Monday, December 26, 2016

Rogue One

It seems reviews today need to come with a disclaimer in the beginning as to whether there are spoilers or not so in compliance with the requirement I'd say yes there are spoilers. There are spoilers even though I tried to be as vague as possible but its impossible to describe what I like or don't like without giving even just a little.  My advice as someone who tries to avoid spoilers every so often it is best not to read anything at all.




Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is better than the prequels (The Phantom Menace, Attack of theClones, and the Revenge of the Sith) especially if you see it side by side with A New Hope.  It is even better than the newest sequel the Force Awakens which felt like a rip off of A New Hope.

A Theory of Everything’s Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso the emotional anchor of the story. The daughter of an imperial scientist and deserter, Galen Erso,  Jyn was abandoned out of necessity the father was reacquired by the Empire.  Initially raised by Galen’s ally Saw Gerrera, a resistance fighter, she was later abandoned again and thereon lived her life as a lone wolf.  

Everything changed when her father reached out after years of presumed death.  Since reacquisition by the empire Galen has resumed work as the lead scientist for the Death Star.  The abandoned daughter who had distanced herself from people out of necessity and pain now found herself in need.  A wall built over a lifetime spent convincing herself that Galen was dead is now shattered. 

The premise of a daughter fighting for her father appealed to me however the delivery was far from perfect.  Jyn’s mother Lyra was actually the last person she talked to before escape.  There were more than a few directions my head went into before buying in that Jyn was a father’s daughter.  

My favorite scene therefore was when Jyn saw the message of her father.  She broke down in tears and was kneeling when it was all over. I found the scene touching even compared to the ‘I am your Father’ scene because Jyn was just a daughter and the relationship was not just a big secret plot twist.  The woman who seemed too rebellious for even the Rebellion has a reason to fight. 

Rogue One also has an emotional hook that was more effective than a father-daughter.  Classical Star Wars characters were strategically placed and perfectly timed throughout the movie.  Their appearances never felt overdone or forced unlike those droids in the prequels. It always annoyed me that Darth Vader had previously owned C3PO and R2D2.  

It can be said that the use of those classical characters are so effective that by the time the Rogue One is done you will long for A New Hope again.  The often repeated phrase ‘Rebellions are built on hope’ means so much more after the movie, key word being hope.

What I found surprising is the ending.  Lucasfilm as you know is now owned by Disney. Disney being Disney one thinks of fairy tales and happy ever after I never expected the movie ending the way it did and I am happy for it. 

The ending fits like a glove so to speak giving respect to A New Hope and that is more than I can say for The Force Awakens in relation to Return of the Jedi.  Like many a fan I have always thought of the lead characters as my guys and they should have already won and because of that I thought the Victory Theme was one festive happy piece of music.  It hurts somewhat to see that they have had no progress at all since the last movie but I digress.

Moving back to what I mentioned earlier as imperfect delivery.  I already started with one with Jyn having had two living parents.

My mind was confused if I had to give Lyra Erso, the mother, more attention than I should.  Lyra gave Jyn the only keepsake she will ever have growing up a kyber necklace.  In hard times she was seen touching it.  Her mother gave that yet the story keeps forcing itself to the father.  Furthermore kyber crystals power the lightsaber and Lyra’s parting words to her daughter was to trust the force so the inevitable question was if she was a Jedi? Fortunately that dramatic communication between father and daughter smoothed this wrinkle all out or at least it forced me to forget the mother’s side of the story.

During that confusion my drifting mind notices more than it should.  I know Rogue One needed to be as close to A New Hope’s color palette but George Lucas never had shots that felt too dark.  For example the opening scene where the chief villain Orson Krennic had reacquired Galen, the troopers that were with him was blending with the ground.  Was it just to show overcast skies?  I would have loved to see the planet.  I didn’t even know Galen was living as a farmer till Krennic mentioned it after walking from his ship across the field.

As the movie progressed the quality of shots seems to me more because of design than a faulty Director of Photography as there was intent to limit the field of vision.  Viewers should as much as possible stick to the characters for whatever reason filmmakers do that so don’t expect much eye candy.

Alan Tudyk of Firefly fame who played the droid K-2SO said he was wary of being a Jar Jar Binks with his funny lines but actually it is Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus that felt out of the flow but not so much as to rival the most annoying character of the prequels.

To start they came in so conveniently that one longs for a back story.  Two men, capable fighters apparently just hanging in the market place but the question is why?  Cassian Andor says the two have connections with the former Jedi temple now destroyed but they look and act different. One is non-Jedi force user with powers akin to Daredevil, the other looks like an astronaut with a gun belt leading to his backpack. Should be different backgrounds right, so who are they?

Chirrut and Baze came close to what Jar Jar was because I never could tell what they were supposed to be.  Together they were an odd couple giving off a love hate kind of vibe.  Was is meant to be the comic relief?  Was the love hate vibe meant to actually emphasize a friendship that is actually very strong?  Or is it gay in nature as some sectors say?

Donnie Yen who plays Chirrut feels like an actor merely hitting his marks because when he talks it feels like he shouts his lines suddenly which takes it slightly out of tone with the existing conversation.  Weng Jiang who plays Baze has that same feel.  I think I can mark this issue down to them being non-native English speakers because Diego Luna who plays Cassian Andor sometimes gives off the same vibe.  But then Diego had Felicity to exchange lines with so that vibe is neutralized to a point.

And the way Chirrut died; again I ask should I think of him as sage because of it or is he the comic relief?  All I know is I’ve never seen a Jedi pray himself out of blaster fire and Chirrut isn’t even a Jedi.

Seeing Chirrut and Baze made me think about the reported reshoots of Rogue One.  In the trailer Baze was heard saying the line ‘You destroyed our homes!’   No longer in the movie.  The original direction of the story they say was darker; Jyn was darker more rebellious.  Could Chirrut have been more sage like since he was a force user and Baze considering that line about destroyed homes more brooding maybe full of hate?

The last ‘imperfect’ delivery is a non issue for most people but it did affect me: the musical score. Since it was not John Williams watching the movie felt like listening to someone suffering a bit of phlegm in the throat.  As intentional as it was to deviate from the Star Wars music I missed it.  The scoring did go classical Star Wars when old characters were in the scenes. Nothing stirs up an emotion than a familiar music. I always knew when to be happy or sad by just listening to the original score.

While I sound disappointed I am not.  It did feel flat in some portions but when I think about it the previous movies also had that feel for me especially when scenes jump from planet to planet.  The tempo always picks up in a battle.

Ultimately the Rogue One’s one-two punch didn’t fail: the father-daughter angle and classical Star Wars characters.  The former gives the movie humanity which I thought the prequels or even the original trilogy lacked.  It was even said Rogue One brought horrors of war in Star Wars, laughable deaths notwithstanding.

The classical characters are like family members saying Rogue One is Star Wars and you’ve always loved it.