Rogue One

The 436th film I have seen in theaters…

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The Force is with me and I am one with the force.

 

The Rebel Alliance steals the plans to the Death Star. HA! Assume MAJOR SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ON!

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Felicity Jones plays Jyn Erso, who grew up in the rebellion, became a criminal, and is now pulled back into the fight. She delivers a great performance in another strong female Star Wars role. They are definitely making up for years of fanboy pandering to give the fangirls something to rally behind.

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Diego Luna plays Rebel Spy Captain Cassian Andor. There is a moral ambiguity surrounding this character that added tremendous depth to the story. From his very first scene to his last…well cast.

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Ben Mendelsohn is Director Krennic, the Imperial in command of the Death Star project. I was expecting a twisted evil role but instead got a career military man who is trying to earn brownie points with the Emperor. He played this perfectly and I felt no feelings of un-fulfillment from the way he played out.

 

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My personal favorite of the cast is Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe, a Guardian of the “Whills”, a title that should tickle any real Star Wars Nerd. He is a force sensitive ascetic who follows the force as part of a religious movement. His is also BLIND, which adds to the epicness of his fighting.

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Inseperable from Chirrut is Baze Malbus, played by  Jiang Wen. He is the yin to Chirrut’s yang. Chirrut trusts in the force, Baze trusts his amazing blaster rifle. A terrific performance, and truly one of the real emotional elements of the film.

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Riz Ahmed is Bodhi Rook, an Imperial Pilot that defects to the Rebels in hopes of making things right. A sweet performance with one of the saddest endings of this film.

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Alan Tudyk is K-2SO an imperial droid that has been reprogrammed by Andor. He is the comedy relief of the film and amazingly provides one of the most “human” moments of the film as they steal the Death Star plans.

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Forest Whitaker is Saw Gerrera, Rebel fighter who operates alone, and violently. He presented a good performance, but I am 99% sure that this role was reworked in the re-shoots. A lot of his scenes just felt odd. More on this below.

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Mads Mikkelsen is Galen Erso, father of Jyn and chief engineer of the Death Star. This guy can read the phone book and be interesting, so he only adds to the awesomeness.

There were many other terrific actors cast as Rebels in this film, particularly the pilots and soldiers, but we need to move on.

Those are the new characters. Lets look at the returning ones…

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Darth F’n Vader. James Earl Jones returns as Vader for 3 scenes in the film. The first is perfect. The second is brief. The third steals the entire movie and truly makes it one of the best Star Wars films. Vader is one of the highlights of the film, and he is used perfectly.

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Amazingly, one of the best performances in Rogue One is from an actor that died 22 years ago. Actor Guy Henry plays Governor Tarkin, but is painted over with CGI to become Peter Cushing. While the digital recreation is not 100% perfect, this is easily the best yet of this technique. They are 95% of the way to relicating real people. That is amazing, especially when you think of how far they’ve come since X-Men origins or Tron Legacy.

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Brefly appearing is none other than Princess Leia! YOUNG Princess Leia! The same technique used on Tarkin is replicated with actress Ingvild Deila as the stand in for Leia. I cannot stress how effective these additions to the film are. They put it over the top.

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Jimmy Smits returns as Bail Organa, Viceroy of Alderaan, and adoptive father of Princess Leia Organa, the role he originated in the prequels. His addition was an inspired opportunity to present this character just prior to the events of A New Hope. This is the guy that sets the action of that film. He sends Leia to find Kenobi and she comes across the Death Star Plans enroute. It is also sad to remember that he will soon be killed when Alderaan is destroyed. A great addition.

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Genevieve O’Reilly returns as Senator Mon Mothma- a role she played, and was unceremoniously cut from, in Revenge of the Sith. The role of General Jan Dodonna was recast with Ian McElhinney, best known as Barristan Selmy in Game of Thrones. It was awesome to see these characters return.

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I have to give a shout out to Drewe  Henley and Angus MacInnes as Red Leader and Gold Leader. Using unused footage from the ORIGINAL STAR WARS, these 2 pilots were allowed to enter the final battle once again! I nearly crapped my pants when they appeared onscreen.

The first viewing was stunning. The second viewing (Laser 3-D IMAX) is where I really began to digest what was presented.

This movie is good.

This movie was awesome.

This movie delivers.

It begins rather slow and plods along through some really bizarre scenes with Saw Gerrera before it ramps up during the attack on he planet Jedha. I cannot feel that there is a whole movie hidden from us here. When you watch the original trailers from last Spring, almost none of the scenes made it into the final film. In fact, what we do see is not even close to how events played out in the final form. This movie underwent a MASSIVE re-shoot and repair phase this summer. They have been playing it down with the media, but it is obvious. Saw Gerrera suffers the most here I think. Whitaker’s performance was terrific, but the whole thing was rushed, truly strange pacing and tentacle porn monsters…

Something strange happened on that second viewing, something that was not entirely present in the first show- EMOTION.

The thing about Rogue One is that everyone dies. EVERYONE. K-2SO is blasted by Stormtroopers. Chirrut blows up. Bodhi blows up. Baze blows up. Even Krennic is blown up! Most shockingly, Jyn and Cassian are vaporized as the Death Star fires down at them. I honestly cannot believe they had the Balls to do it. I expected a couple to survive the raid on Scarif, but none of them did. It led me to another realization. In the original films, Luke is the leader of Rogue squadron. This Squad is named after Rogue One, the designation they assume while attacking Scarif. These people are honest to God heroes of the Rebellion and they remember their sacrifice by using the Rogue desination. Watching them die made me tear up on the second viewing. Knowing what is going to happen adds a whole dimension of emotional weight to the film. This is a movie made for repeated viewing.

Despite the pacing, I enjoyed the world building of the first 2/3 of the film. As good as the last 30 minutes, and the attack on Scarif, are, it is the last 2 minutes that seal this as a legendary film. Vader mows down Rebel Soldiers as the desperately try to get the Data disc to the Tantive IV and into Princess Leia’s hands. I would put up a gif if Disney were more permissive. Stunning stuff. Vader is truly terrifying. We finally see what he does to “normal” people, not other Jedi. While Hayden got to do it in Revenge of the Sith, it is different to see Darth Vader, in suit, slaughter people left and right. It was stunning film-making.

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Oh yeah. They also gave us F’n DARTH VADER’S CASTLE!!!!!!

Well, that was rambling and poorly written, but what the heck- it’s Star Wars. Go see this again.

Now, because these things matter:

My Rankings

  1. The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Star Wars
  3. The Force Awakens
  4. Rogue One
  5. Return of the Jedi
  6. Revenge of the Sith
  7. The Phantom Menace
  8. Attack of the Clones

 

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