I saw Rogue One on Friday and now that I’ve let it digest a bit I’m ready to share my thoughts. This is going to be a spoilerific post, so if you haven’t seen the movie, please, please, please bookmark this for later and watch the movie first.
We finally have a good Star Wars prequel. Huzzah! Let that sink in. No, not my use of “huzzah,” but the fact that this is the first good Star Wars prequel. And, yes, that is a fact. We can debate just how good the movie is or isn’t, but it’s clearly leagues beyond the three of which we do not speak.
Now for some opinion: By my tastes, this was a competently executed Star Wars movie that did a lot right. Some people on my social media feeds are saying this movie is better than The Empire Strikes Back, to which I say, “You need to re-watch Empire, my friend. That is one of the few examples of a perfect movie.”
If I had to rank the current films, I’d go with:
- The Empire Strikes Back
- A New Hope
- Return of the Jedi
- Rogue One
- The Force Awakens
- Et al.
But–just as ecstatic as I was after Ep VII–I’m incredibly overjoyed by the little to no Prequel references (see below for a notable exception) in Rogue One and even more excited to finish my Reboot the Prequel scripts before the next movie.
What Made the Grade
–Tarkin’s return. Others have debated the morality of resurrecting a dead actor, so let me just say it was a bold choice. And as far as digital humans, none have looked better.
–People other than Jedi are attuned to the Force. Though I’m sure a society that can print out new hands can probably cure blindness, I’m willing to let that go because it could have been a choice on this character’s part. He did seem to have a quite useful “second sight” anyhow.
-Added to the mythology. Great sequels (and prequels) improve upon the originals. This did so by showing us the “alliance” aspect of the Rebel Alliance. Even better was taking what was essentially a bemoaned plot hole in the Death Star’s weakness and gave it meaning. Star Wars is very much about family legacy, and this movie hit those beats well.
-The Force is too well-known. We could write-off Luke’s ignorance of The Force due to his upbringing on a backwater planet, but Han Solo has traveled the galaxy and still he finds the idea of The Force laughable. Yet, in this movie, all the characters seem to know the nature of The Force like something they’ve all grown up with. Pretty sure I heard “May The Force Be With You” nearly a dozen times over the course of two hours. The Jedi are supposed to be an ancient religion, and should be portrayed more as a secret society.
-Too many (pointless) Cameos. Every time a character from the Original Trilogy appeared on screen (which was often!) it felt like the movie stopped so the director could wink at me. The “tough guys” who are at the Mos Eisley cantina in Ep IV bumping into our heroes on Jedha was waaaaay over the top. So, let me get this right. They’re walking around, looking for fights, but manage to escape this city’s destruction just in time to hightail it across the galaxy and go looking for more fights in the exact same bar our next heroes happen to visit? Seems legit.
-Referenced the Prequels rather than Ep VII. Adding Jimmy Smits (Bail Organa from the prequels) wasn’t the worst choice ever, though it did reference the wrong movies. If the goal was to strengthen the brand, why not something to tie in the other Disney SW series? Here’s an idea: Instead of Darth Vader taking a bath in Sauron’s castle, he could be doing something useful. Maybe where “The Knights of Ren” are vaguely mentioned, thus strengthening Kylo Ren’s “I will finish what you started” line.
-Low stakes (we knew the outcome). I needed something else to root for. I knew that they would succeed in their mission to steal the Death Star plans, so there weren’t any stakes in that mission. If there was something else, new and also important that the characters were striving for, I might have inched closer to the edge of my seat.
Circling back, let me emphasize that I really enjoyed the movie. It put the “war” back in Star Wars. Darth Vader against Rebel troopers was amazing. Some great actors added gravity to the story-world. And it left the grounds for a prequel reboot more fertile than ever.
Thanks for reading! What do YOU think? Love the movie? Hate it? Meh?
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SPOILERS A’plenty coming!!! If you haven’t seen ROGUE ONE yet, skip the following until you do.
I’m anxious to revisit ‘Empire’ and compare the two side by side. What is easy to grant is Empire’s superiority in developing characters, but it also had the advantage of characters well established from a first film and the knowledge they”d be returning for a third. R1’s main characters are throwaways from the beginning, one-offs with nowhere to go because there’s three full episodes that follow with no mention of any of these characters. It’s hard to see any of them moving forward into their own spinoff adventures when Luke, Leia, Han and Vader are the core for IV, V, VI.
Agreed that the return of Tarkin worked beautifully. While I’m against the idea of dead actors being used in new roles they may not have chosen for themselves, Tarkin’s continuation is seamless and organic. I also got a bit teary when Leia turned to the camera, the integration done so perfectly. As I heard one woman say when leaving the theater, “I can’t believe they found another actress who looked so much like her to do that scene!” While her boyfriend explained the truth to her, I realized, ‘if you don’t know, you accept.’
That leads me to the argument about ‘stakes’. Like TITANIC or BRAVEHEART, we know the outcome of R1 before the story begins. Titanic will hit the iceberg and Jack Dawson will die, as most men on Titanic perished. William Wallace will lose the battle of Falkirk to end up drawn and quartered. The beginning of IV demands and dictates the outcome of R1 without deviation–so the main thematic question of R1 becomes emotional rather than philosophical, and the film is more about their journey to that place rather than the result of it. The sacrifice of life for Jyn and her mates to achieve freedom for the galaxy is more powerful than the loss of Luke’s arm in a lightsaber fight with the evil father he’s just met, or Han’s capture through Lando’s betrayal, IMHO. Theirs was a suicide mission, and one by one for this band of rebels, the reality of suicide missions becomes clear. For me, an emotional thunderbolt, and though it is never clearly stated, Jyn’s mission FORCES the fragmented and squabbling Rebel Alliance to unite and fight to get the Death Star plans: if they don’t the Alliance dies. The true ‘stakes’ of R1 aren’t paid off until the very end of ‘Return of the Jedi’.
Story wise, I might have made different choices. I would have preferred our ‘Rogues’ be on a clandestine mission to steal Death Star plans instead of an ill-prepared attack, but as said above, Ep IV dictates a ‘battle’ comes before it. I might have preferred more of Jyn’s story, trying to totally disassociate herself from her father’s collaboration within the Empire only to discover Galen is actually sabotaging the Empire from within in more subtle ways. As is, I totally accepted the writer and director choices, and fully enjoyed Jyn’s acceptance of the Rebellion/Alliance when it came. Good turn, well timed.
The ‘tough guy’ cameos didn’t bother me. There was plenty of time for them to get off Jedha before the blast, and so what if they turned up in the Cantina in IV? I’m not a total SW Kingdom nerd, so the argumentative logic of tough guys conveniently turning up in two tough places in the galaxy when needed, whether or not Han really shot first (he did), or a true Jedi would ever really seek Revenge (prompting a fandom uproar so big the planned title of Ep VI has to be changed) is time not well wasted. In wildly entertaining popcorn movies like R1, SW and EMPIRE, I don’t care to think that much about it. As for how well The Force is known, I’d say like Shinto or Taoism or the like, many may know it but only a few totally devoted to it are able to master it. Thus, Jedi are a select few: Han and even Tarkin know the Force, but are atheist to it. It’s all good to me.
Rogue One had far less freedom to roam than the prequels, because it must be aware and faithful to all that comes after it. Whichever side we fall on and wherever we individually rank them, Rogue One is a perfect ‘Origin’ movie for the SW world, and one thing I think we (almost) all can agree on: from R1 through Jedi, there’s not a bad movie in the bunch.
Kevin, thanks for writing in and apologies for not replying sooner. See: I just got internet in the UK. See also: I suck for writing this post on hotel internet just before we left.
While I certainly have some rebuttals, I don’t see much point in a month in dragging you back a month later. Still, well thought-out reply and well written. Thanks very much for sharing your $0.02!