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‘Rogue One’ Review

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I won’t cut corners here. ‘Rogue One’ is awesome. If you love Star Wars, you will thoroughly enjoy this. It’s incredibly in-line with the original movie, both in story, and very much in aesthetics. I truly don’t see how a Star Wars fan could walk out of this movie being truly disappointed.

‘Rogue One’ (for those of you not keeping up) is the first standalone anthology film in the Star Wars series. It chronicles the events that transpire leading into the original film, ‘A New Hope’. The entire basis of this film was fully inspired by Episode IV’s opening crawl.

“It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy….”

Speaking of opening crawl, let me just get some of the flaws out of the way. The movie starts, and there’s no opening crawl. I knew this going in. I knew it’d be weird regardless of whether I knew it or not… but the lack of an opening crawl has left me…conflicted.

I get why it wasn’t there in the context of the movie. Without spoiling much, the movie opens up with a flashback. I won’t say what happens in the flashback, but I’ll just leave it at that. Star Wars has never really made use of a flashback sequence in the films. So this clearly had something to do with the decision of not having an opening crawl, because this scene told us a lot in a matter of just a couple of minutes.

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The scene itself was perfectly fine. No issues there. But then once it ends, we see a title card that has a terrible yellow font that looks like it was just typed out on Microsoft Word. But what made it even worse was the music that played during that title card. It was cartoonish as hell. Even that might be an understatement because I think the title card for the animated ‘Rebels’ show features better music, and better font for when they flash “STAR WARS REBELS” at the screen each episode. So I found that to be pathetic, however that was honestly my biggest gripe with the movie. But… still. Why was this so hard?

The music was another slight disappointment I had. Now, I get it. Michael Giacchino was brought on board at the last minute to write and record the music for this film after Alexandre Desplat exited the project with such poor timing. He only had about 4 weeks to do everything. Aside from the music for the title card, the rest of it was still okay, and actually pretty well done for only having that amount of time. It definitely wasn’t a bad score, because there were still a lot of musical cues that I loved. There were cool throwbacks to ‘A New Hope’ with themes that were only heard in that movie alone. But the music of Star Wars is practically another character to me. So to have it be so middle-of-the-road really has to fall into my category of negatives.

Giacchino did a good job given the time he had. But why did this happen in the first place? What the hell happened outside or within corporate Disney’s contracts that allowed Desplat to peace out on such short notice? I get that re-shoots happened for this movie, but the scheduling normally takes re-shoots into account, and music is done in post-production. Desplat must have been contractually obligated to do his work  during this already set post-production timeline. A timeline, that doesn’t even seem to have been altered that much. Clearly we’re missing something here. Perhaps this is something that will be explained in some kind of “Behind the Scenes” documentary in the future, but it still boggles my mind.

So outside of that horrible title card and somewhat flat musical score (at least by Star Wars standards), the rest of ‘Rogue One’ is pretty excellent!

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Donnie Yen) Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm LFL

‘Rogue One’ has some of the best action set-pieces in the entire saga for sure. The greatest ground assault battles are featured here, and I honestly can’t think of any scenes in the other movies that could top these aside from maybe the Battle of Endor. The space/air battles were on point as well, but I gotta give props to just the way every single action set-piece was directed. Gareth Edwards fills tension in just about every scene. The final act had me on the edge the entire time. The climax of ‘Rogue One’ builds and builds and builds, and right when it ends, you will want to run right home and watch ‘A New Hope’ IMMEDIATELY.

The casting was great. I felt the characters were about as interesting as they could be for a one-off standalone story. I’m interested in reading the Rogue One novel, ‘Catalyst’- just to get more in-depth with certain characters, events, and whatever else. K2SO is the perfect droid that I didn’t even know existed in this universe. It was so refreshing to see a droid that wasn’t overly-cautious and as annoying as C-3PO, but to have one that was helpful, but really sarcastic. Jyn Erso was a very great leading character, and Orson Krennic was a fantastic over-the-top villain. That real stand-out supporting character though was Chirrut Îmwe, played by Donnie Yen. What a badass this dude was. Now we’ve seen Storm Troopers taken down by teddy-bears and a blind man. Who the hell is training these “soldiers”??!!

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Not only was this a great movie in its own right, but it actually adds a layer of context to the original film, thus making ‘A New Hope’ more interesting than it ever has been before. Who knew that a film made in 1977, that is already a beloved classic, would improve almost 40 years later? There’s plenty of fan service, but none of it is “in your face”. It’s all there to effectively improve not only the story being told at hand, but the story we already know. The best bits though were definitely Vader, and the uncanny appearances of certain characters I will not give away yet.

If you’re worried about Darth Vader, don’t be. His role is small, which should be expected. There is definitely a “less is more” feeling that went along with how he was handled… but it was perfect.

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Did I love this movie as much as ‘The Force Awakens’? No. The movie definitely has some pacing issues in the first act. This is mostly because we go to so many locations and meet so many characters, SO QUICKLY. It’s a bit daunting. I liked the characters in ‘Rogue One’, but I LOVED the characters in ‘Force Awakens’. I guess that isn’t a huge issue though, as the characters here aren’t to be built up for anything outside of this film. But they still could have done a slightly better job with some of them, and the final act nearly negated this issue entirely.

If this was our first look at what LucasFilm has in store for us for the anthology films, then I am totally pumped for what’s to come. I’m now almost as excited for the Han Solo movie as I am for Episode VIII. An annual Star Wars movie is looking like one of the greatest things to happen in my life.

Rating: A

 

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Spoiler Area:

Some might have issues with the what happens in the uncanny valley in this film. Our brains can tell when we’re looking at something real, and when we’re looking at something artificial.

Peter Cushing was brought back to life (in a way) to play Grand Moff Tarkin again. From my perspective, I took no issue with this. It was distracting for a second, but then my eyes adjusted, and I kept telling myself that I was just watching Tarkin, and not a weird CGI recreation of Peter Cushing’s face.

I can see and understand why one would consider this a major flaw for the movie. There are ethical issues that can be brought up for this type of thing, but the way I see it is this: It’s just a story. I felt it was necessary to have Tarkin be in this film. Considering that this movie takes place so shortly before ‘A New Hope’, and not 5-7 years or something, I kind of liked that Tarkin looked almost exactly how he looked in that movie.

While it was brief and maybe less of an issue, I felt that Leia’s appearance at the end was very cool as well.

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I realize it’s a lot harder for the eye and brain to believe this type of CGI for a human face, as opposed to when you see Caesar the ape, Gollum, or Maz Kanata. I think that no matter how perfect they can get this technology, we will always notice that something is “off” because we have interactions with humans every single day.

I felt I was able to allow myself to temporarily believe that I was seeing the character of Tarkin and Leia when they appeared on-screen, for the sake of just enjoying the story and its immediate ties to ‘A New Hope’. Obviously, not every person’s eyes and brain work the same. But my advice when watching these scenes is to suspend your disbelief as much as you can.

Just wanted to give my two cents on that aspect of the film. It’s definitely… strange. But it’s amazing and cool to see that this technology is improving. It has definitely come a long way over the last couple of years. It will be interesting to see what other directions it might go in the future of film-making.

 

 

5 comments on “‘Rogue One’ Review

  1. I really went for it too. It seems to be getting a healthy mix of reactions, but for me it was a thrilling, old school Star Wars picture. Big fan here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like that most of the reactions I see also don’t seem to have one or two negatives ruin the movie for them completely. This is something I’ve seen come out of a lot of 2016 blockbusters this year for some reason. But not here. I wonder why that is, but at the same time, I kind of know the answer: People just love Star Wars, and most would be too afraid to say they completely dislike a SW movie that is clearly better quality than Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones- no matter how many issues they might have.
      Can’t wait to see both VIII and Han Solo!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I thought this movie was a solid 9/10 for me. Almost favorite of the year, but something nagged at which led to Arrival taking that top spot for me. Now that we’re a couple weeks removed, I’m starting to wonder if Rogue One suffers a bit from what I took issue with in Marvel’s Civil War. The issue being while I loved both films, a lot of what I’m loving is really based on a multitude of films that came before and is to come. Does that make sense to you or am I over analyzing? Is it fair to compare a film like this to other standalone efforts or does it even matter? Sometimes when I’m watching movies out of this new Disney era, I feel a bit cheated in that I know I won’t be getting the full experience of a story with just one movie. Sorry for the random ramblings, just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally agree with your points! I actually think that this is just the way movies are evolving now. I’ve had a handful of arguments to which people think a movie should be good based only on its very own merits. And I agree with that, but I also believe that a movie can be good with the help of things that come before and after (in a series).

      I actually wrote a piece about this last spring after seeing Civil War. I wrote it mostly because I also felt that Civil War (while a good standalone movie) was also incredibly enjoyable because of what it did for the universe it’s in. I felt that it added to the other Cap films, the other Iron Man films, even the other Avengers films, and Ant-Man. Then it ALSO introduced us to Spider-Man and Black Panther and made me excited for their movies.

      It definitely became a lot harder to judge the film on its own merits when taking all that other stuff into account.

      My point is, many film franchises are moving away from making “1 good film, THEN moving onto the next”. They’re developing these franchises like big-budget television serials. Which in my opinion, is pretty cool. As long as it’s done right of course.

      To answer your question about comparisons, I think it might be a bit too early to tell. I think the way a franchise film works now is a lot different than how they worked 10 years ago. What matters most is that we’re getting both, and we all have the ability to enjoy both. Whether it’s one single 2-hour standalone story, or if it’s a piece of a larger story (Star Wars, Marvel, DC) that is still 2 hours of valuable entertainment.

      https://thefilmeditorial.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/the-effect-of-the-shared-universe-model/

      Here’s that link if you’re interested in reading it!

      Liked by 1 person

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