Thursday, December 29, 2016

Why I Hated “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

I am a true Star Wars geek. I saw the original 1977 release in 1977. Twice. I have since seen every movie released in the theater and own them all on some form of media. I can pretty much quote all the lines from Episode IV-VI and even watched the prequels more than once. The Force Awakens renewed my excitement over the franchise and so it was with a heavy heart that I walked out of the theater hating Rogue One. Even Lucas’s prequels did not leave me in such despair (though in my mind, I have attempted to make Anakin 14 in Episode I and remove Jar Jar from existence). Why did I hate the movie that others are touting as “the best ever?” There are reasons. And I think other fans will see those same reasons when they dig deeper.

Major Spoilers Alert.
If you did not see this movie and still
intend to, do not read further. 

The story line – the good.

The over all story was really good. In fact, it explained the womp rat sized flaw that allowed Luke to skillfully blow up the Death Star in Episode IV. And though many seem confused about who stole the original Death Star plans (Bothans stole the second Death Star plans pre-Return of the Jedi), everything about the story seemed fairly water-tight with the original trilogy. Big thumbs up on the story. This is where the good stuff stops, however.

The Characters – the bad.

Where to begin? The acting was good but the actors had little to go on. Character development was seriously lacking to non-existent.

The main character Jyn Erso is exposed to serious trauma as young child. She is abandoned until taken under a stranger’s wing who apparently exploits her as a soldier and later discards her as well. She should be a very complex character but is not. She does not have any convictions which does make some sense until…Ta-Da...they need a rogue leader. She literally goes from not caring about the politics of Star Wars to leading a rag-tag team of rebels who save the Universe. Not only does this change happen within minutes of the movie, but she actually delivers a speech worthy of the patriotic address by the President in the movie Independence Day. This was less believable to me than a 10 year old Anakin Skywalker in Episode I.

Cassian Andor is the supporting male lead who is so unlikable it is maddening. We never get any back story. All we know is he is a miserable soul who apparently hates his rebel job. He kills other rebels we presume as collateral damage. We are led to believe he is used by the Rebel Alliance as a mercenary and he is not really very happy about any of it. In desperation for substance, I tried to read all sorts of between the lines on this guy and came up empty. I actually hated him.

K-2SO is an android. C-3PO he is not and boy did I wish he was. K-2SO did have some humorous quips, but he was not an android in terms of personality. He is an Imperial droid that has been reprogrammed, one presumes, with a sarcasm module. For all the fun we’ve had watching androids like C-3PO and Data from Star Trek TNG, this droid might as well have been a human sidekick named Bill. He was some of the only comic relief in the entire movie and it wasn’t really all that comical. R2-D2’s bleeps and bloops are much funnier and well, believable. K-2SO did not seem like a droid at all. I found myself looking at him like he was a guy in a robot suit.

Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus were presumably our Han Solo and Chewbacca replacements. Okay so they weren’t a space-cowboy and a Wookie but they were close. We figure out pretty quickly that Chirrut is Jedi (who are in hiding now) and Baze, well we are never quite sure his story. He’s probably force sensitive or...something. Who knows? Maybe he’s Chirrut’s life partner? Again, I found myself trying to fill in the characters’ back-stories to make the movie work. These two did add some humor and were a welcome pair to an otherwise complete drab and depressing portrayal.

Bad guy Orson Krennic was probably the least objectionable character. I actually hated him for the right reasons. As the orchestrator of the Death star, he was well developed into an opportunistic bad guy. He schmoozed and connived his way to get what he wanted and gets what he deserves in the end. So yay, for this one.

Honorable mention to character Bodhi Rook. I wanted to know this pilot who was so very dedicated to the cause. He was a hero yet we never really knew him. He was likeable, if not lovable. For shame to the production staff for not giving this character more of a story-line.

There are obviously many more characters whom are never developed. Some are those we already know from previous movies, however. Darth Vader gets a small, very violent (and unnecessary) cameo toward the end of the film (We already know he is a disturbed individual. We saw Anakin turn to the Dark side in Episode III and then cut off his kid’s hand in V. We really didn’t need to see this additional violence). Bail Organa, Princess Leia’s adopted dad also makes a cameo as a member of the Rebel Alliance and we get to find out how Leia gets the stolen plans. There is also some fancy CGA going on with a cameo from a very young Leia from Episode IV. This part was actually kind of cool because it tied the movies all together.

The Delivery – the ugly.

Sitting in the high backed stadium seating with 3D glasses on I anxiously awaited the start. Most of us never noticed, the old 20th Century Fox fanfare had been replaced years ago with a slick version by John Williams and I waited for this intrinsic anthem to begin. Cue the lights. Wait. No fanfare? Okay…that was odd. How about the classic “Dun-Dah?” Nope. Not there either. Well, they at least wouldn’t forgo the quintessential opening scrawl that has been in Oh yes they did. The movie just started like any other Hollywood action flick. No fanfare. No classic opening music. No Star Wars scrawl. What the heck was this?

Deep breaths. Maybe it was budget. My son leans over and tells me John Williams did not do the soundtrack. Does anyone have a paper bag I can breath into?

Cue the violence. Off the bat we are thrown into the most graphic violence of any Star Wars movie to date. We see a child’s mother shot point blank and killed. We see a rebel shoot and kill another rebel because he’s disabled and cannot climb to escape. Soon we are tossed into the streets that resemble realistic war zones where terrorist cells are attacking with grenades and assault style weapons. This is no longer the battles of laser guns knocking down storm troopers. This is realistic war scenes with graphic violence. At one point, we see a very young child in the middle of the street screaming while bombs and gunfire surround them. One can imagine the terror of Syria right now. This is disturbing stuff and it does not stop at any point in the movie. In fact, it gets worse as time goes on.

As the movie progresses, it seems as though the director’s intent was to show us that the rebels were not so noble as we’d come to believe in the past. In fact, they are painted as politicians not much different than that of the original senate from which they came (which makes no sense since Mon Mothma and Bail Organa broke away from the senate for these reasons). They seem to view their rebel soldiers as instruments for their cause rather than people. There is also a new element added that has not been in any other of the Star Wars movies or series – Rebel Extremists. Theses rebels apparently broke free of the main alliance because they did not like the politics of playing nice. These are the ones carrying out the terrorist attacks in the streets. We are to understand there are blurred lines between who is good and evil in the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. This sounds a little too much like real life and it is not what made the original Star Wars universe so great. The original trilogy success was credited with using the aspects of various movie elements. “Star Wars is a Western. Star Wars is a samurai movie. Star Wars is a space opera. Star Wars is a war film. Star Wars is a fairy tale” (Wickman, 2015). While there is an element of war in all Star Wars movies, it is certainly not the only focus. Rogue One does try to incorporate some samurai elements but they are weak and the other elements are sadly missing.

So it seems, this director wanted to put the WAR emphasis into his Star Wars. One shouldn’t be surprised. Hollywood action flicks sell. One can presume money is what this was all about. Or perhaps this director was never a true fan and wanted to change the formula. Either way, it was an epic fail for this epic tale. Say what you will about the prequels, but at least George Lucas did not change the formula.

The Ending – the really, really F-ugly.

So let’s just say you got past the all the rest of the bad and ugly above. The end of this movie just kills it. Literally. Everyone dies and when they did I felt like I was watching an SNL spoof. The cliché death scenes were happening so ridiculously that it would have been laughable had it not been so damn depressing. The only thing missing was some slow-motion camera angles and stereotypical opera music playing. It was just so very awful.

This movie seems to have been made for people who thought the old Star Wars was too unrealistic and campy (what part of fantasy don't you understand?) and just not sensational enough (think Armageddon, the movie). My advice to them is to go see something else. There are plenty of realistic and Hollywoodized action flicks out there. Leave the Star Wars universe alone.

I’m going to file Rogue One: A Star Wars Story under something-that-never-happened.

Wickman, F. (2015). Yes, Star Wars Is the Original Action Blockbuster. It’s Also a Postmodern Masterpiece. Retrieved from