People take Star Wars super seriously. I’ve already had a couple of friends who said they will not even consider reading my review until they saw Rogue One for themselves (and if you’re one of those people, I don’t blame you even though I try my hardest not to spoil movies I review, especially ones that are either great movies or ones of high notoriety. Guess which of those categories this movie falls under.)
The saga has become a big huge massive back-stroking party that apparently I wasn’t invited to. If you don’t believe me, go to IMDB’s Rogue One page and take a look at its photo gallery… eighty of the pictures are actual movie shots, another thirty are movie posters, AND THE REST OF THE NINE HUNDRED AND NINETY EIGHT PHOTOS ARE FROM THE FREAKING PREMIERE PARTIES.
When I saw that Chris Hardwick praised the movie in breathless terms like a school girl going on about a boy band she likes, I thought maybe this movie might be as amazing as he says it is… and then I remembered that he got famous by fanboying over the most overrated show in the entire world, and producing commentary on it that was neither insightful nor challenging.
Alright… I do believe that I got all the salt out of my system. Now for the actual review.
So Rogue One is as good as I was predicting it to be, and I predicted that it would be good, but not great. There’s some decent performances, there’s some satisfying action, a numerous amount of callbacks and link-ins to the movies before and after it in the timeline, and even a few moments that were clever enough to fry my robotic circuits, initiating what can best be described as laughs.
Is it better than Star Wars Episode 7? I can’t tell you for certain without seeing Rogue One a second time. However, advantage does go to Rogue One simply because they attempted to create their own story instead of copy-pasting A New Hope’s.
Rogue One aimed to be an ensemble movie and it succeeded enough. The majority of the characters like the blind Asian, the tank-looking man, the jittery imperial pilot, and Forest Whitaker all have enough characteristics to keep my interest. There really is not one character that captivated me or compelled me to remember him for more than a week, but the robot character, with his lack of filter and cutting remarks, sure gave it the best effort. If it wasn’t for the robot, there probably would have been a complete lack of chemistry among any of the characters.
Now none of these characters are unique or inspired in any way, but it’s not like any of them were terrible or annoying (aside from one of the characters constantly chanting “I-am-one-with-the-force” over and over again).
As for our two leads, neither of them give anything close to an emotionally compelling performance. Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, seemed like she was phoning it in for half of her performance. And when she finally goes super-leader like the stunning and brave female protagonist she was born to be, it all felt so forced. There was nothing in the movie that emphasized her ability to lead or her ability to gain enough social capital amongst all the rebels to convince them that they should follow her.
The male secondary protagonist Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) does have a few scenes where I felt some sparks of emotionality, but for the majority of his scenes, he’s bland and uninteresting.
There are some returning characters from not only the original trilogy, but the prequels as well. The original trilogy characters were obviously either recasted or computer animated, but the recasted people all do fine and for the most part, the guys they had to computer animate were surprisingly real-looking. Granted… technology hasn’t gotten to the point where they always looked real, and the few times they do look like a computer projection, it did take me out of the movie, but I can’t in good conscience blame the film too much for that if the technology isn’t there yet.
The villain in this movie was largely uncompelling and unthreatening (which is basically the villainous–character theme of 2016). For the most part, he kind of serves as a punching bag who gets slapped around a lot for being so incompetent and/or unlucky. His performance isn’t all that great either, but it didn’t feel like the movie gave him much of a chance to be great anyway.
Some of the cinematography, especially in the beginning of the movie, seemed blurry and unfocused. There were quite a few times where I was trying to absorb the imagery around me, but the shots and edits were going too fast.
The soundtrack for the movie was fine, but it is certainly one of the weakest soundtracks in the entire Star Wars franchise. It gets better the longer the movie goes on, though.
Certain elements of the movie do feel a bit disjointed or unexplained, but I would have to watch it again a second time before I’ll know whether or not it was because I missed something or because the movie is actually disjointed.
The movie is certainly guilty of a few plot conveniences, and the inevitable conflict transition was as forced and easily-fixable as they come, but none of it was so stupid that I wanted to quit watching.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is decent. It benefits a lot from being attached to the Star Wars franchise, and it benefits from all the subtle (and some not so subtle) callbacks to all the movies. If it wasn’t a Star Wars movie, nobody would care about it, but it’s not like it doesn’t have some good elements here and there. The characters are largely good and competent, the dialogue is fine enough, and the action and plot are sufficient to carry you through the entire movie. If you have never liked Star Wars, then there’s really no reason for you to see it, but otherwise it is a fun enough time for all ages.