Falls just short of greatness
These are always my toughest reviews. It is so hard for me, a die hard Star Wars fan, to separate fan from "critic." My Episode VII review was a good example of this. I did my best to separate the two, but at the end of the day I was still a bit more excited for the film than I probably should've been. That same mistake won't happen here. Here's the bottom line: I had an immensely good time watching Rogue One. There's some great fan service throughout the movie that we'll all love. It adds more weight to Episode IV, and features some breathtaking cinematography, action sequences, and acting from the entire cast. Buuuuut, there are a few things holding it back. Things that many may not realize right now, but will 6 months from now. These problems lie in the characters. But more on that later let's talk about the good stuff first.
Positives are always fun, right? Well, let's first talk about the lead character in this story, Jyn Erso. Jyn is the heroine we need. Wonderfully played by the woefully underrated (though probably not anymore) Felicity Jones, (Jones did receive my "Actress to Watch" award for 2016) Jyn has a marvelous character arc as she goes from rebellious young woman not willing to follow anyone to the selfless and devoted leader of Rogue One. Felicity's long resume was helpful, as she plays this character with the poise and restraint it needed. Other notable performances include Ben Mendelsohn, who was chilling and cold as Director Krennic, and Donnie Yen/Wen Jiang, though we'll get to their characters later. There's also a lot of fan service in this movie. Most of it I enjoyed, but some of it was forced. However, the best moment in this film came towards the very end in the form of fan service. This scene, which I obviously won't spoil but if you've seen the film you already know what I'm talking about, turned into EASILY the best moment of the film, and will likely be at the top of my favorite movie moments of 2016. SO GOOD. I also must comment on the cinematography. Cinematographer Greig Fraser (Foxcatcher, Zero Dark Thirty) did a great job going all across the board and shooting this film exactly how it needed to be shot. I particularly enjoyed the entire sequence at Jeddah City, which featured great wide shots of a Star Destroyer as well as great gravitas as that sequence concluded.
That said......it has its fair share of problems, and they deal squarely with the supporting cast and their character arcs. As in they don't have any. Do me a favor and try and think of how Bodhi, Baze, Saw, Chirrut, and K-2SO (though I can't deny K-2SO does have some funny lines) developed as characters. Can you think of anything? I can't. How about how they came together, a group of misfit toys, to take on the Empire? I can't. This was a complete failure on director Gareth Edwards and writers Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, and Gary Whitta. There was a great opportunity in the second act of this film to slow things down and bring this cast together to put them squarely behind Jyn Erso, and it didn't happen. Instead we are left with a drawn out sequence at a rainy Imperial Outpost then a TERRIBLY missed opportunity on Yavin 4 where we find ourselves wasting away in the Alliance's version of senate hearings instead of having some intimate conversations with the characters. Forest Whitaker's character, Saw, is also a major missed opportunity. The film even hypes him up calling him too extreme for the Rebel Alliance. But do we see this? Do we see what makes him extreme? Other than pulling off the Frank Booth with a breathing mask (Which, to be fair, why was that even a thing? Was it meant to be an ode to Blue Velvet? It didn't seem to benefit Saw in any way) he didn't seem too extreme to me. All we needed to fix that was one scene of him doing something crazy. A flashback, perhaps. But what we ended up with was a very limp and uninterestingcharacter. That's the overarching theme here within the story: a missed opportunity. It would not have taken much to make us feel for the supporting cast, and they are all beautifully portrayed, but instead the film chose to waste its time elsewhere doing things that, honestly, did not impact the story that much.
There is one other negative I have to bring up, and that's the score. What happened here? The score, the first in the franchise not done by John Williams, is nothing more than filler music with the occasional Star Wars theme thrown in. The quality of this score is on the same level as pretty much any film in the Marvel franchise, and that's not good. At the time I thought the Episode VII score was a little weak, (though it has grown on me a tad) but there's no doubt this is easily the weakest score in the franchise to date. C'mon guys! Where's a theme like Duel of Fates or Battle of the Heroes?
Do know, I say these criticisms because I love this franchise. There's no doubt that this is a good film and I can't wait to watch it again. It achieves exactly what it sets out to do (add weight to Episode IV) and features some of the most exhilarating action sequences in the franchise in the third act. It's exactly what you want from this film, I just wish they had spent more time on character development and not trying to force Alliance politics into it. That's my two cents feel free to disagree and talk about how wrong I am!
The Critique: Despite some exhilarating action sequences, Rogue One falls short of greatness because of a lack of character development within the supporting cast.
The Recommendation: Everyone and their mother's are gonna go see this so who cares, right?
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.