Allow me to preface my opinion by giving my background. As a kid I worshipped the universe that George Lucas had created. I’ve watched all the movies (yes, even the prequels) multiple times. I delved into a few books, the most impressive being Sean Williams’ Force Unleashed series. I even watched a few of the old TV shows but was unable to keep up when I passed the age of the target audience. Overall, I was well versed in the background knowledge going into Rogue One, well prepared to catch most of the inevitable fan service.
Before we dive into the distasteful moments of the film, let’s start off with what it excelled at. The character design was something that would make even the deepest affiliates of the Henson company proud. The mass variety of creatures and droids offered in the doldrums of interstellar cities is on par with the franchise and I would even argue it’s a step up.
I was extremely excited by the first few scenes of the film because we’re shown so many breaks of form. We skip over the glaring text crawl (unfortunately substituting it with a tacky title card, but I’ll take it). In the opening confrontation between Galen Erso and Director Orso, Orso explains the benefits of what the Empire is trying to accomplish. This hint at concession to the Empire is something I wish was brought up more. Touting red and black as their flagship colors, the Sith is inherently evil but we’re never pitched the prospect of a family happily living under the Empire.
The cast was great and had a classic Star Wars team chemistry that I enjoyed. I liked Jyn Erso as a courageous heroine. Time wasn’t wasted on a romantic sidestory with co-star Diego Luna which graciously saved an eyeroll. I disagreed with the rawly stereotypical character portrayed by Donnie Yen, however there is one aspect of this character that I absolutely love. Yen’s character, Chirrut Imwe, demonstrates a more instinctual and faith-based use of the force that is extremely refreshing. The fight scene where we first see him in action is amazing and couples Yen’s abilities as a martial artist with what the Force can do as an instinctual weapon rather than the mindless pushing and pulling often shown by others in the franchise. The companion droid format is used again, however, it’s pulled off extremely well. K-2SO is one of the few characters I felt for in the end and his humor was a nice change in pace from C-3PO’s annoying interruptions.
The movie utilizes a lot of fan service, among these techniques being chiefly the various cameos seen throughout the film. Some are very smooth such as Bail Organa, Leia’s adopted father, making a nice appearance from the shadows with a subtle rise in music. The recasting of Mon Mothma was seamless and I could hardly tell it wasn’t the original actress. Two characters from the original Mos Eisley scene make an odd but comical reappearance that plays well in passing and overall isn’t dwelled on. This unfortunately is where the cameos start to become egregious. C-3PO and R2D2 make an unfortunate return with a copy-and-pasted appearance between action sequences that felt all too much like the annoying running Stan Lee gag in the Marvel Universe. Both Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia appear in full CGI that completely takes you out of the experience. Don’t get me wrong, the CGI is some of the best seen on the big screen, but it still leaves you confused and wondering why the director chose to zoom in and focus on a computer generated face that grossly contrasts the live action actors around them. And now for the most bittersweet cameo: Darth Vader. I’m willing to overlook the fact that Vader’s physical ability doesn’t line up with his stumbling in A New Hope because the final scene is so beautifully violent. I will not, however, dismiss how mishandled he is in his other appearances in Rogue One. While confronting yet another crony officer, Darth lets loose a one-liner straight from the Seagal textbook that made multiple audience members in my theater (including myself) let out an uncomfortable chuckle.
One extreme grievance on the part of this movie is its relentless goal to expand the franchise’s universe and make tie-ins with outer film properties (chiefly the ongoing TV series). I was baffled by how useless Forest Whitaker’s character was and disappointed that they wasted such a great character and actor. Only after seeing the movie did I learn online how Whitaker is supposed to be a character from the show Star Wars: Rebels, one of the series I was unfamiliar with. I absolutely hate this strategy which is why I’ve fallen out of touch with other ongoing cinematic universes such as Marvel. I refuse to watch Agents of Shield and all of its affiliates so that I can appreciate some minor character in a movie that’s underwritten. I’m willing to watch a film’s predecessors for background knowledge, however raiding Hulu to understand a plotline should not be encouraged by Hollywood.
Overall, Rogue One is a solid movie. If you’re a dedicated Star Wars fan, I would recommend seeing it in theaters to get the full experience of the A-list action. If you’re a sci-fi fan looking for something that expands the box a little, I’d wait for the DVD release. The film left me full and satisfied but when the Disney waiter comes around again next year, I’d be skeptical to order more.
Collin Sitz, Staff Writer
Senior Collin Sitz is a staff writer for the 2016-17 Colonel. He plays in the Ledyard Marching Band, Jazz band, Symphonic Band, and Wind Orchestra. He also sings in Final Cut. When he’s not in school, he can be found playing intense games of frisbee.