If you are a Star Wars fan, and haven’t seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story yet, I don’t know what you are waiting for. As much as this was touted as a standalone story, it really is as much a part of the saga as any of the others – you could call it “Episode III.9” – it just lacks major roles for the well known characters. And that may be its strength.
Rogue One took in a massive $155 million domestically in its opening weekend, and $290 million globally, helping Walt Disney Studios to be the first to ever pass the $7 billion mark in a calendar year. And despite some competition attempting to take a piece of the box office this coming weekend (Passengers has been getting a lot of buzz), the studio may have yet another juggernaut which may leave other studios battling over second for several weeks.
Here forward be SERIOUS SPOILERS, as I can’t comment on things without revealing plot points, GO WATCH THE MOVIE, and then come back here…
I didn’t know what to expect from this. A Star Wars movie, with a completely new cast, although the setting is somewhat familiar, taking place during the construction of the first Death Star and the stealing of the plans. But would I care about the the people involved? The answer, simply, is yes. Each character had something compelling. And the standouts aren’t the ones that are fully front and center either. For instance, I took a liking to the pilot, Bodhi, more than I expected. And the blind Chirrut Îmwe had probably the best line in the film and I kept hoping that the hilt of his staff would turn out to be a lightsaber.
The lack of previously major characters playing major parts I think helped to keep the focus on the new characters and the story, rather than dwelling too much on the old, taking it a larger step forward from The Force Awakens, which blended old with new.
I think this film also had some amazing visuals, some of the best FX works from any of the films.
There were a few things that distracted me though. It seems like the desire to homage the original movie was a tad too strong with the “cameo” appearances. I’m not referring to R2-D2 and C-3PO, who made a brief but well placed appearance, or Bail Organa and Mon Mothma, but most notably when the two bullies of Mos Eisley’s Cantina, Dr. Cornelius Evazan and Ponda Baba, on the streets of Jedha.
Where I think it worked best was during the big space battle, when Red and Gold (and Blue) Squadrons make their appearance, and their leaders from “A New Hope” make their appearances. Although the dialog was lifted from unused footage from the original movie, which gave it a slightly gimmicky feel, it was totally appropriate to have them in the movie. But you knew the poor fate of the pilot who during roll call said, “Red 5″…
One other slightly distracting part was regarding Grand Moff Tarkin. From the trailers we knew he at least would make a cameo appearance, but he was much more than that. So how would they deal with the fact that Peter Cushing was deceased? Rather than get a lookalike – you couldn’t get away with a “Young Tarkin” given the time frame – they utilized some of the most advanced CGI I’ve seen to map Cushing’s face onto an actor, providing an extremely realistic portrayal – except the head movements were ever so slightly unnatural. My 16yo daughter noticed the same flaw as well and turned to me and said, “that’s CGI”. But man, they are so close.
As far as how it ends, I expected the fate of the characters, although I wish at least one or two could have escaped, like K-2SO (I want someone to give me a Siri or Alexa-type interface but with Alan Tudyk supplying the voice of K-2SO…) Towards the end I was still expecting an improbable rescue, remembering a clip from the trailer – except that scene wasn’t actually used in the movie! Interesting misdirection. However, it turns out that they didn’t necessarily have that ending in mind, as they didn’t think they’d be allowed to end it the way they did – but they couldn’t figure out how to make it work – and the studio never asked.
In the end, what they did worked, and it worked well. I now have less of a fear of the anthology movies falling flat, or wearing out the franchise prematurely. But now, on to Episode VIII!