Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Movie Review

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Before we begin, lets consider what the general public might be aware of so far:  As of the beginning of Winter this year, this is hailed on IMDB as the 176th greatest film ever made (apparently better than Gone Girl, Stand By Me, Rocky and The Terminator). On Rotten Tomatoes, the only rotten review was from someone who accused it of using nostalgia as a weapon.  Die-Hard Star Wars fan and movie director Kevin Smith calls it the most fun movie he has seen in 2016.  And lastly, Facebook is loaded with comments that put this film on a high platform as something that did no wrong, and even acknowledging that its flaws don’t matter (Oh you better believe that’s a paddlin’!).  This information will change in time.  But now for the most important question in the world…what did I, a Browncoat and Movie Fan (notice I didn’t say Star Wars fan) think of this movie?  Well…

What’s our story?  It’s set in between Star Wars: Episodes 3 and 4 and revolves around a young woman named Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones).  Jyn is in an interesting predicament, as she is the daughter of Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), the head engineer of a new weapon being designed by the Empire that has been dubbed “The Death Star”.  While being transported as a prisoner, she is rescued by the Rebel Alliance, who want her to go talk to a Clone Wars Veteran and former acquaintance named Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) – Saw reveals to Jyn a hologram her father sent him, saying that her Father had hidden a weakness within The Death Star that would destroy it completely.  After this, it’s up to Jyn, along with her new allies, Cassian Andor the intelligence officer (Diego Luna), Chirrut Îmwe (A blind warrior monk-figure played by Hong Kong Cinema Legend Donnie Yen), K2SO (A memory-wiped Imperial robot serving the Rebels, voiced by Alan “Wash From Firefly” Tudyk), Bodhi Rook (former Imperial Pilot played by actor and musician Riz Ahmed) and Baze Malbus (Rebel Warrior, heavy gunner, and friend of Chirrut, played by Jiang Wen) to retrieve the information and bring it to the Rebel Alliance.

Now to take the machine apart and discuss which pieces were from a Honda and which were part of a G-Wiz:

The Acting for the most part was good, and 1 thing you might notice is how international the cast was (only 2 out of 9 original characters are American, and the white 1 voices a black robot).  Among the cast you have some legends from throughout the acting (and nerdy) world, including Forest Whitaker, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen and Mads Mikkelsen (in his second major franchise movie this year, the other being Marvel’s Doctor Strange), mixed with actors who have had several indy films and 1 or 2 major films to their name and this is the next step up in their careers.  I had no problem with the veterans, in fact, I welcomed them.  The up and comers however were a mixed bag, with Felicity Jones as Jyn being the most confusing – I’m aware that this is a character who has “Seen things, Man”, but out of the all the actors in the film, she is the 1 whose performance screams “I’m acting!” – I’m aware that she has already made 3 other films this year besides this 1, and fair play, she got the role.  But when compared to Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker…there’s no comparison.  Also, Diego Luna as Cassian Andor is okay, but lacks…something…like, charisma…I’ll discuss Andor soon, but in terms of casting, I would have chosen Pedro Pascal for the role (Oberyn Martell in Game Of Thrones), because if you wanted someone who could play a Hans Solo role with a hint of South America, he would have been perfect.

The Characters in Rogue One are by far the weakest element of the film, and have about as much development as most of the dwarves in the Hobbit…not just the movies, but in general.  Reason?  Well compare them to the characters you love in Star Wars, particularly the original trilogy.  Jyn Erso is practically the female Jake Sully (main character in James Cameron’s Avatar, the most detestably boring hero I have ever experienced in Big-Budget-Action cinema), Cassian Andor is a much less funny Hans Solo, Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic (The Architect of The Death Star) provides no real feeling of threat on screen, and most other characters are just…bland, with the exception of 3; Donnie Yen as Chirrut, who created a unique and memorable character, Mads Mikkelsen as Gale Erso who created an evidently complicated but loving father figure.  And of course the 1 character who stole the show and stole it absolutely – Alan Tudyk as K-2SO.  He’s absolutely fabulous in this!  Easily the best and funniest character in the whole movie.  Good show!  The cameos in this are also great, and I’ll get to that soon.

The Story is unique for Star Wars.  The character goals are different with different agendas, and the decisions were rather surprising, all while maintaining the Bad News Bears element that is the Rebel Alliance taking on the Empire.  At the same time, the film chooses to be quite grey area, and even showing off a flawed and darker side to the Rebel Alliance.  I keep in mind that this story is set during a time when Jedi Knights became legends rather than a reality, and therefore it’s less about “The Light vs The Dark” and is simply a civil war, because all people have are a desire to Lord or a hope for freedom.

The Music is a combination of John Williams’ original score mixed with some new pieces by Michael Giacchino (Who this year has done the scores of a Star Trek movie, a Marvel movie, a Disney animated movie and a Star Wars movie – I don’t think that has ever happened before.)  The music itself is of great quality, but I do think it has blended into the background, as John Williams’ trademark score has overwhelmed its presence.  Williams’ score is a masterpiece, and to say the least, Giacchino has created a similar set that doesn’t sound alien to the franchise (see what I did there?).

Outside of K-2SO, the real star of the show is this film’s CGI and Special Effects.  In particular, this film’s ability to turn back the clock and even resurrect dead actors and place them back in their respective roles in the series!  My jaw literally dropped at some of these cameos, which are a truly pleasant surprise.  Excellent problem solving, excellent action scenes and explosions, and other fun and creative ways in which destruction can be presented within family viewing.  It’s proof that Star Wars is basically a slasher flick series if you’re rooting for the Stormtroopers.

The Cinematography by Greig Fraser is awesome.  It provides a wonderful display of the worlds within the Lucasverse, while maintaining strong visual storytelling that expands without dialogue, which it a very impressive skill.

The Art Style is pure Star Wars, which in itself was already really good and highly inspired. It manages to capture the visual essence of the franchise, so I can only say good things about it.

Would I recommend Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?…Sure.  If you’re a Star Wars fan, you probably already love this movie and have seen it 3 more times today, and I’m not going to take that away from you.  What it does well, it does amazingly, and where it should have done well, it’s disappointing.  I don’t believe the hype, and this is definitely not in league with A New Hope or The Empire Strikes Back (2 films I can say as a non-star wars fan are phenomenal), but what it does show us is the capability that CGI can now bring.  We can now bring back our favourite actors, not just the characters with different actors.  It’s a very exciting time as a movie fan, and the action scenes were very good fun in this film.  I prefer Episode 7, but this is still a good movie.

Acting:***1/2

Characters: ** (but ****1/2 for K-2SO and the cameos)

Story: ***1/2

Music: ****1/2

CGI/Special Effects: ***** (I would give it a 6 if I could!)

Cinematography: *****

Art Style: *****

Overall: ****

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