Well, better late than never. Below is my Rogue One: A Star Wars Story full review. In case you still need to see it, please note, this text is absolutely PACKED WITH SPOILERS!
When you walk out of the movie theatre after watching Rogue One, chances are you will be hyped up upon seeing an exciting action film. When the dust settles, you might look back on it and find quite a few things wrong, but whether or not it will ruin the film for you depends largely on what kind of a movie goer are you.
Star Wars franchise is such a grandiose movie project, it is under threat of collapsing in on itself. All of the franchise projects have very high financial goals set upon them which puts a heavy burden on those making the film. On one hand, you must appeal to very wide global population and on another you have this rich universe that offers incredible potential for great stories. So, how do you deal with it?
Rogue one went for a different tone to what we are used to from most of franchise films and definitely different from The Force Awakens. It is much more bleak and humourless than the Episode 7 and many will not like that. I personally loved it and would do away with even more funny shenanigans from the resident comedic break – K-2SO. Humour that was crowbarred into The Force Awakens was the worst part of that film in my book (along with a very safe reboot-like story). Rogue one doesn’t fear being dark and it doesn’t bother me one bit, even with a pretty boring colour palette for much of the film.
Director Gareth Edwards is no stranger to darkly coloured films having made a name for himself through Monsters and Godzilla (2014), and he is definitely not a stranger to well produced action scenes. Action scenes in Rogue One are very nicely done and the battle at the end of the movie is nothing short of spectacular. Other fights and battles are also good, but one things struck me while I was watching them: there is a really big Stormtrooper body count. Nothing too shocking surely, but if we think back on The Force Awakens and the fact character of Finn managed to put a very human face on the white armoured soldiers, the violence at times comes off as excessive. Still, as an action film, Rogue One definitely works.
The main problems of the film hit us when the guns are silent. There is something to be desired when it comes to character building in this film. Perhaps there was a conscious effort to not make the main characters too loveable seeing how (just to remind you… SPOILERS) they will all die at the end and that could make the kids cry, but it seems such a shame leaving the story and its main protagonists as flat as they were. The fact there are many moments from the trailer that are not featured in the film suggests there was some serious re-shooting done during the summer (we already reported on it) and this probably added to the inconsistencies in character development. Re-shoots can be a big problem when trying to put together a decent story, just remember what Suicide Squad looked like by the time it was released. In Rogue One there was many poorly executed characters and relations. Relationship between Jyn Erso and her father wasn’t well introduced, character of Saw Guerrera was barely in the film although it was played by arguably the best actor in Rogue One – Forest Whitaker, there is an attempt at a meaningful connection between the characters of Jyn and Cassian, but it falls flat, and so on… this is bound to make many serious critics will give the film lower grades than what Star Wars fans would like. Still, it is a real problem of the movie. Even some acting performances seemed under par, like Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic, Diego Luna as Cassian Ando (although his character seemed seriously underwritten) and surprisingly, Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso. Star Wars movies are a brand of their own and never rely on big acting names to boost their appeal with audiences, which is ok because they also give young or less known actors a chance to shine in a huge blockbuster, but it doesn’t always work. Imagine if the role of Orson Krennic was played for example by Christoph Waltz. He could’ve done wonders with the character.
Visual effects in the film are excellent and the whole thing looks amazing, which is what we have come to expect from Star Wars, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. One cgi effect on everyone’s lips is without a doubt the appearance of Grand Moff Tarkin – character featured in A New Hope, originally played by now deceased Peter Cushing. Famous British actor not only played the character well, but produced one of the most memorable Imperial bad guys in the series. So, Lucasfilm decided to do a cgi version of him in Rogue One. I dislike the idea of cgi bot instead of a real live actor, especially when trying to simulate a talented actor like Cushing, but I was still very curious about what the end product will look like. The fact is Grand Moff Tarkin looks very good when not talking, but for some reason there are quite a few close ups of this cgi person talking to the camera and it just looks a bit… well fake. With some creative camera work, this could’ve been done much better. However, the really story here is not how well this character was executed, but whether this marks a new trend in movie making where the studios will be able to revive actors from other eras or even one day save money if cgi people become cheaper to make than real actors. I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem like a very good development in the world of film.
Last thing on my list to talk about is fan service. There is much of it in Rogue One, but thankfully not as much as in The Force Awakens. Some of it I like (being a Star Wars fan), some I dislike and find borderline offensive – like R2-D2 and C-3PO scene. Even Darth Vader seems like an unnecessary addition to the film. Vader sells tickets and we are all aware of it, but his fight scene felt out of place and so does the scene in his headquarters which for some reason seems to be in Mordor. Some new Stormtrooper units and vehicles are seen in the film and as much as I’m aware they are there to sell toys, I still like seeing them. Sue me.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a good movie. Tone is very interesting, action scenes are some of the best in the franchise, there are were some very cool characters in the story. If I could change something it would be character development which needed to be better, and perhaps toned down on fan service a bit. When it comes to my recommendations… I would like to remind you of the thing from the beginning of this review – it all depends what kind of a movie goer you are. Star Wars fanboy in me was very excited to see this film, but the serious movie buff portion of my personality resented some parts of it. It’s all about expectations. If you are looking for a good action movie with not much substance to the story, you will most likely enjoy Rogue One. If you have been living under a rock since Empire Strikes Back and are expecting a serious human struggle drama, I suggest you remind yourself which company owns Lucasfilm since recently.
I give it 7/10
PS – too bad we will not get to see more of Felicity Jones