Thursday, December 15, 2016
My Rogue One Review ***Filled With Spoilers***
I don't know if I can sum it all up in just the right way, and like always with these things, I wonder if my opinion is going to change at all once I get a little further removed from it and take it in a bit more. There were so many things that I noticed about it. One thing for sure, I do not at all think that this movie could stand on its own really. Most of the truly enjoyable parts were callbacks or references to the old movies, which isn't really a good sign. It lacked a lot of the humor from the originals and even Episode VII had quite a few true laughs, and this one only had a tiny handful and mostly coming from the token one-liner droid that must be in each movie. It definitely could've used an extra dose of humor.
So we of course begin with Jyn Erso's back story, and because every Star Wars hero has to be an orphan or at the very least lose their family and be raised by someone else from a very young age, of course that is what we find out happens to her. Her mother is killed and her father is taken by the Empire because he is a brilliant engineer who had worked for them and they want him to build them the Death Star. Apparently they always expected this would happen because Jyn has a secret place to hide before she is taken in by family friend Saw Gerrara, who is played by Forest Whitaker. But the next thing we know, we jump to Jyn as an adult and she is a prisoner and being taken to some Imperial work camp. We have absolutely no idea how long she has been a prisoner, why she was a prisoner, or what she may have been doing for the last fifteen years.
I did forget to mention that this film does not begin with an opening crawl or the standard Star Wars theme. I think right from the get-go by doing that it already felt tremendously less like Star Wars to me. They also for some reason when introducing every planet they visited would tell you in words on the screen where they were. This just felt like an odd choice to me because it's not something that was ever done before, they just let the movie tell us where they were rather than having to show us in big letters.
One thing I found quite interesting with this compared to Episode VII is that at points it moved fairly slowly, and for some reason its run time is actually longer. Where Episode VII lacked any time to catch your breath and seemed to completely zip through important plot points or skip them entirely, this one lagged quite a bit and left me a lot of time to think about things like, where are they going and what is even happening? About two thirds through the movie I realized that other than Jyn, I hadn't actually absorbed a single other character's name. I don't think that is a good sign.
There were some expected cameos along with some unexpected ones. I knew Grand Moff Tarkin was going to be in it, although I definitely didn't expect him to be in it nearly as much as he was. It seems really strange to me that the man credited with playing him was some random actor when his entire part was CGI'd to look like Peter Cushing. At times it was quite impressive to see, and the voice was mostly spot-on, but then at other times I had flashes of watching Dobby the house elf from Harry Potter. That's not really meant to be an insult, I know this is for now the absolute best they can do with this, but still there is no denying you're looking at a cartoon version of what we saw in 1977. And yeah, it's definitely kind of weird. And also seems odd that they went that direction with Tarkin, but then just recast Mon Mothma and General Dadonna. Although I suppose any random dude with a big white beard is enough there, when Tarkin is such a unique look that couldn't be replicated by any actual living human.
Speaking of cameos, I'm realizing as I write this that I'm not sure they ever really called out Bail Organa by name. I could be wrong on that, but again, I feel like they need to do a better job with these movies of letting them stand at least a little more on their own without relying on everyone to "just know" certain things or characters. Other unexpected characters included those two trouble-makers at the Cantina in ANH who didn't like Luke and Obi Wan had to cut one of their arms off. That was a clever little addition that got a good audience laugh. And then a very brief moment with R2-D2 and C-3PO and for some reason it hadn't occurred to me that it would be easy to get them in there. They also included some Rebel pilots from the original during the battle scene and it was almost unsettling because they just used actual footage from then, not CGI. It was like, whoa, that's the real Gold Leader.
And then there's Darth Vader. I mean, honestly, even as primarily a Han and Leia fan I can't help but think it's pretty amazing to get to see Darth Vader on screen again being his dark and sinister self. He kind of saved it for me because at one point when the movie was really losing me, because people were just kind of, traveling and then fighting pointless battles and I was thinking about how I didn't really know who anyone was in the movie, they suddenly brought us Vader in all his glory, and I literally sat up in my chair. Hearing James Earl Jones do the voice booming through that sound system was just plain cool. Oddly they used him less than Tarkin, which didn't make that much sense to me, but oh well. We do get to see what I assume is like, Darth Vader's house which is basically like a big scary castle surrounded by lava, which I guess makes sense for him.
Now, as for the rest of the movie.... I mean, I think the main thing I noticed when it comes down to it is that it has no heart. It has no soul. It has all the pieces but it just doesn't quite come together. They give us this back story of Jyn and her parents and being raised by this guy, and yet later when we see her with him again for the first time in quite a few years, we see no connection between those two characters. Jyn finds her father for the first time in fifteen years and holds him as he dies and yet, again, we just don't feel a whole lot for those characters. We have this ragtag group of people who come together and must work as a team to accomplish something huge, and yet to me there just wasn't any chemistry there. I didn't see it as a flaw in the acting performances as the acting was fine, it was just more that sort of intangible chemistry that you can't fake and it's either there or it isn't. You know how it was like there was an immediate bond between Luke and Han and Leia? And you truly cared about those characters? You just don't get much of that here. It's more like, ok, here's this girl and that guy and that guy and that other guy (because PS: if you cast a female as your lead it's still ok to have 99% of the rest of your cast be male) and they're doing stuff together but I see no connection between any of their characters. And there is an Asian guy who even in a universe as huge and diverse as this, and with cultures and planets totally different from our own, still somehow feels like an Asian stereotype.
I do suppose part of it was that it felt like none of them ever had any sort of different look on their faces. Everyone always looked the same. And nobody truly seemed to have any clearly defined role in the situation. I mean they had their technical "jobs" like one was the pilot, another was a random Jedi they picked up along the way, but they didn't really have any character traits. Han and Luke and Leia all had clearly defined character traits. This one had like, the girl and the main guy and the other guys and the funny droid. I didn't care that much for any of them or get any sense of their relationships to one another. Leia meets Luke and then like two minutes later she is already scared for him when he gets pulled under in the garbage masher, and a couple of minutes after that she is hugging Han when they find out they won't be crushed to death. There was just absolutely none of that here.
So this one is going to fall fairly low on the "rewatchability" scale. And it's sort of strange because like I said, they had the pieces, they gave Jyn a back story and some drama in losing her mother and later losing her father, but I just didn't feel for her the way I felt for Leia. Ok, at the very end they almost got to me. And I think a few months ago I had this thought, that it was actually probably pretty likely that none of the characters in this movie would make it out alive. Turns out I was correct about that. They all died. Every single one of the ones we follow on this mission dies in the final battle in one way or another. And at one point one of them has a sort of "moment" where he stands up and it all seems very profound, but the non-Star Wars fan in our group pointed out at the end of the movie that he didn't really do anything during his final stand before he died. He killed a couple of bad guys who probably weren't going to cause any more damage to anyone else, and then that was it.
Then of course the thing I was looking forward to the most at the very end was the Leia cameo. I was glad they kept it brief. I did however feel like they missed an opportunity there. I think it would've been amazing to have seen the last time Leia saw her father. There was a moment when Bail said he was going to send everything to Obi Wan and was told he had to send someone he could trust and of course he knew just the person. I just think it would've been a really sweet albeit I suppose possibly a cheap ploy for tears and emotions to have seen maybe him hug his daughter goodbye one last time. Honestly though, this movie could've used a cheap ploy for tears or any attempt to garner some emotion out of the audience. I was a little disappointed in the CGI of Leia, and maybe I'm being really picky here, but also her hand looked like a chubby man hand! And also maybe I need to go re-watch Ant-Man because the de-aging they did of Michael Douglas on that movie was incredible and to me did not look like a cartoon CGI face. It makes me wonder if they could've done something better if they'd actually used Carrie. She had one spoken word, and at least that part sounded like her. I don't know, maybe it would've been better to at least have shot her from a little further away. But still, I guess it's cool that they included her in it at all.
There isn't a whole lot else to say. I did think that Krennic was a cool bad guy and he did an excellent job. And they gave us one thing TFA didn't by at least spending a good amount of time on a planet that was quite different from any other planet on any of the other movies, this time with palm trees and beaches. Although the shield that surrounded the whole thing reminded me of the shield around Druidia in Spaceballs, but instead of a door that opens there is a base that acts as a sort of gate.
I almost forgot, one of the reasons I was not dreading this movie is because it felt safe, like they couldn't ruin anything for us. Well, they did kind of find a way to undermine ANH a bit. I knew about this before I saw it, but apparently that thermal exhaust port that Luke was able to shoot to destroy the Death Star? That was basically a self destruct button put their purposely by the engineer who designed it, so that the Rebels would later have a chance. That engineer of course was Jyn's father, who sacrificed himself to give them what they wanted, but with a "trap" of sorts, because otherwise they'd just have found someone else to build it and they'd have no chance. I rolled my eyes hard at that when I heard it, but I will say that in the post-movie analysis with my other movie-going people and lifelong Star Wars fans, the consensus among the rest of them was that they liked that idea, and considered it kind of a plot hole from ANH that it was so easy to blow up. I don't know, I think I need more time to decide. I'm still leaning toward, really? Did it really have to be a purposeful flaw? Other than that though, nothing else to screw things up for us. No visits with Obi Wan or Luke, no Han Solo cameo. No Chewie. Oh and another side note, for some reason even though it wasn't Admiral Ackbar, for some reason Mon Calamarians are always going to be Admirals for the big battles. I don't know why. Last random note: somehow AT-ATs seem WAY easier to take down in this movie than in ESB. Luke can't get through the armor with blasters on his snowspeeder but X-wings seem to cause them to crumble.
Ok, now I think I've covered most of what I wanted to say. Was it a BAD movie? I'm not sure I'm prepared to say that. Did it completely lack a heart and soul and fail to make the audience emotionally invested in the characters? Yes, absolutely. I suppose that probably means it's a bad movie, but again, I'm not prepared to say that quite yet. The acting was fine the dialog was actually decent and not clunky like a prequel, but yeah, I just didn't care about these characters. Even in TFA I very quickly cared about Poe and Finn and Rey. I empathized with Rey. Those characters all had chemistry with each other even if I didn't like the movie. That is one of the few things I truly liked in it. But this just has none of that. So, some fun cameos and stuff, but it certainly did not feel like a Star Wars movie really, except for the scenes with Imperials. Lastly, stormtroopers still have terrible aim.
So, hopefully some of you saw it and would care to comment, I'd love to hear some opinions. I'd be really surprised if anyone a few months ago was raving about this movie. But if you disagree and you really enjoyed it, please let us know that too. I feel absolutely none of the rage and hate I felt after TFA, so I don't intend for this to turn into a huge rant about how this was the worst movie ever. I really don't even know how they could've made it truly good. But if you liked it, I'd love to hear that side of it too.