I stopped reviewing movies as a regular thing on this blog quite a while ago, but I promised that when something important happened in the movie world, I’d talk about it. A new Star Wars movie certainly qualifies.

As I talked about last year, I was extremely disappointed with The Force Awakens. It was essentially a beat-by-beat, detail-by-detail retelling of A New Hope (the very first Star Wars film), to the degree to which the entire setting and most of the story literally made no sense. If you’ve never seen another Star Wars movie, TFA is a good film. If you’ve seen all the Star Wars movies and wanted a good continuation, TFA was a huge letdown.

I was much more enthusiastic about Rogue One, since it looked to be an original story that plugged nicely into the Star Wars mythology. I was concerned that once again, a Strong Female Who Is Awesome At Everything™ would be the lead character, but I crossed my fingers and hoped this wasn’t the case, or at least wouldn’t detract from the film.

I was able to briefly sneak out of the workload chaos during my release date for my new book to go see the movie on Friday. Was it good? Did it suck? Let’s examine.

What I Liked

1. Seeing the universe of the original trilogy once again.

The most fun part about this movie, at least for me, was to revisit the world of the three original Star Wars films. Think about it; this is a universe we have not visited in movies since 1983. That was 33 years ago, folks. I was eleven years old at the time, desperately wanting to be an Alpha like Han Solo and even more desperately wanting to make out with Princess Leia.

It was so fun to see star destroyers again! It was so enjoyable to see Imperial military commanders dressed like they were in the original trilogy. It was awesome to see tie fighters again! (And I mean real tie fighters god dammit, not those fake, stupid, red ones from TFA.)

I loved every minute of returning to this vast and interesting setting. My inner child was happy.

2. Gritty and universe-accurate feel.

Not only do you get to revisit this universe, but every detail of this world is re-created flawlessly. The weapons, costumes, cities, settings, all of them are perfect. Unlike the ones in the TFA, they are all 100% authentic to what Star Wars should be. Unlike the Star Wars prequels, they don’t go overboard with the CGI. (CGI is used of course, but extremely well.)

Everything about this movie feels broken, used, and lived in. Droids, outfits, spaceships, clothing, everything is dirty, scuffed, and dinged up. Again, very accurate to the dark age in which the galaxy enters once the Emperor and the Empire take over (as opposed to the shiny and antiseptic feel of the Galactic Republic during prequel era).

3. Tarkin is in it!!!

I saw the movie with my daughter, and I told her in the car on the way over that my one hope for the movie was that Grand Moff Tarkin would be in it. He was my favorite character from A New Hope, my third favorite character in all of Star Wars (Behind the Emperor and Darth Maul) and I was pissed that he died at the end of the first movie.

The movie gods favored me. Tarkin is in it, using CGI to recreate the face and body of the long dead Peter Cushing. I’ll be honest; if you look carefully, you can clearly tell you’re looking at a CGI character whenever Tarkin is on the screen. I didn’t care. I was so happy to see this character again that I’m willing to overlook it.

I was seriously more excited to see Tarkin than I was Darth Vader, mostly because I knew Darth Vader was going to be in it. I wanted to see the Emperor of course, but I had a feeling he wouldn’t be in this movie (and I was correct) after having already received so much screen time in Revenge of the Sith.

Prayer to the movie gods: Could you please make an entire movie about Emperor Palpatine? You can pick any time period you want. Thanks.

4. Action and story from a small perspective.

Instead of telling an epic story like the other Star Wars movies, Rogue One tells a story on a much smaller scale. There are big scale things going on of course, but the movie effectively tells a story directly from the perspective of the characters. Giant spacecraft loom in the distance. Imperial Walkers (AT-ATs) tower over the tiny human characters. People get dirty. People get hurt. People even die. There’s actually a sense of danger in Rogue One that’s missing from the other, more heroic and iconic Star Wars films.

5. Stunning cinematography.

As usual, I’m a sucker for this, and this film does a great job. The first eight to ten minutes of this movie are breathtaking. It’s honestly the first part I wanted to watch again once the movie was over. The shuttle approaching the ringed world. The vast and desolate plain. Mads Mikkelsen’s run down but futuristic farm house. The black stormtroopers marching alongside the Imperial commander, clad in white.

They took the time to make this movie look really, really good.

7. Donnie Yen

As I’ve said before, Donnie Yen is my all time favorite martial artist actor (other than Bruce of course). He could beat the shit out of Jet Li and Jackie Chan at the same time. His Hong Kong action movies are my favorite by far, and I wish he had more roles in Western movies.

He’s got an actual character to play in this movie, and he does it well.

8. Dark protagonists

Unlike the other Star Wars movies in which the protagonists are good-guy icons, Rogue One features protagonists who are anything but. Many of them are murderous, angry, strung out, and paranoid. Some of the so-called good guys in this movie often do things that most would consider evil.

Once again, this movie shows a darker side of the Star Wars universe, where even the good guys do things that are not so good.

What I Didn’t Like

Despite the stuff I liked, this movie had many problems. Sadly, they’re quite significant and they ruined much of the movie for me, if not the entire thing.

1. Horrible characters.

For some reason, they decided to jam this movie full of main characters, virtually none of whom you actually get to know or care for. The movie features about ten main characters, and only about three or four of them are needed. Outside of Donnie Yen and the droid, pretty much all the main characters are one-dimensional, boring, and unknown quantities to the audience.

People love Star Wars because of the characters. Han Solo. Yoda. Darth Vader. The Emperor. Even Luke Skywalker is interesting, flawed, relatable, and goes through a real character arc.

Outside of the main girl character (and we’ll get to her in a minute), none of the characters in Rogue One have any depth to them. It murders a lot of the movie.

2. More political correctness being shoved down our throats.

Per the usual Hollywood playbook, you can tell this movie was written and/or produced by leftists. They made very sure to show that every group of good guys you see are all different races and genders, to the point of radical excessiveness which makes no sense.

A racially different and international cast of characters is very cool when it makes sense in context to the story and the setting, such as in the Fast and Furious movies. In a Star Wars movie, where every character has a different accent from a very recognizable country on planet Earth, it not only makes no sense, but it takes you out of the setting and flow of the movie.

When there’s a group of characters on the screen and one speaks with a European Spanish accent, and then another speaks in a Chinese accent, then another speaks in a Danish accent, and then they talk to a black woman who’s standing next to a guy who is clearly from the Middle East… that’s fine, but doesn’t feel like Star Wars. The Star Wars universe is dominated by people with British accents, and occasionally you hear a different one (even American accents are not the norm in the Star Wars milieu).

Before you call me a racist, imagine if, in the Lord of the Rings movies, they cast Sam as a Mexican and Aragorn as a Chinese guy? If you think that’s not a good example, then let’s say they didn’t do that, but instead, most of the humans the main characters met in Middle Earth were played by actors from India, the Middle East, China, and South America, instead of being played by white, European actors with British accents? Wouldn’t that be super weird? Wouldn’t it take you out of the movie and the setting quite a bit? Thus my point.

I’ll say it again; international casting is great in movies that are set on planet Earth, and when there’s a real reason within the movie for the casting. In Rogue One, it’s clearly just more political correctness being shoved down my throat, and damn, I’m getting weary of this.

And… oh god… here we go… speaking of political correctness…

3. Another fucking Mary Sue lead character. (Really guys?)

Learning absolutely nothing from the backlash about a perfect female lead in TFA (or perhaps purposely repeating it because that movie made $2 billion), Rogue One stars yet another Strong Independent Woman Who Can Do Everything Perfectly™.

This main character is a young, normal, female human, weighing perhaps 105 pounds, a criminal who has ostensibly grown up in poverty, often been in jail, and with no formal training in anything. Yet she possesses superhuman strength and beyond-belief, ninja-like martial arts skills, which enable her to easily take on a room full of huge, strong, male assailants and win without getting hit once. She is also an expert marksman, a genius tactician, a world-class public speaker, and a charismatic leader whom everyone automatically likes and wishes to follow as soon as she states an opinion.

Yet again, yet again, I have to go through this crap with a Hollywood movie.

Yet again, yet again, I have to see that same fucking scene I’ve seen a thousand times now, where a strong male character goes to save a tiny female character from danger, only to watch in wonder and surprise as the tiny female beats the shit out of multiple male attackers who are double her weight and have more combat training, and does so without getting even a single mark on her.

This particular left-wing cancer that infected Hollywood about 15 years ago has now ruined Star Wars too. After this and TFA, clearly this was not a one-time fluke and it’s now a pattern of behavior we’re going to keep seeing. So yeah, you ruined it, Hollywood. Great job, guys. Not that you care. Because of A) our new left-wing, politically correct, hyper-irrational, collapsing culture, and B) China movie audiences, which will see any American summer movie in mass numbers no matter how horrible it is, this movie will probably make billions of dollars and have most critics love it too. (Last I checked it was 84% on Rotten Tomatoes. Yup.)

Oh well. At least we still have those older, more realistic movies we can still watch.

4. Parts dragged.

At various points in the movie, I felt like saying, “C’mon guys, get on with it!” This happened even during the final act, during some very amazing action and war scenes. Unlike the other seven Star Wars movies (including TFA), Rogue One does not have a good flow at all. It has an action, quiet, action, quiet, action, quiet, action, quiet rhythm that is somewhat unnerving.

It’s not a big deal, but it definitely bothered me.

5. You can tell that there were reshoots with some of the crappy editing.

This movie had massive, last minute reshoots when the Disney execs felt it didn’t “feel enough like a Star Wars movie.” Ugh, that’s never a good sign.

As just one example, virtually NOTHING you saw in the trailer for this movie is actually in the movie. Seriously. Do this: watch this movie, then go right home and watch that big first trailer that was released. You’ll be shocked. It will almost look like an entirely different film. And probably was.

You can tell there were some serious reshoots in this movie, particularly during the second half. Even some of the scenes I liked (like the Darth Vader battle at the end) clearly feel like they were tacked-on at the last minute, after the movie was already “completed.”

I’m not saying this movie was edited as poorly as Suicide Squad, which is probably the worst edited movie I’ve ever seen, but Rogue One seriously needs to be completely re-edited from top to bottom. If this were done, not only would it be an entirely different movie, but I’m quite positive it would be a far better movie as well.

In summary, Rogue One had a lot of good and a lot of bad, which is disappointing when talking about a Star Wars movie. It’s still a better movie than TFA in my opinion, and better than the prequels (though not by much, since I don’t hate the prequels as much as many do). It’s a fun Star Wars movie, but the characters and the Mary Sue shit ruined it for me to the degree that I can’t say it’s a great movie.

If you want a great movie, go re-watch The Empire Strikes Back, or even Return of the Jedi.

18 thoughts on “Movie Review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  1. Hey Caleb,

    Just saw this yesterday. I liked it a lot more than TFA but yet again as you say, we got stuck with another badass female and perfectly balanced diversity. I guess there’s no escaping this now. Even Princess Leia in the originals was a solid leader but not invincible and got herself captured, enslaved and even shot. She couldn’t do it all without help from Han, Luke and the crew.

    As usual, the “evil Empire” was all white guys too…hmmm.

    Great to see Tarkin as well-i thought the cgi was well done and many who didn’t know better thought he was real. If you watch this on your TV at home it’ll most likely look even better. Seeing it on a big screen will make every little line visible.

    I’m with you too that I was hoping there would be an Emperor cameo-I always thought he was way more of a badass than Vader in a very unassuming body, a great dark side counter to Yoda. He did manipulate a whole galaxy and wipe out the jedi order in one fell swoop! It was cool to see Vader kicking ass at the end-he never did too much in the originals, due to special effect limits at the time, and seeing him run through all those rebels was pretty satisfying. Re-watching some of those saber duels like with Obi Wan seem pretty dull and clunky now.

  2. Who cares about all that social commentary… all of us here are above that. I went in with very low expectations and was blown away by the end.

    The movie started out quite clunky and disjointed, in my opinion. But as it progressed it just kept getting better and better, and by the end had a massive head of steam. The final scene had everyone in my theatre cheering like crazy. What a moment.

  3. I thought it was depressing. It’s like George R. R. Martin on steriods, except instead of watching your favorite characters die over several seasons of a tv show, you get to watch them all die in one movie.

  4. As usual, the “evil Empire” was all white guys too…hmmm.

    To be fair, that is universe-accurate. In the original trilogy they were all all white, stuffy, British guys as well. It was to make them look more evil and upper class. Notice how in those movies, bad guys had stuffy British accents while good guys had casual American accents. It was done for a reason, and it worked.

    Who cares about all that social commentary… all of us here are above that.

    Just because we’re above that doesn’t mean it doesn’t detract from the quality of the movie. At least it did for me.

  5. After watching The Force Awakens in theaters, and just seeing it for what it is: Feminist propaganda. I will no longer be giving this franchise any money, and probably Disney too, since most, if not all, of their movies suck. So I’ll probably download and stream Rogue One, one day if I’m ever bored, but meh I can’t be bothered to pirate most movies these days, they’re not even worth my time even if they’re free. I still go to movie theaters, but only like once or twice a year and only if it’s a really good movie. Looking forward to the next Avatar movie, can’t go wrong with James Cameron. Hell, even the new BladeRunner looks like shit, Ryan Gosling, are you serious? They keep recycling the same actors, it ruins the effect. And MAYBE I’ll watch Ghost in the shell in theaters, but it looks like they’ve converted it into a cookie cutter action movie.

    So movies these days are just low quality overdone CGI money grabs. The real deal is TV shows like Westworld, Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Mr. Robot, Black Mirror, Humans, Alone, to name a few.. AMC and HBO are where it’s at!

  6. Hey Caleb, if Darth Maul is one of your favorite characters, you shouldn’t complain about bland characters with no back story, motivations, boring and one dimensional. Just saying lol

  7. I might not even watch Rogue One online. After TFA, my tolerance to PC bullshit has decreased. A female Anakin in the prequels would have still been fine to me because 1° he (“she”?) takes time to learn and even gets beaten by his master, even though he’s supposed to be the most force-sensitive motherfucker in the world, 2° it is explicitly stated that his midichlorian count is off the charts, and he’s The One, so his great (but still imperfect) feats are understandable. We get nothing of the sort with Rey, she can do “everything” without training even though Anakin was already considered “too old to start” AT TEN, therefore she is indeed a ridiculous Mary Sue.
    One of the stupidest moments in TFA in my opinion was when she’s in a closeup stalemate with Ren and remembers “the Force”, so she *closes her eyes* and takes the time to “focus” so that she can overpower him – like he’s gonna sit there and watch. Just like Dany in GoT, she’s given ridiculously low hurdles to jump and we’re supposed to be awed when she jumps them.
    Which reminds me to comment on what Qlue said: dude, even Game of Thrones and the like are getting contaminated by the PC agenda, there is no escape. My favorite episode, Battle of the Bastards, was nearly ruined (though it had other flaws) by Sansa whining to Jon about how he “didn’t consider her insight” before the battle, when she was clearly present at the council and in no way hindered from speaking the fuck up – and believe me, the spectator is expected to take her side. GoT is still above the quality threshold for me so I’ll continue watching.
    Back to TFA, it’s also pretty disgusting that they put a black guy in Rey’s friendzone, as in “we’re gonna put a black guy in the main cast cause it’s PC, but men must still know their place: behind/beneath women”. I wonder if the chick from Rogue One also has a male lackey (Donnie, god forbid ?!…)

    Donnie Yen (I freakin’ loved this guy in the Ip Man trilogy) and the stunning cinematography are the only things that may yet make me watch it, but the chances are slim.

  8. After watching The Force Awakens in theaters, and just seeing it for what it is: Feminist propaganda.

    That’s an overstatement. TFA isn’t a feminist film, it’s just a left-wing film.

    Joy is a feminist film. Thema and Louise is a feminist film. Set It Off is a feminist film.

    TFA is just a left-leaning movie, like all the rest.

    Hey Caleb, if Darth Maul is one of your favorite characters, you shouldn’t complain about bland characters with no back story, motivations, boring and one dimensional. Just saying lol

    Yes, Darth Maul is one of my favorite characters, but if a movie was filled with nothing but charters just like Darth Maul, it would suck.

    Darth Maul is a great supporting character. He would have made a horrible main character, and Rogue One is full of main characters with no backstory or motivation like Darth Maul.

  9. Hey, just a note from a Sci-Fi nerd, the “black stormtroopers” are actually called “Death Troopers” – possibly the coolest character name in the whole Star Wars universe & a nice touch in my opinion of just how they made this film a little darker. On that note, I sure wish something like this could be given an R-rated treatment. An adult themed Star Wars movie or two would be great. Anyway, back to the Death Troopers, supposedly they were based on some characters originally outlined for a New Hope, but they didn’t fit into the budget at the time.

  10. Hey Caleb,
    Glad to know you’re a Donnie Yen fan too. Donnie really outshines his peers by implementing mixed martial arts into his films like “Sha Po Lang,” “Flash Point,” and “Special ID.” I highly recommend them.
    By the way, you said you learned some with karate. So what’s your story?

  11. “Yes, Darth Maul is one of my favorite characters, but if a movie was filled with nothing but charters just like Darth Maul, it would suck.”

    Agreed. That was called The Phantom Menace, btw. For me Maul was a big lost opportunity. They created a cool surface and totally botched it with no motivation, dialogue or backstory whatsoever. Than Lucas killed him and wasted what could have been an interesting character arc in Obi-Wan’s revenge

  12. To be fair, not all recent Disney movies are in-your-face PC. Tangled/Rapunzel was decent in my opinion (compared to Frozen and especially Brave). The villain who keeps the girl in her tower while telling her there are “men with pointed teeth” out there is basically a ‘tradcon parent’ teaching girls that men are the enemy; and the male lead – dare I say – even has some Alpha 2.0 traits, even though he eventually conforms with the Disney agenda of course. The scene where Rapunzel checks his mouth to see the pointed teeth and realizes they’re normal was powerfully symbolic. I was kinda surprised that a Disney movie would portray men in this relatively positive light.
    And while we’re at it, I’m thankful to Disney (and Depp) for Jack Sparrow. At least in some ways, he’s the ultimate 2.0. “A ship isn’t just a keel and a hull and a deck and sails, that’s what a ship needs. What a ship is – what the Black Pearl really is…is freedom.” Very relevant since CJ has considered the possibility of life on a ship in international waters 🙂

  13. “Sha Po Lang”

    One of the best movies ever made. It also has the single best fight scene ever filmed.

    By the way, you said you learned some with karate. So what’s your story?

    Not since I was a teenager. I will get back into it (probably Krav Maga) once my weight loss is done.

    Agreed. That was called The Phantom Menace, btw. For me Maul was a big lost opportunity. They created a cool surface and totally botched it with no motivation, dialogue or backstory whatsoever. Than Lucas killed him and wasted what could have been an interesting character arc in Obi-Wan’s revenge

    The Phantom Menace was literally one of the biggest wasted opportunities of cinematic history. It’s up there with Star Trek Generations and Alien 3.

    Imagine how cool the prequels could have been. They could have been as good or better than the Lord of the Rings movies. But nope.

  14. This movie had a lot of great things going for it. The look of the movie feels great.

    Two challenges that still must be overcome to make truly great Star Wars movies are:

    1. Being true to the laws of the Star Wars universe.

    In any good book or movie, everything should adhere to the internal rules of that particular universe. For example, in Star Wars, a blaster can’t malfunction and shoot strawberry jam.

    The audience feels uneasy when laws of the universe are broken. Usually they are broken by a heavy-handed writer who wants to force the story in a certain way. But the writer must humble his/her ego and realize that to some extent the story (and characters) is actually writing itself. The writer is merely telling the story.

    I think the cognitive dissonance of the Rogue One wasn’t as great as last year’s movie. Perhaps some rules were broken or bent, or perhaps we just don’t understand the true scope of the Star Wars world. In relation to us, was it along time ago, and if so, how did they get the accents, or is it in the future, or another universe? If it was in our future, presumably the humans all came from Earth, and therefore were of many ethnicities? In terms of other PC questions, if there’s an Emperor, where’s the evil Empress? And all the women married to the stormtroopers, etc?

    2. Allowing the characters to be themselves and make their own choices.

    A great writer creates the universe and shows us some of the characters within that world. The writer then must allow the characters to act of their own accord. The writer is responsible for the storytelling, but the story and the characters should, for the most part, act for themselves.

    The audience must feel that the characters act of their own volition, following the rules of that universe. To puppeteer a character only causes cognitive dissonance with the audience, and keeps the story from realizing its true potential. Again the producer/writer must humble his/her ego and trust the characters to make their own choices. The producer/writer must trust that the chosen characters will truly live great lives that can be shared with the reader/viewer.

    Rogue One worked when it looked and felt like the real Star Wars world, and stumbled when the writers puppeteered the characters actions and/or didn’t practice good storytelling skills. For the most part, I felt the physical laws of the Star Wars universe were upheld by the producers, but I think the characters were partially realized, partially puppeteered. Puppeteered characters will never be able to truly come to life, actors will never be able to make puppeteered characters real, and the story will surely suffer.

    Perhaps I am missing a bit of Star Wars history? Was it said in a “following” episode that all the character of Rogue One died? For example, why did Saw Gerrera give up? It didn’t seem in character, he could have escaped to fight another day. Why did the monk die, after being such a great Jedi at the hands of a few Stormtroopers, why did the general of the main rebel fleet ship not ever fire hardly any weapons from his ship in the final battle?

    Why didn’t Cassian and Jyn try to escape at the end? For the first time in a Star Wars movie there were no ships, land cruisers, vehicles, etc? Why did all the main characters die? Is there something about the Star Wars universe I don’t know? I thought the main characters never gave up? It seems like heavy-handed moves by the producers. It also seems like a wasted opportunity to create continuity to another episode.

    —————–

    1. Seeing the universe of the original trilogy once again. 2. Gritty and universe-accurate feel. 4. Action and story from a small perspective. 5. Stunning cinematography. 7. Donnie Yen

    Agreed.

    8. Dark protagonists

    Agreed but…

    Don’t forgot Hans Solo and Lando Calrissian. Hans wasn’t dark but definitely was fast and loose with the law. Hans was a good guy but seemed like he moved in some shady circles, Jabba the Hut, Lando, etc.

    Too bad their couldn’t be a movie about Hans Solo’s adventures, but not sure how to this without Harrison Ford.

    3. Another fucking Mary Sue lead character. (Really guys?)

    Partially agreed.

    Seems somewhat unusual choice to have two female leads in two movies, but certainly there must be as many women as men in the galaxy, some with cool stories. If the force is in everyone, then everyone could use the force – WITH TRAINING, more or less? Wouldn’t Princess Leia have a strong force, if her brother and father did?

    I thought Jyn was much more believable and likeable than the other girl, and was presumably the gifted child of a very gifted scientist. While she exhibited major powers, Jyn was saved many times by the other lead characters whom seemed to be strong, heroic men, so it seemed more balanced and realistic (than the last year’s movie).

    4. Parts dragged.

    Agreed. Great storytelling uses many elements, including proper tempo and pacing, which is easier said than done, and not universally well-employed throughout this movie.

    ———————-

    Still glad I went – definitely enjoyed it!

  15. Razzard and Fernando:

    Actually the sad part is Maul has a LOT of backstory. You just don’t see it in the film.

    Palpatine pretty much manipulated his mother into a deal of mutual evil, stole him away, took everything he valued from him, tortured him relentlessly until he was beyond broken then made him a mindless brute enforcer who he had no plans on keeping.

    Sadly, Lucas sucks and you never get to see this except in the comics. The entire story would make for a GREAT Palpatine/Sith/Dark Side feature film involving Talzin, Palpatine, young Anakin, and Maul… (and Maul’s brothers) and much like the comics would have ample development opportunity. Pity I’m broke and Disney is both filthy rich and run by stupid neoprogressives… (ugh)

    Oh did I mention he doesn’t die when he is chopped in half? His rage keeps him alive and he just goes completely insane and gets robotic spider legs at the time… yes, really.

    Sorry, nerd rant over.

  16. @chris the reason Lucas never shows maul backstory is because there was none. He created the character to sell toys. The comics and other cannon stories are basically official fan fics written by other people to fix Lucas’s dumb shit.

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