Written By Jacob Chimilar
The first stand alone Star Wars film is the story of a group of rebels tasked with stealing the Death Star plans that would lead to the events set in motion in A New Hope. It has Jyn Erso (Felicty Jones) as the main protagonist in charge of leading a squad to the Imperial base to steal the plans and help take down The Empire. I thought this was a fantastic idea for a story. We get to see the epic heist that allowed the rebels to topple the Empire and the greatest weapon of all time.
That is not exactly the film we get but I still liked it. There are some cool moments sprinkled here and there. It is in no way as good as The Force Awakens. That movie is on a whole different level. What Rogue One didn't do that TFA did was create compelling characters. There were some fine ones that served a purpose but none of them I found to really capture my attention beyond a cool/fun factor. The relationship between Jyn and her father was solid and the fathers story was quite interesting and I would have liked just a bit more of his history. The story was cool in concept but kind of dull and dragged in execution. There were flashes of interest but the story could have used some tightening up to keep the pace brisk.
What this film had going for it was its sets, costumes, incredible (model looking) CGI, one particular scene with Darth Vader, and some decent humor. However It seemed like things were being assembled together to make a movie rather than a more cohesive story. It isn't choppy but a little sloppy overall. Not every element worked together and some of it felt out of place. The battle scenes were interesting and fun for the most part but not on par with the best of what Star Wars has to offer, there was no real "hero" shot like the trench run, AT-AT take down or the Po Dameron beach X Wing scene.
I was not a big fan of seeing this shot digitally, some shots did benefit from the ALEXA 65 but the worst offender was the odd matte color grading they chose. It felt like it was giving into an Instagram filter fad. It also made the characters we know kinda feel out of place as a result, we know what they look like on film, digitally they lose some cinematic quality I noticed, Stormtroopers especially. It felt like they were a part of a cross over for this film and not part of the same universe. The score, rushed through in only 1 month by Michael Giacchino was just alright. His main motif for the film I enjoyed but outside of that it felt oddly Star Wars adjacent. It was like he did as much as he could get away with without having to pay royalties for the real thing.
I think my main issue is the lack of depth and care I felt for the characters. There was a moment for Jyn I appreciated and a friendship I enjoyed but that's it. The main bad guy Orson Krennic was very much a throw away villain and Darth Vader was not super necessary either. The supporting cast did their part with Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang and Alan Tudyk voicing K2SO being the stand outs. One character in particular however was very off putting and took me out of the film multiple times, which I'll talk about in spoilers.
(SPOILER ZONE AHEAD skip past next 2 pictures for Final Thoughts)
Apparently Tarken was not originally supposed to be in the film, but someone at ILM said they could make the CG character work and it really didn't. It's really quite beautiful CG but it felt like a Star Wars game cinematic which is what threw me out of the film. They also had a small bit with Leia at the end in a similar way and that was so short I was ok with it. I appreciate the effort but he should have been kept to a cameo.
Galen Erso, Jyn's father was a real bright point in the film and having him be the one to create the exhaust port that allowed for the Death Star to blow up was a really genius move and made the plausibility of A New Hope that much greater. I would have liked more of him and that whole story but the hologram explanation was good too.
Some of the smaller cameos were okay, I thought having the 2 "We're wanted men" guys from the Cantina was a bit too much of a wink but the blue milk and some other little nods like including pilots from New Hope out of extra reaction shots they had, one I think was given the CG treatment as well to deliver a line but it was very quick.
Darth Vader with a much older Jame Earl Jones sounded a little off. He sounded a bit too old and like he had trouble delivering those powerful lines with authority. His "Choke on your ambitions line" made me laugh at the cheese level pun. I did however like that he seems to have set up base on Mustafar or at least a similar planet. His liquid healing chamber was cool and his hallway fight at the end was fantastic and finally gives Darth Vader a truly incredible fight sequence in the films that shows his menace.
And Cassian was a bit too much of a jerk throw away character who only somewhat redeems himself. He kills someone early on and yet we are supposed to care about him and they try to do that with him helping Jyn but it wasn't enough for me.
The final scene with Leia and Darth Vader bringing it right up the the events of A New Hope was also a fun way to end it and had me jokingly saying to my friends it would be funny if Darth Vader standing on his ship as Leia flew away, saw the Opening Crawl fly past him.
To me it just felt more like a very well done fan film. I don't mind a different setting and tone but when you mix in the old stuff we know into it and it doesn't mesh then that is when problems come up for me. Mixed is the best way to describe this. The characters are bland but the action is good. The humor is there but the more sinister elements lack bite. I may watch it again sometime but as it is its just an okay film that fills in a gap of Star Wars history we didn't know much about in the other films.