Rogue One is a B+ Star Wars story about hope and rebels and the imperial bureaucrats that stand to gain nothing from joining the dark side. The movie is good! But there are good, bad, and ugly points that I think we should explore.
THIS IS A SPOILER REVIEW, meaning, if you read any further, you will encounter content that could spoil the movie for you if you haven’t see it. Please note, you have been warned.
Coming off of the high of last year’s Star Wars block buster: The Force Awakens; Rogue One had big shoes to fill. You know when you have an older sibling that is super successful in high school, and paves the way for all teachers and adults there after to expect nothing but good things from the younger sibling? Yeah – this is the same feeling I’m sure the team who worked on Rogue One felt going into this project. How in the world are we going to live up to the standards that went before us?
It’s a good question to ask – because I think pressure definitely played a role in how the movie was edited, and what story they ultimately decided to tell. With a 2hr-13min run time, there is plenty of content to tell a good story, and yet – at times it fell short. Let’s first look at what I believe are strong points in the movie:
The movie felt like Star Wars: From the scenery, to the naming conventions, to the background characters; all the details you see in Rogue One are meticulously accounted for and flawlessly executed. You want to see characters you recognize? Check. You want to see new aliens that don’t look out of place? Check. You want a good interactive marketplace showdown? Check. How about a few ship and planets that make you feel like it’s 1979 again? Check – Check – Check. When you think back to how drastically different the prequels looked and felt, Rogue One takes a page from the Force Awakens handbook, and relies on practical effects mixed with the right amount of CGI to give us the feel we long for when we think “Star Wars.” Some of my favorite aspects is seeing the easter eggs throughout the movie located on newly introduced planets of Jedha and Scarif. The influx of images and artifacts from the “prequels” to the “originals” struck a nice balance without being obnoxious. For those that know me, you know a good mouse droid here and there really hit the spot, which wasn’t left out in the details of Rogue One either. So all in all – when you watch this movie, you will be sucked back into the Star Wars universe, and that’s a good thing!
New Memorable Characters: Obviously we’re going to meet a new set of characters that we either love or hate. A few that stood out as strong memorable characters were K-2SO (mouthy droid), and Chirrut Imwe (who I’ve deemed as Bamboo stick). K-2’s ability to infuse comedic relief at just the right moment was refreshing. There were definitely times where I thought his comedy routine was a bit forced, but it was forgivable due to the overall nature of the movie. The wit and brashness Alan Tudyk brings to the character is natural and welcome, I’m just sad we won’t see more of him in the future. Additionally, the character of Chirrut Imwe (old blind bamboo stick), really made the movie for me. He was by far the most interesting character. Chirrut is exactly the type of person I would expect to see in a Star Wars movie – his nature embraces The Force, and it makes the universe seem connected and hopeful. There were even moments I feel they could have taken further with Chirrut, and actually given him “stronger” force powers (because, let’s face it, he totally had force powers, right? RIGHT!?). In his final scene I would have loved to see him raise his hand towards the communication beacon and flip the switch from afar. That would have been awesome… and he could have still died gallantly. Alas, the ending the writers/editors chose for Chirrut was still good – and still showed the power of belief in The Force, something I appreciated they didn’t leave out. Also, can we get a shout out for Chirrut’s bamboo super stick? This thing was like a magical transformer. One minute it’s a staff, the next minute it’s a cross bow. Can I have one for Christmas?
WARS! WARS IN STAR WARS!: The battle scenes in this movie are flawless! They are epic, they are trilling, and they are beautifully shown through the eyes of all parties. There is a great line in the movie where Captain Cassian Andor says to the rebels: “Lets make every man feel like 10!” (in regards to comparing their small rebel numbers the the numbers of the Imperial Army). And they do – you can see how overpowering the Empire is compared to the Rebels, yet it doesn’t feel that way at times because the Rebels fight smarter, not harder. Every ship scene in space is epically choreographed, each ground attack is brilliantly realistic. I loved watching everything unfold, because my heart was racing and felt like I had a front seat to all the action. I would be remiss if I didn’t also call out the last 10 minutes of the movie where we get to see Darth Vader plow through the Rebel Alliance like a hot knife to butter. It’s just the right amount of Dark-side I would expect to see coming from Vader, and it was AWESOME!
Graphically stunning: I know I have already talked about the scenery, planets, extra details, etc – but I think we need to talk about CGI for just a moment. Because what they were able to accomplish when it comes to graphics was stunning. Most notable in my mind is how they were able to pull of Grand Moff Tarkin and (young) Princess Leia. This may not be popular opinion, but I really appreciated the depth of detail they went into making both of these characters look and feel like real people. Could you tell they were CGI, sure! The lips are always a dead give-away. But all in all the mastery of doing such life like characters did not take away from my overall enjoyment of the movie. Additionally, when you see the level of detail they created for each planet, you’ll see how beautifully talented the artists who worked on this really are. I mean – I was convinced the Planet of Scarif was real, and a place I should have considered honeymooning (minus the Imperial jerks). On that same level of artistic achievement, the battle scenes in space were so well drawn and executed, that it left you feeling woozy as you drifted and dived with each fighter pilot.
Now, I’m sure I’m leaving some things off the “good” list – and after I let my mind marinate around the movie a bit longer, maybe my list will grow. But for now – let’s move on to the “bad.”
Jyn Erso wan’t compelling enough: I hate to even say it. I do – I really do. I had such high hopes for Jyn. Hell – her name and mine are so closely related, I thought maybe I could use it as a nick-name. But now? Meh. I don’t care. And I’m sad that I don’t care. This was another great opportunity for the Star Wars universe to have a strong female lead, and it kind of fell flat for me. AND I HATE SAYING THAT! I want to lift Jyn up as a hero! I want her to look, feel, and be the leader I so wanted her to be! But alas, her story was just… boring. And I don’t blame Felicty Jones – I blame the editors. I’m sure there were hours upon hours of content to chose from to help build Jyn’s story correctly, but the small bits and pieces we saw (hell, the first hour of the movie) wasn’t enough for me to care about her character, or believe in anything she said or did. At one point I noticed that she hadn’t spoken in 20 mins!! 20 mins of the main character not saying one word is poor editing. And I would take it further to say that everything leading up to the destruction of Jedha wasn’t necessary to know about Jyn that we couldn’t piece together for ourselves through flashbacks or casual dialog. Where Rey in The Force Awakens didn’t need a 1 hr introduction, Jyn had the whole 2+ hrs and I still didn’t really care about her in the end. I can hear my feminist friends screaming right now. Ladies, ladies, it’s sad I have to say it – but this is not about her being a female character, it’s about the character itself (writing and editing) that falls flat and ultimately brings my rating down for Rogue One.
Other non-essential Characters: Okay, I get it. We’re trying to fill a 2 hr time slot and build an entire movie around the concept of stealing the Death Star plans. And in creating a story from nothing, we need characters. But did we need Saw Gerrera? Or even… his thought sucking squid monster? What the actual F***? Sorry Forrest Whitaker, your character was essentially B.S. and I could have done completely without it. Additionally, though I see the need for Cassian, I didn’t fall in love with his character either. Really – he had a few good moments, with a few good men, and then….death. It’s really hard to get behind a movie when you’re two main characters of Jyn and Cassian are just kind of “meh.” …. *sigh* this could have been so good if the editing would have been just a bit different. To cap off the theme of characters I don’t care about, enter Orson Krennic. His weak attempts to climb the ranks of the Imperial Army came off as whiny and entitled. His character didn’t seem menacing, he seemed more like a menace. And I’m sure there were great scenes cut that made him look and feel more like a powerful dictatorial Director, but all in all I was more annoyed with his character than by anyone else. I’m sorry guys.
1st half vs. 2nd half: This movie felt like two different movies that can be split into 1st half vs 2nd half. The first half of the movie where we meet Jyn and family and are briefly introduced to Saw, are tired if not down right boring. There is not enough information or time to devote to creating history for these characters to ensure we get a “feel” for how connected they are supposed to be. To the contrary, everything felt forced and fake due to the lack of time together. To remedy this, why not just take it out entirely? No need to have a whole backstory leading up to a rebel invasion to steal a major weapon plan. These characters could have all had no backstory, and yet that would have worked better than trying to force an hour worth of nonsense that made no difference in the end into the first half of the movie. 2nd half of the movie was all action. And I appreciated most of what happened in act 2. Except for one glaring issue… and that’s the ending sequence with Jyn and Cassian. There was a brief moment when I thought they were going to kiss in the elevator, or on the beach, or hell…. on the satellite tower. And believe me when I say this – if they did – I WAS GOING TO LOSE MY SH*T. Thankfully they did not. But it looked like it – it felt like it – so therefore it’s like they did. And there is no reason for that at all! God help me, we don’t need our main characters falling in love (in any sense of the term) in every f*cking movie! Just leave it out all together, don’t even hint at it. So help me god!
And now… for the ugly. There is one part, and one part alone that should not have been in Rogue One. I present to you:
Darth Vader jokes & other shenanigans: UUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!! You know exactly what I’m talking about. The “force choke” joke Vader uses on Krennic. The issue with this is that VADER DOESN’T JOKE! No! This is so off, and so weird, and so awful. I groaned in the theater, and I know others around me did too. No – just no. Please don’t “force” us to “choke” down a joke like that again.
Overall, I give this movie 7 stolen plans out of 10. So there you have it! The good, the bad, and the ugly of Rogue One – Let me know what you think? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts and your reactions to Rogue One.
One thing is for sure – I’m not complaining about having a Star Wars movie around Christmas time each year, it’s the gift that keeps on giving! May the force be with you… and also with you! (Yes, you too).
5 thoughts on “The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
Boo. I thought Jyn was great.
As I said in Tom Kelly’s review, which I’ll add details here because yours is full of spoilers, Jyn has a three note chord to her character development.
1. When she is in Saul’s (Saw? I’m going with Saul because that’s what it sounded like, though I’m sure you looked it up and have it right.) base looking at the message from her father. She turns from person with no direction, angry, etc. to someone who’s connecting with who she has to be. From the Force conversation with “Bamboo” about her necklace, to Saul wondering are you here to kill me? she’s beginning to see that there are no coincidences in a universe with the Force. She’s brought in to a room at exactly the right time in exactly the right conflict of emotions to push her in to something of value that she’s been doubting her whole life. Did her father abandon her to serve the Empire? Did Saul ditch her just as she was becoming an effective soldier? No. They each had their moment in driving her to the point of discovering that Dad is living his life to sabotage those bastards and now she has a purpose: Fulfill her destiny and give her life as well as her father’s meaning.
2. There’s a beat just after she confronts the Cassian over his mission to assassinate her father. All tied together with the idea that while he lied to her, and while he was going to kill her dad, he didn’t. He had every opportunity to do so, and yet he watched as the Director punished Dad and shot the other scientists. That was critical to Cassian believing. He saw the Director treat Dad as a traitor, which reinforced Cassian’s choice to believe Jyn, believe in the message, believe in the flaw, and believe they had a chance. When he turns up the ladder, you can see all of that on Jyn’s face. You can almost hear her say, ‘well, fuck.’
3. When she quotes Cassian on hope, she ties in together her faith in her father’s ability to build a flaw worth exploiting and throwing all possible resources in to finding it with the idea that her life, its meaning, is founded in the “dream” that Saul speaks of. That’s her commitment moment to the cause.
I totally teared up when Bamboo and his sidekick made it clear they were going with her, and the comment, “how many do we need?” had me sitting up ready to join the mission. I thought Cassian’s moment regarding all the terrible things they’d done amounting to nothing without continuing to fight was a great supplement which built towards Jyn’s “let’s do this” speech as Rogue One descended in to the final battle.
AND they didn’t over do it. She didn’t “rah rah” boy it up like a linebacker cheering on the defense. I thought it was the best “chick speech” that didn’t need to be over the top because they were already all in.
Also, he’d just saved her life, and she’d saved the freaking Rebellion. If they’d kissed, it would have been fine. That they didn’t was appropriate too. It wasn’t needed, but it wasn’t over done either.
Respect the perspective but you’re going a bit fanboy here in overjustifying everything. Remember this is a movie that needed massive reshoots for the final version, plenty of articles detailing just how much was changed so it makes sense that things don’t fit together as cleanly as they should. That’s probably the origin of the problem with Jyn’s character, the ending, everything.
Did you really tear up at Bamboo volunteering? Did you bite into a spicy jalapeno on some nachos at that same time? Such a strange thing to tear up at.
Look, the man teared up over a character whose name he didn’t even know volunteering. He knew the guy so well, aside from his name, that seeing him do something like that cause him to cry. That must count for something. Aside from learning the name.
After watching it a 5th time, I have to partially agree.
Ryan, I didn’t know about the reshoots. Did you knowing affect your opinion going in?
Yeah, I’m a bit of a cryer. I tear up, but my wife is hot, so that balances out.
Let’s play what if:
Saw is tired and a “has-been” figurehead, Jyn is the real radical and she’s the one that pushed Saw and his group away from the soft alliance. The Rebels don’t know that, so when they rescue her to have her give them an introduction, she doesn’t correct their opinion. She confronts Saw for having the Rebels break her out of prison instead of him. Meanwhile, Cassian sees the video message and is convinced to rescue the Galen. Jedha gets blasted, and Jyn in a moment of true dark character tells Saw he’ll make a better martyr than leader. Leaving him there as a sacrifice instead of the weird “I’m done fighting, I’ll just watch this catastrophe smash me” moment. Jyn tells Cassian, “Saw didn’t make it.” and gets side eye from our Force Monk.
Jyn, not knowing the message from her dad, goes with Cassian with the intention of killing Galen. Cassian stops her before she shoots with the revelation of the message. Jyn is affected and distracted but not completely sold because Cassian quotes the keyword, “Stardust” as he tells her about her father not betraying the cause / not abandoning her. Meanwhile, the Director smacks Galen around on the platform, Rebels attack, Jyn has a moment with Galen on the platform. When Jyn returns to the crew and they escape, our intrepid force monk notes that her aura is shifting. Has brief monk pep talk about letting go of all the hate and darkness.
Cassian makes the presentation to the Council citing his eye witness testimony of the message and the subsequent beating of Galen which underscores the theory that Galen is telling the truth. (I mean, he gets beaten after a successful test? How is that not presented to the Council? Let’s review: the Director of the Superweapon destroys and entire fourth of a moon, the heart of a religion, and then smacks around the architect? How is this not brought as strong circumstantial evidence? Kelly Seigler has sought the death penalty on less convincing arguments.)
Jyn faces Cassian after he fails to convince the Council and she has her moment of conversion. All the radicals and religious types would rally behind her. (She’s the radical leader, she wants to storm the base, they’re in.)
Jyn gets blasted by the Director. Cassian broadcasts the tapes. (I thought it was fun that they stuck with “tapes” as that was the line from the original movie.) Director shoots Cassian. Director sees plans are already broadcast. Jyn catches him at gun point, but doesn’t shoot. She’s giving up the dark side. They both look up and see the Death Star.
Death Star targeting guy says, shoot now? They’re broadcasting, but we’re not at zenith? it won’t be a direct shot! (Now it doesn’t matter if they shoot off the dish or shoot the whole facility, you don’t need a people dying in the bright light of doom hugging and near snogging. (unless you just want it in to poke Jenny.)
Instead of Tantive IV, Vader smashes his way to the docking bay where shuttles are launching to escape. He throws a few shuttles at each other, but one gets away.
Shuttle goes to light speed, redirects to nearest rebel ship, the Tantive IV which just left Alderaan. (Making the whole Leia thing more probable rather than she and her ship being there.)
Or during the line about, “I’d trust her with my life” change it to, “She’s working with Admiral Not-Ackbar, I’d trust her with my life.” or something else.
Also, on Vader Jokes…
“Apology accepted, Captain Needa.”