ReviewAway: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I need to preface this review by stating that I was not enthralled by The Force Awakens. Where many saw a fun and familiar jaunt through well known surroundings, I found only a cliche-redden rehash of a classic. Whilst I don’t believe it’s a bad film, to me it was not a good film. I state this because my viewing and subsequent analysis of The Force Awakens has definitely colored my opinion of Rogue One: a Star Wars Story, and to reiterate that, at the end of the day, these are my opinions predicated on my own personal taste. Now that we have that out of the way, I’ll tell you what I really think.
Rogue One: a Star Wars Story is by far the worst film of the year.
About now you’re probably saying “But Joseph, surely you jest, you must have watched 31 (2016) again by mistake.” I can assure I did not, as I saw Rogue One with eight other people, who, by the time the theater lights slowly came back to life, were all of the opinion that the two hours mess that we had just sat through was an unmitigated mess. It was far and away more terrible than even Rob Zombie’s most uninspired output. It even puts Suicide Squad (2016) to shame with it’s awfulness, which is fitting because it’s full of many of the same elements as Suicide Squad; the terrible pacing, the horrific editing, the lackluster story, the disconnected villain, the mediocre digital effects, the poor attempts at comedy, they’re all accounted for.
Rogue One is another prime example of a film not made by a filmmaker. I know that Gareth Edwards’ (Godzilla, Monsters) name comes up in the credits as director, but in reality it’s clear that every piece of this film was put together by executives. Every bad joke, every pointless cameo, every boring heroic speech, all of it reeks of a studio that spent months poring over market research and focus groups trying to make the most appealing film possible. The result however, is a muddled, pointless mess, which doesn’t really do or say anything worth paying attention to. Most of the film’s problems stem from the script, which is nothing more than pages of cliches tied together with some explosions and Kung Fu. Not one character in this film speaks, at least not in any way that resembles normal human communication. Instead every scene consist of two characters unloading either pure expository nonsense or or attempting to make some kind of magical speech about hope or love to motivate their forlorn companions. Even when two characters are talking, it just feels like they’re competing for who can say the most whilst meaning the least.
As a result of the sad excuse for a script the acting suffers heavily, though it’s not particularly the casts fault. Forest Whitaker tries his best to breathe life into a cyborg Rebel leader with some connections to the lead, but the film doesn’t give him any time, so his efforts are mostly for naught, and his character is quickly discarded to make room for more visual effects. Donnie Yen manages to circumvent this and you can tell he’s putting a lot of effort into making his character stand out, which for the most part works and makes him the focal point for most scenes that he’s in. Unfortunately his character is given nothing more than the “Blind Swordsman” archetype to work with so he’s relegated to mostly spouting mystical bullshit and doing a lot of spins and kicks. Felicity Jones as the lead is painfully forgettable, and I’m not sure if here impetuous eight year old girl performance was her idea or the studio’s, but either way she basically comes off as Rey from The Force Awakens with even less personality.
Rogue One is also chock full of the same dull explosion fare that populates the cinema now, and even though you can tell that it’s trying to make a point about the impact of war on the lives of the Star Wars universe’s ordinary folk, it’s made moot by an overabundance of invincible leads and waves of nameless Stormtroopers and Rebels who’s only purpose is provide some background and to show off the visual effects. Now, the visual effects for the most part are pretty good. The X-Wings and blaster bolts look great for the most part, but the film heavily features a CGI rendition of actor Peter Cushing taking over from the real Peter Cushing in his role as Grand Moff Tarkin, as Cushing unfortunately died in 1994. When I say heavily features, I mean the CGI Tarkin has more screen time than some members of the supporting cast, and in a huge oversight, Disney must have forgotten to put “Must sound like Peter Cushing” in their Peter Cushing Impersonator” casting call. I honestly think it’s appalling that Disney would choose to digitally replicate a deceased actor for one of their movies, but I can’t deny that it’s an apt parallel for the film itself.
The rest of it is basically a series of dull, uninteresting, and pastiche filled segments that are so reminiscent of the earlier films at one point they actually re-use footage from A New Hope (1977) for some cameo appearance, which by that point the film is already full of. Surprisingly the plot itself isn’t identical to any earlier film, but that doesn’t make it good. It has too many lose ends and inconsequential parts to maintain any sense of cohesion, and the third act is so protracted and hackneyed that you can basically call out what will happen a good ten minutes ahead of the film, and the worst part is it’s premise makes the entire film meaningless. It’s odd that whilst people are so obsessed with spoilers, they seem fine with a movie that has an outcome that’s already been determined.
Overall, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is an absolute mess of a film that’s so deeply trying to pander to people’s fondness for Star Wars that it completely misses what made Star Wars immortal. It’s nothing but pastiche comprised of poor writing, an overabundance of quick cut action, some awful attempts at humor, cardboard cutout characters, and worst of all the same lazy fast-food approach to film making as so many other highly anticipated disappointments.