Gareth Edwards seems to have come a long way from his debut, the minimalist Monsters soon going on to directing a new American reboot of Godzilla, which had its moments but ultimately proved itself a move too risky for a big name franchise, for what was provided from a director only known for a minimalist science fiction film would present something expository in the end. Now, he goes behind Rogue One, the first ever spin-off for the Star Wars franchise and the best one could ever hope for is something new to learn about how the prequels and the original trilogy have come to link together, but afterwards I was left pondering what significance did a new story even have on the rest of the films because amidst the enjoyable moments we have to trudge through exposition.
Taking place in between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope what Rogue One does is shift the focus away from the Jedis whom we have come to love in the Star Wars series and now we focus upon Jyn Erso, the daughter of the unwilling designer of the weapon behind the Death Star and a rebel fighter. This time around, what we are told of is a different story, now about how the Rebel Alliance had intended to steal the plans behind the Death Star’s weapon. This was an opportunity for the Star Wars franchise to make us learn something new about the films whose events had taken place later in the time frame by raising up new theories, but instead it succumbs to the very worst of how it could ever have sounded, just like fan fiction without any impact.
Edwards has a clear idea of what he wants to make when he’s behind a big name franchise but it’s most disappointing when at the same time he offers so little other than an answer to theories that some fans may have about how events have come to be. Aside from a few significant points connecting to the story that we have all become familiar with that come in small bits, the fact that Rogue One is clearly something at distance from the story that many have already grown so attached to is what ultimately makes me question why did it ever have to come about, especially when the original films would already have made its point so clear and Rogue One just tiptoes around areas where it could ever be connecting.
As a stand-alone story from the Star Wars story we have come to know, however, Rogue One is never terrible but the good lot of it presents itself as a chore to move through for it never makes clear an attachment we should have towards our leading characters because they only feel so much like plot devices to allow everything to trudge along. Jyn Erso, who is supposedly the film’s image for its protagonist, offers so little to invest with because the big connection that keeps her within the film’s story is how her father unwillingly created the weapon behind the Death Star and he was trying to send messages to the Rebels in order to destroy everything before it gets to the wrong hands, a Mads Mikkelsen character that could only have ever offered so much more. She carries this important connection keeping the film moving but as a protagonist offers so little and could only be swapped out so easily in favour of Diego Luna’s Cassian, who accomplishes much more within his own role. The performances at the very least show they are trying their best but even if I were to admit I kept Felicity Jones in high favour she still seemed like a character only pleasing for the Star Wars universe. I already know what to expect of Luna, and I got just that, but standing out is none other than Donnie Yen in a Zatoichi-esque character.
Just as exposition is noted as one of the biggest faults of Rogue One, the lack of tension to be felt is what makes everything so difficult to move through. Many action sequences especially in the first portions of the film never have high stakes and feel so weightless just like the characters themselves. It’s a problem that ultimately plagues Rogue One for it seems to carry most of its weight through killing off its characters one by one, and without any sort of tension coming by. It was the worst resort I could ever imagine the film ever taking because at that point it came off as a desperate means of finding attachment, something that should have been present from the start instead of all the meaningless exposition that we were given. The final moments, while fun, are especially guilty of this.
While I’ve carried a more harsh tone when talking about Rogue One, I’m not dismissing it as a bad film by any means – instead it was one that only left a blank feeling in my head afterward. If I were to say I didn’t have fun at least watching the final moments take place, I would be lying, but Rogue One teeters towards the bad in terms of what its plot could have been, that being fan fiction with little to no impact upon what we have come to see. If anything were to make the film worth watching, the callbacks toward the original Star Wars trilogy together with the solid work from the cast even if they have so little to work around. It was at least nice to see how so much of Rogue One came together but ultimately it’s just something that exists for one group to eat up at. I am not in said group.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Disney.
Directed by Gareth Edwards
Screenplay by Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, from characters by George Lucas
Produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur, Simon Emanuel
Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 133 minutes