Thursday, December 29, 2016

Star Wars: Rogue One

The first movie ever made solely to address a perceived plot hole in a previous movie, ROGUE ONE is the eighth film in the STAR WARS universe and the second made by Disney. Marketed as a “standalone” film, it in fact is a direct prequel to the original STAR WARS that tells the story of the rebels who stole and delivered the Death Star blueprints that reveal a structural weakness that allows one well-placed torpedo to destroy the super-weapon. It’s safe to say sales of Felicity Jones (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2) and Diego Luna (BLOOD FATHER) action figures will never catch up with those of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, or Harrison Ford, as their star performances are lacking in chemistry and charisma and their characters are uninteresting. The same can be said for the movie’s story.

Considering the basic premise couldn’t be simpler — a band of rebels plan a break-in of Imperial headquarters to steal the Death Star plans and get them to safety — it’s a mystery why the plot credited to Chris Weitz (ANTZ) and MICHAEL CLAYTON’s Tony Gilroy (more on him in a moment) is so needlessly complicated. The first twenty minutes or so take place on five different planets, and the story becomes so jumbled that the names of the characters are easily missed. Director Gareth Edwards (GODZILLA) has a tough time keeping important story points clear, but what we do know is that Galactic Empire baddie Krennic (BLOODLINE’s Ben Mendelsohn, looking cool as hell in white duds with a cape) snatches engineer Galen Erso (CASINO ROYALE villain Mads Mikkelsen) and forces him to build a planet-killing device to be known as the Death Star.

Erso’s abandoned daughter Jyn (Jones) is recruited by the Rebels fifteen years later to accompany spy Cassian Andor (Luna) and find Galen (it’s unclear to me why they needed her), whom Cassian is secretly ordered to assassinate. Along for the ride are blind swordsman Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), bowman Baze Malbus (Joe Mari Avellana Lookalike Contest winner Wen Jiang), space pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), and smartass robot K-2SO (voiced by SERENITY’s Alan Tudyk). Though K-2 is meant to be a fan favorite, it only left me wondering why these badass Imperial robots never showed up in “later” films — a plot hole more egregious than blowing up the Death Star with one torpedo.

Darth Vader (once again voiced by James Earl Jones, but not played by David Prowse) is here too, but more surprising are appearances by CGI-animated versions of Peter Cushing (who died in 1994) as Grand Moff Tarkin and Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. The CGI Cushing is overall not good — the voice portrayal by actor Guy Henry is all wrong — but some shots from behind or as reflections in a window are passable. The CGI Leia is frankly awful, clearly unusable, so bad that a 1976 George Lucas would undoubtedly have sent the footage back to the effects team until they got it right. The worst special effects shot in STAR WARS is more convincing than that CGI Leia in 2016.

Perhaps some of the weaknesses of story and visual effects can be explained by the film’s hectic post-production, which involved Disney sending director Edwards to the bench in favor of Gilroy, who wrote and directed massive reshoots — so much so that ROGUE ONE’s original trailer looks almost like a different film. The film’s lengthy action climax, easily the best part, appears to be almost all Gilroy’s work. Gilroy can’t be blamed for the film’s casting — only Mendelsohn, Yen, and Jiang turn in good work, and Forest Whitaker (who may be wearing his BATTLEFIELD EARTH costume) is downright terrible — but his best writing and directing efforts weren’t enough to make ROGUE ONE a creative success.


Peter Collinson said...

While this is far from a great film I think you're a bit hard on it. My point of comparison was less the original trilogy and more The Force Awakens.
Did you see that one?

Marty McKee said...

Yes. THE FORCE AWAKENS is a better film with interesting characters to root for.

Richard Harland Smith said...

I don't have a very big dog in this fight but I liked ROGUE ONE better THAN THE FORCE AWAKENS and I liked the ON THE BEACH/MIRACLE MILE ending. In the end, though, I'd still rather rewatch SAHARA.

Marty McKee said...

I'm fine with the ending, even though logically the film couldn't have ended any other way.