…but at least they look cooler!
“MONSIGNOR” TRAVIS MOODY: Of course, I’m referring to the new, awesome–yet completely still moronic–Imperial Death Troopers and Scarif Shoretroopers. There might be new toys to play with in this holiday’s Star Wars glass cabinet, but dammit, Disney, why did you have to go and make the good ol’ Monsignor cry? Again? While I tried holding back any possible watershedding caused from these previously unknown characters, Lucasfilm/Disney just know how to tug on your nerd-emotions. The classic John Williams themes scored by Michael Giacchino, the sweepingly epic planetside dogfights, the quirky droids and aliens–this Rogue One had it all. Hell, it’s probably the most expensive marketing plan for video game downloadable content ever. Time to go and purchase that Scarif DLC for Battlefront!
“DIVINE” DEREK VIGEANT: Didn’t they seem dumber in this one? These Troopers were even more lethargic and brainless than ever before! While their appearance was impressive, they didn’t seem trained very well. I mean they got their ass kicked by a blind asian guy (Ip Man‘s Donnie Yen)! (OK, so Chirrut Îmwe is a serious bad-ass.) As far as the whole feel of Rogue One in comparison to that of The Force Awakens, the violence is amped up(!!) as well as the Rebel Alliance passion. Ladies and geeks, we are given Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) as our focal Rebel character for this installment; with him, comes a darker and edgier answer for the cause.
(cont.) There’s no goldenboy Skywalker in his eyes when talking up what he is willing to do to take down the Empire. This man only knows a willingness to take extreme circumstances; a means for many casualties; and the risk of his own life. While we don’t exactly learn what led Cassian to such a violent state, it is such a enjoyable side of the rebellion to see. Sure–that might sound a little twisted to Star Wars nerds; but think of the amount of genocide the Empire has brought to this universe! There really hasn’t been a Rebel character thus far that has represented the emotionally scarred nature of what has happened–and what will happen–in this film.
MOODY: Luna was outstanding. While I didn’t feel so much for much of the supporting cast, his strength and vigour really have you pulling for him in the end. Felicity Jones (Inferno) was also sharply cast. While her Jyn Erso had a backstory that didn’t particularly strike me in any way in the flick’s first half (the opening is actually quite “plain” for a Star Wars film), her shrewd stature and stoic personality was a lovely contrast to that of Daisy Ridley’s boisterous, wide-eyed Rey in TFA. I know in terms of timeline, the films are of no comparison; yet, I find it still neat to contrast the approach each actress went with. Best of all performances, though, was that of Alan Tudyk (Serenity) as reprogrammed KX-series Imperial security droid, K-2SO. Man, what a scene-stealer! Every line outta that robot’s piehole was pure gold. So fuckin’ funny.
DEREK: Agreed. There always has to be comedic relief somewhere in Star Wars. Plus he actually has quite the attitude! There’s no ‘yes sir’ or ‘no sir’ from this droid. He has opinions and he gives them. Not only that, I can’t remember a Star Wars droid that was so combative. There’s even a scene where he’s not afraid to pack some heat! No wussy C-3PO, or just strolling through scenes ala BB-8. Director Gareth Edwards finds several technological–and even logical–ways to step up the game in this one.
MOODY: Hell yeah! I can’t believe this is the same guy who helmed that god-awful Godzilla movie. He obviously has a passion for this Universe, and the third act in the film is ridiculously awesome because of it. The overall pacing of Rogue One is pretty great too. Screenwriters Chris Weitz (About A Boy) and Tony Gilroy (Bourne saga) quickly establish its characters (the “Rogue One” Rebellion), worlds (Jedha, Yavin, Scarif), and circumstances (“gotta get those Death Star plans, yo!”), and avoid all elongated conversational pitfalls of the other prequels. Maybe that’s why we know literally nothing about Saw Gerrera’s (Forest Whitaker) — and, as you mentioned earlier, Cassian’s — “extremist” machinations in the film. It’s quite clear that Edwards and co. went with tone over development.
DEREK: Unfortunately, my fellow congregant, no movie is perfect and there were a couple of spots they pushed a bit too much. Anyone that has seen the trailer knows that Darth Vader (James Earl Jones) is in it. Now, in his scene with one of the Empire’s commanding officers he starts scolding the guy and telling him how he is displeased. But instead of being that calm and collected Lord we know and love, Anakin starts spouting off all these long and quippy diatribes. Since when has Vader ever been a “talker?” And in the end of the scene he makes a joke?! Where did he get a sense of humor? Was there some secret Tatooine cable access shows he’s been watching? It sounds minor and yeah, it kind of is but if you’re going to have Vader show up for the first time in years it has to be right. Hey, by the way. Did you all know Darth Vader lives in the castle at Modor? C’mon look at that tall castle with the lava everywhere! I was half expecting the Eye of Sauron to appear. Guess evil dwellings are universal.
MOODY: Haha! Great catch. Gotta love nerd references in nerd films. Now see, in terms of Vader’s characterization from current canonical SW novels like Tarken and Dark Disciple, I thought Rogue One actually nails the emotion of the human-cyborg. I know the original trilogy kept those emotions in tact, and made his presence far more stoic…but I personally had no issue with his portroyal. The only thing that bugged me was the voice, since the “phone company guy” has quite obviously aged significantly since the original voiceover work. It sounds a little different.
DEREK: Oh, look — Moody is showing off how he reads. But in finish, my thoughts heading towards the film about halfway were solid, yet feeling a lack of a certain gravitas; as in, whether you enjoy the prequels or not, they were important pieces of the story that needed to be told. Fine. But Rogue One felt nothing more than a nice “side piece” until they get to Scarif, which looks like the Bahamas/Miami version of the Star Wars universe with palm trees and crystal blue water. (Must suck to be a Stormtrooper in that weather!) The full assault by the Rogue One team on the facility takes me back to any war movie about storming a beach and invading the enemy base. This “Battle of Scarif” has strategic planning, guns a ‘blazing, and explosions all over the screen.
MOODY: With a purpose! Plot contrivinces aside (because it’s a major budget sci-fi film that had reshoots, dammit), I agree, D; Edwards’ actual star wars in the third act makes this a must-buy day one Blu Ray purchase. He finds new ways to take down AT-AT’s (even if ever-so-easily); is able to sweetly and swiftly pace between tight, knuckle-clenching combat and masterful aerial shoot-outs between U-Wing Fighters and Imperial Ties; and when someone dies *sniffle* it really feels so devoted and purposeful. There’s a cause felt from these deaths (and there’s a lot of them) beyond use of kleenex. Bottom line: Rogue One touches the human heart of war, while remaining a helluva lot of fun to boot. And while I enjoyed the comforting newness of The Force Awakens, this film gives us hope that a Star Wars movie–no matter the time nor the place it sets in–is going to be a sure success every single year. 4.25/5 Bibles.
DEREK: Yes, the human element is what separates this war from all the previous. While not given a ton of screen time, many of the fighters were not just faceless Rebels getting shot at. You want to see them all make it and you have fear that characters you’re rooting for are in peril. At the end of Return of the Jedi, I, at least, never felt that Leia, Luke, Han, etc. were in any danger of dying as the big heroes of the saga. Rogue One forces you to worry and care about this group, as opposed to the anticipation of the fun climatic battle in-the-end-where-the-heroes-win. And they got me in the fanboy heartstrings, but damn I’m good with it. 4.5/5 Bibles.
Walt Disney Studios/Lucasfilm’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story in theaters everywhere this Friday, December 16th. Take the kids!