To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into with Rogue One. It definitely didn’t have that same buildup, that same magic, that same air of mystery that The Force Awakens did. That is no fault to the marketing of the film-it is simply inevitable. We already know how this movie ends. Period. Like any “based on a true story” film, Rogue One bears the burden of transparency. We know that the Rebels succeed in stealing the plans to the death star-so this film is all about the journey that the rebels and the Empire take leading into ‘A New Hope’.
Herein lies both the strongest and weakest points of ‘Rogue One’-the treatment of its characters. This film is also burdened with the unique task of incorporating well established characters with a batch of fresh ones who we never knew by name until now. I strongly feel that the films use of its classic character roster was very well done-from the epic Darth Vader scenes, to the appearance of Jimmy Smits, to the pitch perfect recasting of Mon Mothma and yes…even Tarkin.
I understand the general beef with the treatment of deceased actor Peter Cushing as an entirely motion captured CGI character. I totally get it. However, we cannot discredit the bold decision to incorporate such a prominent character whose absence would be sorely missed. We also shouldn’t discount how good it really looks. I definitely noticed it-because I knew that it was happening- but there were times where I simply forgot that it wasn’t the man himself. With the level of quality animation in modern video games, why wouldn’t we take the opportunity to utilize that in modern cinema?
When it comes to the new cast of characters-the Rebels-I felt a little detached. Even with its 2.5 hour run time this film had no chance in Hoth of establishing a connection to this large group of characters while setting up its plot. Jyn Erso’s background was covered with moderate detail, but once we learn how Forest Whitakers eccentric character Saw Gerrera saved her, thats where it stops. They throw us back to him as an old, fragile man and try to pull at our heartstrings by prodding at the lost connection between Jyn and the man who saved her life. Unfortunately, since we didn’t see any of that time on screen, it was very hard to feel its impact.
Mads Mikkelsen expertly pulls off his character in no surprise to anyone-but his screen time is short lived. Jyn and company spend most of the movie talking about him, about his notoriety and his importance, but once again we see little of it. Of the group of rebels I felt the most connection to the dynamic duo of Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus-the blind Jedi and his juggernaut soldier buddy. Their dynamic brought some focus back to the themes that surrounded the original films-about the spiritual influence that engulfs everything and those who question its very existence. K2-SO is likely the standout character for the majority of viewers, seeing as they ran with what worked for C-3P0 and dialed up his sass factor by about 100%. Every instance of comedy (Stormtroopers having casual conversation, droids being droids, etc) was well used and lightened up what would otherwise be a very dark film, making it more appealing to a broader audience.
I’m sad to say that I found Jyn to be a disappointment-not because of the strength and fortitude of her character but simply because I was not impressed with her delivery. It felt wooden and lacked the genuine appeal that a lead character needs. Captain Cassian (Prince Caspian, as I call him) felt much the same. Since we spent the entire movie questioning his loyalties in a “seriously what is up with this guy” way, I did not feel a thing for him. They took little to no time to build back our trust in him, yet Jyn seemed to gravitate towards him in a pinch. I just didn’t feel her passion.
All said and done ‘Rogue One’ is a visually stunning homage to everyones favorite Star Wars films and it takes great care in respecting them. They plant little moments to make passionate fans squeal in their seats while offering a whole new atmosphere to the franchise. Rogue One is not about the Jedi vs the Sith, but it is about the ugly face of war. People sacrifice themselves, people lose their friends, people lose themselves-all to mark the way for the next big step towards ‘balance’. It can be truly painful to watch how politics and people make their mark on war-and this is where ‘Rogue One’ really excels.
P.S. Why did Jyn tell Krennic that her father installed a vulnerability? Why would you do that? Let that be a surprise, damn!