Gareth Edwards' ROGUE ONE
A movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
I can't review ROGUE ONE without thinking back 39 years to when I sat down at the Uptown Theater in Washington DC to experience the first Star Wars movie. That left me and the entire audience both amazed and excited. It wasn't really science-fiction but did have the trappings of an old-fashioned space opera, terrific special-effects, and immediately identifiable characters.
How does ROGUE ONE compare given that its events occur immediately before (and I do mean immediately before) the first film?
It's pretty good. The first half lags quite a bit as the many new characters are introduced. The brief attempts at backstory are insufficient to really create personalities and motivations but the need for this disappears once the non-stop second-half excitement takes off.
And take off it does with urban ground assault, above-the-atmosphere clashes between Rebel and Imperial forces, and a beach-front slog by ground troops as our heroes struggle to steal the plans for the Death Star.
There are many nods visually, character-wise, and dialogue-wise, to previous Star Wars movies. These are fun but not essential. Thankfully there aren't as many weird or silly aliens as in previous Star Wars movies.
I was especially impressed by how the director gives the viewer so much location and point of view information during the final battle. We know exactly where the characters and action are, regardless of whether we are on the ground, in a building, or overhead in orbit. Given how much is going on, this is quite an accomplishment. Visually, too, every inch of the big theater movie screen is put to good use.
Michael Giacchino's new music is just serviceable. He does makes good use of John Williams' older stuff to place our new memories in context.
Still, I can't help but think back to what it was like to see that first movie and the awe it generated. As moviegoers we've come to expect amazing special effects. ROGUE ONE certainly delivers in that regard. Also, some of the (most important) events that occur in the first movie certainly make a lot more sense now.
But there's not really much new here, thematically or story wise. Perhaps I'm growing a bit tired of franchises and sequels. Maybe that's just a matter of age; I've seen a lot of franchise movies and sequels over the years.
But I'm still going to seek out the new and the different; ARRIVAL is a good example of what I mean. (Also, when is the next ALIEN movie coming out?)
Review copyright (c) 2016 by Dennis D. McDonald