Rogue One, Meh
December 22, 2016
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Star Wars Rogue One is a moderately successful addition to the ever-expanding Star Wars universe. Like most movies in this series, it succeeds in many aspects but fails miserably in others. The movie is by no means perfect, but it isn’t entirely terrible, either. All in all, it is a typically uneven Star Wars movie (and it’s always a joy to have an addition to that epic saga).
Director Gareth Edwards (2014’s Godzilla) makes clever use of an already existing Star Wars story line, providing a long overdue explanation for the “death hole” in the Death Star narrative. The story ties directly into Episode IV and teases its connections to the sequels.
The story’s progression, however, is extremely slow and sometimes even hard to watch. Eventually, the story gets back on its feet and somewhat gains traction on the roller coaster that is Rogue One. Without spoiling anything, the ending is fantastic. It aligns with the other Star War’s movies in action and special effects; it also perfectly demonstrates the price of war in a “We lost the battle, but won the war” fashion.
Although Edwards succeeds in inserting the story into the existing Star Wars storyline, he fails in small-scale character development. The main character, Jyn, has an excellent, well-developed back story, but actress Felicity Jones seems to rely on this to provide emotion for her character rather than subtly demonstrating her emotion; her effort seems more devoted to her action sequences.The dialogue doesn’t provide her a chance to showcase the extremely rich potential that could’ve been her character. Jones has an amazing presence on camera, but her character is a hollow shell: an archetypal great warrior with no known emotions or motivations.
One thing that always makes or breaks a movie is the soundtrack. Star Wars-veteran and award-winning composer John Williams always comes through, whether it’s in a Star Wars film or another movie classic, but with Rogue One he fails to provide the movie with heavily-needed musical emotional atmosphere. The score doesn’t feel like anything new: instead, it’s a lazy remake of the originals and doesn’t flow with the atmosphere of this film.
Admittedly, Rogue One contains extremely creative and simplistically beautiful cinemaphotography. The CGI space battles looked real from the photon blasts to the looming presence of the deadly star destroyers. They redeem the movie, shifting it from OK to good, establishing an ominous atmosphere. The scale of the Death Stars makes the spaceships that were once as big as a planet look almost meaningless in the vast abyss of the dark void of space.
Just like last year’s Episode VII, Rogue One uses real and CGI sets. Realistic sets tie directly and authentically to the universe. Spaceships show dings and dents, and bases look rustic, much like the supplies of upstart resistance group should. The CGI, when used in long-distance shots, tie directly into real sets.
However, with CGI, the directors need to know when to draw the line, and with this movie, they don’t. Character close-ups are reminiscent of the CGI of the dreadful prequels. A cameo of a CGI Princess Leia seems gimmicky, and the CGI Grand Moff Tarkin is disturbing—surely another character could have been created to fill his narrative role. Although the scenery CGI is good, the character CGI is uncanny, located in the valley of where we know it looks good, but there is something off that makes it seems weird and nauseating.
In addition to issues with CGI characters overall, there are too many characters who aren’t central to the plot. For example, the defection of an Imperial pilot is necessary to the plot, but making him a distinctive character is unnecessary and distracting, especially since there will be no additional Rogue One stories to flesh out his character and history. There are way too many characters to keep track of; focus the story on the main characters and develop them rather than spreading the characterization so thin.
And Captain Cassio, a major character with another five-second backstory. How can we root for a character that kills someone in cold blood, then saves the man he is supposed to assassinate, and then has a forced, last stand romance with the main character? (Who is supposed to be so independent?) And the underdeveloped villain, advertised as “more menacing than Darth Vader,” ends up falling victim to Vader’s own force choke? There is no logic to the characters and their actions.
The only two redeeming characters are the two guardians of the Jedi temple, Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus. They inject a lot of humor into an otherwise mundane storyline and bring back some of the old Jedi nostalgia, but they have minimal roles and are used too sparingly.
The movie is a subpar film, although, for a Star Wars film, it is in the middle of the pack. Some aspects nearly save it, and, as always, the nostalgia “force” is strong. The story is lackluster and only gains momentum at the end, an end which arrives all too abruptly. Too many underdeveloped characters make the story hard to follow. It’s interesting connection to the existing canon and it’s beautiful CGI scenery salvage the film, so it earns a 6/10.