4. Rogue One
Not unlike most American men of a certain age, I’m a colossal fan of Star Wars. I can’t remember a time in my life when I hadn’t seen the original trilogy, and not just seen but had memorized down to every line of dialogue, every music cue, every Chewbacca growl. So, whenever I can come into a Star Wars film with fresh eyes, something I don’t already know by heart, I’m very excited. I felt that way in 1999, and like many, was ultimately, disappointed by the prequels (ignore the fact that I saw The Phantom Menace 7 times in the theater and own three copies of it). So, when Disney bought out Lucasfilm and committed to making, not only, the continuing stories of Luke Skywalker but side story, expanded universe, movies, I was more than thrilled. I enjoyed The Force Awakens, I thought it introduced some great new characters, but I did feel the retread complaints that were made about it, and I thought some of it just didn’t work (looking at you General Hux and your Starkiller Base). So, would the first Star Wars story film fall victim to the same traps? It does! Although, to a much lesser degree.
Rogue One is still a movie where the Death Star is the threat, which makes it the 4th out of 8 movies that uses it’s looming presence as the call to action for our heroes, but not since the original Star Wars is it used so effectively. You learn more about it than you’ve ever known and you feel like it’s a real threat to their intergalactic civilization. Another thing this movie does incredibly well is really give meat to the Rebellion’s story. The Rebels are split in their ideals, some more extreme than others. Even those you cheer for in the piece practice the murkier side of heroics. It really sheds a different light on those 70’s hair and stache sporting chaps hanging out on Yavin IV in A New Hope.
The whole main cast is incredibly great and incredibly diverse…by Earth standards anyway, in a galaxy full of alien creatures, you’d think they’d bring at least one along with them on this mission… #StarWarsSoHuman. I’m particularly smitten with Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO and Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe and am bummed I’ll never get to see them in any future installments… sorry… *Spoilers. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna are both great, but their characters experience only the most minute of a story arc. They’re only slightly less ruthless than when we first meet them. Arcs aren’t always important though, I mean it’s not like George Clooney and Brad Pitt aren’t playing the exact same characters in every Ocean’s movie, it can work. It just feels like a little more exploration of the Cassian character, especially, could have gone a long way. Ben Mendelsohn is great in everything (if you’ve never seen Mississippi Grind, it’s on Amazon Prime, go watch it now) including, even though I’ve never seen it, Neighbours, the Australian soap opera he starred on with Kylie Minogue,I just assume that about anything with Kylie. He’s just as smarmy and ruthless as you’d want an Imperial officer to be. His scenes with bizarro Peter Cushing’s Tarkin are especially great. I could only pay attention to their dialogue on my third viewing though, that CG is still not quite there yet and is pretty distracting.
The couple of gripes I had weren’t enough to ruin the movie for me. Overall, it’s exactly what I wanted it to be… yes I teared up at the end. I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next, but I would say I’d really like to see something completely unrelated to characters we already know, maybe a completely different time period all together. It’s a big universe, make use of it.