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Friday
Dec162016

Review: "Rogue One - A Star Wars Story"

by Chris Feil

For even the Star Wars agnostic, you have to admit there is a certain appeal to Rogue One. Dubbed with the "A Star Wars Story" moniker, here is the most significant divergence from the main series yet: not only does it step away from the Skywalker family tree, but the pulsing trailers have promised a look and mood mostly its own. The final film is maybe less of a sidestep than we'd been promised but is still at its best when it sets itself aside from the saga.

Detailing the stealth mission to steal the Death Star blueprints before the events of A New Hope, the film has a host of new characters to go with its different vibe... 

Felicity Jones's Jyn Erso is our main hero, a refreshingly thorny presence for the series. While its a great relief to have such diversity in its ensemble, the film does fall victim to the characterization troubles that plagued the prequel trilogy. Except for Jyn, most characters are live action figures with punchlines, especially Ben Mendelsohn's caped villain Krennic. Riz Ahmed is the unluckiest with nothing to do, while Donnie Yen is destined to be the cool Fan Favorite as blind Jedi wannabe Chirrut Îmwe.

It's a bummer that the first hour struggles to clearly define the characters after this was one of the strongest aspects of The Force Awakens. Both films also overemphasize their reverance for the originals. This may be its own entity, but get ready for a slew of character cameos. Rogue One even uses motion capture technology to bring back a familiar face or teo (no spoilers here), which seems bold at first but quickly becomes distracting. It looks like a massive technological leap forward from what we've seen before (like de-aging Jeff Bridge for TRON: Legacy, yeesh), but is still insurmountably unbelievable.

What Rogue One does have going for it is that it may be the most viscerally thrilling in the entire series. It sounds trite to say it's the first time you see the War in the title, but it holds true. You would think there would be a ceiling on audience investment considering we obviously know how this will end, as the prequels so painfully proved. But the stakes have never felt higher or the dangers more terrifying. If the Star Wars universe is entering an era in the Marvel mold, then Rogue One has a lot to teach Disney's other flagship on how to deliver more than mere diversion.

Much of this can be attributed to director Gareth Edwards. As he did with Godzilla, scale and memorable imagery go a long way here to energize and freshen staples of the series. The world he creates is more dingy and tense, the most distinct point of view granted to George Lucas's original world without deceiving that vision. The film is also the most gorgeous of the series, with versatile costume design from Glyn Dillon and David Crossman and transfixing cinematography from Greig Fraser.

Rogue One is an entertaining tangent from the Skywalkers, if not always an interesting one. Now that Star Wars has gotten back to the thrills, they can hope to match this one's rush.

Grade: B
Best in Show: Alan Tudyk at his most Alan Tudyk as hilarious robot K-2SO. He's like the top to C3-PO's bottom.

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Reader Comments (9)

You liked it more than I. I had trouble getting into it at first and then by the time I did I realized it was just going to be a checklist prequel to set up the in media res opening of Star Wars (1977).

Oh how i wish with all this money invested in the series that they would try something different than strict nostalgia / prequels / sequels that are more like remakes.

December 17, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Good review. I liked it more than I expected. It's a prequel to A New Hope so why not go as dark as they did? Good stuff, definitely.

Agree that Alan Tudyk is best in show.

December 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

I really liked this review. Very balanced and honest. Well done.

Personally, I really liked the movie lol.

December 17, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPablo

From this, I understand I SHOULD make sure I check it out in english - not easy to find a screen that will deliver it for long, here in my area - mostly because I love Alan Tudyk - we talk a lot about Andy Serkis, but why we didn't hail Tudyk's performance in "I am Robot"? I know the film was panned, but I found it an interesting iteration despite its multiple concesions to merchandising and Hollywood cliches (plus James Crowell can't do wrong, that's fact).

December 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

The movie is a week entry into the SW roster. It tops the bottom half, but considering episodes I to III are ghastly, that's faint praise at best. It nevers reaches the heights of the original trilogy nor does it show any of the promise of The Force Awakens.

Basically, it's loaded with underdeveloped characters you don't care for, set on a mission whose result is known before the movie even starts. The big moments have zero emotional pay-off as most character relations are told, not shown (especially true of the scenes between Felicity Jones and both Mads.Mikkelsen and Forrest Whitaker).

I also don't get the praise for the direction, since the movie does not take any advantage of its stand alone nature to try anything different in tone, aesthetic or narrative style. In fact, it's quite the opposite: its rare moments of true excitement come from cameos by beloved characters of the SW canon, especially the scenes featuring Darth Vader.

It's a perfectly disposable, competently directed, plainly acted movie. Basicly, a 2h15 footnote to Episode IV with barely none of its charms.

December 18, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

But what about the subtext of the relationship between the jedi wannabe and his protector? Very clear to me both are gay.

December 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPedro

Agree Alan Turdyk slay it again here as well as in Moana

December 22, 2016 | Unregistered Commenteratkinson melee

I'm with Carmen Sandiego.

December 22, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

I am simply a sucker for eye candy, visual effects division. I thoroughly enjoyed "Rogue One" from start to finish, and I was mightily impressed with the execution on the longest of the CGI cameos. I thought the story was well written and not any more derivative than necessary, with enough surprises to keep my riveted interest. Of course, I have a reputation for low tastes, so the requisite grain of salt accompanies this endorsement.

The best of the holidays to all those who write for, read, and comment on TFE, the best movie blog on the planet. I give my cup of coffee every month...do you?

December 25, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCarl

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