Yep, it’s that time of the year again. The holidays are upon us. That means it’s time for the folks behind the mouse to churn out another billion dollar version of Star Wars. Yeah, I know I am a year late, but I have been busy. Plus, It’s becoming harder to keep track of which Star Wars is which with Disney cashing in on the franchise. I really hope I don’t get as fatigued with Star Wars as I am with Marvel movies. Anyhow, The Last Jedi hits theaters in under two weeks so I decided to get ready and review the last Star Wars movie released by Disney. So without further ado, here is my, better late than never, review of Star Wars Rogue One…ahem…sorry…Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
What makes a good Star Wars Movie
It’s probably best to take a second to identify what actually makes a good Star Wars film. Rogue One marks the eight film in the franchise and the fifth sequel/prequel/spinoff. It’s universally agreed that nothing can touch the original three in terms of quality. They established the universe, the conflict and most importantly the cast of characters. Every film since has been trying to recapture that magic. The prequels nailed the universe. They expanded the scope of the stage in which the characters play, but they also failed miserably at fully establishing the core conflict and even worse, developing the characters. The Force Awakens did a decent job with all three criteria, but after rewatching it, it became so derivative of A New Hope that I liked it less on subsequent viewings. So how does Rogue One do? Well, it kinda ditches the most important criteria. You see, when I list “cast of characters” as criteria I really mean the Skywalkers. Anakin, Luke, and Leia. Those three, the people in their orbit coupled with the struggle between the empire and the rebels are what makes a good Star Wars movie. Rogue One says…eh we can do it without the Skywalkers
The story is pretty simple. Remember that line in the opening crawl of A New Hope? Yep, The one with a bunch of rebels stealing plans from the empire? Yeah so…thats the movie. No Luke, no Anakin(kinda) and no Leia…ok, so that’s a lie but you get the picture. This is a new cast of characters. A ragtag bunch in a wartime heist movie. Throw in the always interesting Mads Mikkelsen, a dash of Forest Whitaker and a couple tablespoons of CGI characters and boom. A story that actually works. I must admit, The first time I saw this movie I thought the first act was a little slow. There are a lot of introductions, planet hopping, and general setup. I wanted to see the good stuff, you know, the fights and battles. Interestingly, on my second viewing, I really enjoyed all the setup. It enriched the universe to a level on par with the prequels. Rogue One really plays well in the context of the war with the galactic empire. It’s what allows it to ditch the Skywalker storyline and still feel like star wars. The characters are decent, but it’s all about context here. Every character, story, and setting fits in like a puzzle that forms the story that becomes A New Hope. It’s as if Disney told George Lucas…“Hey Georgy, let me show you how to actually make a prequel”.
Look and Feel
I thought The Force Awakens did a pretty good job recreating the feel of the original movies. Rogue One takes it to another level. Granted, it has to because of where it is on the timeline, but it still knocks it out of the park. This film looks and feels like Star Wars. The opening scene with the death troopers is eerie, fresh yet familiar. Jedha is a more interesting take on the desert planet trope. Seeing stormtroopers ride around in world war II style tanks grounded the film in a sense of realism rarely seen in recent Star Wars films. Everything felt on point…save for one little/big thing. I have tried to keep this review spoiler free but it must be said…there are two digitally recreated characters that appear in this movie. I have enough experience in 3d animation to know how difficult it is to recreate a real person. All I can say is that they nailed one of the two and not some much the other. I’ll let you decide which one they got right but let’s just say the look of the last scene felt a little off. That said, This is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars library. It is superior to The Force Awakens and dare I say, on par with Return of the Jedi.