Friday, 16 December 2016

'Rogue One' (2016) Review: Hey Did You Know Star Wars Had A Death Star?

Big Screen Watch:  'Rogue One' is greater than the sum of its parts, with a finale that easily justifies running out to see it.
Set very nearly before ‘A New Hope’, ‘Rogue One’ tells the story of a group of rebel underdogs as they attempt to gain the plans to the Death Star that were such a crucial plot point, nearly 40 years ago. To that end, much of ‘Rogue One’ feels so much like what you’ve seen before, but in an entirely new light. Somewhat.

For starters, since ‘Rogue One’ is situated so nearly before the first ‘Star Wars’ film, painstaking time and effort has gone into emulating the feel of the futuristic 1970s. There’s an air of authenticity, right down to the outdated display on the ship computer screens. While this tasteful recreation is impressive to say the least, it pales in comparison to the more innovative work found in ‘Rogue One’.

Innovation #1: Shooting an AT-ACT with a rocket launcher
Director Gareth Edwards is known for his work with giant monsters, and he’s brought that unique eye to ‘Star Wars’. Edwards captures the scale and vastness of space in epic fashion, but then brings the focus down to a more intimate, human eye. Giving these scenes this personal context makes you feel claustrophobic & frightened yet exhilarated, and perhaps best captures what it would be like in an intergalactic war.

But as much as you experience the film from the character’s level, I’m afraid I had trouble connecting with them. Mainly the main character, Jyn Erso, whose story of jaded rebel turned freedom fighter was a little bland for my tastes. Thankfully with an ensemble cast like this one, you’re treated to a vast array of characters to cling on to. Some of them feel more like action figures than characters, but it’s a delight to have characters that are colourful, in more than one sense of the word.

No that's not dirt, there's just people of colour in the new Star Wars. Crazy right? Okay there's a little dirt too. 
With so many prequels these days opting for their own re-imagining and a soft reboot of their franchise, it was kind of a trip to have 'Rogue One' go the way it did. I mean, you know the ending. They get the plans to the Death Star. Having said that, 'Rogue One' doesn't lean on its connection with the other films too heavily. There's no mention of a Skywalker, or any grand destiny. Really the movie tries to give life to the war that's being fought. By showing you a lot of death on the battlefield.

There are moments where 'Rogue One' can't help itself. Shoehorning in moments that are honestly a little distracting. I suspect when a filmmaker gets a chance to make a 'Star Wars' movie, they just have to throw in something from their childhoods. It's nowhere near as egregious as in 'The Force Awakens' though, which mixed story moments with nostalgia which tastes good at first, but leaves a bad aftertaste.

A spoonful of nostalgia makes the bad storytelling go down.
In the end, 'Rogue One' is a fine movie. Its first act is muddled, and unevenly paced, but gets exponentially better as it goes on. The dialogue isn't remarkable, except for being a little cringey at times, but it's nowhere near bad. I'd say the film did a lot more right than it did wrong, because the things it did wrong are so easily ignored. At least in my judgement.

Leave it to ‘Star Wars’ to bring together an audience of children playing with light-sabers, adults with full time jobs, and teenagers finally finished with exams, all together to scream and cheer at the screen. ‘Rogue One’ may not be the best ‘Star Wars’ film, but it certainly captivates an audience in the same way, and is worth the full price of admission for the final 20 minutes alone.

Rating: Big Screen Watch