****THIS REVIEW CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS!!! CONSIDER THIS YOUR OFFICIAL SPOILER ALERT!!****
Estimated Reading Time : 5 Minutes 22 Seconds
My Rating : 2 out of 5 Stars
My Recommendation: See it if you like Star Wars related things, but if you are into Star Wars things you would have seen it already. If you are indifferent to Star Wars or lukewarm at best, there is zero need to see this film.
I had a little bit of free time to other day and decided I should do my duty as a patriotic American and pay my Mickey Mouse Tax, so I went to see Rogue One. I was running a little late and got to the theatre with nary a moment to spare. I rushed up to the counter in the sparsely populated cineplex to get my ticket and was greeted by a smiling and friendly young woman with blue streaks in her hair, wearing cat girl glasses adorned with rhinestones. She smiled and said, "Can I help you?" I breathlessly returned her smile and said, "One for Star Wars, please." Her smile evened out and her eyes turned vacant and cold. She looked at me indifferently and after a very effective momentary pause, scornfully retorted, "You mean...Rogue One?" I straightened up, looked her right in the eye and politely said, "Yes, ma'am."
In the eyes of this young woman, whom I had silently named "The Rhinestone Jedi", the stench of my egregious error in failing to properly identify Rogue One hung on me like the stink lines that hover over Pig Pen in the Charlie Brown comics for the remainder of our interaction. Once the transaction was completed, The Rhinestone Jedi dismissively handed me my ticket and turned her back, probably to conceal her rage and loathing at the jackass who had the temerity to ask for a ticket to "Star Wars" and not "Rogue One". As I turned to walk away toward the theatre, I swear I heard her mutter under her breath, "Star Wars? Fucking loser." And thus my Star Wa…oops…Rogue One : A Story Wars Story viewing experience had begun. The film that followed was mildly more enjoyable but not nearly as existentially interesting as my interaction with the gatekeeper of nerd-dom, The Rhinestone Jedi, that blue-haired demon with the cat girl glasses and the unflinching judgement.
As is my practice, I had not read any reviews of Rogue One prior to seeing it. I was going into the theatre a Rogue One virgin as it were. All I did know was that Rogue One was not a sequel or a prequel to any of the other Star Wars films, but was a stand alone entity. I thought that this was a wise move by Disney as it would enable them to start a whole new Star Wars storyline from which other stories could be born, which would make for a whole new revenue stream. If done properly, Disney could have two Star Wars franchises up and running at the same time, which would mean beaucoup bucks for Mickey Mouse and co. That is what I was thinking before seeing or knowing anything about Rogue One anyway.
Then I went and saw the film. It was…fine. There are some exciting action sequences, and for the first time in the history of the franchise, there is an actual, genuinely good actress/actor in the lead role (no offense to any other actors or actresses, living or recently deceased, who have graced the Star Wars films, RIP Carrie Fisher) in the form of Felicity Jones. But beyond that, the film is a disappointment. I found it disappointing most of all because it isn't an original and new storyline, but rather the same old storyline just from a different perspective. Rogue One is essentially a one-off, spin-off. Sort of like the ill-fated Matt LeBlanc sitcom "Joey" was in relation to Friends, although the short life span of Joey was not by choice, or if you are a bit older than that, then it is like if The Facts of Life were just a single, stand alone season when they spun-off from Different Strokes. (RIP Alan Thicke)
In terms of the story of Rogue One, there is at its center, as seemingly is always the case, the Death Star, which fails to hold the foreboding doom it once did in the original Star Wars since we already know what happens to it. I found myself rather bored with the whole narrative because all it does is tread old ground in "previously worn" but technically "new", shoes. Hell, it isn't just the Death Star that is less foreboding than I remembered, Darth Vader feels pretty lackluster and limp in Rogue One as well. Vader looked weird in Rogue One, almost like his costume was one size too big or something. And his walk definitely lacked the Imperial swagger it used to have. I am being serious here, Vader looked and physically moved much different than he used to and it made him much less powerful, authoritative and frightening.
What I was really hoping for with Rogue One was an entirely new and creative storyline with no direct connection to the old franchise. Instead I got a retread of the very first Star Wars film except with a female protagonist. The parallels between Jones' Jyn Erso and Luke Skywalker are obvious, both are from remote planets, both have fathers who are "special" and both have pivotal battles in dangerously constructed towers and both are called to do great things in the face of astounding odds against them.
To add to the similarities between Star Wars and Rogue One, Diego Luna plays Cassian Andor, a rebel intel officer who dresses and behaves very similar to Han Solo, except with a Spanish accent. Luna is not a very good actor in any language, in fact he is pretty bad, and his work in Rogue One is distracting at best. As good as Felicity Jones is in Rogue One, Diego Luna is equally bad.
The rest of the cast do the best they can with the little given to them, but no one goes to see a Star Wars film for the acting. People want to see some action sequences, and Rogue One delivers on that count, at least in the second half. There are some great battle scenes in the final third of the film that deliver what most people crave. I certainly was captivated by the battle scenes, but I also had nagging questions that kept popping into my head. Stuff like, if Stormtroopers can be knocked out or defeated by a guy armed with nothing but a stick, what the hell do they wear all that body armor and head gear for? You'd think that since the Stormtrooper armor doesn't protect them from lasers it would at least protect them from a stick. I guess not though. Makes me wonder how much the Empire is paying for all that body armor and if corruption isn't a major issue that needs to be addressed if the Empire is going to succeed in the long term. But, all of those questions aside, I did find the last third of the film to be captivating and was pleased it finally delivered the action goods.
I guess my biggest issue with Rogue One is that there seems to be no purpose in making it. Rogue One is little more than a nostalgia delivery system for people craving a return to their youth, even if the youth they are returning to is the youth of their parents in the 70's and 80's. Rogue One could have been a whole new story, in a whole new time of the Star Wars universe that could have creatively rejuvenated the Star Wars franchise anew. The opportunity is there for Disney to not just remake and reboot the old franchise, but to create an entirely new franchise with the blue prints of the Star Wars universe that George Lucas sold them for 4 billion dollars a few years ago. Sadly, it seems, Disney has no appetite for rolling the dice on truly original Star Wars material, only in rehashing the tired, old formula that has made them, and Mr. Lucas before them, a fortune. Many thought Lucas had become creatively bankrupt (he is sure is hell was never financially bankrupt!!) during and after the Star Wars prequel trilogy and that Disney and some new artistic blood would be able to invigorate the Star Wars brand. In retrospect after seeing Rogue One and comparing it to Lucas' Star Wars prequel trilogy, I have come to the conclusion that Lucas never lost his fastball as a writer of Star Wars films, just that he lacked the requisite skill to direct them. As controversial as Lucas' prequel trilogy have become, a closer inspection of them reveal well-written and genuinely original scripts that Lucas was not able to properly capture on film. In seeing Rogue One it is now clear that it isn't Lucas who is creatively bankrupt, it is Disney, although goodness knows that Disney isn't anywhere near financial bankruptcy thanks to both the Star Wars and Marvel franchises.
When my screening of Rogue One ended I sat in my seat and took my phone out to check my messages. I texted a famous filmmaker friend of mine who had been curious as to what I would think about the movie after seeing it. I texted him "Saw Rogue One…I am trying to figure out what the purpose of this film is. Why make it?" I then realized that something had fallen out of my pocket when I took my phone out and I reached down to pick it up. It was my receipt for the movie ticket, the one handed to me disdainfully by The Rhinestone Jedi, the blue haired woman with the cat girl glasses. I looked at the ticket receipt and smiled knowingly. I took a photo of it and sent it to my famous filmmaker friend with the text, "I figured out why they made Rogue One!!" The photo showed the receipt and in big letters it said "ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY". Below that in small print it read…"Adult : $12.50". And thus the mystery was solved. Somewhere, Walt Disney's frozen corpse is smiling and Mickey Mouse is bathing in an Olympic-sized swimming pool of $1,000 bills. I then realized that the blue haired woman with the rhinestone cat girl glasses wasn't judging me for being wrong about the title of the "Star Wars" film, she was judging me for going to see the "Star Wars" film. Her prophetic, and accurate final words to me rung in my ears as I exited the theatre. There is a sucker born every minute, and at that minute I realized I was one of millions of them. "Star Wars? Fuckin' loser". You're right about that, Rhinestone Jedi, you're god-damn right about that.