This article will discuss aspects of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that are dependent on seeing the movie. For maximum discourse potential, we recommend seeing the movie before reading this article.
Since Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has been released my social media feeds that are even tangentially related to Star Wars have exploded in absolute praise over Rogue One being some sort of magnum opus for the Star Wars franchise.
I went to see it on opening weekend with my sister. I can’t say I share the same outlook as the people on my feeds or with Travis’s review. I can only really come to the conclusion that Rogue One is a mediocre movie. Much like
A New Hope: Reloaded The Force Awakens, the hype just doesn’t match the actual quality of the film.
Note that I said mediocre. I’m not calling it a bad or terrible movie, but it’s not masterpiece others have proclaimed it to be. I still enjoyed the movie and even think it has some great individual moments. But this movie has flaws. Not fatal flaws, but serious ones. Serious enough that I can’t in good conscience call this a great, or even a good, movie.
Movie Making 101: Character Development
The biggest flaw, and one that comes close to being fatal to the movie itself, is the character development. Or I should say, the complete lack thereof. Given the horrid pacing, we are jumping from place to place at such a quick rate that there’s really no time to develop any sort of rapport with any of the principle characters. Baze Malbus (let’s do a poll to see how many people know his name) has more character development and emotional attachment attributed to him in the cut content from the trailers than he does in the actual movie. It’s kind of implied he really, really hates the Empire, but it’s never explored. Bodhi Rook? Well, “he’s the pilot”, but couldn’t we delve into his background just a little bit more? And as for Chirrut Îmwe (again, let’s get a poll for knowing that name), I get the feeling we only are supposed to care about him because he is portrayed by Donnie Yen. He had a few nice moments, but was otherwise forgettable and kind of annoying with his Force chant. And I’m really going to hate him for making that dumb Force chant a thing.
Even Cassian, who gets considerably more screen time, is somewhat underdeveloped as a character, which makes his sudden budding relationship with Jyn feel unnatural and contrived. The end result is characters that nobody has a reason to care about. As I was watching all these characters die at the end I strangely felt … absolutely nothing. All their deaths are made to be fairly dramatic, but I just couldn’t muster a reason to care. Aside from Jyn, Cassian, and maybe K-2SO (the only characters my sister could name afterward, by the way), the rest of the cast may as well have been lumped in with the other nondescript Rebel guerrillas that accompany the team to Scarif. Perhaps this is just a general problem with ensemble type movies. After all, even a great movie like The Avengers seemed to suffer from this problem, using a contrived plot device to essentially write off Hawkeye for a good portion of the movie.
I suppose we should talk about Saw Gerrerra. His involvement in the movie is somewhat confusing, as he’s implied to be somewhat important early on in the movie, as well as in the trailers (more on that in a bit), only to be abruptly removed from the movie early on. What exactly was it about him that repulsed the Rebel Alliance, enough to try to assassinate him? What drives him? Interesting things that could have been expanded upon, but alas, they are not.
I have no respect for those with no respect for logic
As Arnold Schwarzenegger is fond of saying: I have no respect for those with no respect for logic. Now, there’s always going to be inconsistencies, plot holes, and some other things that don’t necessarily make sense in every movie, but once you reach a certain threshold of nonsense it starts to affect the movie. Among the high(low?)lights:
- Are we to seriously believe this horse shit about Galen Erso intentionally inserting a supposedly subtle yet fatal flaw in the Death Star’s design without anybody noticing? It’s hard to imagine Darth Vader didn’t visit the project once or twice and search through Galen’s mind to discover something was “not right” about Galen. Director Krennic, a bit of a paranoid control freak about the project, should have probably noticed too, as we’re led to believe he was always suspicious of Galen’s “help”. And what about the law of unintended consequences? We are dealing with crazy Force crystal shit here! What if that design flaw caused a chain reaction that obliterated the galaxy! I always thought it would be a little more poetic if the Death Star flaw would have been just a result of typical government bureaucracy. After all, the project depicted in the movie had all the hallmarks of a typical government project – late, over budget, and desperately being lobbied for by a guy who really needs his performance bonus for Christmas. A design flaw in a project like that would have been a plausible inevitability. But alas, we are given this contrived pile of drivel.
- Minor quibble, by why couldn’t the Rebel squadron break off after being ordered to do so on Eadu? Sure they’re engaged with enemy fighters, but that doesn’t mean they had to continue the bombing run that could have gotten some important Rebel dudes killed! Why not just withdraw at a safe opportunity?
- In the battle of Scarif, why does it take so long for the Rebel Fleet to take out the shield generator? In fact, why do they need to be explicitly told how to do so? Why are they wasting torpedoes shooting right at the shield when the space station facility that is clearly visible isn’t even being touched? Why do they need to have this convoluted plan to try and ram two Star Destroyers into each other and then hope the trajectory leads the resulting debris to collide into the facility thing that they could have been attacking with all their munitions this whole time? And if, for some reason, that facility thing wasn’t powering the shield and the generator was on the ground, why wasn’t that generator priority target #1 for the guerrillas below?
- Nobody noticed that the Imperial Officer who entered the cargo shuttle looked nothing like Cassian? Come on.
- So, lots of other folks have commented on the Rube Goldberg data archive machine. Needless to say, it was pretty dumb:
- The bumbling baton passing of the Death Star plans was pretty silly. And why didn’t Vader just Force pull the data disc? There was ample opportunity to do so. That he didn’t defies common sense. Oh wait, don’t tell me, the “goodness” of Anakin prevented him from doing so, right? Not like that helped the troopers he mercilessly slaughtered.
- Why is Princess Leia, an important figure in the Senate who the Alliance absolutely cannot afford to be killed or captured, in the middle of a god damn war zone? Look, I get that they wanted to have the end of this movie lead right into A New Hope, but this is just absurd. It also makes the conversation between Leia and Vader at the beginning of A New Hope utterly nonsensical. There’s really no plausible way that Leia can claim they were “on a diplomatic mission“. Her ship jumps out of Scarif in full view of an Imperial Fleet. No amount of diplomatic immunity would have helped her at that point.
- I’ll need a second viewing to confirm this one but I’m pretty sure I saw it right the first time: R2-D2 and C-3PO are shown hanging out on Yavin 4 after the Alliance finds out about the conflict on Scarif and after they mention that Admiral Raddis has already left to help them. If you’ll recall, Leia’s ship was docked inside Admiral Raddis’s flagship. OOPS.
What Happened to “I rebel” in Rogue One?
As I continue to ponder this mildly disappointing spectacle, my mind keeps coming back to the wildfire rumors of extensive reshoots during the summer. This is wild speculation and maybe borders on conspiratorial on my part, but I think there was an opportunity for a really great movie that was squandered by what looks to be a pretty extensive editing process. We can see it in the progression of the trailers we were shown. Practically all the dialogue and a good number of scenes from the first two trailers didn’t appear in the movie, and even some stuff from the final trailer is missing (notably, Krennic’s pronouncements to Vader about the Death Star).
It’s pretty disappointing because it appeared there was some real potential for the character of Jyn Erso. I keep going back to the first trailer, with Saw ominously warning, “What will they do if they catch you? What will you do if they break you?”, then giving a final warning of “If you continue to fight, what will you become?” as the most associated image with the movie is shown (which, ironically, also didn’t appear to make the actual movie). The first two trailers seemed to indicate this movie was possibly going to some dark places, that Jyn herself may have been the extremist that Saw Gerrerra was supposedly alleged to be in the actual movie. Maybe she would have been a conflicted, really interesting character. Instead we are given a typical angry teenager who suddenly turns into a typical Mary Sue idealist hero.
I also don’t buy the PR spin that they actually did the re-shoots to make a different ending where everyone dies. Going back to the rumors that some grisly Vader scenes were cut out, I’m wondering if the original plan was maybe to have Vader personally be a little more involved with the untimely demises of the heroes at the end. I realize I’m probably talking out of my own personal desires based on the information I’ve dug up, but I’ll stick with this hypothesis until evidence proves otherwise. Nevertheless, the final product does have a feel of sterilization of some of the grittier parts that could have made for a potentially better movie, or at least one where I could actually care about any of the characters.
So in conclusion, it’s not a bad movie; go ahead and see it, you’ll probably enjoy it. All I ask is that the rose-tinted glasses be taken off in its evaluation.