So, what did I think of Rogue One? Well, it was pretty good. This is one of those movies I suspect I'm going to feel like a traitor to my class (Star Wars nerds) and religion (I'm a theistic Christian Jedi) for having mixed feelings on. It was really-really good in many places but also didn't fill me with the kind of overwhelming joy I got from the other installments of the series.
Indeed, if I had to rank the movies, I'd say this is probably the single most technically proficient of the films but probably the one I will re-watch least. I also believe this will be the single most loved of the movies for some after A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back. For me, it's just above Revenge of the Sith. Not because of the acting, the special effects, the likability of the characters, or the plot--all of that is great. Instead, my issues with Rogue One are entirely about tone and presentation. Also, the fact the movie is kind of creepy in its attempt to literally resurrect the dead on screen.
More on that later.
|The actors have great chemistry.|
Basically, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), the designer of the Death Star. In the place of Bevel Lemisk from the Expanded Universe, Galen Erso is an unwilling accomplice to the Empire's misdeeds and has sabotaged our favorite moon-sized space station with the whole thermal exhaust port thing.
Galen's put a message with an Imperial pilot named Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) who has been captured by a bunch of anti-Imperial terrorists led by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). I use the term anti-Imperial terrorists because they've been kicked out of the Alliance for being too extreme, employ torture, and are made to visually resemble Middle Eastern insurgents in tactics as well as appearance. Jyn gets rescued from an Imperial labor camp by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) so she can make an introduction with Saw as he was an old friend of Galen's.
|I don't care what they say. I say he has the Force.|
Which actually brings me to one of my first problems with the movie, in that the Rebel Alliance is a bunch of (to use a Star Wars idiom) karks. We see its members murder semi-innocent people, extort people into their service, plot assassinations, plan surrender to the Empire, and that's just the mainstream Alliance. 9/11 certainly changed American perception of guerilla warfare and there's always been jokes about the Rebel Alliance being a bunch of terrorists but it's kind of painful to watch their handling here. The Empire is much-much worse, what with numerous atrocities against innocent people, but the general tone brought me out of the movie.
|More Admiral Piett than Grand Moff Tarkin.|
Speaking of which, I find the fact they CGIed Peter Cushing's face onto another actor in order to resurrect Grand Moff Tarkin for this movie to be positively ghoulish. I think its disrespectful to the actor and something which should be avoided. The actual effect is almost but not quite there and if Peter Cushing were still alive to approve it, it probably wouldn't bother me as much but I had the same problem when they inserted Sir Lawrence Olivier into Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Let the dead rest in peace.
Beyond these complaints, the movie is staggeringly beautiful with the kind of battle scenes which we only saw the barest hints of on Hoth and over Endor. There's an amazing amount of action in the films with some of the most intense fighting, no, the most intense fighting in all of the eight films. The Rebel Alliance engages the Empire head on and they get their asses truly handed to them but that's not a bad thing as they're willing to sacrifice their lives to inflict as much damage on the Imperials as possible. There's also a single great "Vader as Jason Voorhees" moment which has to be seen to be believed.
|The Peace Moon is almost completed.|
The music of the film was unfortunately also a bit weak. I can't recall any real motifs which stood out for me and they didn't even reuse any of the classic movie themes in memorable ways. The music of the film is serviceable but I think it would have benefited from John Williams doing a couple of signature songs for it and making use of classic pieces like the original Star Wars theme.
Still, when the credits finally rolled, I had mixed feelings about the film. The film didn't feel like Star Wars where the power of idealism and hope triumphed over cruelty as well as cynicism. There are a lot of sacrifices made in the movie and while that's a valuable lesson in real life, because change does require great sacrifice, it's perhaps a bit too much. I felt numb instead of elated and I don't think that's the direction Star Wars should go. I compare the feeling at the end of the movie to where Jaina killed Jacen Solo at the end of the Fate of the Jedi series. Yeah, the Sith Lord is dead but it's at a horrific cost which doesn't remotely feel worth it. It was a good movie but I wish they'd done several things differently to get that Star Wars feel.
And why was there no opening crawl or Star Wars theme? BAD! BAD MOVIE!