This blog has primarily been for my book reading adventures, however for the past few months I’ve been considering publishing the occasional movie, TV show, or video game review. The reason is simple: it’s fun to apply literary analysis skills to different media. Since I’m an avid movie- and TV-watcher, and gamer, it’s right up my alley.
My first non-book review is going to be on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I haven’t quite decided how to format these yet, but I’m going to start with a non-spoiler review and publish a spoiler review in a week to give people time to watch the movie.
I wasn’t around when the original Star Wars trilogy was released, but that didn’t stop me from becoming a massive fan of the saga. As you can imagine, it was an incredible treat to be able to see The Force Awakens (TFA) in theaters last year and Rogue One (RO) a few days ago. I experienced, for the first time in my life, the magic of seeing Star Wars in theaters (prequel movies don’t count because they were garbage and had 0 Star Wars magic). It’s a little hard to convey in words what it was like, but imagine being able to relive the moments that made childhood so special: the excitement, curiosity, imagination and hope.
Before we talk about the details, let’s start with a quick recap. Rogue One takes place between Revenge of the Sith (Episode III—the prequel trilogy) and A New Hope (Episode IV—the original trilogy). The Death Star has been built by the Empire and a group of Rebels is tasked with retrieving the plans that will lead to its destruction.
Rogue One is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars universe. It’s not without its faults, but what it does right more than makes up for the things it doesn’t (which aren’t even that many).
First, we get to meet some wonderful new characters, each with their own emotional baggage and unique quirks. The leads—Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna)—have great chemistry and are given a chance to grow throughout the film. Unlike Phantom Menace, where Qui-Gon Jinn, Padmé, Jar Jar Binks, and Anakin come together because the script calls for it, the group in Rogue One comes together organically, out of actual need, making their mission compelling. There are relationships I would have liked to see more and less of, and at times the first half especially feels overwhelming, but overall I enjoyed getting to know new people.
Second, the story is coherent and even fills in some Episode IV plot holes. The pacing in the first half is a bit fast and jarring since you’re introduced to new faces and new places fairly quickly, however, the first half of the movie does a good job preparing you for the second half, which is where most of the tension and action are. That being said, there are several scenes I’d have cut out because they take up precious time and don’t really add anything to the story (I’ll get to these in my spoiler review). Rogue One is also a much darker and grittier tale than we’re used to, even toeing the line between PG-13 and R in some places, which is refreshing and exactly the type of tone this story needs. This goes hand-in-hand with a bit more world-building, where we really get to see, for the first time, the Empire’s reach throughout the galaxy and the scale of their forces (something the original trilogy doesn’t do as well).
Third, I thought there was a good balance between the new and the familiar. A huge criticism of The Force Awakens was that it played it too safe by rehashing parts of the original trilogy and littering the film with way too many homages and throwback references. If that bothered you, know that Rogue One does do that too, but on a much more subtle level. There are a few easter eggs and hints of the events to come (Episodes IV-VI), but it doesn’t beat you over the head with them.
And finally, perhaps the most impressive feat Rogue One achieves is how seamlessly it sets up Episode IV; it makes the good movies better. There are a few surprises here that I won’t spoil, but I’m pretty sure you’ll feel like driving home from the theater only to watch the original trilogy (I did).
For those of you on the fence about seeing Rogue One, I hope I’ve convinced you to go for it. My next review will have full spoilers and will get into some critique-debunking. Hope you enjoyed following along, and may the force be with you!