“… not a bad movie, but it’s not flawless either.”
Just a heads up: this review may contain spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Proceed at your own risk.
So I finally got around to seeing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (referred to from here on out as Rogue One) and it was pretty much what I expected. The film takes placed right before Star Wars Episode IV, and it follows the crew who managed to steal the plans for the Death Star.
At least that’s what I thought the movie was about. I may have been naive in thinking that by Disney deciding to expand the Star Wars Universe that we would get movies that felt different. For example, I wanted Rogue One to be like a heist film, or even just an action-packed ride similar to the “heists” that are accomplished in the Fast and Furious films. But, all I got was another Star Wars film. By this I mean, the movie wasn’t really about stealing the plans for the Death Star, that’s just an idea that gets brought up in the last 30 minutes of the film and even initially gets shot down. No, this film is about Jyn Erso, who is yet another rapscallion who is really good at fighting and is the only hope of the universe. The film opens up with a shot of young Jyn (and then a shot of her mother) and her family as they get accosted by some asshole who works with the Empire. Jyn’s dad is going to design the Death Star. The rest of the film follows adult Jyn as she is captured by someone, then “saved” (read: re-captured by the Rebels), then immediately used as a pawn to meet a really old robot dude. Once they all meet this robot man (who by the way, sounds like absolute shit), then they have to find Jyn’s father. By the time all of this is accomplished, I felt like we had experienced most of Jyn’s story. It wasn’t a particularly strong story, but it was a story nonetheless. Then at the very end of the film they realize that the movie was marketed as a story about stealing the Death Star plans; so paying no attention to all of the shit that happened before, they go and do that. It may sound like I really hated this movie, but I didn’t I just felt like the pacing was all kinds of fucked due to the fact that they not only wanted to have a movie about stealing the plans for the Death Star, but also because they had to shove another origin story in there.
Rogue One is the first of the “non-Star Wars” Star Wars movies, and because of that someone decided to not have an opening crawl. I appreciate that someone at Disney obviously wants to keep the Star Wars brand “pure” by doing things such as only allowing opening crawls on movies that continue the main story, but it’s like they forgot that George Lucas spent the better part of his life milking this fucking franchise until nothing but dust was coming out. I’m no expert, but I would say that it’s a little too fucking late to try and save the integrity of your brand when everything from shitty cartoons to fucking rolls of toilet paper have been brandished to death with its image. Not having an opening crawl is just fucking weird. It’s like having a dream where something just sin’t right, but you can’t put your finger on it. Except I could absolutely pinpoint why this one felt weird, and that’s because it didn’t feel like a Star Wars movie. I didn’t have that huge opening crawl with the wonderful score filling my ears, instead I got a rather boring origin scene which easily could have been summed up in two sentences. Despite trying to distance itself from other Star Wars films, Rogue One wanted to be as close as possible to the original Star Wars. This makes sense seeing as Rogue One is a direct lead-in to Episode IV; but the bump in the road comes along when you realize that not all of the actors are available to reprise their roles. That’s right, we’re going to be talking about motherfucking Tarkin. Grand Moff Tarkin is a very important character in the original trilogy, and therefore he needed to be in Rogue One. The master plan that someone came up with was to make a completely CGI version of him, and have him act in the film. Now, I’m not even going to discuss the moral implications of this decision, I’m just going to talk about how it impacts the movie. And unfortunately it looked like absolute shit. Now I will admit that CGI has come so far in the past decade, and it truly is amazing what they did with Tarkin. I mean, he looks about as real as he can with today’s technology. The problem is that when face-to-face with another actor (which is literally every fucking scene he’s in), the CGI completely falls apart and I start to get PTSD flashbacks of “young” Jeff Bridges in the Tron sequel. I understand that they wanted Tarkin in the film, but they had to have realized that the CGI didn’t hold up, right? They could have used numerous camera tricks to make Tarkin appear as though he’s there without showing him up close, but instead the effects team decided to jerk themselves off with as many close-up shots as possible, each one making Tarkin appear less and less real. They did the same thing with Leia at the end of the film, but that was only for about ten seconds. I can stomach ten seconds, but not a large chunk of the movie.
Despite all of the things I disliked about Rogue One, I will say that the film was pretty fun to watch. Much like Episode VII, there was a lot of comedy injected into the script which allowed for a more enjoyable experience. All of the actors were competent, though there were some bad eggs (such as wheezy Forest Whitaker). One thing that bothered me was that Rogue One was the second movie this year to underuse Mads Mikkelsen. I don’t know why, but even though he can act his ass of he’s been given some really barebones roles in huge blockbuster films. Probably the best thing that Rogue One did was make itself fit into the Star Wars universe, specifically the look and feel of Episode IV. This was really made apparent during the space scenes (both exterior flying, and the interior of the ships). Rogue One makes it look as though most of the props were made exactly the same as they were in Episode IV. There were even some instances where there was very noticeable film grain or scan lines which made the film also feel like it was from the 70’s. There were also a few nice nods to the original trilogy in Rogue One, but none that would make a new viewer scratch their heads. And I can’t talk about Rogue One fitting in without talking about the ending. I expected Rogue One to end as soon as the two people exploded on the beach. Then the film cut and we got to see Darth Vader. These scenes continued and I kept thinking to myself that they had made a mistake not ending the movie earlier, but then it happened. Rogue One made an ending that fits so well with Episode IV, that I couldn’t stay mad at it. Despite having a lot of issues with the film, I couldn’t help but smile when I noticed how well the ending set up for the next film (or rather, the first film). It made me irrationally happy, and isn’t that what Star Wars (or even film) is about?
Ultimately Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is not a bad movie, but it’s not flawless either. If you liked Episode VII, then Rogue One is right up your alley.
I give Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a B