Spoiler alert: This is a film review. Proceed with caution.
Still reading? Good. I’ll cut right to the chase: This film was abysmal. With flat characters lacking in comprehensible motivation, cheesy shoehorned cameos that defied the pre-established sequence of events, and incongruous character arcs, the only good thing I can say about Rogue One is that it was at least pleasing to the eye.
Whaaaa?? I can hear you saying now. But, but…it’s Star Wars! Blasphemer!!!
I would counter that, no matter what franchise a film belongs to, at its core there has to be a compelling narrative. I don’t care how great the special effects and eye candy of blowing things up is; if there are not well crafted characters navigating a logically sound narrative, then it shouldn’t get a pass just because of the franchise is belongs to.
With regards to that special effect eye candy, I do have to give credit where it was due. Notably, I seem to be one of the few people who actually thought the CGI rendering of the late Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin was seamlessly executed. So, bravo to Lucasfilm on that front.
However, what grated at me the most with this film was just how flat most of the characters were. Take Jyn, our rough and tumble protagonist. It felt as though she spent the first half hour of the film pulling moody faces a la Bella in Twilight. You know, the is-she-really-angry-or-is-she-constipated face. Not that she’s got much to grin about, of course. But still, some variety in facial expressions would seem a bit more lifelike.
Thing is, even if the actress portraying Jyn had employed more than one single facial expression and tone of voice, the screenwriters really boxed in her character and sent her on an implausible arc. How did the woman who initially couldn’t care less about the Rebels versus the Empire suddenly — and I mean all of a sudden — go on to give a rousing motivational speech in front of the senate? That kind of sudden shift in mindset is jarringly unrealistic. People don’t just go from being politically apathetic bystanders to grassroots warriors overnight.
And what the heck was up with Saw Garrera? He was the least fleshed out character of the film. What motivated him to be such an extremist that he was at odds with the Rebel senate? Why did he go to the effort of saving Jyn as a child but ditch her when she was 15? Why would someone who is OK with imprisoning fellow rebels (and using “enhanced” interrogation techniques on them) also have the goodwill and wherewithal to show Jyn the message from her father, thus helping the non-extremist Rebels?
And don’t even get me started on the logical inconsistencies brought about by some of the cameos. For instance, Jyn literally runs into Ponda Baba (Walrus Man) and Colonel Evazan on Jedha, a Jedi holy site. But what were these two ne’er-do-wells doing on Jedha to begin with? And how the heck did they manage to escape the Imperial decimation of Jedha in order to make it to Mos Eisely in just A FEW DAYS as required by A New Hope?
All told, I think that when you’re as big as Star Wars, there is simply no excuse for these kinds of poor character development and sloppy plot holes. This wasn’t some first draft of a low-budget student film, where perhaps such issues would be more understandable. Disney and Lucasfilm most certainly have the resources to hire a team of writers who can come up with three dimensional characters with plausible arcs.
Thing is, Disney knows we’ll all just keep coming back each Christmas to see the new film, no matter how poorly written the last one or ones may have been. So in that, I can’t say I blame them.
What did you think of Rogue One? I realize my opinions on it are not the norm, so I’d love to hear others’ thoughts!