You’ll likely be dead by the end. They say it A LOT. If I were to have one major complaint about the movie, it would be the ceaseless attempts at reminding the audience what comes next, or, I suppose, where this movie lies in the chronology of the series. A minor detail, yes, but subtlety is a quality I revere in a good script. Especially in a franchise so ripe for self reference as Star Wars.
As a preface to my actual thoughts on the film, I don’t plan to explore the lore of the Star Wars series as a whole, because I’m really not qualified to do so. However, I will spend time comparing Rogue One with Episode VII, as the two latest installments in the Star Wars franchise. Also, for those who haven’t seen the movie yet, while you’ve had plenty of time, I will still try to keep this spoiler free.
Rogue One starts off giving the audience something they were never so fortunate to get with EP7: background. We are given a close look at the characters prior to the major events of the movie. Granted, this is because of Rogue One’s position as a completely standalone film, whereas EP7 is, in itself, a very extensive setup to a new trilogy. Reason aside, Rogue One sets a pleasantly heavy atmosphere from the very beginning, which carries well through the length of the film.
As mentioned before, Rogue One does a quality job of setting up the characters, but without wasting too much screen time, which is better put to use progressing the story and improving the action. The characters, at times, do feel a little tropey, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. You do have characters that match to certain roles, but the character interactions do not feel canned. The only injustice is that certain characters are not allowed as much screentime or dialogue, making their roles seem shallow and nearly expendable. On the topic of characters, there are supporting roles from the original trilogy who it would have been illogical to exclude from the series of events in Rogue One, but whose participation in production would have proven rather difficult for various reasons. In these cases, their portrayals have been digitally recreated in a way that is as impressive as it is unsettling. In short, dead men can act.
The environment of the film is probably where it truly shines. A lot of thought was clearly put into creating fully realized settings that are so immersive, they tell their own story. Hardly any introduction is needed when the characters arrive at a new location. On top of the settings themselves, practical effects provide realism and depth to the sets without the need for gratuitous CGI. There were a few instances where the practical effects were a little too obvious. Maybe it was just supposed to be a band new star destroyer, but it sure looked a lot like a giant model.
One of the greatest details that ran throughout the film was the way they revived the seventies era futuristic feel from the original trilogy. The “prequels” had technology that appeared far more advanced than what was present in the original trilogy, based on their more compact and sleek designs. One could argue that the rebels don’t have access up-to-date weaponry as the empire, but the differences are pretty glaring. Rogue One used as much as it could in production to leave no uncertainty that this movie takes place at essentially the same point in time as the prequels, occurring only DAYS before A New Hope.
Rogue One probably has some of the best action sequences of any Star Wars film. They aren’t your typical muddled, poorly choreographed mess of quick movements and explosions like many action films these days. The film manages its time well enough that the action scenes are allowed to be more paced. They are not drawn out, by any means, but they bleed into the story themselves. In other Star Wars films, we know the prior framework of the battle scenes before they occur. We know the plan, and the setup for a fight, and we know roughly how it’s going to play out. This or that will go wrong, and someone (usually R2 and 3PO) will have to improvise to find the solution. In Rogue One, battles are not just interludes to the plot. The ARE the plot. And they play out fantastically. They are easy to follow, and nothing is recycled from old films. They are far from the formulaic action of the other films.
If I could think of one other significant shortcoming of the film, it would be that there are some plot points in the film that are set up, but never fully realized. A sort of false foreshadowing with certain elements of the story. Unfortunately, I cannot delve too deep into this matter without giving up certain plot points, so I’ll just say that I was left with some questions.
Overall, the movie was great. Definitely worth the watch. Not just a strong installment into the series, but also as a standalone film. I’m very curious what it would be like for this to be someone’s first Star Wars film. Not that I’d condone such a thing, ultimately. I just would like to know if the movie holds up as well as I think it would as a standalone film.
What are your thoughts? Have you seen the movie, or are you skipping it? Do you think it’s earned it’s place nestled up against the original trilogy, or would you rather pretend is this just another prequel disaster? Share your thoughts in the comments below.