Rogue One (2016)

casey Hey, I actually liked Rogue One.

brooke And I really liked Rogue One!

casey After feeling like The Force Awakens was a resounding “meh,” I was primed to be a bit cynical going into Rogue One, but instead I came away feeling like someone had recaptured the old Star Wars magic while doing something new with it. I think the movie has some significant flaws, and we’ll see how it holds up over time, but having grown up long after the original trilogy came out I can confidently say Rogue One has been my favorite Star Wars experience in the theaters.

brooke I’m pleased that it did so well as a standalone story. Given that every other Star Wars prequel was terrible, I wasn’t sure how well this one would work, but it carried its own weight and was incredibly enjoyable despite taking a while to get going.

casey And with nary a Trade Federation dispute to be found.

brooke Rogue One follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), a woman separated from her family as a child who is thrust into the middle of a plan set in motion by her father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen), a reluctant scientist conscripted to work on building the Death Star. The Rebel Alliance, desperate to learn more about the secret weapon, locates Jyn in a labor camp and sends spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) to enlist her in finding the scientist via Jyn’s former mentor and Galen’s friend Saw Herrera (Forest Whitaker). Along the way Jyn and Cassian are joined by defecting imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), Force believer slash ex-temple protector Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), and reprogrammed imperial droid K-2SO aka K2 (Alan Tudyk). Their exact goals change as the movie progresses, but the story maintains a brisk pace as they hop across the galaxy.

casey I like that Rogue One is the first Star Wars movie that feels like…well, an actual war. Which is to say, the experience of combat is more tangible, and the sense of danger becomes increasingly real as the story progresses, which creates genuinely meaningful stakes even though we know almost exactly how it has to end. The first half is on the bland side and many characters feel a bit flat, but the movie’s awesome finale, a prolonged assault on a tropical planet, more than makes up for all of that.

brooke The final act really was amazing. Without it, the movie might not even be worth seeing.

casey It’s especially impressive when you consider that, really, there’s no reason for the movie to exist from the perspective of the larger Star Wars story. I suppose that’s what allows it to take a few chances that other Star Wars movies haven’t.

brooke I loved Felicity Jones’ performance as Jyn. Her character starts off with little interest in aiding anyone, but by the end of the movie she’s gained a steady resolve, influenced by her father’s bravery and having seen the destructive power of the Empire up close. Luna’s Cassian is a bit of a slow burn, but he does a fantastic job playing a spy of sometimes questionable trustworthiness. Not to mention, casting a Mexican actor was a great choice in terms of diversifying representation in Star Wars, although it’s not great in terms of gender equality, with at least 90% of the cast being male.

casey Jones conveys a lot with relatively little dialogue, and a second viewing warmed me up to Luna as well. They both manage to convey a sense of sorrow over the awful things they’ve done fighting the Empire, which also relates back to the more realistic war theme. I found K2 more annoying than funny, but the rest of the supporting characters are fun, if underdeveloped (after two viewings I still didn’t know Chirrut’s name, or that of his…friend? Protector? Hired help with laser machine gun?… despite those being two of my favorite characters). Also, I’m not sure how I feel about Krennic, the scheming bureaucrat and main adversary, who’s really just a middle manager who happens to cross paths with the good guys a few times. If nothing else, it’s always fun to see some internal imperial backstabbing.

brooke Krennic continually popping up in the same places as the heroes felt a little too coincidental, but in the end it worked out well for the plot. Darth Vader was a little off in his apperances, but he’s not there to do any heavy lifting anyway. The “uncanny valley” CGI moments that I hear people complain about are not that bad–at least not in a non-IMAX non-3D format. There are a lot of small flaws overall, but like you said, the final act of Star Wars action goodness makes up for that in spades.

casey Vader gets one great scene, right at the end when he rampages through a Rebel ship in pursuit of the stolen Death Star plans, but less of him would have been more (the same goes for every other cameo as well). Also there’s a fantastic set piece midway through that depicts Stormtroopers patrolling an occupied city in search of a radical Rebel splinter group, with imagery reminiscent of recent American misadventures that hits a little too close to home. In any case, I imagine we’ll be seeing a lot more Star Wars in the future: maybe we’ll get the untold story of how Boba Fett delivered a carbon-encapsulated Han Solo back to Tatooine. Or how about When Han Met Chewie? (note: I’m being sarcastic. Please don’t make these movies). There’s a ton of potential for stories that don’t necessarily need to be told, so let’s hope they begin to approach Rogue One in quality.

brooke Well, they are working on a one-off about Han so with any luck you just might get that Han/Chewie meet cute you’re clamoring for…
If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Let us know your thoughts because after a second viewing we still enjoyed it!

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