My Rogue One Review
Six months ago, I could have cared less about Rogue One. It was on my radar obviously, as a Star Wars sweaty (sweaty = extreme geek), but I am still of the belief that we do not need a new Star Wars movie every year. I have fears about people getting sick of it, and it's not something I want to get sick of. Marvel and DC movies are franchises that can constantly be rebooted, as the story-lines are always changing (see The New 52 or Rebirth), but you can't just up and reboot Star Wars. There's too much history there, too much lore, and by golly, I know just as much about the history of that galaxy as I do about American politics, and that's saying something.
I have been hesitant about Rogue One. Would I be there opening night? You bet your butt, and I was there, but, I still was apprehensive about this: did we need to find out how the Rebels got ahold of the Death Star plans? Well, we probably didn't need it, but we got it, and in the long run, I'm glad we did.
This is a gritty movie - I wouldn't use this as someone's introduction into this universe, and I certainly wouldn't take a child under the age of 10. There's a lot of death in the movie, and while you'd think that would be bound to happen, you almost don't expect it, even though you should. As a society, we're so used to Star Wars representing what is good and right with the world, and seeing it go this dark (albeit for a good reason) was unsettling in the best way. Do you leave the theater happy? Yes, but not without a few tears. I teared up around four or five times!
The movie is for fans more so than any other movie of this scale. The callbacks and Easter Eggs (blue milk!) are unbelievable, and for a big time fan, it was a constant "oh, look!". Also, if you really love this franchise, you likely love a space battle, and this was the movie for that! This was the most epic space battle we have ever had in a Star Wars movie and I hope that we'll see more of this scale, although that is doubtful for the next standalone film (Han Solo).
Diego Luna (Cassian Andor) and Ben Mendelsohn (Director Orson Krennic) are standouts. I'm almost aggravated at how underused Mads Mikkelsen's character, Galen Erso, was, as I think he was wasted here and would have made a great Jedi or Sith in a Knights of the Old Republic movie, but when he did appear, he did a great job. I absolutely loved Felicity Jones's character, Jyn Erso, and am sad to know that they cut out so much of her story. Rogue One is still about her to an extent, but you can tell that after the massive reshoots and scale-back on her screen time, they were scared that audiences wouldn't like her. It looks as if the joke is on Lucasfilm, though, as her toys are selling the most out of all of the Rogue One characters, and during the opening weekend, forty-percent of Rogue One's audience was women (great job, Ms. Kennedy!). Felicity is signed on to do another appearance, so maybe she will have a cameo in the Han Solo movie, which would make sense, given what we know about the character, although I would not count on her knowing Solo. They're wanting to make this universe larger, not smaller, and I'm all for it. It was nice to see a few characters from the Prequel Trilogy appear. No matter how you feel about those movies, George Lucas had a vision, and while it wasn't perfect, it was his story, and the stories themselves were great, but the execution was debatable. I would be skipping out on something vital if I didn't talk a little bit about Darth Vader. He was badass to the nines, and I don't want to spoil that theater experience for you, so I'll leave that there.
Structure-wise, this movie sings. Like a good song, it has a chorus that gets repeated a few times, and has a few stanzas to bring us back to the main idea. When the film is finished, it hits notes that I've never seen a war movie hit before. This film shows the full scope of war better than any movie - not just fantasy/sci-fi - I've ever seen. They show you how different planets and communities, even how individual families are being affected. Most of the time, we get to see how a town or a battalion handles a single battle, but this shows us what the war has done, and to be set in a galaxy far, far away, it shows what war is actually like better than anything I've ever seen. I was constantly thinking of Aleppo throughout the entire film, during every strike.
During the Original Trilogy (Episodes IV, V, and VI) we knew that the Empire was powerful, but this movie did an excellent job at showing their reach. That being said, the Rebels were not exactly saints, and that was a breath of fresh air. Showing that no side is completely innocent during a time of war was crucial to the success of this film, largely because audiences (especially a Star Wars audience) are too smart to fall for that. Even comic book movies are adopting the idea that their heroes are severely flawed (Batman's always admitted that), and no one seems to be able to root for perfect characters. Maybe that's why so many people like the Empire from the Original Trilogy.
The technology that is introduced in Rogue One will change how movies of this kind are made, and potentially change the wills of many big name actors that ever appear in a franchise. That might be a difficult statement to understand if you haven't seen the movie, but if you have, you know exactly what I mean. There are certainly improvements to be made there, but this was the best attempt at this kind of CGI that I've ever seen. I also got a big thrill out of the several Easter Eggs from Star Wars: Rebels, the animated series that is on Disney XD.
I did have a few problems, though. I thought that the backstories of the characters were severely underdeveloped, even Jyn Erso. Donnie Yen's character, Chirrut Imwe, was severely underused, and the makeup of his character was so strong that he could have probably had his own film. Forest Whitaker (Saw Gerrera) was not necessary for the progression of the plot and his character almost took me out of the film a few times. I really like that they're tying in characters from the animated series', but if you're going to do it, make it worthwhile.
The score is forgettable, and in a franchise that prides itself on magical music, this certainly misses the shot. I'll give the composer, Michael Giacchino some slack, as he only had a few weeks to score the movie. He's being primed to fill John Williams's shoes, and after this, I now know just how big those shoes are. It might even be an impossible. "The Imperial March" was so underused that when it is there you barely notice it. Will I buy the score? Probably. Nothing, it seems, has ever been able to touch the "Duel of the Fates" from Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
The movie was not marketed as well as The Force Awakens, and I think that Disney and Lucasfilm might come to regret that, as it shows that they weren't the most confident in this picture. The reshoots provided to be bad press, but crucial rebuilding time for the film, and I'd hope that they would be willing to give director Gareth Edwards another shot in this universe. I think with his trauma/thriller film sensibilities, he would be especially great at directing a bounty hunter movie that doesn't center on Boba Fett. After the success of this movie, a movie with no characters we've ever seen before, except for Vader, who is in the film for five minutes, Saw Gerrera, and and a few others (this is spoiler free!) I think we'll see more Star Wars standalone stories that focus on characters we have never met.
Overall, while this is far from a perfect film, I'd rate it a 8 out of 10. It's not as whimsical as The Force Awakens, but if it had been, it would have been severely miscalculated. I can't wait to see it again, and I am absolutely dying to read the original script!
May the Glitter Geek be with you!