Yay one for finally watching the movie! And yay two for it being as good as it was! And yay three that I did not scream/giggle/gush or otherwise vocally embarrass myself inside the theatre. Believe you me, it was a struggle. I mean, ok, I knew it would be good. Unlike the -more- mixed reactions that The Force Awakens garnered (shove off, it was a good movie!), since Rogue One premiered everyone and their mother has been raving over how good it was. I was cruelly late to the bandwagon because reasons but, yeah… To be perfectly honest, my consummate fangirl side would have been glad to pay the admission fee just for the Darth Vader scene we had been promised in the trailer and Mother of the Great Hungry Sarlacc did that movie deliver both in terms of heroes and villains!
Unfortunately, this isn’t the sort of movie you can discuss without diving headfirst into spoiler territory (Legends included to an extent I’m afraid) so if you haven’t watched the movie yet and you mind spoilers the giant picture below will serve as your last signpost.
HERE BE SPOILERS FOR ROGUE ONE AND THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY!
Right! Not gonna lie, I was a little disappointed when the Lucas Films logo wasn’t followed by an opening scroll or the iconic music. I suppose they chose to do so to divide it from the main storyline which, let’s be honest, could have been subtitled “The Skywalker saga” and still be true. Same with the shift in the font as well. The whole, cold opening – title – first act sequence seems to be very popular the last few years and in a way it does serve as a very effective time jump marker. After this slight failure to deliver for the rabid fangirl in me, I actually had to focus on the movie. I had only seen the very first trailer released, meaning, among other things, that certain events utterly blindsided me. Point goes to movie on that one.
More than all the establishing exposition-heavy dialog what I liked about the opening was how well it gave you a feeling on the reality of the Imperial galaxy. The original trilogy was mostly focused on the conflict between Alliance and Empire and son and father, and as such was strangely…small scale, if that is an appropriate term for the movie franchise that made a name for the ages by bringing weapons of mass destruction to a planetary level. The prequels, Clone Wars series included, gave us more of an understanding of exactly how huge the Republic is, how easy it is to entirely disappear with no trace, despite the tracking abilities of Force-sensitive beings and the technology available as well. It is therefore a testament to how pervasive the Empire’s hold is that Krennic (oh we’ll get to him later!) is able to track down the Erso family in the middle of Bloody Nowhere, probably somewhere in the Outer Rim. I suppose it could be argued that they never lost Galen and they just waited for him to be necessary before deploying the Stormtroopers…
All tone-setting elements aside, the opening left me with questions that I felt the movie failed to answer: What was the significance of the Kyber crystal neclace that Jyn is given by her mother? We learn later that Kyber crystals powered the Death Star laser (which begs the question, if the main mining site is destroyed, then where did they find enough to power the second Death Star?) on top of being the basis for lightsabers. And the crystal itself is not a raw piece. It has been clearly polished to its current shape. Did it come from a lightsaber? Did Galen or his wife know a Jedi? They used to live on Coruscant, through the Fall of the Republic so it is possible. Later on, why is Jyn in prison? How long has she been there? She’s clearly used to the conditions but has the necklace and the Empire doesn’t strike me as the type to allow prisoners personal effects. I have to say though, Jyn’s reaction to be being “rescued” by the Rebels was priceless. And it shows that maybe they weren’t as glorified by the general population as the original trilogy might lead you to believe… Which again brings us back to the point of this movie being more grounded to reality (as much as a sci-fi series can be) than the others.
It’s also shown in the depiction of the rebels. They aren’t a united front, they aren’t even all that confident in their prospects. There’s the idealists among them of course, but there are also they ones that are in it for the money, the fighting or even revenge (even Luke is not exempt from that. Lofty
aspirations aside, you can’t tell me that joining the Rebellion wasn’t at least in part in retaliation to what it had done to his family). And what better representation of the less…shiny parts of the Rebellion than General Davits Draven himself. I wanted to punch the guy’s face in. I don’t know what it was about him, maybe I just have issues with authority figures (Mace Windu evoked a similar sentiment), but dear Mother of All he grated on me! He wasn’t even like Tarkin, whom you love to hate, he was just…unpleasant. Maybe it’s because I’ve come across some rather unflattering characterisations of General Madine lately. I’ve yet to track him down on the comics but if half the things the fanfic writers accuse him of or imply about him are true, then we already have an unlikable yet effective Intelligence Alliance General. Do we really need another one?
And speaking of unlikeable, yet entirely understandable characters, Saw Gerrera. Yeah, we’ll be entering awkward territory folks here. A Clone Wars veteran, which, in my opinion, more than explains his attitude towards warfare. Are his opinions comfortable to hear? No, and not just because we as an audience are seeing everything unfold through Jyn’s point of view for the most part. Consider this as well. Gerrera serves as an absent father figure, one that seemingly abandoned our plucky young protagonist. He has seen the fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire and is disillusioned about the state of the galaxy. He prefers to fight rather than look for a subtle approach. He is, by his own admission, part cyborg and carries with him a breathing apparatus that should by all application of logic hinder his fighting abilities. Does that sound familiar to anyone else? Even a little? And then there is his base of operation: the moon Jedha with its dessert-like environment and obsolete connection to the Jedi Order…
Oh Jedha! I’m on two minds about that entire sequence of events. On the one hand, anything that causes Tarkin a headache is welcomed by me! On the other hand, a subtle scene this was not. Perhaps that was the point they were going for. In keeping with the realism, they needed to do away with most of the romanticised idealism of the previous movies. And maybe it’s even a good thing that I could see people squirming on their seats. Potential questions of social commentary aside, the Star Destroyer… I refuse to believe that behemoth can be parked inside a planet’s atmospheric layer without a. igniting said atmosphere and b. landing planetside because of the gravitational pull. It made for a really cool visual but other than that…. (And since we’re on the subject, no, there is no way the Death Star could have a targeting system more accurate than “obliterate planet X”)
Speaking of cool things; Chirrut Îmwe and everything he represented were definitely of the sort. Force user outside the Jedi/Sith dual system and the way he used the Force as an extension of his physical senses is also how I always figured Darth Vader made do with the frankly atrocious field of vision the mask afforded him. His mantra was also interesting, a mix of what was said about the Force in the prequels and the original trilogy. I don’t know if that is because the film is set in a transitory point in terms of how much about the Force is known or because different sects? organisations? Orders? had different beliefs but it was nice. And I suppose if you aren’t exactly swinging around with a lightsaber you’d be less interested in the more combat-related applications of it. Not that the staff wasn’t awesome! Because I am an absolute sucker for staff-like weapons! And if things hadn’t gone the way they had I can totally see Baze Malbus, Han Solo and Chewbacca sitting together and having an absolute geek-fest over their weapons. Same with K-2SO and R2-D2. The sass could simply not be contained!
Meanwhile in the far less colourful world of the Imperials there were so many things that tickled me! Tarkin in all his vulture-like hatefulness and outmanoeuvring superpowers. (I thought the digital rendering was pretty great btw) I did not mind one bit how he replaced Krennic. Although I was confused when it comes to how they were placed in the chain of commander. Pretty sure they called Krennic a Director and Tarkin a Commander, but Tarkin was a Grand Moff in New Hope and does Commander trump Director? Sure, swift promotions around the upper echelons of the Empire are not exactly rare but still… Maybe they just made a mistake in the scenario. And I gotta say what absolutely cemented Krennic on the choke-worthy list was how he tried to sucker up to Lord Friggin Vader to get his position back. Folks, it’s been nearly twenty years. Are you honestly telling me that there are Imperials left alive alive that are not aware of Vader’s short patience?
And bothering him on his me-time? What’s up with that? Although I found it odd that, of all the planets in the galaxy, Vader would choose Mustafar for his seclusion. His introductory scene was so atmospheric! The shadows and partial lightning letting you wonder what exactly is going on, and then the blurry figure inside the bacta tank. -shivers- And it adds to the character, I think, that he goes from healing-session to rain-wrath-on-everyone in less than a minute flat. Some might say that the short order of Krennic’s visit contributed to Vader’s sour mood, but I stand by my point that he just doesn’t like Director Asshat. His voice was a little off in the beginning, but that may have something to do with the copy of the movie my theatre was playing because after a while it sounded like I remembered from the other movies. -shrug-
While I’m gushing over the Scariest Guy In The Galaxy, did anyone else think that the final scene (which was EPIC) sorta mirrored Vader’s introductory scene. Something about the smoke and shadows and the singular source of light (this time being the red blade)… But then again Vader does have a tendency for dramatic lightning in his scenes…
The only other thing I will say for the closing scene is that it is an experience. And I would definitely rewatch the entire film just for those few minutes.
The attack on Scarif had shades of the battle of Endor. I suppose there are only so many effective ways to sneak in a highly secure military compound, especially when you have the Death Star looming over your head (and it will forever amaze me that that thing can actually jump to lightspeed. I know air resistance is not a thing in space, but look at that shape!). The ground assault was handled well and the stakes and consequences were illustrated in far harsher lines than Star Wars usually has done. (Maybe it has something to do with the shifting attitudes towards movie ratings. According to the MPPA, all Star Wars episodes up to and including Attack of the Clones were given a PG rating. From Revenge of the Sith and onward this was bumped up to PG-13, which admittedly allows for more leeway on what can be shown on-screen.)
I knew going in that the likelihood of any of the main characters of the movie making it alive to the end was slim to none, before I even knew that Darth Vader would have more screentime than the trailer implied (Stan Lee cameo number of seconds…). I was pleasantly surprised to find that of all the death scenes, none served as shock value. They all served a purpose in advancing the plot through its explosive climax and were allowed to be emotional and even quiet at times. Even Krennic got his moment of ironic justice, not that anyone would weep for him. For me, the more punch-in-the-gut death had to be Bodhi Rook’s. Poor man spent the entire film doing everything short of backflips to convince the Rebels he is one of them and just as he reaches a point where there is an element of companionship, it’s bombs away.
Despite my romantic tendencies I was beyond relieved that there was no overt romance between Jyn and Cassian. A lot of their interactions could be taken to indicate a budding attraction (budding being the operative word here) but I just as much liked them as friends. Maybe, if they have survived, it could have bloomed to something else but in the amount of time they’ve known each other and with the stupendous amount of baggage they have between them…no. And before anyone points fingers to the Anidala ship, a. they already were friends, b. they had more time to interact with each other and allow their friendship to grow to something else, c. by virtue of it being a sequel you could make a case of them being -heh!- star-crossed lovers since we kinda need them to be together for the Skywalker twins to be born.
This review has been all over the place and there are a ton of things I didn’t touch upon, but I’ve already hit an essay-length word count so I’ll leave it off here. In retrospect is Rogue One a perfect movie? No. Is it a good one? Yes. It slots neatly in the SW canon, it handles its subject matter well and hits quite a few nostalgic points without devolving into pure fanservice. Would I recommend it to a friend? Not a starter point for the franchise but if they had seen the other movies, then definitely!