Going into the latest Star Wars movie, Rogue One, was like riding a roller coaster. For months I heard rumblings of problems so I was moderating my expectations quite a bit. Then the premiere happened and people I trust went nuts. ‘It’s the best Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back’ one premiere attendee tweeted out. As a Star Wars fan, this can’t help but boost my expectations as Empire is one of my favorite movies ever, not just Star Wars movies.
I also read the prequel novel Catalyst and enjoyed it pretty well, so that got me excited. What I liked most about Catalyst was the characters of Galen, Krennic and Lyra. The story left something to be desired but it was good enough to have me excited for Rogue One.
Then I saw the movie yesterday and unfortunately I left feeling underwhelmed…
I should say that Rogue One is not a terrible movie by any means. In the world of action movies it is fine but it is nothing more than that. In particular, the character development and storytelling really let me down.
A good Star Wars movie is focused on a lead character who has a clear mission. In the recent Force Awakens it was Rey returning BB8’s map to the rebels and finding Luke that led the story. We know this from the opening crawl all the way to literally the final shot of the film. Rogue One is supposed to have a focus of stealing the Death Star plans but it executes that mission in an extremely muddled way. Half the time I was left scratching my head wondering why are we here? What are we doing? More often than not I was bored, which is very disappointing in my gritty Star Wars movie…
For example, a segment of the movie deals with Saw Gerrera and Jyn getting some information from him about her father. This scene is really long and 99% of it seemed superfluous and confusing. Even Saw’s character was muddled. I couldn’t understand him half the time and I was never sure if he was a good guy or bad guy or what his motivations were. It was just a lot of talking and shooting with little narrative focus.
Then they move on to the next action set piece involving Jyn’s father but this again stretches a simple objective into a long rather muddled sequence of fighting and doing random things.
In between, we get Darth Vader for about 7 minutes and we meet various rebels. There are a bunch of rebel leaders including Mon Mothma who is woefully underused. They debate about going after the plans and I guess this is supposed to be engaging but since the characters are weak and I know they are going to go after them it all felt kind of boring.
There is also a crew that surrounds Jyn who are all given very little screen time or character development. You have the blind guy, the guy who shoots a lot, guy who is romantic lead and others. At one point about an hour into the movie a character asks for another guy named Bodhi and I had no idea who that was. It’s not good if an hour into your movie I don’t know the names of the lead characters.
The blind character Chirrut also confused me because he is force strong but not in a way I have ever seen in any other version of Star Wars. There is a scene where he walks through a barrage of blaster fire repeating ‘I am the force’. This is not how the force works especially for a non-Jedi. It screamed of ableist super powers often given to disabled characters in films. I expect better characters from Star Wars. Plus, he and the guy who shoots a lot hardly speak the entire movie. How am I supposed to get to know them if we never hear from them?
In other Star Wars films they are able to create memorable characters rather quickly. For example, we learn tons about Han Solo in the original film just by his interactions with Greedo and commissioning him as a pilot. We are clear who he is and what he matters to the story. In Rogue One I had no such clarity on any of the side characters.
The only characters I knew aside from Jyn were the villain Orson Krennic and her father Galen because I had read Catalyst. If I hadn’t I wouldn’t know much about them. Krennic particularly suffers because he pales in comparison to Darth Vader.
I know it sounds like this is the worst movie ever but it’s not. It does come together for a rousing final battle scene that I enjoyed. Also Jyn was a compelling character and Felicity Jones does a good job in the role. She at least does the best job she can with the flat script. I also thought the droid K2SO voiced by Alan Tudyk was hilarious. Nobody wanted to love Rogue One more than I did, but I have to be honest with my response. I thought the story lacked narrative focus, the script was poor and the character development was weak. This is not a film I feel compelled to see again anytime soon and honestly I feel confident placing it below Revenge of the Sith as my 6th favorite Star Wars movie.
Even the tragic moments didn’t work for me because I knew they were coming and the characters hadn’t been well developed. I didn’t care for them so it all fell flat.
If you want to see a war movie that brings out tons of emotion watch Hacksaw Ridge. That is a great war movie with well developed characters. This is a passable action movie and that’s about it.
Overall Grade- C
Here is my youtube review if you want to check it out