NO STONE IS LEFT UNSPOILED. SERIOUSLY, IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM, DON'T READ THIS POST, IT RUINS LIKE 2302 SURPRISES ALL AT ONCE WITH GLEE AND ABANDON. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
Part I, 15.12.2016
THE EMOTIONAL COMPONENT
How to properly describe and review my experience of finally watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? I mean, it’s been a year since we went to see The Force Awakens, which I’ve seen a few more (okay, ten or so) times in 2016, and I’m still digesting it, not really knowing what I think…however, after last night’s visit to the cinema, my opinion of The Force Awakens suddenly became a whole lot clearer. So, in this piece I will not only try to present my initial impressions of Rogue One, but also finally arrive at a conclusion with regards to last year’s Episode VII. I promise to return to the world of Westeros in my next post (except I'll prolly do a best-of-2016-retrospective-thingamagog); just need to get this intergalactic stuff off my chest.
There are probably a hundred psychological reasons for why I can’t let go of this admittedly far less demanding entertainment, and I am of course in no way alone in worshiping at the altar of the Jedi. Every time there’s a new Star Wars movie, including the 1997 Special Editions, I suffer major mindfuckery. It’s like I have to rearrange my worldview every time. At some point the original trilogy stopped being a series of fun space adventure movies and…I don’t know, became…almost like a spiritual experience? As a heathen I am not sure it’s the proper comparison. So, anyway, a new Star Wars flick makes me agitated, anxious to the point that when I finally sat down in the cinema seat my heart was racing, my neck was stiff, I was completely tensed. Star Wars actually affects me physically as well as mentally. Yes, from a rational point of view A Song of Ice and Fire as a construct of entertainment is far superior to this galactic silliness, but it hasn’t the same hold of my heart. To stretch the religious analogy a little further, I kinda feel brainwashed into a cult from a young age. When I see an X-Wing, or a lightsaber, or a Stormtrooper, you know, it just wakes this turmoil of feelings -
- which is why it hurts so much to acknowledge that when Rogue One finished ten hours ago, I was left with a gut feeling quite similar to how I felt when the credits of Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith began to roll. And let me make one thing clear, it took me a damned decade to get over the disappointment of the prequel trilogy, and I thought they got progressively worse (yes, The Phantom Menace, maligned as it is, is the best of the three). NO, Rogue One is not as unredeemable and unforgivable as the three Lucas-penned prequels, but then again it doesn’t really have to live up to the original trilogy in the same way. This is definitely “a Star Wars story” and not an entry into the episodic saga. Before I go deeper I need to put up the following clause: I have only seen Rogue One once, and I will probably see it several more times which will change my initial opinion in whatever direction. Hell, I watched The Phantom Menace probably a hundred times before I finally concluded that it was crushing me. While the prequels kept me up at night gnawing on their flaws, however, Rogue One left me less affected...ambivalent, almost. The film was over, I shrugged and left the cinema.
Oh, and one more thing: Yes I am aware I set myself up for some disappointment. Without having seen the finished film, I was already in my mind sending Kathleen Kennedy an open letter recommending her to hire director Gareth Edwards for more movies. The trailers and teasers suggested - and still suggest - nothing but the closest we could get to another The Empire Strikes Back; initial reactions online were showering the film in glowing praise (mostly); the Norwegian Star Wars Facebook group is nothing but mind-blown gushing over Rogue One (they are lucky to fall so easily in love). I feel kinda alone among Star Wars fans right now, and maybe this franchise just isn’t for me anymore. Am I blinded by unrealistic expectations or are they blinded by their need to like everything related to the franchise? I don’t know. It’s all very confusing and mind-boggling. So perhaps I’ll just get to Rogue One. And, after this long introduction, you might think I am 100% negative but I really, genuinely liked - even loved - certain parts. I guess what I’m trying to do here is to be as objective as possible about something I’m hopelessly biased about. Or something.
IT’S SO DENSE
SO. This is a spoiler-filled smorgasbord of a review, so I won’t rehash the plot or explain who is who. Also, if you haven’t seen the film and intend to do so, I’d stay clear of this post because despite all its flaws Rogue One holds a couple of surprises that work best as, well, surprises. Also, the film was extremely dense, reminding me of Rick McCallum’s statement about the prequels.
Not just were most frames filled to bursting with characters, creatures and vehicles and landscapes and buildings, the story itself was quite relentless apart from a slower middle, so it will be hard to remember everything I saw, and even harder to try and describe it all. There was also a high density of nods and winks in the form of referencing dialogue, character cameo appearances etc. I remember feeling a bit overwhelmed by the pace of The Force Awakens last December, but that film feels positively arthritic compared to Gareth Edwards’ movie. However, while JJ Abrams’ pace was quick it did have a solid flow, and on the second viewing it all settled and now when I watch the film it feels almost slow (same experience with the original trilogy, actually - so I guess it’s a Star Wars thing). I am sure Rogue One will feel less hectic too after a few more viewings. It’s a bit much to take in initially: that’s the mindfuckery I was talking about. Right now I think it was a bit too dense, and that the film suffered from an uneven pacing because of this. Especially the first half, even though it was the best half, suffers from a lot of jumping around, both in the timeline and we get to see a lot of worlds. Now, no Star Wars fan complains about seeing more Star worlds, but eye candy is not enough - the story felt disjointed and somewhat hard to grasp - I am not quite sure what Cassian Andor was doing on that cool asteroid base city thing, for example. That character, Captain Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna) was a big surprise to me, by the way. The teasers and trailers do not really show his character the way he is actually portrayed and performed in the film. His edge is a lot rougher, and that was refreshing. Here Lucas goes through all this trouble of making Han Solo not shoot first, and then Gareth Edwards has Cassian kill people without batting an eye (initially, at least). I liked it! Rogue One is also very dense in terms of the number of characters; so many speaking parts makes the film feel a bit more like the prequels perhaps (the dialogue is more on point here though).
Anyway: "density" can be bad (cramming the screen with stupid designs like in much of the PT) and "density" can be good (a lot going on rewards multiple viewings), so we'll have to see how it pans out for the Rogues.
So, Cassian Andor was a surprise in terms of how hard-boiled he is, but I was not sold on the character. With no disrespect to the actor, I felt that Cassian fell a little flat. I didn’t quite believe in the character. Something about his presence. And I realized that this is where The Force Awakens really shines - J.J. Abrams and his actors made me instantly like Finn, Poe, and Rey. Unlike Cassian they had fun, Star Wars-like dialogue, showed a lot of emotion, and interacted very well. Cassian’s much harder to bond with, in my opinion. I guess the character Cassian simply disappointed me; I didn't mind Diego's performance, the character was just a bit bland in my opinion.
The main star of the show is of course the sexy and cute Jyn Erso (I admit a little screen-crushing; she's so hot in that costume but also so vulnerable, me want protect) and fortunately she is a lot easier to empathize with, and no wonder: Unlike Cassian, we get a solid glimpse of her past, learn about her relations, and actress Felicity Jones gets a few juicy scenes to act in - her reaction to seeing her father’s last hologram message is a good example. And while I absolutely think they went overboard with the melodrama here, it made Jyn Erso without a doubt the easiest character to root for in this ensemble film, because make no mistake, there are actually way too many characters here (first viewing remember!). I have to say I love the character’s appearance; her costumes, her hair, Jyn Erso is fricking cool and pleasing to the eye (and I mean that in an appreciative, non-misogynistic manner thank you); however, as with Cassian, I felt that the film didn’t allow her to develop organically. Time constraints and all that; Jyn changed from criminal to rebel hero in the blink of an eye. I mean, when Rey went from nobody to Jedi in the course of one film, that was fast, but I believed it. It was presented in a manner that made me believe her fast learning. With Jyn I feel there are chunks of character development simply missing (and they probably are, considering how much material from the trailers didn’t make it into Rogue). Perhaps the most arresting I can say about Jyn and Cassian, the film’s romantic couple (the closest we have to one, at any rate), is that in the end, I wasn’t touched by their final scenes. Partially because I wasn’t invested in the plot by this time and partially because the script hadn’t given me reason enough to care, I suppose. Sigh.
Supporting these two are the rest of the Rogue One crew; and the actors all do the best with what they’ve got, but with limited screentime and a flurry of explosions it is a hard sell. Too hard. Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwê are an interesting couple, they have some nice lines but are ultimately quite predictable as characters (was Chirrut's line about being blind(-folded) funny? I'm not sure); K-2S0 shone in the teasers and trailers but unfortunately we got all his best stuff there and while everyone lauds actor Alan Tudyk’s comedic timing I found the droid to be a little off just as often as he was on point. He was a bit blander than expected - still, great design and creation and he got some of the best lines of the film. The reactions of Jyn and Cassian when K-2S0 suddenly (and inexplicably) decided to give up his robotic life was incredibly misplaced; pompous and melodramatic, it reminded me so much of the prequels were the music and acting in no way gelled with the actual on-screen presentation (I didn't really buy KS20 as a sacrifice either). Fortunately short, it is one of the most cringe-worthy scenes in the brand-new Star Wars adventure. Finally there’s the Imperial pilot, Bodhi Rook, played by Riz Ahmed. Of the Rogue One crew, I felt that Riz has the best performance. Bodhi is quite an unusual character in Star Wars I think, unfortunately he is underused and I didn’t quite buy his story either, especially when all the other rebels had no problem with an Imperial pilot tagging along on the most crucial mission in galactic history. He's a bit flat, though; I am not sure how to peg him, his personality is not distinct enough for an ensemble movie - it needs to be fairly clear - a few broad traits, kind of like the fellowship of the Ring's characters are easily distinguishable...or something.
Surrounding this crew is a veritable host of minor characters, some with more screentime than others. The main villain of the piece is supposed to be the new character Director Orson Krennic (played rather well by Ben Mendehlson) but he’s quickly relegated to the sidelines when director Gareth Edwards decides to inject two more famous, classic Star Wars villains into the story, an entirely unnecessary decision which nonetheless has fans weeping with joy all over the world: Not only do we get a surprising amount of screentime with none other than resurrected Governor Tarkin, we also get a few minutes of ... Darth Vader!! The cool Darth, not whatever was occupying that armor and mask in Sith.
Don’t get your hopes up too high, however; Vader is in the film, and he is in it more than in Episodes I-III, but not by much. The Rogue One promo material clearly gave us Director Orson Krennic as the main bad guy for this film, and I was very much fine with that. New characters are less risky as they don’t have the baggage of being already established; just look at how the prequels utterly ruined every original trilogy character in some way. Tarkin and Vader aren’t ruined per se, here; Vader is even redeemed somewhat from his lackluster Episode III appearance - but no matter how cool it is to get some Vader action, it didn’t add anything to the story. It was unnecessary and, with a lot of other elements, took away valuable screen time that could have been used to further flesh out, say, Director Orson Krennic, or one of the heroes. Vader’s appearance is the ultimate fan service, of course. Who doesn’t want to see Vader in his prime, just one more time? But his appearance is at the expense of the story.
Tarkin, then. I can’t help it, but I find his appearance in the film is morally ambiguous at least; it was, in the words of my ten year old, rather creepy to see Peter Cushing’s face digitally grafted onto another actor for the purpose of making it look like the Grand Moff Tarkin from the original film. Jarring and indeed creepy, not just because they used a dead man’s face in a somewhat large role (surprisingly large actually, what a well kept secret!) but also because the actual effect isn’t entirely convincing; it is clear that you’re watching a CGI face, an almost ghostly apparition of not-quite-lifelike (but impressive, obviously) facial expressions - they did absolutely nail the character’s voice, however. At times you’d believe they just cut and pasted words from the original film into new sentences. Still, each and every scene featuring Tarkin was a jarring experience that took me out of the movie; it was hard to concentrate on the dialogue and plot development because…you know, I was looking at a freaking ghost (and yes, the Rebels starship Ghost can be seen in the film as well; I believe I also spotted Dash Rendar’s ship, the Outrider, parked outside the Massassi Temple; EDIT having thought about it I suspect I saw the Ghost there as well). It was equally jolting to see Princess Leia, even if for only a few seconds. I mean, at least Carrie Fisher could give her consent, but the scene stank of pandering; as if Edwards couldn’t live with a film that didn’t tie directly - so directly - into the original film. I would never have thought I would say this, but compared to Rogue One the ending to Episode III felt more tasteful (! I hate that movie). It was very blunt, and didn’t really belong to the actual story about Jyn Erso and her crew; pure crowd-pleasing, and of course particularly the scene where we get to see Darth Vader fuck things up for innocent rebel soldiers. The whole inclusion of Leia comes off as, again, unnecessary. We were already told (by step-dad Jimmy Smits) that someone (hint: Leia) would be able to carry those plans to safety/Obi-Wan Kenobi; and the difference in look, tone and style doesn’t make it gel any better with the original film than what Episode III tried to do. The whole post-Jyn/Cassian/Rogue One-crew bit…you know, it has the same problem as the prequels in my opinion. It shows me stuff I have been imagining for decades, so getting to see it doesn’t amaze me, rather it takes away from the powerful fantasy that Star Wars can generate. Of course, I never knew I didn’t want to see Vader’s rise before the prequels, and I couldn’t know whether I’d like to see how the rebels obtained the readouts of the Death Star… but it always comes across as contrived, forced, and unnecessary, especially when I can, without a problem, enjoy the elements that are entirely new and not directly linked to what already exists. I mean, take the holy city on new planet Jedha. It’s an entirely new location in the canon setting, and thus has no strings attached; same with say a fresh character like Jyn Erso; I can judge her based on this movie alone, and she is not altering my perception of other films. Yoda should have stayed the Zen-like Jedi Master of peace from the original trilogy, not become a ricocheting hedgehog. The Emperor was sinister and cackling and didn’t use a Jedi’s weapon, yet they turned him into a bizarre monstrous being wielding a lightsaber. That’s what I mean: New Star Wars should desperately avoid the already existing material, to stay fresh but most importantly to not fuck up what we already love. Which creates these giant mindfucks. Buhu! Excuse my language. Getting agitated.
So, in a nutshell, when it comes to characters: The new ones were all right, but needed more time to sink in (second viewing will help); best performances in my opinion from Felicity Jones, Riz Ahmed and Ben Mendehlson but they would all benefit from more screentime and a tad more characterization. Tarkin, Leia and yes even Vader was unnecessary and, for me, served as very distracting elements that did not need to be part of this particular plot. All right, a scene at the end where Vader punishes Krennic for his failure would be good, and much better than what we actually got in terms of Krennic’s cliché fate. It would fit the story well.
There are a few background characters with a number of lines that I haven’t mentioned yet. One of them is of course guerrilla leader Saw Gerrera played by Forest Whitaker. Whitaker is a great actor, even in this very limited capacity, and the small role was nice but also somewhat redundant (there's one scene where he really overacts, though; you'll notice): My guess is he is in to appease The Clone Wars fans, or just to satisfy a stronger connection between different Star Wars media. But honestly, the plot would have been more streamlined without Saw. All we needed was to see Jyn as a child escape Krennic, and then meet her again twenty years later. Of course some padding is needed and a band of militant rebels (’extremists’ even) is cool, with those Two Tubes alien twins the absolute standouts in that crew; new, fresh and cool designs that are very different from what we've had before yet absolutely fitting the setting (as opposed to retreading old designs like, erm, Bib Fortuna's cousin).
I’ll tell you straight away something I really, really liked about Rogue One, and that is that the plot moves away from the main saga’s black and white to a more morally grey area. It’s no Game of Thrones, but neither is it quite Star Wars. The fact is, within a short amount of time we have witnessed a rebel agent - a character on the side of ‘good’ so to speak - brutally and efficiently murder another human being. From there, we see several more scenes where the “purity” or “goodness” of the Rebel Alliance is put into question (and even without moralizing - which is what makes it so different from ye olde Star Wars); the point is brought home most bluntly in the holy city of Jedha, and I doubt anyone didn’t draw parallels to the real world here, when a rebel (belonging to Saw Gerrera’s ‘extremists’) is called a terrorist. On the Empire’s side of things they remain the bad guys throughout the film, just a few shades darker than the Alliance at first, and then by the end we are in full Sith-dark and you kind of forget the point the movie tried to make about the Alliance’s methods not being as pure as the original trilogy wanted you to think. Was it awesome when Vader went ballistic in that corridor? To 99.99% of the fans, I suppose, the answer is a resounding YES. Just like Kylo Ren finally gave us a young and angry Anakin Skywalker, Rogue One gives us a glimpse of the Darth Vader we always wanted to see: A monster with the Dark Side as his ally, slaying foes left and right. I, surprise surprise, wasn’t entirely sold. Vader didn’t look right, didn’t feel right, and the scene in question just had me shrugging. I am not able to accept the illusion that this scene leads almost basically straight into his entrance in Star Wars (1977); it’s not the same armor, he sounds more like he did in Jedi, and I can’t help but become miffed at how obviously this exists solely to please fans and… well, say what you will about going back to basics, Rogue One doesn’t look or feel as real as the originals. In a film already crammed to bursting, I wish that they had used Vader for a more plot-relevant scene than this mindless slaughter (for example the aforementioned suggestion that he is the one to execute Krennic for his failures).
All right, the basic plot itself is, well, basic, and not unexpected if you have followed the news or know the story well. There were a few small details - connections, plot tissue - that I wasn’t aware of but overall it was a fairly predictable story, getting more predictable by the end: While the first half of the film is quite original in its pace, style, tone, and development, the latter half is a very tired, same-same section. Most notably the sudden return of a character left for dead to save the day - I’d roll my eyes if I weren’t so sad I didn’t feel anything, but also the reuse of classic Star Wars elements (placing detonators, Imperial walkers - which, by the way, were kinda underused, certain “echoes” of dialogue and behavior) - only one of the character deaths was surprising in my opinion, and that was because the trailers lead me to believe this character would make a heroic sacrifice for the cause but ended up dying because of a random grenade. One thing that really annoyed me was the decision to have a Mon Calamari admiral lead the space battle on the Alliance’s side. First of all, we already had this particular element in Jedi with Ackbar, second the design of the character was not very appealing and third here was a chance to let a new character shine (or a young Madine, if you must insist) instead of rehashing a character from 1983. Sigh. There’s this one rebel officer in the film whose role was larger than the others, perhaps it could have been that guy? I didn’t catch his name, he had no qualms about murder in the name of the Rebellion.
The story doesn’t flow nearly as well as the classic films or The Force Awakens, but does not suffer from the awkwardness of the prequels, except for a few times. Especially the first half, despite having the best scenes, suffers from this. While I appreciate seeing a lot of new places (and this is a very rich meal compared to The Force Awakens in that regard), we rush through it all too fast, not adding depth. So Jyn Erso is captured aboard an old Clone War-tank and we get to see, barely, the Imperial prison, and then we’re somewhere else in the galaxy with another character, before skipping to a third place. It’s not saga-Star Wars, so I don’t really care that much but it was a little frustrating: I am still not sure what exactly Cassian was doing on … Kineve-Belt something; they may have told me, but I sure can’t remember why Jyn was aboard that tank or how she got there, what they were doing with her, and why. Or whether they knew they had Galen’s daughter. It was jarring but also kind of fun to jump between characters and planets, though. It was absolutely necessary to have the planet names on the screen, good decision and didn’t bother me - it was helpful and kind of cool. Weird they forgot to add a title card for Mustafar, though.
The more I'll see Rogue, the more I will get used to the transitions, fortunately. And the more background detail I'll hopefully appreciate. Man, writing this I feel the urge to see it again blossom in spite of my initial disappointment. Also helps that I'm listening to the soundtrack.
Part II, 19.12.2016
All right, it’s been five days since I began this rant, I have actually (and surprisingly) not seen the film again since then. Rogue One simply did not affect me enough I suspect (last year, I was back in the cinema for The Force Awakens three days in a row; in 1997, I watched the Special Editions many times, A New Hope twice in the same evening /blush). However, I have also been as busy as can bee (hoho!) since Wednesday, correcting term tests until my eyes spurted blood (I exaggerate), attending a hard rockin’ party (in which I lost my winter jacket resulting in a trip through the city at -15C and in just a T-shirt; man I'm a Wookiee when it comes to toughness), preparing the house for the holidays. You know. Stuff like that. Whatever! Let's continue this in-depth ramble.
CAMEOS, NODS, WINKS
One element I absolutely didn’t like about Rogue One was the large number of nods and winks to the original trilogy, though most weren't as infuriating as the crap Lucas pulled in the prequels. I actually liked the prequel nods in Rogue the best though, because it makes sense that there is some ‘overflow’ from the backstory if you know what I mean. It felt right to see an old clone tank thing re-purposed from the Clone Wars into a prisoner transport vehicle, for example: these behemoths we already know exist in the timeline, it adds some history/depth, and so it felt a natural addition. Same goes for Mon Mothma (only in the deleted scenes of Revenge of the Sith, correct me if I’m wrong) and Bail Organa; though the latter’s first appearance in the film was rather awkward. Stepping forward with no dialogue. Seesh. That was just a “Look who’s here!” shot; unnecessary, they could have waited until Bail actually had something worthwhile to say or do (which he kind of hadn’t - I mean, why not give Bail Organa something juicy to do if you’re going to keep him in? Couldn’t he have been more integral to the plot, making his death on Alderaan in A New Hope more poignant? Instead he’s there just for another nod/wink, a gratuitous little bit where he talks about Obi-Wan Kenobi and Princess Leia Organa to setup the film we’ve known since 1977, which doesn’t really need this kind of setup which, like a few other scenes in Rogue One, took me all the way back to the prequels; that trilogy too offended my sensibilities with its hackneyed attempts at bridging to the originals). At least they could have given the character more depth by, for example, mentioning how important he is to the Rebellion because Alderaan is the biggest monetary or military supporter or whatever, you know? Jan Dodonna's presence is a blink-and-you'll-miss him affair and so he's hard to judge. And he's not really that important - this new (?) Draven fellow plays a larger role, and I am sad to say I didn't really like the character and how he was portrayed, though (as I said) I enjoyed seeing the darker side of the Rebellion through him.
That being said, Mon and Bail were the least of my worries in this regard; there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment where Jyn Erso bumps into Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba (the ‘Walrus Man’) with the (younger) doctor saying the exact same line he used as his older self in A New Hope. Not only is it jarring and extremely unlikely that these two should be wandering the streets of Jedha mere hours before they are in the Mos Eisley cantina - why would these two wanted criminals be lounging on the heavily Imperial-controlled ex-Jedi world anyway? It just doesn’t fit them at all - but repeating the famous Dr. Evazan-line is extremely weak. Oh, and Dr Evazan didn’t look like Dr Evazan (Ponda looked good, though, in that flash of presence). Bah! It’s such a tiny bit, and one that I am sure will be removed from fan edits in the future, but it helps pull the film down from a higher standard.
Just as aggravating is the Artoo-Detoo and See-Threepio cameo. Like the other cameos, it does not flow naturally from the plot, and is just crammed into the picture like a kid forcing a puzzle piece into the wrong place. If you are going to include the two droids - and it is not surprising that Edwards wanted to include them, because why not? They are the two lovable droids of great fame, and they should be somewhere in the vicinity of the Rebel Alliance at this point in the timeline - then at least give them a scene that adds something to the plot or put them in the background of a scene where something plot-related is going on. Instead we get this shot where they are standing in a Yavin IV hangar without context, and See-Threepio gets a line that I learned later was supposed to be funny, I don’t remember exactly what he said but… meh. Why would the two droids stand around in the hangar anyway? Threepio is a protocol droid and would most likely be attached to a politician/rebel officer. Artoo? Okay, fair enough; he belongs in a hangar (which makes me think that, dammit, he didn’t belong in Leia’s consular ship, did he?! Oh noes). Right. Anyway. It’s one of those bits, that like so many scenes in the prequels, it’s just so easy to come up with an improvement, and I hate when I can think up things I’d rather see than what I get. In this case, I find the following solution to be an improvement (if I had to include the two droids - maybe I’d just choose to skip them if I was in charge; wouldn’t hurt the movie or the continuity): At the end of the film, I’d have a scene where the two droids board Princess Leia’s ship (the blockade runner she’s in at the beginning of A New Hope; also known as a Corellian Corvette); perhaps even bickering a little on their way up the ramp. Threepio could even mention something like “I don’t know why they want you aboard this ship. I at least am a protocol droid,” you know, and then R2 beeps his reply and Threepio is like, “Captain Antilles wanted you aboard? I find that hard to believe,” and like that you have a more natural bit that sets up the droids being aboard the Tantive IV (that’s another name for the same gorram ship), it gives the name of its captain, and, AND, you don’t really have to include Leia.
Which brings me to Leia (and Tarkin and the Rebel pilots). I understand that for CGI to advance, someone has to push the envelope; I also am fully aware, of course, that the Star Wars franchise - or rather, Lucasfilm - is a forerunner when it comes to the advancement of special effects. What I don’t like, however, is when they push the latest CGI into the film when it is clearly not up to the desired effect yet. I am, of course, talking about adding the digitally recreated faces of Peter Cushing (R.I.P.) and Carrie Fisher to two actors. It’s a big step for CGI, it really is; but it’s not quite there yet. Both characters - Tarkin and Leia - look off; to the point that it is impossible not to notice. Leia’s appearance is brief enough that the distraction is quickly forgotten; Tarkin is way too much in this movie and so every second of him is distracting and, as I mentioned, disturbing, knowing that the owner of that face has been dead since 1994), and most of all unconvincing as the CGI just isn’t there yet to fully portray a human face and all its complexities. That being said, Tarkin’s rendering is way better than Leia’s, probably because Leia’s skin has to be a lot smoother, which the CGI just doesn’t do as well as Tarkin’s wrinkles (and very marked features). In fact, Tarkin’s role and appearance in Rogue One is one of the elements that take this film down for me; the character feels shoehorned into the story, as if having him turn up in A New Hope wouldn’t have been just fine, and well, I’m repeating myself here I know, sorry, I am unable to buy into the digital wizardry and feel Tarkin takes away important screentime for Director Orson Krennic who by all rights should be the main villain (I understand that Tarkin and Vader - and the Emperor - outrank Krennic; but these characters are already present in other Star Wars films; this goes back to me appreciating entirely new Star Wars material without all the links to the already existing films - I mean, the best things about The Force Awakens were Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo Ren - and so I feel that Rogue One, from the perspective of the Dark Side, should have been all Krennic’s. He lost all his intimidation factor the moment he was put into place by Tarkin; yet Tarkin never felt like a threat because, well, it was just weird having this cartoon ghost there. I’d definitely consider growing Krennic’s character over including Tarkin; now, Vader? Having him in there is a no brainer for any director, of course; he’s an audience magnet, and people wish to see him in action. That’s why, as an alternative to making Krennic the main villain, I think it could have been a good idea to have a little more Vader when you first have the chance. I mean, people really want to see Darth Vader in his prime; here’s your chance, come up with a few more cool - übercool - scenes that show off Vader’s different capacities. Instead we get one scene in a The Lord of the Rings leftover castle with un-Star Warsy interior design where Vader delivers a pun and that final bit (that admittedly had me holding my breath as well - though I have my complaints even about that scene). All right, speaking of design. [Oh, I didn’t mind the Rebels - Chopper, Ghost, Syndulla’s name over the intercom - these nods were tiny and didn’t get in the way of story or character development or whatever.] [Oh 2: I did mind the inclusion of the classic Rebel pilots. Who thought that it was a good idea when the old footage so immensely clearly doesn’t hold up to the surrounding modern footage? It just looked weird, like someone edited together a YouTube-video with shots from the original Star Wars VHS and the blu-ray of The Force Awakens for some fan-film. Boo and hiss deluxe baby.]
And what about that IN YOUR FACE BLUE MILK right there at the beginning of the film?! My favorite cameo. It was like, for a second I thought the film would be about that blue milk.
There are several ‘design’ elements of course. My favorite, and one of the movie’s greatest strengths, is costume design. I really enjoy the costumes in Rogue One, more so than the somewhat lackluster presentation of new clothes and gear in The Force Awakens. In this new film, there are so many cool costumes I’d love to have replicas of, like the shoretrooper, or Whatshisname Two-Tubes, or the clothes of the ragtag Rebels. Some cool new weapons, too; I love the attention to detail in costumes and armor, and the variety brought to the Imperial Side (yes I am aware they are unnecessary and just there for expanding toy lines = more money) and the best costumes here are worthy of the great costume designs of the original trilogy (all hail John Mollo & co). I also think they had some fun new alien character designs, but also a few misses (I didn’t particularly enjoy the monkey guy manning the U-Wing guns or the weird reptilian guy fighting for the Rebels on Scarif, for example); I notice people claiming that Rogue One outclasses The Force Awakens with its alien designs but I feel like people haven’t been studying the Maz Kanata scenes enough to notice just how many great alien designs are lurking in the shadows; wisely, J.J. Abrams chose to keep the aliens in the background in the same way that it took many, many viewings of Jedi to fully appreciate the diversity in Jabba’s palace - in Rogue One, I feel that everything is thrown more or less smack in the middle of your face without the…I don’t know, the visual subtlety of episodes IV-VII. Does that make sense? Anyway before I sound too negative again, as I said, overall great costume design and armor design throughout. The Vader suit though…dammit, why does he not look like the Vader who enters the stage at the beginning of A New Hope? They didn’t quite get it entirely right and it bugs me (just a little). Loved seeing the costumes back in July at Star Wars Celebration, though (the image next to this paragraph is one I took myself)!
Ship design - eh, I wasn’t floored by anything and I thought it was kind of weak to borrow so many ships from cartoons (while the rest of the fan base, of course, absolutely loves how they pull together different franchise elements here); the U-Wing…I don’t know, yeah it’s cool I guess, but, not surprisingly, the designs that steal the show are the already classic X-Wings in particular (still, can't blame them for putting out new designs; more toys equals more money and more money hopefully equals more Star Wars). I could dig the way they filmed the Rebel command ship (Almost-Ackbar’s ship) cockpit, with the glass below Admiral Almost-Ackbar; that was a cool angle. I did love that they allowed for some proper space battling in Rogue One, and some of the shots are the best we’ve had in a Star Wars film no doubt. I couldn’t help myself, however, from getting a bit annoyed at the number of shots that basically replicated already existing footage from the other films, such as the TIE swarm (already in VI and VII), a Mon Calamari leader (VI), certain shots in certain angles etc. The “new” stuff - tactics, strategies, mvoements not seen before - were more interesting in that regard, but I still found myself not believing that small hammerhead-ship of the Alliance was able to ram that Star Destroyer so hard. I would need a little more explanation beforehand so that I knew of the hammerhead-ship's capabilities or something.
The choreography and effects in the space battle were mostly good to excellent, with a neat flow and very fast pace, and is one of the parts I look forward the most to see again. Being the grumpy nitpicker that I am, I still wish the Alliance had one or two pilots in the fight that I was invested in; maybe they should’ve had Riz Ahmed’s character fly against his former boss? After all, Bodhi Rook’s a pilot, am I right? It would make sense, narratively. Yes, it also made sense that he flew them down to Scarif but it seems to me that you don’t need to be a pilot to pilot a ship in this galaxy. With Bodhi in an X-Wing, getting used to the controls (after having flown Imperial shuttles or whatever) would add something to the character and our investment in the battle; heck, Bodhi could even be the one to sacrifice himself by flying against the shield gate or whatever to open it for the transmission of the Death Star plans. Favorite ship design: the interior of the cockpit of that first shuttle the band takes to that rainy canyon planet. I don’t remember if it was a U-Wing or some other vessel.
Location design - I feel Rogue One has both good and bad location design. Some of the design is good but poorly executed (bad CGI for example), other designs aren’t all that interesting or are jarring in some other way - and some of it is of course just good/solid. Gareth Edwards proved that there was still room for different terrain types; unlike previous directors, who thought that everything had been used so better start with sand and ice again. In this film we get a lot of variety in the locations, and I love it. So now we can add a canyon planet (drowning in rain) to the list, as well as tropical paradise (Scarif), prison planet / rocky planet (Wobani - note, this is an anagram of Obi Wan), that weird city that looked almost stalactite-ish among the asteroids or whatever it was, yeah lots of creativity here; Yavin IV of course had to be Yavin IV but I think they did an excellent job at recreating this particular moon and expand it (from the original film). Mustafar didn’t look like Mustafar but apparently it is Mustafar, but that’s cool, I liked this Mustafar area better than the silly cartoon lava planet from that crappiest of crapfests, Revenge of the Sith. Gods, that movie is like George R.R. Martin decided to write the Robert’s Rebellion prequel “everybody” wants and then turned Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon into these uncharming characters that never really seem to be friends etc whatever whatever and forever.
Did not like the design of Vader’s castle though. From the outside: A touch too close to high fantasy for my tastes; should have been a little more high-tech in appearance (yet perhaps emulate the sinister feeling of a Dark Lord’s abode), from the inside: It just.. It didn’t really look like a place where Anavader Skydarth would live. It seemed like such an impractical weird place, design-wise, I’d prefer something a little more stark, more…monumental, dark grey and red, you know, the vibe you associate with the harsh mechanical order of the Empire which Vader represents in many ways. I’d mix more of that into the otherwise okay idea of a lava planet castle. I would also tell Gareth that seeing Imperial Royal Guards not guard the Emperor is very disruptive, as I have always thought they were singularly the Emperor’s bodyguards, so it would be better if Vader had Stormtroopers there instead, but you know, what can a man do? I would also fill the castle with more characters, more things going on, perhaps a crew monitoring space for potential intruding enemies or whatever, perhaps a few more servants like the nameless guy who everybody wants to be Snoke but isn’t; I don’t know. One of the great things about Star Wars is that “lived-in” quality; it’s an important factor in the series’ popularity in fact. When we were young we believed in the Falcon; you can almost smell the leather and feel the instrument buttons - Vader’s castle doesn’t have this quality. It doesn’t look as real. Perhaps because it’s such a crazy big chamber, or that it is a bit "out there" design-wise without an explanation of what this citadel actually is? Perhaps a more labyrinthine base for Vader could have worked just as well or better. Like a web and Vader’s the spider. Anyway.
I did not actually like Scarif all that much; I found it way too convenient that the Empire had all their important document files in this absurdly huge tower, and far worse in terms of convenience the placement of certain consoles, switches, databanks, computers etc that the Rogues needed to find and activate/deactivate. Despite having this important-to-protect tower, the Empire decided to put some of these things just … outside? That was weird. Not to speak of the placement of that transmitter, lol. That was so stupid I cringed and flushed, embarrassed to call myself a fan. All right, you can make excuses for the design; but nah. I am aware Edwards probably wanted to pay homage to the architectural failures of the classic trilogy, the way The Force Awakens included that rail-less bridge for Han Solo to dive from, but why “should” Star Wars continue to have these kind of elements, especially when the rest of the film plot-wise is so bloody serious?
More importantly, Scarif failed to add gravitas to the final, important battle between Rebellion and Empire. When you’ve got palm trees and beaches…I don’t know, I’m probably being stupid but I thought the planet was so idyllic it kind of took away from the drama at hand. Yes, people have fought wars in similar terrain and they probably thought it was more than dramatic enough, but this is film and I just feel like the battle could have been more intense and interesting if the terrain was more hazardous (a tropical storm perhaps?) or just darker (a night battle could have been enough to change the overall experience). With the overly dramatic weather and terrain at the planet where they kept Galen Erso, it feels almost wrongly flipped around to follow that up with a serene beach planet. Oh well, not the largest of objections.
Wow, there’s just so much to talk about; I’ll round up with a few more observations and thoughts about varying things that stuck with me after the viewing for good or bad. I apologize for the length of this text but that’s how it ended up and I’m too strapped for time to edit it down at the moment.
Saw Gererra’s hideout was filled with a number of interesting (and some bland) background characters, which added to the location; I thought the psionic blob was too much for Star Wars; and it didn’t really affect Bodhi Rook, and yeah this goes for everything Saw-related, this stuff was not necessary. I have a feeling that a lot of the reshoots/rewrites of Rogue One are related to Saw and his rebels because there was no flow to their subplot; the character development (of Saw) was unconvincing (all of a sudden he’s suicidal without any kind of foreshadowing, very annoying and reminds me of the prequels where characters also make sudden turns that you can’t expect or believe); things about Saw and his extremists were never really made clear; all in all, Rogue One would have flowed better without Saw and crew - because none of them really mattered to the plot, as mentioned somewhere far, far above…
I think “fan service” is the word that describes much of Rogue One. It feels like a movie made to please many fans, and it sure looks like that worked. People buy into Rogue One hook line sinker. Yet I feel that the ‘service’ rendered is misguided; yes, people clamor for MOAR VADOR but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good idea. In many scenes I could practically hear John Knoll or Gareth Edwards or whoever giggle, “Man the fans are going to go nuts when they see THIS” while all I wanted was a solid, stand-alone narrative. And by stand-alone I mean stand-alone. There is room for a Star Wars that doesn’t draw on pre-existing movies. Seriously. All the good things about The Force Awakens and now Rogue One are the elements that expand the galaxy, new characters, locations, droids, whatever. Am I not right? Jyn, Cassian, K2, Bodhi, Baze, Chirrut, Krennic, they are all more fun to watch than Tarkin ‘cause Tarkin belongs to 1977 and that character’s story didn’t need, in any way, a repeat of his arc (except the fiery demise).
Some of the street warfare scenes on Jedha were a bit too on the nose methinks in terms of feeling similar to terrorism in the news. It took me out of the film; all Star Wars films can be related or linked to real world events (historical or contemporary). Same happened with General Hux’s speech in The Force Awakens, it was so similar to ye Hitler speech it was hard to ignore and thus I was thrown out of the galaxy that, at its best, keeps me firmly entrenched in its own narrative; Jedha had me thinking of the politics of the Middle-East and that’s certainly not something I want in my Star Wars. No, that’s not racism speaking, but rather that Star Wars should be an escape from the dangers and fears of the real world. At the same time it was a reminder, a very succinct one, that this was a movie with the focus on the Wars more than the Stars. The Chirrut-action was cool, though! Martial arts on Stormtroopers is a new and refreshing way to take out the Empire's worst shooters.
In addition to my complaints so far, perhaps the thing that really irked me about Rogue One, the thing that keeps me from standing in line daily for another showing, is as simple as this: It lacked the Star Wars charm. Some of it at least.
No, not the opening crawl or the Williams music or whatever. The music was fine, at times damned fine. Not Williams-good, but neither was it undermining anything in the film. Those are elements that do not make or break Star Wars. Some of “newcomer” Michael Giachinno’s cues are almost on par with Williams; there’s a melody running through the film that hearkens back to Anakin and Padmé’s theme (if you listen to the ‘Guardians of the Whills suite’, you’ll maybe feel like you’re about to listen to “Across the Stars” at approx. 20 sec in - it’s not the same, but .. Echoes…there are echoes from the Willow soundtrack here as well, but that’s probably pure coincidence) yet the music is also moving forward to the original trilogy’s score; there were a few scenes in the film where the music felt misplaced (too epic, in some cases) but the music itself is fine. Standout cuts from the soundtrack are “Krennic’s Aspirations”, “Your Father Would Be Proud”, “Jyn Erso & Hope Suite”, “The Imperial Suite” (I really enjoy the new variant Imperial March, it’s musically a genius little mix of the Imperial music found in ANH and ESB) and several more cues are absolutely enjoyable. Notice the latter half of “Krennic’s Aspirations” is really similar to a piece of music from ANH, I am not sure whether it was accidental or not (there are a number of visual similarities between the opening of Rogue and the Tatooine/homestead scenes in ANH; maybe they stretched that further into the music as well; blue milk, blue tones whatever). Listening to “Hope”, despite its short running time, wow, I do get chills when the familiar Star Wars theme follows up the insanely epic opening..I think Giachinno succeeded in doing his own thing yet staying within a certain musical framework. Its unfamiliar and familiar…as it should be. And that bit around 03:30 in “Jyn Erso & Hope Suite”, that’s the perfect sonic example of familiar and unfamiliar; I like new variants on old note progressions (kinda ironic since I prefer not too much old stuff visually).
However, IMO one of the elements that makes or breaks Star Wars, is charm. The naive farmboy Luke, the feisty princess Leia, the scoundrel Han, the Wookiee, the bickering droids, the masked villain; the suave administrator of Cloud City, the wise little Yoda, the impossibly cool Boba Fett; the instant friendship between Finn and Poe; BB-8; the undercurrents of romance between Han and Leia while Han’s ship is breaking down around them; the best Star Wars films are incredibly charming. The original’s charming spirit of adventure, Empire’s charming mix of hope and darkness.. The Force Awakens’ new characters - chemistry, character design and development, all the endearing touches that make some of these films timeless classics, I feel that this is a vital missing ingredient in Rogue One. I want to be charmed, and Jyn Erso is almost there (perhaps the next time I see the film?) but the rest of the characters leave me rather unperturbed. There’s something about the film’s pace, somewhat jumpy first half, and little focus on character; the almost-romantic scene between Jyn and Cassian feels like it comes out of nowhere, almost as unbelievable as the Anakin-Padmé relationship (Jyn and Cassian have more reason to get closer to each other as they experience lots of action together; but technically there’s as much romance between Jyn and, say, Baze Malbus. Am I complaining about the lack of romance? No. Rogue One is a war movie; there’s no time or room for love. That’s why the almost-kiss (if I recall correctly) feels so out of place; and why Jyn and Cassian alone on the beach doesn’t affect me emotionally, although it absolutely positively should. You see, I love the idea of a Star Wars where there’s a larger element of tragedy. In fact, Rogue One is far more tragic - in terms of character deaths - than any Star Wars film…make that any fantasy film (no, not counting a certain TV-show), yet my emotions aren’t triggered the way they are at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. And I believe it’s because I wasn’t charmed enough, convinced enough, on that first viewing.
Part of me really hopes that my impression improves the next time(s) I watch Rogue One. Part of me feels I’m being way too nitpicky and unable to enjoy what I am served; another part thinks I shouldn’t just accept anything - be critical. As I said a new Star Wars flick is something that is hard to digest. Headcanon is rearranged, even actual movie canon is changed, I have to accept new ideas into an old franchise and old ideas into a new film (walkers).
Another factor in the lack of charm is that it wasn’t as funny as other (non-prequel) Star Wars films. Miles ahead of the prequels’ absolutely terrible attempts at humor (how awkward were those “jokes” don’t get me started). The main source of humor is the ex-Imperial droid K2S0 (Alan Tudyk), Cassian’s sidekick Chewbacca/See Threepio with a sarcasm filter companion. Alan has been praised for his comedic timing and I agree he has the timing but I didn’t feel his actual dialogue was that strong. I am not sure why I didn’t fall more for the character; I did really enjoy some of his bits (slapping Cassian was a favorite). I was a bit disappointed that most of his best stuff was already in the trailers, perhaps. Like there wasn’t much left to wow me by the time I was in the cinema seat. Yeah, I gladly take the humor of Rogue One over anything from the prequels (”The negotiations were short!” ahahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaha. Ha. ) but I…I expected to be tickled more. See, there we are at expectation again. Attending a second time is surely a must? Or will it just warp my brain even more? I definitely need to see it in 2D, the 3D was fucking terrible in my opinion.
Diminishing Returns: Like seeing Yoda in Attack of the Clones before you see his actual, proper and infinitely better introduction in The Empire Strikes Back, I feel that it hurts the narrative and its timeline that they retroactively reintroduce elements that pop up later. Worst offender this time is the AT-AT Walker. Yeah slap on a “C” and give them red cargo hold doors, those are AT ATs stomping across the lush terrain of Scarif, and just like that they took away the awe of that moment in Empire when you first see the lumbering war machines approach Echo Base. Is it really that hard to come up with something else for that battle? Yes, that first ominous look at an approaching AT-ACT was great esthetically but…it disrupts the flow..me likey when things are gradually introduced chronologically…It also goes back to my beef with the recycling of plot points, characters and plot points mentioned somewhere above; more new stuff, less “fans love X-Wings; giveth them X-Wings!!” Also, now people will see this extremely intricate X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter vs. Capital ships vs. Shield Gate battle and then they get to the next episode and there’s five X-Wings and half a Y-Wing flying in linear fashion toward the Death Star matte painting while being shot at by three TIE Fighters that don’t really wobble. Is that kind of the opposite of ‘diminishing returns’? It’s the same problem that the prequels had when those films overdid the lightsaber duels.
Man, the idea of a ‘prequel’ is just…it really doesn’t work that well. A sequel on the other hand is easier to forgive; after all, whatever you get is chronologically after the original trilogy. So what that we’re not told anything about the Republic, or the First Order, what Luke did for thirty years, whatever. At least the presentation in VII doesn’t change anything in the originals am I right?
Wow I haven’t said anything about plot holes.Are there plot holes in Rogue One? Yes! And no. Well, the Rogue One part of the story is fairly solid (in terms of hanging logically together; you could argue that the plot itself is a bit bloated and dry) but there’s a can o’ holes being opened at the very end of the film, the extraneous bit tacked onto the end of the story of the rogues that is supposed to carry you directly into Star Wars. You may not notice while you’re watching Rogue One, but there are lines in the beginning of the chronological sequel that do not make sense anymore. As mentioned, the end of Rogue and the beginning of Star Wars don’t gel well visually either, I really have to force myself to pretend this Rogue-stuff “really” happened. I hate that pointless “Leia”-cameo, it was just so infuriatingly non-directed. Standing there before the camera saying “Hope.” That was very gratuitous and unnecessary.
Bail Organa’s “foreshadowing” of Leia taking the plans should have been clearer so we didn’t need that face shot at the end. “My daughter will get those plans to the Jedi,” he could’ve said, and then Mon could say, “Are you sure you dare risk Princess Leia?” something like that, and why the hell would Bail send her on a mission like that knowing who Leia is anyway? No, having 3P0 and R2 at the end here would make more sense; I’d love to leave Leia’s introduction in Star Wars pristine, like the AT ATs and Yoda in ESB should have been kept their original introductions. As a diehard fan of the original story it remains hard to see my perception of it slightly adjusted or even changed because of a prequel. I find it hard to imagine that the Vader we see slaughtering his way through rebels suddenly, a few hours later, is so calm and has to resort to brute strength to lift Captain Antilles off the floor, his voice suddenly sounding much angrier and younger, his helmet, cape, armor looking different; I find it hard to accept that Vader, in Star Wars doesn’t seem to have just experienced the ending of Rogue One; and what do we do with Vader’s line about intercepting transmissions “beamed by Rebel spies” now? Why couldn’t Edwards tighten it up so that the “bridge” is more sound? Yes, a defender of the faith will tell you that, by making this and that loophole the narrative makes sense but I need a much clearer transition in order to buy into the ending.
A PROVISIONAL CONCLUSION
I feel like I’ve sounded very negative throughout this ramblin' rant, but I had high expectations (very high - K2S0) and as such Rogue One didn’t entirely satisfy. I think I’ve pointed out the things I disliked the most, and some of the things I really liked as well. I don’t know why Gareth Edwards and the crew chose not to consult me on this, but if they had, I would help them trim this movie down by focusing exclusively on the Rogue band and its mission on one side, and Krennic and Galen on the other side (Mads Mikkelsen was a great Galen Erso by the way, his presence was kinda like Qui-Gon Jinn’s in a sense; probably because of the facial hair whatdoIknow - no but really probably because they are both actors with a certain weighty presence); take out the glaring nods and winks, tighten the script by removing the Saw Gerrera parts (or at least shrink those parts), make Vader more important to the plot if he’s going to stay in (but perhaps not all that interested in the technological terror that is the Death Star; make it clear he’s obeying the Emperor out of fear for the senior Sith Lord).
In other words, I am not satisfied; I can’t entirely Rogue One on its own merits; I am already dreaming up alternatives I personally think sound better, just as I re-imagined the prequels many times. Get rid of some clutter, like. This is right now, of course, and everything may fall into place…if the Force wills it.
Honestly though, maybe it’s just not the film for me, and it won’t stop me from getting hyped all over again come next year when we finally get to see Episode VIII (don't quote me on it but I believe the title of the next episode is Finally Some Fuckin' Luke Skywalker111!!!) Wow, keeping Luke away until the very end of last year’s film was brilliant: Can you imagine the buzz next year right before the world will finally hear a new line of Luke Skywalker dialogue? OoooOooh! !
The Force Awakens surprisingly is in many ways a superior Star Wars film even though Rogue One absolutely tries to best it. Abrams’ movie has some serious flaws, yes, but it doesn’t change the actual events of the original trilogy (yet, anyway); it also has a lot of heart - a heartfelt passion for the originals - and charm, instantly likable characters, and the privilege of having Harrison Ford aboard.
Rogue has to do with a bunch of characters that feel like EU characters - entertaining but not leaping off the screen to become larger than life - and the movie never lets up to give these people a moment to shine. Abrams’ film didn’t explain the galactic politics or the state of the Force, but the characters came to life; Rogue One, in a way, is kind of opposite - the characters remain flat, while we get a good look at the politics surrounding the Death Star.
Finally, and now I really hope I’ve got it all out of my system because dang this ended up long, I wish the film …no I said it before didn’t I? I wish they could operate on a smaller scale, one closer to the original trilogy…Abrams understood this, and dialed everything down in TFA after the excess of the prequels; now VIII and IX can grow and build upon The Force Awakens. Rogue One is a far too busy story with a far too hectic pace and way too many characters and with little narrative groove to believably be running straight into the original film.
And so all is as the Force wills it: Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back remain the pinnacle of cinematic entertainment, and the catalysts of my spiritual Star - fervor. I’d argue that VII is a tad better than Return of the Jedi in terms of entertainment but it’s just impossible to go up against classic Luke, Han, and Leia, even in their weakest collective effort in Jedi; and on the opposite end of the scale the prequel trilogy remains the greatest example of why one should leave certain things alone and that a prequel most likely is a bad idea. The Phantom Menace had some elements that saved it from total disaster, while the two others were like continual streams of salt into gaping open wounds.
And Rogue One? I guess it’s in the middle of all this. Let’s see..
PRELIMINARY RANKING COMMENCING..
1. STAR WARS
2. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
3. RETURN OF THE JEDI 4. THE FORCE AWAKENS
5. ROGUE ONE
6. THE PHANTOM MENACE
7. REVENGE OF THE SITH
8. ATTACK OF THE CLONES
This ends my rambling long adventure of a rantish review of ROGUE ONE. I never wrote my thoughts on THE FORCE AWAKENS after its release, but that's because I spent the year trying to figure out my feelings on it; Rogue One actually helped solidify those feelings - it made me see what I appreciate about JJ Abrams' film, and what could have been better.
Ideally, the best of ROGUE and the best of THE FORCE AWAKENS could possibly, maybe, result in a film able to rival the two first ones.
And now it's time to leave this process entirely behind, get back on my regular re-read schedule (and celebrate the holidays I suppose). If I'm not back before that glorious Eve of Santa Claus' birth, I wish you a merry christmas or whatever you celebrate and a happy new year (which comes whether you like it or not...it is unavoidable, it is your destiny....)