Going Rogue

With nothing to do on a Thursday, I decided to partake in the continued saga of the galactic battle which has captured the minds of fans around the world for decades. I reviewed what I thought was the complete story last year,  only to have The Force Awakens bring us up to speed on what had been happening in the lives of Leia, Han and Luke. I don’t remember much of that film, so I figured I’d jot my thoughts down on Rogue One before it too drifted away from me.

For starters, I’m glad I read nothing about the movie or saw any of the trailers so that I could enjoy the surprise appearances sprinkled throughout the film. The only downside to this approach was that it took me some time to determine where chronologically this movie was taking place. I suppose numbering your films becomes problematic when you already have a III, and then come up with an idea for another film that fits perfectly in as a III. To the credit of the film’s creators, they didn’t try for a III.1 but just provided the subtitle; A Star Wars Story.

After being bludgeoned for 16 minutes by visually jarring previews, the feature presentation finally began. I naively expected an empty theatre for a 12:00 PM showing–the first of the day–but it was a full house, comprised mostly of children. This provided additional stress for me as the movie wore on for I started worrying for the children’s state of mind. You see, Rogue One is more of a classic war movie than its predecessors, or so it felt to me. War films as a genre are rather ill defined, but at least one director provided a loose description for us: Sam Fuller defined the genre by saying that “a war film’s objective, no matter how personal or emotional, is to make a viewer feel war.” While Rogue spared us some of the more graphic aspects of combat featured in many films dealing with the issue, we experienced plenty of death and destruction. A movie with so many moving parts and so many characters makes it difficult to connect to many of them, so their deaths don’t produce a lasting emotional impact. Consider how many tears have been shed for the countless Storm Troopers who’ve lost their lives throughout the many Star Wars movies that preceded Rogue. A cartoonish laser blast, dropping a faceless bad guy to the ground with no blood and guts on display, can be taken in stride, but the death of a main character may provide the viewer prolonged sadness and a sense of despair. Rogue gave us lots of both.

Rogue One is a fine bit of movie making, with the stunning visual panoramas we’ve come to demand from modern films, combined with a complex storyline, better dialogue than Star Wars is known for and less cheap attempts at campy humour. Storm Troopers were still dispatched with relative ease by the rebels, but they displayed a bit sterner stuff than the bumbling halfwits they are in all the other movies. The new characters introduced were excellent additions to the tale, well played by the cast with a particular nod to Ben Mendelsohn’s portrayal of Orson Krennic, Director of Advanced Weapons Research for the Empire. Mendelsohn brings the same creepy vibe he brought to the character of Danny Rayburn in the TV series Bloodline to his take on Krennic and its effect is memorable. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna are a pleasure to watch together and their robot companion adds to each scene, rather than almost steal it from them as C-3PO and R2D2 were prone to do. The surprise CGI appearances of beloved characters were a delight.

The supporting cast of rebels were surprisingly impactful for their short screen time, so their ultimate demise was disturbing in a way most extras don’t produce. The use of Weapons of Mass Destruction on two targets came across with an ominous bit of realism, assisted along with the powerful visual effects of shock wave blasts felt agonizingly long after the initial explosion off in the distance. I was left with the pain of reflecting on small lives, given up in pursuit of a grander goal, never knowing whether their valiant efforts had any impact on the future. Their existence wiped out in an instant while the battle rages on interminably it seems, as we are surrounded by war not only on our planet, but even in galaxies far, far away.

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