Monday night I was able to head out to the theater to see Rogue One: A Star War Story. It’s been a week since the movie has come out so this is not a spoiler-free review. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, you have been warned!
Rogue One is not a “saga” story, and the film was deliberately designed to reflect this shift. From the opening moment, when the traditional opening crawl is omitted in favor of going right into the story, audiences were aware this would be a different sort of Star Wars.
The tone is noticeably darker, as the storyline takes place before The Alliance has any real hope for a victory. It is, in fact, even darker than Empire Strikes Back. The characters reflect this shift in tone. None of them, with the possible exception of Chirrut Îmwe, exemplifies a purely “good” character. Many are idealists, all are self-sacrificing, but they live in the moral grey area which is always formed during an active conflict. This gives the characters a feeling of depth, even though we know next to nothing about any of them.
K-2SO is perhaps the most genuinely “fun” character in the main cast. His running unfiltered commentary helps break the tension. And, as this movie is dark from beginning to end, those brief moments are much appreciated. Chirrut provides some levity in his first act appearances, but this aspect of his character is dropped as film progresses 1.
The callbacks in Rogue One are amazing. We finally know why the Empire overlooked a 2 meter-wide vent which could lead to the destruction of their ultimate super weapon, it was deliberate sabotage! The jokes which geeks have been telling for decades are now suddenly moot, thanks to a brilliant retcon job. I also appreciated the use of stock footage to bring back pilots from the original Death Star run during the third act battle — given the proximity between this film and Episode IV many of the same pilots would have been involved. As a bonus, we got to see why “Red 5” was open for Luke as a call sign during the Battle of Yavin. Some of the minor characters from the cantina also make a brief cameo, which was a great moment.
Vader’s final scene is both awesome and terrifying. When he activates his light saber in that connecting corridor, and then begins destroying a number of soldiers, the sheer violence and rage of the moment is beyond anything we’ve seen him do in the previous films. The film is almost worth that one scene by itself.
The ending is awesome.
There were parts of the story which felt disjointed, and that seems to have been due to the enormous amount of re-shoots the film underwent. For example, some scenes which further illuminated Jyn’s relationship to the Rebellion seem to have ended up on the cutting room floor. Their absence leaves her “big moment” in front of the council a out of place. Why was this criminal conscript, the daughter of a man everyone assumed was a willing Imperial collaborator, allowed to challenge the Rebel leadership as they stood in council?
Vader’s castle was cool, but I was also wondering how we ended up circling Barad-dûr in Mordor. I understand the lore of Vader having a castle is rather old, so it was nice to see, but it took me out of the moment a bit.
During the film I kept thinking, “I could have done without video game Tarkin.” Yes, the CGI is impressive, and there is certainly a narrative need to have the character present in this story. But I found all the close ups distracting. I realize I’m in the minority here, but it gave me the creeps. Leia was much the same at the end.
I would have appreciated a bit more backstory on some of the characters. What was Jyn’s relationship with Saw Gerrera like before he ditched her? How did Bohdi meet Galen and wind up turning against the Empire? How did Cassian rise though the ranks of Rebel intelligence? Any tidbits would have been nice. Not a great amount, mind you, because it would mess up the pacing — a little more would have been nice.
Rogue One has some flaws, but it’s a very satisfying ride. See this one in the theater, and if you can see it in IMAX the third really shines.
- This was probably a result of the extensive re-shoots the film underwent. ↩