This is less relevant than Last Jedi, but I had the opportunity of rewatching it recently so why not. It’s still the only SW film I never bothered to see in the theater (I was a baby when the first one came out, I think I saw Empire in the theaters, as It was in theaters for a while), and it’s still the best Star Wars prequel. I could leave it at that, but:
The first half is boring.
- We don’t need any of this extensive bopping about between this planet and that other planet, getting that piece of info that leads to another piece of info. We know in the first five minutes who the antagonist is and what the stakes are. The hour between “he’s the guy that builds the Death Star” and “let’s get the Death Star plans” draaaaaags.
- None of the good guys stand out. I’ve watched it twice and I still confuse the Rebel Lieutenant guy (Cassian?) and the Imperial Defector Guy (whatever his name is), even though one of them is white and one isn’t. They’re dressed almost identically, speak identically…
- Jin Urso is a profoundly uninteresting protagonist. She shouldn’t be. She should have a very clear character goal (avenge her family), and should be the one pushing constantly for it, damn the consequences. The idea of having a more extreme faction of the Rebel Alliance, whose bloodythirstiness scares moderates? That’s a good idea. Jin should be it’s leader, or second to Forrest Whitaker, and she should be the one probing at Krennic, trying to get info on her dad or the Death Star. The whole movie should be these two matching wits and blasters, and nothing else. Instead, she has to be practically shanghaied, pouting, to be in the plot. If she doesn’t care, why should we?
- Krennic is a good villain. His sweaty ambition and devotion to his creation make him a perfect stand-in for the Empire. We don’t need Tarkin, and we don’t need Vader. He’s the guy who built the Death Star, and controls access to its secret. That’s the plot right there.
- What is Forest Whitaker doing in this movie? You have a a cyborg-man who hates the empire, and five minutes after he clongs onto the screen, you kill him. Why?
What is the purpose of Stormtrooper armor?
- It’s one thing for armor to be unable to stop a particle beam weapon. That’s rational, I suppose. But when it doesn’t prevent you from being knocked out by a guy with a stick, I have to ask, what does it do?
- This becomes more egregious when you see people NOT wearing armor, like Krennic, get shot and not die, when every time a Stormtrooper gets shot, he’s instantly incapacitated.
- I realize that this can be said about The Original Trilogy, especially Return of the Jedi. But seriously, could someone explain this to me? Or will it remain like Luke’s Lightsaber in the box, there because it needs to be?
The CGI reincarnation of Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher bothers me the more I see it.
- At first I was fascinated. But Peter Cushing is dead. He’s dead, and it’s creepy to have his likeness scowl at us from beyond the grave. If you absolutely need to have him in the film, find another actor who looks and sounds enough like him. The audience will not mind.
- Carrie Fisher’s doppleganger didn’t seem as bad, since she only has the one line. But Carrie Fisher wasn’t even dead when this was made. Let’s not leap down the uncanny valley to a Disney universe when stars exist only as bytes on a screen. Let humans portray humanity to humans, please.
The second half is fun.
- I like the tropical backdrop. I like the wham-bam action. I like the speed of it, and the desperate struggle to get the thing. The pace moves nicely, allowing the disparate elements (space battle, land battle, theft of the thing) to cohere well, possibly even better than in Return of the Jedi.
- I like the fact that all our protagonists die. The human cost of defeating evil is always an evocative idea, and it’s well done here, without slowing the pace or engaging in maudlin sentimentality.
- I love the fact that Krennic is destroyed by his creation. Really, if there’s a reason to have Tarkin in the movie, it’s so this can happen.
- I enjoy Vader murdering people. It’s narratively unnecessary, and pretty much fan service, but so what? Having this movie at all is fan service. Which brings us to:
Why was this made?
- Everything that happens in Rogue One is explained in the opening title crawl of A New Hope: Rebels have struck from a secret base and stolen the plans for the Death Star. That’s it. One sentence. We didn’t need the details of that story told to us. The drama is not heightened by us knowing exactly how it’s going to end.
- What I perceive going on, now that I’ve seen Last Jedi, is the democratization of Star Wars. Rey is No One. Jin is No One. Cassian is No One. The little boy with the mop is No One. But they give their lives to fight evil, and we will see it and note it. So the story behind the story, beyond the story, is going to be the story. This will affect my Series of Predictions on Episode IX, when I get to that.