Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Review: Rogue One (third-pass)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (third-pass / 2D / SPOILERS)
Cert: 12A / 134 mins / Dir. Gareth Edwards / Trailer

Previous reviews:
First-pass (spoiler-free)
Second-pass (spoiler-free)

Okay, this is your spoiler-break. That first section of text which will be picked up by some web crawlers and preview-generators, and which will potentially appear in front of the eyes of people who haven't seen the movie yet and don't want to be annoyed when they're just browsing through their social media platform of choice (and quite right, too). There are no spoilers in this bit. They all come after the image, below. You shouldn't read the main body of this post unless you've seen Rogue One, as it details key plot points, dialogue and character appearances. And apart from anything else, it won't make sense if you haven't seen the film yet.

So, this is my third viewing of Rogue One within a fairly concentrated period of time, and I'm still loving it. Picking up more background detail with each watch, and the stylistic differences that separate the film from the Saga episodes are becoming less jarring. What follows is a sort of 'thoughts as I go', roughly in the order of occurrence and separated by location for your convenience. This sort of review would work far better with accompanying stills, obviously. But as we all know, there's no way to get those until around April when the DVD comes out. In the meantime, you'll have to make do with remembering the bits I'm on about...


Still here? Smashing…


• Is this only the second planet we've seen (cinematically, at least) in the Galaxy Far, Far Away with rings, after AotC's Geonosis?

• So wait, the Imp shuttle overtakes Jyn as she's running home, but she's down the stairs, through the door and into the living room for three minutes before it's landed? It's hardly a densely populated area where you'd drive around the block a few times to make sure you're at the right place, but okay then.

• That maintenance droid of Galen's. What's he going to do when he gets back to the homestead and no-one's there? Mind you, I'm guessing Lyra's just been left out in that field, so that should give him some idea...

• Blue Milk™ in the homestead. Slightly heavy-handed visual reference as it also happens to be centre-shot with a slow-zoom, but still - nice!

• His opening sarcasm to Galen Erso aside, I think Orson Krennic might be the most sympathetic Imperial character we've met properly. There's a frustration to him that suggests he genuinely doesn't see the Empire as evil, just a slightly inefficient organisation which does bad things for the right reasons.


• And to put it out there, I'm not a fan of that title-card, or the accompanying fanfare from Giacchino. It feels like one of those commercially produced parodies which try to be as close as possible to Star Wars™ but have used a different typeface and music to avoid legal repercussions (fan-films tend to just directly reference the logo and use Williams' score). I'd rather the film had gone completely different, or not featured a title at all.


• This is the first time we've seen location-cards in a Star Wars movie, although I've no doubt that's necessary because of the sheer number of words we visit here (especially during the first act) when you want to cement the idea in the audience's mind that we're skipping around the galaxy, not just one globe. It's also notable that two planets in this film aren't named though, the first of which was the setting for Galen's, farm earlier. I still haven't finished the lead-in novel Catalyst yet, so I don't know if it gets a mention in there.

EDIT: Galen's farm is on the planet Lah'mu, as indicated in DK's Visual Guide book. Why it isn't captioned in the movie? No idea. Maybe it wasn't something they wanted to open with, as the planet is part of the first scene.

• For all Gareth Edwards' tight direction that I enthused about earlier, the over-acting coming from Daniel Mays here is incredible. He could power three screenplays with his energy alone. If anything, it distracts from a fantastic bit of character-building for Cassian Andor.

• The industrial setting here and patrol Stormtroopers remind me of the fan-film I.M.P.S. The Relentless. And I mean that as a compliment to both.


• I love the dynamic between the reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO and Rebel Intelligence Officer Andor. The latter is always patient and respectful in his instructions to the droid, but it in turn calls him 'Cassian'. Not Master, or even Captain Andor. It shows that whatever the practical reality of their relationship, the droid clearly thinks of him as a friend and companion.


• I know it's been around eighteen years since the end of the Clone Wars, but I notice Forest Whitaker's Saw Gerrera neither looks, sounds nor acts like the insurgent we met on Onderon, being trained in guerilla warfare by Anakin Skywalker. Although his character is coming to the Rebels TV series soon (set around five years before Rogue One, so I guess we'll see how that progression is coming along.


• Wilhuff Tarkin. I shall talk about this in a future review...


• Dilapidated B'Omarr monastery! Nice!

• Okay, I know Kyber crystals are extremely powerful, but using gems you can hold in your hand (even crates full of them) to contribute towards the running of something the size of the first Death Star feels a bit like a Formula 1 team preparing for the upcoming season by syphonning petrol from cars down one street. It certainly lends more weight to the theory that Starkiller Base is built around the planet Ilum, due to the amount of raw, naturally occurring crystal there. It's got to save time messing about transporting handfuls of the things.

K-2SO's acerbic quips throughout this film are magnificent; he's like Marvin, the Paranoid Android before the despondency overtook his disdain at the world. But even with all his great lines, my favourite moment is where Jyn hands him a bag to take back to the ship, he waits until she's ten steps away and then just drops it without a single shred of concern.

• What the hell is going on with Gerrera's pet truth-monster, other than being the most Freudian creature we've met in the GFFA since the Sarlaac? And when he says that those subjected to its talents 'tend to lose their minds', how come Bodhi Rook seems to come out of it like he's shaking off a hangover?

• …so that's Dr Evazan's signature catchphrase, is it? Like, everywhere he goes? Okay then. I'm also going to assume that both he and Ponda Baba were on their way to the ship to pilot off the next dustball planet, not least because that street's going to be flattened in about twenty five minutes…

• Imperial Nerdler-Nerdler droid! Nice!

Chirrut Imwe's ability to take out a squad of Stormtroopers with a stick makes me realise that the Ewoks' subsequent attack (and victory) on Endor maybe isn't so far-fetched after all.

• That RA- series droid has a new (read: previously unseen) eye/visor configuration. Nice!

Saw Gerrera's coterie of misfits are playing Dejarik with physical pieces, instead of the holo-version we know from the Falcon. Nice!

Is that Cham Syndulla sitting at a table in Saw's gaff, too? If so, see my previous comment regarding Walrus Man and making his way calmly to the exit…

EDIT: No, according (again) to the Visual Guide, it's a Twi'lek named Beezer Fortuna, who's a cousin of Jabba's majordomo, Bib. Although Cham Syndulla gets a mention in Beezer's write-up, anyhow.

Galen Erso's holo-message. Beautiful. For almost forty years now, people (including me) have been rolling their eyes and taking the piss out of such a blatant design-flaw in the Death Star.
The ret-con? Of course it's deliberate...

Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus have the most intriguing relationship and backstory of the whole film. As former Guardians Of The Whills who have lost their purpose in life now the moon is under Imperial occupation, one has become hyper-spiritual while the other has concentrated his efforts on the acquisition and mastery of military ordnance. Yet they're completely inseparable and read each other like only best friends can. What's also intriguing is Chirrut's connection with The Force. Although he's not a de facto Jedi, his survival skills in combat and the line later, "The Force moves darkly near a creature that's about to kill" show that he can feel and react to The Force, but not actively control it. A bit like someone who can read and understand fluently, but can't hold a pen to write. Along with the Dark-Side-but-Not-Sith Kylo Ren, this has big implications for the scope of Star Wars storytelling and the nature of The Force.

• There is absolutely and categorically no actual need for Saw Gerrera to not get on the ship, here. I shall return to this in a later post.


• I notice Cassian is aiming that sniper-rifle with his eye about ten inches away from the range-finder. That's normal, yeah? I mean, he's only looking at a small, dark, murky close-up image of the landing pad while the floodlit surrounding base and its systems bleed into his surrounding vision, so I'm sure that'll be fine.


• The second of this film's locations with no location-card, which this time feels more significant. Although there's no title, the 'molten-esque' setting heavily suggests that it's somewhere on the planet Mustafar, indeed Pablo Hidalgo from the LFL Story Group has as good as confirmed this. Although even with the entire planet to choose from, you can picture Vader being shown round and saying to the estate agent "Ooh, a lava-feature! No, I like it! That doesn't bring back any bad vibes at all…"

• Why does Vader's helmet seem different in this film? The neck-piece looks wider here, although that could be because his cloak and fastening-chain are underneath the flared-bottom throughout, rather than over the top like they were onboard the Tantive IV in ANH?


• Love how the council-scene is populated largely by craggy-looking middle aged white guys, to channel that whole Ep IV aesthetic. Almost like this branch of the Rebellion is the Home Guard or something. Which would explain Daniel Mays' presence, earlier.

• Sure it's a heavy-handed reference, but I like the insistence that Bail Organa definitely was on Alderaan when it blew. It would have been easy to ret-con him to survival for some future use. That said, Mon Mothma makes specific mention of recruiting 'his Jedi friend', what actual use is Kenobi going to be, in practical terms? Worst thing is, that question hadn't even crossed my mind before Rogue One


• Yeah, I'm still not sure how I feel about palm trees in the Galaxy Far, Far Away...

Baze calls Jyn 'little sister' before they separate into battle. A touching moment, but does it seem a little forced when they've only been hanging around for a day or so?

• I like how K-2SO's "I've got a bad feeling abo--" is truncated, in the same way that the film's Wilhelm Scream was earlier.


• It's Chief Inspector Grobbelaar! Nice!


• It's Chopper! Nice!

• It's Artoo and Threepio! Nice! Not even remotely subtle, but who cares? Their inclusion in Rogue One (or the lack thereof, to be more accurate) was one of the things I worried about most with this movie. I can't tell you how happy it makes me to see them here.


• Is that the first time we've seen an R5-series astromech navigating an X-Wing? I've only noticed them in Y-Wings before when they're not trundling around and catching fire.

• The 'find the master switch', 'use the ships to cover the ground troops' and 're-align the antenna' sections in this battle are all pure Battlefront. I'm not complaining, I like that. Speaking of which…

• There's a serious amount of damage done in this movie with detpacks. Not the more commonly seen and rollable Thermal Detonators, but the cornered models which were the standard fallback of the Dark Forces and Battlefront game-series through the years. Bravo! Although I must remember to look out and see if anyone's carrying a Bryar pistol the next time I'm watching…

• So presumably the Empire increased the shielding for the standard AT-AT models after the defeat of the AT-ACTs on Scarif? Because the folks in the X-Wings here aren't messing around with cables and they're having no problems at all. Let's not forget, the second A of that name stands for Armoured

• Liking how we get re-engineered footage of Angus MacInnes and Drewe Henley, to place their characters here at Scarif and later around the Death Star. It's a nice indicator that not everyone outside of the Tantive IV carks it. Yet, anyway.

• I like the way an organisation has the tech and industrial prowess to build a moon-sized battle station, but their data-archiving still relies on the right box being manually moved from the right shelf. Some would say this is a security measure, but I've got a funny feeling it's an administrator not wanting to automate himself out of a job.

• And I'm going to assume they only made about twelve of those Death Troopers, on account of none of them showing up for subsequent duty-parades on either the first or second Death Stars.

• Something tells me what when Bodhi Rook was working for the Empire, his actual title was "Captain Exposition".

• I like the way an organisation has the tech and industrial prowess to build a complete planetary-shield, but no-one seems to have considered that the whole thing can be disabled by just driving into the gateway with Something Much Bigger™. The Rebellion literally ram-raided their way to the Death Star plans (although I'm also fairly sure the crippled Star Destroyer would be within the planet's gravity-well when its engines go down, even without a nudge. But let's not get into that right now).

• So, the fight above Scarif shows us why the call-sign Red-5 was assigned to Luke in the Battle of Yavin. And it's not because there were previously only four pilots in the squadron. Feels a little cold handing his mantle over before the embers of the guy's X-Wing have even cooled, but that's war I suppose.

• Is Admiral Raddus wearing a badge/brooch of the ion cannon we later see on Hoth?

• The entire sequence with Vader kicking ass first and worrying about taking names later? Yes. Yes.

• And the final shot of the film aboard the Tantive IV? Less is more, LFL. Really, less is more...

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 does.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's a strong showing.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?

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

Although if you really wanted to go the long way round with it…

Rogue One features the fine vocals and mo-cap work of Mr Alan Tudyk, whose name can be found attached to 2014's Tell alongside that of Katee Sackhoff, who lent her voice to 2011's Batman: Year One, as did Grey DeLisle, a performer who also worked on the TV series of Avatar: The Last Airbender with Jason Isaacs, who cropped up in 2015's Justice League: Gods & Monsters along with Dee Bradley Baker who is a regular on Phineas & Ferb, as is Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who starred in 2015's Maze Runner: Scorch Trials with Alan Tudyk… from off of Rogue One.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ 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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