16 December 2016

Rogue One: A Review

The title says it all mate

First things first, the movie in its entirety was absolutely fantastic. Disney went out on a limb, as much as 'betting' on a Star Wars film constitutes a limb, and it paid off big time. There are a few aspects, however, when looked at individually, that could have been better. Keeping in mind the fact that I am a huge Star Wars fan, and so this review is incredibly biased, I think that a movie this close to being perfect, should have been able to handle the few niggles that stood out for me.

The characters that make up the main crew, that being Jyn Erso, Cassian Andor, K-2SO, Bodhi, Chirrut and Baze are all incredibly memorable; if I had one comment regarding this aspect of the film, it is that I would have loved more in-depth backstory for each and every one of them. But within the framing of the first two acts to set up the third, I can see why a limited scope of the secondary characters was necessary.

Which leads me to the first aspect that I believe could have been improved, the pacing of the film. The first and second act of the film mainly concerns themselves with Jyn's backstory and how she came to be embroiled in the Rebel's struggle. Fair enough, but if the film had sped through that a tad more, I think the second act could have revolved around the actual Rogue One squad. The third act pays off with the film shot as it is; but if the plot had focused more on the Rogue One squad in the second act, it would have felt like more of a departure from the Star Wars formula.

This is the second aspect that I wanted to address. The artistic feel of the film is that of a war movie, merely using Star Wars set pieces. Playing around in the Star Wars universe but with different genres/types of film is a brilliant idea; I'm already ridiculously excited for the untitled Boba Fett film. But I wish Rogue One had committed to the idea more. The sweeping cinematic shots, accompanied by a beautiful crescendo in the soundtrack still look and feel amazing. However, they detracted from the visceral, gritty war story I think Gareth Edwards was attempting to shoot. The best comparison for a war movie I can think of would be Fury.

Fury in a handful of sentences:

Fury tells the story of a group of men and their bond with each other. They are brothers in arms; they live in the same tank, and together they make her a home, as well as a tool of war. But at the end of the day, Fury is the story of bad men, doing bad things, for the good side of a terrible conflict.

Rogue One acknowledges that no side in any war gets by on idealism and dreams alone. Dark deeds must be done by men and women in darker places so that others can sleep peacefully. Diego Luna's portrayal of Captain Cassian exemplifies this, and I would have called Rogue One a perfect proof of concept if the film had focused more on the struggle against the Empire in this light.

My final niggle regarding Rogue One is that fans clearly created it. While that isn't inherently a bad thing, it is the cause of some of the more gratuitous cameos. Admittedly, I wouldn't have been able to contain myself were I ever to write a screenplay within an iconic universe either. Some of them were just, poorer than others and they stood out against the overall tone of the movie.

Despite the last couple paragraphs, Rogue One is still a beautifully shot film; the story is gripping, and Rogue One proves that talented people can play with the Star Wars universe, without relying on Jedi and Sith and still tell a compelling story. You were going to see it regardless of what anyone told you; and if you've already seen it, odds are I haven't changed your mind.

As a final thought, my two favourite characters were Captain Cassian and Chirrut. If LucasArts/Disney were willing to take a real gamble on a Star Wars movie, I think they could create a fantastic comedy, a la Guardians of the Galaxy, with Chirrut's backstory. Just a thought.