And it starts. With a Star Wars film being promised every year until the foreseeable future, there will come a time when Star Wars will start losing audiences and eventually stop. But as we are just at the beginning of this saga, I guess these first ones will be good? Let’s go see.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, with Riz Ahmed and Forest Whitaker and is directed by Gareth Edwards. The film follows a band of fighters from the Rebel Alliance as they track down the plans for the newly developed Death Star, hoping to find a weakness in its design.
Rogue One had many things I liked. Rogue One builds on one of my main gripes with Ep. VII, it extends the universe and giving us some diverse planets. Episode VII gave us the same look as the others; desert planet, snow planet, and forest planet. Rogue One has rolling green hills, island resorts, LV-426 and Mordor. It keeps the visuals fresh and pretty, even if we do go to ANOTHER BLOODY DESERT PLANET near the beginning, one that looks exactly the same as Tatooine and Jakku. They even have the same backstreets and architecture of previous planet settlements, give it a rest.
Another good thing were the fight sequences. Director Gareth Edwards said this would be a war film and the extended running battles are excellently filmed. The final battle, set on that previously mentioned island resort is a highlight of the series with Stormtroopers and Rebels running through the undergrowth, across beaches, and through shallow water, blasting anyone in their way. The inclusion of Donnie Yen as a fighter was perfect and he used Kung Fu to defeat his enemies. I was extremely annoyed at the waste of The Raid stars Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian in Ep. VII, but Donnie Yen using wushu was enough to make me forgive the complete waste of talented actors in previous films.
Now onto things I didn’t like. While I was a fan of the story, the characters were boring. The film is full of questionable actions with good guys doing bad things “for the rebellion”, but these feel like trappings. It is a known fact that Rogue One went into reshoots for being in Disney’s words “too dark”, and it feels that the characters were meant to go through a bit more of a story arc before the film ended. Diego Luna’s character flits from being able to kill allies to craving the sanctity of life with no explanation in between. Torture is used on one character, but its after-effects aren’t dwelled upon at all. It feels like it’s on the cusp of something, but doesn’t have the will to see it through.
With Rogue One being set in between Episode III-IV, the film is full of little references to the larger series. To me these were awful additions and really drag the film down. (MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD) Evazan and Ponda bumping into our heroes, Red and Gold Leader appearing for no reason, Bail Organa talking about how he must return to Alderaan to warn them of the Death Star, they are put in as a nudge and a wink to the audience, killing all dramatic tension or build-up for a one-second gag. There were multiple guffaws from my audience when these characters turned up, cementing the fact that these were put in for a “oh, I know them!” from the hardcore crowd.
Rogue One tries its hand at a few jokes, most of them landing flat. Even Darth Vader gets a zinger in with it coming off more like a Schwarzenegger one-liner than anything the famous Sith Lord would say. Grand Moff Tarkin is recreated with CGI and while it looks uncannily like Peter Cushing, you can tell it’s fake. It might be his eyes or the faint rubbery-ness of is skin, but something is off.
Finally, the film ret-cons integral parts of the series. It’s a small complaint and one that uber-fans will probably skip over, but the film starts messing over established points of the Originals and Prequels, which really annoyed me.
In the end, Rogue One has left me in two camps. While I enjoy the explosive set-pieces and the extension of the universe, I have to criticise the poorly written dialogue and the “keeping it safe” approach. While Ep. VII was a good re-introduction for the newbies, Rogue One feels like one for the hardcore fanbase.
Score: 6/10 Good moments let down by a script and characters that aren’t involving.