Continued conversation (part 1 here) with a buddy who liked the movie a little bit more than me. Posted here for posterity. Text opens with my friend quoting my last email. His text is black, my responses are in orange.


Now…let’s get dirty.

“The characters are 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…No one seems to have a distinct personality, they’re all just dower and upset.”

A lot of your point here I think unfairly stems from the type of movie that Rogue One is. First of all, it is solo film. It is limited by it’s own running time to cram as much as possible in to the viewing experience. I think it is effective with how it uses the time, for the most part, but it does mean that the character development and interactions all revolve around the plot of this one film. In comparison, that may make the characters more one-note (although I disagree) when compared to the depth the original characters get, but that’s one movie compared to 3.

  • I’d compare the character development failings in RO to the success of them in NH. We didn’t need three movies to learn about the type of multi-faceted character Luke was. He goes through a pretty detailed heroes journey in the first movie alone. His story was never one that was simple and about 1 thing the way Jyn’s could be described. If anything, because this is more of a war movie and less of an adventure, she’s more like Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan, but I’d argue that the actress and her dialogue aren’t prepared to support an entire movie. I found her very uninteresting.
  • Combine that with the MANY different motivations the characters in NH have when we first meet them. From saving the galaxy, to making money, to finding the “chosen one”, to a simple quarrel between two droids; one which wants to do the right thing and is brave and another who is constantly afraid for his life. We don’t get any of this in RO, everyone just wants to destroy the empire from the beginning and that never changes. Hell, I’m still confused as to why Donnie Yen and his buddy join up with them. I guess they’re upset with the empire for what they did to the Jedi planet.
  • At the end of the day, I care so much less about all of these characters because I don’t know them and don’t understand their motivations beyond “destroy the empire.” They don’t feel like fully fleshed people. The one character that gets CLOSE to crossing the line is Spanish Accent Guy. I dug how he went from being a “I take orders and do what I’m told” to “I’ll follow you even if my bosses don’t think it’s a good idea.” But even with that, I don’t feel like it was earned. He goes from executing people in the opening scene to holding back his shot on Jyn’s father in no time flat. We don’t see him go through that journey, we just have to accept that he’s gone through some inner struggle and come out the other end redeemed. I love the actor so, I’m totally happy to do this, but I still wish there was more. When he says “I’ve been fighting since I was six”, I want more of that story and we just don’t get it.

Another aspect of Rogue One is that a heavy sense of desperation pervades the film and influences the interactions and backgrounds of all characters in the film. Of course the setups and relationships of the characters are going to be among similar lines, and the characters are all going to be dower and upset. They have the Empire to contend with that is just tightening it’s grip on the lives of all those who live in its domain. The characters in the movie are all either part of the rebellion, or they were part of the Empire. Even Donnie Yen and his bud were monks for the Jedi temple. They are all not having good days at all, and the rebellion is losing.

  • I think you could say this about any of the original trilogy. People are distinct, even if they have the same goals and share the same struggle.

To compare, in A New Hope, only Leia has any real sense of what is going on until they get to Yavin 4. Han and Luke are much more carefree because the rebellion and struggle is really only in their periphery. They are more carefree because they haven’t had to worry about whether they’ll be killed by the Empire that day. Leia on the other hand, just like the characters in Rogue, shows the desperation. You may think of the characters as being one-note, but to me they are just focused on their purpose and I think that reinforces what Rogue is all about.

  • See, I’d disagree with this assessment of Han and Luke. I think Han’s “carefree” behavior is actually part of his character profile. He’s cocky and headstrong. He’s very aware of what the Empire could do to him—it’s why he has a shitload of hidden cargo compartments.
  • As for Luke, I think it has more to do with his age and his sheltered upbringing. I don’t think the text of a New Hope tells us that Luke becomes hardened (like the RO characters) because of the threat of the Empire. I think we see him growing up and coming to grips with what Obi Wan is teaching him about his family and about the Force. Even after he watches Obi Wan die, he doesn’t seem motivated by revenge, he wants to protect his friends, learn more about his past, and follow the teachings of his mentor.
  • We don’t get any of this from Jyn even she watches not one, but two father figures die. Her actual dad gets killed by the Rebels (I think) and it’s never mentioned. I honestly think you could scrap the entire scene on rainy planet and not lose anything. There’s almost no reason that they’re there anyway. Her dad is just going to tell them everything Jyn knows already. Just have him die and have a gang of faceless rebels change their mind to help her like they do anyway.

As for you considering the characters uninteresting, it’s again personal preference, but I disagree. The main chick had basically been running from the Empire all her life and had just basically given up on seeing her father again. She was alone. Then she gets this opportunity to see her father and pick up where he left off to get revenge on the Empire that ruined their lives. Once she sees what her father really did with his life, she’s committed and becomes the heart of the rebellion. I thought it was great stuff.

  • Do we know this? My reading of her was that she’s just been “up to no good”, getting into trouble her whole life because she’s from a broken home. And why is she alone? Why didn’t she stay with Forest Whitaker? I could be wrong, but I thought the Empire thought she was dead (I think White Cape guy or her father says this at some point).
  • As for her deciding to becoming the heart of the rebellion, I think what she did is kind of the opposite. She rejected the way the Rebels did things and went off on a “rogue” mission that was more for her and her father than the rebellion (imo). At the end of the movie, I think the reason she stops running and accepts her fate is not because there’s no hope for escape, but because she did the ONE thing she wanted to do.

The male lead starts off as a cold-blooded murdering agent of the rebellion (again, times are desperate), but the story reveals that he struggles with what he’s done and evolves during the film. Granted, the evolution is again somewhat restricted by the plot of the movie, but also again, I think this all goes towards the theme.

  • Agreed here. But he tells us he’s been doing this since he was six. I need more to have a change like this earned in what, a couple days? A week? More scenes of him being “fed up” with it. I think the actor does some good work with the first people he kills—it looks like it pains him, like he’s not all cold-blood.

Donnie Yen and his buddy are very interesting I thought. They are former Jedi temple guardians who now have nothing to do after the Jedi are destroyed and the Empire comes to loot and destroy the temple (this is why Donnie joins Rogue, and his buddy goes with him – Rogue is going after the people that killed the Jedi and destroyed the temple). One is a true believer in the force, even though he doesn’t have the powers of the force that we’ve come to see in all the other films. I think the film showing this new aspect was pretty cool. The other is someone whose belief in the force has been reduced to nothing through what he has seen happen to the Jedi and the temple. I thought it was awesome how through his friend’s sacrifice he becomes one with the force again before his own sacrifice. The other characters have less of a focus, but I still think they underscore the overall theme of desperation and struggle that Rogue is about. Therefore, I think they are effective characters.

  • Agreed about showing this new aspect of the force. I thought that was boss as hell.
  • Disagree his friend’s “turn” at the end was effective. It was filmed in an amazing way and the music was great. But it was almost comical to me that his friend being missed by blaster fire was enough to spark something that he’s ignored for… how long… decades? How long have they known each other? How long has blind Donnie Yen been repeating this mantra and kicking people’s ass… while blind? Again, to me, this wasn’t earned, just surface level storytelling that has a kernel of a great idea.
  • It works SO MUCH more when Han starts to buy into the idea of the Force. You can hear the skepticism from him throughout, he starts by just using the language, but you never get the feel that he would put his life in the hands of the Force. He just knows that all of his friends believe, and that’s enough. It’s gradual. He doesn’t go from a nonbeliever to a believer who throws himself into mortal danger in 30 seconds.
  • That’s part of what makes his line in FA to Finn about “that’s not how the force works” so great. It’s not just funny, it’s being delivered by a man who used to think it was a silly old religion.
  • I’d ask you to come up with adjectives that describe the characters in RO and then do the same for the characters in NH. When I think of ways to describe the RO characters, they’re all pretty one-note.

As for the dialogue, I mentioned it before, some issues, but for the most part I thought the dialogue was effective that again goes towards the theme of the movie. As for main chick telling the director about the plan at the end. This was after she had done her part to get the plans out. At this point if the message never made it out then it wouldn’t matter anyway and she’d be dead. However, if the message does get out (she probably thinks she will be dead anyway since he is about to shoot her anyway) then she has this opportunity to tell one of the main people who ruined her family (she saw him as a child) about their revenge on him.

  • But if this is true, it’s like a Bond villain telling his plan to Bond. Now the Empire can go back to the Death Star and correct the flaw. Her telling him her plan undercuts the possible success of the Rebels like crazy. She could have been vague or just said some cold shit, or not have this interaction at all since she doesn’t even get to kill White Cape. Spanish Accent guy does. This would be like Han showing up and beating Vader for Luke in Jedi. Or Han taking the shot that destroys the DS in NH.
  • This was the man that was responsible for the destruction of her family. That was her shot to take.

At this point she also knows that if the rebellion wants to actually make effective use of the death star plans, they need to do something immediately since the empire will know about the heist and will be immediately working to resolve any problems they find. So even if he were to immediately tell the empire everything, the rebellion would still be able to destroy the death star because they wouldn’t be waiting to strike (which they did not in A New Hope as soon as the plans arrived). Yeah, it was a risk, but she had a shitty life and one could say she was owed a little smugness at the end.

  • Again, this is a crazy risk in an already crazy plan. It pulled me out of the movie and I didn’t have an answer as to why she said anything other than, maybe she thought this is a way to tell White Cape McBadguy that she beat him.
  • I agree, maybe she was being smug or maybe she’s undisciplined and a little young and in a moment of weakness she did the “I know I’m dumb, but you’re dumb too!”
  • My issue with this isn’t really a character issue but a writing issue. The writers of the movie knew she wasn’t going to die, they didn’t need this dialogue in. Hell, she could have told him the same shit right before SHE killed HIM and it would have worked fine. A final look of defeat washes over his face before she blows him away.

As for it being a prequel, well again, you went in to the movie knowing what it was. If you are gonna hold that against the movie, I think it’s unfair because why see it in the first place. Even though the prequel movies were mostly terrible, and for the most part I knew how things were going to end up, I never held that against the movies as one of the many many things that were wrong with them. IMO, if a movie is good, it’s good, regardless of whether it is a prequel or whether you know how things will end up. I knew everyone was going to die and the plans would be in the rebels hands by the end of the movie, but the ride there was FANTASTIC and, again, I thought that it helped make New Hope even better.

  • Agreed 100% My issue is more with people who shovel praise on the movie for being a stand-alone story, when it clearly is not. But again, agreed, I love what it does for A New Hope.

As for why the Death Star destroyed the Imperial base, well, they knew why the rebels were invading the base, but they didn’t know exactly what their goal was or why they needed the plans. Tarkin definitely suspected that something was wrong with the plans and he said so to the director, but finding Mads flaw would be a massive undertaking. Meanwhile you have rebels doing their rebel things down on the planet and the director letting this all slip through his fingers (from Tarkin’s POV). Well, Tarkin is the 2nd-highest Imp behind the Emperor, and you know what the Emperor would do in this situation. It’s the only way to be sure that you immediately stop rebel activity which even the fleet above the planet may not stop in time. It may seem like overkill, but considering that info can be beamed out once the shield goes down, if the base is destroyed the chance of any beaming gets reduced.

  • I could buy this… except everything you’re suggesting isn’t in the movie.
    • We have no idea what type of undertaking it would be. It might be a 30 second diagnostic that tells them “oh shit, Tom never sealed this exhaust port!”
    • At this point in the films chronology we don’t know the Emperor, we don’t know what he would do in this situation. He might be pissed as hell that a huge bank of one-of-a-kind schematics and information was destroyed.
    • To me, Vader boarding that ship and heading straight for the uploaded plans is enough to tell me that they knew what was beamed off the base and where it went.
      • This is confirmed in A New Hope when Vader walks up to Leia and literally asks her for the plans that were beamed to her.
    • I’d be fine with the timeline if there was any scene of anyone on the Death Star saying something like “THEY’RE BEAMING A TRANSMISSION, WE CAN’T STOP IT!” right before Tarkin blows his load all over the planet.

Now in regards to Tarkin, again I suppose it’s a matter of personal preference. I really enjoyed seeing Tarkin again. I’ve read several forum comments where people that were not in the know didn’t even realize he was CG. Regardless, if it bothered you then it bothered you. To me I was easily able to see past the CG and see a character returned to life again. Tarkin is a great Imp character and was just as ruthless and cunning as he was in ANH. Taking the director’s lead on the project, doing what needed to be done about the attack on the planet, and just being effin TARKIN all throughout. Goddamn I loved seeing Tarkin again. If you see the movie again, close your eyes or some shit and just LISTEN to Tarkin. Let the goodness wash over you.

  • Yeah, this is a personal preference. It might be fine on repeat viewings when I know to expect him, but holy fuck was I distracted.
  • To argue it further, your point of people not knowing who he was indicates that this was more “fan service” than anything else. They could have created a completely new character to play that role and no one would have said shit.

Leia was slightly jarring, but her part was so minor that it didn’t even have time to bother me. Hearing the word “hope” again bothered me way more.

  • Man, it should have ended with them walking in the room and we see the back of that famous hair. I think that would have been enough and really cool.

Speaking of Imperials, the director was a better imperial than any non-force imperial in F A. That was one of the flaws in FA IMO, all the imperials sucked. They were all young and non-menacing, no real character. They did not have an obvious intelligence. As soon as the director shows up in the beginning of the movie, I liked his swagger. This dude was evil and he did not give a f*ck. And he had a cape! I really liked his character. He was bent on getting the Empire’s super-weapon operational and he was will to basically kidnap Mads and his family to achieve his goals. This self-assuredness takes him through to the movie until he meets an untimely demise at the end of his own weapon. Loved it.

  • I think that’s a huge flaw in FA and I loved White Cape Badguy in RO.

Oh, and about you comparing this reluctant hero’s journey to Luke’s in Empire…Luke was definitely NOT a reluctant hero. From the moment he sees his uncle’s farm blasted in ANH, he’s going with Obi to bring down the Empire. He’s gung-ho for the rest of the series, including Empire. He goes to Yoda and soon as he is told and immediately wants Yoda to train him. He leaves early to fight the Empire because his friends are in danger, and in Jedi he continues his role. At no point is he a reluctant hero. Main chick in Rogue is WAY more reluctant, up to the point she realizes what her father was really trying to do and regained purpose in her life. Then she was just like Luke.

  • Eh, those are the broad strokes. But the only reason he runs off after R2 is because he doesn’t want to get in trouble. He doesn’t do anything with the info about Leia at first.
  • After finding his family dead, it would be strange for him NOT to do anything. The story forces his hand in a meaningful way that we can all understand. I think he says something like “there’s nothing left for me here.” And we’ve already established that he craves adventure.
  • Here’s a good breakdown of his journey. I’d love to see Jyn’s version.

This adventure was definitely much darker and less “fun”, but I still found it be a thrilling adventure regardless, IMO didn’t need the “fun” because that wasn’t the type of story that was being told. These people were up against the highest odds and took a major step on the long journey that eventually brings the Empire and Emperor to their knees. It cost the Rogue crew everything, but they brought a face to the faceless behind the rebellion, and I think that makes the SW universe that much better for it. To me, definitely not just another average action sci-fi flick. Far from it.

  • There’s absolutely a disconnect in what I was hoping to watch and what I got. I honestly don’t feel like this is detrimental to the movie though. I think I could get on board with a dower SW war movie if I liked or believed in the characters I was with. That’s where I think the failing is.
  • I’d still give it a 6/10 because it does pretty much everything else really well.

 

Finally, I know this is a personal thing, but FA just feels like a Star Wars movie to me (probably because it’s basically a remake). I don’t know how else to describe this. But to me, SW has always had this through-line that is Luke. To me, he’s our audience surrogate and his guiding principal and main conflict is in how he reconciles his need for revenge with what he learns about the Force.

It’s all about this hotness: 

  • “But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.” -Y.Dizzle

Rogue One blurs the line because the story is ostensibly not about the Force. The line between what is right and wrong has been blurred (something I really like actually and something Luke struggles with). Like you said, Rogue One makes A New Hope better, it complicates and deepens the struggle that happens in that movie. But because it’s a war movie with characters that all seem motivated by deep-seeded threads of revenge, it falls away from the themes of Light VS Dark that I like most in my Star Wars movies. 

Rogue One was a black box of a story where the only thing we really needed was for the Death Star plans to be stolen—everything else was up for grabs. I think they missed the mark and fundamentally misunderstood how to create compelling and complex characters have depth. All the characters in Rogue One are representations of Rebellion, but they don’t feel like individuals.

It’s a glimpse into the darkest version of the Rebellion with no pushback from a Yoda figure or an alternate philosophy to follow. Donnie Yen is probably the closest we get. It almost feels like a response to the prequels. George misunderstood the “all ages” appeal to the franchise and we got Jar Jar. On the far end of the spectrum, I think it would be difficult to take a child to see Rogue One.

At the end of the day, I feel a much stronger connection to the characters of Force Awakens to anyone in this film.

 

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