A Better Prequel – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Holidays now mean Star Wars.  So taking place right before the start of A New Hope, we get to see the plans for the Death Star get stolen by rebels.  Specifically, we focus on a half dozen scrappy fighters who have nothing to lose.  Buying Star Wars was one of the most lucrative deals Disney could possibly strike.  Sure, it may have cost them a steep $4 billion dollars up front, but when you look at the long term picture, they inarguably come out on top.  We are going to get a new Star Wars movie for every single year until people can’t stand them anymore, and they are all going to be actually worthwhile now that some distance has been established with George Lucas and the prequels.  The Force Awakens was somewhere between a reboot and a remake, so I was excited for them to tell a story where they were less confined by expectations.  With Rogue One, I’m going to have to come in the middle: I liked it, didn’t love it.

2Please believe me, I came in ready to love it.

This is directed by Gareth Edwards, a person who has a library that I’m not a giant fan of.  I liked Monsters alright, but I thought Godzilla was lacking.  He’s a director who enjoys NOT showing you the spectacle, which made him a curious choice for Star Wars.  Well, this is more a studio film, so please believe that you’re going to get those larger than life action sequences.  Now let me start with what I do like about this movie: I like this group of characters together, and I think they have a decent chemistry.  I like the fact that we have a big blockbuster that has top billing going to a leading lady.  I like the well-rendered special effects and the look about this movie, and it never at any point lost my interest.  I honestly didn’t do all that much homework on this, and I didn’t even realize that this was a prequel until a Death Star showed up… like it does in every single one of these movies.  What I don’t like about this movie is the reason why I prefer The Force Awakens far more: there’s just way more fun to be had in the 2015 movie than in this.  Sure, you have Alan Tudyk as K-2S0, a wise-cracking droid without a filter, and he gives almost all of the comedic relief in this movie, but that’s really about it.  This movie is taking itself very seriously, and even Star Wars at its darkest found points where characters winked at each other.  Also, I walked away from The Force Awakens feeling pumped up, which led to me seeing it 2 – 3 times in theaters.  I don’t know if I ever need to go back and rewatch this movie again.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Donnie Yen) Ph: Film Frame ©Lucasfilm LFLGranted, I’m sure I likely will at some point, but that’s hardly the point.

I like the comradery shared between this rag-tag group, and I was on board with this movie.  I was ready to have a good time, but this movie stood firm with the agenda that it had at hand.  It is still well done Star Wars which I am going to appreciate at a base level, but I can’t go without saying the following (and yes, I will keep it vague so as to avoid spoilers, so don’t you worry): it is hard to walk away from this feeling pumped up and positive, given how it all wraps up.  You can have a down ending and still be clamoring to come back for more like with Empire Strikes Back.  I couldn’t help but feel that this movie misses that mark with some heavy punctuation.  This is not a light Star Wars movie, it’s a heavy one, and you should prepare yourself accordingly.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) ***1/2

– Critic for Hire

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