Rogue One is an excellent vehicle for escapism. It has everything… A rag tag team fighting a totalitarian regime, political intrigue, moments of pure badassery, and just the kind of battle scenes that just appeal to the side of all of us that love to see explosions and awesome action set pieces that leave us wanting to see how they’ll top the last scene.
As I sat in the darkened theater watching Rogue One, I found myself thrilled by the incredible mix of CGI and practical effects. I found myself playing a Star Wars form of “Where’s Waldo” as I tried to catch as many of the Easter Eggs and call backs to the original Star Wars movies as possible… Did you catch the blue milk? Did you see the guy with the death penalty in twelve systems and his walrus-faced partner? How about the Droid Star Wars toy that looked like C3P0 with a really cool head?
I could go on and on, and honestly that’s the problem.
When I heard that they were planning a Star Wars movie based on the story of how the Rebellion acquired the plans to the Death Star; honestly, I expected something along the lines of Where Eagles Dare, or one of the great World War II espionage or Raid movies. The more I heard about the movie, the more I believed this was exactly what I was going to get. Please understand, I was operating on very little information, as I was actively trying to avoid trailers, articles, or any other possible source of spoilers. I have a rather nasty habit of ruining movies for myself by putting together disparate information from various sources and figuring out how the movie will go before I ever set foot in a theater. That being said though, with names like Forest Whitaker, Donnie Yen, and Mads Mikkelsen attached, my expectations were rather high.
I’m rather torn regarding my opinion of this movie. On the one hand, I rather enjoyed the movie. Gareth Edwards managed to meld the original style and used feel of the original Star Wars movies with the new and far more expensive special effects of today with exceptional skill. And as I’m sure that every other review will state, this really is the first Star Wars film that felt like a war film. Each actor brought considerable skill to their various roles, it was just such a shame that more often than not, the script and characterizations came across a little flat and underdeveloped.
In a movie like this one, where the fates of the characters has been clear since the 1970s when the first Star Wars movie was released, you have to create characters that the audience can invest in, so that we care what happens to them. So that we NEED to know how they meet their eventual fate. Unfortunately, this more than anything else, is where Rogue One failed. I really wanted to care about these characters. Instead, I found myself more interested in the wonderful CGI resurrection of Grand Moff Tarkin, or the exceptional battle sequences, than I was about the characters that should have been driving the action.
All in all, Rogue One was the first movie in the new series of movies that felt like it could have been part of the original Trilogy, and if the upcoming Star Wars movies fix the mistakes of this movie, we could finally begin to see some Star Wars films that are worthy of the nostalgia that all of us have devoted to the Star Wars series. If you love big budget war movies with exceptional effects and fights, you’ll really enjoy this movie; and I highly recommend it. If you’re looking to recapture the magic of the original movies, this movie is far closer than anything we’ve seen yet, but still misses the mark. In either case, I do recommend taking a chance to watch this film before it leaves the theaters to capture the scale and grandeur of the effects.