It is indeed a strange turn of events when the spin-off movie with the shallow premise (which I admittedly, fully expected to be a poor cash grab), turns out to be a solid movie. Where as the official Star Wars saga sequel with way more solid plot behind it, turns out to be the poor nostalgia cash grab. So what worked and what didn’t and how does this single movie rank in the entire galactic Star Wars universe?
So lets start with the basic premise here, the plot and idea for this movie. Straight off the bat this entire idea is totally ridiculous lets be honest. The whole notion of showing us how the rebels managed to get ahold of the plans for the Death Star is pointless. This is the kind of thing that a TV series (just like the animated ones) is perfect for, covering the small sections in between the major saga movies which don’t need entire movies. I mean come on, we all know what happens here and that’s a problem because we know most (if not all) of the characters will probably have to die, tension gone. We know the rebels get the plans and we know that it probably involves lots of skirmishes on land, in the air, at sea and in space.
At any point in this movie was I concerned about the characters or their mission? No, no I wasn’t for very simple reasons such as continuity. Sure some characters could of survived for another movie, but the more that happens the more possibilities for a convoluted classic trilogy. I mean, where would they have disappeared to for so long and why? Obviously its easy to say a certain character just went off to the far end of the (uncharted) galaxy and lived on a remote undiscovered planet for whatever reasons. But that would make no sense, why would a central rebel character disappear during the most climatic time of the war with the empire? they wouldn’t. In turn this (in my opinion) did hurt the movie simply because I wasn’t really that engaged as I knew what was probably gonna happen.
Essentially this means that all we’re here for is nostalgia porn, winks and nods to what we all know and love. Shove some stuff from the classic trilogy in there with all new shiny CGI plosions and everyone’s happy? Well yes and no because bottom line you can’t really escape that in a Star Wars movie. While I fully admit this is nostalgia porn until the next saga installment turns up, heck…at least its good looking nostalgia porn that’s well made.
Its also worth mentioning quickly that the main plot is actually (and amusingly) about a rebel group of rebels. The entire mission they set out on is actually against rebel HQ orders, they in fact go rogue. And here’s me thinking they use that title because it sounded and looked cool, plus another word meaning ‘to rebel’. Nope they are indeed rebel rebels.
Lets look at the characters in this Dirty Dozen-esque type movie that doesn’t have a dozen main hero characters. Well as expected you have a ragtag bunch of desperadoes that all seem to have a special kill. One bloke has a bigass gun with ammo pack on his back. One guy is a roguish, Han Solo-esque looking sharp shooter. Another guy is a wise, blind, staff wielding martial arts expert type chap. One skinny dude is a mechanical equipment type expert. Our heroine is your standard all rounder but also seems to be good with a stick. There is a well spoken, Marvin the paranoid android, type robot complete with deadpan humour. And lastly we have the larger than life, half man, half prosthetic robot leader…who isn’t actually the leader but actually dies really early on. And yes, this time there is no Jedi hocus pocus.
So you have the stereotypical team with dare I say…box ticked diversity, but are they any good? Well yes and no, reasons being they are a great looking team of space mercs but I never really cared about any of them because I didn’t know them well enough. There is no real backstory to any of these guys other than a bit of exposition here and there. Is that all you need? Well again yes and no, on one hand it would be nice to see some history so we can understand each character a little more, get some emotions going. On the other hand I fully accept that you can’t do that all the time (run time) and to a degree less is sometimes more. Maybe we don’t need to see every nook and cranny of a characters past…?
But look at some of the scenes we get, Cassian Andor (Diego Lunar) for example. This guy kills another man in cold blood once he gets what he needs, clearly this guy is a bit of an anti-hero. He comes across as an untrustworthy, double dealing scoundrel in this sequence, yet this arc goes nowhere, we never see any of this again. The double team of Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) and Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) is never really explained despite their partnership clearly being of some importance. Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) is an imperial pilot who has defected but we never find out why or what he even piloted, I guess he just didn’t like being a baddie.
K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) is an imperial robot who has been reprogrammed by Cassian but we don’t really know what he did for the empire and why Cassian even reprogrammed him. And finally our heroine Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is quite simply our bland by the books heroine. Her mother was killed by the empire (totally her own fault I might add) and her dad created the Death Star so cue lots of anguish over all that yadda yadda yadda.
So lets turn to other things, sound, visuals and questions. Right so the movie looks fantastic, this truly looks like a Star Wars movie there is no doubt about that. In fact I was blown away at how well they recreated that late 70’s look and feel with the sets, lighting, costumes etc…The rebel base on Yavin 4 was superb and looked spot on in size and layout, not quite as grubby but hey. They even include the rebel soldier in that crows nest which always looked impossible to climb (how the fuck did he get up there? I don’t see a ladder). All other locations, sets, costumes, cockpit interiors, space battles etc…were gorgeous as you might expect (and better than TFA). The only really stand out bit of shit would be the very odd mind reading octopus that was just as bad as the large CGI alien tentacle things in TFA. Couldn’t they have just used some bit of kit for that? Why did we need such a terribly designed creature??
The full CGI Grand Moff Tarkin (Peter Cushing) is of course a talking point, should they have done it? Hmmm…not so sure myself, even though his estate gave permission it still seems a bit off to me. The other question being could they have done this with a little more stealth and shadow? Perhaps hide Tarkin’s face away a bit more to make it more subtle and not so in your face? Tricky but I think it could have worked as we saw with his intro in a reflection. Both Tarkin and Princess Leia were bold moves that sorta worked but ultimately were too obvious and alas will definitely age badly over time.
Are there problems here other than the vanilla characters? You bet there are. The stormtroopers are still useless in every way, here they are beaten by a blind guy with a stick who doesn’t even use the force. Stormtrooper dolls for kids?? eh??? Deathtroopers…utterly pointless and do nothing, in fact they aren’t much better than regular stormtroopers. Deus ex machina anyone? oh hell yes! Various things happen right in the nick of time such as Jyn being saved by Cassian, who we all thought was dead. Cassian decides not to follow his secret orders to assassinate Jyn’s father because…why exactly?
Jyn’s father then manages to die in her arms for maximum effect, as they all do in these films. Malbus literally commits suicide for no reason whatsoever, just ups and decides to go out pointlessly, for nothing. Could a Star Destroyer actually slice through another Star Destroyer? Certainly looks to do so with ease in this movie, surely that wouldn’t happen. Also, why didn’t the rebels just join in the attack with Jyn and co initially? They end up joining in anyway so it made no real sense that they decided not to go in the first place. Had they not showed up, that would of made more sense, standing by their decision.
Lastly, when the Death Star makes its final destructive shot on the base on Scarif, I noticed the shot actually misses the base and hits quite some distance away in the sea. I did notice the blast takes out the main radar tower on the base which was the target but…why not just hit the base directly? This made no sense to me, we know a direct blast from the Death Star can wipe out a city instantly, as seen earlier with Jedha. So why didn’t they just make a direct hit on the Scarif base instead of miles away? Unless of course they were just aiming for the radar tower and didn’t mean to wipe out the base entirely? But surely they’d know the shock wave would still destroy it. This just came across to me as a way to give two of the heroes an emotional final scene, but it made no sense.
One thing I didn’t really like about this movie was the inclusion of certain new things. The deathtroopers, why? why were these guys required? They pretty much do nothing other than look a bit sexier than regular troopers. The Scarif shoretroopers, seriously? What the hell would you need shoretroopers for? What do they do that is any different from other troopers? When the battle kicks off on Scarif the regular stormtroopers, deathtroopers and officers were doing perfectly fine, why would you need yet another unit of troops for a shoreline?
Then you have the new TIE ships, again I find myself asking why? Why do we need new models of TIE fighters? In all cases you just end up asking…what happened to all these new things in the classic trilogy? Sure you could say they were new models/old units that didn’t work but that makes no sense. Deathtroopers are supposedly some the best so where did they go? They just scrapped those other TIE ships just like that? Remember this movie is set right before episode IV, would these ships be taken away so quickly that they are never seen again?
Of course we know this is merely for merchandise sales, a new Star Wars movie must include new things for new toys. Hence we have a range of pointless new troopers and ships that all vanish from existence in the classic trilogy, ugh! I mean at least the AT-ACT’s we see can be explained as different models that were used for different jobs (mainly cargo), hence we don’t see them again. But there is no real reason for not seeing deathtroopers or the other TIE ships ever again.
Anyway, I can’t deny this was an entertaining movie and a good Star Wars movie (way WAY better than TFA). It still has many faults and is not perfect by any means. The lack of the classic musical score was a hideous omission if you ask me. What they used was so fecking lame and ineffectual it could be seen as sacrilege, the action sequences would have really leapt out off the screen with some John Williams behind them. The characters are weak despite good performances in general. The plot is pretty stupid and really didn’t need to be told. The movie essentially plays out like ‘Return of the Jedi’, and the opening was terribly weak without the classic logo, crawl and score. In the end the movie is limited by its own purpose essentially, it can’t really go beyond the confines of what came before. Luckily this can be just about overlooked as its definitely a fun ride.