Alright, first I need to write a disclaimer.
- I enjoyed watching Rogue One. I was entertained.
- Repeat: I was entertained. It is possible to enjoy something, but also be critical of it.
- After The Force Awakens, I was fiending for a new Star Wars anything. The promise of Rogue One intrigued me.
- But I do not think Rogue One delivered in many ways. I hadn’t read any previews or have I read any critical response to the movie. I just saw one trailer.
- This post will contain spoilers, you’ve been warned
This is me in the movie theater, my initial reactions: Holy shit, it’s starting. It’s starting! SPACE! SPAAAACE! Spaceships! Eee! New planets! The fucking Imperials, with their evil British accents and goofy 80’s control panels! Oh backstory, this must be the lead as a child and her motivation for becoming…Rogue One? Hmm. Ooh, Forest Whitaker in a weird, badass costume, alright, LET’S DO THIS.
This is me as the credits roll, my initial reactions: My brows are furrowed. I’m unsettled. People murmur, some clap and cheer, while others just sit there watching who held what boom and got the APs coffee when and…I sigh and leave the theater with my family. We’re all pleased, but not over the moon, lacking even a tenth of the enthusiasm as when we left after The Force Awakens.
I said, “That was the Saving Private Ryan of the Star Wars franchise,” but that doesn’t fit. Saving Private Ryan is an Academy Award-winning epic masterpiece about the horror and despair of war. Rogue One is a sub-par war movie branded and shoehorned into a universe beloved for its charm; a fun, epic, space opera fantasy. And what is Rogue One about, exactly? Hope? The narrative kept beating us over the head with that theme, tried hard as hell to sell it, but ultimately failed.
Let me recount where it succeeds.
The largest triumph for me is explaining why the Imperial engineers designed such a shitty flaw in their extremely expensive, world destroying super weapons. A spin-off to cover a plot-hole is hilarious and I’m on board with that. Oh so, so, maybe that’s why the AT-ATs are also so easy to tip over. Whatever. It’s all downhill from there.
Jyn has all the promise of being a badass, female Han Solo. The problem is when we join her, she’s a prisoner, and the most intriguing part of her life, what makes her appear to be an anti-hero is far in her past. We get a glimpse of that shadowy history with a few lines of dialogue when she confronts Forest Whitaker and the Rebel Extremists. But we have no real trauma to sympathize with, no emotional connection to Jyn aside from her alleged loyalty to her father. So after trying to assassinate her father, the rebels don’t believe his plan, and she decides to go on a suicide mission to help the rebels because _______. (Fill in the blank, because I have no fucking idea.)
Even Ray, a shining beacon of Jedi hope, wanted to fuck off back to Jakku after she was done with helping a droid find his boss. How am I supposed to believe Jyn suddenly wants to save the galaxy after watching one hologram? Does Jyn seek redemption? A redemption story could have been powerful, but that takes character work, which was sacrificed instead to throw the starving masses tidbits of Star Wars fan service (DARTH VADAR IN A WATER TANK YA’LL…OMG THAT GUY IN THE WHITE CAPE SAID EMPEROR…)
The space battle is gorgeous, heart-pounding, and makes your mouth water with that sweet, sweet CGI. One problem, though. We don’t give half a shit how many X-wings are destroyed in the battle because we have no idea who they are. We aren’t connected to them, they are just faceless, nameless “good guys” crashing and breaking against the Imperial war machine.
The same can be said for the invasion of (already forgot the name of the resort planet.) The suicide-squad guerilla rebel team look like total badasses. Nevermind the fact that there’s not one woman in the crew, but rather, a puppet alien or two. (I could go on with the half-assed inclusion and almost tokenizing of the cast, but for this rant I’ll just stick to the larger themes.) But the camera pans over them before they fade into the background as Kassian explains they need some kind of redemption for the shitty things the Rebel Alliance made them do.
Wait. What? Whaaaaat?
It’s cool to watch them operate like seal-team six and plan their operation, the initial triumph of routing the Imperial forces, but just like the space battle, we watch as they’re mowed down one by one, without so much as a name for us to mourn. (No, not…//checks Credits// “Dude with the cool hat!”)
So we get death and spectacle without emotion. Flimsy exposition to give meaning to useless sacrifice, because, eh, what does it matter anyway? A New Hope starts right after this happens so these glorious bastards all need to die in order for the white, ER oops, I MEANT so the real heroes can take over.
In closing, I ain’t mad. I’m just disappointed. The franchise had the chance to make something really interesting, super inclusive, brave and new. Instead, they THEME HAMMER us in the face screaming “HOPE” but it felt like the limp dick of a cackling Disney exec “MONEYGRAB”ing all over our frothing junkie faces.
Meh. At least the robot was funny.