BY DYLYN PETERSON
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong
After seventeen years and a trilogy of disappointments, Star Wars finally gave us something worth watching set before A New Hope.
While my generation grew up on the prequels, I think we’re starting to grow wise to their inadequacies; no number of pod races, one-liners, or cool villain designs could redeem them (although I still kind of like Revenge of the Sith). And while I don’t like it as much as The Force Awakens, because one can’t hope to defeat Kylo Ren in a meme-off, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was still one of the best films of 2016.
From director Gareth Edwards, whose previous work consists of the excellent Monsters and the pretty good Godzilla (2014), Rogue One focuses on rebel Jyn Erso and her team of misfits, and their quest to steal the plans to the Death Star. The (spoiler alert) inevitable success of their mission barely factors into the tone or thrill of the film, which is so dark and edgy, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had, instead, ended with painful failure.
The film’s opening is a little bizarre, in that it kind of starts two or three times. We start with the capture of Galen Erso, the father of our protagonist, Jyn, by the villainous Krennic, who wants him in order to build the Death Star. We timeskip twenty years or so, and find Jyn broken out of an Imperial prison caravan by the Rebellion, who are trying to find her dad. Immediately upon getting in a ship, though, we have a flashback to her childhood, the exact same events we saw not twenty minutes prior. Huh.
Similarly, Rogue One has several climaxes, almost certainly to fit with the “action scene every ten pages” mentality of modern blockbuster films. This gives it the feeling of something more akin to a television miniseries than a single, coherent movie. In keeping with this, the film has a lot of unnecessary scenes, some of which come to just about nothing. The lack of necessary editing in the film left me with a bad taste in my mouth. My proofreading hand was twitching through much of the first hour.
On the plus side, however, are the characters, who are mostly excellent. Jyn, unfortunately, struck me as a little flat, and I felt that if her character was portrayed consistently, she would’ve left the film and the Rebellion two-thirds of the way into the movie. The defected Imperial pilot Bohdi Rook, who sets off the whole plot, is also a little funky, for spoilery reasons. Luckily, the rest of the cast is awesome. Our captain, Cassian Andor, is super interesting. I’d watch a whole movie about him. In terms of character development, he’s arguably the main character. His sassy robot sidekick, K2SO, has most of the best lines and sticks out the most in my memory. Our main characters are rounded out by the dynamic duo of Baze Malbus, who would be called a tank in gaming parlance, and Chirrut Îmwe, basically a Force-themed Buddhist monk who steals the scene every time he’s on screen. So good.
Seeing as it’s a science fiction movie after 1991, we have to talk about the special effects, which are as close to perfect as one can easily imagine. Although my years of video production and film studies have given me a discerning eye, I can’t tell where practical effects end and CGI begins in this movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if they really built nine-foot-tall robots, AT-ACTs, and not-moon space stations. The director is already known for being a CGI wizard, but this ought to put him in the history books.
In terms of integration into the original films, Rogue One is awesome. It looks and feels just like the original trilogy, unlike the bizarre levels of advancement in the prequels. However, there are also incredibly creepy CGI recreations of Princess Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin, and I can’t say that the story justified their presence. Sorry, Hollywood, but we can’t create a human face any better now than we could with Tron: Legacy. I felt a little traumatized after. Luckily, James Earl Jones is also back to voice Darth Vader, and he was perfect.
With Rogue One, I can safely say that the good more than outweighs the bad. There are no midichlorians, no Jar-Jars in sight, no horrible romantic subplot, no long, melodramatic “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO”s. I can happily say I spotted neither child slaughter nor bizarre rattails. All I remember is Chirrut’s greatness and the last minute or so of the film, which honestly justifies the whole thing. I give it six kyber crystals out of seven.