Rogue One: A BrikHaus Review

Another year, and another Hollywood attempt to cash in on peoples’ childhoods. This time, it comes (again) in the form of Star Wars. The last movie, The Force Awakens, turned out to be nothing more than a thinly veiled remake of the original. It was watchable in the same sense that McDonald’s is edible. You can eat it, and maybe even enjoy it in the moment, but later on you feel sick and full of regret. That means the odds were already stacked against Rogue One.

Rogue One is a prequel to the original trilogy. Star Wars prequels have an abysmal track record, but George Lucas didn’t have anything to do with this one. So, I went into it hopeful that, at the very least, it wouldn’t be a total clusterfuck. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

While not perfect by any stretch, Rogue One represents a return to form for the long-ailing Star Wars movie franchise. While The Force Awakens was tolerable, it certainly wasn’t a good movie. Rogue One, however, is actually quite good. It is without a doubt the best movie in the franchise since Return of the Jedi. Wow, 33 years is a long time.

Taking place at the height of the Empire’s powers, Rogue One is understandably dark. The tone is more in line with The Empire Strikes Back than any of the other films. The dark tone works to the film’s advantage. It wouldn’t have made sense to make it cheery and cheesy with dark fascists running the galaxy. The tone fit the material without needing to strain to make it serious.

Even though it is “dark,” it is not GRRR DARK AND GRITTY GRRR like every fucking spy and superhero movie that gets churned out these days. The characters are still fun, there are funny moments, and the action is thrilling without having to resort to violence porn.

The main character, played by Felicity Jones, is the daughter of the Empire’s greatest weapon designer. He was kidnapped while she was just a child. In their years apart, she grew up under the tutelage of an insane rebel fighter while her father was forced to design the Death Star. The story picks up when Jones is an adult, and is tasked with locating her father so he can help the Rebellion.

Jones delivers a solid performance. Her character is one of the few of the Star Wars franchise who feels fully fleshed out. Sure, Luke, Han, Leia, and Obi-Wan were fully realized characters, but name another who wasn’t one-dimensional cannon fodder or a droid. Seven movies in, they didn’t really have a great track record of deep characters. Anyway, my point is that in the course of a single film, they created a strong female anchor for the story, which is rare for this franchise.

Rogue One’s other characters were fairly weak. We don’t know anything about anyone else except for the villain, played by Ben Mendelsohn. All of the other heroes are bland and generic, completely interchangeable with everyone else. Sure, the droid was amusing at times, being so cynical (just my cup of tea), but apart from him, none of the heroes were worth mentioning.

As a villain, Mendelsohn was great. He was conniving, smarmy, and easy to hate, but somehow emotionally resonant. I think we can all relate to him to some extent. He is working hard to advance himself, but can’t get any traction. Either someone else takes credit for his work, or when higher powers recognize his achievements, they just don’t care. He is the villain, but he is also fighting The Man. This works, because that’s the way it is when you’re part of a bureaucracy. I thought this was an interesting way to utilize a villain, and it worked quite well.

The action scenes were all top-notch stuff. They were well-directed, and didn’t use any gimmicks like nauseating 360 spins around the Millennium Falcon as we saw in the previous film. Also, this was the first Star Wars movie to focus on the “war” aspect. There were virtually no light sabers or force powers in play here. There were no Jedi at all. A first for a movie in a franchise obsessed with space wizards. It proved that the franchise can stand on its own without having to rely on the Skywalker family.

Of course, there was Darth Vader, and he was glorious. Getting to see him kick ass, finally, after all these years was a real treat. I only wish there had been more of him. Apparently, there were some deleted scenes, but who knows if we’ll ever get to see those.

Finally, there is the CGI debacle. The filmmakers used CGI to bring Peter Cushing back from the dead, and to de-age Carrie Fisher. Cushing actually looked pretty good. It helped that most of his scenes were dark. His eyes and mouth still weren’t quite right, a bit stiff and waxy. But this is definitely the best a CGI person has ever looked in a movie. However, it was still distracting. It was still obviously fake. I would have preferred an actor in makeup playing the same character. Hollywood has done that forever too, and it’s never been a problem. Fisher fared worse. Her CGI character was atrocious. It stuck out like a sore thumb. It’s like they blew their wad on Cushing, and had to scrape a few bucks together to make Fisher’s grotesque CGI travesty appear on-screen. Seriously, she looked awful.

Overall, Rogue One was a true return to form for Star Wars. It was fun, handled darker subject matter adeptly, didn’t rehash old material, tread new ground to fill in gaps between films, and was all-around an enjoyable experience. I look forward to more of these Star Wars anthology films in the future.

Verdict: Good

2 Responses to “Rogue One: A BrikHaus Review”

  1. January 23, 2017 at 12:44 am

    LOL I didn’t mind the Carrie Fisher CG work as much as Cushings. I do agree with you about Cushing: they should have just recast the role with a look-alike or something, as the Cg *did* become distracting. But hey, it’s Star Wars, and pushing tech envelopes is par for the course here.

    You already know my thoughts on this one, but I’ll reiterate that I enjoyed (and continue to do so) The Force Awakens and am absolutely stoked to be getting an annual dose of the galaxy far far away for the foreseeable future.

    • January 23, 2017 at 8:05 am

      Since Cushing has been dead for years, I don’t think anyone would have minded him being recast. Hell, the guy who played him looked decently like him to begin with; they should have just put some makeup on him and went that direction. But I do get what you’re saying, Star Wars has always been at the forefront of special effects, and they didn’t completely botch it, so that’s good, I suppose.

      At this point, I’m much more excited for the anthology films than the episode films. Regardless, I know I’m going to end up seeing them all, anyway, lol.

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January 2017


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