Here is my super-long, super-rambling, no-TL;DR review of Rogue One. I have, as ever, thrown spoilertext around a lot of it.
I think the best way to do this will be to take a look at the criticism I linked to yesterday, and see how much of it held water.
Note: For the purposes of brevity, sanity, and basic decency, I will be using my translated version of the critique.
Rogue One makes Episode VII look good. And Episode VII wasn’t good.
I’m going to go with “complete disagreement” over this one. It’s practically opposite. Episode VII was good, and Rogue One is better.
This just backs up what I suspected from the moment I walked out after seeing Episode VII. Yes, there was a lot of retracing of steps and recycling plot and action there. There were lots of nods to the old series, sentimental moments with old characters and props, because there had to be. They had to show us, the burned victims of Episode I, II and III, that they could do Star Wars.
Well, now they’ve shown us, they’ve done their duty and their service, and now they’ve stepped up their game, ready to take this franchise in the direction they want. Ready to show us the fucking universe.
Episode VII was Disney paying their Star Wars dues. Rogue One is Disney showing us what Star Wars can be.
The film’s director is usually pretty darn good, but in this case there’s just so much back-story – and future-story – resting on this film, he was basically afraid to do anything because it might piss off the Star Wars nerds.
This is evidently true – and yet, I think the director did fine. There was enough darkness (not just the literal kind, we can talk about that later though), enough tragedy and chilling violence and shocking moments, to show that this movie wasn’t out to keep everybody happy. And while there was evidently a lot of things the director had to worry about in terms of continuity and tone, I think he managed to juggle them all without anything seeming too artificial.
Like I said, Edwards is usually pretty good. Godzilla was fine, if a little preachy.
Basically agreed. I liked the new Godzilla movie even if I actually preferred the Matthew Broderick and Jean Reno version (and I know I’m in the minority). Edwards did a fantastic job here.
This film’s failure wasn’t the director’s fault, wasn’t the screenwriters’ fault – in fact, they apparently did a lot to try to fix that shit – wasn’t even the original story’s authors’ fault. It was Star Wars‘ fault.
Still an interesting idea. I think this was definitely a handicap the filmmakers had to work around – a challenge. But they rose to it magnificently.
I heard some viewers describe the film as “dark”, and I suppose it was – but even that darkness seemed to be Forced into a plastic mould, making the story seem sterile. I blame Disney.
Again, yes. There was a minimum of blood and gore and adult themes, for the sake of the ratings and to keep the ultimate continuity with the rest of the franchise. I don’t think that hampered the darkness of events.
You had a populace downtrodden by the Empire, ancient cultures torn apart and destroyed, faiths shattered. You had the rebellion struggling internally with its own “terrorist” extremist sects and slowly realising that some actions were necessary for the greater good. You had plenty of fights and battles, and an ending where basically all the main characters die. And of course you had the Death Star test-firings, killing thousands, wrecking planets even if not quite blowing them up yet.
So yeah, I think they managed to walk the line between “family fun” and “this is the movie that comes before Episode IV, so when did you think the Empire was going to get to be evil?” And walk it well.
I don’t know why such a great cast had to wind up portraying such two-dimensional characters, but I blame Disney. And I know, I’m repeating myself, but that’s the problem with this franchise in a nutshell. In leaving nothing for us to criticise, the creators of Rogue One have left us with a single all-encompassing gripe.
Sure, the characters weren’t quite as relatable as the classic tropes of Episode IV, V and VI. I found it difficult to root for them or to worry all that much about their fates, although of course I wanted them to succeed in getting those darn Death Star plans to the right place.
I think part of this was the fact that I knew none of these players (aside from the obligatory cameos) were going to make it to Episode IV, so I knew not to get too invested in Jyn and Cassian. That’s a risk, again, that the filmmakers had to take. The characters maybe lacked the on-screen charisma of Finn, Rey and Poe – but shit, that’s some stiff opposition.
Still, the loss of the amazing supporting characters, leading up to the final scenes, hit hard. K-2SO, Chirrut and Baze, Saw, Bodhi, they were all gut-punches to varying degrees.
I think I was hit hardest (aside from K-2SO, which gave me a severe Short Circuit 2 flashback) by Galen’s sacrifice and ultimate death after finally managing to explain himself to his daughter. Possibly because I have daughters of my own, I don’t know about that. It struck a chord, but I’m not about to say it wouldn’t strike a chord with non-parents. We all have dads, to one degree or other. His revelation, and his death, were very poignant.
Not only that, but in the process he managed to correct a decades-old running joke about the fatal weakness of the Death Star. And it didn’t even seem like a big dumb fake retcon! It was really well done, very clever.
And made perfect sense to me. Only way something that huge and multiple-redundancy could possibly blow up with a single shot would be if the designer had made it that way. Fucking amazing.
Jyn wasn’t actually rebellious, she was just a survivor. She’s reunited with Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), something something, reminds her of something something.
Yep, sounds right. She didn’t want any part of the Rebellion because she didn’t really see them as any better than the Empire. The Empire took her life away from her, but only because (from her point of view) it had to fight the Rebellion. And the Rebellion considered her father to be the enemy, so she naturally saw them as hostile. Not only that, but her guardian – Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) – was an ideological enemy of the Rebellion because he was more militant and extremist. And that’s what she grew up with.
I wouldn’t say Saw reminded Jyn of anything in particular, but it was nice that they were able to reconcile some of their issues and settle things before the end. He was massively unsuited to be a guardian to a child, but she seemed to do alright. Not sure if that’s on him or on her, or both. Let’s go with both.
She’s also tossed together with a band of outsiders, one of whom brings her a holographic message from Galen in which he explains why he worked on the Death Star and conveys his insider knowledge about how she can defeat it. The drama, such as it is, involves Jyn’s transition from an apolitical survivor to an active rebel, and the movie builds to the climactic battle, ranging from the cloak-and-dagger to the conventionally military to the space-Wagnerian, to realize Galen’s grandly subversive plan.
Alright. Actually sounds cool. I’m quite glad I’ll be going into the movie knowing this.
If Galen’s plan isn’t grandly subversive, I’m going to be disappointed.
Yep, this was all pretty much on the ball, as far as plot summaries go. Jyn does realise that the Rebellion is important, that they’re “the good guys”, to simplify grossly, and while I’d hesitate to say any of it is cloak-and-dagger (except there are literally a lot of cloaks and capes and stuff, and maybe a dagger or two), let alone space-Wagnerian, it does build steadily to a very cool climactic battle.
Oh yeah, the film’s “dark”, alright. I couldn’t see half of what was going on, it was like a bad ’80s movie where they didn’t want you to get a good look at the monster.
Fair, although I overstated in my translation (imagine that, I exaggerated Brody’s original unfairly!). I wasn’t bothered much by the darkness, though. It was light in the right places, the darkness adding atmosphere to the right planets and scenes.
Plus, we ended up in a 3D viewing by complete and unwelcome accident, so the dark scenes were actually easier to eyegest (this is a new word I just made up) than the sunny ones. Seriously, fuck 3D so fucking hard.
For all my complaining about the gloominess, though, cinematographer Greig Fraser is damn good at his job, having established his chops in a bunch of other films. And he provides some highlights to this one, too.
Absolutely agreed, Mr. Brody-by-proxy. Absolutely agreed. The cinematography was fucking spectacular. Particularly that vertigo-inducing final battle.
Okay, planetary shields are still a bit of a mystery to me, but once we accept that they’re a thing, this was a brilliantly handled fight.
The cast is great, the diversity is through the roof – can I thank Disney’s offend-nobody philosophy for that, instead of blaming them? No, apparently my mission statement says I can’t – but they’re prevented from doing anything by that same focus-group-meeting mentality that turns characters and script and plot into plain oatmeal. Hey, some people like plain oatmeal, and that’s fine. I don’t want to watch a bowl of it for two hours.
The cast was great. Thanks Disney.
Like I said, I could have used a bit more charisma and chemistry between the main characters, but they were hardly cardboard cutouts. I don’t know exactly what was served by their diversity, except of course that the Rebellion – and indeed the galaxy far, far away – is big and has all sorts of people in it. So yeah, diversity adds realism. They were good. Not sure what else I can say there.
The script of “Rogue One” is so flat and inexpressive, the direction of the actors so methodical, as to render these artists nearly robotic and synthetic.
The script was pretty much fine, keeping in mind that I’m comparing it to the scripts of Episode IV, V and VI. There’s absolutely no comparison to the abysmal II and III scripts, and to a slightly lesser degree I. And K-2SO owned about 80% of the script’s absolute cream.
Yeah, as I have said a couple of times, the main players could have had a bit more spunk. Don’t know what to tell you, I think they were drowned out by the gorgeousness of the scenery, the intensity of the story, and the sheer balls-to-the-wall brilliance of their supporting characters. And that’s alright.
The one character with any inner identity is, in fact, a robot, K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk, and the only performance with any flair at all is a C.G.I. incarnation, or, rather, resurrection.
K-2SO wasn’t the only character with actual character, but I think Brody can be forgiven for thinking so, given his starting position of “none of these characters have character”. K-2SO fucking ruled. I laughed just about every time he was on the screen, and every line he had was perfect.
Well … okay. He didn’t need to double-punchline the one part where Cassian (I think) said that they were all going to die in the icy vacuum of space, and K said “not me,” then added “I can survive in space.” I think we all got that this was what he meant. It was fucking hilarious, but yeah, the redundant punchline spoiled the joke a bit. Otherwise, he was flawless.
Even the climactic battle scenes, in which the band of rebel warriors risks all to disable and destroy the Death Star according to Galen’s instructions, pivot on an unintentionally comical plot point—centered on the transmission of an exceptionally large packet of data—that seems ready-made to be reprocessed as a series of commercials for an Internet-service provider or a cell-phone plan. It makes perfect sense: “Rogue One” isn’t so much a movie as a feature-length promotional film for itself; it’s a movie that is still waiting to be made.
Yeah, this comment was stupid. But the idea that plans for even something as huge as a Death Star would be too big to transmit … I don’t think that was what was going on. They had to dick around a lot getting the antenna to work, but it was mostly the fact that there was a war going on and the planet had a shield over it that was the problem.
I was a little puzzled by the fact that Bodhi and the ship got blown up, did that not matter after the master switch had been thrown? I guess the upload was working at that point, so it didn’t need to stay plugged in? There were a lot of moving parts in that plan.
On the topic of nitpicks, I had a couple more.
First one was when Chirrut was having his duel with the Stormtroopers, he seemed to knock sand into the face of one of them, and the dude reacted as though actually hit in the face with sand. Why, please? He had a full Stormtrooper mask on. He might have flinched a bit, but it seemed like an excessive reaction.
Second one was when they went down to the planet where Galen was being kept. Cassian said something like “we should get through undetected as long as this storm hold up…” – did he not see the planet as they were landing? The entire globe was wall-to-wall cyclones as far as the eye could see. Never mind worrying about that storm ever coming to an end – they should have been worried about the presence of xenomorphs.
That’s about it for complaints.
I’ve seen some people who were unhappy with the CGI recreations of Leia and Tarkin. I thought they were fucking magnificent. Already when they showed the back of Tarkin’s head and his reflection in the glass, I was impressed. Then he actually turned around and became a a living, breathing villain again – and the villain Tarkin always deserved to be! Oh my fucking God, that shit was amazing. Cushing still kicking arse and taking names, 22 years after his death.
Ditto Carrie Fisher, except she’s not dead [Well, this was poignantly true at the time of intial posting but not anymore. – Ed] and she was only on the screen for a really brief time. Still very good.
What else was good? You know, aside from everything?
The little continuity nods (and the not-so-little ones, like Jimmy Smits reprising his role as Bail Organa) were subtle and lovely. For example Cornelius Evazan (apparently) and Ponda Baba having a little run-in with Jyn and Cassian on Jedha. Presumably before things went sour in a major way on Jedha, they got out and decided to lie low on Tatooine for a while. The more I read up on them, the more intriguing it gets.
And speaking of intriguing…
K-2SO elevated Star Wars droids. What are they? Are they sentient, and treated as a slave-class for reason of their physical makeup? Are they just complex machines with a semblance of sentience? They have absolutely no Asimov Laws to keep them from killing the shit out of everyone, and their personalities seem utterly dependent on their programming – I mean, to the extent that reprogramming one makes it a whole different character. They can be deactivated, traded, even destroyed on a whim.
I’m not really sure where I’m heading with this, but K-2SO made it even more clear to me than before, that the droids in the Star Wars universe are some crazy, compelling shit.
Of course, the immediate question I had was “hey, so there were a bunch of Imperial droids like K, so could his programming be put into another one? Or, like the Death Star plans but possibly even more complex, is the program so big it could never be transferred, and is essentially solid-state as part of his body, and was destroyed when he was shot up?”
It’s a geeky question, to be sure, but there doesn’t seem to be an answer to it (too much time delving in Wookieepedia notwithstanding). From what I’ve seen, droids are very much individuals and only raw parts like limbs are interchangeable. In this sense, they’re basically living things that just happen to be made out of metal.
Huh. Makes you think.
Makes me think I’m going to see this again on Monday.