Saturday, March 25, 2017

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

      Rogue One is the first film in the planned Star Wars Anthology series of films set within the star Wars Universe. It is an extremely entertaining a promising start. I found the film to be a good I of nostalgia for old school Star Wars fans while bringing a new feel to the series. Apparently, it worked for other fans, too the film has grossed over $1 billion worldwide to become the 20th highest grossing film of all time as I write this.
      Rogue One is the story of Jyn, a young criminal, who is recruited by the rebellion to join Rebel team to capture her father, Galen, who is aiding the Empire in building its famous planet killer weapon, the Death Star. Galen was taken by the Empire and his wife killed fifteen years prior in front of Jyn. Jyn was rescued and mentored by Saw Gerrara, a veteran of the Clone Wars, whom the team seeks out for help. They find Galen, although he is killed, and Jynn discovers Galen sabotaged the Death Star by introducing the design flaw of one shot down an exhaust vent enabling the destruction of the Death Star. Jynn and the team AR unable to convince the Rebels to attack the Death Star with this knowledge, but go rogue themselves to steal the plans from a weapons development facility. I assume I do not have to reveal where those plans win up?
     I said above Rogue One was great in terms of both nostalgia and bringing a new feel the the Star Wars Universe. Let us take those two claims in order as we analyze the film.
      Fiat, nostalgia. While Rogue One utilizes state of the art CGI, the art design calls back to 1977. This sense of design continuity was a glaring omission from the prequels, so I am thrilled the problem is rectified by Rogue One. We also have original elements from the original trilogy making a triumphant return, like original stormtroopers, AT AT, and Darth Vader's original suit of armor. The most controversial element is the CGI rendering of old character Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia. (Ironically, both Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher have passed on.) I was not bothered by the recreations, though from a technical standpoint, Leia's cameo was less convincing than Tarkin's. I find it odd considering Tarkin had far more screen time. Nevertheless, seeing the film end with Darth Vader's ship pursuing Princess Leia's ship made me giddy.
      As far the new themes, Rogue One is far more violent than anything seen in Star Wars before. The violence I still relatively tame compared to today's epic action movies, but it is a jolt to the Star Wars status quo. Rogue one can easily be described as a straight forward war movie set in the Star War Universe. In parts, I was reminded of The Dirty Dozen in plot with action sequences similar to Saving Private Ryan. It is intense from beginning to end. The film certainly has heart with Jyn's story—but it most certainly means to be a white knuckle adventure first and foremost.
      If I have any quibble with Rogue One, it is how story elements still do not stray far from old Star Wars tropes. The main characters parallel those from the original series. Jyn is a tough young girl battling long odds against an unstoppable enemy. Cassian Andor is the Han Solo figure leading the mission for the Rebellion. K-2SO is a reprogrammed Imperial droid forced to work with the Rebellion against his will. His constant griping and stating the odds are reminiscent of C3-PO. Chiimut, a bind force sensitive ninja, is Obi Wan Kenobi. The lack of new character element is not a huge problem, but it does feel like Rogue One is coasting on past success rather than trying something new. Speaking of which, how many times can the pot of taking down an Imperial shield be recycled? The pot device is here again in all its glory.
      It was necessary to introduce a new villain, but Orson Kremic as the head of Imperial Weapons Development was just mediocre. He was overshadowed. by Tarkin and Darth Vader. The problem is how much Kremic reminded me of the villain SS officer Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds.  But I liked Landa more. Maybe Christoph Waltz should have played Kremic instead.
      My criticism do not take away much from Rogue One. It is still one of the best Star Wars projects out there. I would place it right up there with the original trilogy in terms of quality and entertainment value. I confess trepidations an ongoing series of standalone Star Wars films stretching into the foreseeable future may grow stale, it certainly enjoys a sold start. There I something to like for old and new fan alike.
     Rating: **** (out of 5)