How to cosplay like Princess Leia

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Photograph courtesy Muzammil Majeed

A historic event happened just two weeks ago – the first Middle East Film and Comic Con took place in Dubai, UAE.

See all the pictures from the two-day event here.

I won’t go into detail about what happened; I’m hoping the pictures are sufficient. I will say though, that if you like John Rhys-Davies, Luciana Carro, Jason Momoa, Mark Sheppard and Max Landis, you WILL enjoy those photographs.

The second day of the event, I’d decided to cosplay as Princess Leia from Star Wars.

After months of being asked the same question over and over again when…wait, just read:

XYZ-person: “Oh are you cosplaying for MEFCC?”
Me: “Yes! As Princess Leia.”
*pause*
XYZ-person: “The…uhh…gold bikini?”

I quickly learned my answer needed to be this: “Yes! As Princess Leia from A New Hope, NOT the Jabba’s lair version.”

I still got gold bikini comments though. 

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Photograph courtesy Carlin Gerbich

So HOW does one get the Princess Leia look?

First, don’t do what I did, which was make my Mom run around Dubai’s shops looking for a white dress that could work. For one, that can make your Mom slightly annoyed (mine wasn’t thank goodness, but I could sense through the Force she was soon to be), and second, you will not find it even if you do look. Honestly, we looked and looked and looked, and NOTHING looked right.

What you should do instead is this:

  • Google Image Search “Princess Leia white dress” and print off images that look closest to the look you want and as large as possible
  • Procure a mother like mine who, without me asking her, comes up to me and hands me her 6-yard white sari and says, “Make your dress from this.” Alternatively, go to Meena Bazaar or Satwa and find white cloth. Coz let’s face it, my Mom is something awesome.
  • Also buy “butter crepe” the same colour as your dress material, for lining.

AND NOW FOR THE MOST IMPORTANT BIT:

  • Call this number 050 349 2209 or email bhambra.preeti@gmail.com. Save this number because it is the single most important thing this blog post is giving you. That number will lead you to Mrs Rani Kaur, who is my friend Gurvinder aka Preeti Bhambra’s mother, who stitches like something out of a dream. Her fitting is perfect, her ability to sense what you want and how you want it is impeccable, and it doesn’t cost you a bomb.

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Photograph courtesy Carlin Gerbich

She took one look at the photographs, and I could see her creative brain whirring away. I came back a few days later and the dress was ready! Also, the belt I used is Gurvinder’s, so having cool friends with awesome accessories also helps.

Now for the hair.

  • Find a friend like Shruti who, like my mother, just comes up to me and says, “Find me a YouTube tutorial and I’ll do your hair.”
  • Find one that involves socks. Like this:
  • Realize that while it takes three minutes in the video, it will actually take close to an hour.
  • Find clean socks.
  • Become the Princess when the buns are done!

It was a lot of fun cosplaying; also because so many people recognized who I was meant to be, and came up to me. I took pictures with Yoda, Chewbacca, along with random visitors at the event who asked if they could click my picture, if I could stand in a picture alongside their kids (yes, really!), and the best part was when two people came up to me at different times and said, “Your costume is the best we’ve seen throughout the event.”

And for that, I shall thank (in Oscar-acceptance speech style): my Mom for the white sari and introducing me to Star Wars, my friend Gurvinder and her Mom for the awesome work on creating the dress, and Shruti for completing the final piece of the Leia puzzle and making me rock my buns.

In other news, Star Wars day is coming up… May The Fourth…and there’s an event to celebrate it. Click this link for more info on NerdyCon DXB 2012. I’ll be there, though not in costume. I’ll be in one of my awesome MEFCC t-shirts I bought: “Luke Habibi I am your father” or “Shou Droids?”

See you there, and may the Force be with you. Always.

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Flying towards my Star Wars obsession…

When I was a little girl, watching movies about something called the Force, and a black-clad man who breathed as if through a ventilator, and watched a little green thing mix up his sentence construction, little did I know my passion obsession for it would leave me on a plane on a journey 7-8 hours away just to attend a weekend dedicated to the world of Star Wars.

When this post publishes, I’ll probably be near London, or already landed.
This is another birthday present to myself: a long trip to the UK. But I never would’ve taken the initiative to organize this trip for myself had a little newsletter not popped up in my inbox. I don’t often subscribe to them; I find many of them annoying. Indeed, when I signed up for the Guardian Masterclass newsletter, I had no idea where it would take me. I sometimes don’t even read the newsletters that come winging my way; the ‘delete’ button is my friend. But I did click on a particular one that arrived on November 29, 2011 and was titled: “Enrol now for Star Wars weekend in Scotland”.
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Since then I was hooked. I kept thinking about whether I could make it happen. Could I afford it? Was it worth it? But I missed UK far too much… I left the country on January 27, 2011 (that date is embedded in my mind), with a heavy heart. I fell in love with the UK and after not having seen my friends or been there for months, I knew this was a reason to go back on holiday. Plane tickets booked, friends informed, and visa in hand … I was ready.
But why would I go for a Star Wars weekend? Simply because I love the Star Wars ‘verse. Here’s a quick glimpse of the things I have or the places I’ve been or the events I’ve gone for that fill the geeky me with glee:
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  • My second Star Wars poster, which I got for a cool 99p at the most awesome store ever, Forbidden Planet
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  • My third Star Wars poster…can’t even remember when I got this!
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  • A magic Star Wars cube, which I picked up while rummaging through the dusty labyrinths of Camden (no picture, sorry!)
  • My McDs Happy Meal toy: double-sided lightsaber

 

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  • I even have the book of the movies!
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  • My re-mastered Star Wars DVD set
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  • My old Star Wars re-mastered VHS tapes, and…
  • My even older Star Wars VHS tapes…and…
  • Revenge of the Sith on DVD
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  • My Star Wars t-shirt from Camden
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  • My other Star Wars t-shirt from a travelling sci-fi fair in Sheffield
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  • Yoda
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  • Star Wars Monopoly set
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  • Star Wars bumper sticker: “My other ride is an X-Wing”
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  • Star Wars iPad decal…ON MY iPad!
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  • My customised Empire Darth Vader notebook (btw if anyone can get me a copy of that iconic breathing cover, PLEASE let me know…would really appreciate it!)
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I probably have some more things about somewhere, but this is all that comes to mind right now. Here’s to an awesome weekend, and learning a lot more about the movies that have such an ingrained part of my life.
May the Force be with us all

– Darth Devina (as Ayub called me when he saw the engraving on my iPad)

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Book-to-movie adaptations; what do authors think about it? An @EmiratesLitFest panel.

An author, whom I must admit I hadn’t heard of before this year’s LitFest*, said something I whole-heartedly agreed with:

“It’s almost blasphemous to say this in a panel of writers, but a bad adaptation is when the movie is literal.” – Tom Rob Smith

*I shall add, Tom Rob Smith, that I’ve since purchased your book Child 44 and hope to dive into it soon.

He was speaking amidst the film panel at the Emirates Litfest 2012, on Friday, March 9. This was also my first session this year, and I’m happy to say I felt the weekend would go well with such a cracking start.

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The panel consisted of Smith, Mark Billingham, Nicholas Sparks (whose solo session I already blogged about) and Chan Koonchung, and was chaired by Paul Blezard.

Movies and TV shows are such an integral part of my life; I’ve got rows and rows of (original) DVDs lining the shelves in my living room, and I’ve been known to maniacally click on Amazon.co.uk’s Black Friday deals two years in a row now – the first year I came away with the entire boxed collection of Agatha Christie’s Poirot, and the second time got Star Trek: The Original Series.

Poirot is perhaps a good starting point. Based on the books by whodunnit writer extraordinaire Agatha Christie, the TV-movies are mostly excellent adaptations of her stories. But not all movies get it right.

My friends know I quite love the Harry Potter series. But I’ve no qualms in admitting the first two movies in the franchise were, to me, absolutely awful. Why? One massive reason stood out amongst others: it was too literal. Which is what Smith said.

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He went on to add that, in his opinion, the novel was the product, whereas the screenplay of the movie was the template. Sparks agreed with Smith and said as an author, one should be willing to see the movie “can be different from the novel”.

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And while movies that strike a chord with people leads them to seek the inspiration behind the story, for example the book it was based on, Blezard posed a question on whether the reverse was true…whether bad movies reflected badly on the authors of the book.

Sparks said not. “No one associates the movie with the book if the movie is bad, but if the film is good you get a bump. They are like commercials for your book-writing career if they are done well.” Sparks has three of his books in various stages of movie production at present.
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The problem with getting a movie to be an excellent adaptation is the essence of time. Blezard put it well; he conducted an experiment of sorts with a friend and here’s what he got out of it: “The average novel is about 120,000 words and it contains 700-800 events. The average movie is 120 minutes long and has 70-80 events and that’s why you lose so much of the essence of the book.”

Billingham had a similar point of view, I imagine, when he said short stories make better movies than novels, “because often great movies are the best of the heart of the novel than anything else.”

The authors agreed that getting to the essence of the book was important for getting a good movie; Sparks even commented on how the movie version of The Notebook was different from the book in treatment, that is, the life of the lead characters when they were young was given more air time than it was present in the book. Yet, he liked the movie because the essence of the book was captured.

I’m really glad the authors had to say this, because I’ve often had to deal with loyalists of books like Harry Potter, for example, who rant and rail about how the movie took liberty with the story, but from the third movie onwards, I’m so glad they did because clearly making it literal was just plain bad (an exception to this is in the last movie when I was actually really upset about how Voldemort was killed, but a minor quiffle after eight movies is not too bad, innit?).

When asked to pick their favourite book-to-movie adaptations, here’s what we got:
  • Smith – Jurassic Park
  • Billingham – Jaws and the Godfather series
  • Koonchung: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • Sparks: Forrest Gump
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There was a bit of a hilarious discussion on how important an author on a movie set really is. Billingham said the writer probably comes below the caterer in the grand scheme of things. He added that most movie production teams ask if the writer wants to get involved and secretly hope they won’t get involved at all.

Even another session with YA horror author Darren Shan, later in the day, brought up the topic of movies. I haven’t seen the film myself, but Shan seemed surprised he was happy with it. He said: “I didn’t think I would like it (the movie), but I did. It wasn’t perfect but it was a nice freaky film. But I really liked the manga adaptation.”

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Going back to the film panel, I really enjoyed the discussion that morning – along with discussing what the authors think of their books being brought to life, there was a lot of insight on how the film industry works and the lack of 100% control these authors have over the screenplay.

A lively session, which I’m glad, as a movie-buff and bookworm, I attended.

Movie Review – Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows

Many who have grown up reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes may not recognize the character in the movie version. Holmes in the movie is snappier, more prone to action, and so much more debonair.

When the first installment in the series came out in 2009, it enthralled. The second one is interesting, but in a different way. Game of Shadows has no substantial story to speak of (the movie’s storylines have nearly nothing to do with the ones we have read in the books). It’s basic: Professor Moriarty is unleashing himself on the world, with the dastardly plan of causing the first World War before its time and Holmes takes it on himself to stop him.

The actors slip into their roles easily. Robert Downey Jr is still the rogue-ish Holmes, and his banter with Jude Law’s Watson still making us chuckle. Rachel McAdams is wasted in her miniscule appearance as Irene Adler. Stephen Fry steps in to Mycroft Holmes feet and has his moments. Noomi Rapace is cast as a gypsy whom Moriarty is trying to kill for various reasons but fails to impress. Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) appears…but you blink and he’s gone. Kelly Reilly rounds up Holmes’ supporters as Watson’s wife. Which brings us to Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty. When you see the trailers, he does not look like he can be menacing at all. He’s not. I was yearning for Mark Strong’s eerie and chilling portrayal of Lord Blackwood. Don’t get me wrong; Harris does his job well…but I’m not scared of him. And I want to be.

Guy Ritchie picks up the pace from the first movie and runs faster. The slow-motion sequences are aplenty, but the most eye-catching and attention-grabbing being a chase sequence set in a forest. Its direction lends a different viewpoint and indeed, a clearer idea, of what happens when the guns are blazing and people are running for their lives. By one point though, the amount of slow-motion shots in the movie make you want to close your eyes and wait for it to be over.

It’s not really a detective story by this point, but more an action adventure. There is a quick nod to The Final Problem but that’s as close to the books as you’re going to get.

As Holmes himself said: “It’s so overt, it’s covert.”

“You want to update…Twitter?”

“I bring you to a paradise planet two billion light-years from earth and you want to update… twitter?”

“I bring you to a paradise planet two billion light-years from earth and you want to update… twitter?”

A non-timey wimey quote that made me chuckle… To be fair to Amy Pond, I’d want to update Twitter too!

Dialogue goes like this:

Amy: Have you seen my phone?

The Doctor: Your phone?

Amy: Yeah.

The Doctor: Your mobile telephone. I bring you to a paradise planet two billion light-years from Earth and you want to update… Twitter?

Amy: Sunsets, spires, soaring silver colonnades. It’s a camera phone.

The Doctor: On the counter by the DVDs.

Amy: Thank you.

Top 100 sci-fi icons of the 21st century? Yeah I’m buying that.

It was slightly over a month ago when my Nathan Fillion-nut friend @TDAllonsy tweeted this to me:

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And when I clicked on that truly shiny link, I reached here. After eagerly reading the witty interview with Nathan Fillion, lo and behold! There was a link to buy an SFX special! The Top 100 Sci-Fi Icons of the 21st Century. Oh my. Should I buy it? Should I sent it to my friend in London, then get it whenever she comes to Dubai next?

Nah, I couldn’t wait.

A few days back, there was mail for me. I’d all but forgotten I’d bought the magazine. Then when I opened the package, I squealed. It was here!

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Should I wait for a few da— nah, I’m reading it now.

Starting from 100, it’s hauntingly familiar, for which I’m glad. No sci-fi geek wants to pick up a magazine that claims to list the top 100 sci-fi icons and find s/he can’t recognize anyone! NOT A SCI-FI GEEK NOW, ARE YOU?!

Luckily, I’m still one. I start with this:

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100 – Scorpius from Farscape. Then I see 98 – Annie from Being Human. Then Baby Doll from Sucker Punch. Memories flood though me. How I discovered Farscape. How I started watching Being Human when I lived in UK, holed up in my flat, loving the idea of ghosts, werewolves and vampires. How I won tickets to see Sucker Punch in Dubai and thinking that movie would make an awesome game. Sci-fi memories. Personal memories. Even painful ones really.

I carry on. Through the nineties I see superheroes, aliens, vampires. Moving to the eighties, there’s a powerful wizard, Gollum, people from Torchwood and Doctor Who (a recent discovery of mine), and so on. I trawl through the list, eagerly lapping up characters I know and love, and marking down TV series or movies I need to watch when I don’t recognize someone.

Then, this took me back to when I was a kid.

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I loved watching Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) and Xena (Lucy Lawless) on Dubai’s Channel 33. Xena was probably the first time I realized concepts such as lesbianism existed. Even though the censor board here chopped anything inappropriate, innuendo stays on, doesn’t it? The series shows it’s okay to be gay. Even Xena’s doing it.

I move on. I see characters from Buffy! Angel! Supernatural! Star Trek! Harry Potter! Star Wars! LOTR! Misfits! Firefly! So, so much more!

And then the finalé! The wonderful end… Nathan Fillion. He beat the Doctor! And after watching Doctor Who, let me tell you, the Doctor is hard to beat. There’s also an interview with Fillion, different to the one linked above.

There was also this double-sided poster in the magazine:

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…of which currently, I can see the cast, smiling at me from above my desk in my room.

I finished reading, completely satisfied. Well…almost.

In the magazine, you get to see so many advertisements for sci-fi events happening in the UK. I feel a stab of pain knowing I was unable to hit some of those during my stay there.

I know the Middle East Film and Comic Con is coming up sometime this year – don’t ask me when! The organizers have hidden this secret better than Voldemort’s hidden Horcruxes. Anyway, I know the event is happening soon, and while I couldn’t be more excited, I seriously wish for more event organizers to realize, and tap into, the immense sci-fi market in this region.

I’ve even managed to convince a group of friends to come costume shopping. Yep, we’re cosplaying for the show. I’m planning to be Princess Leia (and since I’ve been getting the ridiculous follow-up question every time I say this…I’ll answer it first: No, not the gold bikini version from Return of the Jedi; it’s going to be the white dress from A New Hope) and I’ve got a few elves and Jayne Cobb for company. Might even get an Inara if the potential cosplayer gets her head around being a space-age “companion”.

So if I haven’t spelled it out enough: we’re a sci-fi mad market. We’re here. We’re hungry for more. So…how about you give it to us?

Review – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (Part 2) | The Graduate Times

Review – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (Part 2)

Devina Divecha reviews the highly anticipated final installment in the Harry Potter series – CAUTION – SOME SPOILERS

Review – Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (Part 2)

★★★★☆

It’s the last bow for The Boy Who Lived. Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), along with his friends Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), work towards finding the remaining Horcruxes (the objects that have pieces of Voldemort’s soul in them) and destroying them.

Being the last film in an epic series spanning 10 years, there are a lot of expectations from this movie. Have David Yates, the director, and Steve Kloves, the screenwriter, made it worth the wait?

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 takes off where the first one left us: Dobby’s death and Voldemort finding The Elder Wand in Dumbledore’s grave. The film gives us about ten minutes of peace, and from then on viewers are taken on a rollercoaster ride.

Harry, Ron and Hermione embark on robbing Gringotts Wizarding Bank, having an encounter with a dragon, and then facing the Death Eaters in not one, but two battles at Hogwarts. Voldemort and his Death Eaters are there every step of the way to foil the trio’s plans. And we get to see almost every member of the Harry Potter series since it started, making blink-and-you-miss-them and cameo appearances.

The lead actors have grown so much from when we first saw them in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Radcliffe, Grint and Watson have grown into fine young actors. I’ve always had a problem with Watson’s acting, but I couldn’t fault her this time. A special mention goes out to Helena Bonham Carter, who got Watson’s portrayal of Hermione down to a tee, in the scenes where Hermione is disguised as Bellatrix Lestrange.

Dame Maggie Smith shone as Professor McGonagall, her quips making me laugh: “I’ve always wanted to use that spell!” or, “…had a particular proclivity for pyrotechnics”. The famous “Not my daughter, you bitch!” scene between Molly Weasley (Julie Walters) and Lestrange (Bonham Carter) was anti-climactic, as it felt rushed, chopped and not given its due attention.

Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape makes many cry in this one, where the truth of his character’s innocence is revealed, along with his undying love for Lily Potter. Ralph Fiennes is inspired as Voldemort; he is chilling, as well as awe-inspiring. He truly makes you think of the line: “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things. Terrible things, but great.”

The battle sequences are nothing short of fantastic – we see Hogwarts and its surrounding areas in a larger scale than ever before. Kudos to the set designers. In addition, seeing the movie in 3D has its benefits: Nagini the snake, the dragon, and the Dementors look even better and menacing than we could have ever hoped.

There are a few details that have been changed, but it can be brushed away by the benefits it brings to the movie adaptation. However, there is one major scene in the movie where viewers are left feeling underwhelmed, and many may have cried out: “Wait? THAT’S IT?”  I know I did.

One major gripe aside, the final instalment in the series is a worthy one. It is full of action, emotion, and excellent performances. Goodbye Harry Potter.

 

Review – X Men: First Class

With many prequels failing the expectations of viewers, I’ve tried to go into a prequel not expecting a single thing. X-Men: First Class however, magnified what little expectations I did have and blew them out into space. This movie was an entertaining, slick and enjoyable watch.

It traces the roots of the characters we’ve already seen in the X-Men movies till date. It starts where the first X-Men film did, in 1944, showing a young boy separated from his parents, and taken into a Nazi concentration camp. There young Erik Lensherr (to-be Magneto) meets Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) who, like the Emperor in Star Wars, creates the X-Men world’s Anakin Skywalker, a young man angered by the death of his mother.

The plotline shows how the paths of Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) and young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) cross, how they become friends, how they learn to control their powers together and undergo a bromance that isn’t at all sappy or apparent. The two join forces with the government to stop the imminent threat of Shaw’s megalomaniac plans, with Lensherr having his own personal agenda on the cards. There are other mutants thrown in for good measure – we see the origins of Mystique, or Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) as she used to be called, Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and more.

In the process of fighting against the mutant threat, a rift is created between the two close friends and Magneto and Professor X are born from the ashes.

Why does the movie work? It has a fantastic story, the actors fit the characters like a well-made glove and the special effects are in no way overdone or tacky. McAvoy is a slightly cocky yet innocent Xavier, one who has not yet seen what the world can do, or what mutants can do. Fassbender is a wonderful Magneto; you almost feel sorry for him and wish he’d stay on the good side, even if it’s just to see the lovely friendship between his character and McAvoy’s continue. Lawrence as the vulnerable Raven/Mystique trying to fit into the world that won’t accept anything or anyone different is impressive. Bacon was slightly disappointing in the latter half of the movie, although his turn as the Nazi officer is chilling. Rose Byrne as Moira MacTaggert, the human CIA agent is the only one who believes in helping the mutants, and does well. The rest of the supporting cast played their roles well.

There are two blink-and-you-miss-them cameo appearances by cast members of the X-Men 1-3 movies, so watch out for those. A word of warning to those expecting a teaser scene at the end of the credits: there isn’t one this time.

All in all, a fascinating watch that makes viewers hope that there will be more prequels coming along especially if this is how they’re going to do it. Kudos to the director Michael Vaughn and the writers for giving us a great movie at the start of the summer.