A year ago in December, Lucasfilm released its first standalone film in the Star Wars universe: Rogue One. I never got a chance to talk about it, and honestly I think I needed the past nine months to come up with a well-rounded review of the movie.
Rogue One tells about a group of Rebels who infiltrated Imperial base, stole the plans to the (original) Death Star, and as a result started the first major battle between the two factions that resulted in the first major Rebel victory. It also finishes basically right before the start of A New Hope.
I went into the movie with very low expectations. I was never wowed by the teasers and trailers that had been released and was a bit frustrated with the uninspiring dialogue coming out of the characters' mouths. (That "I rebel" uttered by Felicity Jones was a rallying cry for some, but it was an eyeroll for me.) Midsummer panic when the movie went into reshoots was also a bit daunting.
My low expectations (and the reshoots) actually did help me enjoy the movie. I saw it in a 1/4-full theater - a far cry from the full theater of exhausted and overexcited Star Wars marathoners that helped me usher in The Force Awakens. No cheering, no hollering, just a bunch of people watching a movie together.
This was going to be a different experience, and a different type of movie. Although the movie ends with hope, it has to slog through a lot of pain and suffering to get there. All of our main characters - Jyn, Cassian, Bodhi, Baze, Chirrut, and Saw - have been through some terrible stuff. Through it all, aside from Jyn, they remain steadfast in their goal of restoring freedom to the galaxy, in the desire to see someone else obtain the hope they worked so hard in their lives to locate.
Did this feel like a Star Wars film? It had all the familiar things like blasters, Death Stars, and aliens, so yes, it did feel like the galaxy we know and love. But at the same time, this wasn't the story we'd been following for the past 40 years, either. Sure, Darth Vader was there for a little bit, and Leia, C-3PO, and R2-D2 even showed up for a few seconds, but it almost seemed more like one of those novels that come out based on the universe we know and love. Like those one-shot comics where we have been looking at the battle from the eyes of our heroes, but then we turn the lens to the people who have to deal with the damage. It's Star Wars, but it's disconnected.
Nothing made me more disconnected to it than the music. While a few praise Michael Giacchino's score, I thought it was awful. As soon as it started playing in the opening scene, I did not feel that familiar glow. And when the opening titles showed up with a theme that sounded more like a Star Wars knock-off than actual Star Wars, I wanted to vomit. He only came on the project with a few months to go, and I feel like if he'd been given more time, he would have come up with something a whole lot better. It didn't have to be a mirror image of John Williams' music, but just something better!
When the movie turned a bit from the homages and direct links to the original episodic format, I found myself liking it more. Cassian's passionate speech to Jyn about his fight was very moving - we as the audience could definitely tell that his lengthy battle with the Empire ("since I was six years old!") had affected him and made him become the man he was. Baze's eye-rolling-but-stubborn devotion to Chirrut and his belief in the Force was touching - especially when Baze starts repeating Chirrut's phrase, "I am one with the Force; the Force is with me" after Chirrut is cut down. Those were the parts I liked.
Some people were divided about the CGI characters, and while I could definitely tell that they were partially animated on a computer, I was not creeped out by it. Instead I marveled that there is technology out there that can create some amazing effects. People who didn't know any better didn't realize that Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia were created mostly with CGI!
The final battle was epic, and something that we all hoped to see in one way or another. They chose not to be too sneaky about stealing those Death Star plans, and instead connected it with that first battle mentioned in the opening crawl of A New Hope. It makes sense; the Empire would not have sat around too long after finding out their major weapon's secrets had been taken by their enemy. The battle in space was especially beautiful to watch - it seemed very real instead of just watching ships lunge at each other with a black background.
The movie was fun to watch, and I liked it. I and others have noticed, though, that Rogue One has not really stood the test of time like The Force Awakens did. Even eight months after its release, we don't spend too much time deliberating plot points of Rogue One or hypothesizing on its characters. That may be because all those characters end up dying in the movie and have pretty obvious backstories, or it might be that we have already invested ourselves fully in Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, and Poe.
Shelling out these "Star Wars stories" is a risk by Lucasfilm. We have a risk of becoming oversaturated with information and having great content be ignored just because we can't handle all of it at once. Rogue One might be one of those things. It is a great piece of work, but because of all the other amazing things happening within this five-year Star Wars bubble, it ends up being rather forgettable. And that's really too bad.
My name is Claire Nat! You can follow me on Twitter @CeePipes, or follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/blurbmusings. Check out my blog for other articles!