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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

December 22, 2016

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn
Director: Gareth Edwards (Godzilla (2014), Monsters)

Bottom Line: Rogue One is definitely going to be one of the more overrated films of 2016 – partly because the critic reviews are mostly positive, resulting in an 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, but mostly because it is a generally pleasing film with a strong final act. Fans of the Star Wars brand are going to find very little to complain about.

But it’s not spectacular or without weaknesses. The story is inspired by the crawl for Star Wars: A New Hope, in which The Rebel Alliance obtain plans for the Death Star that reveal how it can be destroyed. This film tells the story of why those plans exist and how they were stolen from the Empire and delivered to the Alliance. It’s actually a pretty neat set up for the original story and sits better with me in the prequel canon than Episodes I through III – but the characters here are kind of weak. It’s the who of the story where things fall apart.

Aside from the heroine Jyn (Jones) and Alan Tudyk’s droid K-2SO with his often hilarious deadpan dialog, I’d wager that most filmgoers won’t remember the names of the rest of the heroes. I couldn’t. There’s a male protagonist played by Diego Luna and a pilot played, questionably, by Riz Ahmed. There’s a blind guy and his friend – and they have some cool moments, but… who are they again? One of Star Wars greatest appeals is creating memorable and lasting characters, which I felt The Force Awakens did a good job of, but Rogue One fails in this regard. Even the character of Jyn is forgettable and I thought Felicity Jones had moments where she just seemed to be going through the motions, delivering her dialog like she was reading it straight off the script. This is an actress that was Oscar nominated as recently as 2014 for The Theory Of Everything. You can’t really blame Disney for trying to capitalize on the Star Wars brand by churning out these side films, but the characters in Rogue One feel hollow and it really takes away from one’s emotional involvement in the story, especially in the last act.

But that last act is actually quite strong. It’s a high octane finale full of “surprises” that seems to be the biggest reason people are walking out of this movie with a smile on their face and forgetting how mediocre the rest of the movie was. It’s no secret that Darth Vader is in this film, unless you haven’t seen any trailers, and he will not disappoint. Though his screen time is rather limited, he’s easily the highlight of the movie when he’s featured. There’s a lot of nostalgia hearing the classic breathing apparatus and James Earl Jones voicing the character again. Plus, we get to see Darth Vader be a ruthless bad ass, which somewhat helps ease the memory of watching Hayden Christensen do his best to ruin the character as Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. It would have been nice to see more Vader in this movie, but I can understand the filmmakers wanting to make a film that can stand apart from the main series – they just forgot to flesh out the new characters.

I actually like the concept of Rogue One and the idea of stand alone side films in the Star Wars canon, I just think the execution here was lacking a bit. There’s a chance it could grow on me more with multiple viewings and maybe the characters will stick with me more, but Rogue One is enjoyable at best, and seems like it is getting a lot of favorable reviews because the ending is good and the visual effects are pleasing. It’s not a great film, but as I said before, Star Wars fans are unlikely to be disappointed.

Edit: I forgot to comment on how pointless it was to pay double to see this movie in 3D. It basically never comes into play or add to the experience. It might be a fun movie to see in IMAX, but do not pay to see this in normal 3D! Save the money.

Replay Value: Worth watching again.
Sequel Potential: This film is an immediate prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy. There are more stand alone Star Wars stories on the way though.
Oscar Potential: Star Wars movies are always a contender for any of the sound or visual effects categories.

Grade: 6/10 (recommended)

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