Tuesday, December 27, 2016

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS (What if) STORY!

Just like THE EWOK ADVENTURE and EWOKS: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR, ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is a stand alone film that takes place in the STAR WARS universe only without Ewoks.  The film is about Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) being recruited by the Rebellion to locate her father who was taken from her when she was a child to work on weaponizing the Death Star.  Eventually this quest leads her and some new allies on the path to steal the plans for the Death Star and get them to the Rebellion.  The story is serviced by a forgettable music score, some breath-taking visuals and horrible horrible fan service.  If you like STAR WARS for it's explosions, lazers and spaceships then ROGUE ONE is the greatest movie of them all.  If you like STAR WARS for its endearing timeless story and memorable characters then you will be disappointed.

When I first saw the trailer for ROGUE ONE I was immediately impressed by the character of Jyn Erso.  The trailer portrays her as a Snake Plissken type character.  My favorite line from the trailer is when she says "This is a rebellion, isn't it? I rebel."  That's a great line.  Unfortunately that line was cut out as well as any other possible scene or moment that would make her a strong or even memorable character.  Instead she comes across as a scared little girl forced into a situation she never would have put herself in.  Yeah, the film makes it a point to show her beat up a bunch of storm troopers but that doesn't make her a strong character.  She is just an action figure.  Jyn has no good moments.  She gives a couple of speeches that come across as out of step with her character.  Jyn is a non-character in her own story.  She has not earned the right to be the biggest character on the movie poster.  She never really seems to be a part of the Rebellion even though she has experienced personal loss at the hands of the Empire.  You would think she would have been in the Rebellion from day one.  I'm not even sure what she was doing before being rescued/captured by the Rebellion and setting her on the mission to find her father.

Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna is a spy for the Rebellion.  His character has a little more of an arch.  We see him having to kill one of his own as to not let him fall into the hands of the Empire.  He has had to do a lot of bad things for the sake of the Rebellion  Bad things not wrong things I will point out.  He can't escape the guilt that he has from doing those things.  That guilt actually interferes with his secret mission which is to kill Jyn's father.  When given the chance he cannot bring himself to pull the trigger.  Wanting to make up for the bad things he has done he joins Jyn on the mission to steal the Death Star plans.  You would think he would be an interesting character but he is also kind of forgettable.  He is rather bland.  Him and Jyn are the perfect couple.  They both fail to bring an emotional attachment to the film.  That is why so many people view the first hour or so as kind of boring while the action packed third act impresses.  If we cared about the characters then the beginning of ROGUE ONE would just as entertaining.

Is ROGUE ONE a war story?  Nope.  ROGUE ONE is no different than A NEW HOPE or RETURN OF THE JEDI.  Essentially ROGUE is an adventure film about a woman and a small crew who go to find her father but by the third act find themselves in a large scale battle with the Empire.  Its really no different or more grittier than A NEW HOPE or RETURN OF THE JEDI.  Heck, they even show the cutesy lovable Ewoks getting killed in JEDI.  I don't remember seeing any gory severed arms in ROGUE ONE either.


Darth Vader Force chokes Director Krennic for no reason except for fan service.  Director Krennic did nothing wrong except show his ambition to show off for the Emperor.  He didn't insult Vader for his sad devotion to an ancient religion nor made huge incompetent strategic errors that cost the Empire huge victories against the Rebellion.  This is an example of writing a character and not knowing who that character is but knowing the character actions in previous stories.  Vader has become the guy who Force chokes and uses a red light saber.  He even makes hand into a weird hook shape to let the audience know that he is using the Force to Force choke Krennic.  Its dumb as well as the line Vader says about not choking on your own ambitions.  It made no sense.  The dirty little secret for making ROGUE ONE is not to tell the story of those who sacrificed their lives to steal the plans to the Death Star.  No.  This movie was just an excuse to show Darth Vader (going against character) charging down a hallway like a Force sensitive Jason Vorhees slaughtering Rebel soldiers like they were made of paper.  The general audience just wants Vader killing people with the Dark Side of the Force and using his cool looking red light saber.  Don't be surprised if we get a stand alone Darth Vader film.  Hopefully the next time we see Vader he isn't voiced by James Earl Jones.  He just sounds too tired now.  The fire is gone.  Also hopefully we get a better body double that can match David Prowse's imposing presence.  We really owe David Prowse a debt of gratitude for bring Darth Vader to life in the physical sense.  Oh, yea and give Vader some better dialogue too.  In fact never make a movie with Vader in it.

The biggest problem of the film is its need to bridge the ROGUE ONE directly into A NEW HOPE.  The makers didn't pay attention to what was going on at the beginning of A NEW HOPE.  For them it was just two spaceships shooting lazers at each other followed by storm troopers boarding and shooting lazers at the escort soldiers.  On a side note why didn't Vader just storm in by himself and mow everyone down with his red rocket light saber?  Maybe he was just too tired from doing it five minutes ago because he is old and stuff.  It is the small details that paint a bigger picture to what is going on.  When Vader boards he chokes a soldier for information.  The soldier says that this is a counselors ship on a diplomatic mission.  Why would he say that if they had just escaped from Vader during a large scale attack against the Empire?  They know that Vader personally witnessed their ship escape.  Then when Princess Leia meets Vader she says that only he would be sold bold to attack a diplomatic ship and that the Imperial Senate will hear about this.  Why would she say that if she just escaped from a major battle against the Empire again right in front of Vader himself?  According to Princess Leia she is part of the Imperial Senate.  When she is going on these diplomatic missions for the Empire she is secretly working for the Rebellion.  Secretly means she isn't partaking in full blown military excursions.  Vader attacks the ship because he knows that the plans to the Death Star were beamed directly to that ship by rebel spies via several transmissions.  That tells me that the spies are still alive too by the way.  The only way Vader knows that Leia  is a spy is by those transmissions.  Capturing her is done in secret because it may generate sympathy for the rebellion.  This also shows that the Empire doesn't have full control of the universe  Only when the Death Star is complete do we have the Emperor disbanding the Imperial Senate.  On the surface level what happened in A NEW HOPE is that a diplomatic ship flying through the universe is attacked by an Imperial Star Destroyer.  In reality Princess Leia was using her diplomatic status to fly out and retrieve the plans via transmissions from Rebel spies as well as bringing back Obi-Wan Kenobi.  After retrieving the plans she races home only to be pursued and captured by Vader.  If ROGUE ONE is to be accepted everything that happens at the beginning of  A NEW HOPE makes no sense.  

I didn't hate the film however.  Despite things getting stupid at the very end I did like seeing Grand Moff Tarkin return via some impressive C.G.I.  The actor they imposed the C.G.I. on to bring Peter Cushing back to life also did the voice.  Even though it sounded slightly different it still felt genuinely like how the character would sound as oppose to Vader.  Another surprise seeing Red Leader and Gold Leader brought back via footage from A NEW HOPE.  I like seeing the cannon fodder from A NEW HOPE given more life.  I also loved how the beginning of the film looked like an Akira Kurosawa film with wide stretches of empty skyline with imposing figures decorating  the horizon of an open field.  I like that kind of nod to the franchises inspiration.

Ultimately it is the supporting cast that puts some actual emotion in the film.  Donnie Yen as Chirrut the blind Jedi wannabe and his best friend Baze Malbus played by Wen Jiang give some much need personality to the film.  Their brotherhood is the only relationship that comes across as genuine.  Alan Tudyk provides most of the comedy as the voice of K-2SO, a former Imperial droid that now serves as a badass C-3PO.  These three characters are the best thing about ROGUE ONE besides the grand and awe inspiring visuals.  You care for them and feel a sense of loss when they die.

I was hoping for something different but by the end we got another regular STAR WARS adventure film.  The only difference is that all the main characters die at the end.  The fan service ("I have a bad feeling about"..."No!") makes this film no better than films like TERMINATOR GENISYS.  An enjoyable film but not worthy of its original predecessors.  Yes it is the best prequel but that isn't saying much.  I would say about 80% of ROGUE ONE is terrific but that 20% of bad really hurts the film and the franchise as a whole.  The continuity is ruined again.  It is because of it failings to fit into the STAR WARS continuity without taking away from the originals is why ROGUE ONE is only a "What If" story and not true canon.

Jason

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