Thanks to a insanely hectic holiday schedule, I have only recently been able to enjoy the newest installment of the Star Wars franchise: Rogue One. I have to admit when I sat down in the theater it was with a feeling of mild trepidation. Overall, reviews that I had heard regarding the film had been mostly positive in nature, but almost every single person I had spoken about the film with seemed to have some sort of lingering reservation regarding the prequel to our beloved original trilogy.
Once the lights dimmed and the movie started, I quickly began to understand why the reviews were so mixed.
The first 2/3rds of the movie just drag. Furthermore, the constant shift from planet to planet felt extremely whiplashy and smacked of bad writing. Anyone who is a fan of Star Wars knows to expect jump cuts between narratives, but you barely got the chance to let one planet’s existence in the universe sink in before you were shot halfway across the galaxy to another character. In fact, with simple script editing the majority of the first hour of the film could have been cut and replaced with the traditional plot scroll that we have come to know and love, and that was (for some reason) removed from the film entirely.
Despite the jumping around from person to person and planet to planet, a part of me can somewhat understand why the writers felt the need to shift the narrative around – these hops and skips introduced characters and gave us some degree of insight as to who they were in the great Star Wars universe. However, once the team all gathers together you learn more about our heroes from their interactions with each other than during their solo scenes at the start of the film.
It should be mentioned that it was vital to the tone and purpose of the film that the audience imprint emotionally upon these characters. However, I was left feeling as though the scenes at the beginning were a waste of screen time that could have been put to much better use.
I will wholeheartedly admit that despite the slow start, once the action does start happening, it’s time to buckle up, because you won’t have an opportunity to take a break to breathe, much less run to the bathroom. The last hour of Rogue One almost entirely makes up for the slow going in the rest of the film itself, the ending is absolutely gut-wrenching and depicts an honest portrayal of what some of these Rebel/Imperial battles must have really been like for the average Joes who were unlucky enough to be fighting at ground zero.
My only other major complaint about the film was the CGI animation of two characters in the film. Every time I saw a CGI person on screen it made me mentally recoil in distaste because the characters looked just close enough to human for me to recognize them as such, but there was also this inescapable layer of ‘otherness’ that made my lizard brain go haywire and reject what I was seeing.
However, some things that Rogue One did do an amazing job on:
The entirety of the main cast did an awesome job portraying their characters. I absolutely adored every member of our little Rebel party. The simple fact that I did genuinely care about their survival despite my issues with the film honestly says a hell of a lot about the talent of the actors themselves.
There were several times throughout the film where you could see where some special effects or easter eggs that were meant to be a nod to die-hard Star Wars fans – small touches such as as the grainy overlay that was used in the x-fighter pilots that made these shots appear exactly like they appeared in the original release of the series, and the inclusion of other, smaller Easter eggs that could be found throughout the film as well added a layer of richness to the film that I didn’t initially expect.
All in all – I felt that Rogue One was an amazing addition to the Star Wars universe, but that feeling only really surfaced after I left the theater and had time to reflect on the entirety of the film; however, if I were given the opportunity to watch it again, I would arrive an hour late to save my time and sanity.