If you’ve been around my blog since last December, you probably know I’m an avid Star Wars fan and have been since I was a kid. You might also know that Vader is my son and I’ve written a two-part series on him which you can read HERE #shamelessselfpromotion. I grew up reading Star Wars books and I know who Set Harth is and I know what a Rylothian is (it’s just another word for Twi’lek). I know my Star Wars stuff.
So when I say I didn’t like Rogue One, it’s not from an ignorant non-Star-Wars-loving point of view. I love Star Wars. I love Star Wars even more than Star Trek. My friends know this, which is why when I stated my dislike of Rogue One, I was asked to explain exactly WHY because they were shocked. (I was shocked, too.) So here is why, after my extreme love of The Force Awakens last year, I felt Rogue One crashed and burned. (Cough.)
Yes, we had a prologue. We saw Jyn as a child, we saw her lose her mother and father, we saw Gerrera show up. Then suddenly Jyn is a sullen adult in prison. Why is she in prison? We don’t know. We just know she has a bitter attitude toward life and is on a prison transport to…somewhere. This was the first flaw. Why is she in prison? Where is she going? What did she do? Personally, I wanted to know. It was a clumsy way of saying ‘look, she’s living a life of crime and hasn’t ended up anywhere good!’ Still, they did skim over her rap sheet for a second later, so it wasn’t a huge deal, I could easily look past that one.
But then we meet Cassian. Now I know they showed him shooting his informant in order to show us that he’ll do what needs to be done, but here’s my beef: Cassian is the one who caused the commotion. He’s the one who brought attention to himself and his informant, who need not have died had Cassian been a little stealthier about the conversation.
Then we meet Bodhi, a pilot who wishes to defect from the Empire. Technically, there was nothing wrong with Bodhi…so why was I more interested in this guy?
Seriously. I wanted to know more about this guy. Which is just my rotten luck.
Then we meet Gerrera again. I assume if I’d been watching the animated series I might be more interested in him, but as it was he lacked any of the shady gray-character PUNCH that everyone seemed so wary of. Nor did any of the characters really discuss what seemed to be the overarching theme around Gerrera – the fact he was an extremist, an anti-Empire terrorist, as it were. That fact is somewhat swept under the rug in favor of…I’m not sure. A telepathic octopus?
And speaking of the octopus, supposedly it drove people mad. So why does Bodhi appear to be completely fractured – until someone gets his attention? Is that the new cure for insanity? Wow. Gee. That’s good to know. Let me file that one away.
Most of the characters were extremely two-dimensional, and any attempt to give them a third dimension fell flat. I’ll use Jyn as an example. Much like Rey, she was left alone with maybe dead/maybe not-dead parents. She mainly grew up fending for herself but is inadvertently pulled into helping save the galaxy. The difference being: I cared about Rey, and I didn’t care about Jyn. When we first saw Rey, we were given three-dimensionality to her character. We saw someone scrappy and tough who grew up on a barren planet living hand-to-mouth doing extremely hard work. We saw her get cheated, we saw her fighting to keep what belonged to her (and therefore not starve), but we saw her desire to leave the planet and explore the galaxy. We saw her save BB-8, then grudgingly allow him to come with her. We saw her refuse a small fortune because she couldn’t give up BB-8, and we saw she was more than capable of defending herself. In a very brief amount of time, the writers of The Force Awakens gave us a determined, hardy young woman with unexpected kindness and a splash of adorable.
In the same amount of time, we get that Jyn was left alone and she became a criminal, and landed in prison. And…that’s about it. She doesn’t have the kindness Rey had, but she has twice the bitterness. She might seem ‘stronger’ right off the bat, but she isn’t nearly as likeable.
Of course, this is what character development is for. It’s supposed to take diamonds in the rough and refine them – which this movie tried to do, but fell short of doing. They had some good setups for character development, but it felt like they didn’t quite make it each time.
For example, we see Cassian, a man who has been in the rebellion his entire life, falter at the idea of assassinating Galen Erso before he can talk. But why does he falter? He didn’t falter before shooting the informant earlier in the movie. Is this because Galen is an ally? The informant was an ally. What’s different here? Is it because Galen is Jyn’s father? We’re never quite sure, but falter Cassian does. It would have been a good moment, had they bothered to explain it more. He obviously has qualms with the order, but why?
Rogue One had some good ideas. They set the stage well for excellent character development, and failed to deliver. They gave us ‘development’ without giving us a good look at the actual developing stage. Jyn is a different person after her father dies. It takes five minutes for her to go from bitter criminal to enthusiastic rebel who repeats Cassian’s words about hope and is willing to die for a bigger cause. (I know some people argue that this same kind of thing happened with Rey’s Force power in The Force Awakens, but I covered that last year when I wrote ‘The Garbage Will Do.’)
Even the villain fell flat. Instead of a complex three-dimensional villain (say what you like about Kylo Ren, but at least he was complicated) we have a caricature of a villain in Krennic, who generally behaves like a pompous child. Good villain material for a kid’s movie, but hardly frightening or complex enough for a Star Wars film. He lacked the intimidation factor and was instead almost comical at all the wrong times. (I’d like to state that I don’t blame the actors for any of these flaws, any more than I blame Hayden Christenson for his awful wooden dialogue in Attack of the Clones.)
The end of the movie found me watching a perilous climax…and struggling to stay awake. Why? Because I simply didn’t care. The character development was poorly-handled, and there was very little believability to the bond these characters suddenly had after less than 24 hours together. Baze calling Jyn ‘little sister’ suddenly after they’ve barely spoken to each other? Uh…okay. The ending should have been packed with emotion. I should have felt things as Jyn and Cassian held each other on the beach, waiting for death. I should have felt the bittersweet victory. Instead I felt incredibly…bored. Yay for saving the Galaxy, I guess?
There were things I liked about the film. I loved Vader’s cameo (obviously). I appreciated all of the tie-ins with Episode IV. I enjoyed the nods to the other Star Wars movies even when they made zero sense (why was Jabba’s Twi’lek slave dancing in a hologram on Jedha?). Alan Tudyk was brilliant as K2-SO, and Chirrut (longtime fan of Donnie Yen here) and Baze were delightful characters even if we didn’t get enough time with them.
But overall, in spite of laughing a few times, even my fondness for the characters I did like felt flat. I felt one emotion, and it was happiness at seeing Vader. (Sad, right? I know. I know.) It was entirely predictable. It was dull.
Now I fully understand that almost everyone I know loved Rogue One, which is probably why so many were curious as to why it disappointed me. And disappoint me it did – heavily, to the point where I breathe a sigh of relief that Rogue One was a standalone and we won’t need to see more of it.
So there you have my (scathing, I know) review of Rogue One, and if you enjoyed the movie, I’m glad you enjoyed what I couldn’t. Here’s to the next Star Wars movie; may it be amazing and enjoyable and may the Force be with it
because it sure wasn’t with Rogue One.