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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – The Complete Review

December 15, 2016

15 December 2016

Rebellions are built on hope, and so are Star Wars movies that deviate from the broader Star Wars narrative and its familiar characters. With this being the first of its type, Rogue One managed to succeed with a brilliant and emotional finale, after a somewhat chaotic and meandering start. It had a tough task considering its primary objective of detailing the Rebellion’s acquisition of the Imperial Death Star plans was not only one solitary event of many in Star Wars history, it had a known outcome. To broaden the scope of the movie, the formation of the Rogue One squad became a prominent event, which, without the Star Wars setting, would not have been that interesting. Within the group, there was no major character arc like with Rey from The Force Awakens. This was merely about two people and a droid randomly gathering a bunch of outcasts to eventually become Rogue One.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - The On-Fleek Review

Jyn Erso, the main character, didn’t benefit from any great development either. While she was impressive, comparing against Ray again, her arc was flat. We knew she was rebellious and fierce from the start, and that’s how she finished. Whereas Rey, the nondescript scavenger became the future hope of the galaxy. Without a strong character to pull you deep into the movie, the plot and, particularly, the action were left to hold attention, and that’s where the movie excelled.

Supporting characters were barely memorable. Captain Andor Cassian, who led the mission, lacked any hint of charisma. The new droid, K-2SO, whose introduction scene portended greatness, proved a disappointment. His humour was too smug to be funny, his moving eyeballs looked creepy, and ultimately he provided few memorable moments. The rest of the cast, outcasts as they were, were limited in their scope. Because of their nature, banter between them wasn’t as free flowing or natural as we’ve come to expect, unlike with Han Solo and Chewbacca from TFA. Where they provided natural comedy, there wasn’t any of that in Rogue One. The movie’s tactic was to revert to action scenes to bond these characters. The planet Jedha was a prime example, where Jyn and Cassian engaged in some anti-Stormtrooper shenanigans and picked up a few extras for their eventual rogue group.

As to the action itself, it was interstellar! It’s probably the best ever. The fire-fights and combat on the ground, the space battles – it was all peerless in its choreography, execution and technically perfect. You may quibble about the CGI used to reprise Governor Tarkin, that it didn’t look quite right. It won’t next to live actors. As much as CGI can recreate almost everything in reality, eyes looked too glassy and body movement was a bit stilted. Personally, Tarkin is not such a major character that a lookalike actor could not have served just as well. Also a highlight was seeing the nascent Rebellion in action. This was no well organised, cohesive force as seen in the original trilogy. There were several splinter groups within it, each with their own ways and limits to rebel, which no doubt enhanced the rogue capabilities of the rebellion itself, and even making the entire Rogue One operation possible.

It’s not a new Star Wars movie without nostalgia. While there were no great great flow of emotional moments like seeing Han and Chewie, and Leia and Luke Skywalker, in TFA, there were plenty of nods to bit players. Noting that Rogue One directly precedes Episode 4: A New Hope, several Rebel fighters were reprised from the attack on the Death Star, and they and their banter will put a grin on your face, while familiar droids, aliens and Imperial senior officers also appear (keep up your visual scanning). The filmmakers struck the balance right by not pimping out the iconic characters like Darth Vader. While he appears, it’s totally appropriate, and not at all gratuitous. If there’s something even remotely critical about Darth in Rogue One it’s the actor playing him had too much hip movement. Darth’s initial scene he struts out a bit like a catwalk model.

Rogue One is not the conventional Star Wars movie, rich in character exploration and Force mythology, as you expect. It doesn’t even want to pretend it’s Star Wars as you don’t see “Star Wars” mentioned anywhere the film. Certainly not in the opening. Other than learning the design flaw in the Death Star was intentional (apologies to the Empire for believing all those years you were inept), there’s no real revelations either. It’s firmly a movie about plot; the telling of a particular event. Most of the characters aren’t memorable, not that you’ll need to remember them. Early on, it swings all over the galaxy so fast, visiting new planets and introducing new characters, that it makes it difficult to keep track – particularly of the characters and their importance, and even their link to each other. Eventually you get there. Most of all it’s that wonderful finale to savour and remember. It could not have finished more perfectly and provides the greatest surprise itself.

When Rogue One is released for the home market, no doubt repeat views will be to start from that mesmerising final hour. In a sense Rogue One’s closest similarity to other Star Wars films is with Return Of The Jedi. Both do as they need at the start to get going, and then finish in a blaze of glory. History is likely to sit Rogue One and ROTJ next to each other as comparable. That’s certainly my view of it.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Review
Ranking the Star Wars Movies – Episodes 1 to 6

 

16 December 2016
Second View and Spoiler Section

Rogue One was far more emotional the second time. There were tears, and I might need to even elevate it above ROTJ one day. A bit more of the plot came to life, particularly the conflicting objectives Cassian had to deal with – the orders from the Rebels and Jyn’s mission to find her father. The group of rogues began to become quite loveable, mostly because they were so brave.

All the name-dropping made sense, the plot aligned, and knowing Jyn’s father from the start really helped. The trailers made me presume Director Krennic was Jyn’s father, so watched the film with that as a firm preconception. I thought the young Jyn was kept hidden from her father, either adopted or with special guardians, much like the case with Luke Skywalker. I never realised it was papa Erso there in those opening scenes. The holographic message Jyn saw on Jedha was the first trigger that her father wasn’t Krennic, before confirmation with the attack on the rainy planet of Eadu. Interestingly, my sister found the movie intriguing all the way. Maybe I let my inner Star Wars geek over-think things. Speaking of geeks, much of the laughter at K-2SO at the midnight session was forced. For this second view, on a late Thursday afternoon with a mainstream audience, barely a laugh heard. I’m reconciled to believe K-2SO isn’t meant to be funny, nor is Rogue One meant to be a funny movie. It was about a deadly serious movie about a deadly serious mission.

Many scenes in the trailers, even iconic scenes, never made it to the movie. Notably Jyn’s “I rebel” line and the scene where she’s confronted by a Tie Fighter on a platform. While watching I was waiting for the “I rebel” moment, expecting Jyn would return to the Rebel base after her successful mission to explain herself going rogue. Maybe showing such scenes to keep the audience guessing was all part of the plan?

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - one of the missing scenes

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – one of the missing scenes

Mysteries. Rarely do you leave a Star Wars movie without questions circulating in your head. Given the nature of this movie and its settled conclusion, there’s nothing. Maybe you could ask why did the Empire destroy the their base on Scarif. Was it a last ditch insurance against the plans being stolen? Also curious was that the Rebels could rebuild their fleet as seen in Episodes 5 and 6 after so many familiar ones, like the medical frigate and the flagship, were either destroyed or captured in Rogue One. The number of capital ships seemed about the same in both movies, suggesting you couldn’t acquire them easily, otherwise the Rebellion would have far more for the attack on the second Death Star. Probably ships were added as more systems joined the Rebellion. The success of the Rogue One operation certainly would have inspired others.

Thank you that Jyn and Cassian never kissed!

 

29 December 2016
Third View – Hyper Critical

After 13 days without Rogue One, there’s only so long you can meditate, so it was to time to medicate by returning to the cinema. This would be the first in 2D as, except for IMAX, the 3D sessions had already disappeared. Don’t worry, I’ll deal with IMAX soon enough – in 10 days to be precise. Fear. Fear of losing that extra dimension would not be enough to stop me going this week.

It turned out the film was perfectly fine in 2D. Partially that is because the 3D didn’t pop like you normally expect, the cinema was brand new with a super big screen and Dolby Atmos sound, and it’s Star Wars, so it’s good on anything. The only difference I really noted is that Krennic’s tunic didn’t seem as wrinkled and Governor Tarkin looked more natural.

Nothing much felt different with the pacing of the film. It’s still meandering at times, and it’s only less chaotic at the start because you are now fully aware of how everything is connected. Drastic improvements could be made by cutting some of the opening scenes. No need for the market place scene where Cassian learnt about the defecting Imperial pilot. While its purpose was to show Cassian had a ruthless streak, this aspect of his character (actually, an aspect of most rebels at this stage of the Rebellion) was never explored further so it became irrelevant. Same deal with the scene on Jedha when the Imperial pilot was taken to Saw Gerrera. It added nothing. To be really bold, the opening scene can go, as the fate of the Ersos is told later during the hologram scene and through Jyn’s flashbacks. The film would therefore start with the rescue of Jyn. You could easily work in the ubiquitous Star Wars opening spaceship scene by showing the rescue force arriving on the planet where Jyn was held. If you want to preserve the approach to the beautiful Ring of Kafrene from the market place scene, then put Jyn there to be rescued, rather than drab Wobani.

Speaking of Jyn, a key aspect of her character was incomplete. What was the big deal about her having a blaster? Why would she shoot Cassian? K-2SO said the chances of that were high – very high. For some reason, Rebel command didn’t quite trust her. Either add an appropriate scene to show she’s a problem, or cut the scene inferring she’s a problem. Trust goes both ways.

The real clumsy area of the movie involves the fate of Galen Erso. The Rebels rescue Jyn to get to her father, just so they could kill him. It made little sense. Why kill him when the Death Star was already built and apparently the mission was also to learn about it? It seemed like petty revenge. This scene on rainy Eadu served mostly to galvanise the rogue group – and add a gratuitous X-Wing vs Tie Fighter battle scene, and to steal an Imperial shuttle. Surely it would have been better if Galen was on Scarif where the Death Star plans were stored, and somehow his rescue is intertwined with stealing the plans.

Dialogue, while not crucial in this film, needed tweaks. The most obvious is the designation of Rogue One itself. We’re supposed to believe it came from the spontaneity of the bumbling Imperial pilot flying the rogues to Scarif? Surely, “rogue” needed to be mentioned earlier, preferably by Jyn. Something like “So I’ve acquired a bunch of rogues, have I?” when certain rebels splintered from the decision not to attack Scarif. Then on the shuttle, you have that connection, like a confirmation of “rogue” by the Imperial pilot with Jyn before he adds the “one”.

It’s settled with K-2SO. He’s not funny! Barely any laughter during this almost full house. The only scenes of genuine laughter were “Cassian said I had to” when he told Jyn he’s joining her rogue group, and on Jedha when Jyn shot an identical Imperial droid just in front of K-2SO and he said “did you know that wasn’t me”. The real flaw with him is that he’s too humanised. Not only using his eyes moving to convey emotion, his neck is overly dexterous too. Droids should be droids.

Unlike most Star Wars movies, memorable lines are very few. The only one I’ve caught myself saying is “light it up”. “Rebellions are built on hope” is the basis of the film and that could be borrowed, while “I’m one with the force and the force is with me” is too hokey to be useful. The line I currently use often was cut from the film: “I rebel”. “Are you with me”, the key line in the August trailer, is sadly missing. I really wanted to yell out, “hell yeah”.

Even though I carefully listened, the exchange near the end between Mon Mothma and Bail Organa is incomplete. She mentions his hidden Jedi friend, and he responds about being served well by him in the Clone Wars, and then adds “I would trust her with my life”. Her? Somehow it skipped from Obi-Wan to Princess Leia. Even though this dialogue helps set the foundation for Leia’s future role, it was superfluous to the film other for a minor nostalgia effect.

The most interesting lines I picked up were the references to Red Five during the final battle. While immediate reaction is to think “OMG, that’s Luke Skywalker!”, remember he was still bullseyeing wamp rats in his T-16 back home at this stage. It would have been fun had there been a line in the film, “Oh, we’ve lost Red Five” – just to jolt our conscience.

I’m still not comfortable with the way the shield protecting Scarif was destroyed. Why was there the need to push the stricken Star Destroyer into a capable one nearby? Why didn’t the capable one fly away? Why not simply push the stricken Star Destroyer into the shield gate? That alone would have been enough. If that couldn’t be done or wasn’t enough, sacrifice one of the rebel cruisers!

What’s the time frame between the end of Rogue One and Episode 4? With escape pods readied and alarms sounding, it seems only minutes. I wanted to believe the corvette escaped and the Rebels had time to celebrate and regroup. Or maybe it’s not so immediate? Consider they’re still over Scarif, not Tatooine, R2-D2 and C-3PO were no where to be seen, the ship clearly wasn’t on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan, and Leia spoke of hope. There’s not too much hope if Darth is still on your tail.

Speaking of Darth Vader, his final scene is still so mesmerising. We’ve never seen Darth (as Darth, not Anakin) before at full power, so it was a brilliant addition to the film. With Rogue One being the first true sequel to the original trilogy – as it was set in the same time frame – it’s potential moments like these that made the anticipation for this film so high. Then with all the other references – the Rebellion, the Empire, Stormtroopers, the Death Star, X-Wings, Tie Fighters, AT-ATs and, most important of all, Princess Leia herself – it hit all the marks.

Most memorable with this film, especially the more you see it, is it becomes so much more emotional. It tugs at you like no other Star Wars film does. That’s because those once nondescript Rogues become far more attached each time you relive their heroics. As each one gets popped off, it becomes sadder and sadder. Even K-2SO, you begin to feel for him. As for the final scene with Jyn and Cassian, it’s almost unwatchable. It’s a tear-jerker way before it happens. Then you leave with that one word planted in your head: Hope. That’s the true legacy of this movie.

I wouldn’t change the original rating of this film – about the same level as Return Of The Jedi. Sometimes on reflection our feelings magnify, believing it’s better than we initially felt. With those initial feelings there was ambivalence, particularly during it. It was those final few sequences that seem to sweep everything else prior away. I also look to applause, particularly the geek-infested midnight sessions. The odd smattering, that’s it. The Force Awakens had quite a bit more, while the modern Star Wars sequel that had the biggest applause remains Episode 2: Attack Of The Clones.

With Carrie Fisher dying this week, it’s poetic Princess Leia had the very last word in Rogue One. Ironically, the news of Carrie’s death was the same day of this trek to see Rogue One. Then her mother, Debbie Reynolds, dies the following day, today. One can’t be sad. Both had great lives, and now Debbie won’t suffer the greatest pain of all is avoided: losing her daughter. She and Carrie are quickly reunited again. May the force be with you, both.

 

8 January 2017
Fourth View – IMAX

This was the most satisfying Rogue One experience yet. From the first scene to the last, I was engrossed. It wasn’t just because of the mind-blowing IMAX 3D experience either, it’s the fact of seeing a Star Wars film multiple times. They grow on you. All of them. I seem to recall it was the fourth view with the previous ones, certainly with The Force Awakens, that proved the best experience too. Every scene becomes pivotal. Every word means something. Every emotion feels real. It becomes the complete experience as always intended.

Much of this extra level of enjoyment simply revolves around familiarity. The words matter because the characters and the plot are now fully exposed and understood. Therefore you make the smallest connections whereas the initial views many scenes and dialogue seemed superfluous. One example is Red Five. In the previous view I mentioned finally hearing the designation. During this view I realised he was the pudgy pilot, not an unseen one left open for speculation that it might be Luke. No, Red Five is there, and he calls for help before being zapped.

Finally I’m picking up, or at least remembering, some more lines. The best in this movie is from Darth to Krennic: “Don’t choke on your aspirations.” I’ll be using that in everyday language. “Single reactor ignition” about Death Star’s laser is informative as well as useful, and “Light it up”, as mentioned in an earlier view, I’ve already used. Jyn wasn’t sure whether it was “alliance” or “rebels” when talking to Saw, and I noticed she had the exact same hairstyle as papa Erso. After Jyn, the next best character is Baze (long haired Asian guy). The worst is the Imperial pilot. Clearly they were clueless about the sort of character he should be.

With the finale, I noticed the Tantive IV did jump into hyperspace, so they could easily be at another star system (Tatooine) when next caught by Vader. While that fixes one hole in the plot that Episode 4 proceeded minutes after Rogue One, there’s still the problem that Leia was clearly not on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan. She’d need to be on drugs to expect Vader to believe that. The best case scenario is at some point earlier she was on the way there to meet Bail Organa, before being diverted to help at Scarif. Let’s also give credit again for the outstanding finale itself. In the trailers Jyn was seen running with the Death Star plans along the beach and obviously she made it off the planet. Then what – killed by Darth? That would have been unjust. Jyn and Cassian were such gallant and worthy heroes that they deserved the dignified ending they got. As did all of Rogue One.

Do I increase the rating of the film? Noting I had it about the same level as Return Of The Jedi, which I ranked fifth best overall of the 6 released at that time (see link above), yes, it’s definitely better. In fact, I raise it above Revenge Of The Sith. Not that that assuages the flaws that do exist with Rogue One – particularly the patchy first half. After all, it should not be a requirement see a movie four times to gain a full appreciation of it. The ambivalence on the initial view was real and relevant, and must be considered overall when ranking the movie in the Star Wars pantheon. With all these sequels, the balance between mainstream appeal and satisfying rabid fans is always tough. Risk boring one or leave the other unfulfilled? They’ve leant to the side of the fans, and wisely so, to deliver the most authentic Star Wars movie since the original trilogy.

Rogue One Viewing

00:01 15 Dec 2016 – 3D
17:30 15 Dec 2016 – 3D
15:20 28 Dec 2016 – 2D
18:00 07 Jan 2017 – 3D IMAX

Star Wars Ranking 

1) Ep5: The Empire Strikes Back
2) Ep2: Attack Of The Clones
3) Ep4: A New Hope
4) Ep7: The Force Awakens
5) Rogue One
6) Ep4: Revenge Of The Sith
7) Ep6: Return Of The Jedi
8) Ep1: The Phantom Menace

 

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