Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Rogue One, A Star Wars Story: If Rebels is 3.5, then would this be 3.8?

Oh know, we're going Kingdom Hearts levels of procrastination, even though Episode 4's been a thing for 40 years! This is going to be a pain once Forces of Destiny comes out. And yes I have seen the new Last Jedi trailer, I was never going to beat the Star Wars fans on youtube that have independently analyzed every piece of that trailer.

If Disney wanted to make Star Wars a yearly release schedule, then episode 7-9 alone wasn't going to cut it. They planned to make solo films based on other points in the Star Wars mythos and that plan relied on the success of today's subject, which from here on out I'll be referring to as just Rogue One. Encase you couldn't tell by the next movie after Last Jedi being a movie based on Han Solo, it worked. So now I get to have a solo Solo joke for 2019, hooray!

So, what's the plot of Rogue One. Well, remember at the end of Clone Wars... I mean Attack of the Clones (my head cannon is that Episode 2 is the Clone Wars animated movie and tv show, don't judge me) they teased the plans of the Death Star being ready, and then in Revenge of the Sith, we see the Death Star being built? Also remember how in A New Hope, the whole first part of the movie was dedicated to getting the plans of the Death Star to the Rebel Alliance on Yavin 4? Well, Rogue One happens right before the events of A New Hope, in between it and the TV show Star Wars Rebels, which in itself follows on from Episode 3. I'm not the one to ask for a full timeline of the current cannon, and you don't really need to know more for right now, just remember that the order of events for here is Episode 3, Rebels, Rogue One, Episode 4.

Moving on, Jyn Erso, who is to Rey from Force Awakens that Anakin is to Luke, in that they share a similar personality and origin story, with the only difference being the time the films are set in leading to minor differences, is the daughter of Galen Erso, the (in cannon, not legends) designer of the Death Star and its weapon that can destroy planets when fully charged. However, thanks to a message given to a defecting Imperial Pilot, the rebels are made aware of the plans of the Death Star and that the battle station has a weakness in it, so it is up to a rag tag group of rebels calling themselves Rogue One (because title drop), to get the plans to the alliance. It's a movie set before Episode 4 about the Death Star from the rebels perspective, what did you think the plot was going to be? For what it sets out to do in terms of story, it does do it well. Unlike Force Awakens, you can't say that its banking on nostalgia so hard it feels like you're watching a remaster of an old movie. There are at least some risks in this story narrative wise. Some of those risks work, others... not so much.

Let's start with the cast that is actually there (I'll explain later). While I'm not a fan of the two leads, I find them to be pretty dull, granted they are far better at being interesting then some other characters I've seen. They come off as being led by bad direction because some moments where you think they'd sound angrier, often lead to them sounding mildly annoyed. By comparison, I really like the rest of the main cast. Director Krennic works well as a main villain, Chirrut Îmwe (yes I copy/ pasted that, I don't even know how to say it) and Baze Malbus work really well off each other and he who I cannot pronounce has some great lines in the movie, but not as many as the droid of the movie, K-2SO. Imagine a droid that had the functionality of R2-D2, the body of an Imperial, more articulate C-3PO, and was a bit of a smart ass that can talk in a way that we don't have a Pokemon syndrome and we need it translated by another character. There is one other character though that I'll talk about later. One big problem the cast has though is that they are basically cannon fodder. They're not very well developed, and most may never get the development to flesh them out (unless Forces of Destiny gives them that chance). Overall I think they do an ok job, based on the expectations I had for them when I went to see the movie the first time. You'd be hard pressed to convince me they're as bad as some of the paper thin cast I've seen writing for this site.

Visually, to me the movie comes off as good a intention, good execution idea, but it was a bad idea. Because of its placement, it tries to replicate the technology of the original trilogy, which looked fine in the original trilogy, but doesn't look so good now, especially when recorded on modern cameras. While I could live with it back then as being a thing brought from the time it was filmed in, Rogue One makes me ask myself "why does something like the Empire have awful monitors on its technological marvel of a space station?" Like I said, I know what they were going for, and the execution of it was very nice, its just the original idea that I question and is probably born from the fact that its right before Episode 4 in the timeline. The movie itself also employs CGI to replicate Grand Moth Tarkin and Princess Leia so that they look as they did during Episode 4. And... its ok. Its obvious that they aren't actually there, and the technology isn't going to improve if we don't use it. Do they look accurate? Kinda, as close as they can get right now, there's still room to go to get out of the uncanny valley of it. You have to look hard for these two to notice the flaws, at least I had to when seeing the film.

When the movie is allowed to do its own effects though, it's amazing. On top of seeing the destruction of a whole city and surrounding area by the Death Star first hand, which alone is really well done.  The final battle is really well done as its a mix of on foot, air, and space combat, with lots of different ships, the Death Star actually being used in the battle, and the one thing that no version of the original trilogy has done, but I'll get back to that. Let me set the stage first. The Rebels have infiltrated an Imperial archiving station, the place the plans are being held. While Jyn and Cassian (the male lead of the movie) are in the vault trying to get the plans, and K-2SO is guarding the door, taking hit after hit from Storm Troopers and sniping them with a pistol and the defected pilot known as Bohdi Rook trying to get in contact with the Rebel flagships to transmit the plans. Rebel soldiers on the ground fighting different class Storm troopers and a variant of AT-AT called AT-ACT (according to their toys) with the aid of rebel pilots that made it through a planetary shield, with those that didn't fighting Tie Fighters and Star Destroyers, closing out with the Death Star destroying the building from space, and in a last minute attempt to control the plans, you finally, FINALLY see Darth Vader showing why he's someone you should be terrified of in a live action movie. People, you have to admit it, Vader in the original movies didn't do too much, his direct death count was one person we knew, and some pilots we didn't care about that he shot down. Here, we finally see his power as he slaughters Rebel soldiers as one tries desperately to get the plans onto the ship before the ship launches and he dies. Its one of my personal favorite things about the movie. Some people don't like that Vader only has a cameo role in the film, but I can see why they held him back, both to make that moment stronger, and to let the actual bad guy of the movie have his moment.

Does the movie play the nostalgia card hard? Yes. Was it needed? Yes and no, but some of the nostalgia pandering it does in the movie does weaken it, biggest example being 3PO and R2. But as a first example of what solo Star Wars movies could be, I think it works overall. Could be better, could be worse. Next review is Moana, but I do want to do another editorial based on Rogue One. Not on the movie itself, but based on characters I'd like to see get their own movies.

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