The first of the Star Wars standalone movies has been released. It is not that I had lower expectations for this film, just different expectations. Because this is a standalone movie and not a numbered chapter, I was not expecting it to have the depth or gravitas of the rest of the Star Wars Saga. Rogue One was marketed as a heist movie set in the Star Wars universe and that is what I expected to see. My main criteria for this film was that I didn’t want to see much in the way of the Force or any lightsabers… except maybe Darth Vader’s. If you have not seen it yet, do not read any further. Spoilers ahead; you have been warned.
Okay, now did this film meet my criteria? It did indeed. The only lightsaber in Rogue One was Darth Vader’s and he used it expertly and as he would put it most impressively. There was one other Force sensitive character, Chirrut Îmwe. He’s the blind dude always rambling about the Force. The thing is that he might not actually even have any Force ability. He does seem to be a bit Daredevilish in his fighting, but that may or may not be due to the Force. There is a scene where we can see him hearing the sounds around similar to Dare Devil. When he dies, it is clear that he was hoping more than anything else that he was “one with the Force,” and “the Force is with me,” but he was never really sure if the he was actually one with the Force or if the Force was with him or not. I really liked that aspect of the character. It was a solid choice by the writer.
Awhile back, I heard a rumor that the director was debating whether or not to have an opening crawl like the rest of the films in the Star Wars Saga. I was hoping it wouldn’t because it is a standalone movie and not part of the Saga. Not having the crawl would separate it from the rest of the Saga and I think that would be a good thing. So when I sat in the theater and saw the words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away…” I thought, “Crap, they went with the crawl.” But then they cut to the opening sequence and I was relieved that there was no opening crawl. Good choice.
Does this movie meet my expectation? Yes, it met my differing expectations for what I thought this film would be. Did it surpass my expectations? No. No it did not. While I didn’t expect this film to have the gravitas of the chaptered films of the Saga, It would have been nice if it actually had something. It is after all a Star Wars story. But it really didn’t. It was devoid of all substance. It was a great heist movie with lots of impressive special effects. It gave the back story of how the rebels got the secret plans to the Death Star that Princess Leia puts into R2-D2 at the beginning of Episode IV, but it doesn’t really have its own story to tell.
Rogue One was devoid of political, philosophical, spiritual, or moral content. They could have done something with Saw Gerrera being too radical for the Rebellion, but they didn’t really go into it. Ultimately, it does not give us a deeper understanding of ourselves or the world around us. It is just a really good heist film set in the Star Wars universe… which is okay. I mean that is what I expected and it met that expectation. It just didn’t exceed it. It will not be a timeless classic like the rest of the films in the Saga. Seeing this movie will not be a day long remembered.
Nitpicks… and there are many. First, I did not particularly like starting the film with Jyn’s childhood. I don’t think it added anything to the film that we could not or did not learn later in the movie. It wasn’t needed and I am surprised it made it into the final cut. It just seems like it should have been a DVD extra. I wonder if they kept this scene in the film, what will the deleted scenes on the DVD actually be? For me, this was an obvious sign that the director is not worthy of the challenge of something like Star Wars. Cutting meaningless scenes where the same information is convey later, is right out of Directing 101.
I didn’t like how they had a subtitle telling us what planet they were on seemingly every five minutes. They never did that in any of the other Star Wars films and we were able to tell where they were without it. This just seemed like they were dumbing down the movie for people and I didn’t like it.
Do you ‘member in The Force Awakens when JJ Abrams put constant references to the original saga everywhere to the point that it got annoying rather than nostalgic? Well, director Gareth Edwards did the same thing with Rogue One. He can get away with a few ‘membering like the guy from the Cantina who picks a fight with Luke in A New Hope. You ‘member. He’s wanted on 12 systems. That was funny and pretty cool, but in the next five minutes that planet gets destroyed and a few days later that same guy is sitting in a bar picking a fight with a kid on a planet so distant that if there is a bright center of the galaxy, Tatooine is the planet it is farthest from. Still, I liked that ‘membering, but an Imperial Probe Droid wondering around the city for no reason? Really? The monster/alien chess set… again? Too many ‘member berries.
The Tarkin in the room — Yes, with cutting edge special effects they brought back Peter Cushing from the dead. When the scene opened and we saw the back of his head, I thought that was pretty cool. When he turned around and it looked just like Peter Cushing, it was amazing. But they overplayed him. He was in the movie way too much and every time I saw him, I was pulled out of the movie to marvel at the special effect. He is an important guy to have in this movie for obvious reasons, but they needed to use him like a scalpel and instead they used him like an… elephant. Whenever people think of this movie, the Tarkin special effect will be somewhere in the conversation.
Leia was done in a similar fashion and to be honest, I could go either way with that one. They could have just had the back of her head and we all would have been satisfied. They went the extra mile and contrary to the opinions of many critics, she looked amazing. Because she was only in it for a second, I am okay either way with that special effect.
While I am glad that R2-D2 and C-3PO made it into the film, they were in the wrong place. This is a big nitpick, but Senator Organa just boarded the Tantive IV and called out to Captain Antilles, seemingly to ready the ship for takeoff. The droids should be aboard that ship!!!! Instead, they on wondering aimlessly on Yavin IV.
Another confusing thing for me is that Orson Krennic seems afraid that Tarkin is going to steal credit for the Death Star project and present it to the Emperor without him… as if this was Krennic’s idea in the first place and the Emperor knew nothing about it. The fact of the matter is that Count Dooku presented the layout for the Death Star to the Emperor in Episode II and in Episode III, we see Tarkin being put in charge of the project. This wasn’t some crazy scheme of Krennic’s that happened to be a goldmine, it was something the Empire put a lot of thought and resources into for at least the last 20 years… seemingly without the Rebels knowing anything at all about it. #BestKeptSecretInTheGalaxy.
That brings me to Galen Erso and his amazing and unique knowledge and skills that Krennic thought him irreplaceable. You mean to tell me that the Geonosians built the schematic for a superweapon, but had no idea how to actually get that superweapon to work? Step one, build moon-sized battlestation. Step three destroy planet.
Then there is the shield around the planet Scarif. The rebel pilots keep shooting at the shield and it isn’t doing anything, but not one of them thought to shoot the metal ring emitting the shield? Are these the dumbest pilots in the fleet or what?
Okay, Rogue One had a lot of plot holes and not much of a story. Still, it was a fun movie with some great looking special effects. I personally loved seeing the two Star Destroyers collide and then smash into the shield generator. I was also happy to see Bail Organa. He was a pleasant surprise. K-2SO stole the show and Darth Vader reminded us that he is a badass and you don’t want to be trapped in the same corridor with him. He will slice you up, choke the shit out of you, and throw you around the room with the Force.
Ultimately, this felt more like an Ewok special with better special effects than a Star Wars film, but I am sure I am one of the few who saw it that way. I guess I will end this review with yet another clip from South Park:
This concludes my review,
Jedi Master Staks
Temple of the Balancing Force