Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi ***
Dir: Rian Johnson
*ing: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Domhnall Gleeson, Benicio del Toro
Episode VII of the Star Wars saga picks up pretty much where it left us at the end of Episode VII and answers many of the questions that were raised in the last movie. Where has Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) been? Who are Rey’s (Daisy Ridley) parents? What turned Ben Solo/Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) towards the Dark Side? The answers may not be to everyone’s satisfaction (and, who knows, there may be more revelations coming in Episode IX) but they are present and they may not be what you expect. As Luke warns Rey, “This is not going to go the way you think.”
There are plenty of plot twists here and some genuinely thrilling, surprising moments (plus an unexpected – but always welcome – cameo) one of which even induced me to clap. But the movie suffers from loose plotting and a completely needless detour detailing the search for a codebreaker on a casino planet dedicated to serving galactic high-rollers. As a result the two-and-a-half hour movie sags in the middle and serves to undermine some of the momentous events that transpire on screen. The movie also underserves some of the characters (Snoke, Captain Phasma) introduced in Episode VII: The Force Awakens and never really manages to raise Kylo Ren beyond the level of whining, self-pitying emo boy despite his extensive screen-time. However, the movie does provide for a fitting send-off to the late Carrie Fisher (though, from what I understand, Episode IX was originally meant to be her character’s real swan-song) who gets plenty to do and there is a touching note to her in the credits.
Cut to chase: Surprises, thrills and even some chills undermined by loose plotting and a saggy middle.
Arth: The Destination **
Dir: Shaan Shahid
*ing: Shaan Shahid, Uzma Hassan, Mohib Mirza, Humaima Malik
Riffing off the template set by Mahesh Bhatt in the 1982 original, Arth: The Destination tells the tale of an aging, recently divorced musician Ali (Shaan Shahid) aiming to recover his lost glory with the help of an aspiring writer Uzma (Uzma Hassan) who has troubles of her own in the form of a cheating husband (Mohib Mirza). But pulling triple duty – he wrote and directed the movie apart from starring in it – proves to be too much for superstar Shaan. The movie runs away from him from the get-go.
This update has multiple problems. First of all 90% of it is in English. So is it aimed solely at the multiplex, English-speaking audience? Can’t be because the whole movie plays out at a constant heightened state of drama (though calling it melodramatic would be unfair) which is more attuned to the sensibilities of the traditional “Lollywood” cine-goer. And it’s clearly not meant for families because it comes laden with multiple F-bombs (over a dozen of them). So who has Shaan made this movie for?
Secondly, Shaan, the director, doesn’t give any of the scenes any room to breathe, even the ones that desperately needed it. Dialogues are spouted at breakneck speed (particularly by leading lady Uzma Hassan) interspersed with jagged editing (in a somewhat unintended bizarro homage to French New Wave jump cuts) and I kept wanting all the actors to dial it down a notch (nothing is really understated here, leading sometimes to unwanted laughter). The whole two-hour movie feels crammed to the hilt. If Shaan had given as much thought to the pacing of the movie as he did to its many artfully composed shots we would have been much better off.
The script, similarly, doesn’t take the time to develop any of its potentially interesting characters – a faded star, a cheating husband, a bi-polar actress (Humaima Malik), and a betrayed wife – and we never really get under their skins. We get short-hand instead of real characterisation. Plus we’re never really sure whose story this is. The original was very much Pooja’s (Shabana Azmi) story of discovery, rediscovery and growth. Here, with the focus shifting to Ali, the original’s raison d’etre is diluted. On a brighter note, however, I did think that the music (by Sahir Ali Bagga) worked well enough.
I was hoping that Shaan’s star-wattage (he’s a genuine movie star) combined with the (still developing) sensibility of Pakistan’s Nu Wave of cinema, would end up in giving us something special. Unfortunately, Arth: The Destination doesn’t live up to that expectation.
Cut to chase: Nothing really works in this update of a classic.
Rating system: *Not on your life * ½ If you really must waste your time ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection