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Star Wars Breakdown (Part 2) – Anyway, That’s All I Got

star wars breakdown

Disclaimer: Our normal recording device crashed at the end of the episode (go figure), so we were forced to use a backup recording of slightly lesser quality. We apologize for the inconsistent sound of this episode.

Solo: A Star Wars Story has finally been released, and we’re concluding our conversation on the entire cinematic Star Wars franchise. After a quick appetizer of a discussion on the animated Clone Wars movie from 2008, we go on a deep dive into the current era of Star Wars. From The Force Awakens all the way through the newly-released Solo, we engage in some of the most impassioned debates and disagreements we’ve ever had. After that, we all propose our own ideas for the unlikely Star Wars Anthologies we want to see, and they might not be what you expect. Enjoy!

Question for you: What’s a Star Wars Anthology you would want to see on the big screen? Also, what are your views on the Disney era of Star Wars?

Go on…Star Wars Breakdown (Part 2) – Anyway, That’s All I Got

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Which is Better? Star Wars: The Force Awakens vs. Rogue One

Comparisons between Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story have always been an inevitable result of these two movies releasing just 12 months apart. And though they’re two very different films (one is a franchise opener and the other a prequel standalone), TFA and RO are both representative of the future that is Star Wars, one of the most beloved mythologies in modern history.

Walking out of TFA, I felt a strange urge to lay some cynicism on the engaging and thrilling spectacle I had just witnessed (and I did ultimately grade it positive). And my criticism of the new trilogy’s opening chapter has been admittedly inconsistent, where at one point I heavily lamented the incomplete character design of Rey, and more recently, I praised the interesting set ups for her legacy. Let it not be said that Rey is a “simple” hero.

By comparison, my problems with RO were far more pronounced and have not budged in the slightest. Despite some great production design and third act action scenes that are anthology peaks, we were given blank slated characters I’ve all but forgotten about in just a few short months, and I’m certainly not alone.

The video above by Lessons from the Screenplay expertly lays out how my issues with both Star Wars films resulted from poor decisions via the writing. Jyn Erso is a passive character whose narrative is beholden to contrived circumstances and loose relationships with superficially interesting characters given little to do. Put simply, it’s a mess of a screenplay. And Michael Tucker manages to make better sense out of why TFA did a superior job making its characters so instantly intriguing and why it’s the better film overall, nostalgic remixing aside.

That said, I’m well aware of the many Star Wars fans who prefer RO in all of its perplexity and dark subject matter. It takes bold risks that provide a useful precedent for Star Wars films that can expand the lore in meaningful ways, not just for the sake of box office. But what makes RO unique can also be perceived as a limiting drawback, moving on from the childish wonder of this mythology (for better or worse) so that it can properly make a movie for adults. In my opinion, it overcorrected in some ways and somehow regressed in others, probably through its late reshoots.

Yes, I believe TFA is better than RO, and I’d even propose that history will remember it as the better film, as well. But I don’t believe this is what truly matters for fans of Star Wars. The takeaway is that diverse Star Wars films are being developed for differing tastes. While RO was not a film I particularly enjoyed, it is one that satisfied a group of fans yearning for something different and unusual. I don’t believe they were given the best product possible in that regard, but to be perfectly honest, neither was I with TFA.

Which is Better? Story and Plot

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the clear winner. As supported by Michael Tucker’s visual analysis, TFA  has a better structure with far fewer throwaway scenes that don’t advance the plot. Rogue One deserves some credit for its effort to be standalone and for its audacious risks, but it falters far too much when it comes to the narrative of Jyn Erso.

Action

Rogue One wins by a slim margin, here, only because it goes all the way with its willingness to depict new and exciting set pieces (Darth Vader’s infamous hallway scene and the Star Destroyer crash, for example). The Force Awakens also has incredible action sequences, of course, and the final lightsaber fight might have cinched this category if not for the simultaneously forgettable Rogue Squadron battle on Starkiller Base. If Rogue One had missed a step with its space battles, then Poe Dameron would have won this just on his one-shot alone.

Characters

The Force Awakens takes this category by a landslide, despite some interesting ideas set forth through characters like K-2SO and Chirrut. Despite seeing Rogue One more recently, I had to search engine those names, which probably speaks volumes.

Villains

The Force Awakens also wins this one for a few significant reasons. Yes, Darth Vader gets one great 30 second scene, but it’s countered by a frankly awful scene between him and another character (complete with a Force dad joke), as well as some shoddy CGI for Tarkin and a wildly complacent Krennic who gets almost zero payoff. Kylo Ren is ultimately the fresher and more compelling villain, balanced well with Snoke and Hux for good measure.

Score

This one’s a tie. The Force Awakens is mostly ho-hum save for Rey’s Theme and the Jedi Steps, but it’s about the same for Rogue One. Neither soundtrack truly stands out with their own Imperial March or Duel of the Fates.

Design (Cinematography, Special Effects, Production Design)

Another tie. Both movies had huge tasks ahead of them. Rogue One had to recapture an established aesthetic with the same amount of detail, while also dabbling in its own inventive ideas. It succeeded on all counts. The Force Awakens, by comparison, contributed a fresher take that reasonably jumped forward in time while also setting the standard for practical effects in a new era of Star Wars films. Neither film quite cracked the uncanny valley (Maz, Tarkin, Rathtars, Leia, etc.), but they made comparable strides.

Conclusion

The only category where Rogue One truly shines is in its action, and even then, it’s by a slim margin. Everything else it accomplishes is either in step with The Force Awakens or a bit worse, especially when it comes to its writing. This is why I firmly believe the subject matter is what truly counts for fans who differ on which film is “better.” For fans of darker material, it’s no contest, while others who prefer the campy mythology and operatic lightsaber battles will undoubtedly point to TFA as the better film.


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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


Ep111: What We’re Watching In December

december

We’ve watched a lot of movies this year, but as we wind down in December, what are the movies we plan to check out in theaters and at home? Featuring special guest and the film critic’s film critic, Will Ashton.

This week, we talked a lot about early reactions to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and did our standard Show & Tell segment toward the end of the show for a change.

You can also download this podcast episode on iTunes and Stitcher.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What was your favorite superhero movie of 2016, if any? Also, what movie from 2016 do you want to see the most that you missed in theaters?

Go on…Ep111: What We’re Watching In December

The Ghostbusters Episode

ghostbusters review

It’s time for a brand new podcast episode of Now Conspiring, and all sorts of things happened. We reviewed Ghostbusters, obviously, but we also found time to chat about some of the big movie news of the week.

Wondering what the deal is with those new Power Rangers posters? Confounded at the popularity of the gentleman’s smartphone game, Pokémon GO? Well, it’s time to conspire by listening to our conspiring.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK (and you’re required to answer this): If you could choose ONE film franchise to never be rebooted (or rebooted again), which would you choose?

Go on…The Ghostbusters Episode

Here’s Everything New We Just Learned About ‘Rogue One’

rogue one new

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story will be opening in December, but we’re already learning quite a bit about the characters and ships for the film (certainly more than last year’s The Force Awakens).

A non-final version of the “Official Visual Story Guide” has been leaked on Jedi News, and it contains some light spoilers for the main characters (shown below), as well as some intriguing story art. I’ll be sharing some of this info, but if you want the full, spoiler-filled image album, click here.

The Rebel team hunting the Death Star plans includes:

  1. Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) – the main character from the trailer who is described as “a gifted soldier and warrior.”
  2. Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) – we see this character at Jyn’s side in the trailer, and he is an officer for the Rebel Alliance.
  3. Baze (Jiang Wen) – a “freelance assassin.”
  4. K-250 (Alan Tudyk) – an Enforcer Droid built by the Imperials now working with the rebels, rendered in CGI.
  5. Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) – a rebel solider we don’t know much about yet.
  6. Pao – a “fierce” alien warrior.
  7. Chirrut (Donnie Yen) – a “spiritual” warrior, and the character we see taking stormtroopers on with a sword.
  8. Bistan – another “fierce” alien warrior like Pao.

 

As for team Death Star, we now know that the black stormtroopers are officially called Death Troopers, and the Imperial officer with the white cape is Director Krennic (Ben Mendelssohn), the “military director of the Empire.”

Here’s a good look at the Rebel Starfighter “U-Wing”, described as a “versatile Rebel Alliance craft that balances speed with the firepower of proton torpedo launchers.”

rogue one new

 

We also got a good look at the new TIE Striker, described as single-pilot “Aerial Assault Vehicles designed for fast-paced dogfights.”

rogue one new


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

She’s a Rogue One

rogue one teaser

This week on the podcast, we talk in length about the new Rogue One teaser trailer, as well as some of the controversy surrounding the Star Wars movies.

I’m joined by my Now Conspiring cohosts, Kayla Savage and Adonis Gonzales. And we also have a surprise guest for our main segment.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What do you like (or don’t like) about Rogue One so far?

Go on…She’s a Rogue One

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