Thoughts on Rogue One


I saw the most recent Star Wars movie at the theater last night. I am not going to be super spoilery, here, but there will be a couple tidbits.

This is not really a review. It’s more of a ramble.



My overall impression is that I enjoyed it, it was pretty good (pretty darned good, perhaps), but not perfect, which is fine. The visuals were splendid, with some of the most gorgeous scenery and brilliant images from the whole canon. The action sequences were fantastic; in fact, two in particular stood out in my mind, one of which I will talk more about later.

The story was serviceable, in my view. I think the performances were alright, but the characters themselves were not as lovable as in The Force Awakens, in my experience. Then again, perhaps they were doomed from the start — after all, we all went into this one knowing they weren’t exactly going to make it to Episode IV: A New Hope.

Whereas, on the other hand, the principals in The Force Awakens have a whole new saga pinned on them.

Yet Rogue One definitely works, as a one-off, and can give reasonable hope to Wars fans for future projects, such as the Young Han Solo flick. For me, I was already hyped for Episode VIII, but Rogue certainly did not throw me off the train. I am still on track. I have to admit, this was the one I was not excited for, so I am glad it turned out as well as it did.

But, gosh, it made me wonder a couple things. Like: Do you really have to be a Star Wars fan to begin with, and just kinda have to buy into the experience, in order to enjoy the writing from these scripts? I know that Star Wars is supposed to be cheesy to some extent, but if I heard the word “hope” one more time I think I may have rolled my eyes. Yes, we get it, we really get it, and we really got it the first couple times the theme came up. Maybe that was just me.

Also, Jyn Erso. Such an interesting character! The strong opening was a cool stroke of worldbuilding for the audience, and gives Erso some inner conflict. Obviously. Somehow, though, I wish I had more to work with? She sets out from the start as an independent vagabond, a criminal in fact, but within the span of a couple scenes she goes from shrugging about the whole Rebel Alliance idea to literally being the one at the center of their headquarters giving the requisite Rousing Speech.

However, maybe this is my fault, maybe I am very dumb and very dense and there was a lot going on that went unspoken that I was supposed to pick up on. She goes through some trauma, after all, and some complex social navigation. I dunno.

The humor was great! I mean, it’s no comedy, it’s not like there were jokes throughout, but that worked to good effect, as the jokes that did emerge were all real solid. K2-SO, of course, was the primary source, and did well in that role. I laughed pretty hard a couple times. That exchange where one character mentions the possibility of them dying in the vacuum of space, and K2 says something like, “I wouldn’t. … I would survive,” so straightfaced and deadpan, ahahaha, that’s good stuff.

Hearing Red Leader and Gold Leader again was great. In fact, yeah, I have to admit, all the tiny little references (I am sure I missed many!) were wonderful — personally, I almost laughed with delight when the mouse droid made its brief appearance on-screen. The blue milk brought a smile as well.

And the accuracy, too, everything from the way the Death Star plan preview loaded to the style of the Rebel forces’ helmets, that was all immaculate. They clearly took this project seriously, as to be expected, and knocked it out.

It was better than the way Force Awakens went about its fanservicing. Whereas TFA recycled an entire plotline, to a nauseating extent (I still greatly enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong, and even can understand why they did it that way, but c’mon), Rogue One went for the more subtle fanservicing, and I liked that style better.

… some of the CG character work was a bit much for me, though. I know, not exactly an uncommon take (I’m seeing “uncanny valley” chatter going around), but, I mean, I guess I can’t blame the artists here. They were given a daunting, nigh-impossible task (hey we want Tarkin in here, then Leia too, no pressure), and did the best they could. It’s not bad, no, but it’s noticeable. I respect their efforts. I just wish it was better, more seamless. Maybe someday we’ll get there.

And, y’know, there’s other stuff I could mention, both good and bad, but… this is already super boring, I’ve written enough. So I have a little confession:

There’s really only one thing I wanted to make sure I wrote about, and got off my chest. I have to acknowledge it.

That finale, the scene with Vader? You know the one: Dark corridor, red lightsaber activates, the Rebel forces show a palpable sense of fear, one yells “Open fire!” … and then we are treated to the greatest on-screen display of villainous badassery in cinematic history?

Yeah, I. Yeah. I was a huge fan of that sequence.

I had an intense, full-body chill the whole time. That was amazing. And it was brilliant, the way they teased Vader, but held him back, but set things in motion, got him going there, got you thinking, oh man, are they going to, they have to write, we’re gonna see, they’ve got to show us one good Vader bit…

And we got it.

There’s this joke about how the “hallway fight” has become the iconic trope for movies over the past decade, but there’s a reason it resonates with people. The close quarters allows a more visceral reaction to what’s going on, since we can more intimately relate to every deadly blow as we see it up-close, and there’s a great sense of skin-scrawling tension in such an inescapable, claustrophobic place. Not to mention the natural progression, like a video game level, from one direction to another, which organically winks to the viewer, telling them ahead of time what to expect, as we know on a subconscious level exactly what has to happ–

Look, all I’m saying is that no matter what I thought of the first 98% of Rogue One, that Vader scene is everything. I want to see it again. And again. And I doubt I will tire of it soon. And it might be my favorite scene from the whole Star Wars filmography. And I don’t feel weird about saying that at all.

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