Rogue One a Star Wars Story,
is the 8th feature film of the Star Wars franchise. The “stand alone” film is polarizing, splitting the audience into camps between Disney-haters, prequel lovers, and Star Wars geeks. Seen on opening weekend, twice, here are a few words scraped together about the Rogue One event.
The first question most would have “is it enjoyable”?
It is. Looking back, those criticizing Rogue One were right that this is a “fanboy” movie. How Rogue One plays its homages to the Star Wars
universe galaxy keeps our attention. Rogue One has a rather simple story, father tells daughter go there. In order to fill out the two-plus hours, its more like father tells defector to tell rebel to tell daughter, but it works. Unlike The Force Awakens, spinning stories for multiple characters, Rogue One revolves around two, rebellious Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).
(Below, be spoilers)
What did Rogue One do right that wasn’t serving fanboys?
It captured the mood and pending doom of Episode 4, A New Hope and appropriately branded as “Star Wars Episode 3.5”. Avoiding the mistake of Episode 7’s Starkiller base, it rightfully returned the Death Star as the “ultimate power in the universe”. And it was a toned down Death Star. Scaling back, looking to be subtle is almost unheard of in modern sequels. Yes, this version of the Death Star is subtle when compared to the ridiculous Starkiller.
What was off about it?
I was suspicious when Rotten Tomatoes was scoring lower than Doctor Strange. There was much to forgive with Doctor Strange, what could go wrong here? The rebel crew, who I expected to be the next Magnificent Seven/The Seven Samurai, turned out mostly boring. Why boring? While A New Hope required five heroes and two droids to carry the story, Rogue One decided it wanted Jyn Erso to do it alone. If you have doubts, count how many times Cassian Andor asks her to move along. She’s the anchor, the centerpiece the film must revolve around. It didn’t work and comes across boring. I also had big expectations for Forrest Whitaker’s character, Saw Gerrera. I thought his role was wasted and his ending, ludicrous. In the back of my mind, I thought he and Vader would meet in a duel. Speaking of Vader-duels, am I alone who wanted to see Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) confront Vader? I would have thought the “suicide squad” would have individual tragedies not a statistic. The sanitary endings were unfitting of John Carpenter’s The Thing, Alien, and even The Titanic.
What about CGI Tarkin?
I may be one of the few who appreciated it. In the original Star Wars, with no other recognized leads other than Sir Alec Guinness, Peter Cushing was an authentic presence of horror in an otherwise space opera. He gave the Empire authority and credibility. General Tarkin was one of the few who gives orders to Darth Vader! General Tarkin must be in Rogue One. To hide his character by referencing him in the next room would have been a disservice. And while I would have accepted a look alike, the CGI-Tarkin was attention-demanding and eerie.
What about CGI Leia?
While her presence was necessary, did we really need to be shown what she looked like?
CGI-Tarkin stayed in the dark rooms, making the effects more acceptable. Unfortunately, CGI-Leia stood in a well-lit room and the “uncanny valley” was in full display. Introducing her facing away was artistic and itself dramatic. If this was a fanboy movie, why did they feel they needed to go further? The debate will last an eternity. But the timing could have not been worse*.
What about the finale?
Since I didn’t get an ending I wanted, I’ll say the ending I was given captured the spirit. Taking advantage of nostalgia and the audience’s idea of what Darth Vader was capable of, it delivered the suspense, panic, and sheer terror that few iconic villains are capable of. I would watch it a third time just for the ending.
* I will later post most favorite Princess Leia moments in Episode 4.