Kevin Strange’s Star Wars: Rogue One Review

Lucasfilm and Disney took a HUGE gamble by breaking from the traditional Skywalker storyline with its “A Star Wars Story” franchise which follows characters only tangentially related to the saga of Luke, Leia, Obi Wan and Darth Vader.

Does this gamble pay off or does ROGUE ONE turn out to be a giant, unmitigated disaster?

STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE was directed by Gareth Edwards who last helmed the big budget American Godzilla film from 2014 (and incidentally shows Darth Vader here about as much as he showed Big Green in that film.)  So he’s no stranger to taking on franchises with a ton of history behind them.

But to be tasked with creating the first STAR WARS film outside of the Skywalkerverse? Lots of pressure. And rumors of massive re-shoots only months before the film was set to be released only intensified the feeling of unease as we inched closer and closer to its December 2016 release date.

As Han Solo famously says, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

So does it crash and burn like a Star Destroyer after one too many laser blasts from a squad of X-Wings? Or does it soar into nastalgia-land and do enough fan service to earn its place in the pantheon of STAR WARS films before it?

For me, it lands somewhere in the middle. It’s not as good as Episode 7 and still worlds better than any one of the prequels without touching the brilliance of original trilogy. ROGUE ONE is the kind of STAR WARS movie I EXPECTED to see back when THE PHANTOM MENACE came out.

It’s a big, loud, dumb blockbuster with enough heart to propel it forward while failing to create that charm that Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had in the original trilogy.

None of the characters stand out as the kind that people will be talking about for years to come. For me, the only character I really gave a shit about was Forest Whitaker’s batshit crazy turn as Saw Gerrera the robot-legged, oxygen-huffing rebel who helped Jyn Erso (played wooden and dead-eyed by Felicity Jones) escape after the imperial general Orson Krennic comes for her father.

Mads Mikkelsen, who I normally love, phones it in as Jyn’s father Galen. The rest of the cast is a fairly generic (but ethnically diverse because, you know, political correctness) group of rebels who deliver the equally generic hero dialogue with little conviction and then die on command as the story calls for tragedy.

Even the android here, K-2S0, failed to impress me. Of all the droids in all the STAR WARS films, this one impressed me the least. He’s a cheap C-3P0 worry-bot knock off who looks like a rejected IRON GIANT prototype.

The only characters outside of Saw Gerrea that even held my attention were the duo of Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe and his friend Baze Malbus, played by Jiang Wen. These two would have been awesome characters in a better movie. In fact, I would have loved to see them in their own movie.

Same goes for Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera. I would have much rather watched a movie about him going crazy and losing his feet, slowly drifting further and further away from the rebel alliance’s core values until he practically becomes their enemy.

But we don’t get that movie here. We get 6 or 7 story lines all rushed to get us to the final attack on the imperial garrison on Scarif which, admittedly, is a breathtaking scene. It’s a scene that, by itself, makes Episode 4: A NEW HOPE a better movie.

It’s unfortunate that the rest of the film doesn’t have the same emotional gravitas as the brave rebel team’s doomed final mission at the end of the movie. There are so many cut scenes to new planets, new characters, and convoluted exposition scenes explaining which video-game-like task they need to complete next, that the film seems both rushed and boring at the same time. No story thread is given enough time to unwind in a natural way.

Even the score seems overly loud, driving us impatiently from one character death and set piece explosion to the next until we’re both bored and numb from all of the elaborate visual effects space ship fights and CGI aliens shouting orders at each other.

ROGUE ONE isn’t a bad film. But it suffers from trying to serve too many masters all at once. The re-shoots didn’t help to shore up the story lines. The score doesn’t help to add emotion to scenes that simply needed more time to connect with the audience, and ultimately, while the movie serves as a great lead-in to A NEW HOPE, it only manages to show how much better of a film the original STAR WARS is, rather than existing as a great  STAR WARS story in and of itself.

I give it an 89% chance of having 3 out of 5 Strangeheads.