Thursday, December 22, 2016

Movie Review: Rogue One - A Star Wars Story

Well my esteemed colleague Dan Moore and I have both seen Rogue One and we have some thoughts to share with you, whether you like it or not.  So here we go....


Justin: So Daniel, what did you think of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?

Dan: I liked it a lot. It felt totally different than any other Star Wars movies. I liked the new characters, with the exception of the lead. Jyn Erso I felt was a tad underdeveloped. Her mom dies, and she is raised elsewhere, and that's kind of it for her character. We're supposed to just assume she's a jaded badass after that without seeing any of it. The actress, Felicity Jones, was fine, but she played a non-character. As opposed to Rey in The Force Awakens, who seemed a much more vivid and REAL character.

But I enjoyed the rag tag, Dirty Dozen-like feel to this Star WAR movie. It was grim, it was gritty, and it helped erase the bad feelings of the truly inferior prequels. This one is THE PREQUEL in my mind. I choose to remember nothing of Episodes I-III until the inevitable Disney remakes.

Justin: I enjoyed it quite a bit, with a few reservations.  It definitely felt a little different while still feeling like you were in the Star Wars universe.  Everything was gritty and dirty and looked lived in, unlike three other movies I could name where the scenery was pristine and digital.  Rogue One is essentially a war movie, housed within the Star Wars setting (I saw nods to Saving Private Ryan, Apocalypse Now, and Bridge on the River Kwai).  It was a lot of fun to see this universe from a different angle, low and in the weeds.  This had the smallest scope of any Star Wars film thus far and I liked that; the filmmakers didn't feel the need to make it EPIC.  It also had some of the best space battle stuff they've ever done - it was chaotic but you could follow the action, there was some strategy involved, and a few legitimate surprises.

As for the reservations, I agree, Jyn was very underdeveloped as a character - we needed much more reason to care about her, since the plot itself was simply an exercise.  We already know what's going to happen, so it falls on the characters to draw us in.  She didn't quite do that for me.  My favorite character actually was the droid, who provided most of the humor.  The mystical blind dude was interesting as well and I would've liked to see more of his story.

The other minor gripe (very minor) is that this film is FULL of fan service.  Like it's all over the place.  Most of it works though, and is done tastefully.  But a few moments were a bit groan-inducing for me (Did we really need to see Walrus Man and Mr. Ugly?).  Obviously with a story so closely linked to A New Hope there's gonna be a lot of visual repetition, so the lion's share of that didn't bug me.  I appreciated that, unlike say Revenge of the Sith, this film actually respected the continuity with ANH and made sure there weren't any loose or contradictory threads.

Dan: Yeah, the fan service stuff annoyed me at times. Showing Walrus and Ugly on that planet made zero sense, especially since it exploded like 10 minutes later. So they got outta there just in time and hightailed it to a bar? COME ON. And did we need to see Threepio and R2? I guess it kinda made sense...but eh. Though I did like seeing the X-Wing pilots from A New Hope in the battle of Scarif. That didn't seem like fan service, and it made sense, as those guys would go on to perish in the battle of Yavin.

The droid, K-2SO, looked great, but he didn't really do it for me. He said things that were too un-droid-like, and it just seemed out of place in the Star Wars world. I agree, the blind Asian guy was cool as was the Asian guy with the big gun (no clue what either of their names were). Same as you, I woulda liked to see more of those characters. But alas, this film, like all prequels, has prequelitis. We KNOW these guys don't make it. They can't. Prequels have that problem inherently, and this one moreso than most, as all of the major characters had to eat it.

Justin: Yeah seeing R2 and 3PO was pointless.

The droid said some out there stuff but they mentioned that his reprogramming made him a little nuts, so that didn't bother me.

The pilots showing up was fine, except for the fact that they said their lines EXACTLY as they said them in ANH.  But otherwise I was fine with that.

How 'bout fake Peter Cushing there?

Dan: I liked Fake Cushing. I thought he looked good and the voice work was spot on. There were times where he looked a little fake-ish but not so much that it distracted me. Fake Leia, on the other hand, I thought looked waaaaaaaay fake. She looked like a video game character in a cut scene. Even saying that, it didn't really bother me that much cause she was in it for 11 seconds.

But of course, we've neglected to mention the best scene in the movie. Vader, man. Fucking VADER. Holy SHIT when he went bonkers at the end of that movie and killed a million rebels, I swear to God I was hard. That scene did two things for me:

1. Showed us all exactly why everyone in the galaxy is afraid of the man in the black scuba suit. It really solidified his evil-ness.

2. Erased the embarrassment of Darth Hayden and the NOOOOOOOOOOOOO scene in Revenge of the Sith. The last time we saw Vader on the big screen he was played by some emo crybaby that couldn't act. But now, he's back to being space's biggest badass. When he showed up in that hallway and all we saw was his red lightsaber start glowing, you knew you were in for some awesome Sith shit.

Justin: I kinda thought both CG people looked like videogame cut scenes.  The rendering work was incredible, but something about the movement and the lifelessness of the eyes gives it away.  It's called "The Uncanny Valley," where your brain is somehow always aware what you're seeing isn't real.  I'm not sure when CG character rendering will clear that hurdle.  That said I liked that both characters were included.  It didn't bother me much, but the fakeness was always in the back of my head.

That Vader scene was AWESOME.  I wish Episode 3 included some of that stuff.  Even in the original trilogy we never really got to see how murderous Vader could be.  He mostly relied on others to do the dirty work, but here he was swatting rebels around like flies and it was amazing.  It was great to see Vader be Vader again.

Other standout sequences for me were when Jyn watched her father's holographic explanation, intercut with the Death Star about to blow up the city; the final battle, particularly the moment where it all starts to go to hell and all the characters inevitably get shot; and the moment on the beach when Jyn and Andor await the shockwave.  All executed beautifully.

Rogue One's shortcomings for me were just the lack of great characters (No one comes close to Rey, Finn or Kylo), and the inevitability of the plot.  For surprises we instead had to rely on easter eggs and cameos.  For that reason I didn't get the immediate urge to rewatch it like I did with TFA.  This film almost feels like a great episode of a Star Wars TV series, or like an extremely well-made fan film.

But overall it's a fun little diversion/appetizer to tide us over till Episode VIII, and a look at another side of the Star Wars mythology.  I'd rank it below the other four good Star Wars films, just because I can't see myself needing to watch it a dozen more times.  It's not like an integral part of the overall story, just an interesting side road.

I give it *** out of ****.

Dan: Same. Better than the prequels, dunno where it lands with the other four yet.

That's our Star Wars story and we're stickin' to it.  Thanks for reading!  Comment below with your thoughts.....

No comments:

Post a Comment