Thursday, December 15, 2016

Movie Review: Rogue One

This evening I went to see Rouge One, the latest installment in the Star Wars saga.  Aside from the opening scene, set just a few years after the events of Revenge of the Sith, the movie takes place shortly before the events of A New Hope.  "Shortly before" as in it starts no more than a few weeks before and ends almost immediately before the first scene of A New Hope.

As anybody whose seen even a little bit of the trailers and commercials knows, it is the story of how a team of misfits from the Rebel Alliance sought to acquire the plans to the Death Star, which played such a pivotal role in the original Star Wars movie (Episode IV: A New Hope).  Since the plans were clearly in Rebel possession at the start of A New Hope, it might lead you to wonder if there's any room for meaningful tension.

In fact, there is.  Leaving aside the possibility that our band of misfits fail and the plans were acquired in other ways, there is of course the question of what fate befalls the characters.  Over the course of a movie that runs for about two hours and fifteen movies, a band of misfits forms and goes off on the mission.  First there is Jyn Erso, the semi-orphaned young woman whose father was forced into Imperial service as a weapons designer.  Then there is the Rebel spy, Captain Cassian Andor, and his droid sidekick, K-2SO.  Then we come to the warriors Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus, who join them from the moon Jedha, and the defected Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook.  

This band of misfits witness the Death Star devastate a world even when firing at only partial power. The power of the Death Star cause any who believe the tales of existence to fear.  It is for this reason that our pluck band of misfits seek the Death Star plans, which they believe can lead them to stop it. The quest to acquire the plans proves to be epic.

Enough about that.  That's likely as far as I can go without too many spoilers.  Go watch the movie or read the novelization if you want the nitty gritty details of the plot.  The plot moves fairly fast, but it slows down in a few spots where it needs to.  I am quite happy with the pace and plot, more so than with The Force Awakens.  While it does retread ground tangentially addressed by the opening crawl of A New Hope, it is nonetheless not a rehash.

There are a few tropes and cliches, but none should mistake it for the near pastiche or homage that was The Force Awakens.  It is good in its own right, but ties in quite tightly with A New Hope.  Despite that tight connection, a viewer of Rogue One needs no real knowledge of any Star Wars movies.  There's a few spots where those unfamiliar with Star Wars might be left with a few questions, but nothing very problematic.

It does feature quite a few cameos by characters (and a few actors) we've seen in Star Wars before.  I will not list them, for they might spoil things, but I will say that villains and heroes Star Wars fans know well do make their appearances.  A few favorite locations from the past also make appearances, and the movie does a good job of making you feel like you're in the same universe as A New Hope. What do not make an appearance are Jedi (unless in they're in the audience).

There are battles in air, on the ground, in space.  There's sneaky spy stuff.  There's a few slower bits, about politics and choices, and about doing the best one can in difficult circumstances.  There is joy, there is sadness, there is fear, and there is here and there an occasion for laughter.  There is also a strong sense of the true evil of the Empire, displayed quite well, and repeatedly, for any who might doubt it.  The only "shades of gray," so to speak, are in the actions of some of the Rebel spies, and that is addressed directly.  To crudely paraphrase one of them: "We did a lot of things we weren't proud of.  Let's make it count for something."

All in all, I quite enjoyed the movie.  It felt like a Star Wars movie, it sounded like a Star Wars movie, and it looked like a Star Wars movie.  The plot made sense, the pace made sense, and it fit into the universe seamlessly while still having enough of its one scope not to feel too predestined.

The acting was good.  I thought all of the characters were portrayed as they were meant to be. Characters who were portrayed by actors other than the originals still seemed to fit well,

The effects were plentiful but restrained - they were seldom gratuitous.  It looked like they made extensive use of practical sets, based upon the visuals and the multiple filming locations indicated in the credits.  Everything felt more real than what resulted from the green screen and CGI sets of the prequel trilogy.

As you might guess from this review, I did in fact enjoy the movie a lot.  I would definitely recommend going to see it.  Much fun was had watching the movie.  Then more was had watching the Jedi couple use the light from their lightsabers to help search for something they'd dropped on the floor during the film.  :)  

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