Rogue One: Not Quite a Star Wars Story

Spoilers ahead

I don’t remember a time where a new Star Wars film came out and I wasn’t very excited. Flashback to a year ago, excitement for The Force Awakens hit near fever pitch as a new episode in the star wars universe was being released. Now as Rogue One: a Star Wars Story hits theatres, audiences are hedging a little. There was obvious excitement ahead of the movie but honestly, there wasn’t that much compared to a year ago. After all, this is a first in a long line of spin-off films. Films that fill in the blanks between films. Films that not necessarily add to the story but merely fill in a few missing blanks. But is it a story that needed to be told?

This film was not made to be a passion project. This movie was not made to provide fan service. This film was not made to again rectify the embarrassment that was the prequels. No, this movie was made with the sole purpose to make money. With the untitled Episode VIII over a year away, Disney need a way of milking money from the Star Wars cow this Christmas and what better way than a spin-off movie. This piece was solely created as time filler. As a massive Star Wars fan, I like many others, am not complaining. But, the main worry with a film or two coming out every year for the next decade, the likelihood of Star Wars fatigue could become a reality. I do believe that superhero movies are having some forms of fatigue. Before indulging in this tasty morsel, the adverts preceding the movie featured three different Marvel movie trailers. Marvel whom are also owned by Star War’s “white slaver” owners Disney. There is a general worry that they will milk so much out of the franchise that there wont be any ideas left. What’s next? A heart-warming flick about Jabba the Hutt and weight-loss? How about How about a Darth Maul origin story? What a cool costume and lightsaber I mean character he was. They could even make a political drama about the taxation of trade routes…Oh sorry they’ve already done that. I digress. This movie was nothing more than time filler. I was perfectly fine accepting the fact that the rebels acquired the plans and didn’t care who put the obvious weakness on the Death Star. Nor how Leia got the plans or where the epic spaceship chase at the start of a New Hope started.

I’d put it out there that Vader was the best thing in the entire movie.

Star Wars is a limited franchise. Anything new or different is usually awful hence so much of the most recent two new films have been callbacks or references. That is what about 90% of this movie was, callbacks and references. AT-ATs, AT-STs, TIE Fighters, X-Wings, Y-Wings, Darth Vader, Lightsabers, Old characters, R2-D2, C3PO, cheesy one-liners used in the older films. Disney played it safe by claiming to be releasing a cross between “Saving Private Ryan meets Oceans Eleven meets Star Wars” and all we got was a bit of everything but not quite Star Warsy enough. When your franchise is so limited, that’s why you exhaust everything in it to its full potential. When you first watched a new hope, I doubt you thought “I wonder who put that weakness in the Death Star” Or “I wonder how Princess Leia got the plans?” Arguments for that this story needed to be told in order to say how the princess got the plans are void as it’s a simple excuse to argue the existence of this movie. I’m perfectly happy accepting the fact that the rebels have the plans and that’s it. The Entire movie felt like unauthorised fan fiction cosplay that was uploaded to iFilm in 2002 and trying not to get too many views before the Disney lawyers swoop in and shut it down for copyright infringement. Disney clearly played it safe by banking on fan boys orgasming at the sight of their favourite things crammed into every trailer. The film itself is adequate. It’s neither as good as a good one nor as bad as a bad one. It’s fine. I guess.

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The tropical planet of Scarif, the location of the film’s finale, is a welcome change to the usual planets featured in the franchise.

Disney tried to make something new with this film. That much was clear. But in order to make the film look new they had to add new ships and what not. But by adding new ships, it begs the question, where was all this technology in episode 4,5 and 6? All the new ships they added like the TIE Striker or the different looking imperial ships look better than the ships from the original movie and this film is set a few hours before episode 4. It felt wrong and out-of-place. Disney only shoehorned these things into the movie for the sole purpose of selling toys. Fact. Funnily enough the majority of ships that get blown up are the new ones conveniently tying all loose ends together. Same with the death of the entirety of the Rogue One crew. They aren’t mentioned in the original trilogy so the only logical thing would be to kill them all off, which they did. That’s something I didn’t think they actually do. I thought before going into the cinema ‘ they should do but they won’t and the forced love story between Erso and Andor would mean they live the rest of their days happily ever after. But they got brutally killed on Scarif. I actually enjoyed their grizzly deaths. Not because I wanted them to die but because it was only logical. It was a bold strategy not seen in a film like this. Normally they all live happily ever after. They did their job and then they die. This was one of the few things the film did correctly. Another aspect that the film did well was the action. The trailers highlighted that this was a war movie set in the Star Wars universe and the final action part felt like that. The first hour did not and I’ll come onto that later. The movie’s director, Gareth Edwards, who directed one of my guilty pleasures of 2014’s Godzilla, is a very good action director. The shots he composed were perfect for the film and made the rebels actually feel insignificant to the empire as they actually are. The film was surprisingly very arty for a Star Wars movie. The rising Death Star over the horizon or the way it orbited Jedha upside almost peering at its prey. The low camera angles looking up at the AT-ATs gave the audience a sense of perspective of how massive these things are and actually how freighting they are for ground troops to face. Pop Culture icon Darth Vader emerging from a smoky room to peer over our villain was fantastic. The studio really let the director run wild in this film and it certainly felt somewhat different to other star wars movies. The actual worlds felt more Star Warsy that The Force Awakens in all honesty. It’s just a real shame that the director couldn’t do as well as he did with his cast than he did with his shots.

Star Wars isn’t solely about lightsabers. Nor is it solely about space battles or massive universes or amazing shootouts. It’s essentially World War II in space with compelling characters and religious undertones. The main focus for me is the compelling characters. We want to see Luke leave his home and become a Jedi because he’s likeable. We want to see the emperor be evil because he has actual motivations. We want to see Darth Vader turn his back on the dark side and return to the light. There are no standout performances in this movie however. Felicity Jones’s character Jyne is boring and has no motivation for us to care. She’s there because of her dad that’s it apart from near five minutes at the start of the movie; we see no development between her and her father so her performance feels flat. Captain Andor is literally there because of his accent. He’s portrayed as this darker character when he murders an ally at the start but because he’s so robotic we don’t really care. The only character with some personality is the robot. The reprogrammed KS20 has a charm by being mostly a giant d**k. But after about four or five jokes he becomes irritating. His constant whining about how big the odds are for their mission is a clear nod to C3PO, but he didn’t mentioned them every 34.7 seconds for crying out loud. The Asian dudes were only there to pander to the Chinese market after a lukewarm Force Awakens reception. Even the bad guy, Director Orson Krennic, who’s meant to be this frightening bad guy is just some whiny b***h who wants to be better than Grand Moff Tarkin. His character is meant to be Mr Ambitious but he comes across as Mr Whiny. He is in no way as evil or intimidating as Tarkin and that really shows. Overall, The characters were flat, generic stereotypes and quite frankly boring. A real shame for a franchise that usually prides itself on interesting characters.

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Mads Mikkelsen stars as Galen Erso, Jyn’s father – the main designer of the Death Star.

The first hour was really boring. I actually thought about checking my phone at one point, I was that bored. It kept cutting back to different planetss every two minutes and it didn’t feel natural for a Star Wars movie. I liken this to the recent Suicide Squad movie which suffered from a lot of studio interference and I believe there was a lot here as not only did it suffer from that issue but also nearly a whole trailers worth of material didn’t show in the movie. I had these memorable lines in my head from the trailer and didn’t see any of them. What the hell? Get your hands of my Star Wars, goddamn studios. Another noticeable thing about this movie is how at times, depressing it is. The colour pallet of the first hour was greys, beige and doo-doo browns. It was no way the appealing, bright and vibrant worlds of yesteryear. Murdering comrades, really quite violent shoot-outs, deaths of father figures and an ending where the entire cast die horribly. Not quite what’s normally seen in an action adventure movie usually aimed at kids. I really don’t want to imagine being ten years younger and then watching this film. I think it might frighten me just a little.

One thing that must be addressed is the issue everyone is talking about. CGI’ing characters into the movie. The inclusion of Grand Moff Tarkin was brilliant to the story. I’ve always loved the late Peter Cushing’s character. I thought it was essential to the plot that he was here. However, the way in which he was portrayed was frankly embarrassing. The CGI was near laughable and he’s probably spinning in his grave. If he was portrayed via a hologram maybe it would have made sense, like he was at the heart of the empire and giving Krennic orders as the Director was in charge of the Death Star before Tarkin. They ripped Cushing out of his grave and shoehorned him into an insulting mess. They did the same with Princess Leia. I would have been fine just seeing the back of her but no, we had to see her face. What made it more awkward was an hour before seeing this movie, Carrie Fisher sadly passed away. It broke my heart to watch but also felt slightly awkward. The CGI for her was so much better than Tarkin’s. It’s quite similar to when Galaxy chocolate CGI’ed Audrey Hepburn in their advert. The two characters are essential to this story but I believe they should have been portrayed in a different way that would have been less insensitive even though the movie wasn’t trying to be.

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Director Orson Krennic, played by Ben Mendelsohn, is a mere shadow compared to Grand Moff Tarkin and frankly seemed irrelevant to the entire film.

Darth Vader kicking ass at the end of the film was insane. Ok yes his costume looked every more like a Halloween costume than in a New Hope and yes James Earl Jones’s voice sounded a little weird. But I thought they got Darth spot on. He was frightening when Director Orson Krennic went to visit him. He used his old charm and sarcasm when choking Krennic, telling the overly ambitious director: “be careful not to choke on your ambition.” When he attacked the rebel solders at the end it was so epic. You could feel his ferocity which you didn’t get to see in the prequels or even in the original films. He was an unstoppable force that was seriously frightening to watch. The main thing that I’ll say about Vader’s inclusion in the film though, is that he was used sparingly, and that was a good thing. Vader is some scary guy in a suit, not space Jesus as the prequels make him out to be. In this movie he seemed like just some frightening lap dog of the empire again and that really made me happy. In fact I’d put it out there that Vader was the best thing in the entire movie.

Ultimately, the Disney cooperation has churned out another meh film that is stuck on the cusp of whether it actually is a Star Wars film or not. I’d argue that the Force Awakens was a better film as it had so much more action and characters but it copied a New Hope. This film had no compelling characters, no actual story, some action towards the end of the movie and a first hour that is so boring you’ll want to pull your own eyeballs out. Disney played it safe with episode VII and they claimed to have made something different with Rogue One but they haven’t. The cracks are so big you can easily spot how actually bad it is. The film does, despite narrative failures across the board, actually works. The fact that this movie exists is both a joy to know that the universe can be massively expanded upon for years to come, but ultimately looms a shadow of future fatigue over the series that could come soon if we don’t see any new and exiting takes on a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. It wasn’t as bad as the bad ones but certainly was nowhere near as good as the good ones.

To simply sum it up, it was fine, it’ll do, for now.

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Would I recommend this film? Yes, if you are a Star Wars fan you have to see it regardless. But be aware it’s not that good. If you’ve never see Star Wars it actually might be a good way into the franchise but be prepared to be bored ether way for the first hour.

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