So the fiancée and I decided to go out and see Rogue One for our engagement anniversary. I’ll preface this whole review by saying: It had its flaws, but it was still worth the money. Go see it.
That said, I still had a pretty lukewarm reaction to it.
Probably minor spoilers ahead; I don’t think I give anything away about the plot, but consider yourself warned anyway.
I think the biggest flaw overall was the movie’s inability to commit to itself; it could’ve been either a good Star Wars movie or a good not-Star Wars movie, but it couldn’t do both. It felt like they were trying to go full grimdark, be super mature, and then chickened out halfway. It was like a dime-a-dozen dystopia. And it didn’t help that the soundtrack – while full of the classic Star Wars goodness – felt out of place with the movie itself. Another thing I noticed was the dissonance of the main character.
To be clear here, I fucking love a good female protagonist. I’ve gotten into many a long nerd fight over how awesome Rey is.
Jyn Erso ain’t Rey.
Rey got down in the dirt, was established from the beginning as a scrapper, had a steady – and good – character arc throughout The Force Awakens. She was in tune with the environment around her, getting banged up and sweaty and just plain grimy like everyone else. Jyn Erso had none of that. The movie felt like it was trying to make her into an epic-level badass but she came up short on every single front. She radiated a kind of juvenile vulnerability any time the scene called for strength – and this was the big, continuous argh I had with her. Every single scene where she’s supposed to be awesome, she just plain isn’t. Anytime I’m supposed to care about her, I don’t.
She felt like a knockoff Katniss Everdeen; the dime-a-dozen protagonist of that dime-a-dozen young adult dystopia.
She isn’t the only one I had this problem with. It was just more obvious with her because she had more screen time. Cassian Andor was similarly dissonant on just about every font. He’s introduced in the manner of a grimmer, darker Han Solo, but he never follows through on any of the expectations established in his introduction. His big moment of doubt and introspection falls flat, becoming totally inconsequential five seconds after he has it for reasons I don’t want to spoil. Everything about him feels like the dime-a-dozen protagonist’s dime-a-dozen romantic interest in that aforementioned dime-a-dozen young adult dystopia. The only thing I really liked about the guy was the fact that he spoke a different accent from the Space British.
Other than that, there were just too many little nods to continuity. One or two would’ve been great. When it gets to the point where I want to make a drinking game out of it, you need to stop and reassess which of those nods is actually worth keeping. In that respect, the movie felt kind of like a reasonably well done piece of fan fiction; it filled in the gaps on a tiny part of canon, and was pretty creative about doing so, but ultimately it doesn’t mean much and you’re just fine without ever knowing it exists.
Now, with all that griping out of the way, there were things I really, really, really freaking loved.
The big one was Donnie Yen.
This tells you everything you need to know about Donnie Yen. He’s basically the next Jet Li, except he has more crossover appeal and he goes above and beyond traditional wushu in his choreography. His fight scenes, in general, are just a joy to watch. On top of all that, he’s also a pretty decent actor even when he’s not suplexing people on naked concrete.
He and Jiang Wen freaking carry any scene they’re in – not just for action sequences, but as actual characters. You can tell that they have lives outside of Jyn Erso’s story, you can tell that they’re bona fide people. I honestly want to see the Chinese version of this film just because they’ll probably get more screen time in it, hopefully with a full-on arc of their own. If Rogue One had been about Yen and Wen’s characters, Baze and Chirrut, it would’ve been ten times better right out the gate.
I can’t help but wonder if Yen’s creative control over Chirrut is the main reason he ended up being such a good, lively character compared to the main pair. It reminds me of Harrison Ford and Han Solo, except nicer than Ford telling Lucas he can’t write his way out of a paper bag.
I also really liked K-2SO. He had the best introduction out of anyone, and provided most of the movie’s actual humor, even if some of it got a little overboard at times. I can’t really say too much else about him since his best moments are all spoilers. The only time he really fell flat was when he had positive interactions with Jyn. And to be fair to K-2SO, that happened to everyone but Chirrut.
The CGI in general was top notch, but they might want to cool it with the makeovers and the resurrected actors. Tarkin was good until I saw his face. The other character given that treatment was straight-up uncanny valley after the first couple of seconds. I get that Disney is testing this technology for the long game (thereby making it possible to give us Robert Downey Junior as perfectly middle-aged Iron Man forty years from now), but the tech isn’t quite there yet and it takes more away than it adds.
Go see it but don’t expect a masterpiece. If somebody held my feet to the fire, I’d give it a solid 7.5 or 8 out of 10.