“The power that we are dealing with here is immeasurable.”
Here we go again people, it’s Star Wars time! The second film under Disney sees Godzilla’s Gareth Edwards take the helm as he tells the story of capturing the Death Star plans. I guess it’s one of the stories we wanted to hear… maybe? But really, who cares as long as Disney continue to hire the right directors, writers and actors that love the franchise and want to deliver their best for the fans.
I was among those that assumed the new film might have a slightly different tone from the saga films. Not least because of Edwards’ style, but more in an effort to place it slightly aside from the main story. I wasn’t wrong, but at the same time there is plenty of humour, adventure and universe-building taking place in Rogue One to ensure you get your fill of Star Wars pie. But is it any good?
What I liked…
Edwards handles the action like a boss. The CGI is fantastic and the set pieces are mindbogglingly good. He is clearly making the most of his mammoth $200m budget and adds a real deeper layer to realising the Star Wars universe. The ships sound, look and feel real, and in a cinematic universe forced to re-embrace practical effects, they often are. As a fan of EU novels, this felt like a really good one brought to life, filling in gaps in knowledge and fleshing out new vehicles and weapons.
It’s Surprisingly funny. K-2SO steals the show as the new droid in town, striking a balance between 3PO’s single mindedness and R2’s resourcefulness, whilst adding certain idiosyncrasies that make his comic delivery work a treat. Some of the attempts at levity don’t always land on both feet, but in a war-torn, moody film, it comes as a welcome relief.
The thing I liked the most about this film is its willingness to get its hands dirty when it mattered. This is a civil war and you can’t help but feel the desperate hope that many of the characters cling onto to give their cause purpose. This is taken perhaps slightly too far in places I will admit, but things feel real, dirty and dangerous in worlds under occupation. If you’re a fan of Nazi metaphors for the Empire then some of this will be right up your alley.
Darth Vader is in it for a bit, which is cool. It kind of works as well.
What I disliked…
Some strange decisions were clearly made in the final edits of this film. I understand that there were several re-shoots, which leaves the film slightly underdeveloped in places. Two of the main quotes “I rebel” and “what will you do if they find you?” I don’t think are even in the movie, which shows how many decisions were made post-filming.
Whether you agree with characters having a CGI makeover instead of being recast or not, they have way too much screen time to make it not distracting. Although the performances were good, the characters we are introduced to are really underwhelming. The Force Awakens had such strong characters and Abrams extracted such emotive performances from his actors that it makes Rogue One feel like nothing more than a great looking, enjoyable, but ultimately lacking action film. It’s sort of like the difference between Jurassic Park and Jurassic World.
First act in particular was a bit bumpy and slow. Really could have done with a stronger opening scene that threw the viewer down the Star Wars rabbit hole, leaving you breathless and hoping for more. Instead, we are introduced early on to some characters we know nothing about, delivering plot exposition and little more.
There is this weirdly pointless scene with a tentacle monster. It was like Rogue One was trying to have its own Rathtar.
Shapstik Verdict: Although Rogue One gives us some of the most visually stunning, funny and exciting action in any Star Wars film, I couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed. This isn’t because I am a massive Star Wars fan because I felt the same way about Godzilla. This is more about a lack of characters, urgency and a distinct drop in the visceral, smooth storytelling that Force Awakens delivered. Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing scenes here and I was grinning like a Cheshire cat when an AT-ST stomped its way around the corner to blast some rebel scum. I’ll be watching this again and again and will be queuing up to buy it on Blu-ray. But then I did the same with Attack of the Clones, and that’s a pile of Bantha Fodder. 7/10