Rogue One (2016)

Long time with total radio silence… has ended 😉 It’s been a busy few weeks, pretty hectic and full of work – after all, the end of semester is near and students finally wake up from their usual slumber. And now the before-mentioned and hopefully long-awaited review of the latest installment in the Star Wars universe is finally here :).

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Ola: I’ve written a few words about Rogue One before, promising a longer review later on. Now, after almost everyone who wanted to see it had actually see it, we can safely present our spoiler-full review ;).

Piotrek: Well, I waited two weeks to see Rogue One and I really can’t remember what was that important to prevent me from doing that earlier… because the movie was great, a perfect end to my best year ever (cinema-and nothing else-wise). Now I consider the statue of limitations expired.

Ola: Rogue One is the first in the already announced plethora of tie-ins to the main Star Wars movies trilogies, reaching back to the time before New Hope, when a group of daring Resistance members stole the plans of the mysterious new weapon employed by the Empire – the Death Star, thus enabling the events of New Hope to happen.

Piotrek: A movie built upon a few sentences from New Hope, and settling some age-old controversies. The gods of canon have spoken.

Ola: It’s a sly move, reinventing the past to match the current needs, and the SW moguls do it with admirable panache and flare. Have you ever criticized the relative ease with which Death Star could have been destroyed? Well, Rogue One gives you an explanation – and a pretty plausible one, at that. Have you ever wondered who Mon Mothma talks about when she says about lives sacrificed in the process of acquiring the plans? Rogue One gives you every one of them. The movie nicely links bits and pieces from the SW expanded universe into the canon, touching on themes like Jedha, the fabled planet of the Jedi religion, or exploring the less savory aspects of the Resistance movement. It’s darker and much more brutal than SW VII, reminiscent of WWII movies on the Pacific front as well as The Empire Strikes Back, which at least in my Star Wars-related dictionary is the highest possible praise 😉

Piotrek: And some movie exploring darker sides of the resistance. Because Rebellion is ready to do what it takes to win. The cause is just, some eggs must be broken for the omelet of victory. But the moral superiority is on the side of our guys, even if sometimes the new blood must remind them of what they stand for. I like and recommend this Tor.com’s article about how the Rebel Alliance is born during the events of Rogue One.

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Ola: The story is very simple. A brilliant imperial engineer, disillusioned with the Empire and its methods, runs from the imperial clutches with his family to the most remote nooks of the galaxy. He defects to the Rebellion, supplying factions of the resistance movement with his knowledge, but keeps a very low profile, growing plants and living a peaceful, uneventful life. Until, one day, the Empire finds him again. His wife murdered, his daughter hidden, he agrees to work for the Imperator once again. And that’s how we meet the author of the infamous Death Star.

But the Rogue One story is really about his daughter, a rebellious, independent spirit who had her falling out with the most radical resistance factions and now spends her time in an imperial prison. She doesn’t want to be dragged back into the fuss between resistance and the Empire, but the circumstances work against her. The Rebellion got wind of her father and now wants to use her as a leverage in the negotiations with him. But she believes that there’s still good in him, that he can do – and actually does – a lot of work for the Rebellion, or at least against the Empire.

The characters are relatable, even if broadly sketched. There isn’t time enough in the movie to do proper work on them all, so most of them are just vague representations of certain types. It surely doesn’t help that none of the actors has Harrison Ford’s magnetism or the fresh naivety of Mark Hamill. Still, they all (even Tarkin! ;)) are much better than the cast in SW VII – I just can’t stand Daisy Ridley’s Rey, whereas Felicity Jones, even if her acting ability is limited to a handful of expressions, is still more believable in her role as the Rogue One’s main lead Jyn Erso.

Piotrek: Here we differ. Not that I don’t believe Jyn to be a better Disney Princess of these two, but I liked Rey. What I didn’t like, was the New Order and it’s mysterious emergence and superiority. I think Force Awakens was a good movie to re-start the franchise, but they made several stupid moves as far as the plot is concerned. I have no qualms with the rest of the cast, and my favorites… Jyn and Cassian? Easy way out, but they were good. And I also liked the robot of the movie very much, voiced by Alan Tudyk of Firefly fame…

Ola: Still, neither of the princesses is as good as Moana – or Leia ;). The action scenes are gripping and visually attractive, most of them created in a very military, war movie style that weirdly suits this story of rebellion and sacrifice. It definitely helps that we finally see more variety of planets, not just the desert planet and the snowy planet, and one that is effectively a big, dangerous swamp 😛 Here we have beautiful and deadly Pacific beaches, lonely Iowa-like fields in an Scottish landscape, a volcanic planet with a tower that looks like tribute to Sauron, a crazy maze of crags in a heavy storm… We visit some of the cozy old places like Yavin 4, but – inevitably – there is a desert planet too ;). Jedha, the seat of Jedi religion, half-destroyed in earlier imperial attempts, looks like a cross between Lord of the Rings’ grandeur and Diuna’s desolation.

Piotrek: Actually there might be too many planets 😉 It makes the first half a bit hard to follow.

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Ola: I really enjoyed the ending. Surprisingly brutal but logical, its logic not limited only to the internal workings of the SW universe. The one thing I didn’t like about it was the white screen at the climax scene, bringing to my mind similar inept attempts at cinematography in a sadly forgettable Polish historical movie Ogniem i mieczem (With Fire and Sword). The only difference was that in the second case, the screen was red.

Piotrek: There was no need to mention With Fire and Sword, that was a low blow 😛 The final act is near-perfect. Beautiful, heartbreaking, merciless. S/F Dirty Dozen? A finale of a great war movie, taking place just before the second important war of the Star Wars saga… The conclusion was not the end of the story, not even the beginning of the end. but, perhaps, the end of the beginning. From there Leia Organa took over, and her brother, and her future husband… and how we will miss her 😦

Ola: Many winks and bows to die-hard SW fans were highly appreciated, from the pair of rowdy thugs known from the Mos Eisley canteen, to the unforgettable pair of robotic silhouettes in the depths of the resistance base.

Piotrek: Oh yes. It was a tribute but not an in-your-face reconstruction of the original movies as had been the case of Force Awakens. Mature fans of Star Wars got something this time, even grimmer than Empire Strikes Back, but with many bows to the first trilogy.

Ola: The one actor that has gone over the board with his role is, sadly, Forest Whitaker. His role of a fanatical rebel leading a bloodthirsty faction of the resistance movement was supposed to be scary, but the final effect leans more toward unintentionally funny.

Piotrek: He is a bit of a caricature. Whole movie could be like this, if one believes some early teasers (infamous this is a rebellion; I rebel.). Well, he dies anyway. Everybody does actually. That was unexpected, but dealt with a possible problem of why aren’t they in the Rebellion of New Hope era?

Ola: Aaand this was the spoiler 😉 But yes, maybe a bit perversely, but it was a high point of this movie. No miraculous escapes, no Deus ex machina, no HEA (even if the hints of inevitable romance did appear)… Highly appreciated, this treatment of fans as mature human beings.

Still, another thing that caught my attention in less than favorable way was the problem of hyperspeed communication. Is it me, or was it impossible in all the other movies?

Piotrek: I’m not that good in Star Wars science… it seems to be a widely discussed and somewhat controversial issue.

To sum up… for me Star Wars is homeland. An universe more important to me, and who I am, than many parts of Poland (and so is Middle-Earth and several other places). And with a movie like Rogue One, if fares better than my real-world one. A must-see!

Score:

Ola: 8,5/10

Piotrek: 9/10

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