Not long ago, MatPat from Game Theory did a video on how the main characters in Rogue One would become the Knights of Ren. It’s an interesting theory, and I’m inclined to believe that at some point in the conceptualization of Rogue One, that’s what they were going for. But at one point in the video, MatPat says something along the lines of “Either that, or they all die. But Disney wouldn’t do that.” Well, spoilers ahead.
Disney did that. I’m sorry to get into spoiler territory so early on in the review, but it really made the movie for me. That last hour of the movie, holy shit. It’s intense and emotional and action-packed and it all makes so much sense. The idea that Leia had a trail of dozens of dead bodies behind her when he gave the blueprints to R2D2 at the start of Episode IV is so interesting. As wacky as it sounds, this is the first Star Wars movie that really feels like a war movie.
But even though it’s gut-wrenching, it’s not without its levity. After all, it wouldn’t be a good Star Wars movie without any fun. The banter among the Rogue One crew when they’re staking out the Imperial research center on Eadu is pretty lame, but K2SO has some really funny lines, and the best humor in the film comes at the oddest times. When the team is being kidnapped and taken to Forest Whitaker, a bag is put over everyone’s heads, including Donnie Yen, who responds “Are you kidding me? I’m blind!” Also, this might be just me, but there’s a scene with Darth Vader and Krennic on a bridge that I thought was absolutely hilarious. There’s also a really good moment of levity between Forest Whitaker and Jyn. The two have known each other since Jyn was a little kid, and that past really comes through in how they talk to each other.
Is it perfect? No, not really. It fails to give an adequate reason for why Darth Vader has to be there. I guess he speaks on behalf of the Emperor, but he doesn’t really do much in the way of carrying things out. When he meets with Krennic, the two only discuss things that have already been laid out, and his only seemingly independent action is ordering the killing of all the Death Star engineers, which could just as easily have been done by Tarkin. Of course, they had to put him in the movie, because he has to be on the Death Star, right in the middle of the action, at the very end of the movie, and they had to sort of introduce him. But it also could have been cool if he was only talked about and didn’t actually show up until that final action scene where he mows down a corridor full of rebels.
Also, Diego Luna’s character is just… really boring. He’s morally ambiguous but you always know what he’s gonna do because he’s emphatically a rebel, and the only time it’s the slightest bit interesting is at the very beginning where he kills three people with little reason and never deals with any repercussions for it. Jyn Erso doesn’t have any political leanings, which is a kind of character we haven’t seen in the Star Wars universe before, so her ambiguity is a lot more fun to watch than Luna’s. We still know what she’s gonna do, but we’re deeply familiar with her reasoning behind it as well. Donnie Yen’s character is also really interesting because he’s Force-sensitive, but neither Jedi nor Sith. This opens up a lot of new possibilities in the Star Wars universe, especially with regards to Rey’s origins. The rest of the Rogue One team just doesn’t have enough character, but it’s especially jarring with regards to Luna, who is supposed to be one of the leads, I think?
Regardless, I’ll gladly give Rogue One: A Star Wars Story an A-. It’s fun and interesting and kind of beautiful, with great performances, cinematography, action, and pacing (most of the time). It’s about as cohesive a Star Wars movie as we’ve ever seen. Does that mean it’ll make my Best Movies of 2016 list? You’ll find out soon enough.