Rogue One: A Star Wars Story full movie review - Show me on the doll where Mr Lucas touched you
Directed by Gareth Edwards, "Rogue One" is a prequel to George Lucas' "Star Wars". It opens on the planet Lah'mu, where little Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) witnesses the apparent murder of her family by the henchmen of a Galactic Empire.
Jyn's father is Galen, a weapon's developer. His buddy, Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), takes Jyn under his wing.
After its generic opening scenes, "Rogue One" flashes forward fifteen years. Here a pilot called Rook defects from the Empire with vital information from Galen, whom Jyn had previously assumed was dead. Galen's information reveals plans of a super weapon known as the Death Star. Rook smuggles this information to Gerrera. Gerrea passes this information on to the Rebel Alliance, who are currently waging a guerrilla war against the Empire. The rebels respond by sending Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) to assassinate Galen. Jyn tags along. Cassian refuses to assassinate Galen, and together he and Jyn instead go to a high-security Imperial facility on the planet Scrif. They hope to infiltrate this facility and beam the Death Star plans to a Rebel fleet in orbit. A big battle ensues.
"Rogue One's" plot is needlessly convoluted. What should be a swashbuckling tale of plucky Rebels outsmarting Big Bad Wolves is instead filled with dull subplots about abandoned girls, guilty scientists, random space-Asian-force-ninjas, and generic villains who spew cartoonish dialogue in-between an endless parade of establishing shots. A better writer would have jettisoned half this material and constructed a script that moves.
"Rogue One's" plot was haphazardly cobbled together by boardroom puppets and money men. Its aesthetic is similarly soulless. Like most raised on Spielberg, Cameron and Lucas, Edwards' shtick is to replicate everything he's seen as a kid, before replacing the light-heartedness of his fore-bearers with grunge, emotional distance and a low-key tone. His awful previous films, "Monsters" and "Godzilla", pretty much play like "Rogue One": dull characters running across glum landscapes whilst big CGI objects do explosive but ultimately unthreatening things. "Rogue One" itself plays like "Saving Private Ryan" meats "Star Wars" as directed by a director of joyless pornography, Edwards rolling out yesterday's decor to appease the basest, most unimaginative expectations of an audience desperate for yesterday's murder. George Lucas may be a joke today, but his original trilogy was once weird as hell. In contrast, Edwards' version of "Star Wars", a franchise whose mysteries were long killed by millions of video games, books, comics and sequels and prequels, comes out the gate looking like a deflated balloon.
Edwards' cast is no better. Diego Luna is cool as Cassian, but Edwards has mostly obediently assembled a bland band of politically correct faces; the white girl, the Latino, the black guy, the Asian etc etc. This is casting by robots and banks, every decision dictated by spreadsheets and market researchers, all calculated to guarantee maximum demographic penetration. There's no spontaneity, creative decisions or real art here; just machine logic, up and down and all the way around. Lucas' "Star Wars" may have been white as hell, but Lando Calrissian, a disco space pimp with a private mining empire and lady-cape, didn't feel like an attempt to court black dollars. Everything in "Rogue One", in contrast, reeks of reverse engineering.
"Rogue One's" first action scene occurs at the 31 minute mark. Here, on a desert planet, Imperial stormtroopers battle rebels. Lasers fly back and forth, but there's no real danger; Edwards' stormtroopers are more inept than usual (a problem in a supposedly "gritty" "Star Wars" film). The film then climaxes with a half-hour battle on land and in orbit. A replica of Lucas' Battle of Endor, this sequence finds giant Imperial walkers missing everything in sight on land, whilst giant Imperial Star Destroyers miss everything in sight in orbit. And unlike Lucas' climactic battle, Edwards' lacks drama, danger, a cool score, good compositions, intelligent pacing and clean camera work; its mostly a blur of CGI whilst humans attempt to hack into the silliest computing filing cabinet ever conceived.
"Star Wars" was a weird independent film by a geeky kid who just wanted to make goofy B movies. Today it's only B movies which get A-list budgets, and "Star Wars" has not only become the template for virtually all tent-pole movies, but become emblematic of Hollywood's escalating drive to capture dollars and lowest common denominators; "Star Wars" as the ultimate Hollywood and so American Success Story.
Ironically, "Star Wars" was conceived as a giant middle finger to Uncle Sam. Writing of his franchise, Lucas would say: "I took concepts I was going to use in a Vietnam War picture, and put them in space. So you essentially have a large technological empire going after a small group of freedom fighters; a small independent country like North Vietnam threatened by gangsters aided by empire. The Empire is like America ten years from now, after Nixonian gangsters assassinated the Emperor and were elevated to power in a rigged election. This 'total control' police state was welcomed by the people, because the Empire created civil disorder by instigating race riots, aiding violent groups and allowing the crime rate to rise."
But of course the United States has made a career out of imagining itself the injured victim. Indeed, both the nation's Imperialism and national image hinge on it being seen as an underdog. And so somewhere along the line, Lucas' tale of Vietnamese communists and the "force" which helps them defeat Western Imperialists and their giant space gonads, got turned upside down. Thus "Star Wars" became, not just the ultimate tale of How We See Oursevlves vs The Other, but an altar to Hollywood capitalism itself; big, loud, faceless, endless, soulless, bland, impersonal, pointless, infinitely propagated for the sole purpose of profit, and completely designed by yes men, algorithms, the deluded and those fork-tongued marketing gurus on cell block 1138. And here's another one. And another one. And another one. And another one.
5/10 - Sithspawn.