Is ROGUE ONE the Best Star Wars Movie Ever?
Now, now, now, don’t get all defensive. The force has been strong with me for a long time. I love Star Wars. I always have and always will. I even adored The Force Awakens, recycled Episode 4 plot and all. But why was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story merely just, decent?
SPOILERS FOR ROGUE ONE BELOW!
What always made me connect with Star Wars on such a personal level was not its epic space battles, lightsaber duels or Jedi mind tricks (though, I love all those). Star Wars resonated with me, and many other fans I believe, because of its characters. Both old and new, the characters have always been a strength in (most) these beloved movies.
The wit of Han Solo, the smoothness of Lando or the humor of Finn. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many characters of note in Rogue One. That’s not a disservice to the film as a whole. It’s wonderfully directed by Gareth Edwards, shot gorgeously and may even be the best looking Star Wars movie ever made!
The characters in Rogue One are paper thin. Minus Jyn, K-2SO and Orson Krennic, I couldn’t tell you another characters name. Yes, some had cool traits about them, especially Donnie Yen and his “pray to the force” lifestyle he carries along with his stick. The characters in Rogue One are simply there to move the story to a conclusion we already knew about in 1977.
I admired the ambition that a studio as big as Disney would make a film surrounding a paragraph in the opening crawl to A New Hope. Unfortunately, with pros comes cons and when the cons are characters, you have an uneven film. I wanted to see a ragtag team of misfits that had a repoire with one another. The group of rebels never bond, they have moments to just “be” with each other and try to make us care as audience members.
Since this is a SPOILER heavy article, I felt nothing as every single character died one after the other. The scenes, meant to be emotional, come across procedural and forced. If the script and pacing called for it, that well-intentioned gut-wrenching finale would have given us all the “force feels.”
You know what I’m talking about.
The moments in Rogue One that work are when it’s not intentionally trying to be fan service. Now look, I eat this kind of stuff up all the time. However, when a movie stops to show C3PO and R2D2 cameo and has one line of dialogue comes off forced. It is just a way to have a fanboy go “omg look I know them!” I’m not trying to nitpick, I am a fanboy through and through, but moments like this took me out of a film I was enjoying because of how different it was than the other Star Wars Episodes.
The acting is fine for what it is. Felicity Jones does some great work as our main protagonist and gives the role her all. The connection with her character was nonexistent on my end. Her backstory had no weight and moments when we are supposed to feel for Jyn didn’t work. This is more of a script issue than anything. Jones nails the emotional beats with ease, and her acting is great, but with a script that’s so messy her character gets lost in the shuffle.
The side characters, except one, were far more interesting. Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe is a terrific addition to this universe. A blind mad who wields a stick and prays to the force every chance he gets. It’s not clear if he is force sensitive or not, but his devotion to the religion and unconventional approach to fighting off the Empire is exciting to watch on screen. His counterpart, Baze Mabus (Wen Jiang) is a funny blaster savvy rebel, who’s death I felt personally worked the best.
Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) is an imperial pilot gone “rogue,” if you will. Ahmed is a nervous, yet admirable character, with small layers that were developed throughout his character arch. A character like Bodhi and Chirrut take a back seat to Jyn and while I understand you can’t flesh out everyone, their presence alone was more engaging that the leads. How is that possible? The Force Awakens made Oscar Issac’s Poe Dameron iconic with only 10 minutes of screen time. You can defend the idea all you want on how these characters are supposed to be disposable or whatever, but who wants to watch two hours of forgettable heroes that die in the name of the rebellion?
Speaking of forgettable, Diego Luna’s Cassian is a monotoned Rebel who has the on-screen charisma of a statue. His line delivery is wooden, making Henry Cavil’s Superman seem like James Stewart in his prime. The character had the potential to be great, walking on this moral ground of what is right and wrong for the sake of the greater good. That’s a character any Star Wars fan would love to see, but an actor such as Luna can’t deliver the complexities Cassian calls for.
I know it seems like I hate Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but I didn’t. I liked it quite a bit. I was pleasantly surprised to see Grand Moff Tarkin play such a prominent role, considering Peter Cushing passed away in 1994. While a bit jarring at first, the special effects to bring his character to life are the epitome of technological advancement. It’s not perfect, but while watching the film, your eyes do adjust to it.
Now, how was the highly anticipated return of one of the most, if not the most iconic movie villains in the history of cinema, Darth Vader? While his presence is brief, the moments he has are nothing short of spectacular. When we first see Vader, he is visited by Krennic. We see Vader awoken by a man in a black cloak and the masked villain is being held in a water tube with a breathing mask. His entrance is one of the greatest moments in Rogue One. A big door opens with a beam of light behind him, a silhouette of Vader walks closer to Krennic with an expertly shot and beautiful entrance.
While the last battle is one for the ages, the best scene in the film comes from Vader next scene, 10 minutes before the intro to A New Hope. Vader, red lightsaber and all, tears through a line of rebels. He stabs, uses the force to throw them around and is one angry dark lord. I know Vader isn’t supposed to be the main antagonist, that’s Krennic, and I understand that entirely. However, you’d think that having the character of DARTH FUC*ING VADER at your disposal to use, the amount of screen time he had was the equivalent of cinematic blue balls.
All that being said, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is far better than any of the prequels. The gritty tone is a welcomed change, and the final battle is the best battle scene in any of the now 8 Star Wars films. The warlike action and realism for such an unrealistic world were like peeking into a part of the Star Wars mythology that I wasn’t supposed to see. That’s a huge compliment to the film, as the world building and expanding universe was done in a way unlike any Star Wars film before it. The planets all have titles, and there are no swipe edits and the intro to the film will throw lots of fans off. These are changes I adored and was an excellent way to separate itself as it’s own entity and not just another Star Wars episode.
Rogue One isn’t a bad film, far from it. It’s not a great one either; it’s simply just there. The word I would use to best describe it would be “forgettable.” Characters don’t stand out, the stakes are there, but the weight is missing. I am, however, looking forward to these standalone films. The different tone and expansion of the universe is a treat for any Star Wars fan. Who knows, maybe I’ll like Rogue One more on a second viewing. But for now, this is simply a film that sets out to do one thing, and that is to tell a story about rebels stealing the plans of the Death Star. In that regard, Rogue One is a success. But I left the theater without feeling that Star Wars magic that filled my heart with joy as I left The Force Awakens last year.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story opens nationwide on December 16th, 2016