Rogue One is a stand-alone Star Wars film set just prior to 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope. It goes through the story of how the Rebel Alliance was able to steal the plans for the Death Star.
The movie stars Felicity Jones as Jin Erso, the heroine who is the key to the mission, and Diego Luna as Cassian Alder, a Rebel agent tasked with finding Jin and her father. The cast also includes Alan Tudyk as droid K-250, a heretofore unseen Empire droid model sent along for strategic thinking and comic relief, and Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera, a Rebel guerilla leader on the mandatory desert planet. Ben Mendelsohn plays Director Krennic, the ambitious Imperial officer in charge of building the Death Star. All of these actors, along with the entire cast, do an excellent job drawing the viewer in and feeling the story.
Where the movie succeeded was in making an interesting story with a few hat tips to preceding movies without overwhelming its own story. The visuals were, as always in Star Wars, outstanding. The plot was quick and to the point, and I never felt as if I were noticing the two hours that passed between opening shot and closing credits.
Where the movie stumbled, however, was in how the plot unfolds. It’s a lot to get through in two hours, and a lot seemed to have been cut out in order to cram the story in. There was a lot of ‘Boom! We’re Here! Boom! We’re there!’, and it made the film seem choppy in places. Character development was shorted most of all. All of the characters in the movie sounded interesting and rich, but, with the exception of Jin, all they got was a couple “they’re so and so, they do this” lines of dialogue. When the movie comes out for home video, I will definitely be waiting for the extended cut so I (hopefully) get more of the supporting story.
I saw this movie with Girlie Bear and Boo, and both enjoyed it. The action got intense at times, but Boo seemed to handle it very well. As we were walking out of the theater, he told me we had to go home and watch Episode 4, so I guess Rogue One grabbed his attention.
Overall, I’d give the movie an A. It is definitely more enjoyable than last year’s “The Force Awakens,” and is only eclipsed by “The Empire Strikes Back” in my list of Star Wars movies.
Spoiler rich analysis follows. Continue at your own risk.
Alright, let’s talk about the 800 pound zombie in the room, by which I mean Grand Moff Tarkin. Peter Cushing died in 1994, so having him in Rogue One for more than a glimpse required some work. Rather than finding an actor that looked and sounded a lot like him, Lucasfilm took a hike through the Uncanny Valley and had him doing extended dialogue sequences. Now, I’m sure it took months to do this as well as they did, but it stuck out and distracted from the movie. CGI just hasn’t gotten good enough that we don’t notice when human faces aren’t, well, human. It just didn’t work for me. It would have been hard to introduce an actor as Tarkin in Rogue One, then Cushing two hours later in A New Hope, but this isn’t any better.
The Princess Leia cameo could have been done with a direct shot where we don’t see her face. That short shot of her was just as shocking. It just doesn’t look right, and if they insist on making movies where they want the characters to look the same as they did forty years ago, then do the whole thing in CGI.
Like I said before, the editing on this movie was extremely choppy. Just about everything in the trailers that got me into the theater was cut from the final product. The moral question “What will you become?” speech filmed for Saw Gerrera went down the memory hole, and he turns into a cartoon of a burned out extremist.
On the other hand, I really like that the Skywalker family drama is hardly a part of the film, even if Darth Vader made a dad joke. Like I said after I saw The Force Awakens, it’s a big universe, and I hope they explore it.
Now, let’s see if the Han Solo and Episode VIII is just as good.