Monday, January 02, 2017

Movie Review - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Riz Ahmed, and Mads Mikkelsen
Directed by Gareth Edwards

As some may recall, I had not seen a single Star Wars film until last year.  I had gone more than three decades without fully learning about the travails of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Princess Leia.  That all changed, however, as I watched Episodes IV through VII within the span of 48 hours with the last edition -- The Force Awakens -- landing on my Top Ten films of 2015.  With that newfound appreciation of the massively popular series, I will admit that I actually wanted to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story...but it was a huge letdown for this "newcomer" to the Star Wars pantheon.

A prequel of sorts to Episode IV, Rogue One tells us the tale of how the Rebel forces got hold of the plans for the Imperial's Death Star and were able to destroy it at the end of the 1977 film.  Here, a young girl named Jyn is sent into hiding by her research scientist father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) right before he is captured by the Imperial forces to help with the plans for the planet-destroying Death Star.  Now grown up, Jyn (Felicity Jones) finds herself on the wrong side of the law and imprisoned, but is broken free by the Rebels when it's discovered that her father is trying to send them messages to help them defeat the Imperial armies.  Jyn leads a group of men to retrieve the blueprints to the Death Star which - surprise, surprise - is ultimately successful.

Part of the issue with Rogue One is that we already know the premise of the ending before the film even begins.  This group of ragtag folks - Jones along with Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk (as a smart-aleck robot), Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, and Riz Ahmed - succeeds or else Episode IV would've never happened.  The overarching dramatic tension simply isn't there.  Sure, there are individual moments in Rogue One that may excite, but the overall outcome is already known from the start.  Coming off of The Force Awakens which had quite a few surprises, this film felt like a huge letdown.

Ultimately, Rogue One is just a huge bore.  There are hardly any moments of lightheartedness (like in the form of Han Solo's wisecracks or Ewoks or R2D2) and attempts at laughs via Tudyk's K-2SO fall flat.  With the exception of Forest Whitaker (who is overacting to the nth degree), the cast is fine, but their characters are one-note and utterly bland, giving the audience no one to really latch onto in terms of a character to really relate.  In fact, the only bright spots in the film occur when Ben Mendelsohn takes the screen as the villainous Orson Krennic, the overseer of the Death Star project for the Imperial military.  He revels in his devious role and livens things up whenever he's onscreen which is more than I can say for anyone else.

I have been severely disappointed by director Gareth Edwards previous two efforts -- Monsters and Godzilla -- and Rogue One continues the trend of me not caring for his work.  Much like those other two films, he fails to create a momentum that's sorely needed in an action-centric story.  His key action-oriented scenes do little to enhance the story and are filmed in a bland, almost nonchalant fashion.  Edwards isn't helped by the screenplay which fails to flesh out the characters beyond a most basic set of descriptors, but he doesn't help himself either when it comes to creating a film that builds excitement and tension.  With the exception of the film's final ten minutes which admittedly (finally) holds one's interest, the preceding two hours could've been condensed into a crawl at the beginning of a Star Wars film -- oh was.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

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