Reviewed by John Hussey
I’ll be frankly honest with you guys, I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan. Now, before you come at me with your torches and rope I would like to add that I don’t dislike the franchise, merely don’t enjoy it as much as some people. It’s enjoyable, but for me personally it isn’t the best thing out there. Heck, I don’t really see the big hype over Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (you probably hate me right now don’t you but, nevertheless, I will get round to backing up this bold statement later on in the year during my Star Wars marathon in the build-up for Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi).
So of course when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was announced I wasn’t all that impressed. In fact I was pretty annoyed at how Disney were quick to exploit their new cash-cow. If making a brand-new Star Wars trilogy wasn’t enough they had to throw in spin-off films as well, giving fans a new Star Wars instalment each and every year. Pretty much Disney has the Star Wars community eating out the palm of their hands (or more accurately their cocks as they enjoy the sensation of dominating their fans like little bitches on call). I suppose I can’t talk really because I pretty much do the same for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (but that’s better so the humiliation is worth it).
I did want to go see this spin-off film upon its release last year (more out of morbid curiosity than anything) but it just never happened. And so, after much delay, I finally picked this film up earlier this week, sat down and gave it a go. And what did I think? It was really impressive actually. I really didn’t know how I would react because the franchise as a whole doesn’t automatically draw me in. I enjoy it, but I’m not dedicated. I know this because I much more prefer the flashy special-effects and lightsaber duels of The Prequel Trilogy than I do the enjoyable characters and charm of The Original Trilogy (I’m certainly going to Hell after this review).
In many ways this is a film for Star Wars fans. You can go and watch it as a passive viewer and enjoy it all the same but you won’t take away what a fan will, and that’s awe-inspiring nostalgia as Lucasfilm takes them into uncharted territories, exploring new aspects of this already mesmerising universe of characters and events. But I guess you can argue that this spin-off never needed to happen as the events of the film itself were never all that important. Yes, the events set-up Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope for sure, but I never sat there after reading the iconic scrolling introduction thinking to myself, “I really want to see how the Rebellion stole the Death Star plans.” I just always accepted that they did and left it at that.
But to give Rogue One credit it does add to the mythology and in many ways continued to make The Original Trilogy look outdated in both its design and its structure. The Original Trilogy is a gem but the special effects (as great as they were back-in-the-day) look pathetic in comparison now, and only serve to make the universe’s technology look inconsistent. Now, I know that Rogue One and The Force Awakens kept to The Original Trilogy‘s design but with improved technology these two films made things look even more impressive, meaning you go from having a universe that looks really stunning and technologically advanced to becoming a cut-back ridden Hell-hole that looked cheap and tacky, to finally becoming something that wasn’t sure what it wanted to be, trapped awkwardly in-between.
I suppose (like with the Clone Wars) it was always fascinating for fans to see what it was like in an Imperial governed universe. And it was pretty fucking interesting to see and again it made The Original Trilogy fail in comparison. We got to see a grittier universe with more realistic characters, instead of the calmer and more opera-like formula seen within the original films. Maybe it’s because Hollywood became more edgy over the years (I don’t know) but the Star Wars franchise has certainly given itself more credibility through adding deeper and darker tones, making it feel less for kids and a more all-round experience.
Of course the major problem of Rogue One is the predictability of it all. You already know what fucking happens because we’ve all (hopefully) seen A New Hope. But, I suppose if you haven’t seen a Star Wars film before (which begs the question as to why you’d go see a clear Star Wars spin-off) then it will be a surprise to you. As for the rest of us it’s simply the journey of how it happened (because we don’t know that part). So, in that respect, Rogue One is an exciting journey as you see the pieces come together.
Unfortunately the first act was a bit of a drag for me because I had no fucking idea what was fucking going on. It was constantly switching between multiple characters that I didn’t know anything about (nor had much reason to care about them) as they all did different things that eventually brings them together for a certain cause. Our protagonist, Jyn Erso, obviously gets the most attention when it comes to certain development aspects due to the fact that her father, Galen Erso, helped develop the Death Star. I suppose the filmmakers could’ve gone down the route of revealing him as the villain, shocking Jyn in a tragic (and unoriginal) moment for a dramatic pause but instead made him a good man that is at first misunderstood.
Galen of course looks dodgy because you don’t know where he fully stands, but I guess enough seeds are sown within his first scenes to declare he was never really a bad-guy, merely forced into creating an abomination he didn’t agree with (I mean, it was clearly declared he fled the Empire to avoid completing the Death Star project). But, of course, the villain of the spin-off, Orson Krennic, arrives to bring him back into the fold and Galen’s wife is accidentally killed in the heated debate, leaving Jyn an orphan raised by a Rebellion enthusiast.
In many ways the neatest part of Rogue One is the discovery of why the Death Star had such a ridiculous design flaw (thus making up for an extremely laughable plot-device from the original film). It turns out that Galen was responsible for this in a desperate attempt to give the Rebellion a clear chance of destroying the Death Star, thereby preventing the Empire from causing further tyranny across the universe. It’s just a shame that the first half of the film is a massive build-up to this discovery as the characters go from one planet to the next in search of answers, added with the dilemma of “following orders”, leading to some conflict between Jyn and Cassian Andor.
Cassian is very much a massive dick throughout most of the film, appearing rather heartless as the war against the Empire has stripped away his humanity in favour of being the “good” soldier who is willing to do what is necessary to achieve the victory. This even leads him to nearly assassinating Galen just because he was told to do so, making him lack any real independence as a character. Luckily, he finally sees the errors of his ways by the time of the third act and becomes a more Han Solo type-figure, deciding to be a more dashing hero to Jyn’s independent female role.
I suppose it’s kind of true what certain critics (and fans) say about the characterisation of the spin-off in that they can appear generic and uninspired, but honestly, they did come across as more interesting to me personally, especially when comparing them to characters from The Force Awakens (I think that rope is well and truly round my neck now). For one Jyn didn’t come across as a Marry-Sue like a certain Rey. I felt more heart was given to Jyn in terms of backstory. We still don’t know who the fuck Rey is (which is part of the point, I know, but it still doesn’t excuse the fact that I still don’t give a fuck about her character) and that detraction makes me feel less inclined to give a shit.
At least with Jyn (despite a somewhat lazy execution, and a clichéd formula) there was reason for you to feel sympathetic, thus drawing you in to want to care about her journey. Most of the characters may have seemed generic, yes, but they still stood out as either entertaining, or at least likable. I especially liked Bodhi Rook, a defected Imperial pilot who attempts to pass on Galen’s message about the Death Star plans. At first it seems like he’s a wasted character (who was surely going to be killed off fairly early on) but he develops into a real hero as he finds every opportunity to assist the cause.
But, there are some exceptions to the rules. For starters there’s K-2SO. Considering C-3PO and R2D2 have been the only major robotic characters of the franchise for the last 40 years (yeah, I looked it up, Star Wars is officially 40 years old as of last month [25th May]) and honestly it was nice to see fresh blood in the mix because (let’s face it) C-3PO was starting to become an annoying cunt with his constant whining. K-2SO brings a lot of charm to the film with his continuous comedic moments, which isn’t to say he’s only there for comedic effect but rather that his entire character is very sarcastic and blunt, making him even more funny when you consider he’s a fucking robot.
Plus, it’s rather ironic that the machine has more character than the fucking human characters. Shit a brick! What I liked the most was his constant jabs at Jyn because he simply didn’t like her all that much but by the end of the film he actually developed a liking towards her and ultimately had respect for her. Things became rather touching when he becomes the badass, fighting off several Stormtroopers before his heroic sacrifice to allow Jyn and Cassian access to the Death Star plans.
The other iconic characters from Rogue One were Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus. Chirrut is a blind warrior who acts as the Jedi of the film (despite not being a Jedi). I suppose this is one of Rogue One‘s few distinct traits (besides being really dark, gritty, and realistic in its design) is the fact that there are no Jedi featured within the film, meaning the spin-off doesn’t rely on the Force or that mythical side of the mythology. Chirrut is the closest character to venture into that territory due to his belief within the Force which he uses to guide himself through his disability, leading to many awesome moments and a few comedic ones.
I suppose it helps to add to this grim universe where the Empire is in complete control and the wake of Darth Vader led to the destruction of the Jedi Order. Rogue One lacks a lot of hope which adds to the theme of Jyn and her friends helping to reshape that aspect in order to make way for A New Hope where things literally begin to rebalance with the return of the Force. On the other-hand you have Baze who acts as Chirrut’s right-hand man and best friend. They have a really good chemistry onscreen and it shows throughout with how Baze constantly looks out for Chirrut, whilst Chirrut returns the favour with his wisdom, making for a really tragic conclusion which totally respects what they both stand for: belief and friendship.
Without a doubt the best part of this spin-off is the third act which has one of the best battles within the Star Wars franchise because it felt a little fresh within its environment and the fact it’s not just a typical Star Wars battlefield. Above all you know there’s real risk to the mission and a lot is riding on the mission to be successfully completed. I guess the tension is lowered because you know the mission will be a success (because we’ve already seen this from watching A New Hope, and it’s the clichéd conclusion that the heroes must win) but it’s still a great experience to view as both a fan of the franchise and a passive viewer.
One thing that did have me guessing throughout was whether or not all the characters within this spin-off would meet a sticky end because (let’s face it) none of them show up in future films. There was the strong possibility that their characters would receive really shoddy exits in order to showcase why they didn’t appear again but instead the spin-off opted the darkest approach possible. And my suspicions were confirmed and everybody dies, making this the darkest Star Wars film to date.
It’s such a grim ending because everyone you’ve come to connect with all perish. I know it’s made more poetic knowing that their sacrifice isn’t in vein and the Darth Star is eventually destroyed because of their heroic efforts but still. Also, considering this is a prequel created almost 40 years after the original Star Wars was released we have to deal with the ramifications of connecting the dots to things that weren’t originally established. For the most part it works but the final moments do somewhat feel rushed in order to force Rogue One into continuity (cough, cough young Princess Leia), thereby setting up the opening sequence of A New Hope.
Plus, you can’t help but think why Jyn and her crew never got thanked for their part in the defeat of the Empire. Fuck Luke Skywalker (and especially Han and his last minute turn-around) when clearly he wouldn’t have even known how to attack the Death Star if Jyn hadn’t sacrificed herself. Where’s her medal? I’m actually curious as to how the child viewers handled this ending. I bet there was a lot of parents having to deal with some rather confused, and unsettled, children.
Let’s also address the elephant in the room. The CGI characters! Now this has developed quite a bit of controversy, especially in the wake of Carrie Fisher‘s death (R.I.P.). Lucasfilm did the daring task of including character Grand Moff Tarkin (who was originally played by Peter Cushing). Instead of recasting the character with a likeness they instead opted to bring Cushing back through computer-trickery.
Although it is quite clear that Tarkin is a CGI character within the film you have to give credit for them in both being daring and extremely honest to the character and Cushing. If you’ve read my article Is Using CGI to Bring Back Deceased Actors Disrespectful? then you’ll know my thoughts on this new direction in filmmaking and I for one believe in this particular film it’s done right and with the upmost respect and I applaud Lucasfilm in their effort.
Another brilliant surprise to the spin-off was Darth Vader’s cameo. Honestly, I never thought we’d get to see such a violent and aggressive Vader on the big screen. This was him at his darkest, and honestly, his best. Vader was totally ruthless in his scenes within Rogue One and really demonstrated why he was a force to be reckoned with, as well as why he’s universally feared. I always felt his villainy was suppressed within The Original Trilogy in order to be more appealing for children, but here they clearly said, “Fuck it! Let’s make Vader a terrifying mother-fucker!”
I guess this is why I loved Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith so much because you saw what Darth Vader was capable of after his twisted nature consumed Anakin Skywalker’s heroic deeds, even resorting to killing younglings (with Anakin later being seen seeping back through [temporally] to see what the sinister Sith was turning him into). It was also great to see Vader have a lair (presumably on Mustafar, the place in which he was cut down by his former master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and forced into his metal shell) which really gave him this darker presence, certainly adding in more intimidation.
It’s just such a shame he totally underused and the lead villain was left to Krennic who was quite bland, and somewhat boring, lacking any real intimidation or threat. I suppose that’s why Vader created such a great imagery as the main antagonist of The Original Trilogy because he was an enormous threat to the Rebellion unlike Krennic who is (let’s face it) just a man. Besides this nit-pick (and the other ones mentioned throughout the review) Rogue One was a successful first outing for the Anthology series and I’m curious to see how Lucasfilm can expand the Star Wars universe further. Here’s hoping they can keep up the quality and don’t start pushing films out for the sake of making Disney more money.