When Disney bought Lucasfilm back in 2012, they promised to release one Star Wars movie a year. Soon afterward, they released a basic schedule for their first six movies. They kicked it off with 2015’s Star Wars episode 7: The Force Awakens, but they wouldn’t release an episodic movie every year. Between each episodic movie, there would be an anthology film. At the time they announced three such films, Rogue One, Han Solo and a Boba Fett movie. As of right now, Boba Fett’s status is unknown – it probably won’t release in 2020 as originally planned. We don’t know what’s going to replace it, or if the franchise will just take a year off.
Personally as much as I love Star Wars, I hope it does take a year off.
However, this post is about Rogue One and not Disney’s uncertain sixth movie. Releasing in December of 2016, Rogue One tells the story of the Rebels stealing the Death Star plans, leading up to the events of the first movie. On the one hand, I was immediately interested in this kind of movie. I liked the idea of having a movie end minutes in-universe before A New Hope begins. But on the other hand, my nostalgia says that Kyle Katarn, a former imperial officer, stole the Death Star plans not too long after he joined the rebels. This Kyle Katarn would eventually learn to be a Jedi on his own, taking on a group of seven Dark Jedi and a former apprentice of Luke’s over the course of the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight video game series. Of all the Star Wars games so far, Jedi Academy, the last game in that series, probably has the best lightsaber combat system we’ve seen to date.
Right off the bat, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story makes sure you know this isn’t going to be like the episodic movies. There’s no text crawl. The soundtrack, while good, is clearly not in John Williams’ style. Although Michael Giacchino did incorporate some of Williams’s themes in appropriate moments. It gives Jyn Erso a basic yet complete backstory, which the episodic movies generally don’t do for their main characters until much later. There are also flashbacks sprinkled into the movie, a filmmaking device that’s not used in the main movies. None of these are inherently good or bad. For better or worse, this is the first official Star Wars movie that actually feels like a proper war movie.
Apparently, ideas for the Rogue One movie were pitched 10 years before the movie started development. While working on the prequel trilogy, John Knoll (the visual effects supervisor for the trilogy) pitched the idea to George Lucas. When Disney bought Lucasfilm, he pitched it again, thinking that if he didn’t, he’d always wonder what might have happened. After they accepted the pitch, Lucasfilm selected Gareth Edwards (Monsters, 2014’s Godzilla) to direct the movie, and Gary Whitta as the lead writer (Book of Eli, and video games Prey and Gears of War).
With Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation releasing in July of 2015, Paramount and Disney agreed to delay Rogue One a few months from its original release date of May, 2018, and to not advertise the movie until after Rogue Nation’s release. They didn’t release any trailers until after The Force Awakens released anyway, but it’s nice to see competing studios get along every now and then.
Rogue One earned a respectable $1,056 billion worldwide, becoming Disney’s fourth billion dollar movie that year alone (other movies include Captain America: Civil War, Zootopia and Finding Dory). It received generally positive reviews with an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, its average score at 7.5/10. The positive reviews often praised the movie’s pacing, smart use of fan service and its action. However it was also criticizes for its lack of compelling characters and its use of CGI for both Governor Tarkin and Princess Leia.
Personally I like this movie, but that’s about how far I’ll take it. I find it to be the least rewatchable of the Star Wars movies, and that even includes Attack of the Clones. Apart from K-2SO, the brutally honest reprogrammed Imperial droid, none of these characters are all that memorable. Jyn is alright as somewhere between Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, and her backstory is tragic, but she’s nothing special. Cssian Andor is a forgettable Alliance Intelligence officer whose motivations never feel all that clear. Donnie Yen plays an entertaining force sensitive monk, but his character is never explored, nor are his specific beliefs. And nobody else on the team is even worth mentioning from a personality standpoint.
With all that said, the second half of the movie is a lot better than the first. After the death of Jyn Erso’s father, the movie ramps up to the Rebel Alliance’s attack on the empire’s research base. The battle itself is well paced, entertaining and very creative. Each character on the team, while you don’t care about them as much as you should, still gets a noble death. In some cases, it seems to develop their character a little bit. And of course Darth Vader gets to show off how hardcore he is in a glorious final fight scene.
It’s also worth noting that this movie flows perfectly into A New Hope. If you’re going to watch this and you have the time, it’s actually worth watching A New Hope immediately after.
But on its own, this is probably the Star Wars movie I’ll rewatch the least … among those already out anyway. Before this blogathon, I had only sat through it twice. I’ve sat through some of the segments of the Holiday Special more times than that. I even watched The Last Jedi three times while it was in theaters, while I only watched Rogue One once. Why? Because when it comes to my movie watching habits, I care first and foremost about the characters. When I don’t really care about any of the characters in Rogue One all that much, it makes it harder to put myself in the mood of watching it. I wouldn’t even say that about the prequels.
This is worth a watch for long-time fans of the Star Wars franchise, even if you’ve only ever seen the original trilogy. But with all that said, you shouldn’t expect to fall in love with it. You’ll probably just enjoy it for what it is. It’s a well-crafted war movie taking place in the Star Wars Universe, with unfortunately underdeveloped and sometimes boring characters.
I’m actually not all that excited about the upcoming Solo movie. To me, Han Solo’s past is best kept a mystery. I’ll still watch it of course. But I’m far more excited about Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2 than I am Solo.
Next up is The Last Jedi, which releases this Tuesday on Blu-ray. I’m going to make sure to pick up the 4k Blu-ray. After that, it’s the mystery posts I promised. And pretty soon, we’ll start seeing new movies related to the blogathons I’ve already done, including Deadpool 2 and X-Men: Dark Phoenix for my X-Men blogathon, Pixar’s The Incredibles 2, and Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2. Oh, and Solo, which releases the weekend after Deadpool 2. I knew that sooner or later, these blogathons would start blending in with each other. The intention is to do blog posts for each of those within a week of their release.