Rogue One: A Star Wars Story: Throw it in the Trash Compactor

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Plot Summary:

Set between Episodes III and IV, the Rebel Alliance is in a desperate situation with the rumors of the Empire’s super weapon nearly complete.  A young criminal named Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is tasked by the Alliance to track down her father (Mads Mikkelsen), who may hold the key to the power and destruction of the Death Star itself.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is like a bunch of Middle School students putting on a Star Wars play for Parent’s night.  Sure, if this was Middle School, I’d give them a golf clap, but this is actual Star Wars with a major budget.  This movie is everything I feared it would be.  I don’t care about the plot because I already know what happens, so it was essential the film be populated with great characters.  They didn’t listen.  You’re going to read this review and think I’m describing the worst movie of the year.  It’s not that.  Taking out all the Star Wars baggage, the movie is barely average, and that’s how I’ll rate it.  While I’m judging this as a movie, let’s not put our heads in the Dune Sea either.  This is still Star Wars.  As a Star Wars movie, this serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever.  That’s what’s so infuriating.

For everyone who complained about the recycled plot and predictability of The Force Awakens, I hope you’re all happy.  I’ve said this a hundred times, but all that stuff in The Force Awakens was background dressing.  It didn’t matter.  J.J. Abrams infused a multitude of incredible characters for that film.  That’s why it works.  Finn.  Kylo Ren.  Poe Dameron.  BB-8.  Maz Kanata.  These characters came out with an energy and personality.  They immediately became Star Wars characters.  Then there’s Rey.  She rides down the sand on her ship rubble.  The way she puts on the Rebel helmet.  The way she eats.  We get her before she even says one line of dialogue.  Now let’s examine the characters in Rogue One.

Jyn Erso.  She looks pissed off.  She scowls.  Yay.  Whoopty doo.  Are you kidding me with this?  There is nothing interesting about this character whatsoever.  Felicity Jones tries her best.  She’s giving everything she’s got to elevate the big nothing that’s on the page.  She manages to even look intense and bad ass at the end, but that’s about it.  Despite one solid emotional scene she has after receiving a hologram message, there’s nothing about this character that endears you to her.  It’s all clichés and predictable character arcs that are underserved for fan service and Star Wars-isms, but we’ll get to that later.

Diego Luna plays Cassian Andor.  That’s all I have to say about that.  Riz Ahmed does what he can as Bodhi, an Imperial pilot who defects.  He always looks like he’s about to say something interesting, but never does.  Then we have Forest Whitaker who stares at you for a few seconds, but leaves you totally unsatisfied.  Wen Jiang plays a character who shoots a giant gun, so there’s that.  Oh, then there’s Donnie Yen as Chirrut.  This character infuriated me to end.  Whereas J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan understand what makes Star Wars so special, the lesser talents who wrote this (Chris Weitz/Tony Gilroy) do not.  All this character does is spout off “The Force!”  “The Force!”  “I’m one with the Force!”  Hey, that’s great.  Why don’t you show us what it actually means to believe in the force?  It doesn’t mean if you repeat the word “force” then you do a bunch of Kung Fu moves.  Lame.  If there’s one character these filmmakers put an effort into it’s obviously K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), the back talking droid.  Sure, he had some good lines and a few endearing moments, but one nice side character doesn’t save an entire movie.

As far as the villains go, they fared slightly better, but barely.  Ben Mendelsohn is cool by his mere presence, but so much more could have been done with him.  If you got a great screenwriter for this character, Mendelsohn could have really done something special.  Instead, he’s a slightly better Marvel villain.  I guess I should talk about Darth Vader.  He’s a villain in the movie.  I have to admit, when Vader first comes on screen, I did get chills.  It’s Darth Vader.  And where we first see Vader is actually really interesting.  After the initial shock though, it just didn’t flow.  His lines didn’t feel Vader.  Even though James Earl Jones was doing the voice, it just felt off.  The costume looked out of place.  It wasn’t a disaster or anything, but that first Vader scene was just odd.

While the lack of great characters kills this movie, the next big no-no they pull is massive fan service.  They go full Ghostbusters.  I wanted to kick things.  Force fed cameos.  Force fed lines.  Force fed images.  It’s like the filmmakers said, “Oh, you remember this from A New Hope, right?  Yeah, you like that, don’t you?”  They think they can just fart out an iconic Star Wars image and expect us to clap like trained seals.  Kiss my galactic ass.

One of the elements everyone will tell you is awesome is the action in the last half hour.  Sure, there were definitely some cool battles that involve every ship and vehicle from Star Wars lore you can imagine, but here’s the problem – none of it matters.  I ALREADY KNOW WHAT HAPPENS!  This is what I’ve been trying to tell you people all along!  I yawned the same way I would at a Transformers or Fast & Furious movie.  The characters are lame, so the aesthetics can only appease me for so long.  It also drags on forever.  Oh, for the love of Salacious Crumb, just get to the last scene we all know is coming and be done with it.  The effects also looked cheap at times.  They also do something with CGI here, and it’s a decision I just can’t get on board with.  This will no doubt be a debate among Star Wars fans, but for me, it was creepy and uncomfortable.  I didn’t like it.

In typical Gareth Edwards fashion, there’s one “HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!” moment, just as there was in his awful 2014 Godzilla film.  While it almost makes the entire movie worthwhile, it feels like they even held back on that.

You’re going to sit here and tell me, “Dan, you just didn’t get the Star Wars movie you wanted!  Get over it.”  I was bored out of my mind.  If Star Wars never existed and this was the first movie I saw in that world, I would give it the exact same review.  This is just a completely lame movie.  The score is whatever.  The entire movie is whatever.  I knew these spin-offs were a bad idea from the start.  I will never watch this again.  I’m not recognizing it as canon.  I want it to go far, far away.  If I wasn’t a movie critic for a pop culture site, I would vow never to see another Star Wars spin-off film ever again, but I feel obligated to do so.  As a movie, this is barely average.  As a Star Wars film, it’s unforgivable.

Rating: 5.5 out of 10 (Passable Entertainment)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow's fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.