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Rebel spies are trying to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

This was a bad film…plain and simple. In this review the bad will be sandwiched between the good so that it does not distract too much from the point of writing this and sounding only like a complaint.  Everyone should still see it to formulate their own opinions; this review is just one opinion. This is incredibly hard to write as a huge Star Wars fan, but oh well.

Starting things off, this is a Star Wars film so it has that going for it right away and working in its favor.  While there are familiar aspects in the film it is still fun to see the “new” (yet limited) aspects that the filmmakers have come up with for Rogue One.  The best things in the film are hands down the droids, the ships, the costumes, the sets, and the action.  Truly, the visual aspects of the film are to be complimented except for one or two things that will be talked about later.  Seeing new planets in the Star Wars universe is always a fun experience, as well as new aliens/lifeforms that haven’t been seen on screen.  That being said, the familiar ones are also good.  Rogue One had an interesting mix of both new and familiar.  Being a Star Wars film there are numerous “Easter Eggs” throughout the picture, including lines, locations, and of course cameos, even of actors who have passed.  Knowing that this is a Star Wars film or rather within the realm of the franchise means that it should be held to some particular (and higher) standards than a lot of other films.  As a big Star Wars fan, high hopes were held for this film and trying to review the film fairly is challenging.

To bring forth the bad while discussing the familiar…sigh.  Watching Rogue One is like watching the television show Gotham. Knowing what will happen eventually and anxiously awaiting it while seeing little tidbit hints towards it throughout the whole thing is a grueling process to sit through.  This movie relied way too heavily on what is already established in the Star Wars universe and what the audience already knows.  That is a major mark against the movie, for not having created enough new or original material to keep it as its own independent story. Familiarity instead of originality meant the movie did not take many risks and instead played it safe with what they were sure would work at getting more money for Star Wars.  Dear House of Mouse/Lucasfilm…with a 19 year window of possibilities between Episodes 3 and 4 why choose to make a story that happens HOURS, maybe days, or maybe weeks before the events of Episode 4?  With the Rogue One story taking place when it did, this meant there was a lot of familiar aspects of Star Wars incorporated into the movie; having gone so far as to use past footage, recycle some things, and even revive dead actors using CGI and look-alike stand ins. Peter Cushing, who played Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars (A New Hope) in 1977, was magically in Rogue One.  Cushing passed away in 1994 and therefore could not be in the film, so the studios decided that recreating him using CGI over a similar looking actor would be the best method since it sort of worked with young Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy, Paul Walker in Furious 7 and Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America Civil War.  It didn’t work as well as they hoped, and while the CGI was good…it wasn’t good enough.  They even did the same technique with Princess Leia at the very end of the film and it looked horrible. The cool part with the CGI was that ILM was able to bring unseen footage from Star Wars (1977) into this film.  Albeit it was short, they were able to revive a few actors in their past roles as Rebel pilots.  In a few years as technology for movies continues to progress, these tricks will end up looking worse and worse so hopefully they are proud of it for now as it won’t last.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Chirrut (Donnie Yen) Photo credit: Lucasfilm/ILM ©2016 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Moving on but speaking of characters; most of the films characters were horrible and unnecessary to the plot, or just overdone.  There were too many characters to keep track of and the acting was also bad.  Beginning with the main character of Jyn Erso (Jones), while she was relatively good in the role, the character lacked personality and was dry most of the movie.  Cassian Andor (Luna) was impossible to understand half of the time and was also relatively lacking in emotions.  The best of the main characters proved to be K-2S0, the droid, who had a great sense of humor and put himself before others.  Saw Gerrera, played by Forrest Whittaker, was a terrible over-the-top crazy person with little to no point in the film at all besides being a character that was in the animated Clone Wars series, and was completely different in that.  The biggest issues weren’t just that these characters were lacking in personality and were far too numerous, but there was also a complete lack of character development or even backstory, besides Jyn’s backstory.  Although some characters had problems like that; there were a couple super cool characters that had no reason to be there at all.  Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus were incredibly tough and interesting characters that appeared out of nowhere in the movie and then for no reason at all they stayed along for the ride and fought for the rebels. No explanations whatsoever.  Also as a side note, Vader was mostly a weak character in the film and probably should have never been there.

While the characters of the film were a large problem for it, the real fact of the matter was the story was lacking and predictable. Rogue One is the story of the opening crawl from Star Wars (1977), or better defined as the prefacing text at the start of the first original movie. Since Rogue One is an in-between story in the Star Wars universe, it is staple Star Wars and predictable. Yes, even the ending.  The hero of the story is orphaned as a child more or less, and has struggled growing up and is called into the story through happenstance.  This is a regular device for Star Wars movies.  What makes this different is that Jyn’s father is still alive but was forced to come back to work for the Empire, and helps build the Death Star.  He put a fatal flaw in the design intentionally and got word to the Rebels as well as Jyn that the plans for the Death Star needed to get into the Rebels’ hands.  Of course Jyn’s father gave her a nickname and it comes into play later in the film when finding the Death Star plans…cliché.  Jyn was not partial to any faction affiliation, even though she was originally raised under the Empire side of things.  Never is she in full support of the Rebels, but instead she seeks revenge on the Empire for taking her father from her, exploiting him, killing her mother, and basically putting her through a rough pre-teen to teenage life as an orphan.  Basically, Jyn finished what her father started and got the flawed Death Star plans in the hands of the Rebel Alliance.  To add to the weirdness, or thrown together aspects of the film for no reason, they decide to use the call sign “Rogue One” for the ship , which the ragtag crew of Rebels stole from the other Rebels to go to Scarif.

Although the majority of the movie was pretty rough, it did get to have some good moments.  The last third of the film had the most action, of course, and all of that was really great.  The battles in space as well as the battle on Scarif were really cool in tech, explosions, and special effects.  The studio did a great job putting the action together.   Who doesn’t love seeing AT-ATs roaming the horizon and being taken down by some good Rebel fighters?  While this amount of action was great it still was a lot to take in all at once and was a bit convoluted, because many characters introduced in the film met their end during these battles.  One of the best parts of this film was that the main characters all die, really.  Great job to Lucasfilm and Disney for trying to help destroy the trope or norm of always having the heroes live to see the end of the story they were a part of.  In Star Wars death, is common but seldom have they done death like this, and that was truly a great feat to pull off.  Really to break things down, one-third of a movie being great is still not a passing grade.  That being said, do not make the mistake in thinking this was the first stand-alone non-saga Star Wars film, as others do or rather did, exist.  They may not be viewed as “canon” any longer but in the eyes of Star Wars fans they do still exist.  They also may not be better films than Rogue One but something about them still makes them feel more Star Wars than this film did.  Rogue One is not one with the Force and the Force is not with it.

 

Date released:  December 16th, 2016

Distributed By: Disney/Lucasfilm

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen.

Produced By: Kathleen Kennedy, Simon Emanuel, Allison Shearmur

Written By: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, Gary Whitta.

Directed by: Gareth Edwards

Run Time:  134 minutes

Rating: PG-13