Well, here we are for the first time as we were before once again. Yes, that is the way that I have decided to start this blog post commemorating the beginning of a new year by going back to the winter of 2016! And hopefully this clickbait title will drag in the readers, who will become angered as never before. For those readers shall soon discover that, even with the ever-increasing Imperial nature of our government, this article has nothing to do with politics whatsoever. The fools! MWAH-HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!
However, just to get it out of the way: I am stating categorically that I definitely did not watch the inauguration because I can say without fear of contradiction that I have never watched an inauguration. Is this some sort of a bold stand on my part? Well, if laziness determines boldness, then I am bolder than any barbeque sauce that has ever been unleashed upon the unsuspecting public.
But soft, let us repair to the divan and scotch any notion of falderal and whimsy! Shall we, with our indulgent passions, indulge passionately in our passionate indulgences? I, for one, with me beside myself will do so alone together. Now, I realize that getting through the previous three sentences was a chore and the end result really wasn’t needed or asked for, but golly they were fun to experience anyway. That is how I felt about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Episode III.V: The Quickening Part X.
Yes, I’ve suckered you into yet another Star Wars related nattering that the interwebnets are clogged with already! But I had some things that I had to get off me chest about this entry in the Star Wars universe. While this is not my favorite franchise (yes, I still love you most of all, Police Academy), I’m barely okay with the Star Wars series somewhat because I am a very white middle-aged male and verily have no other choice, aside from not watching it. Oh, and there’s some spoilers, but I don’t care. This movie has been out a while, so suck it up, you buttercups.
While not the best entry in the series of Star Wars, that of course would be Spaceballs, and while not the worst entry in the series of Star Wars, that of course would be the unremembered third Ewok movie (Ewok In the Clouds), Rogue One is a fine and serviceable entry. I might say that it is the best Star Wars Disney-era film.
Come to think of it, I certainly enjoyed this movie more than Episode VIII: The Merchandising Awakens and the nonsense that followed, but that’s only for one reason: Rogue One managed to dispatch every single character depicted on the release poster. The flat-out cojones needed to sell action figures that represent nothing but dead characters would have to be quite substantial and I applaud the move!
Wow, still reading this even after that incredibly forced Ewok title? (“Ewok In the Clouds”? Really?) Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you! First off, I’ll go over what points I enjoyed in this thing and explain them further if I feel like it: 1) the grim atmosphere of the story, 2) the space/land battle in the last 30 minutes, 3) Darth Vader, and 4) a secret point that I can’t bring up right now.
The grim atmosphere lends itself quite well to this story. Rogue One is about the dark and dirty nature of war and revolution and the sacrifices made. This point that gets glossed over in the Skywalker episodes of the saga, but it is on display here. One gets a feeling that this will not end well for our cast and even though you know the ultimate results of their efforts, suspense is still somewhat maintained.
This is the movie that puts the War in Star Wars. The combat sequences are the most realistic in the series, both on the land and in space. (Yes, even compared to the admittedly thrilling and yawn-inducing Gungans vs. Battle Droids Conflict in Episode One!) It just shows how high the stakes are and how violent this galaxy can be. True, there were glimpses of this prior to this movie at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, but for the most part the saga steered clear of out and out battles like this.
Did anyone else want to watch an entire movie of angry Darth Vader after watching the last ten minutes of Rogue One? He comes off like a Force-wielding Jason Voorhees, going through rebel troops like a hot Hitchhiker’s Guide lightsaber through a loaf of bread. For all the nostalgia that came sappily bubbling forth when we saw an older Han and Chewie in The Force Awakens trailers, just hearing James Earl Jones’ voice coming from our favorite Sith Lord trumped all of that. I was worried that there would be too much Vader judging by the trailers, but I left wanting more. It got to the point that I wanted Vader either to use his dark side powers to pull Leia’s escaping ship back to him or to flat out jump into outer space clinging to the side of the ship, ripping off parts of the hull as he went.
And now for the ultra-secret fourth point that will probably get me flambéed more than any other point with fanboys who give a toss about this series: I didn’t mind the CG Grand Moff Tarkin. Sure, I’ll grant that at times it could be distracting, but I appreciated the effort. Of course, they could have taken the easy route, never show the Grand Moff, and said something lame like, “Boy, if Tarkin were here on this Death Star, he’d be really mad! Just you wait when we tell him about these events off-screen at some point!” But no, they tried to actually incorporate Tarkin into this story so that it can mesh with A New Hope and I thank them for this bit of fan service. Tarkin is one of the vilest characters in the Star Wars universe, originally portrayed with such wonderful malice by the late great Peter Cushing. To gloss over or ignore his presence in this story would have been a disservice.
Rogue One did the impossible. It made me come to the point that I would love a movie of Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin just hanging out, talking about the current state of galactic affairs. In fact, make it two hours long and have it be nothing but Imperial boardroom meetings and Vader choking the occasional Empire wonk, and I’d eat the whole thing up gladly.
As far as negatives go, they are capricious and relatively minor compared to the whole, but I want to be as fair and unbiased as any CNN reporter formerly assigned to the Trump White House beat. (Oops! Don’t know how that snuck in there.) The characters introduced in Rogue One aren’t that memorable, saying memorable lines, doing memorable things. An exception to this is the one blind Force-believing dude, whatever his name was. His was a role that I enjoyed quite a bit.
However, the only other character that I gave a real care about was the droid that was assisting them. That robot had the best deadpan lines and when he died, I felt genuinely sad. So yes, a droid brought about more emotion in me than any of the human rebel characters. One day, yes, one day, I’ll bother to look up that character’s name. I care that much.
And that’s the big problem with the film: the characters weren’t developed enough for me to engender my sympathy or even interest beyond their base level of being plot devices. I know they tried with the lead female character and I was invested for a bit but not enough throughout. The rest of the team just more or less blended together and I don’t remember their names either, so don’t ask.
Even the Imperial director guy, who name also eludes me, wasn’t the best villain. Sure, he had moments of being a royal prick, but as the evil focus point, he got lost in the shuffle with the more familiar baddies. While he did look good in an admittedly malevolent white cape, he wasn’t even worthy of being killed by the main protagonist, a character who had every reason in the world to whack him. Plus, he lost ground to a CG Peter Cushing, someone who has been dead since 1994, which should tell you everything.
Now I know they were trying to do something different with the score, but as I am so used to hearing John Williams-y music, the soundtrack was rather lacking too. It seems like they wanted to use the classic themes but just as you thought one was going to be starting, the music had performance anxiety and just petered out. Thankfully we had glimpse of the old themes when Vader was onscreen, but once again there just wasn’t enough Vader overall.
The always reliable Forest Whitaker and Mads Mikkelsen brought some nice touches to whatever their character’s names were, but just like the casting of Max von Sydow reminds us, Disney Star Wars movies aren’t big on keeping these older guys in front of the camera for an extended period. Remember, Rogue One had bigger plans for that precious screen time by getting all the knowing winks and nudges in for the fans. Did you know that those soon to be dead/armless guys from the Mos Eisley cantina were also on a planet in Rogue One?! How about seeing an incredibly plot-irrelevant 3 second cameo from C-3PO and R2-D2?! What about that shot of Greedo walking around saying he’s going to shoot first and ask questions later?! (Just seeing if you were paying attention with that last one.)
At least Jimmy Smits was a welcome sight if for no other reason than it is so astoundingly fun to say his name. Go ahead, try it. Jimmy Smits! Fun!
But by far the biggest issue that I had with Rogue One was at the very end when we see a CG 1977 Princess Leia. Okay, if you just wanted to include her from the back or maybe at best a profile shot, I wouldn’t have as big of a problem. Probably. However, going the extra mile to do a full frontal shot of her face that proves that most of the CG character budget went to the Tarkin effects instead was a bad idea. Upon my first viewing, it took me right out of the theater at that moment. As a matter of fact, I was already in my car and several miles away once I saw that shot.
I know it sounds like I am down on Rogue One, but I’m not. No, really, I’m not! I did enjoy it. I think. The good parts tend to overwhelm the bad and I can look past the nitpicky stuff and enjoy the whole. It helps that I had no real expectations with the film; I’ve seen the movie that follows it chronologically quite a bit, so Rogue One wasn’t essential viewing. But as far as a space-based espionage/war movie goes, you could do a lot worse. Besides did you really want to watch more bad Star Wars spinoffs like Ewok On the Wild Side?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But seriously, Lucasfilm, give me a call! What a great title for that Disney Plus-sized stream thingy you’re doing! It could inaugurate an entire line of Ewok-related shows! Ewok On By? An Ewok to Remember? Ewok the Line? Twin Peaks: Fire Ewok with Me?