Hey friends! Jason here. It is literally a couple hours since my first viewing of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and I have to say: I’m emotionally drained (in a good way, in a satisfied and astounded way); and, having viewed the film in IMAX 3D, my senses are still reeling.
So, my rather less than intellectual first take is simply: Wow, that was one helluva movie!
Can I just leave it at that for now? No? All right then, bear with me. I’m rather amused as I write this, for it is the task of a writer to quickly gather his or her thoughts, and as eloquently and simply as possible put them on the page. Rogue One, moreso than any review that I’ve done in recent memory, is quite a quandary in that regard, for this is new territory, folks. This isn’t like any other Star Wars movie. And, as much as some may think that The Phantom Menace shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath as The Empire Strikes Back, they’re much easier for me to compare than Rogue One is to any other Stars Wars film to date. You’ve probably heard or read about the names of the characters, and perhaps you’ve seen some of the starships or locales, so I’m just going to keep this as a general overview of my immediate impression of the movie…
Right from the get-go, I knew this was something different. And although its initial differences could be construed as jarring, boy did I find it pleasantly refreshing!
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story not only set the table for the anthology movies, it set the standard, period; and that standard is a lofty one. The film has a much different tone than the episodic installments, but at the same time it’s laden with familiarity. The whimsical elements of that galaxy far, far away are set aside, but not left completely out of the picture. In the forefront is the drama, grit, and grime of common folk grappling with the inevitability of a galaxy that is increasingly falling under the unforgiving fist of the Empire.
It’s hard for me to walk into a Star Wars movie with the ole’ “no expectations” mantra. I mean, cmon’, let’s face it, it’s Star Wars. We’re hoping for something awesome, right?! Having said that, I think with the stand alone movies my expectations are somewhat tempered by knowing that these films won’t be directly tied to the Skywalker story arc, nor will they all necessarily be sweeping epics.
Well, then along came Rogue One.
The movie managed to touch a lot of bases. It’s both intimate and epic. A slight knock on it might be that it’s sometimes driven a bit more by exposition than it is by character arc, and I felt like some of the main protagonists could have used a little more fleshing out; but very broadly put, this is a movie about the state of the galaxy more-so than any individual. It’s as visually appealing as a Star Wars movie can be, and the sights suit the story. It ain’t all pretty, but it’s not meant to be. We’re in A New Hope territory here, and that’s apparent early on. The movie nails the “lived in” feel of that time period, and fans of the Star Wars Rebels cartoon series should delight at Rogue One; for on many levels, it’s the big screen, live action incarnation of the show.
Though the story was a bit densely packed at first, with names of people, places, and predicaments a bit loosely thrown around, it seemed to tighten up as it went along. And overall, I appreciated the pacing. The intensity of the drama increased exponentially as the story unfolded. I think Star Wars fans will be talking about the third act for years to come. The action is an assault on the senses, and the resulting drama really tugs at the ole’ heart strings.
Whew, I’m still digesting all that I witnessed!
Inevitably, a lot of the talk amongst my friends and fellow moviegoers centered around comparing it to Stars Wars’ triumphant return to the silver screen last year, The Force Awakens. The movies are two completely different beasts; they differ on many levels. But my first impression is that Rogue One utilized special effects more…ahem….more effectively. (Yeah, I said that.) When CGI was called for, Rogue One didn’t shy away from it, and with the exception of a scant few characterizations and locales, practical and CGI wizardry were blended seamlessly. I found Rogue One to be a feast for the eyes. The movie makers didn’t appear to be dead set on utilizing or not utilizing any technique simply for the sake of tradition. And though Rogue One necessarily digs deep into the very lore that it’s expanding on, it doesn’t overtly mimic what has come before. This movie is as original as a Star Wars film could be, folks.
Oh, and for those of you who are still concerned about the whole re-shoot malarkey: throw it out the window. Forget it. The acting was exceptional. And there is no indication that whatever “extra” filming ensued (a common practice for many movies) diluted the intensity of Rogue One at all. This movie was easily the most brutal of the Star Wars movies. Well, before you decide to leave the kiddies at home, I use the term “brutal” modestly. Though this was by far the closest to an actual war movie for a Star Wars film, it still wasn’t explicit. There were some fight scenes that included Stormtroopers meeting some rather satisfyingly unpleasant ends, and many an emotional high was hit, but the filmmakers cleverly managed to keep it all from crossing the lines of excessive or explicit.
Despite knowing the time frame and plot synopsis based on advertising and trailers, Rogue One managed to reveal a treasure trove of surprises. Given this is a spoiler free review, I’m not even going to hint at any of them – but I’ll just say this: if you manage to see this movie before your friends blabber every detail of it at you, you’re in for quite a few treats. And generally, the further into the film you go, the greater the gold…
So there you have it. In my eyes, Rogue One is an overwhelming success. It manages to be very different than any Star Wars movie you’ve seen, yet its chock full of classic Star Wars tropes. It has some shortcomings, and I felt like it could have tightened up its narrative in spots, but by the end, the entire audience was cheering and I was left breathless. What’s good in Rogue One is reeeeeally good! I’m certain repeated viewings will clear up some of the plot threads I checked out on, and I can’t wait to see it again.
Thanks for taking the time to hangout and read this! Stay safe, my friends!
Be well, and may the force be with you…always.
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