I am writing about this movie almost two weeks after its release. I saw it first at a special “pre-showing” put on by the Tangled Web…and as is my custom I waited until watching it a second time to write a review. It’s a good thing, too. I saw the movie in a whole different light this second time. SPOILERS AHEAD!
The first time through, I left with a sense of “this is really a war movie.” I even said to some people, “Rogue One is a lot less driven by the drama of the characters…it is more of a war movie.” We DO get some more “war movie” like camera shots, battle scenes, etc. But this movie IS character driven too. Masterfully, this is a concise story that explains how the rebels knew how to blow up the Death Star…it accomplishes that goal, AND makes you care about the characters.
The movie begins with a flashback scene…Jyn Erso as a child, escapes from the Empire after seeing her mother gunned down and her father forced to work for them. She takes up with a terrorist named Saw Gerrera, who raises her. This guy is very much a cyborg in the same way as Darth Vader. His body is half mechanized, and he has to breathe with a special device. (I wonder, though if there is more than oxygen in that tank, the way he looks after he takes a hit with it!)
After this scene, we get…NO SCRAWL. NO FANFARE. This is the first continuity movie that breaks from that tradition. And it was a little jarring to be honest. I suppose I am being a traditionalist, however.
Basically, we follow adult Jyn as she is a prisoner, being taken to a labor camp. She gets rescued by the rebels, and we learn why…an Imperial Pilot defected to Saw Gerrera, claiming that her father Galen Erso sent him. She gets paired with said pilot, another pilot named Cassian, and a droid named K-2SO. (K-2 was great!) Basically, they wind up at Jedha, the holy city of the Jedi, where they meet up with some protectors of the temple…Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus. With half-buried monuments of saber wielding Jedi, and a conspicuous “church” style building in the middle, this is a new establishment in the Star Wars movie-verse. The only temple we have seen so far is the temple on Coruscant from the prequel films. It is revealed that this temple is a place where Jedi used Kyber Crystals. As far as I know this is the first mention of the Kyber Crystal in a mainline Star Wars film…the first hint that this is an EU driven story…a plan by Disney to add more official lore to the Star Wars property.
Essentially, Jyn gets to see what the pilot brought…a hologram of Galen Erso expressing love for his daughter and detailing how he worked to build a magnificent Death Star, but purposely designed it with a flaw that the rebels could exploit to destroy it.
Grand Moff Tarkin has caught wind of the defected pilot, and orders a test of the Death Star against the wishes of Director Krennic, the person in charge of building the Death Star. They decide to blow up the city of Jedha, which is very symbolic.
The footage of the super laser being powered up always does it for me in the theater! We get another scene of what it looks like when you are on a planet being hit by it…(we saw something like it in Episode VII: The Force Awakens when the Starkiller Base attacked that planet.) Basically, it is like an earthquake and a volcano all at the same time…slowly unfolding. (It seems that in “A New Hope” the explosion of Alderaan was instantaneous from the Death Star.)
Our Rogue One rebels escape, and immediately go to a contrasting place, Eadoo. A place where Kyber Crystals are refined. Here is more EU nerd stuff! The Jedi found their crystals in nature to make lightsabers. The Sith manufacture their crystals. Just some more nerdy stuff!
Cassian has orders to kill Galen Erso. And this is the part of the movie that doesn’t make sense. Why do the rebels want Galen Erso dead? The Death Star has already been built…He would be more helpful alive. We saw that officially he was supposed to bring him back, but the more militant faction in the rebellion told him to assassinate him. While Cassian lines up Galen Erso in his sight…Director Krennic is right there. Who would be the more fruitful target? It doesn’t matter. The Rebel Alliance attacks before he can pull the trigger. And Jyn has snuck on the platform to talk to her father. Of course, he dies a classic Star Wars death in her arms…
Director Krennic goes to see Darth Vader, apparently at Mustufar. This is one of the most striking scenes in the film. Vader lives in a gigantic black castle, with lava pouring down the side. AWESOME! We also see him in a Bacta Tank. I can’t remember which book it was, but I remember reading one of the EU novels, and it talked about how Vader would get in the Bacta Chamber and attempt to heal himself with the force. Sometimes he would also feel the pull to the light side…But he always kept that to himself as a secret plan to kill the Emperor. Vader goes off on Krennic, delivering my favorite line of the film, “Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, Director!” (I think if I get an action figure from this movie, it will be of Director Krennic. I AM THE DIRECTOR!)
When they leave, Jyn reveals that she saw how to destroy the Death Star…this information gets taken to the council, who decides not to move. But that more militant faction decides to go and get the plans anyway, sparking the big war at the end.
There is a lot to say about that big war. One of the things is the Shield Generator…it is of a prequel trilogy design…the ringed ship serves as a gate into the planet. It is a technological way for the Empire to lay siege to a whole planet. Which is pretty cool. This becomes one of the problems for the rebels to defeat…and defeat it they do in a “Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures” type of mission. Just for us fans! The Hammerhead Corvette. Enough said!
The rebels below on the surface each meet their end during the diversionary battle…a plot device Star Wars uses over and over. Create a diversion, send the smaller force to do the more important job. In this case, that job is beaming the plans out of the Data Vault, which can be done electronically by remote, but of course all of those convenient features get shut down during battle. The Data Vault is one of my favorite designs in all of Star Wars. It is basically a library system of tapes. It actually looks like an 8-track when we first see it! Add the gigantic satellite dish on top of the tower, and we have a really retro thing that screams 1977.
I don’t want to write any more on this New Years Eve…(BURN FOREVER, 2016.) But basically I would like to say something substantive about Carrie Fisher.
When I first saw this movie, I thought it was really cool that they were able to splice the old footage and new footage together, as the rebels delivered the disk with the plans to Princess Leia. But the second time, with the death of Carrie Fisher fresh in my mind, it was SPOOKY. Like watching a ghost. And I’m not sure it is really that respectful either…I mean nothing can be done. You never know when it is your time. And evidently she has already been heavily filmed for Star Wars Episode VIII. It just really hit me as sad this second time watching the movie on this scenes. Grand Moff Tarkin’s actor died years ago. They made a CGI likeness of him in the movie…I really thought they just had an actor with an uncanny similarity. I guess I have less emotional attachment to that guy (which is totally wrong in esscence.). But I don’t think they should do that with Princess Leia.
Anyways, I can’t give this film any less than a 5/5 after my second viewing. It is almost the perfect Star Wars movie, and there are NO JEDI. (Darth Vader….IS AWESOME.)
Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments!