I surprised even myself with how long it took for the words “Star Wars” to appear on this site. I’ve been a super fan of the series since my uncle gave me the original trilogy on VHS as a kid.
My mom figured I would grow out of it eventually, but here I am writing a review on a movie that, as a wide-eyed nine-year-old, I never imagined would be made. I thought I’d be rewatching and rewatching until the end of time when Disney changed all that by buying Lucasfilm for a cool four billion a few years ago. Now, they’re going to be cranking out a Star Wars movie at a clip of what appears to be one picture every 11 or 12 months, with the next major picture set to release on December 15, 2017.
However, in the words of Dr. Ian Malcolm, just because you could, doesn’t always mean you should…
The night before I saw the film (at the midnight release, mind you) I was already hearing the whispers of those who had the good fortune of getting into an early screening of the film: “Empire Strikes Back good.”
That’s a high bar. Most Star Wars fans who have their heads on straight will tell you that “The Empire Strikes Back” is the best installment in the series (“A New Hope” is the best film as far as I’m concerned but “Empire” is my favorite to watch), so that leaves absolutely no room for error when evaluating “Rogue One.”
This is where I get confused.
The aspects of “Empire” that make it the “best” or “most fun” film in the saga can truly be boiled down to one thing: the characters. The characters of Luke, Han and Leia (may she truly rest in peace) and their ever-evolving dynamic since the events of the preceding film make every scene in “Empire” riveting. It takes everything great about “A New Hope” and builds on it. Relationships change and grow, the stakes get higher and the overall tone of the franchise takes a dip into darkness to match the developments in the plot.
In “Rogue One,” however, the main cast of characters — all of whom are completely new to the series — are simply too static to complete an arc during the runtime of the movie, which makes it hard to really feel for them as the plot chugs along.
Yeah, I get it, they only get one movie as opposed to three and there are more new characters to devote time to than in past movies, but that’s no excuse to leave these personalities as under-developed as they are.
Don’t get me wrong, the performances are all solid, especially the ones coaxed out of Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang. Their characters have such an interesting dynamic — up there with the best duos in the series, R2D2 and C3P0 and Han and Chewbacca — that my only gripe is that I wish I had spent more time with them before the credits rolled.
Okay, I’ll tell you why the characters weren’t as developed as they should have been: the first hour or so of the movie is kind of an unnecessary slog. I’m going to remain on the spoiler-free side of history here, but I can tell you that the first “mission” the Rogue One crew embarks on once they’re all assembled and acquainted doesn’t actually have much pull on the overall plot. I understand the film went through extensive reshoots before the curtain finally opened last month, but I can’t help but wonder if some of the scrapped footage contained some further backstory and dialogue amongst our new cast of characters.
It only bothers me so much because every technical aspect of the film was excellent. The final battle scene was exciting and well-shot, the sound design was deep and vibrant throughout, and the score, put together by newcomer Michael Giacchino in just four weeks, might have been my favorite part of the whole experience.
Perhaps 12 months between major releases is just too short? Disney would never say so, of course, and they could release “Star Wars: A Jar-Jar Story” and I’d still show up at the midnight release. Many fans of the series, myself included, could stomach a longer wait between Star Wars releases in the hopes of getting a better final product but, unfortunately, it’s not just time that contributed to the magic of the original trilogy.
What exactly did create that undeniable magic and how it can be harnessed again? I’m not sure, but I still garner hope for the future of the franchise and, ultimately, the keys to the castle are in the right hands.
While “Rogue One” still has some signature Star Wars moments, including a terrifyingly awesome scene of Darth Vader doing some… Darth Vader things (man, was that scene alone worth the price of three tickets), the main characters come off a little on the thin side and keep the first standalone Star Wars film from Disney from becoming one with the Force.