Category Archives: star wars

Young Solo Adventures would have been better suited to streaming and the small screen

I was sceptical when Alden Ehrenreich – who doesn’t look or sound anything like Harrison Ford – was cast as young Han. Where Ford is tall, rangy, chisel-jawed and rugged, Alden could be a member of a galactic boy band (except he’s solo).

After a troubled production and reports of an acting coach, it seemed as if the odds of Alden successfully navigating young Han were approximately 3,720 to 1.

But the wise-cracking smuggler never did set much store by the odds, ‘cos if you have enough swagger, you can pull anything off. So I can vaguely imagine Alden maturing into Original Trilogy Han. Better than I could reconcile Hayden Christensen with the man in the mask, even after I watched it lowered onto his charred face.

Solo is a fairly straightforward, pulpy adventure that introduces Han on his scuzzy home planet of Corellia, long before he met a Princess and fathered a Supreme Idiot. He’s serving a slimy crime boss, a bit like Rey did on Jakku, except Han and his girl Qi’Ra have more time for hair salon appointments.

After an escape bid sees Qi’Ra captured, Han signs up for the Empire – who use the Imperial March in recruiting drives. Kicked out the Academy, he meets pro thief Tobias Beckett (the least imaginative SW name) and co. They chuck Han to ‘The Beast’ – no not a Rancor…it’s Chewbacca!

Beckett is stealing hyperfuel for a crime syndicate, but at the first sight of pirates, Han drops his shipment, angering boss Dryden Vos. He wants his fuel or else, so it’s all aboard the Falcon for that infamous Kessel Run. Dryden orders Qi’Ra, now his top lieutenant, to supervise them.

Han could be such a dark character: he grew up in Corellia’s murky underworld as a child slave, he fought for the Empire on a planet resembling a WWI hellscape, he lost his childhood sweetheart. But all he wants is to be a cool pilot and make a quick buck.

Qi’Ra knows that under the cocky attitude, Han’s one of the good guys. (Was it just me or did a certain bad guy look happy to get ‘closer’ to Emilia Clarke’s Bond girl femme fatale? Isn’t he a cyborg/robotic below the waist?)

Anyway, Emilia does a great mix of resigned and ambitious, a survivor in too deep. She’s more interesting than her former flame, and the other female characters – so much for Thandie Newton’s ‘prominent’ role, while Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s hyped droid L3 doesn’t get the same chance to shine as Rogue One’s K-2SO.

Considering the weekend box office, mooted sequels are unlikely.  I wonder why they didn’t do “Adventures of Young Han Solo” on Disney’s new streaming channel. Then Alden would have been TV Han.

There’s going to be a lot of analysis about ‘what went wrong’. Perhaps Rogue One benefited from the novelty of being the first ‘standalone’, and from charged audiences wanting something to sustain them until Episode VIII. Plus Darth Vader going berserk in the rebel-rousing finale probably helped.

There just wasn’t the enthusiasm for a full movie about a non-Force user. Now Obi-Wan on the other han……

The SOLO trailer saunters on to our screens. I already love Qi’Ra

qira

I wasn’t going to post about the new Star Wars spin-off trailer, when and if it ever arrived. But after being ill and feeling so low, a trailer has been about the most demanding thing I’ve been able to watch and review in weeks.

Solo seems so nonchalant about the whole publicity machine, like it knows it’s a surefire hit anyway. The action scenes, the visuals and the extension of the Star Wars mythology will probably make it another Rogue One.

Of course the cast looks great too. Emilia Clarke, who has really grown on me lately, looks very regal.

Qi’Ra sounds like a Game Of Thrones name, but ‘Kira’ was actually Rey’s original name during The Force Awakens production, and it also crops up a lot in the old pre-Disney books and games. I always thought it was a nod to the director Akira Kurosawa, whose Hidden Fortress was a direct influence on a young George Lucas.

Donald Glover as Lando will walk away with Han’s movie (payback for Han taking the Falcon), while Alden Ehrenreich – who looks and sounds nothing like Harrison Ford – is probably going to be the most divisive element.

Although Alden is diminutive next to Ford’s 6’1, and his voice is nasal-sounding, they’ve still slapped the same hairdo on him that Ford had in the Originals, as if that’ll help. Fans have offered unconvincing in-canon explanations for the physical differences like, “Oh men can have growth spurts really late”, or ‘Voices deepen with age.”

I’ll just accept that they either couldn’t or wouldn’t find someone more like Ford (I think people at Lucasfilm really wanted Alden, and a Ford clone from Kamino would’ve had the door slammed in his face). Alden’s obviously a talented actor, even if he isn’t a movie star/leading man, and he has to make the role his own.

Younger kids and future generations will probably like Alden more than Harrison anyway. He’ll be their definitive Han.

The galaxy is changing.

The Last Jedi theories died so hard (start the Episode IX speculation)

There was lots of red in The Last Jedi, from the blood-coloured soil of Crait, to Snoke’s crimson throne room. And while critics were in raptures – Rian Johnson is an auteur after all – a lot of hardcore fans were left, well, seeing red.

After watching the film on preview night, I came soaring home like Princess Leia through space. VIII had laughs, lightsabers and a brooding Adam Driver.

Yes, it felt like Star Wars. Like the OT, the sequels are funny (levity is actually good in a movie like this.)

The only thing I hated was Luke’s treatment. I understand from a franchise perspective he had to go, but did they have to make him so repulsive? The only way they could have made him more disgusting would have been to have him hit on Rey.

Still, I get the people bewildered by the backlash. Frankly, certain fans needed to get their heads out of their half-cocked theories.

Silly theory #1: Rey’s parentage.

Sure, before Awakens, I thought Padmé-lookalike Rey was Han and Leia’s kid (sadly for them, it was Kylo), and that Kylo was a Vader-obsessed loser (lol true) wanting to continue the bloodline with Rey (also true).

But if trailers hinted at Rey’s Skywalker identity, it was only to protect the Ben Solo reveal. Half an hour in, a wide-eyed, a guileless Rey turns to Finn and says: “Luke Skywalker. I thought he was a myth.” Neither Han nor Leia knew her, plus she had intriguing romantic tension with Kylo.

I watched Flashback Rey and thought: “That kid’s old enough to remember who her parents are.” When Rey told BB-8 her parents would be back, “one day”, you can tell from Daisy’s delivery that Rey was in denial. As Maz said: she already knew the truth.

So going into VIII, I was quietly confident who her parents weren’t.

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Kylo sticks his throbbing red lightsaber past Rey’s trembling open mouth. “Why, Kylo, it’s HUGE.”

But hey, there were people who thought Palpatine wasn’t Darth Sidious right up until Revenge of the Sith. This time around, fans insisted Rey was either Kylo’s twin (duh, age gap), or Luke’s child with an unknown woman – perhaps Obi-Wan’s daughter!

‘Cousins fighting’ never struck me as having the pathos of duelling father and son, but those theories got entrenched, and ‘Reylo’ shippers got attacked (“Yuck – they’re related!”).

Silly theory #2: Snoke = Darth Plaguies 

When I first saw Return of the Jedi, I couldn’t believe the Emperor got chucked down a shaft. Now like the Emperor, Snoke was a powerful Force user. Like the Emperor, he was physically damaged and protected by his guards. And like the Emperor, he could be killed. Yet so many fans thought he was ‘a cool bad guy’ and were more excited by him than Rey and Kylo.

Pet theories – that he was Darth Plagueis and/or a force-sucking vampire from beyond the known galaxy – became canon. But the movie was never about Snoke, just like the originals weren’t about Palpatine. The story is about Rey and Kylo, and in order for Vader’s heir to reach his capacity to get worse, he had to smoke Snoke.

Conclusion: Kill the theories

I’d buy a ticket for Episode IX for Driver’s performance alone. Abrams will be back, book-ending the trilogy, although people hoping he’ll roll back the Reylo romance, or still insisting Rey is a Solo(!) might be in for further disappointment. Perhaps there was some explanation for the Kylo-Rey connection held back from Jedi, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

There are only two theories I’m prepared to stick my neck out for – the good guys will win, and there’ll be another incarnation of the Death Star.

The Last Jedi: Luke what you made me do

Actor Mark Hamill said he hated everything Rian Johnson decided to do with his character, Luke Skywalker, in The Last Jedi. I’m sure he later changed his mind (it’s hard to keep up, Hamill speaks his mind a lot) but I have to agree with the actor’s first instinct.

I understand what happened between Luke and Ben. Luke, like Anakin, wanted to stop a bad thing from happening. Luke sensed the danger in Ben, and had the fateful impulse to strike the boy down while he slept. He was immediately repentant, but it was too late – Luke had created the thing he sought to avoid.

Living with the legacy of Vader,  it’s not surprising Luke sees the dark side in shadows and minds everywhere. Yet what I saw in The Last Jedi was not the son of Vader, but the son of Owen Lars festering away on that island. The only way he could have been more revolting would have been if he’d hit on Rey.

Chucking the lightsaber over his shoulder may have got a laugh (a very nervous one, in my theatre) but as I watched the story unfold, it struck me that his twin sister should have understood that Luke had gone to a lot of effort to disappear, and let him go.

Leia had been through terrible losses too – her entire planet, her son, her…Han. Luke skulked off to let her deal with everything on her own. The Luke that millions loved would never have been so weak.

He was never the coolest member of his gang. He had to work to become the calm, lethal Luke of Return of the Jedi. And Han still laughed in his face. But although Luke wasn’t necessarily the obvious tough guy type, but he was resourceful, and he never gave up.

We got one glimpse of the cool Luke who faced down Darth Sidious; at the end of The Last Jedi, he Force-beamed his soul across the galaxy to tell his hilariously unhinged nephew that he’s a stupid ass, while wearing an outfit that would have made Padmé Amidala proud.

Did Luke think Kylo was beyond redemption, or did he know it wasn’t his personal destiny to save him? Kylo is Rey’s problem now. Sucks to be her.

Although he hasn’t always been as well-regarded by the wider public – or by some journalists, incredibly – Hamill was the real acTOR out of the classic trio. Carrie was a true original and a writer, Harrison was the movie star. And Hamill gave a great send-off performance, even if he didn’t agree with the director’s vision.

It’s not Luke’s story now. This is a franchise hoping to pick up new fans. Considering Luke looked like he last took a bath that night on Endor, he probably didn’t have any children to carry on the family name. Unless ‘Broom kid’ (Tamiri Blagg) is Luke’s long-lost son. No, I’m joking, please.

I imagine creatives overseeing the new global franchise want to lob most of the inherently limiting original trilogy off the edge of Skellig Michael too, along with that lightsaber.

Um, so on that note,

xx —-Merry Christmas!—- xx

Kylo Ren takes off his helmet. And his shirt. (Spoilers)

All the teasing, all the memes, that SNL sketch and the parody Twitter accounts took their toll on poor Kylo Ren. There is only so much all-round mockery an unhinged young Dark Sider can take.

Supreme Leader Ren will see you now.

Snoke huh? His faith in his apprentice, misplaced may have been. Snoke – the biggest, baddest guy in the galaxy, worse than Sidious, worse than Vader; his apprentice kills him with a two finger salute, a literal sleight of hand.

I mean, the creation and the appearance and the presence of Snoke ARE terrifying, but that’s it. He didn’t see it coming, like Han Solo. In fact, I think even Han had an inkling of what would happen when he stepped out on that teeny tiny, narrow bridge in The Force Awakens.

Of course Jedi is so twisty, I honestly kept expecting Snoke to force-knit himself back together after getting lightsabered through the middle. (Talking about smoking torsos, I can confirm Kylo Ren is shredded. Kylo Ren has an eight-pack.)

I’m a bit hazy straight after my first viewing, and I’m not sure when Kylo made the decision to snuff Snoke.

I think it was when he found out that Snoke had been arranging those Force FaceTimes between him and Rey, when Kylo thought it was just fate. Even in TFA, when Kylo wanted to be Rey’s ‘teacher’, it seemed he might be prepared to cast Snoke aside for her.

When Rey calls him ‘Ben’ he gives her a sulky side-eye and basically ignores it. Still so much angst. So far, we seem to have ascertained that Rey is Rey Random of non-famous parentage. Kylo’s a bit of a snot about it, as if it’s good of him to see her as an equal, what with his mom being a princess and all.

Great performance by Adam Driver.

I just can’t believe it’s been two years since the last Star Wars (one year if you count Rogue One, but somehow, I never seem to). There are many journeys and other strands to this huge and very long movie, and I’ll probably do a review in a week or so. For now, MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU!!

Star Wars goes Rogue

As I’m sure everyone knows, Rogue One is the true story of the previously unsung gang of rebels who swiped the plans to the original Death Star. At last, Earthlings (and anyone else watching) will know of their bravery.

Following The Force Awakens –  a fresh, vibrant remake of A New Hope that reassured audiences still badly traumatized by the prequel saga – Star Wars has delivered on its first standalone gamble.

Like everyone else, I read all about reshoots and clashes over the tone of the movie. Whatever went on, director Garth Edwards’ vision of a gritty war movie won out.

Angry loner Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is sprung from prison by the Rebel Alliance in order to exploit her connections to her Imperial scientist father Galen Erso. Ironically, the Rebel Alliance are less ‘Disney’ than before: their dashing captains bump off informants, while abandoned waifs like Jyn are sacrificed for the cause.

Edwards wanted Jyn to be different to other Star Wars heroines, citing Ripley from the Alien franchise as inspiration. I doubted Felicity would have the size and presence, but she nails the attitude and is a convincing leader to her ragtag gang of rebels.

My favourites were Donnie Yen as a blind Jedi-lite, Diego Luna as an aforementioned dashing captain, and Alan Tudyk’s sarcastic droid. Thanks to the weight of the franchise we feel like we have a stake in their fight.

The best thing though, is the return of a certain Sith Lord. It’s carnage. 

You’ll recall Vader never much liked the “technological terror” Death Star. More trouble than it’s worth, according to Vader. After the weapon is unleashed for the first time he tells Ben Mendelsohn’s ambitious Imperial that they’ll blag to the Senate that the city they just wiped out got blown up in a mining accident.

Now, I’m not up on my galactic politics, but wouldn’t the Death Star require significant funds that would have thrown up a few red flags in some kind of purchasing or planning committee? How do you keep that thing secret?!

Rogue One is not so much a lead-in to A New Hope as a broadside that either shows up all the original’s flaws or enhances it, I’m not sure. The fight scene between Vader and Obi-Wan has aged badly and now looks even worse after seeing the way Vader moves in Rogue One.

It always jarred that Tarkin was ‘holding Vader’s leash’ in the first movie, when we get all-out cool bad guy Vader #2 in Empire. Tarkin (actor Peter Cushing’s face rendered in pretty flawless CGI onto another actor’s body) seems to acknowledge Lord Vader’s talents in Rogue One, so I’m reinterpreting their New Hope relationship as one of grudging respect.

My verdict? I zoned out a bit throughout Rogue One, but the final 40 minutes are some of the most entertaining I’ve had watching a blockbuster. All future Star Wars standalones should feature Vader going berserk in the final five minutes.

leia

My favourite photo of Princess Leia, always.

 

About that Han Solo casting: who will Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke play?

clarke

Emilia Clarke/Instagram

Call it a “tremor in the force.” Ever since Disney announced plans to go ahead with a solo Han Solo project, reaction has been mixed. Harrison Ford’s advice for any would-be smugglers was simple: “Don’t do it.”

Yet every every young actor in Hollywood wanted the role that eventually went to Alden Ehrenreich. OK, Princess Leia would say he’s a bit short for a stormtrooper nerf herder, but here he is in Hail, Caesar! Impressive, most impressive…

After directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller landed the popular choice of Donald Glover for Lando, they added none other than Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke to the cast.

There is another…British brunette 

If you’ve never seen Emilia Clarke without her platinum wig, you might not have realized she’s actually a totally adorable brunette.  In fact, there’s been a crazy backlash over another dark-haired British actress following Daisy Ridley and Felicity Jones into the franchise.

Unsurprisingly we know little about her role yet, with the press release stating only that she will “round out a dynamic cast of characters Han and Chewie will encounter on their adventures.”

According to Variety she’s the female lead, meaning we can rule out pre-Original Trilogy Leia, who we know meets Han for the first time in A New Hope. Some say it could be Sana Starros from the Marvel comics, but if you check the character’s Wookieepedia page, it’s unlikely that’s the route they’d take with Clarke.

Lord and Miller apparently passed over Jessica Henwick (the tall, beautiful Sand Snake on GoT), Adria Arjona, Kiersey Clemons, Zoë Kravitz, Naomi Scott and Tessa Thompson.

I wonder what made Clarke attractive for the studio, other than the fact she has a starring role in arguably the most popular TV show around. I’ve been following the careers of the GoT crowd and there’s been a real push to make Clarke HAPPEN.

Her Broadway attempt (Breakfast at Tiffany’s) was roundly panned. Meanwhile, the Mother Of Dragons is a very tricky role that Clarke has never quite nailed, tending to fall back on blank stoicism and creepy smirks. Or in the case of the romantic weepie Me Before You, super super-expressiveness.

Perhaps it was her work in Terminator Genisys that dazzled the studio. I wouldn’t be surprised if her Solo character is some sort of cutesy bounty hunter/all-round bad ass with cool one-liners who shows the boys how it’s done.

Lord and Miller said Ehrenreich underwent an “audition pentathlon” to secure the role as Chewie’s best pal, and after the disastrous prequel-era casting, Star Wars execs are probably being very cautious.

Surely they couldn’t make a misstep with characters and hiring at this point?!

Let me know what you think of the way the Han Solo movie is shaping up. Are you a fan of Emilia’s acting? Which GoT star do you think will have the biggest career?

The Ballad of Ren and Rey

Star Wars: The Force Awakens has broken records, received stellar reviews and revitalized a much-loved franchise.

More importantly it gifted us Kylo Ren, formerly Ben Solo, son of Leia and Han, Master of the Knights of Ren and Creep of the First Order. He has become an internet sensation thanks to his tantrums, his sullen ambivalence and his rejection of his former identity.

Before the movie’s release we learned that Kylo idolized Darth Vader. It’s why he stomps around in a black mask that he doesn’t need. One early theory was that new heroine Rey was the child of Han and Leia. Kylo could have pursued her in the hopes of a dark side bride and little Vader great-grand babies.

Instead we learn that it is Kylo who is of Vader’s bloodline.

But he is very interested in Rey. He even sweeps her into his arms and carries her to his ship. When Rey taunts him and refers to him as a “creature” he pops his mask off and tosses his hair. “Don’t be afraid, I feel it too,” he smirks.

Rey has to pick her jaw up off the ground and re-assume her own mask – a mask of defiance.

Who is she? Technically, she’s just a scavenger abandoned on planet Jakku by her parents. She’s no one, but her relationship with Kylo may be central to his redemption.

Her lineage has become one of the big mysteries of The Force Awakens, and there are plenty of theories.

Rey and Ren are siblings

Well poor Han had no clue.

hansolo

Credit: Lucasfilm

Some people think he unburdened his fatherly guilt to Maz Kanata off-camera at her castle. But the reason we cut away in that scene is because the audience didn’t need to hear Han explain Rey’s backstory. “Han told me,” Maz says to Rey when the girl starts to explain that she needs to return to Jakku.

It’s possible Leia secretly had baby Rey and then stashed her for safe-keeping. But Luke and Leia were safely tucked away as babies. Leia grew up a princess on Alderaan, while Luke was raised by his aunt and uncle with Obi-Wan keeping a close eye.

As the novel Before the Awakening (published by Disney-Lucasfilm press) makes clear, Rey suffers an agonizing life, waking up every day starving.

Leia’s reaction to Rey is warm but ambiguous. She greets her with a hug because the girl cared for Han and saw him die, and because Leia can sense she is strong with the force.

But are Rey and Kylo siblings? I’d say no.

They’re cousins

Did Luke’s facial expression scream Skywalker family reunion?

luke

Credit: Lucasfilm

As Rey reached out to him, he looked like he was going to chuck himself off the cliff. It was like that time he jumped off a ledge in Cloud City when Vader propositioned him in Empire.

Vader begged him to join the dark side; Rey reaches out to him to rejoin the fight for the light. Episode VIII may reveal that Luke is her father. That’s not going to be shocking. And they could have done it in VII.

Comments from Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow hint that we might not get answers to Rey’s parentage until the end of the trilogy. That’s a long drawn out reveal when half the audience already think she’s Luke’s.

As for Kylo, cousin-rivalry will hardly have the pathos of the father-son duel in Return of the Jedi. Yes, Anakin’s old lightsaber calls to Rey, and she bests Kylo on Star Killer base. But it’s not really fair to play favourites with the grandkids, Ani.

The Kenobi connection

A lot of fans are sold on this one; Rey is the granddaughter of old Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi.

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LucasFilm

Why Kenobi? He was a mentor figure for Anakin and Luke, and this is the Skywalker family show, Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy has stated. (We already have a Skywalker – Ren).

Kenobi was long dead before the events of Jedi, and Rey was born after the Battle of Endor, so no way is she his daughter. But Kenobi could have had a child who went on to have Rey… It’s unwieldy. And again, Jakku is no place to hide a child for safe-keeping.

Kylo was likely named Ben after Kenobi. So he goes up against the granddaughter of his namesake, who may also be his cousin? It’s not really the “deeply and profoundly satisfying” ending Trevorrow has promised.

Empire, Jedi and Force Awakens co-writer Lawrence Kasdan has said that Episode VIII will be “some weird thing,” which possibly suggests a stranger answer than Rey-is-a-Kenobi…

She’s the Force, reborn…

ani

LucasFilm

Some people say the shadow of Vader looms over Rey.

Rey picked up piloting and force skills so quickly both Han and then Kylo looked at her with amazement. But perhaps this isn’t Rey’s first rodeo. Yup, she’s the Rey-incarnation of Anakin/Vader.

Maybe after Anakin brought balance to the force, he saw his grandson fall to the dark side. He made the sacrifice to return and redeem him, the way Luke saved Vader. Anakin/Vader is the one person whom Kylo would listen to – he’s been begging his grandfather to speak to him, to show him guidance.

Trevorrow said: “Rey is a character that is important in this universe, not just in the context of The Force Awakens, but in the entire galaxy.”

But even in a story about space wizards, telekinesis and ghosts, the fact is that reincarnation is considered silly.

REVIEW: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Through The Force Awakens, things you will see, other places. The future….the past. Old friends long gone. Friends like Han Solo, Luke, Leia and Chewbacca. Even the Millennium Falcon is back in action (and being disrespected) again.

Thirty years after Return of the Jedi, the New Republic has formed a Resistance under Princess-turned-General Leia to do battle with the First Order, an organisation birthed from the evil Empire and led by a Supreme Leader Snoke.

Unlike the video game demo experience of the prequels, everything onscreen looks tangible again. The force is refreshed with a blazing lightsabre duel in a snow-covered forest, and performances from new actors who form the core of director J.J Abrams’ movie.

Ex Machina’s Oscar Isaac and Domnhall Gleeson appear on opposite sides – Gleeson as sneering Snoke underling General Hux, and Isaac as wisecracking Resistance pilot Poe Dameron, who makes fun of Vader wannabe Kylo Ren straight to his (masked) face.

Poe’s trolling of Ren (Adam Driver) is the first clue that the new dark side force-user isn’t a cool killing machine like Vader (although he could teach a master class on throwing a good tantrum).

Gwendoline Christie’s stormtrooper Captain Phasma is underused – although Game of Thrones fans will no doubt recognise steadfast warrior Brienne’s distinctive voice under that chrome bucket.

Lupita Nyong’o brings warmth and eccentricity to the picture as stop motion character Maz Kanata, and not one person could walk out of a movie theatre and not be a fan of adorable roly-poly droid BB8.

The freshest face, Daisy Ridley, as Rey, is revealed to be the main protagonist, and she leaps off the screen with her athleticism and energy. Abandoned on a tough planet as a child, she befriends runaway stormtrooper Finn (a lively John Boyega) and comes into her own in a way that will send fans into a tailspin, either good or bad.

The dialogue occasionally feels a little clunky, and you could accuse Abrams of playing it safe and echoing A New Hope too closely, but only if you ignore the new mysteries set in motion here.

If this is the force when it awakens, it will be interesting to see it when it strikes into darker, more alien territory with Episode VIII.

Not perfect, but entertaining and fun.

Heroines in space entertainment: Star Wars, Gravity, Prometheus

[*Update 20/10/16* I’m hoping more readers will find this post as we approach the release of Rogue One, which, like The Force Awakens, will star another female lead. Will Jyn Erso be as big a success as Daisy Ridley’s Rey?]

The Force Awakens is released this week!

And the latest installment of Star Wars looks set to have more active and intriguing female characters than either the originals or the prequels. Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o and Game of Thrones’ Gwendoline Christie will appear alongside the female lead, newcomer Daisy Ridley.

The production has been shrouded in secrecy, so little is known about their roles – but in honour of The Force Awakens, here are my favourite movies set among the stars, and the heroines they feature…

Prometheus (2012) 

It probably helps that I’m no scientist.

In fact, I was terrified of the school lab because of all the stories other pupils told me about accidental immolation and experiments gone wrong. Besides, the teacher was as scary as the Engineer Noomi Rapace tangles with in this Alien prequel.

Perhaps because of my unscientific bent, I can ignore some of the sillier twists, errors and logical issues in Prometheus.

I mean, I can appreciate that having an 8ft alien land on your abdomen after you’ve had a caesarean might hurt a bit more than it seems to here. Or that hand-to-hand combat, rappelling and running might be a tad impossible after surgery.

But while Rapace’s archaeologist Elizabeth Shaw isn’t as hard-as-nails as Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley (the “no weapons” stance to exploring an alien planet is annoying), she is a woman of epic determination.

She leads an expedition of doomed idiots to answer the biggest question of all: Why are we here?

Once the feeble team have been picked off, she dusts herself down and as the only mortal survivor of Prometheus she continues her quest for knowledge and truth.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The Danish pastry hair buns debuted by Leia in Star Wars and the metal bikini she wore in Jedi are iconic. But I’ve always admired the white jumpsuit and loopy-braid hairdo combo she showcased on Bespin’s Cloud City, complete with blaster.

It’s a practical but chic get-up for her roles as soldier, spy, royal and diplomat.

Despite Carrie Fisher’s recent admission that she was, in fact, higher than the stars when she filmed Empire, Leia is at her best in this movie.

In the first film she’s a brash rebel who witnesses her entire home planet destroyed. By the final film, although still committed to her cause, she appears softer – much like Padme in Revenge of the Sith.

In Empire she is as combative as Han Solo, while starting to show actual feelings for the scene-stealing smuggler.

And given what we’ve been told about the development of the Star Wars plot, there are some uncertain nods to her true identity and origins.

While her brother has a reputation as one of cinema’s greatest whiners, and there are real moments where it looks like the men might not make it, there’s never any doubt Leia is a survivor.

Gravity (2013)

Watching Sandra Bullock spin through space, I unfortunately discovered that Gravity triggers vertigo, so it’s definitely not one I can go back to watch again and again.

Balance issues aside, this is a beautiful and thoughtful drama. Given the hype, the seven Oscars, and the theme of sheer adversity, I wasn’t expecting the movie to be so tender.

Grief-stricken following the loss of her young daughter, newbie astronaut Dr Ryan Stone finds herself stranded after debris wrecks her space shuttle. She must contend with a dwindling air supply, no communications with mission control and the loss of George Clooney.

Gravity is not sci-fi, and the fact that Stone is from our own present-day earth with our real technological limits makes her even more engaging than a character in a futuristic or fantastical setting.

Stone is self-reliant. She is human. She hallucinates and loses the will to live – and then summons it again.

The movie’s message is never give up, and that through perseverance you can achieve the impossible.