Film Review: Rogue One (2016)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Directed by: Gareth Edwards

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker

 

Thank God for the scene at Scarif.

Have you ever watched a film and there’s one plot point, one moment with no explanation during the film? Well, Rogue One answers A New Hope’s plot point of how did Leia come to possess the plans to destroy the Death Star. When building the Death Star, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), who was kidnapped by the Empire and forced to work on it, added one glaring weakness that the Empire wouldn’t be able to easily spot, and his long lost daughter, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), eventually leads a team of rebels to attack Scarif and retrieve the documents.

The entirety of the third act, consisting of the lengthy battle on Scarif, is fantastic. The storytelling for it, the tragedies of some characters, the visuals and the feel that it’s something massive all work beautifully together. However, the reason I’m so thankful it was that good, is because the preceding hour we aren’t really given enough for this film to be considered entertaining. Firstly, whether it’s Jyn or Cassian (Diego Luna) or Chirrut (Donnie Yen) or Baze (Jiang Wen), none of the heroes are given any real character development in order for us to be emotionally connected. It truly feels that in creating it they needed characters to fill one plot point without us wanting to see more of them (as they obviously weren’t in the original trilogy). And when we meet these characters, they aren’t presented, at least for Jyn and Cassian, as people we should be rooting for: Cassian shoots a man in the back and Jyn is being transported to a jail. It really doesn’t shout that we should care for these people, and throughout the film it doesn’t really give us any further reason to, which does let down the battle on Scarif somewhat, as I don’t care if these characters necessarily live or die.

And, speaking of Jyn, she is the biggest disappointment for me. We first meet her as a child, as her mother is killed in front of her and her father is taken away to work for the Empire, she manages to escape and is taken in by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker). Cue the title screen and Jyn is much older and is arrested and Saw Gerrera is nowhere to be seen. She gets one or two moments of characterisation throughout the film but this is a huge chunk of time with a huge moment beforehand that is ignored. And when we see her again, she can shoot, she’s clever, she can do all of these things needed in a rebel alliance but we don’t know how.

Chirrut and Baze’s friendship does come across on screen, though, despite them being given next to nothing throughout the film to explain why. Chirrut, a blind man who believes the Force is with him, and Baze, his gun-shooting best friend, arrive together and leave together and you can feel there’s a strong emotional connection between the pair, but why are they friends? What have they done in the past? I found myself caring about their friendship, but not about them as individuals.

But, all that is forgotten about every moment that K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) is on the screen, as, for once, a Star Wars film managed to get its comedy relief spot on. From the moment we’re introduced to him, I was laughing: he is sarcastic, he is blunt, he is annoying in a good way; he is everything I want as part of this film. And the likeness I had for him allowed me to care about him when he’s under attack, a quality not afforded to anyone else.

Despite the lack of investible characters to route for, the whole battle on Scarif saves this film and I left much, much happier than after about half an hour.  The score wasn’t as brilliant as previous Star Wars films (I know there were a lot of issues surrounding that) but they took away the wipes. Result. And it was nice seeing Darth Vader back again, however briefly (and however silly it looks going from his amazingly quick skills in this film to his slow fight against Obi-Wan in A New Hope), although I didn’t care much for his pun. I don’t want Vader to try and be funny; I want him as a serious villain. Certainly saved by the last act, this film is a beautifully shot, nicely acted and overall satisfying two hours, but there is a lot more they could have done to enhance the enjoyment.

 

Plot: * * *

Acting: * * *

Writing: * * *

Presentation: * * * *

Overall Rating: * * * ¼

 

Other films in the Star Wars series:

 

Five Positives:

  • Humorous.
  • Chirrut & Baze’s friendship.
  • Visually beautiful.
  • The whole battle on Scarif.
  • Deaths of main characters.

Five Negatives:

  • Some scenes were too crowded.
  • Vader’s pun.
  • Lack of emotional connection to the main characters.
  • Forest Whitaker’s over-acting and voice.
  • Jyn’s past is overlooked and largely ignored.

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