Film Thoughts: Rogue One

I’ve got a bad spoiler about this (aka, Rogue One spoilers ahead)

Final scenes can have a disproportionate effect on the viewer’s memory. If a film otherwise bores you, but you enjoy the ending, that late flush of endorphins can wash away your prior negativity. Rogue One’s two best moments come within the last ten minutes: Vader’s single-handed rebel massacre; and Jyn and Cassian’s end. I wonder how much viewers’ estimation of the film was inflated by those late moments; how many percentage points those scenes added to the film’s rating?

The above theory suggests that, if I end this post well, you’ll forget how badly written the rest of it is. We’ll see about that

I estimate that, of all the mentions of the Vader-saber scene, 80% will come attached to the word ‘cool’. A lone character taking down a number of enemies with a technically inferior weapon would be cool regardless. But when both the character and weapon are some of the most iconic in movie history, and the moment kinda ties into one of the most popular films of all time, how could it not be considered cool?

Vader slicing through rebels with ease made me wonder, as I often do: how powerful is too powerful? We want our greatest heroes and most villainous villains to be so bad-ass that they can easily take down a number of enemies. But if Darth can destroy 12 entry-level rebels by himself, what about 25? 50? How many standard opponents would he need to face before viewers worried about his fate? Of course, we know Vader survives (because, you know, he’s in those other Star Wars films), so the whole thing is suspension of disbelief anyway. So I guess this section is me just brainfarting, trying to figure out what I’m thinking. Thanks for reading

As Rogue One neared its end, I had little interest in the big action scenes. I wondered why, and came up with three possibilities:

a) Those scenes simply weren’t good

b) I wasn’t invested in the characters. So, no matter how well-executed those scenes were, I wasn’t engaged because I didn’t care who lived or died. Maybe I could appreciate an action scene at the start of a film, when I haven’t had the chance to associate with the characters. But what about near the end, when the film had tried and failed to make me care about the players? Perhaps I’d emotionally detached by that point, and nothing could bring me back.

At first I quickly rejected this option, thinking With a battle of this scale, my opinion of the characters shouldn’t matter. Good action is good action.  But then I couldn’t think of one film I’d enjoyed the action in while disliking the characters involved

c) The Old Man Answer — am I just too old to enjoy lengthy scenes involving spaceships firing lasers at each other?

The answer? To be decided

Sand-fatigue. The first half of Rogue One and much of Force Awakens had an assload of sand. Rogue thankfully moved onto greener pastures. But for future Star Wars instalments, some changes in scenery please

Family fatigue. Daddy issues again? Really? None next time, please

And the number of planets was too damned high! We landed on five or six of them in the first half an hour. Before I even had a sense of what the plot was, I was dizzied by the travelling. Maybe all that movement was to give a sense of scale to the Star Wars universe, or to suggest the many fronts later battles would be fought on. But the actual effect was confusion

I found it hard to look at Cassian and not associate him with Han Solo. But their characters aren’t even that similar. As Force Awakens was a sneaky reboot of A New Hope, maybe I was subconsciously looking to see which new characters shared attributes with old ones

Just throw in a goddam Wookiee. Every Star Wars films should have one. Maybe a baby one. Who lives in a bin, like The Grouch from Sesame Street

Rogue’s narrative had to tie into the original Star Wars trilogy. Outside of that, it should be commended for not making many forced and unnecessary references to other episodes of the series, as many films now do in today’s era of reboots and sequels

Tarkin gets the thumbs down. The CGI was hugely impressive, but still caused an unnecessary trip into Uncanny Valley. Most viewers would have accepted some other way of linking to the first films. Tarkin was only good for graphics nerds, or for gamers to see what cut scenes will look like in two years’ time

I consider myself a Star Wars fan. But how much of one, I’m starting to wonder. I started to rewatch A New Hope last year and lost interest. As I thought back on that big unexciting battle at the end of Rouge One, I wondered, What if the directors of upcoming Star Wars films were instead given the same budget and told to make a new sci-fi IP? Would that be more exciting than another instalment of this franchise?

It was glad Jyn and Cassian died. With a franchise such as Star Wars now eight films deep, it was easy to forget that Rogue One was a one-off. Storywise at least, there was no need to save these any of those characters. I liked how they died too. They had already escaped from one world in its death throes, so it was appropriate to see that their fate wasn’t avoided, but simply delayed

Much of the action on Jedha was a hugely unsubtle nod to the US’s occupation in the Middle-East

K2SO was the best character. I don’t know what that says about this film. That a robot arrives as a comedy sidekick, in a series famous for its robot comedy sidekick, in an era where the comedy sidekick has been overused, and still be the best character, is a feat. Props to the writers — 80% of K2’s dialogue was at best funny and at worst not cringeworthy

My favourite non-robot was Chirrut. His character was was an easy sell for me: Ip Man + staff – sight

Outside of K2’s comedy, Rogue took itself too seriously. The original films has C3PO to lighten the mood, but Han was funny, and Leia and Chewie had their moments. And even in Jedi, Yoda was funny in the role of demented pensioner (before he unfortunately transformed into the sensible Jedi master that we also got throughout the prequels. Tell me Episodes 1-3 wouldn’t have been better with a mad, randy, thieving Yoda?)

Poor naming. You don’t use a name like K2SO when there’s a character with the surname Urso (rule #437 of screenwriting). Because I heard the robot’s introduction as, This is K2, Urso, then I wondered where its expanded name came from. And Kafrene was presumably an unclever reference to producer Kathleen Kennedy. In the next episode, the crew travel to Careefisha

To write this post, I had to get almost all the character names from Wiki. K2(SO) was the only one I remembered. I wonder how much of that is down to uninspired names, and how much to the fact that I didn’t care about the cast

The world-ending capability of the Death Star is prominent in the original trilogy. But that power is understood after the fact, not experienced. So in watching Rogue One I was excited to realised I’d witness that power at work. I felt let down that I was seeing the event from Jyn’s perspective as she escaped it. I’d rather have seen this huge event from a wide view, through the eyes of various people who lived on Jedha. Imagine eschatology personified — you helplessly witness the end of not just your life, but of your friends and family. Everyone and everything you know, erased.

That would be rubbish.

Given the inappropriate music cue, Saw’s most dramatic moment was when his oxygen mask retracted. I wasn’t sure if the musical tension at that point was supposed to be a joke or not

The multi-pronged attack of the finale was confusing. Too many locations. And all those small tasks that just had to be completed (“let down the shield…get the blueprint…align the satellite”) felt like all the subtasks you’d get in a videogame, all bundles together

Why black Stormtroopers? Are white ones not cool anymore? Why did Jyn have a ‘trooper doll? And what was the deal with the Lidl knock-off ones, with their rainbow arms and MC Hammer pants?

So Jyn was so badass just because Saw trained her (in scenes we never saw)? Nothing to do with The Force? That’s unimpressive. Although, if there was a reveal that she was Force-inclined, that would probably lead to speculation that there was more to her lineage than we were told. I blame JJ Abrams

I liked Chirrut’s Force-as-religion aspect, and considering whether it was the Force or luck that protected him. He didn’t get shot, an explosion took him down. Does the Force only protect from direct hits? Or was he only semi-filled with Midichlorians? Or was he just lucky to get as far as he did?

You look nice today



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