Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

6.6 Overall Score
Writing: 6/10
Production: 7/10
Performances: 7/10

The third act stands out.

The first two acts are a mediocre film trading on the Star Wars brand.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk,
Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker
Walt Disney Studios
2016

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!

Rogue One is a mess. Badly edited, crowded with unnecessary scenes and extra characters nobody cares about, it does blaze along the way you expect it to. It’s reasonably fun. But here’s a red flag; when the passive-aggressive droid is the most interesting guy in your band of heroes, it’s time to do some rewrites.

Rogue One is the first Star Wars film that is not the Skywalker family saga, but it is still about daddy issues. Felicity Jones is Jyn Erso, who was separated from her father, Mads Mikkelsen’s Galen Erso, when she was a small child. Her father is a brilliant scientist who is forced by the Galactic Empire to work on their Death Star project.

Fifteen years later, when a holographic message from Galen Erso emerges, warning of the Death Star and the flaw (having to do with exhaust ports) that he has deliberately hidden inside it, the Alliance press-gangs his daughter into trying to rescue her father from the Imperial clutches, and so sabotage the completion of the superweapon.

“Erso” was a bad choice. In the various accents of the Star Wars universe, it often comes out sounding like “asshole”. I imagine it sounds especially like “arsehole” in Britain and Australia.

Diego Luna looks very sensitive and sincere as Cassian Andor, the Alliance operative who commands the mission, most vitally by making a lot of intense, meaningful eye contact with the willful assh- I mean, Erso.

The movie is badly edited, with the action sequences often confusing and hard to follow. It has too many minor characters who are too sketchily drawn. The blind, stick-fighting monk? Come on. Forest Whitaker is in the film only to show off his mind-raping octopus and briefly give Forest Whitaker Eye to what you might mistake for a moon, but is really a big, big fucking battle station. Jimmy Smits, a talented actor, is brought back to reprise Senator Bail Organa from the prequels, but says almost nothing and does less than that. Genevieve O’Reilly is back as Mon Mothma, the woman who leads the Alliance. She’s an intriguing character who has been underplayed in the films; I’m not sure anyone actually speaks her name in Rogue One.

Alan Tudyk is a standout as the voice of the droid, K-2SO. But as with everything good about Rogue One, it only serves to point up the film’s deficiencies. K-2SO is the comic relief – although in sharp contrast to Jar Jar Binks, the droid is funny and interesting. However, when your male and female leads are so one-note and wooden that you’ve got to bring in a droid to liven things up, you’re making a mistake. A Star Wars film cannot live on X-Wings and AT-ATs alone.

Rogue One also features mostly CGI appearances by Governor (later Grand Moff) Tarkin and a young Princess Leia, who is brought in for one single word of dialog at the end (it’s not “incest”). These were weird and off-putting.

Another Star Wars icon who appears in the film is Darth Vader. Vader’s climactic sequence, by itself, was worth twice the price of the ticket. When it turns up on YouTube, I will watch it for days. But…when a cameo, even a Vader cameo, is one of the most thrilling things about your film, you’ve screwed up your film.

What I do admire unreservedly about Rogue One is the way it portrays the Empire as a sickeningly inexorable fascist evil, demanding obedience at terrible cost. I’ve been watching this franchise for forty years, and it still kicks me in the heart every time I see an X-Wing go up in a ball of fire. When the credits roll, every single poor brave bastard on the movie poster is dead. This includes Ms Jones. Freedom isn’t free, not even in a galaxy far, far away. The courage to kill the cute chick alone deserves your movie-going dollar.

 

 

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Brian Downes
Author: Brian Downes View all posts by
Brian Downes is a writer who lives in Orlando, Florida. His novel, The Berlin Fraternity, about a man who hunts vampires for the Third Reich, is available on the Kindle and through Amazon.com. He enjoys pen and paper roleplaying games and geek culture. He clearly remembers waiting for The Empire Strikes Back to hit theaters, and vindicate his opinion that of course Vader was not Luke's father. You can't trust Vader's word!

One Comment on "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"

  1. Kat J. December 18, 2016 at 7:37 pm - Reply

    Hi Brian,

    I enjoyed the movie as a whole, but I have to agree with your points.

    However, that last scene with “a young Princess Leia” was ODD. The CGI on that scene was CREEPY. I don’t know how they did it, but it was really off.

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