Finally, a 2016 blockbuster that isn’t a let down!
“Rogue One” is set between Star Wars Episodes III and IV and focuses on the rebels’ plans to steal the designs to the Death Star. Felicity Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed and Forest Whitaker all star as Gareth Edwards directs.
I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan in the world, but do enjoy and appreciate their place in cinema’s history. That being said, I looked forward to “Rogue One” with anticipation and it did not disappoint. The “releasing summer blockbusters in December” trend has picked up in recent years, with “Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol” and “The Force Awakens” both debuting around Christmas. “Rogue One” may just be the best one yet, as it is a consistently entertaining, warmfully nostalgic and welcome sequel/prequel/spin-off to the classic series.
When I saw “The Force Awakens” last year, my biggest complaint was that it was “too much like a Star Wars film” in that it recycled plot points, forced in references and played everything by-the-numbers. “Rogue One,” despite literally needing to end in one specific way, manages to take everything that was great about “The Force Awakens” and yet learn from its flaws.
This is a much more adult-aimed film than any of the other films of the franchise, even “Empire Strikes Back.” There aren’t cute CGI creatures to distract little kids and the action is often unflinchingly dark, as opposed to fun laser shootouts with Han Solo. Edwards and screenwriters Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy portray the rebels not as goody two shoes that have a respect for all life, but the opposite. They kill informants, shoot Storm Troopers on sight and admit they’re not great people, but believe in their cause.
The cast all do fine work, although there are no characters to fall in love with like Rey or be fascinated by like Kylo Ren. They’re all pretty cookie-cutter, likable people who are elevated by a diverse cast of actors. Well, except Forest Whitaker, who does a raspy voice, walks with a limp and delivers corny dialogue, all resulting in some unintended laughs.
But speaking of the cast, there is one human character in here who is a CGI being (as in the filmmakers created him on a computer) and it looks awful. Like, take-you-out-of-the-film bad. Like, “this is 2002 and computers are just coming into their own and filmmakers are experimenting with what they can get away” with bad. I won’t spoil who the CGI character is, but it’s supposed to be of an actor who, for one reason or another, was not able to return to their original role 40 years later. What’s funny is the person who did the motion capture and dialogue of the CGI monstrosity gives arguably the best performance of the entire film; but every time they showed up on screen I couldn’t take that scene seriously.
Now the film isn’t perfect. It lags in the middle and the climax may not be as clean-cut and suspenseful as one may hope (they spent millions to reshoot the climax including rewrites and a replacement director). It’s not just because you know the inevitable outcome, but because some of the dialogue and editing choices take away from the flow.
However. There is a scene at the end of the film that may be my favorite moment of the entire saga, no hyperbole. I will in no way spoil it but I am getting giddy just thinking of it as I type and may go buy a ticket just to see that two minute sequence again.
“Rogue One” is one of my favorite films of the Star Wars franchise and arguably does a better job at what it had to do than “The Force Awakens.” It is fun yet dark, but not grim, and even fills in two massive 39 year old plot holes from “A New Hope.” This review isn’t going to change your mind on whether or not you’re going to see this film, and I hope I don’t overhype it for you, but trust me; it’s a blast.
Critics Rating: 8/10