Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) – The “Star Wars” Mostly Works But Drags Though the Ending is Fantastic

rogue-one

     “Rogue One” is a good movie. It isn’t a great movie…not by a long shot as it has structurual problems and a lot of the characters don’t have arcs and this goes for the overall structure too. If you want an experience in the “Star Wars Universe” though, this is a good experience of that, and for what it’s worth it is better than “Return of the Jedi” but I’m one of those people who doesn’t really like that film and only finds it okay.

      The film was directed by Gareth Edwards, written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy and produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur, Simon Emanual.

      The story involves the Rebels getting the plans for the Death Star as told through the eyes of the group that comes to be Rogue One, lead by the extremely rebellious Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), daughter of the man (Mads Mikklesen) who designs the Death Star under threat from his former friend Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn).

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world of “Star Wars” in that galaxy a long time ago in a galaxy far far away…is one that I care about. I am a fan and not just of the Original Trilogy, I love KOTOR, the Thrawn Trilogy, The Clone Wars (3D and 2D) and Rebels. I grew up on the games that are no longer cannon and this is sci. fi. fantasy in it’s base form. This film captures so much of that as we really see the breadth and strength of the Empire and that is one thing that kept me in this film through it all.

The Cinematography – Gareth Edwards knows how to direct and this film is beautiful in the scenes that are shot, especially those of the Death Star and the Space Battles.

The Action – The action is the strongest part as the action has consequences. Characters die and like “The Empire Strikes Back,” we see the consequences of the Rebellion. This can’t be stated enough and knowing that the Rebellion is only going to suffer more in the coming film lends this film strength.

Grand Moff Tarkin as Character – The character of Tarkin is fantastic even if the CGI is really good video game CGI but not quite there CGI. I still enjoyed the things he did even if how he looked was a little distracting. They should have just got a look a like, they did in “Revenge of the Sith.” Beyond that though, his character is a wonderful snake who is using and disposing people to meet his final ends of holding his power and position and destroying the Rebellion. He is the greatest threat outside of Vader through the film.

Darth Vader – We got to Vader’s Palace on Mustafar! The fact that this is even a thing makes me happy as it fits, the “Dark Side” gains it’s power from pain and rage and that is where Vader lost everything so Krennic visiting him here (and getting strangled for trying to assume on Vader) gives us more to Vader’s mystique. He also kills a lot of the rebels and shows why he is one of the only 2 Sith in the Galaxy.

K-2SO – Alan Tudyk is wonderful as the cynical reprogrammed Imperial Droid and he is the only one of the “Rogue One” rebels with an arc. He goes from uncaring from someone who sacrifices for others. I really like how cynical he is and how nihilistic he is about everything. He is very Marvinesque (From “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”) and it works. It sucks the other cast members weren’t given an arc.

Getting the Plans – Getting the plans is really well done as we see Jyn and Cassian go undercover at the Imperial Intelligence homeworld to get the plans that Jyn’s father implanted in the system. It is really well done and it is this battle and heist that is easily the best part of the film. There is cost, consequences and action…it is a shame we couldn’t have gotten more of this earlier.

The Final – The rebels barely escape Vader with the plans and all of the Rogue One characters die. This is powerful and I like that for the first time since “Empire Strikes Back” the Empire felt like a threat. “Star Wars Rebels” is mostly miss on this issue sadly and most “Star Wars” lore is about the victories…but all that does is make the Empire look weak. This film did some work to change that with the final.

Okay: Rogue One Team – Bunch of guys from a Temple Guardians (a cynic and a blind man) to a rebel intelligence agent (Cassian) to K-2, an Imperial Pilot who joined the rebellion (Bodi) and Jyn. Outside of K-2 most of these folks are just there. They don’t get any arc and are just pulled along by the plot, which is sad as the idea of all of these characters was good, but none of it went anywhere.

The Ersos – The Father and Daughter relationship was supposed to be central but it wasn’t. Mads and Felicity did fine with what little they were given but we didn’t get anything on their relationship to the Empire or Krennic. They were pulled along by the plot rather than shaping the plot. This isn’t a con as it didn’t make me angry and it wasn’t bad…but it wasn’t good either.

Orso Krennic – This dude is just a pawn which for a guy who is the main villain was a waste. I cared about him more than Hux from “The Force Awakens” though as Krennic was fighting against a system that wanted to crush him. Hux was at the head of his game and was still winy.

The Cons: CGI Lore Characters – Leia and Tarkin look like video game characters. I get the look they were going for but it still looks not quite right. It worked in the story but it also took me out of the story. They should have just used look alikes.

Extremely Slow First Half – I felt like I was nodding off early on until the Death Star is finally used. This is due to characters not fully being developed and the film going way to slow. There were so many missed opportunities for character development and growth in the first hour that were never taken.

Character Arcs? – None of the “Rogue One” cast have character arcs…and they need them for us to fully feel their loss. Outside of K-2 I cared way more about Vader and Tarkin since I knew from from prior works…this film needed to develop the main cast and it failed to deliver.

   This was a film that I’d recommend to anyone who is a fan of Star Wars. I enjoyed it even though I wouldn’t call it great, it isn’t “The Force Awakens” (a film with characters that had actual arcs and growth) but it is better than “Return of the Jedi” and easily my 4th favorite “Star Wars” film. There was the potential to do so much more, either making this a complete heist type film (an under appreciated genre) or make this an ensemble film. I wanted to love Bodi, I wanted to care about to Orsos…but I was never given the chance too. We didn’t get exploration of what they really desired and were fighting for and that went for the rest of “Rogue One” which makes the deaths matter not nearly as much as they should.

Final Score: 8.1 / 10

Godzilla (2014): The Movie that Could Have Been Great

Godzilla 2014
Godzilla 2014

I came into “Godzilla 2014” with pretty high expectations. The trailer made it look as if it was a truly American adaptation of the original “Godzilla 1954” which dealt with the dilemma of advanced technology that could be used as weapons (Nuclear Weapons as the real life metaphor), how to deal with new life (Godzilla’s very existence) and what war does to people as witnessed in the survivors of Godzilla’s destruction and the scientist who builds the weapon that eventually kills Godzilla. It is a powerful film that is much more than a Kaiju/Monster film.

The film was good, but it could have been great. First I should go over what I liked, found okay and disliked about the film.

First the pros – Godzilla the monster was fantastic. The creature looks like a creature from another time and the sound editing surrounding it and the other monsters make it like they are actually on the screen. The special effects and soundtrack are truly fantastic (though Godzilla 1954 still has the better music). The scientist played by Ken Watanabe was also an amazing character who with his assistant kept me interested over the dullness that most of the other cast brought to the screen. His assistant was also very cool, I found myself wondering what brought them together? When did they start looking for Godzilla? What power do they have in relation to the military and governments? There are some great scenes that Ken Watanabe has with the military commander who played Dr. Lee Rosen on the great Sci. Fi. show “Alphas,” Where he argues against the use of Nuclear weapons. I wish this could have been the movie. Watanabe, his assistant, the military and government and of course Godzilla and the consequences of such a creature existing.

Okay – Bryan Cranston, Ford’s wife and the other Monsters besides Godzilla. Each of these characters and creatures full potential was not realized. They were minor characters and ideas…and not fully explored ideas either. Cranston’s character was clearly suffering from PTSD after what went down at the beginning of the movie, but that is never explored. He’s a plot device, just like the main character’s (Cranston’s son) wife was. They were better actors than the main guy, but the script did not give them much to work with at all.

Cons – The White Military Family^TM. This family that Ford the main character was a part of was one of the weakest bits of storytelling I’ve seen in a movie that had this much poured into it that wasn’t a Michael Bay, Oliver Stone or Roland Emmerich film. The trope they existed as is that to elicit emotion but to have no conflict besides survival. This is sad because any family is more complicated than that, especially a service member’s family. But I could see why it was done. It was the same reason the other directors do it. Trite jingoism that can trump up base nationalistic feelings because all the family (and main character) are is a plot piece. They aren’t supposed to be people, they’re supposed to be ideas…like the communist Martyr’s of the Revolution. Ford the main character was flat and was just there to be heroic and to be in places where action was taking place. He was a cipher and a weak cipher at that, as was his kid (which was a shame since young Ford at the beginning of the film had more depth). The movie didn’t need him or his family at all and they just detracted from the narrative and propped up base nationalism. Ford in doing this ended up serving the White Savior trope as well since he is the only military guy who (SPOILER) thinks to destroy the Monsters’ young since the Monsters’ parents are fighting and beating Godzilla until he does the act. Anyone could have done it and it took more of the wind out of Godzilla’s sails. Speaking of which, Godzilla wasn’t even the main point of the movie, he was a minor character which also made it a good and not a great film. The other monsters and the White Military Family^TM did nothing else but detract from what good narrative (Ken Watanabe’s character and his relationships over the course of the film) and action (The Monster Fight!) that made the movie good.

The film still gets a recommended from me.

But don’t go in expecting “Godzilla 1954.” Enjoy the minor characters who drive the film and the Monster Fight in the the Third Act. Godzilla’s arrival alone is reason enough to see this film. I would rate it 7 / 10.