Rogue One: Going Rogue Loses the Magic

Rogue One (2016)

Director – Gareth Edwards

Writer – Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy

Starring – Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk

Rating – PG-13

Genre – Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

Metascore – 65/100

Rotten Tomatoes – 85%

As the first Star Wars anthology film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story reaches into the Star Wars saga in an attempt to tell a novel war story, one more notably dark and complex. While in a few ways Rogue One succeeds towards said end, the film flops early resulting in a tiresome tale.

Rogue One introduces a new suite of characters to the Star Wars saga, forsaking the way of the Jedi and allowing a new type of hero to rise. The force, however, moves and affects the story, driving our characters toward their goal. We see a blind guardian of the Holy City become “one with the force,” giving us a look at who — and how — the force touches life outside of Sith and Jedi. We are introduced to morally ambiguous characters, Saw and Cassian, rebels who allow personal ideals to guide their questionable actions. Bhodie is a brave Imperial pilot who pays a hefty price for defecting from the Empire, laying bare the darker side of warfare.

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A shot of Jyn in an Empire uniform from the original trailer that was removed in reshoots.

Unfortunately, Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, is dismally underdeveloped. Her characterization is primarily told, not shown; and when we finally see some worthy development, it comes too late. When Jyn is in danger, it’s hard to root for her, and when she makes big character leaps, they feel out of nowhere.

Act I and II of Rogue One are beautiful messes. They are supported with magnificent set and costume design; but campy references and nonsensical plot devices threaten to topple them. One of the delights in watching any Star Wars film is that anyone who has seen even one needs only hear the roar of a TIE fighter to know what movie they’re watching. However, Rogue One painfully, with musical cues and visual markings, tells us again and again that it’s a Star Wars film. A subtle reference goes a long way as a gentle reminder; instead, the film reminds us by yelling, “Now this is Star Wars!”

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The planetary settings are varied, giving rich backdrops for the story. In fact, one of the greatest aspects of the Star Wars universe is its “lived-in” quality. From the beaches of Scarif to the streets of Jedha, the Star Wars universe lives beyond the screen. Act III is more cohesive, even after all the reshoots. The myriad of conflicts merge well, with only occasional inconsistencies. Moreover, Act III allows us to see the brutal conflict and guerrilla warfare of which we haven’t seen in this universe before. We get to see the brutality of the Empire, of course, but we also see the Rebellion’s stance on “the ends justify the means.”

Rogue One provides Star Wars a new tone. We finally see moral complexity in the universe, for the lines are thin between the dark side and the light. Sadly, the complexity comes at the cost of patchwork-quilt-style filmmaking and overt reminders that, yes, in fact, you were watching a Star Wars film.

Author: Matt Welborn

499 Rating: 7.0 / 10

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