[9.5] Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Arbitrary Review
Sitting down to watch Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, I was very excited to experience an all new chapter in the Star Wars saga- perhaps one of the most ambitious continuations of all time. There was a lot of media build up to the movie, as there is with any Star Wars film, and after the film debuted and memes of emo Kylo Ren and Luke's stare filled the internet (among other things), I felt I already had some familiarity with the film. With Star Wars making a film comeback and with merchandising out the wahoo, there were so many characters I already knew the names of, and it felt like the entire purpose and plot of the movie had been laid out for me ahead of time via trailers, summaries, and all of the new novels like Star Wars Bloodline leading up to the events of Episode VII. While Rogue One has a prequel novel, Catalyst, and has had a couple trailers out there sporting Jyn's rebellious attitude, some Darth Vader breathing, Donnie yen hitting troopers with sticks, and some really chill-inducing piano covers of the Imperial March- I didn't feel the same as I did with Episode VII when I sat down to watch Rogue One last night, for the very first time. I missed the movie in theaters, but having a copy of the Blu-Ray which was just released, made some difference as I was also able to comfortably enjoy it from home.
Rogue One has a feature to me that Episode VII has only a hint of: nostalgia. I don't know about you, but I smiled and felt warm all over seeing familiar faces like Red Leader, Darth Vader, Imperial Stormtroopers, Grand Moff Tarkin (even in his glorious CG), Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, and even the guy with the white beard who gave the briefing for the trench run in Episode IV. Seeing real Star Destroyers (not some new-fangled rip-offs by the First Order) and the chilling cold-ness of Imperial officers, X-Wings and the Rebels again. I do have to say this movie really made me feel like the Rebel Alliance was an ACTUAL alliance. It was very apparent that there were multiple resistant factions who had come together in an alliance, as you see the Rebel council and feel the very essence of urgency alongside them, to do something- anything, about the new super weapon, the Death Star.
Don't get me wrong, Episode VII is an amazing achivement, but Star Wars' most main story is rooted heavily in the Galactic Civil War period, and it was very refreshing to return. I'm heavily anticipating Episode VIII's release, and I look forward to continuing that very important saga of Star Wars as well. But for now, let's talk more Rogue One,
Rogue One follows the story of Jyn Erso, a rebellious girl who's gotten herself into various situations and even in Imperial prison as she's grown up since losing her family at a young age. Jyn's father specifically is one of the architects who helped develop the Death Star, and reveals to her later on that there is a weakness he had purposefully put into it (the old exhaust port chain reaction) as a revenge against the Empire. Jyn is rescued by Rebels who seek information about her father's whereabouts, desperate to find a weakness in the Death Star as it continues to test it's main weapon on different planets.
Overall her father dies and Jyn tries to explain what he told her about the weakness to the Rebel council, with most of them in disbelief. Jyn decides to take a team on a potential suicide mission to Scariff, where the Imperial Archives are kept, to steal the Death Star plans and send them to the Rebels. After some seriously cool space battles and welcomed Galactic Civil War action sequences, throwbacks, and cameos, Jyn gets the plans to the Rebels as the Death Star destroys Scariff, taking the entire team of hers, 'Rogue One' with it. Just after, Bail Organa assures Alliance leader Mon Mothma that his daughter, Leia, is the woman for the job of seeking out Obi-Wan Kenobi and heads back to Alderaan as she leaves for Tatooine. (queue Episode IV)
During all of this, several key characters are introduced. We've got Admiral Krennick, the antagonist responsible for keeping an eye on Jyn's father, who also killed her mother and would have killed her long ago when he came to force her father back to work. Throughout the film Krennick plays the part of the admiral who just can't get a break, failure after failure, even getting choked by Darth Vader just before one of Vader's coolest moments (in my opinion) in the franchise as he turns around and says "Do not choke on your own aspirations." to the ambitious but unfortunate Krennick.
Other memorable characters were Donnie Yen's character and his friend, who I feel are the most 'extra' characters in the movie. Sure, they were great to see on Jedha in action, but afterward it feels like they almost serve no purpose, with Yen's character never being fully explained as to why he's so obsessed with the force. How the two met or why they're so close is also beyond me, and if it was stated I clearly must have missed it. I feel we could have had a little more context, to just why they were like brothers, close and always together, and just why their end was so dramatic together in the film. It truly felt to me besides the bad guys, rebels, Jyn, the pilot, and any other stock members of Rogue One who they threw in at the end, Yen's character and his friend were fillers at best for more memorable characters that could have been. I was pretty entertained with their arguments however.
Wedge Antilles had joined the Rebellion before Luke, and since Rogue One takes place days before Episode IV, why couldn't we have seen Wedge in action, or any other memorable Rebel characters? Rogue One (the team) was supposed to all die, hence their absence from the future stories, but I still feel like the filler characters they created could have been fleshed out just a little more. Also if you caught it, the original Red V died, leaving the callsign for Luke later on.
Also, why is the armored asthmatic old guy even on the cover? Saw. He merely saved Jyn as a child, and had just a few minutes altogether in the film as one of the resistant leaders on Jedha. He's definitely not a main character or very important. The reason they visit Jedha and find him is to know Jyn's father's whereabouts, but the tie pilot they were tracking anyway took them to the real location, and the message Jyn got from the old guy didn't even matter because her father dies before he can tell her anything, and they go to Scariff anyways. Let me know if I'm wrong! I just didn't see the need for some of those scenes involving the old asthmatic guy. And he dies right away. Surely he could have been much cooler as an old injured warrior, going all the way with them to Scariff and redeeming himself for abandoning Jyn all those years ago, fighting alongside them in the final battle and dying together. Maybe he wasn't asthmatic, I don't know, I'm not trying to be insensitive, but I don't know what other features of his stood out.
The story keeps a decent pace. Forbes decided to call out Rogue One negatively on it's number of planets used in the movie. Personally I find this just fine, as we shouldn't even count Yavin IV because its so familiar. Star Wars fans by now are used to there being many planets, and even Episode V jumped back and forth between Hoth, Dagobah, Bespin, and space, Episode VI had Tatooine, Dagobah, Endor, the Death Star 2, and space. I also want to point out the action in Rogue One. Its some of the best I've seen in Star Wars, everything from ground to space combat is well done, with many shock moments and gruesome deaths. I felt the action really held up in a Star Wars movie without lightsabers or Jedi.
K-2SO the reprogrammed Imperial droid was a very welcome slice of comedy and sarcasm that fit right into Star Wars humor. The droid was very salty the whole film and was a nice departure from the usual helpful and panicked proper C-3PO. Throughout the film I was amazed at how K-2SO while not looking like a human at all, was able to translate human expression through it's movements and voice. K-2SO is definitely one of my favorite characters in Rogue One, full of odds and snarky comebacks.
Rogue One has a lot of beautiful scenery, and gives a lot of context as to how things are going for the Rebel Alliance and the Death Star project just a short time before Episode IV begins. Was it a necessary movie to make? An entire film just about what ultimately came to be as a tale of how the Rebels obtained the plans? Originally I thought it was a great idea and also an excuse to make a movie in the Galactic Civil War period, but its probably even more important than that, since any mention of the story of the Rebel's copy of the plans has been very vague or hidden in sources like Star Wars Battlefront II's campaign. In SWBFII you play as random Rebels who infiltrate the Death Star itself to grab the plans. Retconning that to make Rogue One really didn't hurt, and we got a beatiful action packed story out of it, and one with a bittersweet ending.
That brings me to Jyn Erso. I was happy to see a new female lead in something I love- in Star Wars. While she's not the most likable character in the world to me, she certainly isn't dislikable. I feel her story was fitting and I believed she could have really gone some places with the Rebels should she have lived. She had an air about her that she could take on anything- which, she's mostly had to after surviving since she was young. Jyn's original reluctance to help made sense, but it was nice to see her evolve into a passionate Rebel ready to take the lead into chaos even if it meant her life. Without the Rebels she would still be in prison, or probably wouldn't have much. Her whole character felt complete to me for this movie, which is difficult for me to feel about characters who are made to die in the same film, especially ones I start to like.
Final Verdict: "An action packed nostalgic ride."
Overall I feel Rogue One was an excellent movie that paced well, carried more than enough nostalgia, with Grade A Star Wars action, familiar music, and carried out it's purpose fully. There could have been more to a few of what I saw as 'filler characters', but in the end it's better than if the movie had made any big mistakes or tried too many new things. Death Troopers and U-Wings were interesting additions, but it seemed Death Troopers and the Scariff Troopers weren't much different than normal Troopers. The fact that we now have a movie that flows right into Episode IV is awesome, and I can see myself watching them back-to-back on purpose in future marathons.
Rogue One as a film accomplished what it intended to do, and it was an action packed, nostalgic ride.
*edit* Upon further analysis of series lore surrounding Rogue One, I've found that Donnie Yen's character, Chirrut Imwe and his friend Baze are Guardians of the Whills, those who until the Empire's creation lived at the Temple of the Whills and followed a religion surrounding the Force as they watched over kyber crystals. The Whills is something George Lucas had planned for the series as far back as the very beginning of production in the 1970's which began as the early idea for the Force itself. Chirrut and Baze have since taken to preaching their teachings in the streets (Baze isn't as dedicated as Chirrut) after the Empire kicked them out of the Temple and took all of it's treasures. The Guardians of the Whills had great respect for the Jedi, and it seems that Jedi and the Guardians (who aren't too much different than Jedi, other than being very reserved, sticking together in their Temple, and mainly protecting the kyber) had a decent relationship, with the Guardians being allies to the Jedi. This makes Chirrut and Baze better chance companions or filler characters than I initially thought.
Unfortunately the movie leaves out the information I've had to research, but I should expect this type of thing from modern large science fiction franchises. These days games and movies are full of background lore, with the responsibility of the consumer to find out more information. I just wish the movie alluded to Chirrut and Baze's history and background just a little more. Otherwise, I find Rogue One to be a near perfect production.
Thank you for reading my arbitrary review!
+Returning Classic Characters
+Erso Family Story and Redemption
+Pacing +Visuals and Scenery
+Darth Vader & CG Tarkin
+Connects right into Episode IV
+Star Wars Humor and K-2SO
-Filler characters' lack of background
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