Last night was the US release of Rogue One and based on the reaction on twitter and fansites its the greatest Star Wars movie since Empire and everyone’s 2nd or third favorite. Many people talking about how its the Star Wars they always wanted. I couldn’t disagree more, Rogue One was ok but its not great for several reasons. The first part of my review is spoiler free but pay attention to the spoiler warning because after that I get real spoilerly.
I suspect that many of the glowing reviews of Rogue One are based on the second half and are basically ignoring the first half of the movie. The first hour of Rogue One was boring, slow, wasted great potential characters and was main comprised of set pieces to introduce the main cast. These set pieces were disjointed and shoehorned our characters together. Some were great pieces they just didn’t seem to fit together right. The highlights of the first half of the movie were K2SO, Chirrut, and Baze. They had some great lines and action pieces, and their characters and their decisions felt real and earned. I can’t say the same about Saw, Jyn, or Cassian. I also felt the inclusion of a certain OT character took me out of the movie(more on that below). The whole first hour could be condensed into ten to fifteen minutes and you wouldn’t miss anything. Well except for the excessive fan service… more on that in the spoiler section.
The second half of the movie, which I would say starts when they go back to Rebel head quarters, is where Jyn and Cassian start to grow on me as characters and the story actually starts. Here our heroes have a purpose and believable motivation for their actions. This part of the movie is decent Star Wars, though there were still some scenes I had trouble with specifically the actions of the Rebel leadership. But we have some pretty good action Bhodi delivers on his potential and the Rebellion starts acting like the Rebellion we all know and love.
Then there is the final 15 minutes. Good lord was that good. I can’t go into detail right here(check below) but action, emotion, stakes, choices and the acting were all great. The only problem here was the score and I found to be a problem the whole movie. With the exception of the blended Williams score I found it to be in some places overbearing and in others not fitting with the tone of the scene. At one point the horns in score completely distracted me from the scene and the movie in general. If this was Giacchino audition he failed in my mind. I do think all of the actors did a fabulous job and I was concerned with Jyn based on the trailers but Felicity Jones was great. The pacing of the first half of the movie ruined it for me. I really wanted to love this movie but in my rankings its only ahead of AotC and while its a decent movie that I actually do like, I ended up disappointed.
Warning Spoilers ahead!
The movie starts off with us meeting a young Jyn and her parents. The only part of this sequence that was enjoyable was Krennic. He was malevolent and I immediately believed he would be someone that would build the death star. He also seemed to be over compensating which you see throughout the movie. He believes he is more than he actually is. I know I was supposed to get a sense of why Jyn is the way she is but I felt nothing for her parents or her in fact this scene wasn’t needed at all. The title card pops up right after this and I have to say it was somewhat jarring for a Star Wars movie and worse it looked like it was made on the director’s home computer. Give me “A long time ago in a Galaxy Far way” then the title and skip the whole opening scene. You literally lose nothing in the story by doing this. We then go through about 5 scenes in 6 minutes all on different planets/locations that for the first time Star Wars uses subtitles to tells us where we are. They are needed because of the jumping around but if you instead had it all on one planet the need is no longer there and it could have been done without changing the story one bit.
The Jyn rescue was good and a great introduction to K2SO but the introduction of Cassian was terrible. He does bad things for a good cause, too bad that is exactly what most of the people who work for the Empire would think about themselves too. We expect the Rebellion to be better, that is kind of the point. The whole reason they rescue Jyn is to get in with Saw Guerra who is completely and totally wasted as a character. It seems the only reason he was used was to have a tie to the Clone Wars. The “torture” he uses on Bhodi is ridiculous and Saw’s death was even dumber. The redeeming parts of theis section of the movie are K2SO and the relationship/fighting skills of Chirrut and Baze. Though in the introduction of those two again feels like it was shoved in because we need to add these two to the film somehow. The whole subplot of Cassian having to kill Galen Erso was just a poor plot device. He’s already completed his work so killing him gets the Rebellion nothing capturing him would help especially since the whole reason they know where he is located is because he sent a message saying he built in a design flaw to the Death Star. Yes Casssian backs out of it, yay growth, but its contrived and does nothing really. Galen dies anyway and Jyn has no proof of him building a flaw into the Death Star but her word. The only things of consequence that happened in the first half of the movie is the message to Jyn and the Death Star firing, everything else was filler and wasted time/characters. A few more things, first Tarkin. Good lord was that terrible, he looked like a video game cut scene and I wonder why they didn’t just use a hologram version instead it could account for the distortion. Also our two friends from ANH that show up for fan service… how freaking small is this galaxy? Really was it needed at all? Did that add anything to the movie?
After Galen dies they head back to Yavin 4, this is where the movie finally picks up and starts to be more than just set pieces that are mashed together. The way the rebel council reacted to the news was kind of sad though. I wanted them to take charge and go for it but instead the wimped out. Jyn and crew had to force their hand by going to Scarif on their own without permission. Once there we get some solid action, acting and dialog. This part is a good Star Wars film. Krennic’s visit to Vader’s castle was great and it built the character of Krennic showing his insecurity and his ambition in one scene. It also showed us a Vader to be feared. After Jyn and crew have forced the Rebellion’s hand they come through in flying colors. Here there was a bit of fan service that actually worked. Having Red leader and gold leader in the film was a great nod to what was to come and explain how they were calm in the face of seeing the Death Star, they’d seen it before. The space battle was one of the best we have seen on screen in Star Wars or any film.
Then we have the last fifteen minutes… holy cow. Everyone dies and its fantastic. The deaths all feel earned and it makes you understand how desperate and important the cause is. The use of the hammerhead ship was great and makes me wonder if MSW’s leaks on TFA were confused with information about Rogue One. Then there is that scene. Vader. WOW. He is everything you ever wanted to see and it makes me want to see a Vader film where its just him murdering Jedi and members of Rebel groups. However the very last scene… Leia looks even worse than Tarkin. WHY? Overall I found it to be a good but not great Star Wars film that is held back by its first hour. I found the score to be distracting at times and the CGI characters should have been left on the cutting room floor. However the acting was fantastic and the action was great. I give it 3.5/5 Star Wars.