Box Score Cinema: Rogue One

Submitted by Charlie on Mon 19 Dec 2016 - 13:26

  Rogue One

"Talk about Star Wars!" - Database

Top Line: The elaborately titled Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a welcome and enjoyably creative addition to a franchise that hasn't released a good movie since 1983. It's got some significant flaws (clunky dialogue and too many pointless subplots), but it's a great story with fun characters, and the ending is genuinely big screen worthy. Perhaps best of all, it both respects and adds to the larger Star Wars universe.

Who (probably) should see this movie: Uh, Star Wars fans? 

Who (probably) should not see this movie: Non Star Wars fans.

Box Score:

Runtime - 2h:13m - Oof, and it feels like it in places. This could've and should've been about 15 minutes shorter.

Actual Start - Showtime + ~15 Minutes - Forgot to look, but it wasn't too bad.
 
Sunday Morning Demographics: Full house with people of all ages. 

Anything After the End Credits: Nope.
MPAA - PG-13 - "extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action"

What It's Got: For once, the MPAA and I agree. This is easily the most violent Star War ever, and will probably scare really little kids.

Should Be Rated: PG-10
Three Stars:
  1. Felicity Jones: She gets the only part that actually has any range, and knocks it out of the park.
  2. Forest Whitaker: Dies way too early, but plays crazy yet dedicated extremely capably.
  3. Mads Mikkelsen: Puts real soul into a very tiny role as a scientist with a conscience.
Worth Seeing In Theater (Baseline: 2):
  •   +8 - Is Star Wars

Final Score: 10

Worth Seeing Eventually (Baseline: 5):
  • +5 - Is Star Wars

Final Score: 10

 
Bechdel (Baseline: 5):
  • +5 - for Felicity Jones being the main character, and a near archetypal "strong female role".
  • -2 - Rest of it's kind of a sausage fest, though.

Final Score: 8

IMDb Sez:

Director:

  • Gareth Edwards: This is considerably less boring than that shittastic Godzilla movie he made a couple years ago.

Writers:

  • John Knoll: A CGI dude who gets story credit here. This is literally his only writing entry on IMDb.
  • Gary Whitta: Also gets a story credit here. He was responsible for that boring "Book of Eli" screenplay that Denzel did everything he could to make watchable. Also wrote After Earth, which may be the worst Will Smith movie ever made. 
  • Tony Gilroy: Got a screenplay credit, and mostly writes middle brow thrillers (e.g. Proof of Life, Michael Clayton) and Jason Bourne movies.
  • Chris Weitz: Wrote and directed that godawful Golden Compass adaptation. Remember that movie? Warner Brothers thought they were going to turn that into a franchise. Yikes.

Rotten Tomatoes Sez:

All Critics: 84% Top Critics: 77% Audience: 90%

Notes:

  • As usual, the "Top" critics are grumpy and hate fun.
  • I find it hilarious that Disney is run by the kind of dumbasses who thought not having the words "Star Wars" in the title would hurt this commercially. People wearing expensive clothes sat at a fancy table and decided that calling it "Rogue One" would cost them money versus calling it "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story". Morons.
  • Perhaps it was just me being less cranky overall, but I thought the CGI was a noticeable upgrade from Force Awakens.
  • The exception being all the dead characters they brought back. Please leave these glass eyed corpses in the uncanny valley, okay? If you really feel the need to have Grand Moff Tarkin in the fucking movie, hire an old British dude to play him. Ditto for that weird Leia cameo at the end. Find a hot twenty year old with big hair and a small chin and just film her. We know it's not the original actors, using computers to make new people look like other people is weird and ugly.
  • For the most part the fan service is unobtrusive and fun (blue milk!), but when Jimmy Smits says of Obi Wan that "he served me well" it's just awkward. You don't need to actually repeat the line, fellas.
  • Darth Vader should've just been the bad guy. James Earl Jones doesn't quite have the chords he used to, and they make Vader a lot more demonstrative than he is in the originals, but it's close enough. The scariest scene in the movie is when he goes ham near the end.
  • I know Hollywood feels that everything has to be CGI these days, but why couldn't the Admiral Akbar dude be a guy in makeup instead of a cartoon? Go watch Jedi. Akbar looks great three decades later with nothing but latex and makeup. Do that again.
  • Someday Disney will make the hard-R Star Wars movie we all secretly want. This isn't that, but it's not too far off either.
  • Props to Disney for (and this isn't really a spoiler) killing everyone at the end. They're not going to squeeze a sequel out of this, and it gives the story a real conclusion and a high stakes climax. Bravo.

Bottom Line: Rogue One is the eighth Star Wars movie and managed to avoid basically all of the mistakes that made the prequels and that rehash they released as Episode VII last year suck so hard. It treats the fantastically cool Star Wars universe with respect and colors inside those lines instead of scrawling all over the screen in an effort to be innovative. There are no midichlorians (or however the fuck you spell that). Nor does anyone acquire lightsaber skills instantly.

Instead of that kind of crap, we get a view into a galaxy where the Force is revered as a religion, so people believe in it, and might be sensitive to it (Donnie Yen's blind monk being the big example, but there are others), but can't quickly lose or acquire the power to use it. This respect is why the film ties in so nicely with Star Wars: it expands that movie's backstory without undermining or contradicting it.

For example, a longstanding fan joke/critique about the 1977 classic is to wonder why the Empire would build an invincible super weapon with a critical weak spot that blows it up. Rogue One provides an answer to that: they didn't. The scientist who designed it grew a conscience and put the weak spot there deliberately. That's cool as hell.

Fidelity to the mythos of the franchise like that is what makes Rogue One so much fun. This is a Star Wars movie that actually likes the first three movies in a way that the prequels and that J.J. Abrams disaster simply didn't. The prequels tried to overwrite the original trilogy, and Abrams ripped off the shiniest parts and hoped they would make a coherent film. Rogue One, on the other hand, adds to Star Wars by showing us what ordinary rebels went through in order for Luke to be in a position to fire those proton torpedoes.

The movie is not without its problems. It takes a while to really get going, could use more comic relief than Alan Tudyk can provide by himself, and basically has no villain. That last one is usually a killer flaw in an action movie, but Rogue One gets away with it because the Empire is plenty evil even without the empty cape that is "Director Krennic". Also: Vader. (Fucking Vader, man. Damns!)

The only really distracting problem, and it's also what makes the movie too long, is the rather clumsy handling of the internal politics of the Rebel Alliance. The movie tries to have a theme of "you must act" (very Trump appropriate), but it mostly boils down to one scene of rabble-rabble yelling and some contradictory orders. It's a relief when everyone gets on the same page near the end, but mostly because it means the script starts to move faster, not that any of the characters actually developed.

All that said, the ending is spectacular. Rogue One successfully apes Jedi by showing us a big fleet space battle at the same time as a ground battle and our heroes trying to save the day. It is not as good as Jedi, but it's pretty damn good and well worth the price of admission.

Movies Deemed Commercially and Demographically Similar Enough to Merit Trailers Before Rogue One:

- Cars 3 - It's rapidly becoming apparent that the outstanding Inside Out was a fluke and not a return to form for Pixar. Cars 1 was bad. Cars 2 was worse. And this will be no better.

- Pirates of the Caribbean 5 (6? Honestly, I lost count) - Fuck you, Disney. This is getting into Rocky sequels level of tarnishing the original.

- Guardians of the Galaxy 2 - Has anyone else noticed that the weird Marvel movies are the only ones that are fun anymore? Hope this is a goofy as the first one.

- Wonder Woman - Meh.

- Power Rangers - For the first minute and a half of this trailer, I thought they were rebooting Fantastic Four again. Feh.