Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

rogue-one2Going 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…

rogue-one5

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.

rogue-one4There 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. rogue-one6Nobody 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

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Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Star Wars: Force Awakens

I’ve talked a lot about Star Wars: Force Awakens on this blog. I’ve written editorials, done podcasts and given my review. In fact there is an entire page dedicated to Star Wars content as well as a playlist on my youtube channel I would love for you to check out.

So with all of that said Nathaniel over at Film Experiment picked Force Awakens for this week’s Hit Me with Your Best Shot. You can see all of my best shot series including some I have done on my own with Batman/Superman/Marvel and X-Men movies.

Since I have already talked so much about Force Awakens I will keep this entry relatively brief. I loved the film.  It was my second favorite of 2015 after Inside Out. Going into Force Awakens my favorite Star Wars film was New Hope. Why? Because it was the one that made me cheer the most and was the best theater experience I have ever had up until FA. I saw a rerelease before Phantom Menace and the entire audience was cheering and so into it. I loved it.

It might be blasphemous to say but I think Force Awakens takes what I loved about New Hope and improved upon it.  I honestly don’t see the huge complaints over Rey. I think it is dumb and a little sexist. She isn’t that different than Luke who also blew up the death star using the force with no real training. Nobody complains about that…I love Finn and the idea of a dissenting storm trooper. I loved Kylo Ren and found him to be a pretty nuanced villain for Star Wars.  He’s a true apprentice something we never got with Darth Vader in the trilogy or Anakin in the prequels. I loved seeing the old players and cried when Han died.

Could they have done without another Death Star? Yes but that did not lessen my enjoyment of the film a bit. It isn’t perfect but I sure had a great time watching it and I’ve seen it probably 10+ times and still love it. Call me a fangirl. I don’t care.

So this is my best shot. The light saber battles in Force Awakens are the best in Star Wars history. It felt like a weapon, like a rod of fire, which I have never felt before. In the final battle between Kylo and Rey she is on the defense the whole time and he is injured. Finally she senses what Maz Kanata told her and under great adrenaline pushes kylo forward.  I love this expression and I love this movie!

force awakens best shotTake that you Mary Sue morons… 😉

Talking Star Wars: Force Awakens

Hi guys!  You all know I loved the new Star Wars movie The Force Awakens.  It ended up my second favorite movie of the year after Inside Out.

On Sunday my friends Abby and Jeremy and I continued our Star Wars analysis by talking all about the new film.  We ended up talking for 2 hours and we could have gone even longer! For a movie that seems simple on the surface there is a surprising amount to it.

I think this would be an entertaining listen for you when you are cleaning or working, maybe on your commute.  I would love your feedback.

You can listen to our discussion on the entire series with this playlist.

I loved doing these discussions and feel encouraged to do more of them.  Abby and Jeremy also said they had a good time.  If you have suggestions you’d like to us to discuss put in the comments section.  I was thinking of the Marvel movies or Harry Potter later in the year.

Congrats to JJ Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy, and the team at Disney/Lucasfilm for making a very special movie!  And thanks to George Lucas for creating such a wonderful world.  I appreciate even his prequels now better after this series and watching them in chronological order.  It’s been a great experience so I hope you all enjoy listening to it.

Star Wars: Force Awakens Review

I feel like I am the only one of my blogging friends to not post their Force Awakens review.  Well, I wanted to see the movie twice to make sure I wasn’t just gushing over the experience more than the film itself.  It was definitely one of the most memorable movie-going experiences I’ve ever had. I even dressed up

star wars rachelFortunately I’m happy to tell all of you that the movie lived up to the experience.  Star Wars is back and the great world Lucas gave us in 1977 will continue on in good form for a whole new generation.  I couldn’t be happier!

force awakenss7I’ll give you a few plot points that are basically available on the trailer (I tried to keep it spoiler free but if you are very sensitive stay away).

The focus on Force Awakens is on a young woman named Rey (Daisy Ridley) who is a scavenger on the planet Jakku.  One day she meets a droid named BB8 who has a message from his master, a pilot named Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) meant for the resistance.  Along the way to deliver the message she meets Finn (John Boyega) a stormtrooper who has deserted his post.

They all take the millennium falcon and meet Hon Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and they face off with a leader in the new empire named Kylo Ren.

force awakens88I’ll leave the rest for you to uncover. The characters were probably my favorite thing about Force Awakens- both old and new.  I thought they did such a good job merging the worlds together.  I especially loved Finn and Rey who are very well portrayed by their respective actors.  Kylo Ren was also a more complex villain than we have seen in many a Star Wars film (at least at first).

Harrison Ford is really trying here unlike some of his grumbling recent performances.  It feels like he and Chewie are back and at home again on the Millennium Falcon.  I honestly was prepared to ‘put up’ with his performance but he did a great job.

A few of the characters I could have had more of particularly captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) who I was hoping would be a bit more of an awesome female villain, which Star Wars has never really had.  Hopefully in the next film she will be used even more.

captain phasmaI also wasn’t crazy about the main villain played by Andy Serkis named Supreme Leader Snoke. I didn’t love the design and he didn’t seem menacing enough.

But it is a small problem in a very entertaining film.  Like I said the characters were wonderful.  There was a ton of comedy without it being moronic or annoying like JarJar Binks.  I particularly loved the BB8 droid who is my new droid crush (sorry R2D2!).   He was beyond adorable.  You did get to see R2D2 and C3PO which was a lot of fun as well.

force awakens3 - CopyI also enjoyed the action in the film and I never got bored the entire movie!  It was great to see practical, earthy feeling special effects and the battle sequences were awesome.  I particularly liked the light saber duels which felt more visceral than in previous films.  It felt like the light was a knife not just a pretty light you could put your hand through.  As we knew Kylo Ren has a special light saber with a hilt on it and he fought like a man possessed at times. It was so mesmerizing to watch.

force awakens2 - CopyWhat’s really interesting about Kylo Ren is he is a villain that is battling not with the darkness but with the light.  He wants to be like his idol Vader but he falls woefully short.  This is such a contrast to the prequels with the whiny Anakin futilely resisting the dark side.  He’s an interesting contrast to Finn who has left the darkness because he had an ‘awakening’ of what was the right thing to do.

Lupita Nyong’o appears in a motion capture performance as Maz Kanata a cantina owner who gives counsel to the crew and I really liked her character.  All the characters and actors except for Phasma and Snoke were great.

Director JJ Abrams has crafted a film that is entertaining for non-Star Wars fans and is chuck full of lore and new story for the die hard fans.  And like I said the script is sharp, very quickly paced (sometimes too quick!), and drew me in.  I cried.  I laughed a lot and I think that credit has to go to the return of  Lawrence Kasdan to the script.  John Williams music is also wonderful as usual (while maybe missing the new standout number it’s a great score).

force awakens - CopyOverall, there has probably never been a movie more anxiously awaited than Force Awakens and while I had a few issues here and there I was greatly entertained by the film.  In the case of this fan my expectations were met.

Congratulations to JJ Abrams and team for the tremendous job you have accomplished.  The world has a quality new Star Wars movie!  Yippee!

My brother and I did a video starting with our anticipation and then our reaction, and a few spoilers at the end (I also have it divided into smaller portions on the channel if you prefer).

As far as content it does have intense moments but I feel it isn’t more so than the original trilogy.  If your kids can handle Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi I think they can watch this.

Overall Grade- A

Let me know what you think of Star Wars: Force Awakens?  Did it meet your expectations?  I hope so! I can’t wait to see it many more times and am so happy Star Wars is back!

Star Wars Force Awakens Trailer Review

So I might have cried a bit at a movie trailer today.  Yep full on nerd tears.  Tonight the new Star Wars: Force Awakens trailer dropped during halftime at Monday Night Football and this trailer was epic in the truest sense of the word.  It did everything you want a trailer to do.  We got to see and hear from new characters.  We got little nibbles of stories but no major plot points.  We got to see the old and new school players (except for Luke!).  It had great music.  Showed the great cinematography and all the practical effects.  The battle sequences look awesome.

We know there are scenes with real heart where both Finn and Rey are learning from Han Solo (initially a doubter) about the force and the Jedi and we can assume the Jedi is stuff of legend and basically gone.  We see Leia and Han that seem to be embracing about something sad.  We see Kylo Ren take off his mask and wield his light saber at Finn in some kind of fight.  He is a disciple of Vader and has Vader’s mask- wants to be like Vader.

I was also thrilled to see Rey looking like a strong and lead character in the story.  As we discussed in my recent Phantom Menace review/discussion none of the Star Wars films have passed the Bechdel test but I feel this time with Rey, Lupita Nyongo’s character and Leia we might actually do it. I think Rey might be the Luke Skywalker of the this trilogy which would be amazing.

I can’t even tell you how excited I am to see this movie!  I already have my tickets purchased for Dec 17th and I will probably see it again Dec 18th in IMAX.   Even at the worst with the prequels Star Wars is a battle of good verses evil and an entire world to become absorbed in. It’s about harnessing a spiritual force greater than yourself and not allowing doubt or fear to enter your heart.  How many movies can say that? You have your Harry Potter or your Lord of the Rings but to me at least Star Wars trumps them all.

Here is my trailer reaction. It’s not that great but I was so excited my brain left me.  There’s a lot of squealing but some of you may find it fun.  Follow me on periscope by the way @smilingldsgirl (and on all other social media like snapchat, instagram etc).

My favorite of all the trailer reviews I saw was this one. It captured how I felt at least.

I was a little surprised we didn’t get the rating yet because I had heard we might but maybe the MPAA isn’t done with their review yet.  I figure it will be PG-13 but it would be fine at PG because then more kids could see it but I think with those battles it will be PG-13.

So what did you think of the trailer?  Are you excited and did you buy your tickets like so many of us did?  Is there a spot in the trailer that stood out to you more than others Let’s share and nerd out together! 🙂

The poster looks pretty awesome too! Counting down the days…

force awakens poster

Star Wars Teaser Trailer 2 Reaction

Can I just fangirl out on you all for a minute?  I know some of you aren’t as big of Star Wars fans as me but holy cow what a great trailer was released today!!!!  I am so pumped!  It had everything you could want.  We got to hear Luke’s voice.  We got an image of Vader from Return of the Jedi (and anyone else notice he said ‘his father HAS the force’…) harkening back to the old movies and then we hear about Leia who has the force (which I don’t recall ever seeing her use the force in original trilogy? Anyone know?) and his son (we can presume) also has the force!

Then we get chrome troopers, John Bodega in storm trooper outfit, battles, Poe Dameron in the Xwing craft!!!  Daisy Ridley looks like she is going to have a real gritty role to play.  This excites me as Star Wars could be a little bit male heavy (need I remind you of Leia and the gold bikini in most of Jedi…).

And then at the end to get Chewie and Han “we’re home”.  Nerdgasm!!!!  So cool!

It just makes me so excited that they are doing this right.  It doesn’t look all green screen.  It looks like there will be sand and real fighting and grittiness.  That’s what I want to see.  I want to see chemistry and a story with relationships I care about, not a fluffy soap opera.  I just want it to be good so bad!

It was just a perfect trailer.  It didn’t show too much.  It showed exactly what all the fans wanted to see without spoiling anything.  I loved it!  Chris Stuckmann and the Schmoes Know described it as bringing on ‘nerd tears’ and I’d agree.  Chris said it was ‘the best trailer I’ve ever seen and not just because I’m a fan”.  I’d agree.

Anyway I loved it.  What did you guys think?