Hey everybody! It's been a while, and I am completely to blame for that! I hope your holidays were happy, your bellies full, and your presents less sucky! It's been a difficult time lately, especially with the large mountain of deaths we've been seeing. George R.R. Martin still has yet to take responsibility, but I think we all know it's only a matter of time. I'm going to confess to you all, after the passing of Carrie Fisher, I almost wasn't sure if I still wanted to write up this review. All of the celebrity deaths this year have been tough, but this one hit me especially hard. This is the woman who showed me that being a princess does not mean damsel in distress (especially after becoming a kick-ass general to boot!). And I also need to point out that she was a damn fine role model in real life, who came forward about mental illness and even encouraged others to be more aware and understanding of its effects on our lives. That's a true fracking hero right there, folks.
One of the reasons I hesitated to still write this review, wasn't just because it was a new Star Wars film we were talking about here. As others who saw the movie already know, her likeness was also used in a scene just at the end of the movie. Alongside the likeness of Peter Crushing, these CGI versions of the classic characters rubbed some people the wrong way (more on that later), and it made me wonder if it was a bad idea to write up the funny junk you're used to me spouting on this thing, at this moment in time. I thought about it a little more, and it finally hit me: Carrie Fisher was funny as shit, and she'd want me to try and continue to be funny as shit for her as well! She wouldn't want us to all stop to be sad and mopey forever. This one is for YOU, general!!! <3
So I'm going to come right out and say it: I didn't expect as much from this movie. By being introduced as "A Star Wars Story" (which just sounds awful, and worthy of a "fire the marketing person" stance), people immediately had the impression the movie would feel mediocre, and those vibes didn't help me keep up enthusiasm. It also didn't help that the movie had some massive script re-writes near the end of its production, raising some red flags about how the whole thing was going to turn out. So what happened? Has the Star Wars cash cow been milked dry and buried in a pool of its own feces?
I am happy to report that, while definitely fatter, the cow is still being kept in very healthy condition, and being fed all of the right preservatives! There are flaws to be sure, and I'll be dissecting them like a proper snob soon enough, but I really need to emphasize that this is well worth seeing, and I think you too will be as shocked as I was by how well this one turned out.
So what's going on in what I'll now call the ONLY prequel movie? (Yeah, I said it. COME AT ME, HAYDEN!) We're introduced to a young Jyn Erso (played by the awesome Felicity Jones), essentially the main character of this film. Her father Galen (played by the equally awesome Mads Mikkelsen) created technology for the Imperials, and lived a pretty good life, minus all the mental torture and never being able to sleep again parts. He tried to get out, but they keep PULLIN' HIM BACK IN! The Imperials wanted more, just like that greedy asshole, Oliver Twist. Galen refused, people died, and Jyn watched as her mother was pointlessly killed and her father was taken away to construct a super weapon that I won't give away the name of, but it totally rhymes with "Meth Car." Huh..., why was THAT the first thing that came to my head?...
With all of that development behind us, we lay down the proper groundwork for the rest of the movie. Jyn, older now, meets up with the Rebels and joins K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), a hilariously blunt droid that she reprogrammed, and Cassian, a man working for the Rebels and sent to assassinate Jyn's father (unbeknownst to her of course, because what fun would that be otherwise!?). That's not all though! We also get to meet Donnie "freaking" Yen as Chirrut Îmwe, a blind warrior who has a strong belief in the Force, even though he is not a Jedi Knight. There's many other important characters (despite how small some of their roles actually were) who are all worth a mention, but unfortunately I'm not going to do that because we need to keep this review moving! Rolling, rolling, rolling...
We don't get a lot of time to really take in and care about these characters much, but they all play their parts well and that should be noted first. Most of the best lines came from K-2SO, but I think Donnie Yen personally had the best quote of the entire movie. When he and the other main characters all had bags placed over their heads while they get taken away to a hidden base, he responds "... Are you kidding me? I'm blind!!!" Priceless. Freaking. Priceless. The people in theater cackled something horrible at that part.
Comedy aside, this movie is actually very dark. Arguably the darkest in the whole franchise, in fact. I think many could have guessed that all of the main characters (outside of the ones we see in A New Hope) were pretty much doomed from the get go. Hell, I'd have been more surprised if any of them DID survive at that point. What made this movie still stand out is the things we DIDN'T already know beforehand, like the battle that took place leading up to A New Hope, the people involved, and even more importantly, what was up with that exhaust port weakness on the Death Star!? Amazingly, all of these things were finally explained to us, and in a way that makes sense. I'm so glad it made sense, you have no idea. Like, that exhaust port has been the butt of jokes since before I was even alive! It's good to tell people to finally put this in their traps and shove it!
James Earl Jones reprised his role as the voice of Darth Vader in Rogue One, and holy freaking bejeebus was he frightening!!! Okay, he had that one corny line about "choking," but everything else made me scared to be in the same movie theater. (Come to think of it, Vader making a pun about choking would also make me afraid to be in the same movie theater. What the hell man, do you get off on that kind of thing!?) Anyone who was set back by the (unintentionally) classic "NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!" moment in Revenge of the Sith, can finally sit back and relish just how much of a scary mofo this guy was and still is! I assure you, the final five minutes of the movie will have you gripping your theater chair, no matter how much soda was spilled on it.
There were all kinds of other nods to the previous movies too. And not just with character cameos, but actual effects in scenery and other things that only lifeless nerds like myself would notice! We'd be here all day if I picked them each apart, but know that the people behind this movie did their homework and it shows.
I also need to talk more about Jyn, because she's so worth it. Rey was an amazing character because of how gifted she was in the Force, and her ability to adapt to situations so quickly. Jyn is an awesome lead because she has NO Force abilities and STILL stood up to be brave in the face of a near suicidal mission. That battle was one of the most intense in the entire franchise, and even though clearly scared, we saw Jyn and everyone else do what they set out to do. Honestly, it brings a tear to my eye and it should yours too. Don't give me that toxic masculinity crap, I KNOW you cried too!!!
I only have a few gripes in a-minor to add to this whole thing. The first is involving the CGI characters. While I do applaud the efforts of the team who put both Tarkin and Leia's likenesses out there to help connect the movies, it did admittedly feel a little weird despite. I'm not exactly sure if I could even come up with a better solution, or if I'm just talking out of my ass (that was a joke, I ALWAYS do that! :D ). I started to say it above, but I'll spell it out more here since you're all typical Americans who like it that way: The characterizations were severely lacking for most of the main cast. Again, I don't think this could have really been helped though. I just don't think there was any way they could have introduced a whole new cast that large and somehow made us care about them all by the end. Most people already felt the film was moving at a snail's pace in the first half (including actual snails, who proceeded to compliment the pacing and said they didn't understand what everyone else's problem was). The final gripe I have may seem silly to some, but this is kind of important... In Force Awakens, we finally did away with that ridiculous Hollywood trope of the female protagonist having to be saved by a male character, regardless of how strong they were. In Rogue One... it came right back at us again. Like, what the hell, people!? You couldn't let Jyn have some justice for her mother's death at the end? Nooooo, you had to make Cassian come back and save her at the last second instead. Ugh. Come the hell on!!! *mumble grumble wumble*
Phew, alright. I'm okay now... As I was saying, before the whiny entitled nerd rant, this is an amazing movie, despite the flaws in it! If you are a true Star Wars fan, you will walk out of that theater energized and filled with, dare I say it..., HOPE!!! Despite the slower first half, things pick up so well afterward that you won't even notice there was a problem. Jyn is awesome and a worthy lead role, Vader is badder than ever, and the whole thing just felt so... STAR WARS-Y all the way through, that it's impossible for me not to still recommend it. This is now permanent Star Wars cannon and it is more than worthy of it. Rogue One had no business turning out this well, but it did, so deal with it, and nerd out with me about it already!!!
8.5 Uses Of "I've Got A Bad Feeling About This" Out Of 10
People who complained that The Force Awakens was too derivative of the classic Star Wars movies can finally shut the hell up! This is the "different" movie you asked for and it rocked like Freddie Mercury singing "We Will Rock You," while riding Darth Vader's shoulders! I'll see you all again to talk about this stuff next year. In the meantime, I'll go back into my "2016 sucks" brooding hole with Kylo Ren, who I hear specializes in that area. Toodles!