Hollywood’s convenient answer to the criticism behind the endless number of sequels is giving a big-named franchise a spin-0ff. While it’s still connected to an established name, the spin-off is technically not a sequel, giving the smart-ass fuckers who call a movie’s shots a legitimate excuse to churn out as many new installments as possible.
The first Star Wars Anthology film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is set between the events of Star Wars: Episode III – The Revenge Of The Sith (2005) and the original Star Wars (1977) aka Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope. When they learn of the Empire’s super-weapon known as the Death Star, the already desperate Rebel Alliance hatches a plan to steal the weapon’s plans to hopefully find its weakness and protect the galaxy from the feared planet-killer.
It may be easy to dismiss Rogue One as another piece of shit cash-in, but that would be ignoring one of the only good things to come out of the clusterfuck that was 2016. When the only good thing to come out of this shitty fucking year is a Disney movie, you know the future is fucked six ways to Sunday.
The Dark Side Is Fine
Ignoring the series’ cultural impact for a second, the Star Wars movies at their core are a space-bound soap opera (hence the moniker Space Opera). Despite taking place in a vast galaxy that’s set against the backdrop of a galactic civil war, Star Wars’ main conflicts were an overblown family squabble and fucking love triangles.
Rogue One, on the other hand, has more in common with a War Movie than an episode from some weekly space opera. This was accomplished by focusing on the unsung heroes of a sprawling conflict instead of the larger-than-life and big picture kinds of soldiers, such as the Jedi, the Sith Lords and the Ewoks. In doing so, the stakes feel more real and dire, unlike seeing some fuckstick use gravity-defying gymnastics to evade blaster fire.
What makes Rogue One a lot better is that it’s the bastard child of the Star Wars franchise, and it revels in this label. Due to this narrative freedom, Rogue One can address some of the franchise’s most gaping plot holes, connecting the scattered Star Wars canon, while telling an entirely new story all at the same time. Though obligatory references to both Star Wars trilogies (and surprisingly, the animated Star Wars Rebels) are present, they thankfully don’t drown out Rogue One’s grim vision of the ground war.
Then again, Rogue One is still a war movie produced by Disney: the same guys responsible for turning the first major superhero shared universe into a fucking super-powered soap opera filled with self-congratulatory quips and one-liners.
Disney Goes To War
While Rogue One was fun to watch, it was barely surprising. Anyone who’s seen enough war movies or has a good knowledge of the genre’s tropes will know how certain narrative events flow and how each character arc ends. This galactic cliche storm could be blamed on the war genre’s nature and trappings, but Rogue One didn’t try to change the formula.
Rogue One also takes a while to get to the interesting parts. Introductions are a must in every action movie, but Rogue One meanders when it comes to establishing the characters and their motives. Instead of getting straight to the point, Rogue One’s opening acts faff about by prioritizing witty banter and excessive exposition.For some reason (most probably to do with the reshoots), the first two-thirds of Rogue One are a rocky mess of cuts to various locations without any cohesion to them. If not for the third act, Rogue One could’ve been easily mistaken for a fucking Star Wars galactic tour guide.
Characterization suffers heavily, as well. Though everyone is unique and visually memorable, it’s hard to give a shit about them, especially when all it takes is a single word or quirk to define them. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the worst offender, who while not played by a bad actress, is bland as fuck and recites nothing but trailer dialogue laced with Saturday Morning Cartoon lessons on HOPE. Also, characters who are said to be badass or shady are only described as such instead of letting them prove themselves to the audience. A notable example is Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), who is an “extremist” but his actions paint him as a paranoid motherfucker with a bad hairdo. He is also a waste of an incredible actor.
This logic of “Tell, don’t show” also applies to one of the most interesting aspects of Rogue One: the morality of the rebellion. Rogue One skipped the chance to double down on how dirty the Resistance could get when it came to fighting the Empire. This wasn’t the main focus of the movie, but Rogue One wasted its chance to bring its war story to the logical extreme. By war movie standards, Rogue One played it too safe.
Prequels Done Right
I’m averse to prequels because they answer questions I never really asked before. Half the time, prequels feel as forced as dragging the singular The Hobbit novel into three fucking movies. Rogue One on the other hand, not only proved to be the exception to the rule but it defied expectations by giving respectful insight to a part of the Star Wars story that close to no one gives a fuck about unless they’re playing a round of Star Wars Battlefront. That, and Rogue One seamlessly fits into the Star Wars universe through an ending that only true Star Wars fans will appreciate and love.
There’s little else to say about Rogue One because even if it does suffer from some annoying cliches that have become associated with Disney’s new brand of film-making, it still stands as the best Star Wars prequel made. You know a Star Wars prequel movie is doing something right when it can do what the entire fucking sappy prequel trilogy did in the span of only two hours.
Unlike the decent but glorified rehash that is Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), Rogue One is a good stand-alone Star Wars movie, not two hours of fan-service/wank that just so happened to have a story. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the best modern Star Wars entry not by default (ala The Revenge Of The Sith), but because it dared to something different – a gamble that mostly paid off.
Do yourself a favor and see the war in Star Wars.
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