Click here to read my review of the original 1977 Star Wars.
Click here to read my review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Click here to see where this ranks up with the other Star Wars films.
Okay, so the first spinoff of the immortal Star Wars saga has finally hit theaters, but how does it compare to the rest? Well, it’s miles ahead of those embarrassing prequels (no surprise), but Rogue One: A Star Wars Story just can’t compete with the originals, or The Force Awakens.
As I’m sure you’ve heard, there’s no opening crawl or John Williams score this time, just a silent view of space with a single planet. Everything else from here is an X-wing flight of an experience you’d expect from a Star Wars movie, including booming sound effects and AT-AT walkers that look as epic as ever. There’s an appropriate mix of practical sets and good CGI to create all sorts of new settings, including a tropical planet and a claustrophobic prison. It’s got all the checklist requirements to make a good Star Wars movie, but there’s something missing.
Basically, without giving anything away, the Death Star is in its finishing stages of development, and war zones land on all areas of conspiracy against the weapon, the strife of war affects the lowest of the low in the galaxy. But we are introduced to the struggle on a rock and moss planet that houses a small family of farmers. The father is forcefully invited to join the Empire, along with his wife and daughter. He is soon taken away, and the little girl manages to escape, only to be transported place to place by an Imperial prison as an adult.
Now, she ends up with the Rebel Alliance so that she can be this movie’s “feminist protagonist” in helping steal the plans to the Death Star, and also to see her father again. You know how it all goes from here.
The problem I had with this movie is not just in how we already know how it will end before it even begins, but in the excessive use of characters with so little humanity I cannot connect with a single one of them.
Think of it this way: you remember how in The Force Awakens we saw a detailed introduction to Rey that showed us what her day-to-day life on Jakku was like? Remember the clear backstory given to Finn and how that motivated his actions? Here, none of the new characters have any of that. Jyn’s not motivated enough to fight for what she has lost, as we never know what her relationship with her father was ever like. Then she starts to cry over this inner pain, and let me tell you: Felicity Jones (Like Crazy, The Theory of Everything) is not skilled in making crocodile tears. Her story just moves by too quickly to balance a feel of hope with letting us feel for her.
Everyone else around her is just a plot device. While Forest Whitaker’s (The Butler, The Last King of Scotland) new cyborg character has a sympathetic redemption story screaming to get out, the poor performance of the man behind the mask just doesn’t land. Then there’s the cameos of characters from the original trilogy. Remember how the appearances of older characters in The Force Awakens actually advanced the emotional story and improved your appreciation of the originals? This does none of that. Darth Vader does appear as epic as ever, but he just comes to explain the plot, and leaves, only to make one more brief appearance. There are a couple of others from the originals who appear, but none of them are very satisfying or necessary. Although there was one cameo that just blew my mind, making me go, “Whoa! How did the visual effects crew make that possible?!”
But there is a good, strong saving grace though: one of the new characters proves to be strong with the force, despite it being a time when the force is thought of as an ancient religion. He’s also blind, and an epic master of hand-to-hand combat. Let me tell you: he gets a moment to shine in his fight against a gaggle of Stormtroopers, and it’s the most amazing thing ever.
So is Rogue One: A Star Wars Story the spinoff to the saga we all hoped for? Not exactly. It’s a satisfactory action flick if you’re willing not to think too hard about it as high art. But if you are looking for the essential Star Wars experience that surpasses all of your expectations, you might end up disappointed.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Stolworthy, Jacob. Rogue One: Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso could appear in a future Star wars film. Digital image. Independent. 17 Dec 2016. Web. <http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/rogue-one-felicity-jones-character-jyn-erso-could-be-seen-again-in-future-star-wars-film-a7481306.html>.
Rogue One. Star Wars, Web. <http://www.starwars.com/rogue-one/>.