I tried to push off my full review for the latest installment in the hopefully never-ending Star Wars saga. Everyone’s posting stupid shit about this movie, and while most people have seen it, I, personally know several who haven’t. So–I held off. Until now.
You guys are no doubt aware of my feelings for Star Wars at this point; and my Hamas-level of intolerance for those who dare insult the franchise. It is part of my brutal Star Wars fundamentalism that, if one must insult the sacred, it must be done with love, humility and a thousands prayers of contrition.
Even if you’re going to shit on the prequels…or even those stupid fucking Ewok movies…you do so with reverence, or you must be exiled to the Upside Down.
That being said, Rogue One was a fucking stomach-churning bore.
Just kidding. It was likely one of the best Star Wars films ever made. The central criticism of the film, whether people realize it or not, is that it can’t possibly function on its own. But after A New Hope, no Star Wars film can. Out of a total of 8-fucking-movies thus far, only a single fucking one can possibly function as a stand-alone story. You can argue Empire Strikes Back all you want, but there would be no shock in Vader being Luke’s father if he hadn’t been set in carbonite as Luke’s nemesis in A New Hope.
So, no–for the foreseeable future–you will never have a Star Wars film that works independent of any others. And, honestly, Rogue One and The Force Awakens may be the closest you’re ever going to get.
Before I go into a breakdown, I’ll get into a few nitpicky elements that took me out of the film a bit.
First, I would’ve loved to see more elements from the prequels and other media content (like Rebels) cross over. We got Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa and Genevieve O’Reilly as Mon Mothma–but god dammit, that’s not enough. I know it sounds cringe, but certain characters have an important role in the story and are tossed out in favor of populism. Where’s Jar Jar Binks? Where’s Baron Papanoida? Where’s Ben Quadinaros?
The greatest tie-in surprise of all was when “General Syndulla” is called to the Rebel Alliance’s Command Room for an off-screen meeting in Rogue One. For those special (autistic) fans, General Syndulla will be immediately familiar as Hera Syndulla of Rebels. Her ship, the Ghost, makes a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance as part of the fleet in the Battle of Scarif.
Second, the sheer level of importance the film makers put on making the Empire a bunch of brooding, crusty, old white men, while the Rebellion was a vibrant rag-tag group of multi-racial, multi-cultural war dogs and magic men was abundantly clear. Every other character shown on screen when the “Good Guys” were around seemingly had to be an obviously different race.
It wasn’t the inclusiveness that bugged me. In fact, Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook was one of my favorite characters in the film. It was the deliberate nature of the film’s writers and director to “fix” something that Star Wars had gotten “wrong” and the deliberate nature of this strategy that bugged my shit.
Not to mention that the entire lead-up to the film was plagued with #DumpStarWars trolls coming from the Alt-Right and retarded shit like “The Empire are White Supremacists, repost this Rebel Alliance symbol with a safety pin to fight hate #NeverTrump” coming from the film’s writers. It was enough to get worried.
But then you realize that the politics of the writers is almost always scorched out of films like this by the powers that be in order to create universal appeal. Plus, you can’t write a war film that is 75% guided by motivational speeches without pulling from some of the best nationalist speeches of all time. For example…
Jyn Erso rallies her fellow rebels with: “You give in to an empire this evil, and you condemn the entire galaxy to an eternity of darkness.”
The speech is reminiscent of, “We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness,” a speech given in 1967 by Ronald Reagan.
And lastly, I don’t think Donnie Yen (Yen Ji-dan) is a capable English actor. He’s a fine martial artist and a very capable director and choreographer–but as an actor, his delivery can not possibly measure up to the rest of the cast. It’s obvious they used him for his fight-dancing skills and not for his acting talent, and that’s a shame.
Let’s get to the movie!
Rogue One begins with a relatively family friendly version of the opening scene from Inglourious Basterds. It’s tense and brutal, and unexpected in a Star Wars film. We also get our first look at Saw Gerrera, played straight-bad-ass by madman Forest Whitaker. The only mention I’ve seen of Forest Whitaker’s performance in this film at length has been via some goofball from The New Yorker, comparing Whitaker’s performance to that of Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet…the most unhinged and ridiculous comparison ever.
We move jump around a lot in the first hour of the film, setting up various story elements and different characters who will eventually come together as a rag-tag group of would-be rebels. Many people are suggesting that the first hour of the film is was awful, leading up to a fantastic–if not, ultimately predictable–finale. But if you didn’t like the first hour of a two-hour film, you most likely just didn’t like the movie. So as I said in my first Star Wars article this week, these people should almost certainly just quit pretending to like the franchise and allow us to enjoy it.
The first half of the film was very similar to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy in that we were treated to a glimpse of various characters in varying intergalactic locations who were all then grouped together when they are all held captive.
The hero of the Rebellion, and arguably the “first Rebel” is Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera. His character dates back to the Clone Wars series and he has recently come back into the Star Wars story through Rebels. His underground not-so-subtle terrorist organization against the Empire has been causing nothing but headaches for the organized Rebellion’s concentrated, but lackluster efforts to take on opposing battalions. But he gets pragmatic results: more dead Stormtroopers.
Rogue One generates its ensemble cast at a modest pace. The only one we really know anything about at all is Jyn, and I’m not entirely convinced it was meant to be that way. Reshoots and scenes from the trailer conspicuously missing from the actual film paint a very different picture of the fate of our crew. U-Wing Pilot Cassian Andor is a “just following orders” type who has two major passions: the Rebellion and his buddy, a reprogrammed Imperial Droid called K-2SO. Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe are an inexplicable duo of a road-warrior type with a seemingly endless supply of ammunition, and a blink martial artist Whills monk who can’t shut up about the Force. The implication here is that, as fellow travelers, they have kept one another alive for a very long time…but writers who want to install their own self-deluded ego into the characters desperately want them to be homosexual.
And last but not least, the former Imperial Cargo Pilot gone rogue, Bodhi Rook, whose capture by Saw Gerrera’s gang sets the entire story in motion.
The story, of course, is the drawn-out tale of the series of fights that led to the events described in the opening crawl of Star Wars Ep. IV: A New Hope. And they don’t let you forget it. Almost every word out of a rebel’s mouth is “hope.”
While all of this is going on throughout the first half of the film, some familiar characters are trying to put the ambitious Death Star out of Beta. We got Darth Vader running around like Skeletor with his own castle and shit; and you’ve got Peter Cushing returning from the grave to reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin. Some are claiming to have a massive moral issue with this character being utilized again; but it’s clearly just grandstanding nonsense. Haunting, though his appearance is, it is abundantly clear that it is supposed to be. While there is a bit of “uncanny valley” aspects to his facial movements, and the later (brief) appearance of Princess Leia, we can easily forgive it on a story basis. It’s hard to have a story about the construction and implementation of the Death Star without Tarkin.
The movie moves at a good pace, and there is lots of fun to be had with the appearance of new creatures, and some old familiar ones in the form of a perhaps-vacationing, or if you want to get real nerdy–hiding in Jedha creating a series of Decraniated servants, Dr. Cornelius Evazan & Ponda Baba. Everything feels very Star Wars. And that’s not something that necessarily goes without saying. While The Force Awakens created a familiar sandbox with a sleek new design, Rogue One truly goes back to that 1977 world; a world that you didn’t necessarily have to leave behind if you got on board with Star Wars: Rebels.
The film’s finale is almost certainly the most-talked-about moment. Darth Vader comes to life, hacking, slashing, force-pushing and slamming his way through the corridors of a Rebel Ship (Tantive IV). We’re taken, essentially, right up to the opening credits of A New Hope. This is undoubtedly the icing on the cake of a plethora of brilliantly-executed action scenes that brought a much-needed recognizable war back to Star Wars. The battles of the prequels were merely place-holders for the multiple fights we’re treated to here.
And for anyone who thought that Revenge of the Sith was lacking in its effectiveness as a lead-up to A New Hope, you now have a much safer, and much more agreeable buffer zone. But don’t sleep on Revenge of the Sith. Ever.