Conductivity of Coffee
On Saturday we saw Rogue One in the theater and I know many are wondering what my take on the film was. I’ll detail my thoughts below, but I want to give a little spoiler warning to spare those that have yet to see the movie and learn any of the film’s surprises.
So here we go…
Last chance to avoid spoilers…
THE BIG “ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY” REVIEW!
This is a review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, not to be confused with Rogue One: A RomCom Story, or Rogue One: The Broadway Musical. I’ve taken a Good, the Bad, and the Ugly approach to this review, though to be fair, there are plenty of “the Average” and perhaps there should be a category for “the Awesome” as well for one or two scenes.
To save you a lot of reading, I will tell you right now that I like this movie. There were things about it that I loved. There were some things I didn’t like. But nothing that killed it for me.
The Good: every scene with K-2SO, Tarkin, & Vader
The Bad: Slow, disjointed beginning; uninteresting lead characters (Jyn and Cassian); Director Krennic is an obnoxious asshole
The Ugly: Saw Gerrera is mental; some overly ambitious 3D animation
Rogue One was an entertaining movie. I liked it a lot more than The Force Awakens, but that’s mostly because it had a new plot — for Star Wars, and although this was yet another film about the Death Star, it gave us a fairly solid adventure that didn’t rely on recycling 1977’s Star Wars plot points, and succeeded in knowing where it was going. Part of that was thanks to this being a stand alone film, but to be honest, it might as well be part of an Original Star Wars Quadrology, since the events of Rogue One lead DIRECTLY and IMMEDIATELY into A NEW HOPE.
I’ll break down the good, the bad and the ugly with an explanation. Though I think I should also point out the stuff that doesn’t fit into any of those silly categories I’m using. For example, Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen as Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus were both likable and interesting. What little screen time they did get was well spent. But they deserved a lot more than they got and the end result is that their roles in the film feel very minor, despite their involvement in the final battle.
Okay, so the actual good? K-2SO was and is great. I didn’t know what to expect from this character but quickly warmed to him, and by about halfway he was outshining Jyn and Cassian easily. That’s not hard to do, in my opinion, but more on that later.
Let’s be honest… K-2SO is poorly named for what has become such a memorable character. I had to look his name up twice since it just wouldn’t stick in my memory and I’m not sure how long it will take before I can roll that name off my tongue in conversation. But regardless, I think he’s my favorite Star Wars droid.
Yes, R2D2 is cute and will forever be in my heart, and yes C3PO is funny for his prissy arrogance, but K-2SO mixes sarcasm with humanity in a way that makes him much more fascinating and complex.
I wasn’t heartbroken upon his death, but it was sad knowing that his story ends with Rogue One. I’m sure he will pop up in other Star Wars media though as he is probably the best original creation in the Star Wars universe since Disney took over.
Tarkin is back… I found out about Tarkin’s cameo in the movie the day before our screening. Not by choice. I just happened to be making a post on Facebook for Blue Milk Special and accidentally saw a newstory that gave it away. What I didn’t know was that Tarkin would have more than a mere cameo. From my memory, he had at least three scenes of some significance in the film, and I’m grateful. However, there are some Peter Cushing fans that are upset. I just want to add the caveat that I am a diehard Peter Cushing fan and own a signed copy of his children’s book the Bois Saga, along with 90% of his film and television work. I’m not a casual fan. So here’s my take.
Why are some fans hurt? We’ve been burned before, so its natural to be scared after seeing the hamfisted effort at prosthetics to mimic Cushing’s likeness in Revenge of the Sith. I think the upset for this film is because fans think the film makers are being disrespectful to the long departed screen legend, perhaps even proceeding without the estate’s permission. I agree there is a fine line to walk when resurrecting dead actors for films. I, however, disagree that this was done in anything but the most respectful and sincerest manner. Let me explain before you yell at me.
There is a large Peter Cushing fan community, of which I number myself among. Most, if not all of us, are protective of the gentleman who captured our hearts with his heroic and villainous performances throughout his long television and film career. Since he succumbed to cancer in 1994, we’ve all missed him dearly, not just that we had seen the last of his work, but that a very delightful, generous, and creative human being was no longer with us.
George Lucas was among Peter’s fans, and originally offered the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi to Cushing, but the gentleman preferred the role of Tarkin and history was made. The character he created had a great presence and remains the only onscreen Imperial Officer to show no fear of Vader. Appreciation for the character has grown over the years, and BMS has tried to do its part to give Tarkin the spotlight in the Star Wars universe we feel he deserves.
However, when Lucas decided to give Tarkin a brief cameo at the end of Revenge of the Sith, as much as I wanted to be grateful for the inclusion, it was extremely cumbersome. The prosthetics and makeup that the stand-in actor had to wear created a balloon-headed Halloween parody of Peter Cushing. It was one of the more trivial of the complaints to level at the Prequels, and it is something you can probably only care about if you really love the crap out of Cushing.
But it does make some fans nervous about the idea of resurrecting deceased screen actors, especially if they will be given significant roles. Most importantly, the permission of the family estate of any deceased actor must be given, royalties should be given, and respect should be shown. It appears, in all cases, that Rogue One received and gave all of these things.
Rogue One succeeded on a grand scale with Tarkin. While there were a few problems with the 3D animation, I will talk about that later. What I loved about Tarkin’s inclusion in the plot of Rogue One was that the flaws within the Death Star are no longer attributable to Tarkin himself. Director Krennic is the arrogant, career-climber who is directly responsible for the super weapon’s shortcomings. And this has ramifications for Tarkin in a good way, even though many of us already know Tarkin had solid motivations for not evacuating in “our moment of triumph”.
A long time ago, in the 90s, an article was published explaining to the lay-people why Tarkin decided to “go down with the ship” in response to superficial criticism that Tarkin should have evacuated. Even though he knew there was a chance the Rebels could succeed, he had to take that risk and stand by his conviction in his super weapon. If he evacuated, he would have been extremely lucky not to have been executed by the Emperor. However, now that Rogue One has added to the backstory, we know for a fact that Tarkin is aware of the Death Star’s crucial weakness. Not only was he not responsible for the flaw, but he knew the Death Star was not invulnerable and was prepared to face the enemy head on.
One of my favorite things about the film was that Director Krennic was so arrogant, smarmy and unlikable, that Tarkin’s scenes with his subordinate were delicious to watch. No one likes an arrogant, sleazy bastard, and here we had the ice cold Grand Moff put his junior in his place. This further reinforces the portrayal of Tarkin in A NEW HOPE as someone who was in control, confident and intellectually superior to his colleagues.
Vader was the dark lord of the Sith I remembered from long ago. A Vader I had not seen since… Return of the Jedi. Although James Earl Jones’ voice sounded a little off at times, everything about Vader in this film had presence. From seeing him in his palace (originally a concept that would have appeared in the early version of Return of the Jedi), to his ultimate scene at the film’s end, this was Vader at his most glorious.
Considering he was in the film so briefly, I doubt anyone left the movie without the hallway scene echoing through their heads. It was genuinely scary. If I had seen that as a kid, I know I would have had nightmares. Well done, Rogue One!
The film starts slow. Yes, I know there’s action, and jumping around from one location to the next, etc etc… But I guess what I mean is “slow” in terms of becoming invested in the plot. Once things finally do seem to pick up, around the point where they all meet up with Mon Mothma on Yavin IV, now Yavin 4 without Roman Numerals, the story actually became more interesting for me.
To break for a moment and focus on a positive, the movie REALLY starts rolling for the final third of the film from the point where Jyn, Cassian, K-2SO and the rebels are inside the Imperial facility (I can’t remember it’s official name) below the planetary forcefield. It’s a familiar situation, rebels in disguise inside an Imperial facility, but the similarity ends there and it leads to a very different and non-traditional Star Wars ending.
The battle outside on the beach, the suspense inside the data center, and the space battle above the planetary shield all build the pacing incrementally to the grand crescendo of Darth Vader lighting up his crimson light saber and decimating the brave rebels. The finale is the perfect whirlwind conclusion, where all the urgency culminates in rebels falling as if in a twisted version of an Olympic relay to get the Death Star plans to the infamous Blockade Runner before Vader can snuff out their last hope. It’s brilliant and essentially makes it easy for me to forgive the sluggish first two thirds of the movie.
Just a quick shot across Leanne’s bow. Leanne liked the stuff with Jyn’s father, but I haven’t watched the Hannibal TV show and frankly, I thought the guy kind of sucked. There, I said it. But then, I didn’t really feel much for any of the central characters in this film. Again, I think Donnie Yen’s Imwe, and Maze Balbus were criminallly underused since they had the charisma that Jones and Luna lacked. I’m not criticizing their acting. More their casting in this type of movie. If Diego Luna had more of that Harrison Ford scoundrel charm, and if Felicity had a touch of Carrie Fisher, or Daisy Ridley, then the interplay would have seemed more compelling.
Jyn and Cassian were not exactly captivating or compelling lead characters. Now, I’m going to be a little tongue-in-cheek here, so don’t take me too seriously. On the one hand, you’ve got an actress that gives a performance that seems to say “where is the bathroom, I am busting to pee!” On the other hand you’ve got a weedy backstabber with an odd accent who never really gets any time to be much more than that.
Felicity Jones looks like she needs to use the bathroom in EVERY shot of this film. I get that she is playing a character who has had a rough childhood, but then so has every character in Star Wars. It’s that pissed off look that just kind of doesn’t warm me to her character. I get the impression there was only one bathroom break opportunity in the entire movie, and when she went, all the stalls were occupied. What else can I say about her? She was okay. Just not that interesting. While, overall, I didn’t like the Force Awakens, at least Daisy Ridley had warmth and that’s vital for a leading character. The tone for the heroes in this film was so grim that the director seems to have forgotten that even in a tragedy, you need to be invested in the heroes.
I’m not sure what to say about Cassian. He’s a guy who shoots an invalid in the back in an alley. A guy, who is either working for the Empire via a fellow spy who is high up in the Rebel Alliance, or is working for a splinter group of Rebels who don’t share the democratic view. Whatever the case, not enough time is given to tell us more about someone we are apparently supposed to care about prior to the ultimate sacrifice at the end of the film. Just as well K-2SO and Donnie Yen are there to keep things from getting boring.
I’ve already given a clue that I didn’t like Director Krennic. In part, that is fitting, as we clearly are not supposed to “like” him. But he’s clearly an idiotic Imperial Officer. For a start, note that he WALKS everywhere, no matter the urgency.
The Imperial base is fighting a losing battle, and the Death Star plans are about to transmitted, and he literally WALKS down the hall with two Shadow Stormtroopers strolling behind him toward the data center. Keep in mind, his entire career (the one thing he apparently cares about) is in jeopardy. Throughout the film, Krennic gives the impression of a villain who dresses like he wants to appear to be more than he is. You don’t see Tarkin in a cape, or a white uniform. But we do see Krennic fail to live up to his superficial appearance. I didn’t enjoy him as a villain.
Oddly, Leanne did not notice his lisp. I suppose that is his one sympathetic quality.
Okay, so bear with me. Apparently Saw Gerrera is from either the Clone Wars, Rebels, or both. I had no idea of that until AFTER we saw Rogue One. So I just assumed this was a new character for Rogue One. And what was my honest impression? I thought he was either crazy, or had some mental impediment to go along with what appeared to be a speech impediment. After he started using the respirator I figured there was more to him, but he just seemed really weird.
I was not impressed with his decision to stay and die on Jeddah. Why would he do that? They could have at least given us some character based justification for why a rebel would want to stop fighting and just stand there and die. If there was more to his rationale, it didn’t survive the theatrical cut. I thought Saw Gerrera was comically bad. But, fortunately he was not in much of the film, so I’ll move on.
Tarkin has appeared in Clone Wars, and possibly Rebels as well (I’m behind on that show). A reasonable job was done, but cartoon 3D animation is one thing, creating a moving, breathing, photo-realistic Peter Cushing is another.
Now, I went to see Terminator Genisys purely because the trailer showed a 3D animated younger Arnold Schwarzenegger as the original T-800, and it looked amazing. When I saw the movie, I realized there was still a ways to go before photo-realistic 3D animated humans would be entirely believable.
Tarkin, and later, a young Senator Leia, both suffer from being surrounded by live-action actors. The contrast is subtle, but obvious. The eyes seem flatter, lacking the depth and reflection of real humanity. There’s even a moment when Tarkin is moving his eyes to the side in his first scene, and they just look fake. Is the technology amazing? Yes. And it has potential, given even more time and money, to become indistinguishable from live-action actors. However, I’m not willing to crucify this film for imperfect effects.
I think what is important is that for a moment, in our contemporary, post Internet age, a new generation is being exposed to Peter Cushing through the character he originally gave life to back in 1976/77. I’ve already heard from people who are casual Star Wars fans, who know nothing about my own investment in Peter Cushing appreciation, who made a point of commenting on Tarkin as one of the highlights of the movie. One person didn’t even know Peter Cushing was dead and thought that was actually him on screen with some sort of anti-aging special effects.
What this suggests, to me, is that a younger generation will be introduced to Peter Cushing thanks to Rogue One, and perhaps they will look him up on Youtube and discover some of the brilliant action adventure horror films of the 50s and 60s where he made his name, along with his wide body of work. I think the vocal performance of Guy Henry was excellent, and I’m a Peter Cushing nerd. So, I think the spirit behind including Peter Cushing was well placed, well executed, and done with his estates blessing, meaning I’m happy. Heck, it could have been that prosthetic makeup from Revenge of the Sith *shudder*
So, how do I summarize the film? It’s good. If you value plot and storytelling, then this will serve you better than the Force Awakens, however, like the previous film, it’s a mixed bag when it comes to the all-important character development.
K-2SO, Tarkin and Vader are reason enough to absolutely see this movie. The perfect movie would have been K-2SO, Tarkin and Vader stuck on a desert island together.
If you take nothing else from it but the scenes involving those three, Rogue One will still be a worthwhile experience. It has certainly given us plenty of material to parody, and we are much more enthusiastic about approaching it than the Force Awakens, so stay tuned!