I don’t like doing it but I’m going to start this blog with a gripe.
I went to see Rogue One yesterday. At my local cinema. It’s a lovely little rustic place where you can get sofas and beer and it’s actually fairly cheap… for a cinema. HOWEVER!!! They forgot to reserve our seats.
Luckily the cinema never reserves seats on the very front row so we went and sat there. Ever sat on a front row? It’s horrible. You have to constantly look up. The screen fills your vision so you have to turn your head to see anything going on out of shot (so I probably missed a few things as well). And it has a habit of making everything seem a little bit blurry. I was not pleased sitting down to watch Rogue One. Oh, and the dickhead sat behind me kicking my chair throughout the ENTIRE film kept dragging me out of the immersion!
I said I was going to start on a negative but here’s where I flip it around. I was in a bad mood from the get go and it didn’t change. Yet I still found myself loving the film. That says something about how good it was.
I’m gonna split this review into two because I’ll try to do the first part with no spoilers and then I’ll talk about some things that NEED to be said.
Rogue One is a Star Wars story (that is to say it’s set in the Star Wars universe, but does not take part in the main episodic story they are telling). It tells the story of the completion of the first Death Star and the band of rebels who nicked off with the plans so some farm boy with a fancy last name could nab all the glory by actually blowing the thing up. I mean, sure, it’s easy to steal all the glory when the plan is laid out for you and you have some mystical force guiding your actions. #LukesNoHero.
We’re quickly introduced to a band of misfits, criminals, re-programmed imperial droids, and DONNIE-FUCKING-YEN! Seriously, I would happily watch an entire film about Chirrut (Donnie Yen) and Baze (Wen Jiang). Screw that upcoming Han Solo film, give us more about this duo. Right… so this band of misfits have the task of stealing the Death Star plans and saving the universe. That’s the premise… I know, I’ve meandered. Awesome actors in great roles do that to me.
So as far as the story goes it’s nothing we (as Star Wars fans) didn’t already know, but it fills in a few blanks… such as the long standing geek question of why does the Death Star have such an obvious flaw? And it ties in beautifully with the franchise. It whips along at a fairly break neck pace and there was barely a dull moment. Lots of edge of the seat action and a well told story all round with good dialogue… except the Darth Vader quip about choking a fool. Bad Vader. Bad!
The characters are a joy to watch. I actually don’t know which one to talk about… apart from DONNIE-FUCKING-YEN! Leading the pack is Cassian, a young veteran of the rebellion who straight up murders a guy the moment we meet him. This isn’t the Han Solo shooting first kinda deal. This is the your work for the cause is done kinda deal. Actually that scene kinda sets the tone for the entire film, this is a much more adult SW story than we’re used to. Also sets up the character quite nicely.
Jyn Erso is next on the list and she’s kinda the hero (if there is one) of the story. She has ties to the building of the Death Star and is integral to the plan to stop it. She’s also fairly badass and good with the words when some inspirational speechy-fying is needed. Oh but I loved that scene… saving it for the spoiler section.
K-2SO is a smart arse reprogrammed Imperial Droid (voiced by Wash! Or Alan Tudyk as some people call him). He has some of the best comedic lines in the entire film and helps to lighten the tone here and there. And he kinda looks like the robots from Laputa…
Bodhi Rook is an imperial pilot who defects and kicks off the entire story. He gets a fairly rough deal and comes through it like a champion. He definitely engages hero mode about half way through the film.
Then we have Chirrut and Baze. These guys are former guardians of a jedi temple and about 200% badass. They provide some good comic relief as well as bringing some excellent action into the scenes. They are a joy to watch and not least of all because they really felt like old friends who had that bond of trust.
What to talk about next? Oooh, I know. I’ll mention the feel of the film. Rogue One feels like a Star Wars film. What do I mean by that? Well, remember that first time you watched a Star Wars film and it introduced you to exotic locations, hit you with some action, showed off some cool tech/ships, resolved a part of the plot, then moved on to another exotic location… Well it does that. Each new place it shows us is beautiful and unique in its own right. Each place the characters visit has its own set of problems for them to overcome. And each place helps to move the plot along. Also, massive battle scene on a beach that would look like paradise… if not for the AT-ATs, blaster fire, and dead bodies… Seriously it was quite beautiful.
Um… issues. It’s me, I have to some issues with the film. There were a few bits that felt like cheap tension generators. One such bit includes a mind reading tentacle monster that serves no real purpose to the plot and apparently leaves the victim with a broken mind… only the guy pretty much just snaps out of it the next time we see him. There were a couple of bits like that but in all fairness, they were barely noticeable… That’s about all I’ve got.
Conclusion time. Then I’ll get to the spoilers. Rogue One is an excellent addition to the Star Wars franchise. It adds new locations and new characters while feeling like a Star Wars film and tying in nicely to the larger narrative. It does something new with a story that we already knew happened. If you like Star Wars… watch it! If you like sci fi… watch it! Just watch it!
Seriously. This next bit contains spoilers. If you haven’t seen the film yet, click away. Go! NOW!
The ending. Now when I first heard about the concept for Rogue One I was quite vocal about my wish to see all the characters die at the end. This was not because I didn’t like the idea of the characters or the actors (DONNIE-FUCKING-YEN), but because it would actually cheapen the whole thing if they all got out alive at the end. I know the “many Bothans died…” thing is about the second Death Star, but stealing the plans was a big deal that enabled the entire of A New Hope. The characters dying at the end would only make the message more poignant. And they did! And it was glorious! And sad! And brilliant! Each of our main cast got a heroic death scene and it really helped to ramp up the tension… or at least it would if I hadn’t known it was going to happen. I think the moment K-2SO died I knew they were all going to bite the dust. Loved it. It really brings home the message that the rebels are willing to die for the cause. That bringing down the Empire is important.
The speech-ifying by Jyn was great. It’s actually a bit better than Deep Blue Sea (yeah I said it!). She gives this wonderful speech to the rebellion to bolster hope and rally the troops… and they tell her to bugger off. It was a great moment because of how real it felt. It’s cool in films to see people turn the tide by talking about not going quietly into the night or cancelling the apocalypse, but in reality people often need more than a few words to convince them to sacrifice their lives. But more than that! Jyn gave the speech to the leaders of the rebellion and these leaders basically shot her down because it was a suicide mission and they weren’t willing to risk themselves. Half of them started advocating surrender. Then the troops, those people who are sent out to do the things that make them monsters by the people who weren’t willing to risk their own lives, make the decision to go on the suicide mission all on their own. They inspire the rest of the rebellion through actions not words, and they sacrifice their own lives to it. It’s beautiful and it’s horrible all at once.
Giant space and land battle going on all at once. Fuck yes! And the plan with the Hammerhead Corvette was glorious. All it needed was a Worf moment.
OK. I think I’ve exhausted myself writing this blog. Feel free to leave comments and tell me about some of the best moments for you.
Oh, and this is a Star Wars blog so I would be remiss if I didn’t finish it with a picture of the greatest hero the rebellion has ever known.