Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Hardcore ‘Star Wars’ Fans Will Appreciate ‘Rogue One’

Felicity Jones in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"
Diego Luna, Felicity Jones and WenJiang in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
(Disney/Lucasfilm)
MOVIE REVIEW

I’m a Star Wars fan. I saw all three of the original trilogy in the theater and enjoyed each one. The anticipation of waiting in-between films seemed ridiculously long. And like many others, I was disappointed with the three prequel films that came out many years later. Then came last year’s The Force Awakens and the joy was back! I really thought that Disney and LucasFilm had recaptured the magic and going forward would be smooth sailing. I was really looking forward to Rogue One.

I guess you could say that I’m more of a casual Star Wars fan. I only got through a few chapters of one of  the books, I never read any of the comic books and haven’t really haven’t gotten too involved in the different debates over fan theories. I say all of this because while I believe true hardcore Star Wars fans will appreciate Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, it didn’t do much for me.

The Rogue One story takes place after the prequel films and just before the original Star Wars film. The story revolves around Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a Rebellion solider and criminal who is separated from her parents at a very early age and had to learn how to defend herself primarily on her own. The story shows (briefly) that she had a mentor along the way, but she was forced to grow up quickly and abandon her childhood for something greater than herself. A pretty tough task to throw at a young girl. No wonder she seems moody and bitter.



In her journey in the new film, we meet a variety of people, some more likeable than others like Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), an Alliance intelligence officer sent to find Jyn, Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), the man who served at Jyn’s protector and trainer at a very early age, Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), a blind monk who can “see” with the help of the Force and is a master marital artist, Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) a close friend and somewhat bodyguard to Chirrut, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), a cargo pilot who works for the Empire but changes course when he is faced with a harsh truth and K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) a droid who doesn’t care much for Jyn and the feeling is mutual. He is a complete contrast to the polite to-a-fault C-3PO and the best part of this movie.

Darth Vadar in "Rogue One"
Looks who's back ... briefly. 
All of the elements for a great Star Wars film is here but just not used wisely, at least not for this fan. All of the fun of the original pictures is missing. It’s as if you took everything you loved about the original trilogy and took it out of the film, Rogue One is what you have left. Director Gareth Edwards said that he wanted to make Jyn’s character asexual in nature (so that the part could have been played by a man or a woman). The end result is a character with no personality. The only real emotion she seems to display is anger. She’s not the only one though, all of the characters are pretty ill-defined. Even Darth Vardar with all of his villainous and majesty is fairly bland and appears a lot less in the film than you want him to. The film feels half-finished and parts of it are frankly pretty boring.

The other large problem with the story is that it is confusing. There is no familiar scroll at the beginning of them movie to give you some hints on what is happening. The audience is given very little background information on the character so we don’t know (or care) what motivates them. Scenes that should be thrilling are not. Scenes that should pull on our heartstrings, don’t. They are all fighting for a cause, and even though we already know that that cause is, a better approach to the storytelling would have been to re-explain what they are fighting for.

Numerous characters from the earlier films make cameo appearances in this movie with some roles larger than others. The film is full of over-used tropes as well. About five times a character comes on screen and says their opening lines with their back turned to the audience. When they turn around, we see that they are a character that we are supposed to already know. It’s been many years since I’ve seen some of the earlier films, so I knew some of these characters, but not all of them. (If you don’t remember, this film isn’t going to help you. The creators assume that everyone is a hardcore fan and won’t need any refreshers. For instance, Jimmy Smits appears as Senator Bail Organa. He doesn’t do much more than just stand around and say a line or two. I don’t remember if they explained who he was or not in the movie. I had to look up his character’s name.)

Visually, Rogue One is brilliant. This film takes us to new and interesting locations. Surprisingly though, there aren’t too many odd creatures in the movie and even the music is different to distinguish it from the other movies. The iconic Star Wars theme doesn’t play until the end credits making you wish you had seen that movie instead.