Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Before this movie started, I was sitting with the former critic at the U-T, and we had our usual great conversation about movies we love. When the topic of this latest edition of Star Wars came up, we both admitted to knowing nothing about it. He said, “I heard it’s like the Magnificent Seven with all this fighting and stuff.”

All I knew is that it had Diego Luna, who I loved in Criminal (John C. Reilly), and Riz Ahmed who I loved in Nightcrawler (Jake Gyllenhaal). He informed me that this version wasn’t an extension of the last Star Wars movie (The Force Awakens), which surprised me. So for those that don’t know, this is supposed to be a story that occurred right before the first Star Wars in 1977 (now called “episode 4”).

The story deals with the origin of the Death Star and how the creator (played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, who you must see in The Hunt), purposely put in a flaw so it can be destroyed. Yeah, the story is lacking, and they try to make up for it with fights, explosions, extended dog fights, and a few cameos (the crowd went nuts when a few of the old characters popped up).

A lot of the new characters are flat, and we don’t get enough of a backstory to care about them the way we did the two new characters that were introduced last time. Now, you might argue that character development isn’t something needed for a fun, space fantasy franchise like Star Wars. I disagree. One of the many things we like about the original is the various characters. For example, one of the characters that does work nicely is the droid K-250 (voiced by the always terrific Alan Tudyk). He brought much needed comic relief, similar to the what C-3P0 did in the original.

Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) plays an orphan. The movie starts when her dad (Mikkelsen) is kidnapped by the Empire. He’s a brilliant scientist who had started work on the Death Star and then went into hiding. They found him, killed his wife, and got him back to designing weapons. She hid, and was saved by Saw Gerrera (an almost unrecognizable Forest Whitaker). His character is interesting, and I wish he was given a bit more to do. He apparently created this amazing warrior out of her, yet we don’t see any of those training scenes. That’s a shame, because they’re usually good in movies. You could see those training sequences thousands of times, and they’re always fun.

Years later, Gyn is working in a slave labor camp, and she gets rescued by a Rebel pilot named Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). He wants to find her father and kill him. That bit of info is kept from her, but she’s willing to help find pop.

There’s something about watching this movie that struck me as odd. As an adult, I need more character development. I need to see that somebody has a weakness, or a personality. I know nothing about these people. As a 4th grader, watching Star Wars for the first time, the Stormtroopers were so menacing with those masks and lazer guns. Now, I see them walk by and having conversations with each other.

“Did you hear they’re getting rid of the B-873?”

“Well, it’s about time. That thing is obsolete.”

[explosion].

So, when 100 Stormtroopers come running after the rag-tag crew, you don’t have a sense of alarm.

Now, when Darth Vader saunters into the room, he still evokes the fear that he should. And those were nice moments.

I also think about those first three Star Wars films, and how interesting the characters and dialogue is. In this, you get characters just stating what their objective is.

“We’ve got to get those blueprints to the Death Star.”

Or

“We need to destroy this shield.”

Now, all that being said, I was still entertained. The set pieces were incredible, and the action sequences will blow you away. The various aliens looked good, too.

There was a blind character named Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen). He has some mad ninja skills, and he’s a lot of fun to watch. The force is certainly strong with that one.

Ben Mendelsohn, an Australian actor that’s always terrific as a villain, is a bit more restrained than I would’ve prefered.

It’s nice to see CGI effects used brilliantly.

As cool as a lot of the fighting scenes were though, it was relentless. If I were a teenager, perhaps this would be cool. Instead, I yearned for a real story. There really wasn’t one here, and what little there is, you know how it will end. You’d think with Tony Gilroy (Nightcrawler) and Chris Weitz (About a Boy, Michael Clayton) penning this thing, it could’ve been better.

My final complaint has to do with the score. The John Williams sounding score (by Michael Giacchino) was a bit much. There were also two segments where the score were the same notes as the closing, sad piano you heard in The Hulk TV show, as Bill Bixby walked out of town. That was distracting, although I bet nobody will notice.

All those complaints aside, I was still entertained enough that I have to give it 3 stars out of 5.

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