Movie Review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
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.