Thursday, December 22, 2016
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (a movie review post)
But I did love it. In so many ways, it was like being a kid again and watching Star Wars for the first time. Not in a nostalgic way, which is what Abrams was going for with Force Awakens (and which didn't work for me at all, because I don't want to see the same thing again because I already saw that movie(s), and Lucas did it better than Abrams), but in that way of seeing something new and brilliant for the first time. Something that excites you. Rogue One did that.
Which is not to say that there aren't plenty of nods to the original trilogy, but that's the thing: They are just nods, not throwing the same story back at us.
Rogue One sets itself apart from the very beginning: There is no opening crawl. The lack of it was... weird, and I immediately went to a negative space of, "Oh, man, this is going to be bad." It went on from there to offer place name subtitles, which reinforced that initial internal groan. The movie, however, quickly overcame those initial misgivings.
So what is there that I can say about it that is not spoilery? Rogue One gives us a real view of what the Rebellion is all about. I think there is a lack of understanding about how much Luke Skywalker changed the Rebellion and what it was. The Rebellion grew out of the destruction of the Jedi. We see that at the end of Revenge of the Sith, normal humans witnessing the destruction of the Jedi Order, the protectors of peace and freedom in the galaxy, and determining to resist and fight back... on their own.
Fight back against the Empire, which includes both the Emperor and Darth Vader. With no Jedi.
That's the world we find ourselves in, and there are no holds barred. As such, this movie is... there's no other word for it than brutal.
And it's excellent.
The cast, also, is great. Felicity Jones, whom I was also trepidatious about after her performance in The Theory of Everything (which probably wasn't her fault; it just wasn't a very good movie, and her role was rather weak), performed admirably as Jyn Erso. There's not a moment when you don't believe she is not a strong, street-smart young person. You can tell she is trouble right from the beginning of the movie, unlike Luke.
In fact, there are so many great performances (from the most diverse cast of any Star Wars movie and, possibly, one of the most diverse casts of any movie (no, I haven't done the research on that, but, at least, on the rebel side of things, there are virtually no white, male cast members, highlighting the white male human supremacy of the Empire)) that it would take too long to go into them all. The only performance I was disappointed in was that of Forest Whitaker, an actor I really like, but I think that was mostly due to the very brief screen time the character of Saw Gerrera was given.
This next thing might be considered a spoiler, but it's something definitely worth noting, especially since, as far as I can tell, no one is talking about it. At least, no one is talking about it in any of the more mainstream reviews that I've seen.
Rogue One contains what I believe is the first homosexual couple in Star Wars: Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus. It's not explicit, which is what makes it beautiful. These are definitely two men who care deeply for each other, and I think anyone would be hard pressed to make the case that they are just "good friends." Not without some creative bending of the facts. They bicker like an old married couple and are just as affectionate. And I would really like to delve into this more, but I really can't without giving actual spoilers. Maybe I'll come back to it at a later time.
Unfortunately, I haven't had time, yet, to go see the movie for a second time, but I have a great desire to. I walked out of this one wanting to go right back in, and that desire hasn't diminished. At the moment, Rogue One is in my top three Star Wars films. It will hit you on a visceral level (my wife cried often during the movie) and leave you not knowing what to do with yourself. Other than seeing it again, that is. There's more I could say about that, but that, also, would be a spoiler. It shouldn't be (because no one ought to actually be surprised at the ending of the movie), but it would be. Just go see the movie. If you are at all a Star Wars fan, you will in all likelihood enjoy the movie immensely. If you don't like Star Wars, you might like it anyway.
It's that kind of movie.