Director: Gareth Edwards
GODDAMMIT STAR WARS! I was really hoping this would seal the deal for us. Oh how wrong I was…
Rogue One is a prequel to one tiny aspect of the original Star Wars. Is posits, how did the rebels get the plans from the death star, and also, why would the Empire put in such an easily exploitable weakness? And it expands out from there.
I’ve never really gotten on with this franchise, and I seem to really be in the minority in not really having that much good to say about the franchise beyond innovative effects. I have a real distain for the orginal Star Wars, (George Lucas I’m sorry, I will always call it Star Wars, you can A New Hope me all you want, it’s fucking Star Wars). I think The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi are both perfectly functional science fiction, fantasy, action popcorn flicks. Outside of its context in the history of cinema, what little merit that first one has for me is almost completely lost. Then I saw The Force Awakens. I went to see it at the cinema because I like J. J. Abrams, (Super 8, Star Trek), and I think he’s very intelligent producer who frequently demonstrates an ability to pull a fast one on pop corn audiences and deliver something intelligent like 10 Cloverfield Lane. So I saw it at the cinema and it clicked, and I was like ‘oh it’s that ok’, and I really enjoyed it, although I tried to watch it again on home video recently and was much more underwhelmed, so maybe it doesn’t have such repeat viewing power. So combined with that and the fact I really like Monsters by Gareth Edwards, same director as Rogue One, led me to go see this at the cinema, otherwise there’s actually a high chance I’d have missed out on jumping on that Rogue One hype train. Sweet sweet clicks. I mean I turned over that Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency review, (here), pretty quick right? People care about that don’t they..? Well they fucking should, it’s great. Anyway. I was so let down by this film like fucking hell.
Ok look before I get into the problems this film has, it’s not a bad movie per say, it’s just not much good. I’ll start with the positives, the quoteunquote ‘stuff’ is really good. The explosions and fight sequences and CGI and cinematography, the directing from a mis-en-scene, choreography, editing, visual standpoint, is really, really good. A lot of people have ragged on the CGI for Peter Cushing’s resurrection in this film (I think the character’s name is Tarkin… I think… I learnt this just for this review), the CGI is actually really good, and at least to me. It looked kind of seamless and I didn’t get that uncanny valley effect. There’s also a cameo from a young Carrie Fisher as Leia and that’s really well done too, it looks like they cut and pasted from the original films shot on 70s film stock but it looks actually really good and really convicing. There are some cameos that they didn’t actually neeed CGI for that are not nearly as good, but we’ll get to that later. There’s also a handful of fine performances. Mads Mikkelsen, (Casino Royale, Doctor Strange, Hannibal), and Ben Mendelsohn, (The Dark Knight Rises, Slow West, Lost River), are far and away the best actors, or at least provide the best acting in the film. Mikkelsen is my favourite Hannibal Lecter and for good reason, he is a truly quality actor, and here he’s playing a much smaller, much less villainous role and he carries it off with aplomb. The few moments I felt really involved in the story were entirely down to them. That’s to be praised. It is also to be praised that this film is still trying something new with the franchise and that they’re trying to push the boundaries, I just wish it worked.
That’s it, I’m done with good stuff. There’s nothing to grab on with the story. The film’s problems are almost entirely down to the screenplay; or as Max Landis would like me to say what of the screenplay made it to the final cut; but not completely. There is some really bad acting for one. As good an actor as Forrest Whitaker, (The Last King of Scotland, Arrival, Panic Room), is, boy does he know how to carve a chunk of ham. Now there’s a difference between chewing scenery and hamming it up, and poor Whitaker doesn’t always know where the line is I’m afraid. Now in general, most of the performances were strikingly humourous in a naturalistic way like in Monsters which I enjoyed, but Whitaker was so bloody aweful in this movie.
The screenplay wrecks his character as well and without spoilers, he does some things that, I’m told unless you’ve watched the TV shows, make absolutely no sense from just a logic, character motivation perspective, (and to be really honest, a TV spin off of a movie should really rely on the movie for context because it’s an easter egg for fans in practice if not in theory, not the other way around!). This film has a general problem with character consistancy, there are several moments with Darth Vader in this film that absolutely everybody love… that I absolutely hate. Darth Vader goes all out and actually at one point puns, and that’s all badass but Darth Vader has always been about understatedness, he’s always been a threat more than physical violence. He’s been a jet black, deadly serious, raised fist from a school ground bully. In fact whenever Vader has done anything at all flashy in previous movies, it’s never been a lot, and it’s always been about character development purely because they’re out of character, and that’s why they’ve worked; be it the last act of Return of the Jedi; or the lightsaber fight with Obi Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars. The stuff he does in this movie makes no sense from a character consistancy perspective, again apparantly it works if you’ve read the extended universe stuff but that stuff isn’t even cannon any more! In fact, very few of the characters have any character consistancy, or at that any character. Even our main character is thinly sketched. Now here’s a casy study, Rey in The Force Awakens is maybe not the best sketched, best defined character in the world, but Daisy Ridley provides charisma and depth to that character through a really praiseworth performance, and I’m sorry Felicity Jones, you just don’t cut it in her shadow.
So why are people jizzing themselves over this movie? Because it’s a great fan film. It references, and relies on the extended universe; it gives hardcore fans everything they’d want from a Star Wars film, which is; a lot of recognisable imigary and a whole lot of stuff, and the stuff is done really well. You want stuff, Gareth Edwards is your man. There’s one fight in particular with the blind monk, (see like I can remember his fucking name with such a dull fucking character), where he channels the force against a whole load of Storm Troopers that’s really amazing, I wanted more of that. There’s AT ATs galore, (they’re not actually AT ATs I’m informed but they’re goddamn close enough to be recognisable intertextual iconography).There’s recongisable cameos from, shoehorned in mind, C3PO and R2 D2 no less! I wanted to throw up at their cameo. Gareth Edwards has let himself down, and do you know what the tradgedy of it is? He’s a man who understands these problems, Monsters held off on the stuff, and really did a lot of character work and it really worked, but this may have been lost in the reported studio meddling. Micheal Giacchino, (Ratatouille, Lost) has let himself down as well but that’s reportedly also because of studios. I ask you when will they learn to leave well, alone. Have studios not fucking learnt, and it hurts because this is the industry I want to work in and it’s completely, fucked. It makes me angry. However there are definitely, definitely, problems in this film that were preexisting. Gareth Edwards has to shoulder some blame for this mess. I’m done with this franchise. I am so done, wrap up Rey’s arc then leave it. As it turns out, the Star Wars universe isn’t actually as flexible as it makes out. It’s an illusion. I just got really, really, really bored for almost all of it. At the end I got the Micheal Bay, (Transformers) effect of it all just washing over me and me not giving a shit about any of it.
Do know what I want to see? Denis Villeneuve, (Prisoners, Arrival), to have a crack at Star Wars, he’s an independant voice. Maybe instead of trying to Marvel or James Bond Star Wars, let’s Alien it. Get directors to make a film in their own independant voice and don’t, fuck, with them. Looking at his slated projects it actually seems like Villeneuve is soon becoming established enough in the industry for them to leave well alone, but it’ll never happen. I’m never that lucky.