Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Review
You may not know this, dear reader, but your intrepid Airman Xley was once a child full of unbridled imagination who looked to the future through rose-colored glasses. Lacking any friends—due to the geographic constraints of living in a rural area of the Pacific Northwest mind you, not because of inherent social awkwardness—this boy occupied his time with two things: going on fantastical adventures with his teddy bear and watching Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope again and again.
The young Airman Xley—ever-accompanied by the aptly named “Bear” AKA “Chewie”—celebrated the exploits of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo on a near-daily basis. He piloted imaginary X-wings and dueled Sith Lords with a lightsaber that resembled a fallen tree branch. He always made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. He dreamed that one day he too could blast TIE fighters with the Millennium Falcon’s AG-2G quad laser cannons.
Then the young Airman Xley grew up in a world fraught with the Star Wars prequels. He grew up in a world where the hundreds of books, games, and comics that made up the Star Wars expanded universe—many of which he had poured countless hours into—were retconned and deemed “non-canon.” He grew up in a world dominated by “fanboys” who accosted him for not settling for, at best, mediocre continuations of his beloved Star Wars.
Well, suffice it to say, that little boy grew up to be the cynical son of a bitch you see before you. And in the spirit of things, I wanted to share with you a rather powerful realization I had today after watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. No, it has nothing to do with my crippling emotional issues or general loneliness—though I’ll certainly lose a few friends after this big reveal. Instead, my realization is that there has yet to be a good Star Wars film made in the better part of thirty years that I’ve been on this planet (and I’ll likely never see one made in my lifetime).
That’s right! Rogue One was utterly disappointing, and I have the gall to say it! Worse still, this latest installment made Star Wars: The Force Awakens look like a goddamn innovatory masterpiece—which, of course, is a fallacious notion as the latter is nothing more than a hackneyed retelling of A New Hope! (Let it be known that I did really like Rey)
You’re stunned, I’m sure—enraged even. Perhaps you are already drawing battle lines and uninviting me your future events, even before reading my forthcoming review.
Oh, but wait, I suppose I have to offer up the obligatory “This is a Spoiler-Free Review” disclaimer because God forbid you might learn that the rebels actually steal the plans for the Death Star. *GASP*
Hey! It’s that character that looks vaguely familiar. In front of that thing from that other movie! Because FANSERVICE!
The latest Star Wars
film product begins with a flashback to when our protagonist Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is violently separated from her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen). An ingenious Imperial scientist, Galen is forcibly recruited by Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) to finish the construction of the Empire’s new superweapon: the Death Star. In her father’s absence, Jyn is raised by the radical Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) though, in the film’s present day, the two have not spoken for some time.
Adult Jyn then gets “sprung” by the Rebel Alliance from perhaps the worst guarded Imperial prison in the galaxy. It’s in this scene that we meet Rebels Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and the reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk). Long story short, the Alliance needs Jyn to get an audience with Saw because he may or may not be holding a defector—an imperial pilot by the name of Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed)—who may or may not have been sent by Galen with information on the Death Star (which may or may not exist). There’s a lot of blind faith in this movie, and I’m not talking about Donnie Yen’s only mildly intriguing blind mystic character.
An hour and a half later, the movie actually starts, and the rebels eventually steal the Death Star plans. The end.
“SPOILERS! SPOILERS!?! How DARE you spoil this movie for me! And you call yourself a Star Wars fan? You don’t know ANYTHING about this movie. I’ve heard from more *reputable* review sites that this is the best Star Wars film since Empire Strikes Back, AND YOU RUINED IT FOR ME!”
Ahem, that is where you are wrong, Madam—or Sir. This movie singularly exists to set up the events of A New Hope; events which I should hope are as ingrained in pop culture today as the Friends’ theme song or the goddamn Trix cereal catchphrase. In A New Hope, Luke Skywalker comes across the plans for the Death Star on his adventures. He then destroys the Death Star during his infamous trench run, likely killing millions of people because it seemed like the right thing to do.
Naturally, it would follow that a film marketed as taking place immediately before the events of A New Hope would conclude with the Rebels obtaining the Death Star plans. Princess Leia would then eventually come into possession of the plans only to hide them in R2-D2 aboard the Corellian Corvette: the Tantive IV.
So shut your damn blue-milk-drinking mouth about spoilers.
As for Rogue One being the “best Star Wars film since Empire,” that’s not really saying much, is it? Although I personally don’t think of Empire being the “best” Star Wars—it’s all about A New Hope, my friend—I still appreciate that it was a landmark science fiction film that defined a franchise and inspired countless filmmakers to greatness. With that, however, I would kindly remind you that Return of Jedi, although entertaining, was, at best, a mediocre conclusion to the original trilogy.
Then what? Thirty-plus years go by, and all we get are the universally hated Star Wars prequels? The unambitious, underwhelming Force Awakens? Are those the films you’re really comparing Rogue One to? Are you really suggesting that this latest installment—which offers nothing in the way of new mythos or characterization—stands on near-equal footing with one of the most influential movies of all time?
Stop defending mediocre and/or lazy storytelling. Stop settling for callbacks and fan service to a series that is almost forty years old!
“And yet, that’s what we get in Rogue One: a barrage of self-congratulatory fan service stretched out over two and a half hours..”
If I wanted to be reminded how great the original trilogy was, I would just rewatch the fucking original trilogy (on the pre-1996 VHS tapes, of course). I—and by extension, you—don’t need a fucking pat on the back every time we spot a Star Wars easter egg.
And yet, that’s what we get in Rogue One: a barrage of self-congratulatory fan service stretched out over two and a half hours. It’s a film that asks questions no one was asking and establishes minor characters who did not need to be established. Scratch that—there are no memorable characters, at least no new ones.
Wait, I just had a genius idea for a standalone Star Wars movie. What if we devoted two hours to explain how the Dianoga—the garbage compactor monster that attacked Luke—got on the Death Star. Moments before Luke Skywalker and his gang of merry misfits take the plunge into the malodorous waters, our friend the Dianoga might have just escaped from an Imperial garbage ship!
No, I suppose you’re right—there have been too many dumpster fires already this year. But you, of course, get my point. It’s completely unnecessary storytelling. The garbage monster got there because he/she/it did; the Rebels stole the Death Star Plans because they did. In both cases, it doesn’t fucking matter how.
But I’ll give Rogue One some small credit—though it hardly makes up for the dull and utterly inconsequential first two-thirds of the film. The last forty minutes are indeed entertaining and action-packed, at least at a level one would expect for such a generic action film.
Much like in his previous film Godzilla, director Gareth Edwards delivers a gritty, well-choreographed battle in the final act of Rogue One. Unfortunately, none of the characters are properly fleshed out, so there is no real emotional attachment to anything or anyone featured amidst the explosions. Also, I dare say the manner in which the Death Star plans are stored is about as bad as Midi-fucking-chlorians.
There are, of course, X-Wings and AT-AT Walkers. There are also Stormtroopers, Star Destroyers, and Death Star blasts. But let me ask you—is that really all you expect in a Star Wars film?
Oh, it is? Well then, if nothing else, you should watch this film solely for a thirty-second clip towards the end that—in the words of a fellow theatre patron—is enough to make any fanboy “cum buckets.”
IT’S A SCI-FI ADVENTURE MOVIE, NOT A GODDAMN PORNO!
No, I’m not talking about the “Death Troopers” or whatever the hell they’re called from the picture above. You had asked for no spoilers, remember? On an unrelated note, you shouldn’t get your hopes up for these new Stormtroopers. They’re about as memorable as Captain Phasma in The Force Awakens (which is to say they’re a bunch of Bantha Fodder).
Also, did Darth Vader make a goddamn pun in this movie? I know the writers need to throw in a bit of levity now and again to keep the dialogue fresh, but frankly, I think they’re looking in Alderaan places.
Did you get the joke? If so, you’re going to love Rogue One, because you’re just a true fan of the series, aren’t you? Bless your heart. You get references! I bet you can name all the other Jedi from the prequels too.
For the rest of you who—like me—apparently don’t “get” Star Wars as the fanboys do, you will likely find yourself bored, disillusioned and alone. The world does not share our desire for memorable characters, nor do they wish to see Star Wars grow beyond the confines of fanboy nostalgia.
Because you’re apparently not a true fan unless you subscribe to the “any Star Wars is good Star Wars” philosophy, right? Except for the prequels—I think we can all agree those are still fucking terrible.
The Bottom Line:
Call me bitter. Call me sardonic. Call me any name in the book if you disagree with me when I say this movie is abhorrently bad. Just know that my disappointment is rooted in an unshakeable love for this beloved franchise.
When you’ve experienced the limitless potential of the Star Wars universe—either through the now defunct Star Wars: Legends books or video games—you start to crave some originality on the big screen. Granted, Rogue One could have quenched my thirst by offering up more of the same, but instead of taking the time to flesh out the characters, it pandered to the masses to the point that I frankly didn’t care about anyone or anything.
The action was mildly entertaining, certainly, but watching Jyn Erso and her band of caricatures interacting with one another was about as exciting as the political discourse from the prequels. Let’s talk about galactic trade disputes again. That was fun, wasn’t it?
Forget the breadcrumb narrative; we already know they have to steal the Death Star plans. Tell me more about the characters! Why was Jyn in prison? Why was Forest Whitaker’s character considered too “radical” for the Rebellion? What’s wrong with Grand Moff Tarkin’s faaaaaaaaaaaaaace?
Nope, instead, they’re just going to put Stormtroopers on a beach. Explosions on a beach. AT-ATs—on a beach.
But OMFGICYMI: DID YOU CATCH THAT RED 5 BLEW UP?!? OMG BECAUSE THAT WAS TOTALLY LUKE’S CALL SIGN IN A NEW HOPE!
Congratulations asshole, you’re the reason Star Wars is doomed to mediocrity. Pat yourself on the fucking back. I, on the other hand, will be rereading the vastly more interesting X-wing series.