Tuesday, December 27, 2016
After watching Rogue One last weekend, I anticipated writing a review about how much I love the new direction this film was to take. Originally conceived by writers John Knoll and Gary Whitta as an espionage story; with studio re-shoots and writer changes, we are left with another X-wing / TIE fighter battle at the film's climax. Now I love a good fighter battle as much as the next fanboy, but we've all seen it before. Add in two dimensional characters and forced laughs, and I found myself longing for the film we were promised: a spy thriller set in the Star Wars universe.
From the in-your-face fan service references that scream "Hey, remember this from the movies you liked?" to the lack of any chemistry between the characters, I had no emotional investment in the characters or plot. That is the film's biggest crime, because a lot of bad happens to the characters that I just didn't care about in the first place. Don't mention the not-so-funny reprogramed Imperial droid voiced by the very funny Alan Tudyk.
That's not to say that Rogue One doesn't take risks. One of the most striking is the exquisitely rendered CGI likeness of the late Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin. Far from the "uncanny valley" version of a young Jeff Bridges from the 2011 film, TRON Legacy, this doppelganger for 1977 Cushing will fool anyone who is unaware of the actor's passing in 1994. Slightly less impressive is a young Princess Leah shown toward the end of the film. Also, I think it is safe to say that Rogue One is a bloodbath of major characters, solidifying its place as a stand alone film and justifying it's PG-13 rating. For all the parents taking their little girls (and boys), with Jyn Erso figure in hand, to this film, be aware that all doesn't end well for our heroine or her friends.
I liked Rogue One for the risks it took, but I wonder what the original version would have looked like before the studio suits got their way. Here's hoping that there will be a alternate version available in the near future, but Disney typically doesn't so that sort of thing. Rogue One reveals details and fills out the Star Wars narrative well for the events leading up to A New Hope. Expect that, and you won't be disappointed.