Rogue One Is A Star Wars Story

19 12 2016

Having just seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I can say, with certainty, that this is very much a Star Wars story, and a very, very good one. It has a few blemishes, but those are easily overlooked when you take the thing as a whole. It is, in a word, amazing.

Warning: this contains descriptions that may give away important story elements, thus being a spoiler. Read at your own risk.

Now This Is Pod Racing

The story about obtaining the Death Star plans was never fleshed out (basically, the Episode IV opening crawl sums up the entire story). We know the Rebel Alliance managed to obtain them (and no, this isn’t the one where many Bothans die, that’s Death Star II). Here, the “transmissions beamed to the ship” is explained. The story starts deliberately, then continues to build the pace as we get closer and closer to the final battle and climax. You can go immediately to Episode IV, because this movie takes place in the days and hours just before the opening scenes of A New Hope.

Even knowing the outcome, there still is this feel of “will they make it?” uncertainty. Okay, we know they make it, but the climatic scene with Vader/Anakin at his pissed-off worst (or best) is incredibly intense. Yes, we know they get them, but even knowing that, it still feels like the outcome is in peril right up until the Tantive IV makes the jump into hyperspace.

Surreal But Still Real

The acting and CGI that re-created Grand Moff Tarkin and the appearance and mannerisms of the late, great Peter Cushing were, to say the least, stunning. It was far, far more believable than the brief glimpse we get at the end of Episode III. It isn’t just his appearance. His voice, his delivery and the way he commands the room are all captured incredibly effectively.

The re-appareance of Jimmy Smits as Senator Organa was also a treat. We also get quick glimpses of characters we are going to see shortly in Episode IV: Red and Gold Leader, Biggs and other pilots all make an appearance during the final battle.

The brief cameo by R2-D2 and C3PO was cute, but somewhat unnecessary. Of course, it ensures that they continue to appear in every motion picture. The CGI to recreate Princess Leia was less convincing, I’m afraid. But at least they got the voice right, even if it was for only a few words.

No Loose Threads

While sad, the good thing they did was to ensure that none of these amazing new characters, all of which would hold very powerful positions within either the Empire or the Rebel Alliance, survive. While I was impressed by Jyn Erso and her newly-acquired crew, by making sure none of them survive also means we don’t have to try to explain why they aren’t in a movie that occurs hours or days after the one we just saw.

They also did a great job of making sure everything we saw was consistent with what would soon appear in Episode IV. No new, crazy but important ships. No alternative design for the Star Destroyers. That this is basically episode 3.95 fits.

A Few Bad Notes

Of course, all is not perfect. Again, the CGI for Princess Leia wasn’t as strong as the result they got for Tarkin. The scene with Artoo and Threepio is clearly there as a sop to fans, and to make sure they appear in every motion picture so far.

The music is very, very good, but falls just short of great. I kept expecting some traditional musical queues, and noticed when they weren’t present. We don’t get to hear the main theme at all, since the movie is made without the opening crawl (or even an opening splash, like in the Clone Wars or Rebels animated series). The rest of the soundtrack is still very good, but a couple of slips where something known or traditional means it misses the mark every so slightly. It doesn’t detract from the movie.

Some Reviewers Must Not Get Star Wars

Going into this, I saw reviews that were all over the map. Some thought it was “good but not great”, and lamented that the characters felt thin or shallow. Others thought as badly of it as they did the prequels. But others proclaimed it the best Star Wars movie ever made. Of course, there were plenty of people (including me) equally effusive about The Force Awakens, but who have toned it down a bit since then.

While I’ll need to re-watch it, overall this movie is incredibly strong. We don’t go to see Star Wars movie for brilliant character development, incredible performances or stellar dialog. We go because we want an adventure, and it’s about good people trying to do good things, and bad guys trying to stop them. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose. For those reviewers who didn’t like it: stop reviewing Star Wars movies. You clearly don’t understand what Star Wars is really supposed to be about.

Overall, this may be the strongest in the series after The Empire Strikes Back. It may even tie it, but again, I need to re-watch it before I can make the claim. The Force Awakens was very, very good. This movie is brilliant. If you are a fan of Star Wars, you will like this movie.

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