Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Reviews
I have just rewatched this film and adjusted the initial rating from four and a half to a four. The villain work is a little tacky and while the filmmakers attempt an epic scope, it never hits the highs of A new hope or The empire strikes back. The film has heart and that is the key ingredient for any star wars film, it is also a mile better in quality compared to the prequel trilogy and if they can replicate this style of filmmaking for the Han Solo and The last Jedi, the franchise will be in a safe direction. The best part of the film is the supporting players and they fill the void when the story begins to fatigue from reshoots. The ending for the key players is very unemotional while the Vader scene still gives goosebumps. I still don't agree with Leia in the finale but it keeps the pace going for the setup to A new hope. The music score tries to be too epic all the time, this film needed to be more of a dirty dozen war film, the final battle scene is incredibly paced and filmed.19-06-2017.
The story is compelling on its own, but also expands the overall Star Wars narrative, tying together elements of the original trilogy, the prequels, as well as the Clone Wars and Rebels TV series. Most importantly, it gives more impact to A New Hope. Before this, the only display we had of the Death Star's power was that one bloodless sequence of Alderaan's destruction. Rogue One throws us right into the middle of a Death Star attack (two, actually), showing its effect on the ground, and putting our heroes right in amongst it.
And these are great characters. Free from Skywalker family shenanigans, Rogue One establishes an all-new rabble of rowdy rebels for us to follow and cheer for. Central to the story is Jyn Erso, a heroine as gutsy and capable as Leia, Rey or Padme, but more flawed and realistic. This being her only film, she is given a definite arc, and it's very fulfilling to see her follow it through. Felicity Jones is fantastic in the role. Rebel lifer Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna, who is this film's ostensible Solo/Dameron spacedude character, is also more human than Han or Poe, more tone-appropriate than another wisecracking 'scoundrel' would have been. Tudyk is fine as ever, adding another starpilot AND another CGI robot to his resume. Donnie Yen (yay!) and Jiang Wen make a cool odd-couple buddy duo as the Guardians of the Whills (a nice Lucasy touch). Riz Ahmed is great value as always.
But Mendo is the winner as the evil Director Krennic. On paper, he's probably a fairly standard smarmy villain type, but he's played with twitchy, shouty Mendo brilliance. Classic.
Mads is Mads is Mads. Genevieve O'Reilly is a great fit as Mon Mothma - glad she got to reprise the role after being almost completely deleted from RotS. Smits is fine. Bail has a couple of fun moments - discussing tracking down his old Jedi pal for help, his choice of courier to deliver the plans, etc.
In fact, there are many moments peppered throughout that tie this film to Ep IV - the dudes from the cantina, the rebel pilots (including the original Red Five, who conveniently and spectacularly buys it, leaving the designation vacant for a certain hotshot kid), and others - that don't get in the way of the story at all; Star Wars noobs would think nothing of them. But it's nice to see they've studied the existing films, etc, to make sure it fits into the world flawlessly. I noticed none of the kind of contradictions or shoehorning we got with the prequels.
Another great thing about the movie is that it has made Vader a badass again. After the prequels came out, whenever I revisited the originals, my perception of Vader was tainted by the impression that under the helmet he was just a whiny punk. He was kind of ruined as a villain for me. But the way he's portrayed in Rogue One - from his creepy lair on Mustafar to the way he ruthlessly ploughs through rebel soldiers in the final sequence - restores him to his former status.
The movie does, however, have a couple of flaws. The CGI re-creation of Peter Cushing is a noble attempt at inserting a photoreal digital character among live actors, but the technology is not quite there to make it perfect. When he's standing silently, it's fine - no dead eyes. But as soon as he speaks, the jig is up - the mouth movements don't pass for real. Furthermore, while Guy Henry has a similar facial structure to Cushing and manages a good approximation of his voice, he's noticeably taller than Pete. Even the CGI Leia's speech isn't entiely convincing, and she only says one syllable. This is the sort of thing that is only going to look more and more fake as effects improve in the future, and not in a charming way. These are human characters that don't look fully human, which pulls you out of the scene.
Another issue, which I don't hold against the movie because it can't really be helped, is that James Earl Jones's voice now sounds like that of a man in his 80s, and doesn't match ANH era Vader. Then again, it would have been more of a problem if they'd recast. I dunno, maybe he's just a bit croaky from the bacta tank or something :)
Overall, the first out-and-out war movie of the Star Wars series makes itself a vital part of the saga through sheer bravado and will, giving us new characters to love and then putting them through hell in a highly entertaining way. It's not perfect, but it's the best Star Wars since Empire.