Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pippa Jay Goes Rogue! #RogueOne No-Spoilers #Review

"...Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire's ultimate weapon..."
And so begins Rogue One, from that one line in the opening intro to A New Hope...

After all the hype, the waiting, the anticipation, I finally got to see Rogue One on release day. And what did I think of it?
First up, I was more excited for Rogue One than The Force Awakens. Why? Well, I was more nervous about TFA. After all, it was Disney's first attempt after the frankly depressing prequels by George. We had no idea what it would be like, and I was personally fretting over Luke. In the end it proved to be unfounded fears. It might have played to nostalgia but they took some risks with diversity and kept the Star Wars mythos intact.
Secondly, having been to the Rogue One panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe, I had an advantage. Several. I'd heard Gareth Edwards' huge enthusiasm and love for Star Wars and how thrilled he was about actually directing one. It got the seal of approval from George Lucas (although, I'm not sure that made me feel better but was clearly a huge relief to Gareth). I'd met the cast for real, seen the props and costumes close up, and seen an exclusive sizzle. The trailers showed carefully reconstructed sets and scenes from the original films. The attention to detail was spot on.
In some ways that made it worse because I went in with very high expectations. Disney had proved they could make a good Star Wars film. Now they had to impress me by topping that...

The Opening...
As per The Force Awakens, no pretty Disney castle and fireworks for the opening. The classic tagline pops up and then...
No story scroll. Rogue One breaks the mould by NOT having the traditional scrolling intro because Rogue One IS the scrolling intro. THIS is the film that leads into A New Hope so it doesn't need it. Kind of a shock but a logical choice I think.

The music...
Except for a very small snippet late in the film (for a very specific reason) and the end credits, there is NO music from the original films at all. Despite being a prequel to A New Hope, this has its own identity and its own music to match, and doesn't rely on using the music to stir up any nostalgia. This is not The Force Awakens trying to worm into the affections of hardcore SW fans. RO aims to be itself, take it or leave it. Some of it was good. Some of it...not so much. I can't say it really stirred my emotions in the way the originals did, or TFA, but it was unique to the film.

Come to the Dark Side, we have Rogue One...
Okay, so no one thought this was going to be a fluffy bunny of a Star Wars movie, right? Right?! I personally expected it to be darker, even hoped that it would be. Someone posted an article about Disney trying to keep their brand of fluffiness over the Star Wars brand and that whole, horrible 'war' thing *imagines Disney top brass shuddering*. Rogue One does not try to soften the concept. Take lots of tissues because the original Star Wars film was named A New Hope with damn good reason. Rogue One doesn't hold back, and IMO should have been rated more than the 12A it was given here--the same rating as The Force Awakens. I thought TFA more graphic in its violence than the previous films, and RO has gone further. Unlike TFA, I'm unlikely to make a further visit to the cinema to watch it again. Not because it's a bad film but because it left me feeling raw.

I have a bad feeling about this...
Yes, the same classic key phrases scattered through all the films make an appearance in this one too. It's like a quiz for geeks - how many can you spot?

Welcome to the Star Wars Rogues Gallery...
You may know that Darth Vader, Princess Leia and Mon Mothma make appearances, but again it's like a geek's spotter guide, almost to the point that made me groan a little because a couple seemed so contrived and forced that I rolled my eyes. One in particularly was a rather creepy addition, for reasons that will become apparent when you see it. But it does help contribute to that continuity line, linking it ever more tightly to A New Hope. The same with the settings - Yavin 4 is beautifully recreated, as are the Death Star graphics, the ships etc. It also blends perfectly into the opening of A New Hope...
As for the settings - a whole bunch of lush, wonderful new worlds, and also those suffering more deeply under the Empire's reign. There was a definite Bladerunner/Stargate slum/Hunger Games feel. If you thought Mos Eisley was a hive of scum and villainy, it was kindergarten compared to these new worlds...

The characters...
Cassian - oh, boy. We find out pretty quick that this guy will do whatever is necessary for the cause, however unpleasant. This put me off him at first and also hits home that this is a serious, gritty film that's not going to skirt around how unpleasant war actually is, and that when it comes down to it, the 'good' guys can be just as ruthless as the bad guys, and sides become blurred.
Jyn - she's an interesting contrast to Rey in that both have had a similar start in life: essentially orphaned and left to fend for themselves. They've taken slightly different paths, but again we learn what Jyn's really like in her first fight on Jedah. Although we do see a major shift, all her motivation fits with what we learn about her, although space.com disagrees (it's about the only point I don't agree with that review on, other than I won't be putting Rogue One at #1 either).
Chirrut - his constant chanting was a bit annoying, but a disabled character makes a refreshing change.
Baze - I kept confusing him with Saw Gerrara... >.<
Bodhi - we really didn't get to know him. I feel that's kind of sad, because he played such an important role...
K2SO - I keep trying to add a 4 to this (chemists will get it) and my 12yo's favourite character. His deadpan sarcasm provides what little humour there is in the film - a perfect match.
Director Krennic - quietly chilling and ruthless in such a soft, elegant way that it's far more scary than standard villains. This is a man who really knows how to use people and you don't even notice until there's blood on the floor and planets exploding. *shudders*
Saw Gerrera - I can't say much without giving spoilers but I really expected more...
Darth Vader - I get why he was in there but really didn't see the point beyond the end sequence. Felt like they'd crowbarred him in. But that end sequence? Wow. I think that was pretty much my favourite. Telling you the others will sadly be spoilers.

The main problem I had with all the characters was we never really seemed to get to know them, and we came out of the cinema with my two boys barely able to name anyone other than Jyn and K2SO. It wasn't that they didn't get any screen time or that we didn't learn their backgrounds. I can't quite pin down the issue...

Random thoughts...
The Imperial cargo carrier looks like a baby turtle. It was easy to spot the section filmed in a tube station in London that I know pretty well and just a few stops down from the ExCel centre when it was home to the Star Wars Celebration Europe in July. This was youngest's favourite film for the sheer number and types of Stormtroopers (he's obsessed!) but neither me or my boys are putting this at number one (though 12yo puts it among his favourites). One thing I'm really going to complain about is a big deal was made of Jedah and the kyber crystal temple re Jedi, but we saw/learned bugger all about it in the film. Did it get cut? A change of plan? Jyn even wears one and yet it doesn't really play a significant part. I feel like something was missed (but maybe it's just my Jedi obsession. I did miss them in this film).

All in all, this was a great film that doesn't sugarcoat that whole 'war' thing in the series title and shows a darker side of the rebellion. There's plenty of action, quite grim and gritty, but I'm not sure it's worth the 3D except for the battles (I actually found the 3D rather irritating for the main part). This is a story of sacrifice and hope, of doing what needs doing no matter the cost, tying itself well and truly into the Star Wars universe and A New Hope, and a must see for anyone who likes Star Wars or even just gritty scifi/dystopia. Someone asked me if it was fun, and I would definitely say no unless to you fun=emotional, dark, stark, and action packed. Perhaps even shocking. I cannot say it was entertaining either and I won't be going again unlike TFA, but I will be buying the DVD. This is not a feel good movie. This is a blub fest requiring tissues and possibly chocolate AND icecream. I would also not recommend it for young children or those sensitive - my 8yo was okay but if he hadn't already seen TFA I might have left him at home for RO.
 I'll give it four and a half Death Stars out of five because it's good but upset me, and it's not going to knock The Empire Strikes Back and The Force Awakens off my top Star Wars films list. It does, however, get bonus point for gritty realism and not pussyfooting around the ghastliness of war, as well as sticking to the inevitable outcome however unpopular that might be.

Status Report
I've been reading! Reviews will follow in the New Year (if I enjoyed the book). I've also been working on revisions for Keir's Shadow: Book Three of Redemption though there's a long way to go.

Chook Update
Unfortunately I have sad news this week. With very little warning so at least very little suffering, my poor one-eyed grey girl Chiana died on Saturday night. She was the second oldest of the group after Scoop and along with Kyru. Chickens are not kind to members of the flock who show weakness so the past few months after losing her eye have been a bit hard on her, dropping her down the pecking order though she held her own. Hopefully it isn't down to bird flu (there's currently an epidemic here). While I call all the chooks my girls, Chiana was specifically mine though I still have Fizzgig. 2016 has not been the best year.



Finally...
I'm going offline from Wednesday to spend the Christmas school holidays with my monsters although I will have posts going live here on the 27th of December looking back at 2016, and the 3rd of January looking ahead to 2017. I wish you a very Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, or Happy Holidays if you celebrate something else. May the Force be with us for 2017!

1 comment:

  1. Great review, Pippa. Especially loved these lines:

    "RO aims to be itself, take it or leave it."

    "Come to the Dark Side, we have Rogue One..."

    "bonus point for gritty realism and not pussyfooting around the ghastliness of war..."

    After mulling this one over for several days (yes, it's THAT kind of movie), I've finally settled on 4.5 stars and decided my favorite part--and the part that will compel me to go see it again--is the amazing Jyn/Cassian chemistry. Add K-2SO to the mix and it's a recipe that's worth the cost of another ticket.

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