My low expectations for Rogue One were nowhere near low enough. Sigh.
Leaving aside the ridiculous level of gun violence, a primary feature of Force Awakens which would have made Obi-Wan Kenobi cringe in horror, there was - oh wait - there’s nothing left! Sigh.
Seriously, let’s forget about the endless violent action of these last two Star Wars films (after all, one has to assume some level of violence in the word “wars”) and talk about what bothers me most about these films, namely the utter lack of originality and imagination, resulting in an overwhelming sense of boredom. Force Awakens was just a poor remake of the original 1977 Star Wars, with a plot so unoriginal I almost gagged at points and lost much of my respect for J.J. Abrams. Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One is basically a remake of all the Star Wars films, with a little plot thrown in about how Princess Leia actually received the Death Star plans back in the first film. Sigh.
What makes all this same old same old (if I see another rebel fighter-pilot scream, I’m going to scream) so pathetic is that these last two films (especially Rogue One) have completely neglected the heart of the first six Star Wars films - the one thing that held those films together and made the original two films so magical - namely the creation of a universe governed by a spiritual power called the Force that “surrounds us, penetrates us and binds the galaxy together.” Yes, there is a blind man who represents the power of the Force in Rogue One, but that power is used almost entirely for violent action purposes, undermining the entire point behind the Force in the first six films. For this reason, I actually like the Star Wars prequels better than the last two films. Sigh.
Oh yeah - the plot, such as it is: Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) sees a message from her father, Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), describing a flaw he built into the Death Star and the need to find the plans to the Death Star and put them in the hands of the Rebel Alliance. Jyn finds a group of rebellious rebels (including Cassian, played by Diego Luna, and his droid, K-2SO) and sets out to do just that. We all know she will succeed, because we know the beginning of the original film, but how she does it (other than with endless gun violence) does offer some surprises.
So let’s talk about what’s good about Rogue One: That surprising ending, which I can’t reveal, since it’s the only real surprise in the film, is intriguing to say the least. In some ways, I suppose it was inevitable, even necessary, but still. But bigger than this was the racial diversity of the cast. Not a single major character is played by an English-speaking white North American. And while there are still far too many male characters (and thus too few female characters), at least the protagonist, for the second film in a row, is a strong young woman (though of course, the writers failed to take my previous comments about violent women into account). I actually liked Jones’s performance better than Ridley’s and I found the character of Jyn more sympathetic than Rey. For that matter, I found most of the characters in Rogue One more sympathetic than the major characters in Force Awakens (original characters notwithstanding), and the acting was perhaps stronger than in any of the other Star Wars films.
Speaking of original characters, let’s talk about bringing Peter Cushing back from the dead to play Grand Moff Tarkin. Reminding me of the marvellous 2013 film, The Congress, the idea that we can digitize actors’ faces (like Cushing’s) could spell the end of the need for future actors (we’ll just recycle the greats!). But seriously, I found Cushing’s presence too diverting. K-2SO was more positively diverting, though no C-3PO.
The score and cinematography were good enough as well. So Disney has done a number of things right with their new entries in the Star Wars saga, creating a truly multicultural universe and strong female leads, but, in the end, all I could see was a lot of mindless violent action used as a stupid excuse to rake in countless millions of dollars (and they sure got that right!). Because of my love for the original Star Wars film, I will not award a rating of any kind to Rogue One, my least-favourite film in the series. My mug, likewise, is nowhere to be found.
BTW: Why on earth do stormtroopers wear that ridiculous white plastic armour? A single shot of any kind in their direction, and they’re down (probably dead), so obviously the armour is useless. Which means it is only there to make it look like the good guys are killing pieces of plastic instead of real people, making the violence more palatable for children. Pathetic. Sigh.