Screens

Rouge One – Good, but not Compelling.

Andrew's review of Star Wars Rogue One and the connections he saw to The Force Awakens and the need for compelling characters.

This isn’t a critique about the politics of the Rogue One. I’m an old punk. I LOVED THIS. I’m down with the rebels. I’m down with destroying the system. I’m down with stomping Nazis, members of the KKK, and other deplorables if it comes down to that. I’m down with overthrowing the Galactic Empire, or a reprobate republican administration whenever possible. As Spike said in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “There’s death, there’s glory and sod all else, right?”

This is not a critique about a strong female lead, which seems to bother the misogynists in our midst. I love me some strong female leads. See Sigourney Weaver in the Alien movies. Or back on Earth: Lupita Nyong’o from 12 Years a Slave. Rey from The Force Awakens is a fantastic female character. Princess-General Leia Organa is one of the first strong female leads I saw as a kid. [God bless you Carrie Fisher. I am looking forward to your appearance in Episode VIII. We’ll give you a hell of a sendoff. Promise.]

Nor is this about nostalgia, as in “don’t mess with my movies.” While I hated that my original and favorite hero Han Solo died, The Force Awakens was full of compelling characters, old and new. That movie was amazingly nostalgic, but it also brought something novel, from Rey, to Finn, to Poe.

And that brings me to my point about R1. The main problem was I didn’t care about any of the characters. Great narratives need good relationships. R1 didn’t give me that. You have to give me a reason to care, besides the facticity of the plot.

For me, that was the big dilemma about the prequels. From Anakin to Padmé to Mace, etc., I did not give a crap about those people. I maintain the prequels would have been 10,000,000% better if they only concentrated on the relationships between Ben & Anakin, Anakin & Padmé, Anakin & Palpatine. The politics, the trade wars: that nonsense was never essential. We need characters to care about.

Unlike in the original trilogy or in The Force Awakens, I found none of the characters in R1 particularly compelling. I didn’t hate any of them, like I hated Jar-Jar, but I didn’t really connect on a mental, emotional, or visceral level either. I felt like the movie didn’t give me enough of a background to care. Since I did not care, I was not vested in their lives. And since I was not vested in their lives, I was not vested in their endings.

In certain ways, my reaction here reminds me of my reaction to Mad Max: Fury Road. I didn’t truly care about those characters either, but I don’t think I was supposed to. It was straight up wall-to-wall all-out insanity from beginning to end. R1 tried to give me reasons, but they did not work.

Speaking of their deaths, didn’t anyone else find the scene of Felicity Jones and Diego Luna intimately derivative of the scene between Maximilian Schell and Téa Leoni in Deep Impact? Just saying.

I really didn’t care for the first half of the film. The machinations to get all the key players in place felt forced. I found the conflicts trite. The humor seemed compulsory, especially by K-2SO, although in the end that droid was pretty kick ass. It wasn’t until they actually became “Rogue One” that the movie started getting interesting for me.

R1 was like Titanic. The pre-iceberg story in Titanic? Ponderously long-winded. However, post-iceberg Titanic is a hell of a lot of fun.

First half of R1? OK. Second half? A hell of a lot of fun.

R1 wasn’t a bad film. I expect Star Wars to be spectacular. Maybe that’s part of the problem.

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