**Death Star Sized Spoilers ahead**
It doesn’t seem possible that this time last year, I was sitting in a darkened theater, eagerly waiting for the first lines of the epic crawl to descend into the vastness that makes up the Star Wars Empire. Yes, I chose my wording carefully. It truly has become an empire. With hundreds of books, dozens of different storylines all meshed together, and four awesome movies it’s become a massive world in which many like to play.
Alright. Fine. Seven movies. Technically.
Scratch that. Eight.
Flash forward a year and, yet again, I found myself sitting in a darkened theater waiting eagerly for that epic crawl, only to be disappointed by my friend who told me that someone had said it didn’t exist for this particular movie.
Surely, he must have heard wrong. Everyone knows how Star Wars movies start. EVERYONE. Even the people who know nothing about Star Wars recognize the formation, color, and crawling motion. Apparently, the director, Gareth Edwards, has been hiding under a rock. For about 40 years.
Sure enough, no opening crawl. First disappointment. At least they managed to keep the iconic panning to the star field featuring a spaceship of some kind. In this case, it was a new type of Imperial Shuttle.
I’m about 90% sure that I spent most of the movie with my head tilted to the right with a very quizzical look on my face. I didn’t know why. It wasn’t a complicated story-line, though apparently if you read Star Wars: Catalyst, things make a lot more sense. It wasn’t that it wasn’t well acted. Mads Mikkelsen will always be amazing in whatever he does. Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed. They all did a wonderful job and definitely got into their characters.
It wasn’t until I pulled into home that I finally realized what was missing. Heart. There was no heart to this movie. I had made no connection to any character. Massive spoiler alert: everyone dies. And that sad part was, I didn’t care. There were only two people where I actually made an “aw, oh well,” noise when they died and one of them was the robot because he made me laugh.
Seriously, K-2SO is probably the best part of this movie. And the cool part is that he’s voiced by Alan Tudyk, who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite animated/ CG-I voice actors. The other was Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) because he kept getting jerked around the entire movie and all he wanted to do was the right thing and he at least got to do it before he, you guessed it, died.
Like I said, the acting was superb. It was all there. But for some reason, it didn’t feel like I was watching a Star Wars movie. There were no goosebump moments for me. No, ‘aha’ so that’s why revelations. No edge of my seat, baited breath, ‘please let this crazy idea work’ times. That was disappointment number two.
Now, there are things to like about this movie. The costumes were spot-on. The tie-ins to both Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope were also spot-on. Lucasfilm™ pulled footage, spliced voices, and pulled out every magical trick they knew to bring back characters that first made their appearance 39 years ago. It’s almost a Who’s Who of Star Wars and I’m not going to lie, I spent an inordinate amount of time scanning the background for recognizable characters. Some of them I can’t put a name to, but I can go “You, you, you and you. I know all of you.” And that part was actually pretty cool. Most of the time the cameos didn’t seem forced and you had to have eagle eyes for a few of them, but they were all there.
This movie also fills in some gaps that the general public might not have known. You get to find out why the RED-5 spot of the the Red Squadron was open for Luke Skywalker to jump in. The most basic of questions is answered in regards to how on earth Princess Leia ended up with the disc containing the ultimate destruction of the Death Star. They manage to add Darth Vader in credibly and in a way that will recall memories of his first appearances in A New Hope.
The battle scenes were truly epic. They had battles on just about every terrain possible. Similar to what you saw during the Clone Wars before Order 66 was executed, our heroes find themselves fighting in the tropics, in among sand dunes, craggy mountain crevices, and of course, the sleek lines that make up the interior of most Imperial cruisers and bases. There are plenty of explosions and plenty of military tactics. In the words of Captain Cassian Andor, “Make 10 seem like a hundred.” And they did. Of course, then the actual hundreds arrived and an epic space battle began. That was the closest point I ever got to feeling like I was watching a Star Wars movie. It’s hard not to when you have stormtroopers vs rebels, X-wings vs TIE fighters, and Imperial cruisers vs the Rebel fleet.
Maybe I’m being too picky, too judgmental, too…something. But there were so many quirks that I just wasn’t ready to accept. I don’t generally approve of villains monologuing before doing something particularly evil, but it happens. What annoys me is when the hero decides to monologue about just how they are setting up the destruction of the most powerful weapon known to mankind to the villain who is still holding a blaster. I have no idea why he didn’t just shoot her. She gave him ample opportunity. There were many times I nearly threw up my hands at the choices that were being made. I know for a fact that at one point I said “Shut up, Anderson” out loud because Jonathan Aris of BBC’s Sherlock made an appearance and behaved the exact same way his character, Anderson, does on the television show.
Another thing that bothered me was the special effects. It appeared to me that they saved their budget for the epic space battles that happen in the last 30 minutes or so in the movie which meant they skimped on the designs for the rest of the movie. There were multiple times where I looked at a shot and thought to myself “did you shoot that in a garage?” Things were being shot in tiny rooms, or tiny spaceships, with money only being spent on a handful of wide shots needed to establish the overall terrain of a planet. The epic vistas weren’t really there. The elaborateness that Star Wars has come to be known for seemed to be missing. It didn’t feel rich in color and I had a great deal of difficulty suspending my disbelief for a large part of it.
When The Force Awakens came out, I was excited and that excitement was rewarded with a great sequel that attempted to further the story and allowed for expansion of the universe. When Rogue One came out I was at least intrigued. But all I can muster now is ambivalence. It had some things going for it but at the end of the day, I just can’t develop any emotions over it. I don’t dislike it. But I don’t like it either. It didn’t really further the Star Wars Universe. It was a one-shot, gap-filler that once seen can be forgotten almost immediately because there’s nothing new and not much left for the imagination. There was no character development. There wasn’t even much in the way of character history revealed. They just dropped twenty or so people onto a planet and said “hey, you are in Star Wars. Go shoot something.”
Adults: If you have a deep and abiding love of Star Wars, then by all means see it. Otherwise, you might want to wait for the blu ray release as it makes a better drinking game than a blockbuster.
Children: There’s not much to hold a kid’s attention. The story line isn’t all that interesting from a kid’s point of view.. If you are interested in blaster shots and big explosions, you’ll probably get something out of it.