Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Rogue One

Let's start with this. This is the Rogue One review done in the style of Rogue One:

It's ok

Straight to the point, nothing propping it up. You know my general opinion and, if that's all you need in your life, you are good to go.

But really...that's not very satisfying is it? A review so brief, without explanation to back up the claim, kind of defeats the purpose of it being there at all right?

Sadly, Star Wars Rogue One; Star Wars Stories chapter one, the first attempt, went for brevity instead of character building, action instead of substance, and marketing in favor of art.

Rogue One is a Storm Trooper of a movie IE it misses every mark it shoots for (hah, see, referential humor. Isn't that so funny? In a review about a Star Wars I made a reference to a Star Wars thing. References are great. They are all movies like Rogue one needs! Here's a picture of C3P0 and R2-D2!)

What is, in essence, an action war/spy movie never does fulfill the basic requirements for any of the genres it represents, and the reason why is that it all rides on the audience identifying and caring about the characters on screen.

And we don't.
I mean
I don't
Millions of nerds age 20-40 are lapping this movie up because Darth Vader is in it.

In fact the most worrying thing about Rogue One is not it's own inadequacies but the fact that we have gotten to a point with pop art in this country that mediocrity that deviates slightly from the norm is now lauded as something special.

They tried something slightly new with this one (I guess. Not new in media as a whole but new in Star Wars). Problem is, they didn't actually. All the hallmarks of tight studio control and brand retention are there, interfering in all moments that could have truly made this film stand out.

I will try to make this short. Sadly, while brevity is great and all, sometimes things have to go deeper to make sense. Cough Cough Rogueone Cough.

The characters are all one dimensional, with little interaction between them to make them read like people we should care about. The only times we DO get to see them interact are at the movies highest dramatic points, which we would care about if we cared about them going into those moments
But we don't

Honestly, it's been a day since I watched it, and I could not for the life of me name a single character in that movie that was not a pre-established entity. Not a good sign.
Jyn Erso (had to google that one) is a perfect example of this lack of dimension.

-Forced from her Father and Mother (who inexplicably shows up with a blaster so she can get shot. She lives by the old cowboy code I guess; if you are gonna kill a man, try to do it to his face after some dry dialogue) because the empire wanted her father to continue working on the Death Star (which, later in the movie, his reason for doing so was because “they would have just gotten someone else” which begs the question why the empire didn't just do that instead of putting the project in the hands of someone who deserted...I guess... (again we don't know) and probably isn't too happy that they killed his wife and took him away from his daughter…)
-Ends up 15 years later in prison (we don't know why)
-Broken out by the Rebels (why they knew where she was we don't know) and then strong armed into joining their cause with the promise of “her freedom” if she helps. (which it doesn't really make sense for a group of essentially fugitives to have the power to grant freedom…)
-Doesn't want to be part of the rebellion despite being formally one of it's best fighters as established in brief conversation with Robo Forest Whitaker due to the “suffering” it caused her (not established or explained)
-Despite ample time and opportunity to leave the mission, she stays around for no obvious reason (hope to see her father? Not established. Only mention of him was her saying she just likes to think of him as dead) until she meets up with RoboWhitaker, who plays her father's overly complicated message (seriously, the message already says “I intentionally built a flaw in the fucking murder ball.” He couldn't have just said “it's a fucking exhaust port on THIS part of the ship, at which point a hologram of a simple drawing of the death star pops up with a red circle highlighting the area, thus negating the whole “let's get the entire engineering schematics for this thing” mission?)
-Starts getting emotional seeing dad saying “I love you Stardust” etc despite their relationship having almost no context except for a five minute flash back where they didn't interact at all.
-Goes on a mission to find her father with the Rebels (and extra side characters) which is secretly a mission to kill her father. Rebels kill her father and she has a short scene where he says a few lines that would matter if they ever actually built their characters or had them interact at all. She knows Rebels killed her father and figures out that was the point of the mission.
-She becomes all rah rah rebellion and starts spouting off speeches about hope, despite the only thing that has been established about her character is her blaming of the rebellion for her suffering, which she just got a big dose of vis-à-vis her father being murdered by the rebellion.

As for the rest? Well we have Capitan Downer who I guess is troubled by the fact he has murdered so many people for the rebellion in morally compromising ways. Again not well established. He wrestles with killing Jyns father I suppose but that seems more because he actually believes Jyns story not because he gives a shit about killing people.

Blind force sensitive guy...Chicklet? Carrot? Something like that, again not bothering to look this stuff up anymore, guardian of a temple that they....are not really guarding I guess? I get that they are really building up the force and destiny in this but not even a scene where he's bummed out about his life's purpose being nuked into oblivion by the Death Star? No confiding in his new found friends or old friend to bring some depth to the character?

His buddy? Big Mclargegun? Hes grumpy at Carrot Stick because he keeps believing in the force but I guess he also believes or used to believe but they have like 3 lines of dialogue in the whole fucking movie so you really don't know, including a line where he calls Jyn “little sister” even though, and i'm wracking my brain, I don't think they directly communicate in the entire film.

See what I mean? No depth, no consistency, nothing is established.

I bet that if you really counted up all the lines of dialogue that were not there simply to advance the plot you’d have less than 10 minutes of character interaction for a cast of two main characters and sevenish side characters.

If it's not clear from the above ramble, the tone is also all over the place. What is attempting to be the first dark, gritty, hard nosed Star Wars (which was what episode III was also supposed to be and used as it's selling point)  is constantly undermined by the blatant fan service and pointless action scenes.
Yeah, I said it, the action scenes are all pretty much pointless up until the last 20 minutes of the movie. That one is pretty good. The rest don't mean anything because the characters involved are not developed.

Again. For a story like this to work, we need characters that exist in some way that make us care about them. They never establish the characters so the action scenes don't matter because the stakes are not clearly established beyond the assumption that we, the audience, already know the stakes because this is a prequel. The only moment with some true emotional depth is the Death of K2, the fucking robot. The only reason it has emotional depth is that K2 is the only character that continuously interacts with other characters, engaging in dialogue and banter, so we actually LEARN about it (he? Are we gendering robots?) and it's nuances. It is a know it all that doesn't listen and only follows orders begrudgingly. It doesn't like anyone other than Cassian Andor (I decided to look him up given he is a main character). It wants a gun. It is really happy when he gets a gun. It takes obvious pleasure in using a gun. Despite know it all, curmudgeon quality and constant reiteration of statistical unlikelihood of success (REMEMBER WHEN C3PO did that!) it is always there for it's friends and willingly sacrifices itself for them in the end.

With just a few more character interactions, a few more minutes of banter and play between the actors, and a little more room for them to shine, the ending of the movie could have had some real weight. (Oh no wait, Darth Vader is there and makes it stupid...leading to the next point)

And those pre-established entities I mentioned? They do nothing to service the film, and in both cases actually detract from the experience and Star Wars as an intellectual property. Bringing in Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin (thus making it three total main bad guys in all) and due to the fact Tarkin has been established before and Vader has been established over the entire rest of the goddamn movie series, he and Tarkin take away screen time and opportunity to make a central, established villain of new guy in white uniform (i'm tired of googling this shit again). Furthermore, Making Darth Vader a goof ball one liner dropping guy in a film that is supposed to be super duper serious is wrong. I know it tests well with nerds in my age group, but for fucks sake “don't choke on your ambitions.”


That's where we are at? The movie that the only thing it has going for it is it's gritty dark tone decides to make Vader uncharacteristically silly? You know, one of the best villains in cinema history in part due to his distinct lack of humanity suddenly developing a flair for theatre and wit?

In the end, Star Wars Rogue One: A Star Wars Story about Star Wars: Featuring the War in the Stars; A Vader/Tarkin Joint, is commendable in that if you tweaked 3 things about the film as a whole, it could be a fantastic experience. Instead, we have a film that attempts a lot of different things and succeeds in none of them. It's a fine movie, but we should demand more of 200 million dollar productions than fine. We need to stop accepting mediocrity and art by comity, because if we don't, its all we will ever get from Hollywood.

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