Let’s get the obvious out of the way up front: Rogue One is not as good as the Force Awakens (TFA). How could it be? TFA was the first time Han Solo was in a movie in 30 years, and over a decade had passed since the Revenge of the Sith; so there was a lot of pent up anticipation for TFA (an eagerness Rogue One lacks). Having stated the obvious, how does Rogue One measure up regarding the Star Wars mythos?
1) Rogue One had a unique feel: kind of like an odd hybrid of Empire Strikes Back and Saving Private Ryan. Rogue One is dark, gritty, and very action packed. Yes, every Star Wars film had action scenes, but Rogue One was an action movie in genre, which means a shift in focus, intention, and pacing.
2) Director Gareth Edwards and his writing team (John Knoll, Tony Gilroy, et. al) found created a truly engaging, interesting, and relevant story gleaned from the opening crawl of Episode 4.
3) K-2SO: this droid was a scene stealer in every moment he appeared. Serving as the much needed comic relief, K-2SO possessed the attitude of R2-D2, the wit of C-3PO, and the likeability of BB-8.
4) Chirrut Imwe (played by Donnie Yen) was a guardian Monk who was not a Jedi, but still very much in tune with the force. Though blind, the force gave him sight with a hint of foresight – and he kicks butt in battle!
5) Star Wars Mythos tie-ins. One of the strongest elements of Rogue One is how it links and ties into the Star Wars universe, as well as connects beautifully with A New Hope. I would love to explore this in detail, but such a discourse would result in spoilers. Just know you will see a few familiar as well as a couple of obscure characters and plot points from previous Star Wars films. Yet, Edwards kept them to a limit so as to allow Rogue to stand on its own two feet.
1) Music. While Michael Giacchino is a great composer (see Zootopia, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Lost), his take on the score is so different from the great John Williams it became a noticeable distraction. Here’s hoping a second viewing of the film rectifies the problem.
2) The opening 10 minutes. Within 10 minutes we get to visit 5 planets, with some of the same characters on multiple planets throughout different periods of time. Due to the lack of story and narration describing when, how, and why, this became difficult to follow (call it too much too quick with little to no context). Since 50% of commercial footage was not even in the final film, here’s hoping there will be some deleted scenes (possibly removed for pacing) which will help fill in the rough gaps.
3) Saw Gerrera (played by Forrest Whitaker) was ultimately under-utilized. It was almost as if he existed as only a macguffen – a story device to move the plot and characters from point A to point B – yet had no real contribution to the story itself. He was a fascinating character, deeply enriched in the animated series Star Wars Rebels, yet was merely a blip on the Rogue One radar.
4) Overall there was a lack of character development across the spectrum of Rogue One. Each person, including Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) lacked in enough development for the audience to truly become fully emotionally engaged in their story-line conclusion.
Rogue One is a great film. It rises well above episodes 1-3, but falls a little short of episodes 4-7. While not a perfect film, it is a great film. Gareth Edwards took his past experiences (see Godzilla and Monsters), and brought about an intriguing and fascinating story from one of the most unlikely of places.
Do not underestimate the PG-13 rating. While the film contains zero profanity and zero sexuality, it’s violence and thematic elements rivals the intensity of James Cameron’s Titanic (the heavier, more emotional scenes like the old couple holding each other in bed as the water rushes in, or the mom reading to her kids so they are asleep when the water surrounds them). In other words, some of the thematic elements in Rogue One may not be suitable for children under 13. Edwards and company have stated as such, and their words should not be taken lightly. After all, Rogue One is a war film first, Star Wars film second: it is a genre piece within the Star Wars universe, and not strictly a Star Wars – serial space opera – film.
I recommend seeing it in 2D vs 3D. While some of the ending scenes contained fantastic 3D, overall nothing is gained from such a viewing. I give Rogue One 3 out of 4 stars.