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Rogue One (2016)

A review by Nalini Haynes

Rogue One is the latest Star Wars movie but this one is set just before A New Hope (1977), the original Star Wars movie.

Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones when she grows up) is a small child when her father tells her and her mother to run and hide. Her mother sends her on and turns back. Then Jyn turns back to watch Storm Troopers shoot her mother and capture her father. When the little girl starts running away no one sees her or tracks her footprints in the soft soil of the cave that conceals her hiding place. She’s rescued by a dude who, we later hear, raised her then abandoned her at the ripe old age of 16. Child abandonment is a theme in the current Star Wars movies.

Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) is a pilot who brought intelligence to the Rebel Alliance but they captured him and are claiming credit for the message he carries. Regardless he’s shoved in a ship with Jyn when she follows her father’s instructions in the message to find the plans for the Death Star.

Remember the original Star Wars movie when Mon Mothma says “Many Bothans died to bring us this information”? Yeah, well, this is the story of their deaths. [flat affect] Yay. Woot. Cheer. Snark.

The inevitable android, K2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), is the star of the show providing most if not all of the laughs. He’s a cross between C3PO and Chuck Wendig’s Mr Bones.

Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) is the inevitable Jedi who isn’t a Jedi because everyone believes the Jedi are all dead. He does an annoying non-Jedi chant that’s sounds like someone who knows nothing about Buddhism trying to meditate. But that’s not his worst failing: he’s blind so, although he’s Chinese, he has blue eyes. Because if his eyes weren’t blue we wouldn’t know he’s blind, right? Oh, and he can magically see because of the force but he’s not a Jedi because no one believes Jedi exist before Obi Wan Kenobi reappears with Luke. FFS. Magical person who can see IS NOT BLIND. This is NOT disability representation. Not. Ever.

Overall the characters are two-dimensional. The audience is supposed to identify with the Alliance, a vague idea, instead of the characters in whom the writers had too little invested. Jyn doesn’t have an inward journey, her changes of opinion lack any conviction and her romance lacks sexual tension. It’s not the actor’s fault: she didn’t have much to work with.

Of all the stories Disney could have told, why this one? And why this way? The end didn’t have to be disappointing either but Rogue One appears to be Disney’s idea of a noble and romantic Christmas movie. Bah Humbug. I’d rather watch Die Hard for the zillionth time.

The best part of Rogue One is its diversity. Jyn as a female leading character is a nice change although the writers didn’t know how to develop a female character in a splodey adventure story (hint: the same way you’d develop a man like, say, Luke). Lots of the cast were from diverse people groups instead of ‘alien’ standing in for ‘not white’, which was good, but the characters were flat, largely interchangeable puppets. A character doesn’t have to be likeable — some characters you love to hate — but there needs to be some kind of viewer engagement to sustain over 2 hours of screen time.

Some claim scenes were reshot or added to present an anti-Trump message; this is complete and utter bullshit. If you doubt me, watch A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). Rogue One is a prequel to A New Hope and is consistent with its presentation of a xenophobic white supremacist Empire combatted by a noble ragtag group of diverse rebels. Read the books, too. Timothy Zahn’s 1990s trilogy emphasised how the Empire military forces only recruited humans of particular sizes, which was a problem when trying to fit other races (like, say, Wookies) into commandeered Empire craft.

Rogue One has gone to extreme lengths to be a ‘consistent’ prequel, even entering Uncanny Valley with its CGI versions of Grand Moff Tarkin (voiced by Guy Henry) and Princess Leia (voiced by Ingvild Deila). Both CGI characters would have been better off replaced by real actors although they could have taken original shots of Leia and superimposed them on the new background. She could have spoken while the camera was aimed at her cloaked back. I have no problems with a CGI movie having CGI characters but a couple shoved into a movie full of real people is jarring and creepy.

I enjoyed Star Wars The Force Awakens more than I thought I would but Rogue One was an endurance test. In contrast, the minion enjoyed Rogue One although he said he went in with low expectations that helped his enjoyment level. Rogue One belongs with Attack of the Clones in movie purgatory. If the minion wants to re-watch this one, I’ll be washing my hair. Or having a coffee. AWAY FROM HOME.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, Gary Whitta and George Lucas
Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk
Running time: 2 hours 14 minutes (it felt longer)

Rogue One

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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