Does the title of the post say it all or should I explain more? Ok, here we go. Just be aware that I will be spoiling this film in my writeup. So beware: HERE COME THE SPOILERS! Click off the post if you’ve not seen it yet, as I will be spoiling this film!!
Star Wars is probably the most sacred of all the movie franchises. The original trilogy set the standard for modern film sagas and redefined fandoms for entertainment franchises. The special editions of the original trilogy released in 1997 and the Prequel trilogy tarnished the franchise, but it still made millions of dollars and introduced a younger generation to the few good things of the new trilogy and the brilliance of the original trilogy. After Revenge of the Sith was released in 2005, Star Wars entered a weird phase. There was an animated movie and television series entitled “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” that showed how the timeframe showed in the Prequel films was not a bad era to look at, the live action Prequel films were just bad. The animated Clone Wars movie wasn’t good, but the TV show was a great time and reminded people how awesome Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker can be. The franchise persisted in good entertainment, but the meat of the franchise, the live action films, lay dormant with little hope of Episode VII ever seeing the light of a camera’s iris.
Then Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, and the world waited with baited breath for a new film. Then a trailer for The Force Awakens released in late 2014, and we passionate Star Wars nerds lost our minds. In late 2015, the newest film hit theatres and it made billions of dollars, entertained audiences the world over, and made Star Wars the biggest name in movies again. I saw it twice in theatres and loved it both times. After letting it settle in and seeing it again in the spring with a friend to analyze it in great detail, information of the direction of the franchise came out. The decision was made to make as much Star Wars as humanly possible. The Star Wars Anthology series was announced, and the first film was to be the story of how the rebellion got the plans to the original Death Star.
I went to see Rogue One for the first time on Monday. I went by myself, so I could nerd out and try to analyze the film by myself. Also I have a fascination with seeing movies in the theatre on my own, but that’s for another post. My initial response was wildly positive. I’ll admit that much of my reaction was a wild, fanboy style raving after Darth Vader’s appearance to end the movie, but I still had plenty of things to enjoy beyond that. I ended up seeing it again tonight, this time with my parents and brother. I turned a more critical eye to the film and my reaction was still positive, but more aware of the failings of the film.
I’ll give my criticisms of the film to start. First, there are several characters that are misused. Saw Gerrera is the biggest missed chance. Forest Whitaker was given an interesting character to work with, but they didn’t do anything with a talented actor and Clone Wars veteran. He saves Jyn Erso in the start of the film, disappears, reappears as a part of an offshoot of the rebellion, passes a message onto Jyn after being paranoid about people looking for him, and then decides to “stop running” and accepts his death when the Death Star destroys the city of Jeddah. There was so much more they could’ve done for him, and they wasted all of it.
Next, the use of CGI to give Peter Cushing life and Carrie Fisher youth is troubling. If I didn’t think about it, I wouldn’t have noticed that Grand Moff Tarkin, played by the now deceased Peter Cushing, was created by motion capture CGI. It is convincing, but concerning. We can effectively bring back characters we like from the dead and never allow actors to die if we can make things like this happen. The character was fine, and the motivation he gave To Krennic was compelling and excellent. But the implications are problematic. CGI Leia was completely unecessary. She should never have been in the movie. She was distracting, annoying, and ham-fisted. It was unnecessary, to be generous.
In that vein, there was a little too much fan service. Unused tape of Red and Gold Leaders from A New Hope, the guy who Obi-Wan dismembers in the bar at Mos Eisley, the AT-ATs and AT-STs, the excuse for Luke being Red Five in the next chronological film, R2-D2 and C-3PO randomly showing up on Yavin 4, the visuals from the original trilogy, and Darth Vader being awesome. And I left pieces out. It was a little much.
That ultimately feeds into the biggest criticism of the movie, it is much too safe. It relies on X-wings fighting against TIE Fighters, shooting down Star Destroyers, ligtsabers, and taking on the Death Star. The Force Awakens drew criticism for being a rehash of A New Hope, but I don’t think too highly of that criticism, considering the need to revitalize the series. Rogue One didn’t need to revitalize the series. It needed to take a risk and be a departure from the standard of the franchise. My brother and I wanted a true espionage film in the Star Wars, something like Oceans Eleven with a bit of Mission Impossible thrown in, all of this in the Star Wars universe. What we got was a fil that played it much too safe and stuck to an already established style of film making, tone, premise, and set of characters.
One last nitpick. The romantic subtext between Cassien and Jyn in the third act was entirely unnecessary and unearned. There was no purpose for it, no reason for it to be there with the cast being killed off, and out of place considering the events of the second act. I think it could be removed and we would miss absolutely none of it.
All that said, I still think it’s a good film, certainly one of the best I watched this year. The cinematography is very nice, the music sounds Star Warsy (if that’s even a word), and the pieces are there for a great movie. The relationship between Jyn and Galen Urso is interesting, the action is engrossing, Bode is a fun character, K2SO is a funny character, Donny Yen adds legitimacy to the film with his reverence for the Force in a world without the Jedi, and Cassidan has a good character arc.
The villains are very good. Krennic is an evil character with just enough compelling and relatable moments, like being overshadowed by Tarkin stealing his position, but he is still good at being disliked by the audience. Despite my concerns about how he was put in the film, I like Tarkin as a character. I find him to be well written, slimy, and a compelling military man that works for his persona. The highlight and most confusing piece of the film for me is Darth Vader. On one hand, OH MY GOD DARTH VADER JUST WIPPED A BUNCH OF REBEL SCUM OFF THE FACE OF THE GALAXY!!!!! THAT IS SO AWESOME!!!!! It does raise a few questions, but I’m going to look past this and just appreciate how we get to see Vader destroy the opposition. It is confusing to me how he’s only in 3 scenes and not a bigger prescience, but I am good with what we got.
I like most of the characters, and the pieces are all interesting on their own. While the execution is only ok, there is plenty to like and be happy with. I only hope that Episode VIII will actually take a few risks and give us a Star Wars film we haven’t seen yet. Until then, I will enjoy this fan service crafted into an action filled, complete, and enjoyable film that enhances the Original trilogy in a way that the Prequel trilogy only wishes it could. If you’re not a Star Wars fan and decided to ignore the spoilers block at the start of the post, then you will like the film. It’s worth the general public’s money. Now we wait for another year until Episode VIII is released!