I got the chance to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Thursday night (okay - technically Friday morning) thanks to a friend of mine who invited me to a screening at Disney Feature Animation. Nothing like seeing a Star Wars movie in a room full of nerds.
I'll try to keep this brief, because it's 3 AM and I'm really, really tired. Oh, and so it doesn't get all wordy and boring. That too.
I'd been looking forward to Rogue One (and avoiding spoilers) because the trailers looked really cool, and the characters, as brief as they're featured in the trailers, already seemed interesting and different. Plus, not being an "episode" it would give Star Wars to stretch out into different storytelling territory. I felt that The Clone Wars and Rebels animated series did (and do) that really well. But would it translate to the big screen?
In short - yes. In fact it felt very much like Rebels, since Rogue One also takes place just prior to the original Star Wars (no... I'm not calling it Episode IV) and deals with the burgeoning Rebel Alliance.
Hey... I think that's the first time I've used "burgeoning" in my blog. Cool.
Oh right, brevity.
Now, I should mention that I saw it in 3D. I don't really recommend it, because while the 3D in the film is generally pretty good, it took me about 20 minutes before my eyes were dialed into it and just accepted it as "normal". Your mileage may vary. But I don't think it adds anything to the film, and at times is actually a little distracting because you become aware they're intentionally sticking something in the foreground. But if you do see it in 3D, during the end credits, flip your 3D glasses upside-down. It inverts the depth-of-field, and puts the credits behind the stars. It's cool! Seriously!
Probably shouldn't do it during the film though.
So how was the movie itself? Well, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Was it "jump out of your seats, flailing your arms and cheering like a crazy person" awesome? Well, no. But it was really good. And a lot of fun to watch. Mostly.
The lead characters are excellent, and a bit different than what we've come to expect from typical Star Wars good guys. They're noticeably a bit rougher around the edges, and clearly, they have to be. It's not a happy time in the galaxy.
The lead actors - Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso and Diego Luna as Cassian Andor, do a great job of carrying the movie. They bring great depth and likability to their characters. Alan Tudyk as K-2SO does a great turn as a droid with a distinct and fun personality. Unlike C-3PO (especially Episode II) or those idiotic prequel Battle droids, he doesn't wear out his welcome as comedy relief.
But the standouts for me were Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe and Wen Jiang as Baze Malbus. They're supporting characters that nearly steal the film. They're terrific fun to watch together, and it'd be great to see them featured in their own dedicated story (probably coming soon from Marvel Comics).
The Imperial characters don't fare quite so well, since they're just there to be bad guys, and that's basically all they do. And while it shouldn't come as a surprise,
yes - Darth Vader is in this film. Quite a bit. And while at times he's impressive and formidable (during one scene in particular) the rest of the time he seems to be practicing his stand-up comedy routine. (Okay - it's just one line. But it is a bit hammy.)
There are plenty of callbacks to the original Star Wars movie, which makes sense, but at times it gets to be a bit gratuitous. Without giving too much away, if you're familiar enough with the original movie, you won't have any problem recognizing certain... elements. In fact, I had trouble trying to ignore them after awhile.
And speaking of callbacks, my single biggest gripes with the film are
the ill-fated attempts at using CGI humans for certain roles in the movie. They just don't quite work - they look creepy and wrong. Yes - the Death Star plans are apparently located on the other side of the uncanny valley. Sometimes, it would just be better to recast a role. We can live with that.
Apart from my aforementioned gripes, the majority of special effects throughout the film are excellent, with the exception of some of the CGI aliens, which look like CGI aliens, and might have been better served by practical effects.
The action scenes are first-rate though. There are some terrific battles in this movie, and while the space battles are on a larger scale than the original Star Wars, they still looked like they could have been part of that era.
Although borrowing the planetary shield from Spaceballs was probably unnecessary.
There are a couple of weaknesses in the film that really jumped out at me, however.
One of the lead characters, who starts off uninterested in the whole Rebellion, does one of the quickest character turns I've ever seen in a movie, and seemingly in the span of one sentence becomes the Rebels' biggest cheerleader. I kept thinking, "Wait... did I miss a scene?" Maybe seeing it again would make it clearer to me.
The other is predictability. And it's a problem the movie simply can't avoid. It was designed into the film, because of when it takes place, and what must take place. If you know Star Wars, you know what they have to do. What keeps you interested is how they do it, but even that has a little bit of a problem in that it's a bit too reminiscent of other film tropes.
Think Captain America: Civil War meets Mission Impossible.
Hey... I think that might be the first time I've used "tropes" in my blog, too. Funny, I would've thought I would've used that already because it's a good, you know... um... trope.
And while there are some other parts of the movie that are also nitpickyable (pretty sure I've used that word before...), the cool moments and compelling characters far outweigh them.
It's a different Star Wars story to be sure, but it's a good one. Perfect? Nope. Flawed? Somewhat. But better than the prequels, and I'd put it above Return of the Jedi, too (I've said it before - not a fan).
It's about on par with The Force Awakens. Interesting new characters, a few too many callbacks, fun but flawed. But since it has the real Death Star in it, and not a shoddy J. J. Abrams copy, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story gets an 8.1/10.
But see it in 2D. If God had intended us to see movies in 3D, we'd have been born with polarized eyeballs.
And please use Spoiler tags where appropriate in the comments. Thanks!