It's the new universe. PG-13 is the rule of the Empire. Gone are the ways of the Old Republic.
DIRECTOR: Gareth Edwards
I think I'll just put a spoiler warning super early. How can I discuss a lot of this movie without SPOILERS? I know it is doable. Lots of websites are doing it, but there's stuff I want to talk about. Besides, no one really reads this. Honestly, it's weird writing so much into the void. OOooh, my first passive aggressive post.
This is the Star Wars movie I was waiting for. When I saw the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I was meh. But that movie knocked my socks off, flaws and all. But when the Rogue One trailer came out, I showed it to every class. I lost my mind over it. It was absolutely fantastic. It was a pitch perfect return to the original trilogy and looked like it had a cool premise. The philosophy was woven through the trailer and that score was just the best. Like many of the great trailer movies (I'm looking at you, Man of Steel) there is a bit of a letdown between my expectations and the actual movie. I will say that, overall, Rogue One is pretty solid. But I don't think that truly is in the pantheon of the great Star Wars movies.
The primary problem is that the characters are borderline unlikable. They aren't so evil that we can derive a sick pleasure from them, like The Sopranos, The Godfather, or Breaking Bad. The two protagonists never smile or seem to really care for each other. One of the things about Star Wars that I always liked was that the characters bickered at each other throughout the stories, but always seemed to care about each other. Even the prequels kind of got that right. But I can see how this was a strong choice. It's just one I didn't particularly enjoy. The biggest complaint that The Force Awakens received is that it was too safe and too much like the original movies to really break any new ground. The one thing that Rogue One really does is deliver a new kind of Star Wars to the world.
I think I'm lucky to be born in the early '80s. Right now, my pop culture is trying to match my wallet. My generation must spend a ton on its entertainment because things we saw as kids are growing up with us. This feels like this Star Wars is now the 30-something Star Wars. It's one that is more complicated and less aimed at kids. My son is only two, but he's obsessed with Star Wars. I feel like he's trying to be rebellious against his Trekkie father. I was considering taking him to Rogue One, but I also don't want him to be depressed for the rest of his life. The movie is pretty dour for a Star Wars movie. It genuinely feels like Gareth Edwards has Christopher Nolan's philosophy with having to ground this fantastic movie in reality. Instead of the good guy Rebellion versus the bad guy Empire, there is a complex political structure full of people who are afraid for their lives and acting more like a terrorist organization. Including Saw Gerrara and his extremist movement also rubbed me as kind of dark. Also, the movie starts off with Captain Andor just murdering a dude because he's cowardly and can't climb well? This is Star Wars, but I guess it had to grow up some time. It is a big universe and clearly these characters and morals must exist within the universe, but golly I don't know if I want to see that.
I had a really long debate about the CG return of General Tarkin and young Leia. Tarkin needs to be in this movie. It doesn't really feel as fan-servicey as Leia, but I don't know if it is executed well. I know that the Internet mostly agrees with me, but my wife just asked in the first second of seeing Tarkin if he was a digital character. I don't know if the Peter Cushing morality aspect of the arguement has as much merit as people are making it out to have, but I just don't think it looks good. The weird part is that I love when movies do this. Marvel, also owned by Disney, knocked by socks off when a young Michael Douglas appeared in Ant-Man. And that looked awesome! Same deal with Robert Downey Jr. in Captain America: Civil War. Now my in-laws made arguments that both of those actors are alive so it is easier to make it look easier. But Leia looked like an anime character and Carrie Fisher is alive and making Star Wars movies. So, keep going? There's a scene in the special edition of A New Hope where one digital robot punches another digital robot in Mos Eisley. It really doesn't hold up. I have a feeling Tarkin and Leia look cool for some now, but they are going to look terrible in a decade.
There are some really solid pieces to this story too. Alan Tudyk, always a welcome addition to any cast, (please put that on any headshots, Mr. Tudyk) steals the show as K-2SO. I don't know how droids are always funny, but his character adds such a needed levity to such a dark movie. I also realize that this makes yet another Disney property that has Tudyk in it. Was he on a Disney channel original and they're just waiting for his singing career to take off because boy has he have it made now. Donnie Yen's Chirrut Imwe (sorry I don't know the keystrokes for special characters) is also a very cool and likable character amongst the brooding. I kind of have a problem with magical blindness in this movie considering that Imwe is not meant to be a Jedi. But his fight sequences are awesome and I, too, am able to shut my brain off from time-to-time.
Attention to detail is what makes this movie fly. The tone does drag it down. The "Star Wars Story" label attached to the title is meant to be about this. It is meant to explore something new and different from the main mythology involving the Skywalkers. I like the idea and I think this movie does a fantastic job at establishing that it isn't going to be more of the same. I can't have it both ways. I can't say that I want something new and different and then complain when something is new and different. But I also just wanted something happy and fun and this movie it isn't. I'm not sure if I'm actually reading the interpretation right or if I'm just so cynical, but I saw a connection between Jedda and Aleppo and that just got too dark for me. It's something I can't take my kids to and, like I often state, the only great movies are R. That's such a polarizing feeling. I might go see it again tonight. Maybe if people duck out, I'll try to watch something else. I've been itching to watch SOMETHING Christmas related...
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.