Clever. Real clever, Disney.
It’s the Christmas holidays. Students are out of school, family is back for a few weeks, and some people get time off work. Why not go watch the new Star Wars movie? This will be the theme for the foreseeable future, as Disney plans to release a Star Wars movie every year, and they began with The Force Awakens.
I’m not personally invested in the franchise, as I was born after the original trilogy came out and was given Episode I as a first impression. As an outsider looking in, it seems like the original trilogy was a revolutionary, never-before-seen concept at the time, ambitious in its scope, literary in its inspiration, and epic in its presentation. Unfortunately, everything after the first three movies has been utter garbage (with the exception of one game, and perhaps some books, I do believe).
Rogue One is basically Episode 3.5, taking place just before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope. It follows Jyn Erso, daughter of the head engineer of the Death Star, and her decision to aid the rebellion by stealing the plans which contain the planet killer’s fatal weakness. This review will consider the good, the bad, and the ugly. There will be some spoilers.
I liked this movie more than Force Awakens. The main reason is that it’s an original story, and that counts for a lot in my book. Just about anything is better than a point-by-point facelift of a classic, and Rogue One‘s story also matters, as it details the important plot point of how Princess Leia had the Death Star plans in the first place. This is the perfect way to produce DLC–I mean side stories. Show us more information on a story we already love.
Unlike A Force Awakens, Rogue One is also a complete story. Though Rogue One openly acknowledges that it takes place in an established setting and plotline, it doesn’t have to rely on any of the previous movies nor future releases for us to understand what’s going on, hence the fewer plot holes (in comparison to episode VII).
I will say there are two great things about this movie. The first is Vader’s scene at the end. Vader and Gray Fox are officially the most badass dudes to have ever walked down a hallway. This scene alone is worth the price of admission.
Secondly, Krennic is perhaps the most interesting character out of the entire cast. I say this because he checks off just about everything that is required for a character to be likeable and interesting: he has ambition, he takes action to achieve said ambition, and his weakness is tied to that ambition. The only thing that counts against him is that he’s not a good guy.
…which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the cast. Though it often happens with films that antagonists end up being more interesting than protagonists, this was the first time none of the good guys interested me, and Krennic wasn’t even the head honcho! There’s still Tarkin and Vader. So how did a lackey end up being the most interesting character?
None of the good guys in Rogue One ever convince us that what they’re doing is what they really want. Jyn is a convict at the beginning of the movie. Her decision to aid the rebellion is based on a promise that she won’t go to jail, something the rebellion can’t even guarantee. Much of her character development hinges on her relationship with her father, but the film goes about it in a lazy fashion, banking on the father-daughter relationship for insta-emotion. Her father was an engineer, yes? Why not make Jyn an illegal pod racer or something, and she uses a pod racer built by her dad, or have her be an engineer herself, to show that she really did look up to her father? Instead we get hug scenes and sappy exposition, aka the easy and lazy way out. Because they don’t put effort into showing us Jyn had a real relationship with her father, her motivation becomes hollow as well.
Everyone else is basically forgettable, except maybe Donnie Yen’s character because kung-fu. But even that was somewhat awkward. Does casting an asian actor just so he can use martial arts really help move diversity forward? Why not cast an asian guy as an all-star Imperial hockey player? None of the supporting cast stand out, either in performance or personality-wise. They are all stand-ins whose actors can are replaceable and inevitably forgettable. (Except maybe Krennic.)
It goes without saying that the Star Wars franchise probably would’ve been better off without this film, though not more so than Episodes I-III and VII. Any time something amazing and original gets plundered and rehashed as much as Star Wars has by the Hollywood machine, it’s bad. It’s depressing in almost the same way as watching the Great Barrier Reef die, or to have a rainforest be cleared out for a shopping mall. The original trilogy was complete, original, ground-breaking in various respects, entertaining, and epic. Since then, the Star Wars brand has now become the classiest whore of the pimp that is Disney, and it’s just sad. Like I said, I’m not a big Star Wars fan, but I can understand the pain of seeing something I love be ruined and its legacy shit on because someone wanted to make more money. It has happened before, it’s happening now, and it will continue to happen forever and ever, in galaxies far far away…
Let’s not kid ourselves: you’ve probably watched it already, and if you’re still reading you’re probably wondering what to make of it, or to try and understand why you half-liked and half-disliked the film. It’s an average film, not terrible by any means, but it’s not particularly inspiring or innovative either. Those two I-words are what we associate with A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, but that ship has sailed. All we can do now really is believe in the force, and pray it exerts some of its will onto Hollywood, in the hopes that a decent Star Wars film will come out sooner rather than never.
This has been a gamobo review. Thanks for reading.