Orange Thursday: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) and 6 Underground (2019)

Every Thursday, TMINE reviews two movies, carefully avoiding infringing a former mobile phone company’s trademarked marketing gimmick

Hello! Welcome to Orange Thursday, the absolutely definitely every Thursday movie review slot on TMINE. I’ve been watching a job-lot of Cinema Paradiso DVDs over Christmas, as well as one or two movies at the cinema, so work-willing, I should be able to regale y’all with a double-bill of movie reviews every Thursday for the next month at least, maybe more, without having to watch even one more movie. And I’m going to see Jo Jo Rabbit on Saturday, so clearly I will.

This week, we’ve got one cinema movie and one streaming movie for you to enjoy:

  • Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – the last of the nine Star Wars movies
  • 6 Underground (2019) – Netflix’s attempt to have an action movie franchise, starring Ryan Reynolds as a kick-arse tech billionaire.

See you after the ads and the trailers.

6 Underground (2019)

Available on Netflix

Six individuals from all around the globe, each the very best at what they do, have been chosen not only for their skill, but for a unique desire to delete their pasts to change the future.

6 against quality

Netflix has, of course, financed and developed many films now, some of them extremely credible, including possibly Martin Scorsese’s finest work in years, The Irishman (2019). But the one thing it hasn’t had or even tried to have is a film franchise. Until now.

There’s nothing wrong with having a film franchise, of course. Some of them can be very good and enjoyable. But with 6 Underground, Netflix hasn’t really gone to great lengths to innovate or aim for quality. Instead, it’s thrown a whole bunch of mad franchise cats into a bag, closed it and hoped for the best. Are you surprised that it’s in no way worked?

The basic formula of 6 Underground is the underpinnings of the tail end of the Fast and Furious franchise: a quasi-family of criminals club together to fight the bad guys, usually by doing lots of stunts and blowing things up.

Rather than getting one of the Fast and Furious directors to helm the piece, it’s got Michael Bay – the director of virtually all the Transformers and Bad Boys movies – to do it instead.

And to that heady mix, it’s added the writers as well as the star of Deadpool – Rhett Reese, Paul Wenick and (drum roll, please) Ryan Reynolds.

The result is more or less the worst of all three worlds: the stupidity of the Fast and Furious‘ driving scenes, the sex-crime-grade approach to direction of Michael Bay, and the worst, most juvenile gags of Deadpool and Reynolds.

6 Underground

All Ryan Reynolds, all the time

The script feels like something written by a bunch of teenage boys trying to come up with the coolest set-up imaginable. Reynolds is a nerdy tech billionaire who’s great with magnets but who decides that it would be great to do something really important, so goes ‘off the grid’ to recruit a bunch of former spies and soldiers to take down ‘really bad people’. Said people are also required to give up their lives and even their names, becoming just numbers, so that the bad guys can’t find them and use their loved ones against them.

Reynolds then gets them to do all manner of ‘cool’ (ie not cool, just juvenile) things. There’s a French girl spy who’s good with guns and who shoots at bad guys while the Latina girl doctor operates on her. She also likes to lie around in lingerie while Michael Bay orbits her in close-up with his camera. There’s a former EastEnder who likes to do free-running. That guy from the 24 revival is a special forces sniper. There’s lots of military hardware for them to play with and fast, expensive cars to crash.

And they do things together that make Team America look like they’re the World Monuments Fund. Indeed, the first ten minutes – although it felt more like two hours – of the movie is of Reynolds and his initial five recruits driving around an improbably easily navigable Florence to escape bad guys, before driving through the Uffizi and knocking over lots of statues, while commenting on what a small penis Michelangelo’s statue of David has.

Gosh, what hijinks.

Then Reynolds is off shagging ladies, while everyone wonders how the nerdy tech billionaire without a name got so damn good at martial arts. He really is the best, isn’t he? Sigh. Don’t you wish you were like him, too? By watching this movie, you can be. But only once you’re 18.

Killing them because it’ll make them better

Bay, it has to be admitted, does have an innovative eye when it comes to action, turning out shots that do impress. But that hardware-enchanted eye is probably why he spends so much time trying to avoid having to deal with proper scenes involving people – to the extent the action scenes just become boring because Terminator-like, they absolutely will not stop ever until everyone is dead.

However, he also has a serial killer’s understanding of human beings, making it look like he’s trying to assemble an Ikea flatpack wardrobe whenever there’s any talking. The script is no help here and because all the explosions and Reynolds cost so much, the rest of the cast are a random assortment of C-list actors from all over the world.

The movie does occasionally raise it laugh, it has to be said, such as when Reynolds is going undercover as a Scotsman. There are moderate thrills to be had during all those shootouts and car chases, too.

But on the strength of 6 Underground, Netflix needs to stay doing arty farty stuff rather than franchises – and Michael Bay needs to be locked up soon before he does something to someone.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

When it’s discovered that the evil Emperor Palpatine did not die at the hands of Darth Vader, the rebels must race against the clock to find out his whereabouts. Finn and Poe lead the Resistance to put a stop to the First Order’s plans to form a new Empire, while Rey anticipates her inevitable confrontation with Kylo Ren.

Rise of the Jedi

My, you can almost smell the retcon on this one. The Last Jedi was controversial to say the least, smashing sacred idols of Star Wars fandom, as well as of action cinema in general. Hero’s journey? Sod off. Lone wolfs who don’t obey orders? Screw things up and ruin the plans of people who know better. Jedi training? Made-up bullshit. You don’t need that. Sacred dynasties or the importance of family? Cock. Anyone can be important and they don’t need to be related to someone to achieve it.

The Rise of Skywalker sticks a knife in the back of The Last Jedi, sticks it in the boot of its car, drives to a nearby bridge then hurls an anonymous-looking sack into the river beneath before making a quick getaway into the night.

And it does all that while essentially copying The Force Awakens‘ template for a new Star Wars movie of redoing an old Star Wars movie with a younger cast and better special effects. In this case, as befits its third place in the new trilogy’s running order, it’s Return of the Jedi, complete with guest Ewoks.

True, it doesn’t look that way at first, since it does a much better job of camouflaging its underlying retread. But it won’t be long before you notice that Rey is Luke, Kylo Ren is Vader and Emperor Palpatine is Emperor Palpatine, trying to get his evil apprentice to do his bidding but who’s considering swapping back to the light side due to his connection with the hero/heroine.

Better than Return

That said, it is at least a better Return of the Jedi than Return of the Jedi was – and that in itself was Star Wars again (“Another Death Star!”).

A reasonable portion of the movie is taken up with ‘fixing’ the ‘mistakes’ of The Last Jedi, from Luke doing a volte face on everything he said in the previous movie through Rey not turning out to be a ‘nobody’ at all but descended from a specific lineage to Jedi training becoming important again.

However, there is a decent amount of innovation as well, including new Force powers, the Knights of Ren showing up, and revelations about the Sith. There are nods to old school fans, such as the return of one dead character, the voices of former Jedi actors such as Samuel L Jackson and Ewan McGregor, and the return to Tatooine and the Skywalker house.

The late Carrie Fisher shows up a surprising amount in the plot and even gets to do Jedi things, with some of that Rogue One de-ageing tech used to good effect on both her and Hamill.

And it looks stonking good and is full of thrills, from pretty good light sabre fights – will anyone ever top the Darth Maul sequence? – to some really good outer space fights.

The same

Nevertheless, big chunks of it don’t make much sense and there’s a pointless half-hour quest sequence in the middle for no good reason. While there’s no new Death Star per se, the task is to stop a whole bunch of spaceships that are basically Death Stars. Yes, a fleet of Death Stars – that’s much more original and different, isn’t it?

Old school fans will almost certainly be disappointed by the lack of any physical appearances by the likes of McGregor and Jackson – or even Yoda – while Hamill’s role is surprisingly small given the name of the movie. And the ending doesn’t feel like an ending, but like it’s setting up another sequence of movies, as there is a significant number of unresolved plot threads.

So go in expecting not to be overwhelmed or even underwhelmed, but whelmed by the whole thing. There are enough pay offs you won’t feel cheated, enough laughs and action and top moments you’ll probably have a good time. Just don’t expect anything too different or liable to shake the boat. Because the fans wouldn’t have liked that.