A transcript of me working my way through how I feel about Rogue One with a buddy of mine. Saved here for posterity.
So, first of all, let me start by saying that I liked the movie. I think it’s a good sci-fi flick that fits into the Star Wars universe in a solid way. My main issues with it come from a place of film criticism, not necessarily how it relates to the other Star Wars movies. The Star Wars films are all special snowflakes to me that kind of exist outside of what I think of when I think of “Oscar worthy films” or “cinematic achievements.”
I can sit here and understand that films like Citizen Kane or The Godfather are probably objectively better films than A New Hope, but I’ll still honestly argue that A New Hope trumps them both.
So with all that said, I had issues with Rogue One on a basic film appreciation level—not as an entry to the Star Wars franchise. I’ll keep it short and just list the basic issues I had and we can go from there.
- The characters were all one-note and uninteresting.
- The setup for almost every character is nearly nonexistent. The relationships between every character cab basically be explained as “we have the same enemy” and that’s it. They never build from there.
- No one seems to have a distinct personality, they’re all just dower and upset. The droid could be called sarcastic, I suppose.
- The dialogue at times was pretty bad.
- I really disliked “rebellions are built on hope” every time she said it beyond the first.
- I turned to Callie in the theater and went “wtf” when she just starts telling White Cape Badguy her whole plan at the end of the movie.
- It’s another prequel. As much as it wanted to be “something new” and different and not a slave to the Skywalker saga, we knew where the story was going and how it would all end.
- Some plotlines didn’t make sense to me.
- Why did Forest Whitaker decide to die on the planet instead of going with them?
- Why did Donnie Yen and his friend decide to travel with them?
- Why did the Death Star destroy the Empire’s base on the last planet when Vader and his star destroyers were showing up to handle the situation?
- CG Tarkin and Leia were awful.
- I’m kinda tired of wisecracking droids (even though this one was pretty cool).
Finally, as a Star Wars movie it didn’t feel like an adventure, which is one of the things I want from my Star Wars. I get that they were going for a “war movie” tone and that’s why a lot of the movie wasn’t “fun”, but it turns out that I’m not a huge fan of that. It’s probably why (for the longest time) Empire was my least favorite of the trilogy.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to like Empire more and more, but primarily because I like the exploration of this reluctant hero and the journey he goes on. Rogue One tries to do this, but spends too much time on undeveloped side characters (that are cool to watch) and almost zero time building out our hero. As a result, it feels very disposable. A feeling strengthened by the fact that everyone dies.
So, to me, it fails on both fronts:
- I don’t learn about this unique character journey like we did with Luke in Empire.
- It’s not a fun adventure with characters I want to hang out with.
To me, the result is a perfectly fine sci-fi action movie… which works. But I don’t understand how anyone could think this is better than any of the original three.