The day has finally arrived, and Rogue One has hit the theaters. I’ll throw in my two cents in this Rogue One Review.
As always, you have been warned. Many spoilers will be ahead so if you haven’t seen it yet, now is the time to look away. Also if you don’t have the patience for all the stuff I have to say in between, feel free to skip to my much more succinct conclusion at the end 🙂
Rogue One Review – Now Lets Begin
To start things off, and in the name of full disclosure, I need to confess that, I am a Star Wars fan. What self-respecting geek isn’t? I don’t believe that I am of the “Nut” variety, but I have been told otherwise. Especially by my significant other. My level of hardcore-ness varies depending the specific nature of discussion. So, be warned that my Rogue One Review opinions will be based on long time geekdom. Now, with that out of the way, lets GeekOWT on “Rogue One – A Star Wars Story”.
With the success, and some would say rebirth, of the Star Wars franchise. Fans around the world are expecting great things from Disney (the new proud owners of the saga). The Force Awakens was a clear success around the world (box office ). JJ Abrams, set the tone and style for future episodes. But while waiting for Ep 8 and 9, we would be treated to side stories that are part of the greater Star Wars universe.
The first of these was Rogue One – A Star Wars Story.
Even as Ep 7 was still topping box office charts, fans and the media had their sights set on this unique chapter. Not only would it be the first Star Wars movie to not focus on the Skywalker family, it would also be the first to not revolve around the Jedi. Opening the door to all sorts of possibilities (do I hear a Boba Fett origin story somewhere).
Early reports of the cast and preproduction shots already looked very intriguing if not promising.
We learned of the title “Rogue One” and the basic gist of the storyline, its place in the chronology, and the list of the cast. But other than that, everything was all quite secretive.
Now that it’s here all the questions, and then some, have been answered.
So what is Rogue One about?
To answer this question, we need to dig back into Star Wars history.
Probably one of the most iconic elements of a Star Wars movie is the opening. With the line
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”
Followed by arguably the most memorable title sequence in film history, the opening crawl.
Every Star Wars movie has had this crawl and each with its unique context. Sorry, I should say all up to this point, because Rogue One is the exception, more on that later.
The crawl has served the unique purpose of setting up the story events up to that point. Each would give viewers a quick summary of what they would be heading into. Since, in most cases, it would be immediately followed by an intense action scene or battle. Thus, this bit of text set the stage for things to come.
Rogue One is basically one of the events mentioned in the opening crawl. Specifically, the very first opening crawl of the Star Wars saga that people saw way back in theaters in 1977.
This is the original crawl from “A New Hope”
It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet. Pursued by the Empire's sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy....
“Rogue One – A Star Wars story” is the story of these lines
Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR...
It may seem insignificant, and to many at the time it was. Something to be read and dismissed to focus on the action that followed. But as the popularity of Star Wars grew, and the universe expanded, fans started to dissect every bit of the saga. Fan stories and official canon material would seek to further flesh out this complex universe.
One of the recurring stories on the minds of fans was, how did it all begin? Who were those that learned of the plans and risked it all to bring them to the Rebel Alliance? How many lives were truly lost to bring this information to light?
Up until Rogue One , these questions only existed in the minds of fans and canon material. Now they will be answered on the big screen and be part of the legacy of Star Wars.
As said before, this story doesn’t revolve around the Skywalkers or the Jedi, it focuses on the more silent characters of the saga. The heroes that are usually only mentioned in passing, but without them, the rebellion would have never succeeded.
This is their story, the story of how a group of individuals came together, and against all odds brought “Hope” to the rebellion. Showing that in the darkest and most pressing times, if you have hope, then there is still as chance.
It is because of this reason that Rogue One does not have and openning title crawl. It is not your regular Star Wars movie and it deserves that distinction. That is why I totally agree with the decision to not have the opening title crawl. It is its own movie.
On that note, a bit of Star Wars trivia. In the original release of Star Wars in 1977, the opening crawl only consisted of Star Wars. No “Episode IV – A New Hope”. This was a studio decision because it was thought that it would confuse people. It wasn’t until the re-release that the subtitle was added.
Here is the original crawl from 1977.
The Real Heroes
I’ll try not to delve into too much detail, but the story is as follows. Again, skip ahead if you don’t want to know too much.
He is the one tasked to build the famous Death Star. But like all dictatorships, people will eventually realize that things are not right. In this case, Galen realizes that he doesn’t want the Death Star to be his legacy and tries to escape the Empire with his family. The film opens with the Empire, and more specifically Director Krennic played by Ben Mendelssohn, finally tracking them down to a far off planet.
In the confrontation Galen is captured and Jyn is left alone to fend for herself. Fast forward 16 years and Jyn is all grown up. Living the life of a criminal (in the empires eyes) and fending for herself. Soon she finds herself in the midst of the rebellion, they are asking for her help to track down her father whom is still alive.
It is only recently that the rebellion has learned of the possibility of a planet killing Death Star. With Jyn’s help, they hope to contact the leader of another militant rebel faction, Saw Gerrera play by Forest Whitaker, to ask for help in tracking down Galen Erso.
Jumping ahead again, they find this leader and at the same time Jyn learns of the fact that her father only helped the Empire to build the Death Star because he built in a fatal flaw. One that if targeted correctly would cause a chain reaction and destroy the whole thing (this finally addresses that long standing joke that Imperial engineers are idiots). It is also at this moment that the Death Star demonstrates its killing power by wiping out an entire city.
With all that was witnessed, Jyn informs the Rebel Alliance that they need to get the plans to find this flaw. But, after the Death Star demo, everyone is freaked and doesn’t think they stand a chance against the Empire. So they are unwilling to take the risk.
It is left up to Jyn and her rag tag band of Rogues to complete the impossible mission. Without official approval from the Alliance, the set off under the call sign “Rogue One”.
Obviously a big battle ensues in the third act and since we all know pretty much what happens as a result of their actions, I don’t think I need to go further.
Well? So what did you think of it?
I will start off by say that it far exceeded my expectations. With the success of The Force Awakens, I was worried that Rogue One would disappoint. All the hype and excitement leading up to the premiere was tremendous. I tried to stay away form all the post and trailers so that my expectations were tempered. Nonetheless Rogue One certainly had large shoes to fill. Not only did it need to do Ep 7 justice, but it also had to satisfy nearly 40 years of Geekdom.
So, unlike The Force Awakens with the canon baggage that came with the Star Wars name, Rogue One really had its work cut out for it to not only serve the saga but also carve out its own identify and voice.
Apart from a bit of a rushed pacing in the very beginning, it settled into a good rhythm at it went along. I can’t really fault the beginning too much though. There was a lot of planet jumping and story setup to get everything moving. This jumping from planet to planet really didn’t register too well, it could have all happened on one planet with no difference to the story (hmmm maybe if they used an opening crawl, just kidding).
Once all that exposition was out of the way, things started to move along much smoother and much more coherently. From the second act on things hit a good stride and flowed. The action was precise and continued on until the climatic end.
The comic relief came in the form of K-2SO played by Alan Tudyk. I thought the wit and humor was just right. Definitely up there as one of my favorite droids. Nothing too over the top and done to death. So a big thumbs up to that.
What can’t be said enough, and needs to be seen to be appreciated, is the landscapes. The original series was of course hampered by the technology at the time, so no fault of theirs, recent films have definitely leveraged tech to build really detailed worlds. I think Rogue One set the bar even higher.
Without the need to cut corners or hide things with dark lighting, Rogue One takes things into the light. From the vast planet landscapes to the bright and detailed final battle. Every scene is a breath taking spectacle that must be re-watched and enjoyed again just for that alone. This was further magnified by 3D. The final battle above the planet was mesmerizing in the amount of detail that could be seen looking down on the planet.
Another key set piece spectacle was the final battle, from the x-wing dogfights to the huge AT-ATs that appear through the smoke. It’s one wow, after another, and all under the brightly lit sunny beaches. Nothing to hide or obscure with camera tricks.
Further to this, any stormtrooper fan will be totally stoked with the new uniforms. The Death Trooper is totally bad ass. And though I didn’t care much for the Shore Troopers at first, after the movie, I have a new appreciation for them. I sense a 3d print of it in a future project 🙂
I think what really pushed Rogue One over the top for me was the nostalgic references to the original. It was like the ultimate answer book for all the things that you had questions or doubts about in the original series. Like the previously mentioned flaw in the Death Star, one would think that the Imperial engineers would have had better skills. Now the answers are finally reveal, whether you think it is a good enough reason, is another discussion. At least it is now more thoroughly fleshed out, making the events that followed more plausible. Obviously we have to give credit to the original writers, they were working from nothing. As for their current counterparts, they are working with 40 years of legacy and the criticism of a legion of fans and critics alike.
The list of other nostalgic easter eggs is long and better left for another post, but anyone whom has seen the other films will surely spot more than a few. In fact, it maybe worth a second screening to see if you can spot them all. Some are harder to spot while other are very blatant (R2D2 and C3PO being one of them). They did an excellent job of laying in the threads to link back to the other films.
I think the one thing that I didn’t seem too in awe of was Darth Vader. I was well aware of his appearance in this film and like many others, was excited to see him again on the big screen. But I guess, all the other action and interesting elements far overshadowed his appearance. He was definitely not the high point of the movie, even though his actions will set in motion the plot of the other movies. It was still nice to see how the story seaways into the original.
Another element that I didn’t quite warm up to was the resurrection of Peter Cushing in his character of Grand Moff Tarkin. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand the need and also I am blown away at how well it was done. But, I still think the uncanny valley was there. Maybe it was because I am so familiar with the faces of the characters. For this post, I won’t say who else was given the CGI character treatment, but I think that one also suffered the same effect. I say that this maybe just me because, I know people whom didn’t realize that the characters were CGI. They thought that it was just a very good impersonator or makeup. No matter what, it doesn’t ruin the film in anyway, it’s just one of those fan things that you notice.
So what’s your GeekOWT conclusion for this Rogue One Review?
I think that with all the elements that were in play with this film, director Gareth Edwards went above and beyond to deliver a movie that has its own legs. Even a non Star Wars fan will find it an enjoyable movie to watch. For the fans of the saga, it not only opens new doors to the lore of Star Wars but also nicely and officially ties up some loose ends that may have nagged at them for years. The introduction of new characters and settings further expand the Star Wars universe and hopefully will provide many more story opportunities for years to come.
If anything, Rogue One has set the bar even higher for the followup films and those that will fill in the gaps between and after episode 8-9. Fans have always wanted backstory films for other great characters in the universe. Did I hear someone say Han Solo or Boba Fett? So there is definitely demand for more Star Wars. Let’s just hope they continue to find the right visionary directors to do it justice.
So though it’s only one Geek’s opinion, I think that Rogue One successfully checked off all the boxes and I for one cannot wait to see the next ones. In fact, I think I might just see Rogue One again just to see what I missed.