REVIEW: Dueling forces at the heart of ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ threaten to tear the franchise apart

FilmGamer: @Serious_George

Director: Gareth Edwards
Writer: Gary Whitta, John Knoll, (story by) Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy (re-writes) (based on characters created by George Lucas)
Produced by: A crapload of people
Music By: Michael Giacchino (Star Trek)
Cinematography: Greig Fraser
Film Editing; John Gilroy, Colin Goudie, Jabez Olssen
Running Time: 132 minutes
Budget: $200 million dollars

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, [Alan Tudyk (voice of) & James Earl Jones] [Peter Cushing, and Carrie Fisher (special thanks)]

Plot: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away A ragtag group of rebels plan to steal secrets to the development of a super weapon in attempt to overthrow an oppressive galactic government.

SPOILER WARNING: This review reveals Third (& Final) Act plot details

Rogue One is the Halo Reach of the Star Wars franchise. Both entries contain a planet destroying ending with a greater attempt to humanize its characters who die in various manners of nobility, set against the backdrop of a falling planet. It is a highly praised entry for its “daringness” to do something different with the franchise and I am seemingly in the minority of not liking it despite its lavish use of production value and check marking of storytelling fundamentals. I just don’t think such cliché should apply to Star Wars.

I wrote an article a few weeks ago titled ‘Rogue One’ Won’t be Great: 3 Reasons, which was written before I had seen the movie and before anyone else had reviewed it. Because it was Star Wars and Star Wars is important, and because any naysaying on the internet is usually regarded as inflammatory it became the site’s most popular article of the year. I wrote it as a sort of Pascal’s Wager, either I’m wrong and the movie’s great and I could rave in this review how wrong I was and apologize for pre-judgements, or just as well I would turn out to be validated in some way and prove it in this review. Addressing that article I was surprised how close I was in my assessment. Although the movie definitely holds many merits, it does indeed suffer from opposing forces that puts the movie at odds with itself.

I’ll starting with the positive. A feast for the eyes, the special F/X are top-notch. Easily the most impressive in the Star Wars series it actually seems that Godzilla director Gareth Edwards did take George Lucas’ advice on pushing the F/X. The planet Scarif looks particularly dazzling with its wide open tropical landscape covered in palm trees and greenery that brings to mind seaside Japan.

Going some would argue too far entire persons are recreated with CGI starting with the late Peter Cushing reprising his role as Grand Moff Tarkin from the original trilogy. Tarkin, using actor Guy Henry as a body double takes up a surprising amount of screen time with permission from the late actor’s estate (I hope they paid his family well). He looks 60-70% like a real person with the recreation being almost too plastic blended face without blemish. The late Carrie Fisher via recreation also appears in an unsettling as a cameo also via CGI. I don’t know why they couldn’t have just gotten her and digitally de-aged her a la Robert Downey Jr. in Civil War. As a result even for a brief second her rendered appearance looks eerie. Nonetheless altogether another high watermark for special f/x like almost every other Star Wars entry before it.

An immensely talented and cast is underutilized
An immensely talented and cast is underutilized.

So what does director Gareth Edwards bring to the table? A particular set of skills and style that becomes diminished as the film goes on, the rugged tone sanded down by the Disney powerhouse. The comparison is most eminent in the difference between the first and last trailers (posted at the bottom). A romance between the two leads echoes the rhythms of his first and still best film Monsters (ironically the presence in that film is one packed with Star Wars influence). A relationship telegraphed by meaningful gazes  and non decision in the aftermath of Galen Erso’s death demonstrates Edwards’ minimalist romantic skill-set.

My major gripe with the movie is that for an event that takes place chronologically before the first Star Wars, it is all over the place. As a fan I felt lost as the film continuously jumps from planet to planet for threadbare. I had little idea to who was what and where they were and what it meant. Tie ins to the other film range from haphazard to useless. Namely the first out of two appearances by Darth Vader is pure fan service that wastes the plot’s time. Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) makes an appearance tying in Episode III but feels pointless considering the film has Leia up its sleeve. This is all likely a casualty of reshoots. Another casualty, a rather unique and mature idea inflicting a darker tone by muddying the waters between good guys and bad. Such a thought is muffled out by the end of the movie as a way of approaching A New Hope. Rebel Captain Cassian Andor is introduced as a compromising cold-blooded killer fitting with the actor’s initial portrayal, however as the film goes on his hard edge and personality are sanded down. Leaving just the basic template of a captain, he doesn’t register as an authority figure. The role is impossible and too much to ask for in a script that by theme doesn’t play to individuality. As far as group dynamics go the rebels themselves are held responsible for the death of Galen Erso, a key character that raises issues of the cost of war.

Another area where the group mythologizing seems to payoff is Donnie Yen’s charismatic portrayal of Chirut Imre. A literal and figurative blind follower of The Force untrained by Jedi master, Chirut marries the mystical belief mumbo jumbo of the original series with midi-chlorian count of the prequels. Is he truly made to be one with the force? Is it blind luck, or simply belief and deep concentration? The character poses these questions while opening the door open to practice The Force outside the all but gone Jedi. I wish the rest of the interquel’s work was married to myth this smoothly. The rest of the batch; K2SO a robot and Bodhi Rook the second turncoat pilot in as many movies work more transparently as plot devices than actual characters. As for the lead herself; Jyn Erso is as much a blank slate to be projected upon as Rey.

Although I was initially highly in favour of a Star Wars spinoff when this movie was announced, I must say after viewing it I felt like one of those old anti-prequel fans whining about the speciality of the star wars being ruined. This is clear market over-saturation. And though it has some shiny bells around it there’s nothing remarkable about this movie and it makes me feel far less excited for the new Han Solo and Episode VIII films. Behind Episode II- I believe this to be the worst Star Wars movie. It would have worked better untethered and original rather than fatalistically tied to franchise kid canon.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theatres now. The first trailer likens to Edwards’ envisioned darkened war effort with much of the footage removed from the final film, and the final trailer softens the tone to more of an underdog for all ages swashbuckling romp.

  • So I guess Alderaan is no longer the first successful firing of the Death Star? Disney with a not so subtle retcon
  • There was no need for Vader’s first appearance he should’ve only capped it off

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Joe says:

    “I’ll starting with the positive.” With this sort of thorough revision, clearly you should be writing movie reviews.


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