Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) – A Review

Rogue One Stars Felicity JonesThe Star Wars universe is treated to another prequel. This time we learn the tale of how those plans for the Death Star are obtained and gotten into the hands of the rebels – resulting in the good movies in the Star Wars franchise.

Felicity Jones is sent on a mission to find her father Mads Mikkelson who is being forced to oversee the construction of the Death Star for the Empire. However, rebel soldier Diego Luna who is helping her is secretly assigned to kill her father.

The pair needs a bunch of other folks to help them on their mission, including a blind guy, a defector from the Empire and a reprogrammed Empire robot who adds some comedy relief.

The whole story culminates on a tropical planet with a space battle overhead, shooting at stormtroopers on the ground and Jones and Luna scrambling to get the secret plans of the Death Star to send back to the Rebels.

There’s other stuff that happens and other characters, but I don’t really care enough to bother with much more of that. I guess I should say spoilers ahead now.

I didn’t care for Rogue One at all. I found it tedious, unengaging and just plain dull. The only saving grace in the film is the last portion when the pace finally picks up and not surprisingly it involves space battles and Star Wars action. Director Gareth Edwards handles that all pretty well. Some of that was entertaining to watch, but really that’s the most superficial thing one could say about a Star Wars movie. “I liked the AT-AT’s and X-Wings flying around! Yippee!”

Rogue One AT-AT battleThe action and all the pizzazz is pretty hollow when I don’t care about any of the characters involved in it, the objectives they’re trying to reach, the risks they must take or the importance of the stakes. Rogue One forgot to add those parts.

It’s a pretty movie sure, some of it looks very nice. The whole idea of making a Star Wars movie more of a ‘gritty war film’ sounds appealing. And I think there was a suspenseful, exciting story to tell with the stealing of the Death Star plans, but that never happens. In the end I felt Rogue One was just a pointless Star Wars story that added nothing to the franchise.

I’ve heard the complaint, “Well, you know how it’s going to end” – meaning that’s going to kill any of the drama in the story. I never understood this argument. I mean, most of the stories we see in the movies we pretty much know how most will end. The cop will defeat the criminal, the pair of squabbling strangers are going to fall in love, the superhero is going to save the city, heck in docudramas we know the final outcome thanks to reading about it in history class.

Most movies are not hanging on a shocking surprise ending to make or break it. It’s the journey that takes place, us getting invested in it and watching the characters struggle through it, that’s the fun of it – whether you know how things will end or not.

Rogue One doesn’t have that.

The movie never hooked me in. I’m watching characters bounce from one planet to another, trying to get or find the item or person and I just didn’t care. I barely remember anything that happened in the first hour of this movie. I didn’t learn anything about them or grow to like any of them. Their feelings and actions just changed without any indication as to why and it just got tiring. And none of the actors were particularly charismatic enough or shared any chemistry to overcome what little they had to work with from the script.

The team, who I guess is supposed to each bring their own unique qualities to accomplish this mission, I knew nothing about other than in the most broadest of strokes. Their introductions were very disjointed and we never learn much about them.

It never even seems like any of them interact together, get to know one another, learn to trust each other, share this common goal to get the plans. I know they were all on a ship together for awhile, but maybe they just sat there in silence. It’s just like they’re tossed together and we’re expected to care about them based on some hokey dialogue and cringy grandiose speeches.

Star Wars Rogue One blind guy stormtrooper fightI suppose my favorite of the group was the blind Chinese guy, but after him taking out a dozen stormtroopers by himself he becomes wasted cargo who does little else. He seemed like he could have been something special. I would have liked to have seen him do more cool blind guy stuff like Rutger Hauer did in Blind Fury.

Even Jones who’s the lead in this I knew nothing about her or at any time was rooting for her. We spend the most time with her and by the end she barely registered. It’s another parent/child driving force in the Star Wars universe, nothing special. She is a terribly weak lead.

We see she’s abandoned after the Empire captures her father. Forrest Whittaker saves her. Flash forward fifteen years later, we never learn anything more about her or her relationship with Whittaker. A few lines of dialogue and he exits the film abruptly. I still don’t know what the point was with him.

At one point I thought his rebel splinter group would become a part of the story, where the rebels while not agreeing with his methods are forced to work with Whittaker and each side will have to compromise their beliefs for the greater good.

Nope. Whittaker decides to just die for reasons I never understood.

Same with Diego. He’s given a mission to kill Mikkelson, but for whatever reason has second thoughts and doesn’t the moment he has him in his sights. Not sure why. He had no problem killing one guy viciously when we first met him, but now he doesn’t pull the trigger when given the chance. Something must of happened. Change of heart somewhere along the lines. Uhhh….didn’t feel like it at the time. Didn’t want to upset Jones because now he likes her. No clue.

Rogue One Star Wars castBy the end battle instead of feeling sorrow that that character just got killed and that one got blown up you focus on the instructional dialogue of what needs to happen – this switch has to be turned, turn this button, move the radar disk – then watch cooly as a character dies after that step was accomplished.

So, there’s no characters I liked or any story I got engaged by. That just leaves those AT-AT’s.

The bad guys are the Empire of course. I don’t really have much to say about them. There’s Ben Mendelssohn. He’s the arrogant Empire guy developing the Death Star and he wears a white cape. He has confrontations with Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader. The most interesting stuff about that were seeing those characters again, but nothing noteworthy was done with them. Really their inclusion in this I found more distracting than anything else.

‘A Star Wars Story’ must mean they have to incorporate as many of the original, beloved characters and iconography as possible and not worry about developing anything new.

Star Wars Rogue One Death StarAll the fan service and shout outs from films past I can really do without. I’ve gotten so tired of it. That stuff makes me more aggravated than anything else. It might even be a disservice to the new film. They’re relying so much on these consistent nostalgic gimmicks they become an interruption to the new story they’re telling – even if it’s a lousy one.

These are no longer a fun homage or a cute shoutout, it’s become a crutch. I guess this fan service ploy works for most fans and gets cheap applause. It’s like when a comedian onstage mentions a city and a few people clap because they’re from there. It’s the same with all these nods. They apparently give fans a jolt of joy momentarily, but it just gets my eyes rolling.

If I want to see R2-D2 and Princess Leia I would just watch the original movies. I have them right here. How about introducing something new to this universe that I can grow fond of. It’s a problem when a glimpse of C-3P0 gets me to sit up and after he’s gone I slump back into my seat as I get back to watching ‘the new stuff’. A cameo of Walrus Man captured more of my attention than anything Forest Whitaker did in this flick.

By the way, the score did nothing for me also. The only piece of music I remembered from the movie was when they cued up the Imperial March for Darth Vader’s arrival. Just another component taken from the old movies.

Star Wars Rogue One K2SO Felicity JonesIf you notice I didn’t use any of the new characters names from Rogue One – that’s because I can’t remember any of them! I’m not even sure if they used any of their names in this movie. This whole notion of expanding the Star Wars universe with new thrilling adventures and new appealing characters – when does Disney plan on doing that?

What George Lucas should have told them when he sold Disney Star Wars was you can make as many Star Wars movies as you want, but you can’t use any of the characters from the original trilogy in any way. That might make Disney put their thinking mouse ears on to come up with some fresh, exciting stuff for this universe.

Or maybe they’re waiting on doing that for that young Han Solo movie? Hey, wait a minute that can’t be right! Will that be another movie that’s going to support itself with stuff from the the old movies? Toss in Jabba the Hutt, Lando, Chewbacca, a smuggling story, the Millennium Falcon when it’s brand new. Maybe watch it make the Kessel Run! Then throw in a bunch of forgettable new characters. Plus, I already know how Han’s story is going to end even!

Is every movie going to have Death Stars and Darth Vader in it? Is the inclusion of those iconic characters and images, even for a brief moment going to be a vital part of every new Star Wars movie Disney plans to make? Are these cameos and easter eggs meant to make me like the movie just because I liked those characters years ago in the good trilogy?

Well, it didn’t work and I didn’t like Rogue One.

I can’t say I’m too disappointed with it though. I was feeling indifferent about Rogue One way back when it was announced and had no expectations for it. I hadn’t even planned on seeing it until my friend invited me to watch it at his theater.

The same sort of thing happened with The Force Awakens. I wasn’t expecting much from that one either, but at least that one had some characters I enjoyed watching, the return of Ford, Fisher and Hamill that I wanted to see and some decent scenes sprinkled throughout. It wasn’t spectacular, but I thought it was passable.

I’m kind of scared to ever watch that one again since I think its flaws will ruin any enjoyment I had with it during that initial viewing and another watch will make me realize I’m being too kind on it. I can admit I might have been wishy-washy with my reaction to The Force Awakens. Maybe I had too much ‘wishy’ when I saw it. Not so with Rogue One. It’s all ‘wash’.

As I’ve said before, for me Star Wars ended in 1983 and everything that has come since has just been secondary. I’m pretty confident none of ‘the new Star Wars stuff’ will give me the same thrills and affection as the original trilogy has done. I’ve accepted that.

Felicity Jones Diego Luna Star Wars Rogue OneBut maybe to other fans Rogue One will entertain them. I’ve heard it’s gotten an overwhelmingly positive response, so what do I know. A few people might have even learned some of these characters names.

I’m not sure how little kids will like it. It’s not exactly a fun Star Wars story and I can’t see them wanting to play with any of these character toys and reenact any scenes from this.

Rogue One did have potential and be a different type of Star Wars movie than we’ve seen before. I probably would have liked it much more had it been a bit more of traditional, straight forward, fantastical heist movie, with this ragtag group methodically planning and executing a step by step break-in of the Death Star. Each character has an integral part to play in its success. Sort of a Dirty Dozen/Magnificent Seven in space thing.

It’s an inevitable suicide mission where they know they probably won’t be making it back. There’s a real emotional ending as they willingly sacrifice themselves to get this victory for the Rebels. And we feel bad for every character as they meet their fate because of the connection we made with them.

Yeah, that would have been cool. It kind of wants to be that, but instead it turned into a convoluted, drab adventure film where I cared for none of it. It also left me even more skeptical of the future of these new Star Wars movies.

Eh. Maybe it will sell a lot of Lego sets.

 

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2 Responses

  1. Tri Fritz says:

    I found the movie enjoyable, but not special; and agree with most of your comments. The characters, especially, were wafer-thin. All of the films after the original trilogy seem so intent on packing in so much star wars “stuff” at the expense of character development. In A New Hope, we see and understand everything about Luke Skywalker’s life and desires. Additionally, the supporting characters of Leia, Solo and Ben Kenobi are fully formed. And the movie is 15 MINUTES SHORTER than Rogue One without sacrificing memorable action scenes!

  2. I with Tri Fritz- it was enjoyable, but not special. I found it irritating that we see Darth Vader defeat a squad of rebel soldiers with his light saber because it was blatant fanservice (we MUST see Vader using the light saber!) which made no sense- at the beginning of Episode IV, the rebel ship is boarded by stormtroopers, many of whom are killed. Why didn’t Vader just wipe out THAT group?

    Compared to Episode III, however…..I would rather have had this film. This should have been Episode III. We didn’t need to see the embaressing creation of Darth Vader or the hour-long lava lightsaber battle. This would have been just fine. Call it Episode III: The Lost Opportunity.

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