Further and Further Down the Nostalgic Hole
A Film Review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Disney’s super massive production company continues to roll out post “Lucas Era” Star Wars films and before we go any further let’s all acknowledge this fact. The quality of any of these subsequent Star Wars films will have zero impact on the volume that will be cranked out because Disney knows that Star Wars: The Toilet Paper would rake in tons of cash alone. That being said, Rogue One is a film no one necessarily asked for, but is a more than worthy addition to the popular space opera’s saga. It was pleasantly surprising despite fans knowing exactly how it ends, or rather, what it leads into. It was somewhat innovative in how it recycled material from the original trilogy to anchor itself to A New Hope. Ultimately, it was entertaining enough for the price of admission because it did the one thing The Force Awakens failed to do consistently well: channel that late 70s, early 80s Star Wars nostalgia.
While Episode 7 was criticized for being too much of a carbon copy of Episode 4, Rouge One does a better job at recreating the spirit of the original rebellion and not simply regurgitating its bullet points. It accomplishes this most directly by jumping right into the relevant plot with the main characters and developing their group dynamic right away. While I will agree that the protagonists of The Force Awakens have stronger individual character arcs, they don’t have that team spark mostly because they don’t all technically work on the same playing field. Like Luke, Han, Leia and Chewy; Jyn, Cassian, K-2S0, Chirrut and Baze have a common goal and they need each other to accomplish it, so whatever personal agendas they may have, Rogue One literally has no time for showing it and all the audience gets to see is the team in action. Everyone working together and using their unique skills is something anyone can get the positive feels for even if they know nothing about Star Wars mythology.
What I enjoyed most about this film was its power to allow audiences to reconnect with that feeling of insurmountable odds of the small and meek standing up to Goliath, spitting in his eye and bringing him to a knee. There’s no better way to do that than by having your heroes composed of grunts, thugs, assassins and thieves. . . and NOT super powered space wizards also known as Jedi. That’s right, you read it here and will probably read it/hear it through other review outlets, but the lack of smooth, confidant Jedi strolling into a room and telling the generals, commanders, troops and agents to sit this one out to let the pros handle the situation was a welcome sight to not see. I have become bored of seeing the instant victory status awarded characters with Jedi skills because even if they fail, they never seem to actually lose. Quai Gon attains immortality, Anakin and Obi-Wan are redeemed by Luke, Palpatine achieves his galactic legacy, Maul gets robot legs; you get my drift. Wars are also fought by the little guys and they suffer the cost of war infinitely more than super men. It demonstrates to the audience that characters not referenced as Jedi or Sith actually matter and not only that, can be as interesting and influential which communicates empowerment, something vital in all escapism.
There were lots of goodies here from martial arts to laser gunplay, but the best action came in the form of vehicular combat during the film’s climax which showed the audience some things we haven’t seen before in a Star Wars film.
Greig Fraser composed some beautiful frames for this film which obviously harkened back to A New Hope and I was intrigued by some of the interesting angles he presented the Death Star in relation to other points in space or from planetary surfaces.
Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso and Diego Luna as Cassian Andor are the de facto leads, and I wasn’t particularly taken with either’s performance. Each shift status during the second act as leadership inspiration and crisis of conscience respectively in such sudden fashion that would have been less distracting had it been gradually nuanced during the beginning.
I absolutely applaud the combined efforts of Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed and Mads Mikkelsen making their characters matter as much as humanly possible given their precious little screen time. Alan Tudyk’s voice over for K-2S0 was masterful and my favorite character overall. Ben Mendelsohn was acceptable as the villainous Orson Krennic.
I understand that this isn’t an episodic chapter to the Star Wars saga, but it should still feel like Star Wars and a large part of the feel is the sound. Thus, if composer Michael Giacchino’s theme was “Not Star Wars,” then mission accomplished.
I’m still getting used to this new era of Star Wars sound effects for weapons and vehicles, but they are still top quality technical work.
“Moving” = 24/33
Once again top notch work here which is surprising considering that Ubisoft was a contributing company to the production. The digital necromancy at work for this film was some of the best CG as live, human action we’ve seen to date – so long as their body movement is restrictive. Once they move, it’s like seeing a cardboard cutout being shifted around the set.
Good use of pyro, explosions and localized destruction. Still, there’s a ton of CG to sift through.
This is a specific area where you cannot get too crazy with design concepts that are independent from the classic movie that already exists that you are directly connecting to now. Overall this was a success, but, whoever was in charge of designing Vader’s helmet should be reprimanded. It looked like it was purchased from Wal-Mart the day before principal photography began.
Hair & Makeup
Good. Some interesting design concepts for some of the alien species, but nothing spectacular to report here.
Excellent variety of exterior locations on display in this film, but none better than the setting for the climax for which my wife asked, “Why would the bad guys make a base on a tropical beach planet?” To which I responded, “Why wouldn’t they, given the chance?”
Excellent work here as well and not just for conceptual designs, but also for set dressing which really sells the authenticity of these fictional spaces as realistic places.
“Picture” = 24/33
Want to know how the Death Star was made, how to destroy it and who the rebels came by this information? Look no further.
Rebels vs. Imperials obviously, but I would have loved to see much more development of rebels vs. each other as in the squabbling amongst rebellion leaders as a reason why they aren’t a more significant threat to the Galactic Empire.
Not exactly surprising. Not exactly satisfying, but somehow works just enough without driving people to cut themselves at the credit roll to make themselves feel alive again. It’s hopeful only in that it directly leads into A New Hope.
Every character’s interplay was fun and intriguing except for Cassian. He seemed out of place in every scene he was required to speak. How can the Han Solo wannabe be the square? Bonus points for K-2S0 and Chirrut.
Jyn’s back story is the audience’s only anchor point which is more than enough for the purposes of this film. Unfortunately, this opening to the film is a little slow, a little dry and a little boring, but it is basic and understandable.
In a conscious effort to channel the original trilogy, remixes of original characters are inevitable and this film suffers a tad from “light” versions of characters we’ve definitely seen before. K-2SO is the best droid character Star Wars has given us and Chirrut both kicks ass and is hilarious simultaneously. Everyone else …
The only character the audience really has a chance to connect with is Jyn because she actually gets a back story. Knowing this allows the audience to understand why she does what she does, but having been denied a window to her formative years, we don’t understand what she’s truly capable of. Being told through dialogue is one thing, but a picture is worth a thousand words.
“Story” = 23/34
Overall MPS Rating: 71/100
Rogue One is a film worth seeing filled with plenty of Easter Eggs for fans and a nitty, gritty feel for what it originally meant to be a part of the Rebel Alliance. Don’t even think about shelling out the extra dollars for 3D or IMAX because it just isn’t necessary. There’s lots of action to hold the attention of non Star Wars alumni and there’s a nice Vader sequence that shows off the Dark Lord of the Sith doing his thing in a Force Unleashed sort of way if you catch my meaning. Bring a small pack of tissues though because it isn’t exactly the most uplifting sort of Star Wars adventure. May the force be with you as long as you are with the force.