Friday, December 16, 2016

Rogue One

If you don't want spoilers, don't click the link.  But, I just saw Rogue One.  Not bad.

It's a long movie and it drags a bit at times.  It could stand to be a bit shorter.  But, they have to introduce a lot of new characters into a short time frame and try to get you to care about them.  In that vein, the film succeeds very well.  I think they could have cut Forest Whitaker's character from the film and not lost anything.  But, he was a way to tie the movie to the cartoon so his inclusion makes marketing sense.

From the beginning, you see the homages.  While there is no opening scroll, the initial scene brings you moisture vaporators (though the planet has standing water and cloud cover so the need for such machines would appear to be nostalgic rather than practical) and a pitcher of blue milk.  You get a quick flashback scene, a title shot and then the film gets going.  You can tell from the beginning it's going to be darker and grittier than what we've seen before.

The first real reveal is when you see Tarkin from behind.  You know it's him.  When he turns around, though, it's Peter Cushing.  His face, his voice.  The effect is very good.  It's only when he turns his head that something doesn't seem 100% authentic about him.  He repeats many of the words and phrases from his A New Hope appearance with the exact inflections and pronunciations.  The thing is, Tarkin is kind of a major character in the movie.  He takes command of the Death Star and generally does evil things you'd expect of his character.  So, having him being a rendered reincarnation of the a deceased actor is kind of impressive.

Overall, the film is dark.  Not just in tone, but in visuals.  There are lots of shadows and dim interiors in the first act.  It's somewhat annoying as it deprives the viewer of the visual tapestry that usually accompanies the Star Wars universe.  But, it works.  We randomly get to see both a Ponda Boba and Dr. Evazan cameo.  That was kind of fun.

Yavin is pretty much a reset from A New Hope.  They were true to the interior of the base and general feeling.  Many of the background characters even sported faux '70's hairdos and mustaches.  Understanding that they are binding the two films together, despite a 40 year gap in creation makes some of the anachronistic looks palatable.

The third act is what you pay your money for.  The action starts strong and keeps going.  You get massive ground combat.  Air to ground assaults and full on space battles.  The action is fast paced and you get somewhat detached.  Especially since so many of the rebels are anonymous.  But, don't worry, Stormtroopers are still as ineffective as ever.  The third act brightens up quite a bit and is more visually appealing, too.  Seeing the rebels in action is nice and the space battle is up there with the beginning of Revenge of the Sith.  (Side note.  The Mon Calamari are kind of bad ass.)  You got two awesome cameos of both Red Leader and Gold Leader from A New Hope.  The audience gasped when they first appeared.  However, the splicing of older footage for their scenes was more noticeable than for Tarkin.  But, you get an idea that they were better fighters than their quick demises in Episode IV would suggest.  You also got to specifically see Red Five getting blown up, opening the slot for Luke in the next chapter.  I didn't really feel it necessary, but there it was.

The final scenes of the movie were tense.  You knew the rebels would succeed.  But, seeing Jyn and Cassian blown up was a shock.  The main treat, though, was seeing a lightsaber wielding Darth Vader take on a squadron of Rebel Fleet Troopers as they take the plans to the Tantive IV.  (Who knew the Empire used early 1990's era metal hard drives to store their data on a hot, humid planet?)  The final scene is a young Carrie Fisher taking the plans as her ship jumps to hyperspace: leaving Vader in the dust.  Unfortunately, they used the same technique to reveal Leia's face as they had for Tarkin earlier in the film.  So, you knew it was coming and it seemed redundant.  They should have just had her be there with no big reveal.

Having seen the movie, I now get why Hasbro hasn't gone full in with the merchandising.  Pretty much every single character who has a Rogue One figure dies.  Both good and bad.  Jyn and Cassian?  Dead.  Baze, Chirrut and Saw?  Dead.  Krennic and the Death Troopers?  Dead.  Pretty much anyone you don't see in Episode IV bites the big one.  Which, I guess makes sense.  It would be difficult to position the characters for future adventures with the original trilogy ignoring them.  Cassian's backstory was left vague.  So, I'm sure that if his character tests well, we'll see him in another stand alone story in the future.  But, getting kids to really care about a bunch of heroes who perish in their film would be a tough sell.  So, the generally small amount of product for Rogue One makes more sense now.

In the end, I thought it was solid. There is, of course, substantial recency bias in any review.  I'd like to see it again: even if to just take in the 3rd act another time.  It's definitely better than Episodes I and II.  But, that's not saying much.  I'll need more time to digest to see where it fits in the overall pantheon.  But, it was worth the $20 I spent on tickets and snacks.


  1. I liked it better than episode 7 and the prequels. I'd been waiting for watching Vader in action for decades and 99% of this movie and then in 10 seconds, Vader made it worth. Now I want to see more of Vader.

  2. There's been a lot of youtube bashing of the film. The words I hear are "fan service". Like it's a new thing for a Star Wars film, since 1999 they've been about fan service. Or "designed by committee"...which soooo much more applies to Episode 7. And some sort of dislike of yearly Star Wars films (might as well hate on Marvel for 2 films a year!).

    The controversy of using Cushing's likeness...even though they got his estate's permission. Some people want site hits, I guess.

    There's things about the film I would've done differently, but this one was 2016 movie that lived up to its trailer, even though most of the trailer footage wasn't in the final film! Makes me wonder if we'll ever see the original cut that required all the reshoots (they downplayed as a routine thing at the time...but it seems the 3rd act got a lot of revisions.)