and says “No. That’s not you.” Cementing that both she and Nymeria are not the same girl and wolf who left Winterfell. Just as Arya is trying to find her new place in the world, Nymeria has found hers. They have both changed and will not just adapt back to normal life; perhaps indicating a happy ending for Arya, at least ones fans expect anyway, probably isn’t on the cards.

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At the Citadel, we were very brief. Archmaester Ebrose is seen examining Jorah’s fast spreading greyscale. Ebrose remarks there is nothing more that can be done for Jorah and he will soon lose his mind to madness. He gives Jorah one day to do as he pleases before he will be sent to Valyria to live out his days with the Stone Men, heavily implying Jorah should kill himself. Ebrose remains insistent Jorah cannot be treated despite Sam being desperate to try. This leads Sam to try a highly experimental, and dangerous, treatment on Jorah in secret out of respect for Jorah’s father; Jeor Mormont, former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. This “treatment” was perhaps the most disgusting scene Game of Thrones has done in a long while. It was incredibly difficult to watch. I applaud the show for making me feel so squeamish while watching this scene, especially the cutaway to someone eating; tricking us that the knife cutting into the food was actually the operation on Jorah.

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A brief check in at King’s Landing saw Cersei appeal to Tyrell bannermen that Daenerys’s army poses a terrible threat to all of Westeros and that their true duty is to the throne; not Olenna Tyrell. Later, Jaime appeals to Randall Tarly (Sam’s father) and Dickon Tarly (with Merlin actor Tom Hopper replacing Freddie Stroma who played the character in Season 6). We also saw Qyburn reveal his latest creation to Cersei; an anti-Dragon ballista that fires spears powerful enough to pierce a Dragon’s bone (someone’s been watching The Hobbit). With Tyrell bannermen coming to her side and the Dragon ballista, the game slowly tips in Cersei’s favour. Will one of Daenerys’s dragons meet its death at the hands of Cersei’s ballista later this season?

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And finally, this episode concluded on the sea with Yara, Theon, Ellaria and the Sand Snakes on their way to Dorne to collect the Martell army and lay siege to King’s Landing. With some fun character moments here; including Obara and Nymeria (not that one) making fun of Tyene and Ellaria and Yara flirting with each other. This was all cut short however with a surprise attack by Euron and his fleet. What followed was a horrifically brutal battle, with Euron’s men quickly gaining the upper hand and butchering Yara’s men. Euron himself joined in on the fighting and murdered Obara and Nymeria (not that one) with their own weapons. Ellaria and Tyene were captured and after a short fight, Euron overpowered Yara. Euron taunted Theon to try and rescue Yara, but as Theon watched all around him at the bloodshed and seeing Yara’s men getting mutilated; Theon disappeared and Reek returned (note Theon’s flinch beginning to return) in a wonderful piece of acting by Alfie Allen. Gemma Whelan also managed to convey some wonderful emotion as Yara sheds a few tears, knowing what is happening to her brother, knowing it’s not his fault and knowing she can’t do anything to help him. Theon then fled, terrified and Euron left with Yara, Ellaria and Tyene as his captives and in one move utterly robbing Daenerys of a major advantage; the Ironborn fleet and her alliance with Dorne. It’s clear now that the gift Euron promised Cersei was Ellaria and Tyene; the two responsible for killing Cersei’s daughter Myrcella. I’m willing to bet Cersei will greatly enjoy the opportunity to kill, or threaten to kill, Tyene in front of her mother Ellaria.

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Stormborn was a massive improvement over Dragonstone in every way. While Dragonstone wasn’t bad by any means, it was certainly devoid of any meaningful events occurring apart from Daenerys’s arrival in Westeros. Stormborn meanwhile had many significant plot advancements and moved at a breakneck pace, exactly what I expected from a Game of Thrones season with less episodes. Stormborn had some wonderful character moments, some great action and contained several moments fans have been waiting for and also showed how the wide circle of the show is slowly closing and soon every storyline will be joined. If the rest of Season 7 is up to this quality, then we’re in for a good one.

8/10

Useless trivia: This is the second episode in a row to have a title relevant to Daenerys; with Dragonstone being the place of her birth and where she finally arrives in Westeros and Stormborn being one of her titles; Daenerys Stormborn due to her being born during a vicious storm.

“Dunkirk” Review

maxresdefaultDirected by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy
Plot: Trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk with their backs to the sea, thousands of British and Allied troops face an impossible situation as the enemy closes in.

In a summer dominated by superheroes, giant robots, minions and pirates, it’s rather surprising to say that the summer’s strongest picture (and perhaps the strongest picture of the year so far) is Dunkirk.

Based on the real events from 1940, Dunkirk is a beast of a film; showcasing not just the heroic evacuation, but the terrifying horrors of the war itself. Splitting itself into three chapters told non-linearly, Dunkirk focuses on three parts of the famous evacuation; The Mole focusing on the land, The Sea focusing on the boats coming to help and The Air focusing on the RAF with each chapter following a different group of characters. This is an excellent approach, as it allows the film to cover the widest range of the story it’s telling with three very different groups of characters; a small group of British soldiers desperately trying to survive, a Mariner, his son and his son’s friend sailing a small boat to aid in the evacuation and two RAF pilots desperately trying to hold off the German bombers to give the evacuation time. For this reason, no character really emerges as the main character of the film. This is truly an ensemble piece.

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Perhaps the easiest way to describe Dunkirk is that it’s three interconnecting short films presented non-linearly. Those expecting a more conventional narrative may be disappointed.

Time plays a very big role within the film itself, from the ticking clock that is ever present within the film’s soundtrack, signifying how little time there is to evacuate, to Farrier (Hardy) using time to estimate how much fuel he has left in his plane after his fuel gauge is damaged all the way to the film telling us how much time each chapter covers (The Mole covering a week, The Sea covering a day and The Air covering an hour). This in turn creates a massive sense of urgency within the film; relentless pacing really makes the audience uneasy and anxious at all times, with moments that should feel safe instead leaving us fearing the next inevitable strike by the Germans.

By far the strongest of the film’s three chapters however is The Sea; which very easily could have been its own film. The Sea is carried by strong performances by Mark Rylance as a Mariner trying to aid the evacuation and Cillian Murphy as a rescued shell-shocked soldier desperate not to go back to Dunkirk, at any cost. The Sea is a fantastic piece of filmmaking in its own right and will likely go on to be one of the most memorable parts of the film for most audiences.

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The Mole meanwhile is relentless in its showcasing of the horrors of war. Following three soldiers; Tommy (Whitehead), Alex (Styles) and the mute Gibson (Barnard) desperately trying to find a way out of Dunkirk and back to England as soon as possible, The Mole almost feels like a horror movie at times. The German forces, ever present, are never actually seen instead only identified as sudden gunshots and flying bombers. This makes the Germans feel like an almost supernatural force, constantly hunting the trio. The Mole is bolstered by some of the film’s most tense sequences and some wonderful performances from young actors Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles and Aneurin Barnard. Barnard in particular impresses due to having no lines of dialogue. Styles also impresses with a strong performance, perhaps indicating he could have a big career outside the music industry. Whitehead is also great and manages to carry The Mole very well as a very easy to root for protagonist.

The Air is home to most of the film’s action sequences, namely highflying (and lowflying) dogfights above the beaches of Dunkirk. Mostly carried by two actors; Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden, this story is the shortest of the three but is home to some of the more memorable moments. The dogfights have to be seen to be believed and are utterly thrilling to watch. If you can, definitely seek out a large format screen to watch the movie in, either IMAX or Dolby Cinema, as these sequences are worth watching on the biggest screen possible. Hardy and Lowden do excellently enough and Hardy in particular stands out very well, delivering a great performance despite nearly all of his scenes being confined to a small cockpit.

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One of the more surprising things about Dunkirk is how it doesn’t glorify the events taking place. Unlike other war movies which are often more sentimental and patriotic, Dunkirk never shies away from just how horrifying the events were. For there is no denying the events at Dunkirk were a disaster. And that is perhaps a more fitting genre for the movie. It’s not a war movie. It’s a disaster movie that just happens to focus on a disaster that occurred during wartime. While this does not mean the movie doesn’t have its patriotic moments, which it does, the movie just chooses to focus more on the horror, disaster and tragedy of Dunkirk than anything else. Which works just right for the movie.

On a technical level, Dunkirk is a masterpiece of filmmaking. Nolan has gone on record saying that the film used as little CGI as possible and it shows. This is a grand scale production the likes of which is rarely seen today. The film is awe inspiring to see and helped along by actually filming at the locations where the events happened. The cinematography, costumes, props, everything looks so real and raw that it’s almost difficult to tell yourself “It’s just a movie” at times. Helped along by Nolan choosing to film on 70mm film and IMAX cameras, as well as a Dolby Vision pass (which sadly can currently only be seen in select cinemas capable of displaying it until the film’s 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray release) all of which makes Dunkirk a visual feast for the eyes.

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Dunkirk’s sound mix is also fantastic. Despite Director Christopher Nolan showing an aversion to sound mixes higher than 5.1 (meaning Dunkirk has no 7.1 or Dolby Atmos mix as is typical for most movies nowadays), Dunkirk still sounds amazing. Bullets suddenly spring out of nowhere, bombers and spitfires fly overhead, explosions are heard all around. There’s no doubt about it, this is Nolan’s best sounding movie.

There are many words I could use to describe Dunkirk, but I think only one encapsulates everything I could say about the film; masterpiece. Dunkirk is a feat of filmmaking and easily one of Christopher Nolan’s best films, perhaps even better than The Dark Knight. Nolan has proven himself a master of filmmaking once again and one of the best living directors working today. Dunkirk is a relentless, raw, horrific and pulse-racing experience; one that will thrill, shock and grip audiences worldwide. Dunkirk is not just the greatest film of the summer, but the greatest film of 2017 so far – and it is unlikely to be topped.

10/10

Game of Thrones S07E01 “Dragonstone” Review

2cfc6ccf9d9e74f5d294219212f6be0a3226526f1bcf8768cce1716b7a87ebaab36ad191d08b09138002617e830a4f13-0“Shall we begin?”

Game of Thrones has finally returned for its penultimate season of seven episodes, but has the wait been worth it?

Like every other Season Premiere of Game of Thrones, not much of great importance happened in Dragonstone. Again, like every other opening episode of the show, Dragonstone was more concerned with reintroducing us to the characters and slowly laying the seeds for the plot lines and character arcs that will unfold over the next six episodes.

This meant that we only had time for brief check-ins for some characters; with Bran and Daenerys only getting one scene each in the 55 minute episode. Thankfully the show has begun to stop stretching itself thin, as several storylines have now merged due to the characters slowly beginning to join up again; with Jon, Sansa, Brienne and Littlefinger in Winterfell, Cersei, Jaime and Euron in King’s Landing, Sam and Jorah in Oldtown and Daenerys and Tyrion in Dragonstone. This allows the show to spend less time jumping all around Westeros and spend more time focusing on developing each group. As the season progresses and all the storylines begin to converge even more, this will only improve.

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As for occurred in this episode, it can very easily be summed up in a few sentences. Now this isn’t a bad thing at all, it allows the audience to reintegrate themselves to Westeros and allows the writers to have a moment’s peace before the chaos begins. The “deep breath before the plunge” as it were. This episode’s slower pace also allowed it to serve the role of the “season finale” to Season 6 as well as the “introduction” to Season 7. You could easily have placed this episode at the end of Season 6 and it would not have been out of place, due to Season 6 having an unusual event filled finale when the show has, in the past, preferred slower paced episodes to end the Season. It definitely shows the writers are thinking in the long term here, while The Winds of Winter was a fantastic episode it also left some storylines ending quite abruptly, which Dragonstone quickly addresses.

Dragonstone, more than anything, was about establishing the new status quo with lots of attention being paid to the two biggest changes to the show’s status quo at the end of last season; namely Jon and Cersei being named King in the North and Queen of the Seven Kingdoms respectively. As the “game of thrones” itself draws its conclusion (for there is no doubt Season 8 will see whoever survives taking on the fast approaching White Walker menace), the game’s main players for its final stage have to be established.

We see Jon trying to adjust to his new role as king. Struggling to manage his people, Sansa, the White Walker threat and his own sense of honour, Jon is clearly feeling the pressure. With Sansa pushing for Jon to establish his authority quickly and powerfully, by punishing treason and rewarding loyalty, Jon was keener on respecting tradition and legacy, believing carrying out punishment on the children of traitors held no point when their fathers had paid for their sins with their life. Through this, the show established a rift between Jon and Sansa, one that is likely to grow as the season progresses. Kit Harington and Sophie Turner did an excellent job with these scenes; managing to showcase the loving yet distant relationship between the two siblings.

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We also saw the fan-favourite storyline of Tormund’s crush on Brienne continue a little more, before Tormund departed for Eastwatch-By-The-Sea, the castle on the wall where Jon fears the White Walkers will attack. This storyline has never been in full focus, but has always been a joy to see develop, especially because of Brienne’s disgust at Tormund’s courtship.

Elsewhere in the North, we saw Sandor Clegane, Thoros and Berric Dondarrion taking shelter at an abandoned cottage. Said cottage was home to a man and his daughter, whom Sandor had encountered and robbed back in Season 4. While nothing much happened here, it did leaps and bounds for the Hound’s character development, with him feeling remorseful and burying the man and his daughter. This small moment alone showed how much Sandor has developed, back in Season 4 the Hound had bluntly proclaimed “They’ll both be dead come winter” when Arya called him out on robbing them. For Sandor to know feel terribly remorseful now hammers home what last season claimed; “the Hound” is dead but Sandor Clegane lives.

This part of the episode also saw Sandor look into the flames and see a vision, a vision confirming Jon’s fears; the White Walkers are going to attack Eastwatch. This scene was incredibly chilling and continued the feel of mystery to magic in Game of Thrones, especially how sinister the magic of the Lord of Light is. It really makes me feel that, even though this god is opposed to the White Walkers, he might not be on our side.

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Down in King’s Landing, we saw Cersei comfortably settling into her role as queen and, to Jaime’s horror, becoming ruthless. Lena Heady has been one of the strongest performers on the show and she was no different here, showing a slightly unhinged side to Cersei indicating King’s Landing might be in for a Mad Queen. Jaime’s shock at Cersei being prepared to take such extreme lengths might just push him to take action; Jaime has already killed one mad ruler.

And finally in Oldtown, Sam was underway with his Maester training. Starting with a humorous montage showing Sam undergoing his daily chores, this part of the episode was lighter hearted than the rest, giving us a much needed reprieve from the show’s usual doom and gloom. Bolstered by a joyful performance from Jim Broadbent and the surprise that Jorah Mormont is locked up in the Citadel, presumably undergoing treatment for his greyscale affliction, ensures this storyline will be one to keep an eye on as it develops.

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Production wise, Game of Thrones looks as fantastic as ever. The sets, costumes and production design are all fantastic. It’s the best looking show on TV, there’s no doubt about it.

In terms of directing, Dragonstone felt a little loose. Unlike other Game of Thrones episodes, Dragonstone suffered from perhaps the editing being a little off. Instead of spreading all of a characters scenes throughout an episode, the choice was made here to group all of them together. While other episodes have done this in the past, it’s confusing to see huge swathes of time jumped in an instant; unless Cersei timed Euron’s arrival in King’s Landing just right to coincide with her conversation with Jaime.

Then we get one of the episode’s more confusing additions; namely Ed Sheeran’s cameo. While there is nothing particularly wrong with Sheeran’s cameo, he was a little distracting. Especially since the show made no attempts to disguise him as it had done with previous celebrity cameos. When it was mentioned the song Sheeran was singing was “new”, it was delivered with almost a wink to the camera. All that was missing was a little banner saying “Available on the Game of Thrones Season 7 soundtrack, out later this year”. Compared to the cameos of Sigur Ros and other popular musicians, they did not attempt to disguise this one at all.

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Overall, Dragonstone was a passable entry for the show. Being an opening episode, it couldn’t really do much and rightfully saved its “big” moments for the opening and closing of the episode. In-between was some good stuff, but due to the show’s format nothing could be really paid off. More of a refresher of the ending of Season 6 than a significant advancement of the plotlines and characters, Dragonstone serves fine as the opening to Season 7, but future episodes need to pick up the pace.

7/10

“Transformers: The Last Knight” Review

transformers__the_last_knight_wallpaper_by_the_dark_mamba_995-dbbaftjDirected by: Michael Bay
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel, Laura Haddock, Santiago Cabera, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Ca
rmichael, Stanley Tucci, John Turturro, Gemma Chan
With the voice talents of: Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime, Frank Welker as Megatron, Erik Aadahl as Bumblebee, John Goodman as Hound, Ken Watanabe as Drift, Jim Carter as Cogman, Steve Buscemi as Daytrader, Omar Sy as Hot Rod, John DiMaggio as Crosshairs, Tom Kenny as Wheelie
Plot: Optimus Prime has disappeared. Autobots and Decepticons alike are being hunted down. The Autobots and their human friend Cade (Wahlberg) find a mysterious talisman that holds the key to the location of a powerful artefact. Hunted by Megatron, Cade and the Autobots must place their trust in Sir Edmund Burton (Hopkins), guardian of the secret history of Transformers and in Oxford Professor Vivian (Haddock). As the evil sorceress Quintessa (Chan), with a brainwashed Optimus in her control, approaches intending to destroy Earth; the race is on to find the artefact, which is the Autobots and humanity’s only hope of saving the planet they call home.

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I’ll put it this way. If you’re not on the Transformers bandwagon yet, Transformers: The Last Knight is incredibly unlikely to convert you. Despite being the first film from Paramount’s Transformers Writers Room (a team of writers plotting out the next few movies in the series), The Last Knight fails to offer anything significantly new, which makes it a very hard movie to review. So much of the movie feels so familiar that it struggles to find its own identity. But that said, I did enjoy it. Now, does that mean I would say Transformers: The Last Knight is a good film? Probably not. Would I watch it again? Yes I would. Despite the film’s inherent problems, there are things to enjoy here. Does The Last Knight heavily signal that Michael Bay should move on from the franchise to allow the series to find a new voice and carve out a new identity? Yes. Definitely. But does that mean Transformers: The Last Knight is the cinematic abortion other critics have made it out to be? Well that answer is a little more complicated.

It’s very easy to focus on what’s bad about The Last Knight. It’s a Frankenstein of a film at times; with characters and plot elements dipping in and out of the story and being forgotten about every time they’re off screen. Iconic characters such as Optimus Prime and Megatron are largely forgotten about for most of the film’s runtime; Optimus himself disappears after a few short scenes in the first act and doesn’t appear again until the start of the third act (which is about an hour or more of the character being off-screen). In fact, this happens with other characters at an alarming rate. The heavily marketed Isabelle (Moner) likewise disappears for most of the film, as do the rest of the Autobots. To say the film is called Transformers, the only Transformers who emerge with a significant role in the film are Bumblebee and new character Cogman. And this is perhaps the largest problem with The Last Knight, one that has been steadily growing worse as the series has gone on; the Transformers themselves are being reduced to side characters in their own franchise, despite the fact that the Transformers themselves are much more interesting characters than the humans the film focuses on so much.

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During a fight late in the movie, Megatron tells Optimus “We were brothers once!” continuing on from the reveal the two were brothers in the first movie. However, this dynamic has never been explored in the movies and indeed, this is the first time it’s been mentioned since the reveal in the first film. Wouldn’t exploring that dynamic between Optimus and Megatron, two brothers who are opposite sides of the same coin, be a much more interesting relationship to explore than Cade and his daughter, who doesn’t even appear on screen due to Nicola Peltz not returning for more than a voice cameo? It’s not even an issue of the voice actors not being good enough, Peter Cullen and Frank Welker have been the official voices of Optimus Prime and Megatron for over 30 years.  It’s confusing that a more interesting storyline is being continually pushed to the side. Since Paramount is actively searching for a new director for Transformers 6, it might be worth them finding a director who actually wants to make the Transformers characters in their own movies rather than the set dressing they are for most of The Last Knight.

The film also squanders its potential. The film’s most interesting element; the secret history of Transformers on Earth, is glossed over. The idea that the Transformers have been shaping human history since the Dark Ages is a fascinating one and flashback sequences of Autobots fighting alongside King Arthur and his knights and fighting the Nazis in World War 2 is incredibly imaginative stuff. It’s just a shame it amounts to less than 5 minutes of the movie and ultimately doesn’t have much bearing on the plot apart from the origins of the film’s McGuffin and a running joke involving a Transformer disguised as a pocket watch that apparently killed Hitler. A lot of thought went into the movie lore, so it’s a damn shame not to explore it. A WW2 set prequel with Bumblebee fighting Nazis is so much more interesting than yet another sequel.

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Another plotline that is squandered is the heavily marketed “Nemesis Prime” storyline. With Optimus having very little screen time, it’s hard for the storyline to take any effect. More scenes of Quintessa slowly brainwashing Prime would have gone to good lengths to resolve this, but instead Optimus is apparently instantly brainwashed and doesn’t appear again until he arrives on Earth as “Nemesis Prime” at the start of the third act. While the heavily marketed fight between Nemesis Prime and Bumblebee is excellent, being one of the more entertaining sequences in the film, there’s no doubt that the emotional attachment required for this scene is missing due to the film limiting Prime’s screentime and not allowing Bumblebee to show any character development at all. And after this, we are left no time to dwell on events because the Autobots quickly charge off to fight Quintessa for another lengthy action scene with no time for the characters or the audience to have a moment to breathe.

I am wondering if Transformers: The Last Knight would have been better served being divided into two films; one dealing with the Nemesis Prime arc and the search for the artefact (Transformers: Nemesis perhaps?) and another dealing with the rest of the Quintessa storyline. Doing this would have perhaps helped the film feel a lot less cramped than it does and allowed the valuable time for the characters and story to breathe.

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As for the human characters, they’re a mixed bag. Wahlberg’s Cade is very much the same as he was in the preceding film and shows no change of development across the film making it very hard for audiences to invest in him as a protagonist. Haddock’s Vivian however is much stronger and there are times where I wished the film was more focused on her instead of Cade; Vivian has more personality and plot relevance. While the film makes great leaps and excuses to keep Cade around, Vivian is always naturally part of proceedings. Despite a few moments where Vivian is reduced to nothing more than her looks (when he meets her Cade calls her “British stripper lady” due to her dress), Vivian does manage to emerge as one of the strongest characters in the film.

As for the heavily marketed Isabella, she doesn’t actually do much apart from be an audience viewpoint character for the first act. After that she vanishes from the film for most of the second and third acts, which raises the question as to why she was even included. While the character shows promise, despite being an obvious knock off of Star Wars’s Rey, it’s confusing that a human character that’s barely in the film was heavily marketed – and indeed heavily marketed as a feminist character. It’s strange then that Michael Bay’s attempts at a feminist character would be quickly abandoned and side-lined for most of the film. Perhaps Isabella was a very late addition to the story, meant to set up a larger role in future sequels and spin-offs?

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The real star of the show though is Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins has a blast in the role and emerges as the film’s funniest character, again making you wonder why the film isn’t about him instead of Cade. Hopkins gets the biggest laughs in the film; from giving police cars and Decepticons the finger during a high speed car chase, to telling Cade and others to “shut up” (including the British Prime Minister) to casually apologising to a poor museum clerk as Cade and Vivian jump over the barriers to reach a submarine of great importance, “Young people today. They just really like submarines”. Hopkins has so much fun in the role that I’d be lying if I said he wasn’t the best thing in it.

Other actors from previous Transformers films make a return, but their role is so minimal or has so little impact it’s barely worth mentioning them. Josh Duhamel returns as Lennox, but despite having a lot of screen time doesn’t actually do anything of importance. John Turturro returns as Agent Simmons and despite being heavily hyped only appears in two short scenes (bizarrely featuring two Autobots trying their best to get him to play football with them) making his return feel slightly pointless but worth it for a shouting match with Hopkins’s character that is hilarious. Stanley Tucci however is wasted in only one scene. While Tucci is excellent in the film, he does not reprise his character from the previous film instead playing Merlin in the prologue. Tucci is hilarious in the role but I couldn’t help but wish he had a larger role making Transformers: The Last Knight the second film this year to waste Tucci in a mostly secondary role after Beauty and the Beast.

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Gemma Chan is decent as villainess Quintessa but never actually gets enough time to play around with the character. After a few scenes in the first act, the character vanishes until the third act when she simply stands around spouting vaguely threatening sci-fi nonsense leading her to be the most underdeveloped antagonist in the series so far and feeling almost like an afterthought.

The action scenes, as ever, remain enjoyable, if incredibly exhaustive. Bay doesn’t seem to know when to call cut, leading the action scenes to drag on. And on. And on. And on.  Eventually it gets to the point where the action stops being entertaining and you become slightly aware how much all these explosions are extending the films already bloated runtime. With each action sequence feeling the need to “outdo” the last, it almost tricks you into thinking the film is nearly finished with some sequences only for the film to go on for another half hour. With perhaps a stricter hand in the editing suite, the action sequences could have been something special. That said however, a climatic action sequence in a zero gravity situation was surprisingly inventive.

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The real star of the films however remains Steve Jablonsky’s scores and his score for The Last Knight is no exception. Perhaps his finest score for the series yet, Jablonsky reprises old themes (including the main theme for the films not heard since the second movie) and creates several new great ones; all of it culminating in the beautiful track We Have To Go, which deserves a listen.

The special effects are gorgeous however. The Transformers are beautifully designed, even obsessively so. Lots of detail is worked into these characters along with attempts at making each character distinct and memorable; to the point where a Suicide Squad-esque run through of Megatron’s team of Decepticons seems included purely to show off all the different character designs.

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Transformers: The Last Knight is exactly what it sets out to be; another entry in the series. No more. No less. For this reason alone, I can’t really fault it. It achieves exactly what it wanted to be. On a filmmaking level it falters. The film is too long, has too many underdeveloped ideas and characters, suffers from having too much going on for one film (to the point where characters just vanish from the film for periods of time) and seems to continually misunderstand exactly why people want Transformers movies, namely for Transformers. But the film does have some great action sequences, some great ideas (even if they aren’t developed) and sets a good framework for the series going forward (without Michael Bay). With Transformers 6 and 7 planned as well as various prequels and spin-offs, The Last Knight is certainly not the last Transformers film, but it certainly heralds the last Michael Bay Transformers film. The Last Knight hammers home how outdated and out of touch some of Bay’s thoughts and ideas are. While Bay may claim his films are for “teenage boys”, there’s no denying teenage boys have much better choices today. In a world where Marvel dominates with high quality film after high quality film, making films just for teenage boys won’t cut it. Transformers needs to… well transform and prove there’s more than meets the eye to this franchise. As it is, The Last Knight is a passable entry in the franchise, one that will entertain fans and those who have enjoyed previous entries. However, with slightly sexist attitudes to some female characters, an underdeveloped plot and characters and not offering anything really different from previous entries, anyone looking for anything more may want to look elsewhere.

4/10

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” Review

Directed by: Tom Watts
Starring: Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Robert Downey Jr, Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori
Plot: Several months after the events of Captain America: Civil War, Peter Parker (Tom Holland), with the help of his mentor Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), tries to balance his life as an ordinary high school student in Queens, New York City while fighting crime as his superhero alter ego Spider-Man as a new threat, the Vulture (Michael Keaton), emerges.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming has a perfectly apt title. Not only does the film prominently feature a Homecoming dance and Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) struggles to ask crush Liz Allan (Laura Harrier) to be his date, but in a meta sense the title refers to the Spider-Man movie franchise itself returning to Marvel (after Marvel sold the rights to Sony Pictures in the 90s) and thus Spider-Man now being part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; as this film proves by prominently featuring Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr). While Sony still retains control of the Spider-Man license (and will be making their own films using Spider-Man’s villains set outside the MCU), Marvel is now making Spider-Man films for Sony and will also be able to feature Spider-Man in other Marvel movies (with this version of Spider-Man having made his debut in last year’s Captain America: Civil War). Spider-Man: Homecoming is then a more significant Spider-Man film because of this; it’s not only another reboot but a statement – that Spider-Man is finally home.

If there’s one thing Spider-Man: Homecoming excels at, it’s capturing the soul of the character. Perhaps the most accurate version of the character to have appeared on screen, Tom Holland’s Spider-Man is filled with humour, life and joy but also the trademark “Parker luck” and strive to do good that defines the character. Holland delivers a fantastic performance, truly bringing the character to life. Holland brilliantly captures Spider-Man’s relative inexperience, genuinely feeling like a teenager trying his best to do good but quickly getting out of his depth. Holland quickly emerges as the film’s best actor, and when you’re sharing the screen with Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr, that’s saying something. Holland has a long career ahead of him and I can’t wait to see how his Spider-Man develops.

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Spider-Man: Homecoming also shines with its plot. Taking the opposite approach of other superhero movies, Spider-Man: Homecoming is a rather small scale affair in the wider world of the Marvel Universe. Unlike Iron Man, Thor and Captain America who deal with potential world or universe ending threats in every instalment, Spider-Man instead deals with a rather small threat in comparison. And this works for the movie. Spider-Man shouldn’t be dealing with world ending threats alone at this stage in his career. Spider-Man dealing with a small threat gives the movie ample time to explore its central theme; Peter trying to decide what sort of person, and what sort of hero, he wants to be.

For Spider-Man: Homecoming is ultimately a coming of age movie. During production, director John Watts likened the movie to a John Hughes movie and that influence shows. Not only does the high school setting feel vibrant and alive, actually feeling like a school and not a set like in other Spider-Man movies, but the characters do to. Nearly every major character gets development and story beats that pay off. And not only that, but the John Hughes influences are everywhere (some characters even watch Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in a blink and you’ll miss it moment). Moments of Peter hanging out with his friends mimics The Breakfast Club, moments of Peter running out of school for superhero hijinks mimic the afore mentioned Ferris Bueller. But despite its influences, the movie manages to find its own voice; framing a very well told and intimate teen coming of age movie within the trappings of a very well made Superhero action flick. Moments of Peter hanging out with his friends, having dinner with Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and fretting over how to ask Liz out never feel out of place with the superhero action. All of it manages to form into one very well crafted narrative that even manages to take a few surprising twists and turns.

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But a superhero is nothing without its villain and Spider-Man: Homecoming delivers an excellent one in Adrian Toomes/The Vulture (Michael Keaton). Keaton delivers an excellent performance as a man who doesn’t want to be evil, but will stop at nothing to achieve his goals no matter the cost. Watching Toomes slowly fall into evil is fascinating to see, as his dark side slowly but surely takes over. In an early moment, Toomes is horrified when he does kill someone (“I thought that was the anti-gravity gun” he says, almost speechless) yet later he has no qualms about killing anyone in his way. It’s an interesting character to watch unfold on screen and Keaton gives it his best, making the Vulture emerge as one of the MCU’s best developed villains in a very long while.

Robert Downey Jr is on fine form as Tony Stark, showing up briefly but memorably (he’s not in the film as much as trailers would imply). Despite this, he manages to be one of the film’s most memorable aspects. Rounding out the cast is great performances from Zendaya as Peter’s slightly odd friend Michelle, Marisa Tomei as Peter’s ever supportive Aunt May, Jacob Batalon as Peter’s geeky best friend Ned and Laura Harrier as Liz, the object of Peter’s affections. Much like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Marvel has assembled an excellent ensemble for this film and I can’t wait to see them all grow in further sequels.

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What is also an excellent touch is how funny the film is. Some people think comedy and superheroes shouldn’t mix, but considering Spider-Man is a superhero known for spouting jokes and wisecracks, it’s hard to see why Spider-Man: Homecoming shouldn’t be a funny film. I would be close to calling the film one of the funniest in the MCU with a lot of hilarious moments from an increasingly exasperated Spider-Man being berated by citizens to a sure to be iconic moment showing us exactly why Spider-Man couldn’t operate in a superhero in any other city outside of New York (which got the biggest laughs in the film).

The humour doesn’t detract from the darkness as well. For without a doubt this is the darkest Spider-Man film. Maybe not in terms of content directly, but on the topics it touches. There’s a moment in the film where Peter, incredibly out of his depth and in deadly danger, calls out desperately for someone, anyone, to help and it’s in this moment, helped by Holland’s performance, that it hits you. Spider-Man is just a teenager in this film. This is a 16 year old boy. It’s a powerful moment and perhaps one that will make those with younger relatives slightly uncomfortable.

The action also hits the right beats (no pun intended). The film’s fights scenes put Spider-Man’s abilities to their full use and offer some truly inventive and memorable action sequences. Spider-Man’s fighting style in the comics has bene perfectly translated to screen and Watts even manages to display some excellent inventiveness throughout.

While Spider-Man: Homecoming may not be the best movie featuring Spider-Man (that honour still belongs to Spider-Man 2 and Captain America: Civil War), Spider-Man: Homecoming is a fantastic reboot for the character, emerging as not just a great Spider-Man film, but a great film all around. Those on the fence about seeing Spider-Man rebooted yet again needn’t fear, Spider-Man’s homecoming to Marvel is a triumphant one and hopefully he’ll be around for a long time coming.

8/10

Doctor Who S10E12 “The Doctor Falls” Review

14983950848970One day I shall come back. Yes, I shall come back. Until then, there must be no regrets, no tears, no anxieties. Just go forward in all your beliefs and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine. – The First Doctor, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, 1964

Well that was really something. Steven Moffat seemed to throw in everything and the kitchen sink for what was perhaps one of the most thrilling episodes of the series. Two Masters, lots and lots of Cybermen, epic action, regeneration AND the First Doctor? Say what you will about Moffat, at least he knows how to throw a party.

The Doctor Falls was one of the best series finales the show has ever done. Magical, tear jerking, funny and action packed. It delivered everything and was perhaps the most powerful episode of the series.

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The episode framed itself brilliantly around the concept of “denying change”. The Doctor, slowly regenerating, refuses to change. Bill has to struggle with her change into a Cyberman and her refusal to continue living as such. Missy was struggling with her slow change to good while the Master was adamantly against any such change. It was an interesting idea to build the episode around and it worked brilliantly; providing a satisfying ending to most of the character’s arcs. If this was to be the final ever episode of the show, if you remove the cliffhanger, it would have been perfect.

Missy’s character arc was particularly perfect. Missy’s main goal throughout most of her appearances over the last few years was to get her “best friend back”. In Series 8, she tried giving him an army of Cybermen as the means to right all wrongs in the universe for his birthday. In Series 9, she tried to bring the Doctor round to her way of thinking by trying to trick him into killing Clara. And finally in Series 10, when faced with death as the only other option Missy decided to try another way; to try the Doctor’s way of thinking even if it meant eternal imprisonment. During the series, Missy has slowly discovered empathy she never knew she had; such as crying when she remembered the names of all the people she’d killed. Like a true addict, Missy struggled with a return to her addiction. But that spark of good deep inside her worked its way and finally, Missy gave in. she endeavoured to return and help the Doctor only to be shot in the back by her previous incarnation. Missy died, without hope, without witness, without reward, having finally decided to try and live another way. And the Doctor will never know. Michelle Gomez has implied that if the Master is to return, she likely will not meaning this may be Missy’s final appearance. And if it is to be so, I can’t imagine a better way for Michelle Gomez to make her exit. Gomez has played the character perfectly, emerging as perhaps one of the finest actors to ever play the role. If this is the end, she will be sorely missed.

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As for Bill, it’s hard to judge as such. We still don’t know if this is actually Bill’s ending or not (as of writing, Pearl Mackie has not been confirmed for either the 2017 Christmas Special or Series 11). But if this was to be Bill’s ending, it’s a satisfactory one. We all know that Bill was never going to be killed off for good nor remain a Cyberman forever. There was always going to be a way for Bill to survive. And as it goes, this was a nice one. It brought the series full circle in a way and Bill going off on a journey to see the universe with Heather leaves things plenty open for Bill to return in the future. If this is Bill’s end however, then Pearl Mackie leaves with a triumphant performance delivering perhaps her best of the series tied with World Enough and Time. Pearl has been a joy to see on screen week on week and she has left very big shoes to fill for whoever takes her place.

John Simm meanwhile slipped back into the role of the Master with ease, like he’d never been gone. While Simm didn’t get too much to do in this episode (his role was to help further Missy’s character arc), he did leave a strong impression as one of the best parts of the episode. Simm was hilarious and managed to be one of the best things in each scene he was in. And when you share the screen with Peter Capaldi and Michelle Gomez, that’s no easy feat. And of course his chemistry with Michelle Gomez was delightful. Seeing two Masters on screen was fantastic and the two actors delivered perfectly. Is it wrong to ship someone with themselves? “Yes. Very” says Missy.

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Matt Lucas meanwhile was great as Nardole, even if he didn’t get too much to do which has been a very real issue this series. It raises the question as to why Nardole returned if he was going to be so underused and almost feel like an afterthought in ever script. It’s almost as if the decision to bring back Nardole was made every late in the writing process. While Nardole has been a joy on screen, I am a little disappointed that Nardole didn’t get much to do. However his farewell scene was incredibly touching.

But of course, the real star of the show was Peter Capaldi. Capaldi has always been magnificent in the role of the Doctor and I don’t think anyone would disagree with me if I were to say he’s the best actor in terms of talent to take the role. Capaldi has never, ever phoned an episode in and this one was no different. I’d even argue that this episode ties with Heaven Sent as Capaldi’s best performance. The Doctor as seen here was emotionally raw, internalising everything (“I love it when he’s Mr. Volcano” Missy quips) and trying his best to put on a brave face for Bill and Nardole. To see the Doctor slowly dying, but doing his best to save even just a few people was awe inspiring. The scene where the Doctor runs through the woods, blasting Cybermen to pieces and giving that epic line of dialogue “I am the Doctor! The original, you might say!” was perhaps one of the episode’s most memorable moments alongside the Doctor’s impassioned plea to the Masters to stay and help.

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All of this would not have been possible without a wonderful script from Steven Moffat. With this being his final finale, Moffat gave it his all and it emerged as one of his best. Snappy dialogue, incredibly touching drama and some really bold ideas really elevated The Doctor Falls. I hope Moffat releases the script for this episode online, because I bet it’s as amazing to read as it is to see on screen. While we have one more Moffat script to look forward to at Christmas, I for one am definitely going to miss his writing.

Rachel Talalay meanwhile was a fantastic director for this episode, delivering yet another brilliant episode. Talalay has proven herself to be a fantastic addition to the Who team over the last few years and with her directing the Christmas Special, I can only hope she’ll be sticking around for a long time to come.

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The Doctor Falls defied all the odds and emerged as an excellent finale to the series. Full of action, drama, humour and tears, it delivered everything I wanted and more. It’s hard to describe just how much I loved this episode, but for me at least, it’s an instant classic and a fitting finale for Moffat’s era on the show. Now when is it Christmas?

10/10

Trivia and Speculation

David Bradley portrays the First Doctor in this episode’s closing moments. Bradley previously portrayed William Hartnell in the 2013 Drama An Adventure in Space and Time, charting the early years of Doctor Who. Bradley had previously appeared in Doctor Who as the villainous Solomon in 2012’s Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (coincidently written by the next showrunner Chris Chibnall).

David Bradley is the third actor to portray the First Doctor in the show, following William Hartnell who departed the show in 1966’s The Tenth Planet as well as making a brief appearance in 1973’s The Three Doctors and Richard Hurndall who played the character in 1983’s The Five Doctors, made after Hartnell’s passing in 1975.

The First Doctor appears in person for the first time since The Five Doctors. While the First Doctor has appeared via archive footage since then, this is the first time he has appeared in the flesh in over 30 years!

There are several references to previous regeneration stories; the Master appears (Logopolis, Doctor Who The Movie, The End of Time), the Doctor fights the Cybermen (The Tenth Planet, The Time of the Doctor), He defends a small farming community from invaders (The Time of the Doctor), he hallucinates his past companions before he regenerates (The Caves of Androzani) and quotes the final lines of his tenth and eleventh incarnations before finally arriving in Antarctica just before the regeneration of his first incarnation.

The Doctor sees images of his past companions; Rose, Martha, Donna, Jack, Amy, Vastra, Jenny, River, Clara and Bill. This implies the Doctor’s memories of Clara have been restored.

Missy mentions that the Doctor has died by falling. The Fourth Doctor died while fighting the Master by falling from a tower in Logopolis.

Missy reveals that the reason she has no memories of the events of this story while she was the Harold Saxon Master is that her timeline is out of sync. This is the official reason used in Multi-Doctor episodes for why only the most recent Doctor will remember.

The Harold Saxon Master ties the Doctor up and pushes him around in a wheelchair. He has now done so in all three stories he’s appeared in; Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords, The End of Time, World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls.

Series 10 Rankings 

1. The Doctor Falls 10/10

2. World Enough and Time 10/10

3. Extremis 10/10

4. Oxygen 8.5/10

5. Thin Ice 8.5/10

6. The Eaters of Light 8.5/10

7. The Pilot 8/10

8. Smile 7.5/10

9. The Pyramid at the End of the World 6/10

10. The Empress of Mars 5/10

11. Knock Knock 5/10

12. The Lie of the Land 4/10

Series 10 Average Score: 7.6/10