Before I start to dig into Rogue One: A Star Wars Story I must first make a promise: I promise to do all that I can to avoid this article devolving into a George Lucas bitch session. This pact may seem impossible to uphold, and I may fail to do so, but making a concerted effort is important. For without George Lucas, this world would not exist. And despite his glaring mistakes, we should remember him as a movie making genius.
Now, with of of that said, I have one question: what the hell was George Lucas thinking when he made the prequels?!
No… sorry. I said I wouldn’t. Focus Alex, focus!
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is incredible. It is a dark, solemn Star Wars movie snuggling into the nape of Episode IV’s neck. Rogue One loves everything about Star Wars (the original trilogy at least). It manages to adhere to the strict lore while building it’s own seamless addition.
It is usually obvious whenever a classic piece of architecture receives a modern annex. Marvel at the worn marble exteriors. Admire the ornate carvings that grace the frieze. Ignore the awkward, futuristic metallic structure jutting from the rear like some deranged hemorrhoid.
I understand the difficulty that comes with building upon perfection. Do you pay homage or do you stay unique? Do you copy the masters or explore new territory? Do you replicate the lived in world of Star Wars or do you put your actors on a green screen, cover them with plastic CGI and make them act opposite of Jar Jar Binks?
Rogue One avoids the tacky obtrusive appearance of certain other Star Wars films. There is dependence on glossy computer effects or stale green screen backgrounds. Rogue One belongs in the original Star Wars universe. The production design is immaculate. The filmmakers managed to create a world that exists side by side with a 70s science fiction movie. At the same time, Rogue One is a brand new science fiction movie made in 2016.
A common trend for a Star Wars movie is to avoid hiring big name actors for lead roles. This tactic has proved successful. Mark Hamil, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford launched successful careers after the original trilogy. John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver seem to be following suite.
Am I missing anybody? Oh yeah, Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen.
Rogue One also does something novel that wasn’t featured in previous prequels. Rogue One filled every role with an actor who is likable and good at acting.
Some have taken issue with Felicity Jones’s portrayal of Jyn Erso. Some call her wooden and emotionless. I don’t echo those complaints. I found Jyn to be thoughtful character with realistic attributes and sensible reactions.
Keep in mind that Jyn’s backstory precludes her to be rather lonely and standoffish. So when I hear mention that she’s “cardboard,” I want to grab the person by the shoulders and scream, “that’s just how some people are!” There is a particular scene that should decimate any doubts about Felicity Jones’s portrayal. I won’t spoil the scene, but there is a moment where her armor cracks. You see the emotion boiling underneath her tough exterior.
Jyn is tough. She’s also a she. Perhaps that is where some might have the disconnect. You know, cuz woman are all emotional. I never see complaints about men being unemotional in war movies. They’re just being stoic.
Speaking of war, isn’t rather remarkable that we finally have a Star Wars war movie? Every movie in the series has had a battle scene but none have every come close replicating a war movie.
A New Hope has a trench run. More of a sneak attack than a war. The Empire Strikes Back has the battle of Hoth. It’s the closest we get to war but we’re never in the trenches and it’s over quickly. Return of the Jedi has the battle of Endor. But the whole Ewok thing turns it into a goof. The prequels have lots of “war” scenes marred by disposable CGI armies and Jar Jar Binks hi-jinks.
For the first time in Star Wars, Rogue One puts the audience into the heart of a war. It’s unpleasant at times and characters make questionable decisions. But you don’t have a war movie if there is no exploration of the gray area between right and wrong.
That’s not to say that Rogue One is an groundbreaking tale of morality. It won’t destroy the constructs in your mind and make you question your own sense of right and wrong. No, it’s a 70s-esque Star Wars movie, not a 70s-esque Vietnam War movie. Rogue One explores some of the complexities of war. And that’s rare for a Disney produced blockbuster.
So Gareth Edwards, the director of Rogue One, made a perfect movie. Right? Well…
No… I guess he didn’t. But I did have to think about it for a little bit.
There are some flaws, just like with any movie. Luckily the flaws are so simple I can put them into an unordered list:
- The CGI is a bit awkward in some scenes. The bulk of the special effects are unnoticeable and practical effects are rampant. So having a couple noticeable shots isn’t going to ruin a movie for me.
- The pacing made me nervous. I was concerned at the beginning of Rogue One. The movie jumps around to different planets introducing us to all the key players. It felt a bit frantic and I feared the film wouldn’t hold together. But fear not! The frayed threads wind themselves into a tight rope and deliver an incredible finale.
- There were maybe one too many callbacks. I get it. We all like Star Wars. We all know the lines. Rogue One got a little too cheeky with it’s use homage. It was good enough to stand on its own and clear its own path.
And… I’m done. I don’t know what I else to complain about. I mean, how can I complain when there’s a scene in which a man shoots an AT-AT in the ‘head’ with a rocket launcher?!
It’s become far too easy to make fun of George Lucas after he made the prequels. Rogue One won’t make it any easier for poor George. We now know that we can have great Star Wars prequels. We know that the films can coexist with the originals on every level.
But give credit where credit is due. George Lucas is a genius who built a world that has brought happiness to millions of men, women and children.
Rogue One is a child who grew up loving the original Star Wars trilogy. And when Lucas made it clear that he was ready to go explore different things, Rogue One was there to pick up the slack. Rogue One loves Star Wars. It doesn’t try to rebuild the world George Lucas created, it lives and breathes inside of it.