Movie Review: ‘Rogue One’December 18, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Posted in Movies, Reviews, Star Wars | 1 Comment
Tags: rogue one
The wait is over and Rogue One is out. Did the war movie deliver? The short answer is yes!
Without getting into spoilers yet, Rogue One delivered a Star Wars standalone movie with tons of action, epic visual moments, fun characters, a humorous K-2SO, tons of easter eggs and a movie that was entertaining from beginning to end. There was a little bit of something for everyone in this prequel which leads directly into Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. While Rogue One is a standalone, it’s actually the perfect film to lead into A New Hope basically making it Episode 3.9. With top notch acting, it’s a film that holds up wonderfully with repeated viewings, each time yielding something new. If you’re a Star Wars fan, it’s a movie you will not want to miss.
The first time I saw it, I have to admit, I’d give it a four out of five. I had a lot of fun watching it, but there was so much new material, so much jumping around, so many new characters, that I was overwhelmed a little with trying to absorb it all. As a fan, you’re trying to commit names to memory, make connections, look for familiar elements, listen to the music cues, and somewhere in all of that you still need to bond with the characters and just relax and enjoy the story. That relaxing part wasn’t really possible until my second viewing. That’s when I could set aside all the analyzation and information overload and just enjoy the story. At that point, it jumped up to a five out of five movie experience. Perhaps my second viewing is what casual fans will experience on their first viewing, or maybe everyone needs to see it twice. Either way, it was way better the second time around.
Now let’s dig into a little detail and some very mild spoilers.
So, what about the story? We were essentially told that Rogue One would be a war movie that shows how the Rebel Alliance got the Death Star plans as mentioned in the opening crawl for A New Hope. In that respect, it was definitely on point. The story begins with Jyn’s parents and Krennic, showing how Galen is taken by the Empire to finish the Death Star. We then flash forward to see where Jyn is now and some introductions to the other key players in the film. The movie jumps around to various planets following Jyn, Cassian and Bodhi. At first viewing, the jumping around can be a bit much, as the film kicks off at a fast pace after the Rogue One title screen. However, once the character arcs start melding together, the storyline becomes much more cohesive and singular. It becomes a mission to hunt down the details on the Death Star and ultimately to get the plans that will enable them to destroy it. Along the way, the characters have their own storylines that culminate in the final battle at Scarif. Jyn’s storyline is at the heart of the film and some very nice emotional elements that make her character standout and resonate. It all ends with the Death Star plans being captured and handed off, thus tying up perfectly with A New Hope.
Following on the heels of The Force Awakens, Rogue One cannot escape being compared to that film. Is it better? Is it worse? I don’t think it really matters one way or another. Rogue One is a prequel that ties into A New Hope with it’s own set of characters and a self-contained storyline. It very clearly set itself as a war film and as something different. On the other hand, The Force Awakens is the sequel to Return of the Jedi and the beginning of a new trilogy following a cast of characters mixed with the heroes of original trilogy. They are each they’re own thing and they’re both fun movies. Likewise, trying to compare it to any of the other six movies in the saga, can be difficult. Sure, Darth Vader is in it, but he’s not the main character. Rogue One is Jyn’s story and the tale of how her and a band of Rebels got the Death Star plans. You could try and rank it with the other movies, but I think the more interesting question is does it fit with the other movies? Does this movie feel like the other Star Wars movies or fit into the Star Wars universe? To those questions, the answer is yes. Rogue One nails the visual aspects of Star Wars from alien designs and wardrobes to the vehicles, spaceships and locations. Furthermore, the characters feel like Star Wars characters. Jyn’s storyline feels like a Star Wars story.
Now let’s really get into spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie, stop now, go see it, and enjoy. For those who have seen it, let’s dig in.
To put Rogue One in it’s place, it helps to looks at the awesome elements this movie embraced. First off, we get Warwick Davis playing a little Ugnaught like alien firing a blaster in a chaotic battle on Jedha. There’s Darth Vader’s castle, a visual element George Lucas almost included in the original trilogy but never made it in. There’s some great humor from K-2SO that helps lighten the movie. There is the completely awesome space battle above Scarif and the action packed ground battle below. One of the coolest things in the movie is watching a Hammerhead corvette ram a Star Destroyer. Yet that space battle is just one great moment after another as we see Gold Leader and Red Leader brought back to life and thrown into action. To top it all off, we get to see Vader finish the space battle off with a boarding action which, in my opinion, is the best Vader seen in the entire saga. It gives me chills everytime I watch it. There is all that and more as the movie pulls off amazing visual shots and wild action scenes. Heck, we get to see the Death Star annihilate two cities in this movie. There’s even nods to Star Wars Rebels with a cameo by Chopper, a mention of General Syndulla (Hera) and several appearances of the Ghost in the big space battle. Sharp eyed observers might also spot a Maz Kanata alien in Saw’s hideout at the gaming table. Combine all those things together, and it’s hard not to enjoy the film as you’re constantly going “Wow! Look at that!”
There are a lot of things you could dissect and critique. Did the music hold up? Were the sound effects on par? Did CGI Tarkin and Leia work? Was the story too jumpy? Was there enough characterization? If you dive in deep enough, you can nitpick, but overall, I think it all worked. CGI Tarkin and Leia are a bit shocking at first for hardcore Star Wars fans, but they grow on you and start to seem natural on repeated viewings. I went with some casual fans and they didn’t even realize Tarkin was a CGI character, so the special effects were definitely on top of their game. Almost every line from K-2SO garnered a laugh from the audience in every showing I went to. The music was a little odd at first, but by my third viewing, I was really starting to enjoy it and anticipate the music cues. In the end, the movie fired on all cylinders, and while it might not be perfect, it packed in a lot of fun and a very enjoyable storyline. I give it a five out of five metal bikinis.