Overly convoluted family relations tied up in intergalactic conflict? Must be a Star Wars movie. Rogue One takes place right before A New Hope and after the dreary prequels, making it Star Wars 3.5 I guess. The film was spun off from a single line in A New Hope and gives a context to it. It also tries to explain away a fairly major plot hole from that movie. Why could the Death Star be so easily blown up?
Rogue One introduces a variety of interesting characters, who aren’t served well by the somewhat unwieldy script. We get a robot who steals the show (again), an ace shooter, a defector from the Empire, a blind guy who is not quite a Jedi – but really, really seems to be one – and of course we get a scoundrel. The lead and prime catalyst for all that happens is a slightly bland woman with some unfortunate father figures. (Although no one beats Luke and Leia on that front.) There is a sense that there is more potential here than what we get so see and the cast is primarily jumping through the hoops of the plot. When vague romantic tension develops between the scoundrel and the heroine it seems both inevitable and unnecessary.
The pasty-faced white men society, going by the name The Empire, has two interesting cameos of familiar faces. Or rather a face and a mask, though the face is also a mask. The digital likeness of a deceased actor has been used, quite convincingly, and it make you wonder about the possibilities for future installments. Now that Carrie Fisher has passed away, could they use it to give her character an on-screen send-off? Or is it too soon and would it just be creepy and immoral? How long before it stops being creepy?
As for dubious technology, there is a lot of it here. Plot requirements trump logic and the already nebulous properties of The Force. For instance, when an important cable has to be plugged in on two sides of a battlefield, the main reason seems to be ‘because we need a tense, action-packed scene here’. And let’s not even get started on The Empire’s approach to data storage, which seems highly impractical, though it is admittedly very photogenic. The technology seems a bit retro – appropriate, I guess, for a prequel – but it also seems silly.
Speaking of silly, one thing kept baffling me. How do the Stormtroopers get taken out? They fall down when thrown around, shot or even when just poked with a stick. But despite staying prone – dead or unconscious, it’s often not clear which – the armor appears undamaged and there is no sign that anything got through to hurt the person inside. Are there no scorch-marks because Disney wants to keep everything bloodless and kid-friendly? It makes some of the fights look like playtime, rather than anything deadly.
I sound a bit down on Rogue One, I realize, but I still enjoyed it. It definitely feels like a Star Wars movie and the look and sound of this universe is perfectly preserved. However, the film comes with too many faults to completely ignore them. The editing feels choppy at times. Especially at the start, the film has a habit of cutting away too quickly between different story strands. You barely get time to settle before you’re on a different planet again. And you’ll be disappointed by how little you ultimately get to see of an interesting group of heroes. So prime Star Wars this is not quite, but it’s still miles above the prequels. Let’s hope that when the next ‘proper’ Star Wars installment rolls around, it will be less flawed.