Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

This one has been compared to The Dirty Dozen and described as a “grittier” entry into the Star Wars series.

It really doesn’t seem like one.

Ironically, this is largely argued on the basis of one character, Captain Cassian Andor, an intelligence officer for the Rebel Alliance, who is shown killing one of his own informants.  None of the other characters (except for the boatload of interchangable cannon fodder extras Cassian drags along for the final battle who are all supposedly just like him) are as morally compromised – and two of the major characters are simply carrying out their former job as guardians of a Jedi Temple.  I suppose there’s only so much the Guardians of the Galaxy far, far away are willing to risk.

Rogue One takes place just before the events in Star Wars (A New what?  Never heard of it) and it works overtime to tie itself in with the earlier film.  We get to see bits and pieces of footage left over from Star Wars, a number of characters are reprised – including some apparently cut in from the original.  And then, there is the much ballyhooed appearance of Peter Cushing as Tarkin.

It is a strange and uncomfortable appearance, as I keep seeing the actor under the digital face bleeding through once in a while – particularly when Tarkin gets too expressive.  It seems strange that they didn’t chose to keep his part at a bare minimum.  At least Episode III just showed the young Tarkin in one scene (played, curiously enough, by Farscape‘s Wayne “Scorpius” Pygram).

Nor for that matter is their young Princess Leia any better in her one brief scene.  She looks like a bobblehead doll version of herself and one half expects to see her oversized head bouncing around on her shoulders.

I’m afraid I went into this film with too high a set of expectations, thanks to some decidedly overly generous reviews.  This one isn’t as good as The Empire Strikes Back.  It has a lot of clever moments, it is exciting and reasonably well put together, but on the whole I felt that The Force Awakens was superior.   It’s far better than the prequels, but we all know how little that really says.

Ultimately, I felt there was one – or maybe two, or even three – too many climaxes to the film.  Nor did the ending really work (and I don’t mean the everyone dies bit):  it is just too overblown and exaggerated.  They wanted something on the scale of destroying the Death Star in the first film, but the final, pitched battle with the Empire is way too big – and the hurried departure of the Tantive IV from the battle just doesn’t seem to fit in with the events of the first film.

After all, you could hardly hope to bluff Vader with talk of a diplomatic mission if he’d just watched you skedaddle with the plans a few hours earlier.

Bonus!  To download a free model of the U-Wing Transport featured in the film, click here!

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