Going Rogue (One), a review

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!

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9 comments

  1. Haven’t seen the movie (and probably won’t anyway) but I can only agree: without a compelling narrative driven by engaging characters, no amount of special effects will make it watchable. Currently taking the Aaron Sorkin online screenwriting class, by the way, which was a Christmas gift, and offers great insights into character and plot.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ooh, I’m not familiar with the Aaron Sorkin class of which you speak. I will definitely need to check that out. Regarding the whole issue of flimsy narratives in these big budget blockbusters, I sometimes wonder if it’s just my bias as a writer. It is my opinion that, ultimately, every character needs to have his or her motive explained (there should be no outstanding “why?” questions), and the plot needs to follow a plausible arc. I simply cannot wrap my head around how spectacular special effects are meant to compensate for flat characters with fuzzy motives.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m going to see the movie tonight. The boyfriend has already seen it once and loved it, but he is a huge Star Wars fan/nerd. Me, not so much… I agree with you that a movie shouldn’t be just about the special effects, which we see way too much nowadays. Let’s hope the next one is better! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

      • I didn’t like or dislike it, honestly… Just found it slightly boring and very loud. Like you said, the plot is a bit thin and all the effort was put on the special effects. But the boyfriend enjoyed and was very happy that I went with him so it was still a lovely evening. And I get to choose the next movie we see! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Honestly, the movie wasn’t that great. It kind of lacked the Star Wars feel – I really missed the Jedi (I know this is after Episode 3, but the animated series showed that there were some Jedi who were still alive). They should have included a Jedi in this movie. The best scene was when Chirrut Imwe (played by one of my favourite actors: Donnie Yen) demolishes a squad of stormtroopers. Anyways, I really hope they do better in the next movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I totally agree about the lack of Jedi. I wasn’t previously familiar with Donnie Yen, but I thought he did a fabulous job acting in this film — one of the few actors in this film about whom I would say that.

      Regarding follow up one-off films, my husband and I were just discussing this today. We both feel that they need to be careful not to sacrifice the quality of the narrative too much for the sake of pretty explosions and shameless fan service.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Donnie Yen is an amazing actor. You should watch the Ip Man trilogy – they’re one of my favourite movie series of all time. And I agree, the quality of the narrative matters a lot.

        Liked by 1 person

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