Film #248: Rogue One (2016)

rogue-oneaka: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
director: Gareth Edwards
language: English
length: 134 minutes
watched on: 19 Dec 2016
(Spoilers ahead, of course)

It doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was going to the cinema last December to see the new Star Wars movie. And it’s already December a year later and I’m going to see another Star Wars movie.

This isn’t exactly a regular Star Wars movie, though – it’s really a spin-off. They do hammer this point a little right at the beginning of the movie by not having an opening text crawl, but there are other subtle differences too – particularly, it’s more violent than the main Star Wars movies, which were always aimed at children.

It’s kind of a prequel to the original movie, as its events directly lead up to those of the first movie and are indeed referenced in the original opening crawl. I only went back to rewatch the opening crawl after the end of the film, and found it pretty vague, but it’s essentially them stealing the plans to the newly-constructed Death Star. As a result, unlike the prequel trilogy, this is way more coherent as a movie, and doesn’t rely so much on tying up every plot line clumsily at the very end.

There are a few clumsy things – the film adds in a CGI/mo-cap reproduction of Peter Cushing, and I didn’t realize it wasn’t really him at first, but there’s something unnerving about the way his mouth moves and the smoothness of his skin. They also had a three second shot of Princess Leia at the very end of the movie (sorry for spoiling, but I did warn you above!), which seemed more unnecessary, especially as they set her up to be faceless, as she has her back turned to the camera. Again, it’s obviously not Carrie Fisher (R.I.P.) playing her.

The story of the film is that the main character Jyn, played by Felicity Jones, comes into the rebellion after spending years as a fugitive, and ends up with the other protagonist, played by Diego Luna – in the second half of the movie they sneak out without permission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the result of which is ultimately that Luke Skywalker would destroy it in the original movie. The first half of the movie mainly consists of them assembling their motley crew – a sarcastic reprogrammed robot, who I loved; a blind monk of a Jedi temple, who is a pastiche of Zatoichi, and his boyfriend (although the filmmakers refuse to acknowledge that that’s what they did), a warrior-type; and a skittish defector pilot. There are hijinks and a lot of death and destruction in their wake.

There is obviously a concerted effort to get the cast looking more ethnically diverse, which is always welcome, and the main character is a woman again, like the last movie, prompting the usual deluge of scum complaining about gender diversity in sci fi. So it surprises me that the filmmakers don’t acknowledge the gay monks. And it’s also worth noting that in many scenes, Felicity Jones is the only woman character – I’m not convinced that the film would pass the fabled “Bechdel test”, not that I put much stock into what’s obviously a joke about heteronormativity… but I digress. They’re getting there, but I think they need to make it more balanced in this regard.

Anyway, it was a fun movie, and I enjoyed it, despite the depressing and tragic ending that could be seen a mile off. Less swashbuckling Jedi than the originals, and it’s Darker and Edgier than the previous movies, but it’s astoundingly better than the prequel trilogy, and doesn’t rely so much on special effects, so that’s good.

What did you think?

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