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Review: ‘Rogue One’ Is About Half Of A Great Star Wars Movie

rogue one

Before Rogue One, which is aptly subtitled “A Star Wars Story,” even begins, it suffers from a remarkable weakness no other movie in this franchise has ever had. A real purpose.

It’s a standalone prequel to the original trilogy, filling the gap (and space) between Episodes III and IV, but it does nothing of note beyond that, except to elaborate on a minor plot point that sets up A New Hope, in the form of a ragtag suicide squad on a mission to retrieve the Death Star plans so Luke Skywalker can find them in a droid days later.

All the while, Rogue One presents side character archetypes as protagonists to a well-realized war movie, one without much of the Force or any stunning lightsaber duels to balance against the space battles. It’s exactly one-half of what we love about Star Wars, but lavishly treated with respect for fans who’ve always yearned for a shift in emphasis toward the “Wars” in “Star Wars.” Cinematographer Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty) managed to make this universe feel big again, and one of the film’s greatest strengths is its sense of location and a visual consistency begging for a better story to match it.

There’s no doubting this is the galaxy far far away, just taking place a bit earlier than what George Lucas and his team established aesthetically 40 years ago. The colors, technology, and overall atmosphere are masterfully recreated, less so however with the CGI-rendered actors we recognize from A New Hope as well, not that they’re the prime focus of what’s essentially an ensemble film. Less recreated, however, are any deep or enriching characters to serve as a compelling thread throughout this surprisingly complex (and fast) war drama.

rogue one

It seems at one point that Disney and Lucasfilm intended to give a weightier role to Jyn Erso, played rather straight here by Felicity Jones, once again one of about three women in a Rebellion consisting of hundreds of men onscreen, which is a noticeable step back from the more balanced Force Awakens.

Much of the material used in the trailers for Erso seem to have been shifted in those pesky reshoots, so that the rest of the “Rogue One” rebels too rebellious for the rebellion could have thematically interesting moments of their own. That was the intention, anyway. Instead, even the most creative characters are quite thin, falling short of what’s done so successfully in Guardians of the Galaxy, which is a more cohesive and ultimately satisfying “misfit ensemble in space” movie.

Rogue One is a classic example of what happens when a beautiful and polished movie filled with colorful characters fails to come together by the third act, which is more bombastic and methodical than anything epic or narratively  fulfilling. The story builds to something far more grand in scope, while also personal in its individual characters’ struggles against the overwhelming Empire, but instead, everything simply fizzles out and fades to the distance to make way for New Hope matters, muting the questionable triumph for these rebels, instead of what the dialogue suggests we ought to feel for them.

rogue one

That said, Rogue One is an easy sell for fans of Star Wars, who will love it anyway for everything that does work—like the complexities rendered for a tougher, less forgiving Rebel Alliance and world-class sci-fi cinematography and sound mixing—and overlook what is sorely missing that would have made this good film actually great, or at least as memorable as something like The Force Awakens, a flawed movie that had a much easier time justifying itself.

Come for the snarky droid, stay for the blind Force monk, and prepare for one scene in particular toward the very end that will make you yearn to see a “real” Star Wars film.

Grade: B

Extra Credits:

  • Now I’m really worried about that Young Han Solo spinoff.
  • Better than the prequels, but that’s about it.
  • First Star Wars movie not scored by John Williams, which is pretty sad. But Michael Giacchino did a tremendous job, and this one has a main score I found much more memorable than in Force Awakens. Edit: I do wish, though, that the music matched the movie’s actual tone. I just don’t blame Giacchino.
  • Alan Tudyk as the aforementioned snark droid, K-2SO,  was easily the best character. Not just in terms of comic relief, but as the obvious heart of the team, similar to Tudyk’s “Wash” in Firefly.
  • Some of the cameos and Easter eggs are great. A handful are just pointless and completely unnecessary, similar to the prequels. Still, I won’t spoil any so you can view them as surprises. Not enough of this movie is a surprise, anyway.

    Thanks for reading this. Seriously. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. 

    Or just say hello on Twitter: @JonNegroni


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Snarcasm: Let’s Complain about the ‘Rogue One’ Teaser Tailer

rogue one teaser

Snark + Sarcasm = what you’re about to read

The first teaser trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story dropped today, and I’ll be painfully honest. I fell in love almost immediately. So for obvious reasons, I have a lot of thoughts (some positive and some negative) that I’ll get into on a later date. For now, I’ll just say that I’m less worried about the prospects of getting a new Star Wars movie every year.

Before we get to the point of this Snarcasm, let’s watch (or rewatch) the Rogue One teaser and get back up to hyperspeed:

Normally on this column, I take on writers who write silly things on the Internet. This week, I’m turning my attention to the many “fans” out there trying their darnedest to complain about the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story teaser for the impossibly worst reasons.

There are too many to count, so hopefully I cover the basics that you’re bound to see over the next year. Let’s begin with Rob’s clear understanding of the box office.

Rob: This movie and all others made after Episode III should be called “Girl Power.” Disney, you are trying to sell more tickets to women. Don’t expect men to go see it.

Oh, the horror. Disney is making movies that don’t specifically cater to one gender anymore. What will they think of next in their ongoing conquest to hurt your feelings?

Except, wow, men sure showed up for The Force Awakens, didn’t they? You know, the movie with the highest domestic box office of all time, which happens to have a female protagonist?

Good thing Disney listens to the wise words of “Rob,” so now their sequel to Frozen will star two male characters both voiced by Ashton Kutcher.

James: I have to admit it’s a good first trailer but I have to join a few commenters discussing the reliance upon another female protagonist in the next movie. I LOVE Felicity Jones. Truly I do. And, I understand that they want to embrace females and ethnicities, but overcompensating and putting two films in a row, then having the next Star Wars also be….well…Rey. It just seems a little much. But, once again, the first trailer does deliver and spectacle and story.

Well, hey, at least he admits that it’s a good first trailer, right? That’s sure to soften the rest of this backwards comment. And toward the end, he even says that the trailer delivers (takes out glitter) spectacle! And story! Whatever that means!

I find it weird (and chuckle-inducing) that the complaint is having a “reliance” on a female protagonist. You know, because so many movies “rely” on this, since we live in a world where females get properly represented in sci-fi blockbusters, except when they hardly ever. Two in a row is just madness.

That said, I doubt James would dare say that the previous six Star Wars movies were a little “much” for having six male leads in a row.

Alphado: I don’t like that they’re making all the central protagonists female. Rey is the central protagonist of the new trilogy and the whole trailer of Rogue One revolves around another female character without a male protagonist in sight (only male antagonists). If they truly want to balance gender roles then have both female and male protagonists.

For them to truly “balance” gender roles, every movie coming out has to have only one female protagonist for at least 100 more years. I’m not sure that’s what you really want.

As for Rogue One, were you not paying attention to the male characters prancing around the screen with Jyn Erso at every turn? In fact, she and Mon Mothma are the only two women who even speak in this trailer. Counting the obvious protagonists (not extras), there were 5 males and 2 women. 

Someone call Anakin Skywalker so we can finally have balance.

Greg: Very strong trailer. My only issue is that this is twice in a row now we’re getting a Disney film where the primary cast is mostly or entirely “diversity based”, with white characters relegated to the background. C’mon, Disney…caucasian is an ethnicity too!

…Is this real life?

Twice in a row? You mean Force Awakens, where a white female was the main character? That wasn’t caucasian enough for you? A white male playing the main villain, Kylo Ren, wasn’t caucasian enough? General Hux, played by Domnall Gleeson? Harrison Ford as Han Solo? These guys were in the background?

Oh…yes, because there were like two or other three other characters who weren’t caucasian, so that certainly means Star Wars is oppressing caucasians by mixing the cast up. Good thing the star of Rogue One is caucasian, or else Greg would just get lost.

Brian: Doesn’t look like Star Wars let’s be honest

If only the trailer had stormtroopers, a story centered around the rebellion, ships and weapons straight out of the original trilogy, and imagination-stretching character designs.

Daniel: Poorly repackaged garbage. Nifty how they have an Imperial in a white uniform. Christ people have no idea the poorly recycled crap they are being sold.

Wait, I’m losing track of what we should complain about. So it’s too much like Star Wars now?

Eric: More like Hunger Games in space.

Wait, Hunger Games? I don’t think—

Steven: Except Hunger Games doesn’t have AT-ATs

What? How in the world—

Chris: Hunger games, the divergent movies, and now star wars. A strong independent woman who needs no man. Looks like star wars will just now be attracting teens

I really don’t think you understand how—

katarn11: THE HUNGER GAMES: STAR WARS EDITION!

Uh—

Yehezekiel: The Hunger Games: Space Edition

I hardly think that’s—

Ghost: stupid stupid stupid. Is this the hunger games Star Wars edition?

ENOUGH.

Guys and gals (but mostly guys if you can believe it), Hunger Games is hardly the first franchise to pit female characters against oppressive regimes. And to blithely complain about Rogue One having surface-level similarities to this franchise is pointless after you dig at least an inch.

First of all, this “Jyn Erso” character (who we all know is a fill in for Jan Ors), is nothing like Katniss, just based on this very short glimpse we’ve been given of her character.

From what we can tell, she’s an adult rebel of action, whereas Katniss was a reactionary teenager who sort of stumbled around in opposition. Jyn Erso has a clear goal and mission, while Katniss Everdeen is forced to kill other teenagers. Jyn Erso is rebellious to the rebels, while Katniss just sort of whined about Peeta during the majority of Mockingjay.

Yes, it’s too early to make assumptions about “who” Jyn Erso is based on this one teaser, but that goes double for these bizarre Hunger Games comparisons. We’re even teased with a possibility that Jyn will become evil in the end. The only thing we wondered about Katniss was whether or not she was going to kill a cat.

StormtrooperP: So I guess Star Wars is just all about women now?

It never wasn’t. These movies have always had central female characters, like Princess Leia and Padme. For once, though, there’s actually a believable ratio. 

Derbi50: Yay. More girl power crap in Star Wars, because it was super low on that. It’s just ungrateful disrespectful crap. 99.9% percent of military casualties in the 20th century were men. It’s like making a movie about men giving birth or stealing all of their wives stuff in a divorce.

I’m not even sure what to do with this comment. Maybe he’ll chill out once he gets his GED.

ShutupLieberman: Looks like a Divergent movie.

I don’t think you’ve ever seen a Divergent movie.

Adoscafeten: I’m surprised noone’s commenting on how the aesthetic looks like a tv-movie.

I’m surprised you’re surprised by this. You know, since it doesn’t look like a tv-movie at all.

I loved it up until the “subtitle” was presented: “A Star Wars story”? Why is it necessary to include that? It detracts from the intrigue of a supposedly “new” story by reminding the viewer that the Star Wars franchise, while beloved, is a highly commercialized entity. It broke the spell for me!

I actually understand this frustration, but this inclusion of Star Wars in the branding is unfortunately essential. It could mean the difference between this film making millions and millions of dollars less than it could, simply because people won’t realize it’s based on a franchise they already like.

Mstrymxer: WTF. Why is everyone british?

Because Star Wars has had British accents in its movies since 1977?

Star Wars: The Hunger Games – Mockingjay?

STOP.

Bluehawk52: Jyn = Rey. Visage. Age. British. Same. Unoriginal. Take the blinders off, put down the Kool-Aid, and think for yourself, people. Star Wars is dying. Send these Disney clowns a message and don’t support this trash.

If I put down my Kool-Aid, does that mean I have to take a sip of your Bud Ice?

Look, I hardly think Star Wars is anywhere close to dying, mostly because I pay attention to things and use my brain to form opinions. Seeing The Force Awakens become the third highest-grossing movie of all time helped me form that opinion, for example.

So calling Rogue One unoriginal because its protagonist is similar to a different set of movies in this franchise is like saying Captain America: The Winter Soldier sucks because Chris Evans is a white guy like Robert Downey Jr.

And as for unoriginality, I think if you actually rewind the trailer and take your own blinders off, you’ll see a load of things teased that have never even been touched by these movies. Not least of all a samurai fighting stormtroopers.

thezim: It should be called PC WARS: THE FAKE EQUALITY SAGA

Alright, I’m done. Wake me up when the 15-year-olds are done with study hall.


Hey! If you’ve come across a silly article that deserves the Snarcasm treatment, send it my way via Twitter or the comments below!

I’m Jon and thanks for reading this. You can subscribe to my posts by clicking “Follow” in the right sidebar. Or just say hey on Twitter! @JonNegroni

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