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The UnPopular Opinion: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

03.23.2017

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

I am a STAR WARS apologist. In so many cases, I am the first to defend even the worst elements of George Lucas' saga. I sang the praises of all three prequels in this very column and caught a lot of flak from readers because of it. So, it may not come as much of a surprise when I tell you that I really did not care for ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY. Yes, there was a lot in the movie that I enjoyed, but the overall product felt like it was missing that spark that would make it feel like a STAR WARS movie. As much as you may not appreciate the prequels, each one of them distinctly feels like STAR WARS. I also love THE FORCE AWAKENS because even though it is beholden to the original trilogy in so many ways, it felt like it belonged in the franchise. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY feels like fan fiction with a massive production budget. There is so much here that works but those elements do not work together. Two hours of fun moments and scenes does not a good movie make. Plus, when the one scene that was not originally part of the film becomes your most memorable sequence, there is something clearly wrong with the rest of the movie.

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY had the insurmountable job of being the first entry in the STAR WARS universe that was not directly a part of the Skywalker saga. From the outset, the idea of making a movie that was tonally different from George Lucas' movies and told a story separate from that intrigued me. The problem is that the movie we actually got is just another prequel to A NEW HOPE and one that has the stink of too many cooks in the kitchen. Now, I am all in for cameos and callbacks to the original films, but ROGUE ONE takes things a little too far and forces in a direct connection to the 1977 first film with the appearance of Darth Vader at the end. Now let me just say that I love this scene. I absolutely love it. It is scary and menacing and exactly the prequel movie I always wanted. But, it doesn't belong here. If this had been a Darth Vader-centric movie, I would have not batted an eye. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is about an event that is very important to how our saga begins but it did not need to have Darth Vader make a glorified cameo. Every moment he is on screen is perfect but it is just in the wrong movie.

The UnPopular Opinion, Science Fiction, Star Wars, Rogue One, Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Darth Vader, Column

The look and feel of ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is different than anything that has come before in the series and that is a great thing. I love the way this film looks. From the opening to the scenes on Jedha, this movie delivers cinematography that completely sets it apart from the main saga. I love the prospect of countless filmmakers making their own visual stamp on STAR WARS, but much like fan films all over the internet, it just doesn't quite feel like STAR WARS. J.J. Abrams' did a great job of modernizing the saga with THE FORCE AWAKENS while still putting his signature look on it, but ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY comes across like how I imagine it would look for Paul Thomas Anderson to direct a Marvel movie. Yeah, it is probably gorgeous but it just doesn't click in the right way. The rushed score by Michael Giacchino proves that his is the heir apparent to John Williams but so much of the music is repetitive and redundant that it often feels like an afterthought.

And that is the biggest shame with ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY. We had heard those pesky rumors from the very beginning that rewrites and reshoots were needed because Disney was not pleased with how the film was shaping up. With the movie hitting digital and Blu-ray, more and more stories are coming out about the original ending of the movie and the reason why so many shots in the awesome teasers and trailers never made it into the finished product. Even with these restored to the film, I don't know if it would be enough to save the film but they likely would have been a step in the right direction. By setting this film immediately before A NEW HOPE, there were already going to be connections that even the most clueless fan could have directly drawn to the franchise but instead they hit us over the head with cameos and easter eggs that diminish the impact of the movie from what it could and should have been.

The best aspects of ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY are the things we get the least of. I would have rather seen a movie focused on Chirrut and Baze than getting the unnecessarily over the top Forrest Whitaker. Even in his appearances on the animated STAR WARS REBELS, Whitaker is far more subtle and a hell of a lot more entertaining as he makes Saw Gerrera a flawed but human character instead of the space opera equivalent of APOCALYPSE NOW's Kurtz. Even Orson Krennic, the scheming and Machiavellian main villain is diminished by the return of Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader. Krennic, played by the excellent Ben Mendelsohn, deserved to be the Hans Gruber of this film but he is instead neutered and lelft with barely enough gravitas to make him more than a two dimensional character. In a film that kills off every one of the main characters, you should actually give a crap about whether they live or die. I was sad at the death of Chirrut and Baze but was barely affected by the climax that takes the lives of both Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso and Diego Luna's Cassian Andor.

Disney knew they could market the shit out of a female-led STAR WARS film. After the success of Rey in THE FORCE AWAKENS, another badass leading lady seemed like a no-brainer. So it is such a shame that Jyn Erso is the most woefully underdeveloped character in the entire film aside from Cassian Andor. These two barely have a relationship and yet both make a stunning and complete turn in personality where Andor goes from dedicated Rebel killer to a man ready to go against what he has always believed in to support Jyn. Jyn herself goes from supposed criminal to Rebel supported in less than a blink. In fact, it takes mere minutes of screen time and we are expected to suddenly believe that she has had such a dramatic change of heart about the Rebeliion and her reconciliation with her father that she is now competent enough to lead a massive incursion to the heart of the Empire and destroy their incredibly secure facility? I don't buy it. Maybe there was a version of this movie that made sense but none of that made it to the finished product. This feels like two wholly different movies mashed together to appease the largest population possible. STAR WARS was not meant to pander to the masses but ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY does.

The UnPopular Opinion, Science Fiction, Star Wars, Rogue One, Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Darth Vader, Column

In the end, Disney could let Lucasfilm shit in a sock and put googly eyes and call it YODA: A STAR WARS STORY and it would generate box office records. There is no doubt that Disney will give us STAR WARS until we are sick of the series and that means that not every movie will be a winner. For every TOY STORY there is a CARS. For every GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY there is a THOR: THE DARK WORLD. For every FORCE AWAKENS there will be a ROGUE ONE. I will most certainly watch the movie again and again and enjoy my favorite scenes and moments. I will readily say "I am one with the Force" as part of my pop culture lexicon. But, when binging the STAR WARS saga, I probably would have a difficult time deciding between which prequel I want to watch and may instead just opt for another viewing of THE FORCE AWAKENS. Bad STAR WARS is still better than no STAR WARS but that doesn't mean we have to accept mediocrity.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Extra Tidbit: Yes, I am fully aware that the images selected for this column are from scenes not in the movie.
Source: JoBlo.com

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