Thursday, 15 December 2016

Review: Rogue One (first-pass)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (first-pass / 3D / SPOILER-FREE)
Cert: 12A / 134 mins / Dir. Gareth Edwards / Trailer

Okay, usual rules apply, not least because it's gone 3am and I'm buzzing. This is a first-pass review, first-reactions, gut-feelings etc. As is the norm for this sort of thing (and indeed the norm for Star Wars specifically), there was way, way too much detail for me to take in. Other than the trailers, I'd gone spoiler-free for Rogue One. As a result, my eyes were picking out details in the set, costumes and script when my brain was just trying to keep going with the flow of the story.

While I appreciate that not everyone is as obsessed with the Galaxy Far, Far Away as I am, you'll probably spend the first act of the film - as I did - playing Spot The Difference on a much broader level. There are notable departures from the Star Wars way of doing things (many of which we'd already been told about in promo interviews), and this is very much a film of Firsts. The first twenty minutes or so is a struggle with your brain to unlearn the signature points of the seven saga-movies so far, yet as it moves on, you realise that Rogue One is as structurally cohesive to the feeling of Star Wars as any of them. As the little guy once said, "only different in your mind".

This is also the first project to seamlessly incorporate elements of the Original Trilogy (obviously), Prequel Trilogy, the Clone Wars series and Rebels series. Plus, there are stretches of the movie which are the closest thing you'll get to Battlefront without sitting and playing it. Some of the references are incredibly subtle, some less so. Some are very, very welcome, while the jury is still firmly out on others*1.

Typical that it's not even Christmas, and there are already Easter Eggs all over the place ;)

But the old and the new mix effortlessly on-screen, and everything we see is inherently and organically Star Wars™. What we hear is slightly more of a mixed bag, with Michael Giacchino on composing duties for this outing. A few of John Williams' themes are woven in at appropriate moments, but he's largely given free rein - and as much of what he's scoring consists of planets and characters we haven't met before, it comes as no real surprise that the soundtrack has its own personality, too*2.

There are characters we meet for the first time here, and some old friends are along for the ride. Some of those had RSVP'd already, and a few just turn up on-spec. But Rogue One proves that all are welcome. It'll change the way that regular audiences perceive the timeline of Star Wars, and it'll change the way that everyone watches the first twenty minutes of A New Hope.
So, mission accomplished.

Full points are awarded, if only for the most seamless and glaringly logical ret-con in cinematic history. And as a Star Wars fan, I treat ret-cons like a Jawa treats restraining bolts.

All the enthusing you're reading on social media at the moment is justified.
Those precious plans are in safe, safe hands…

(Oh, and there's nothing at the end of the credits. You weren't expecting anything, I know, but unless you're completely wrapped up in the score you can make your way to the exit as soon as the credits begin.)

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
All of the Star Wars.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
It certainly, definitely does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Director, yes.
Cast, could be

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Depends on why we differ.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Well, this was just a first, sensory-overload pass, but I'm fairly certain I heard one in the first melee/altercation, yes.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 0: It is Star Wars.

Although, if you wanted to go the long way round with it..?

Okay, Rogue One stars Felicity Jones of course, who also rocks up in A Monster Calls along with Toby Kebbell, who's appearing in the upcoming Kong: Skull Island along with Samuel L Jackson, who was in that Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children alongside Terence Stamp, who provided voicework on Halo 3, as did Steve Blum, who carried out similar services for the Disney Infinity 3.0 game, along with Adam Driver who was a regular on the TV show Girls, the 'Role-Play' episode of which featured Felicity Jones, who's in Rogue One.

Yeah, I'm doing that again.
And yeah, I'm already regretting the decision after compiling one of them ;)

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 More on these in a future review. Although I'm fairly certain that almost every other outlet will discuss them at great length before I get that spoiler-ific.

*2 Although I thought much the same of Kevin Kiner's Clone Wars soundtrack back in 2008, but quickly came to love it because it's different, rather than in-spite of it. And if memory serves, I wasn't overly enamoured with the OST for The Force Awakens at first either. I know with concentrated appreciation I'll enjoy the Giacchino soundtrack, but he's not my real dad…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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