Martens' Movie Reviews

Movie Reviews from an avid movie-goer

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

Release Date: December 16, 2016
Running Time: 2 hours 13 minutes

“In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.”

The first of the three movies that Lucasfilm and Disney have planned as ‘fillers’ between Episode III and IV, with the other two being the Solo film that is going to be released in May 2018, and the Obi-Wan Kenobi film that will be going into production in January 2019, that was very recently announced.

A Star Wars Story is the subtitle that they have decided to go with, and I think that I like the idea of separating Episodic films with anthology films, as it gives us a Star Wars movie every year as well as time between the episodes to hopefully do them justice. This movie explores the ragtag group of rebels that managed to steal the plans to the Death Star that the Rebels acquired prior to the original film in which they used those plans to blow it up. It’s something that I don’t think was really needed, but was an interesting first anthology movie for the studio, and I was looking forward to it.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Trailer – Source: Lucasfilm Ltd.


Cast and Crew

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was directed by Gareth Edwards, whose previous work includes mostly television movies and a short film before breaking out with ‘Monsters’ in 2010, followed by ‘Godzilla’ in 2014.

The movie’s story was written by Gary Whitta & John Knoll, while the screenplay was written by Tony Gilroy & Chris Weitz. This movie is the only writing credit that Knoll has on his resume so far, while Whitta has worked on ‘The Book of Eli’ in 2010 and ‘After Earth’ in 2013, he has since been announced as one of the writers for ‘Sherlock Holmes 3’. Weitz has previously written films such as ‘Antz’ in 1998, ‘About a Boy’ in 2002, ‘The Golden Compass in 2007’ and ‘Cinderella’ in 2015, he’s also since worked on ‘The Mountain Between Us’ that came recently in 2017. Gilroy’s work as writer includes ‘The Cutting Edge’ in 1992,’The Devil’s Advocate’ in 1997, ‘Armageddon’ in 1998, and the first 4 ‘Bourne’ movies from 2002 – 2012.

Rogue One

Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso – Source: Lucasfilm

The cast for Rogue One includes Felicity JonesDiego LunaAlan TudykDonnie YenWen JiangBen MendelsohnGuy HenryForest WhitakerRiz AhmedMads MikkelsenJimmy SmitsAlistair PetrieGenevieve O’ReillyPaul KaseyStephen StantonIan McElhinneyJames Earl JonesValene KaneBeau GadsdonDolly GadsdonTim Beckmann and Anthony Daniels.


Review

Felicity Jones is a great actress, who has done amazing work in other films. The fact that they went after talent showed that they wanted a great and strong actress to play the lead in this film – Jyn Erso. The unfortunate part is that they didn’t do a good job at creating a character that the general audience can relate to, and root for. I didn’t feel any connection to the character, other than I knew that her character was one of the reasons as to how the Rebels would eventually get the plans to the Death Star. How they wrote the character, while a strong and great female character, was not particularly well done in terms of making her anything more than that.

The Star Wars franchise has always done a good job at writing female characters that stood out, and was leading the way in their films. I applaud them for that even though it feels stupid for them to do so for creating authentic characters. The fact the ‘main character in their new trilogy (VII – IX) is female is not something that is a big deal to me, as long as the character is written properly and is a good character first and foremost and not just a ‘good female character’. Jyn Erso, to me, felt like her only characteristics and reason for rooting for her other than to further the plot along was the fact that she was a female character.

Rogue One

Diego Luna as Cassian, Felicity Jones as Jyn and Alan Tudyk as K-2SO – Source: Lucasfilm

Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna, was a very brutal and war-hardened intelligence office of the Rebels. I feel like it was a heroic character that was the darkest in terms of actual execution, since Han shot first in Episode IV. His ability and coldness in getting the job done, and then to be able to learn to trust in someone for the ‘greater good’ was something that I found was a good little character arc for the actor to play. I enjoyed seeing that he wasn’t as cold as he seemed when we first meet him. His relationship with K-2SO was really well done, and I also enjoyed that part.

The 2nd best part from this movie is the amazingly hilarious and sarcastic K-2SO voiced and motion captured by Alan Tudyk. The character was extremely entertaining and I could listen and watch this character narrate and comment on anything for hours, and I would still be entertained. His death was the only one other than Chirrut that I truly cared about, and I was actually sad to see him die, but that he did so in such an honourable and heroic way.

Rogue One

Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe – Source: Lucasfilm

I really enjoyed the performance of Donni Yed who portrayed Chirrut Îmwe in this film. I thought the character filled the ‘Force sensitive’ role of the film, and was also a very funny character to have in the movie, and I was most saddened by his death in the movie than any other character other than K-2SO.

Baze Malbus, who was played by Wen Jiang, was Chirrut’s bodyguard of sorts, and a former protector of the temple alongside his friend, but lost faith in it all after the Empire destroyed it. I feel like his lost of faith, and feeling of helplessness in the grand scheme of things is a little tragic, but overall, I didn’t care too much about the character, which is something that this movie failed the most at in doing, was make you feel anything for the characters. For me to associate myself and feel the most sad for the ‘death’ of a robot over any of the ‘human’ characters is something that should not usually happen.

Rogue One

Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus and Chirrut – Source: Lucasfilm

Ben Mendelsohn played Orson Krennic in the film and while I enjoyed seeing him lose over and over again, the fact that the Death Star was ‘his baby’ is something that was really surprising in the sense that he seemed like an idiot for the most part. I feel like the character could have been completely removed from the movie and be replaced by Tarkin, and it would have been more cohesive and felt more generic with what we know about the Empire and that character. Mendelsohn did not do a bad job in his role, just that I feel the character wasn’t needed.

The character of Tarkin in this movie was all visually computer generated, but was voiced by Guy Henry. While the CGI was obvious, I feel like they did the character justice. I enjoyed that he was a backstabbing character who took credit for what Krennic did, even though it made him even more of a dick, I still feel like he’s such a fantastic character that I enjoy every scene that we get of Tarkin. I also had the pleasure of reading the book about the character, and that gave me a huge insight into the character, his knowledge and motivation. If you’re a fan of the Star Wars franchise and want to know more about the character, I would highly recommend the book.

Rogue One

Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook – Source: Lucasfilm

I first saw the character of Saw Guerrera in the Clone Wars animated television show, and I was really happy to see a character transition from the animation to the live action, and Forest Whitaker did a good job at capturing the overzealous and now paranoid characterizations of the character. As someone who watched the television show, I feel like I got more out of the character than the general public, but I still feel like he was a small part of a much larger picture, and I appreciated that they utilized that character in this role.

Galen Erso was played by Mads Mikkelsen and was the architect who designed the flaw in the Empire’s super weapon, and a father to the main character. There was no real development for the character, and the only time that I wished the movie would move forward was when he was going on and on about his daughter during the hologram, instead of just reporting the design flaw that he had included. It felt like it was trying to get empathy and feelings for his character, and the movie failed in that regard.

Rogue One

Forest Whitaker as Saw Guerrera – Source: Lucasfilm

Bohdi Rook who was played by Riz Ahmed, has a very tragic story in this film, as does almost everyone else, but the fact that he defected because he knew what the Empire was doing was wrong, and didn’t want to be a part of it anymore, and was entrusted with a message by Galen Erso so that the Rebels would know about the hole in the Death Star, only to be tortured by Guerrera. He would later help the crew in bypassing security of the Empire, as well as sacrificing himself for his new crew mates because he believed in the Rebel cause, and wanted to see the Empire fall. There’s a lot of heroes in this movie that will all be underrated, but played a big part in the start of the downfall of the Empire.

While I’ll talk more about the final scene involving Darth Vader later on in the review, I have to say that I was extremely pleased in how they used him in this movie. I really enjoyed the little ‘dad joke’ that he pulled on Krennic with “choking on his aspirations” after Force choking him. I feel like it was a nice touch that even though he isn’t aware that he’s a father, that he’s still making that type of joke. It also shows that there’s still a piece of Anakin in that suit, as he was very witty in the animations and even a bit in the prequel trilogy.

Rogue One

Darth Vader and Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic – Source: Lucasfilm

The music in Rogue One is something very special for the Star Wars franchise as it’s the first time that any of the movies in the franchise was not scored by John Williams, it was scored by composer Michael Giacchino, who I believe did a really great job for this movie. The music felt distinctly like Star Wars, while being different enough to show that it was a different setting, more war like, as I mention more about below. The fact that the music was so well done in this film gives me hope that music in Star Wars will live on after John Williams is no longer able to continue (hopefully we are years away from that being the case)

The cinematography was done by director of photography Greig Fraser, who really did a good job at capturing the movie in a way that made it feel the most like a war film than any of the other Star Wars films to date. I feel like there was a brutality to this film that I didn’t expect, and didn’t know that I wanted in this franchise until I saw this film. I have to applaud everyone who was involved in that decision as well as Fraser who was able to capture it all so magnificently.

Rogue One

The Rebels looking at the Death Star – Source: Lucasfilm

The test blast of Jedha City by the Death Star was something so catastrophic that I didn’t think they would actually go through with it, and actually show the absolute destruction that it can impose, other than just seeing the planet explode in Episode IV. It also foreshadows the terrible ending in this film.

Rogue One also fixes a small plot hole as to why there was a ventilation shaft opening, making it that it was intentionally put there by Galen Erso, who had defected in spirit from the Empire, but remained with them so that he could plant this loophole in their defenses. While I enjoyed that hole being filled, I think that the circumstances in which nobody would have discovered it to be a little lacklustre. Yes, Krennic learns about it as well, but dies before being able to notify anyone about it.

Rogue One

Cassian – Source: Lucasfilm

The fact that Darth Vader has his own castle is something that is not a new idea in the stories that are now considered Legends (pre Disney purchase of expanded universe stories), and I really enjoyed that they incorporated it into this movie, and I could easily see this come back in the episodic films at one point, even as early as The Last Jedi. I loved that it was situated on Mustafar, the place that was a place of extraordinary loss for the character of Anakin Skywalker, and a constant reminder of how he ‘failed’. He lost his wife on that planet, and was defeated by his old mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode III, as well as losing the remainder of his natural limbs. I loved that we got to see that planet again, and a small look at Vader’s day to day life whenever he’s not an errand boy for the Emperor.

Rogue One

Stormtroopers on the beach fighting Rebels – Source: Lucasfilm

The Rebels in this movie are absolutely brutal, and shows a much darker side than we’ve seen in the Star Wars films. In terms of darkness, it’s right up there with Revenge of the Sith and The Empire Strikes Back, however, I feel like the heroes were the brutal ones in this film, rather than the villains in the other films mentioned. It’s something that you might not realize in war that there is brutality on both sides, and it’s the first time that we really see it coming from the good guys.

Rogue One did something that I was hoping that they would do, and that’s to kill everyone that was part of the Rogue One crew, because it needed that darkness going into A New Hope, and it delivered. I know that the movie originally had a few survivors, but I’m extremely happy that they decided to go with, what I think in my opinion to be the best and gutsiest ending to a Star Wars movie. Something that I didn’t think Disney would actually do, and release a film whose ending is so dark, with a tiny bit of hope at the end.

Rogue One

Jyn and Cassian – Source: Lucasfilm

The fact that there was no real love story in this film is something that I was really happy about because I feel like it would have been forced in a film such as this, and could have easily been inputted in order to make the ending even more tragic. While I feel that Jyn and Cassian might have had some sort of attraction towards one another, I don’t think this film or the setting was the right place for a romance, and I was again happy that it didn’t go that route.

Another part of the movie that I absolutely enjoyed was that almost all of the main characters were morally grey, there were no outright good or bad guys in the crew of Rogue One. The most ‘good’ character out of the crew was Chirrut Îmwe, and that’s because he was such a fierce believer in the Force, and I would have thought would have even been Force sensitive, and that if the Empire had not destroyed the Jedi Order, that he would have received some training in how to use it.

Rogue One

Jynn trying to rally the Rebels – Source: Lucasfilm

One of the final scenes in the movie was what I believe every single fanboy of this franchise has been dreaming and hoping about ever since we first saw Darth Vader in Episode IV: A New Hope, Vader absolutely destroying his enemies. This is the scene that while it was in theatres, was what made the movie 100% worth the ticket price, He obliterates everyone on board in such a brutal way that I was jumping up and down in my seat in excitement, even on my third and fourth viewing of the movie. The fact that this takes place almost right before the start of Episode IV, gives credence that even while he was older, he was extremely cautious in his duel with Obi-Wan in Episode IV after losing to him in Episode III approximately two decades earlier. It also shows that maybe he was taking it easy against Luke as he knew that he was his son, and wanted him to join him in taking down the Emperor.

While I understand why they showed the computer generated young Princess Leia receiving the plans of the Death Star, I feel like it wasn’t done properly and wasn’t necessarily something that was needed for this film, everyone was able to put two and two together about her getting the plans almost right before having to give them to R2-D2 to bring to Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Rogue One

Darth Vader seeing the Rebels get away – Source: Lucasfilm

Overall, I feel like I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I thought I would going into it, and while I originally gave this movie a 9.5/10 after the first viewing, I think that might have been a bit too generous in terms of score. The movie featured a lot of good moments, and showed the Rebels in a new light. I enjoyed the war like feel to the movie, and appreciated the ‘risk’ that was taken by Lucasfilm and Disney in going with a darker ending. The main problem in the movie for me, was the lack of caring for almost all of the characters that were introduced in this movie. It could because in the back of my mind I knew that their fates were to be killed, but the characters weren’t appealing to me overall. At the end of the day, I would rank this tied for number three in my overall ranking of the Star Wars movie, and some might disagree, but I stick by my score of 8.25/10.

What did you think of the first of the anthology films in the beloved franchise? After looking back on the film, do you have a different opinion than what you had when you first watched it? Do you agree with my score, if not what would you give it? Let me know in the comment section below, I would love to hear your opinions!

Thanks for reading,

Alex Martens

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