Everyone likes a rebellion, don’t they?
I viewed Rogue One believing certain aspects of the storyline, costuming, locales and particular scenes (grenade porn, anyone?) relate to elements of the world today. Freedom fighting or terrorism? Science and technology or ethics? These binaries were certainly appreciated and prevented the film from being a pointless action film reliant on CGI and action sequences. I can safely say that the global mood at the moment is gloomy, unsure and weary, with only those benefitting right now prancing around on a high. The very first Star Wars film achieved nationwide success based on word of mouth before heavy marketing campaigns and social media existed, then creating enough stir to capture the rest of the world. It also helped that the US population was discontent with the war in Vietnam and demonstrated that throughout the 1970s. It may be Christmas 2016, however we’re currently witnessing tragic waves from Syria and other areas of the Middle East which were conjured in my mind when I watched rebels fighting against the Empire. Having said that, the conflict in the Middle East is far more faceted and difficult to draw the lines. Of course, a film doesn’t need to be released during major conflict, and viewers don’t need to bring their own “baggage” if you will, to enjoy it.
Disney has the unenviable task of simultaneously appeasing original Star Wars fans and drawing modern children into the franchise, so they went to great lengths (as did The Force Awakens) to emphasise Rogue One’s link to the Original Trilogy. The Force is maintained as a vital theme, with Donnie Yen’s character Chirrut Îmwe filling the void of Yoda by providing Jedi-related wisdom. Every perilous narrative needs a grounding character who provides serenity in the chaos. Robots still exhibit quirkiness and know it all. Alan Tudyk’s comedic timing as K-2SO was perfect. C3PO can’t be the only sassy (mouthy) android in the galaxy; K-2SO is quite obstinate at times, yet he has more warmth. Yavin 4 comes out of retirement, as does the Death Star. There are some departures from the original films we all love. A sweeping, urgent John Williams soundtrack is noticeably absent, and with little opportunity to emotionally connect with the characters a powerful soundtrack can assist in forcing a few restrained tears. Additionally, there’s less cutesiness in Rogue One that Star Wars usually leans towards to counter the peril. Rogue One is dark, possibly darker than Empire and Force Awakens.
I’ve read a complaint that there wasn’t enough chemistry between Felicity Jones and Diego Luna. I certainly noticed chemistry, only once the plot had developed mid-way. It’s important to remember that their characters exist in uncertain times. They are both guarded and occupied with their own goals: one to rebel against the Empire and the other to locate her father and feel like she has some family in the galaxy. They have to be closed off to each other because they’ve experienced such cr** in their lives respectively that they’re hardly going to start making eyes at each other within minutes of meeting. Any overspilling romantic feeling would overcast the plot; they have a mission and their thoughts centre around it. When the two characters overcome their clashing, they warm to each other and that’s when the lingering looks and charged energy commences. Not every opposites-attract couple are going to be like Han and Leia, and I appreciate the way they handled the pairing.
Problems: the beginning jumps from one location to another which makes the pacing chaotic. The exposition is the most important moment in the film as it makes or breaks audience reception. It takes a while to understand what the hell is going on, especially jerking us away from attaching ourselves to the characters and their individual situations. I do wonder if a novice screenwriter would’ve gotten away with that when soliciting an agent. Rogue One eventually calms down and we’re afforded the chance to get to know characters, but still at some distance. I’m not sure what the purpose of Forrest Whittaker’s character was (apart from his relation to Jyn). I’m also not quite satisfied with the ending: I feel like they were trying to avoid accusations of predictability, yet I still felt like a bit of a presant needed to be thrown my way. Maybe I’m a romantic/too soft; the bittersweet ending was leaning a little heavier on the bitter side.
Alan Tudyk as K-2SO steals the show. Reception of his character was far superior to any other human character. The audience loved him and he provided much-needed humour in such a dark film.
- Someone came into the screening room as a Jawa. You can’t beat that.
- I feel like I’ve been weaned on the 20th Century Fox logo. I expected it at the opening and it was greatly missed. Although: the opening shot felt like it was harking to the opening shot of A New Hope, so you’re immediately sucked back into the Star Wars universe.
- In the press and promotion of Rogue One, the cast seems so tight knit, more so than TFA (I feel). They’re just like a family; perhaps because Rogue One is an indie film.
- God bless Donnie Yen. He was a breath of fresh air; his action sequences rescued the film when it felt like the characters weren’t developed enough at that stage or the scene was floundering. Did it feel like I was watching a Kung Fu film? Hells yeah. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not.
- Diego Luna: you’ve earned yourself a new fan.
- Peter Cushing. Carrie Fisher. That is all.
- Darth Vader.See above point.
- Audio. Audio. Audio. Please don’t elevate sound effects and space battles whilst allowing dialogue to be so muted. The actors were at times difficult to understand and I only found out about some of the names when I went onto Wikipedia after the screening. Not great when you’re trying to relate to them.
- What I was thinking throughout the climax: I can’t wait to see this in Lego.
- THAT ENDING WITH THE LIGHTSABRE THOUGH (I did promise not to spoil).