Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

I’ve never been a massive Star Wars fan – it’s worth getting that out of the way up front. I’ve been recommended a lot of the recent non-core Star Wars content though, like The Mandalorian, Ahsoka and Rogue One, and I’m always happy to try out a friend’s suggestions.
I’m going to try not to spoil bits but make no promises.
It was an enjoyable enough film. It was put together out of familiar parts and didn’t feel like it needed a lot of Star Wars knowledge to enjoy. That cuts both ways though – the character types were familiar from other films, even the dialogue. “I’m going with you” is always followed with “no, it’s too dangerous” and you know without a shadow of a doubt that that character (and probably any others left behind, bar one) are going too. The characters with guilt in their past are going to die by the end, probably after a noble and heroic act (hello, Cassian Andor). There was even what looked like a leftover bit of a romance plot that must have been attached to one of those stock elements that made a confusing half-scene with meaningful looks and music cues without any build-up, foreshadowing or even payoff. About the only novel part of the film was the new arrival, recent convert character didn’t survive to carry the torch forward for the old hands dying in the name of the cause. The robot was a nice touch, although it’s a Star Wars staple of comic relief droid.
The CGI Peter Cushing was most likely my least favourite part as it firmly hit the ‘uncanny valley’ and broke my suspension of disbelief more than the CGI aliens. There was no need to perform digital necromancy in this way – to an existing Star Wars fan, the position could have been played by a look-alike or by a subordinate character name-dropping them. To a non-Star Wars fan, it’s obvious that some digital trickery is being used but without the recognition of why a human wasn’t playing the part instead. Using a subordinate could even build up the Cushing character’s menace, by gradually ramping up the engagement and threat – first sent for a report, questioning reports, threatening the superior taking action and ending with “the boss man is coming to take this project from you”. The rest of the plot need not change much.
Speaking of plot, I feel that was used in place of story. I’ll try to explain. Character arcs were pretty shallow and weren’t really developed in a way that felt natural. Growth happened in the character’s heads or off-screen and their attitudes seemed to change artificially. Jyn accepting the rebellion and other characters accepting her just seems to be something that happens because the plot would stall otherwise. Likewise, the interesting subplot of an extremist rebel group falters before the characters are killed off as the leader decides to just give up. As if he didn’t have anything to escape the planet with, or try to run from the destruction. There was a plot – the things that happened in order – but the story – what the film is telling us underneath – was missing. That’s not uncommon, especially in action-adventure films, but it stood out particularly to me here. Avatar has an environmental protection / anti-colonialism story driving the plot, Wrath of Khan is about aging, regrets and the past catching up with you, but I couldn’t work out Rogue One.
Overall a fun family film without too much depth, easy popcorn flick.

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