Rogue One: A One Star Story

March 11, 2017 9:52 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

Attack of the Clones soared when its heroes discovered a hidden planet by challenging mainstream knowledge and using independent thought. They dug deeper and pulled the veil off the official version. Miserable, focus-group, committee-driven Rogue One is the polar opposite. Lacking personality or incentive for creative thinking, it unfolds like a programmed checklist of flat motivations, a few isms du jour and glossed-over political issues. Feminism for X points, multiculturalism – Y points. Calculate the balance. Profit.

We are rushed into this adventure via multiple nervous introductions with many characters making little sense. Even Jurassic Park barely got away with that. Here, the villain’s shuttle flies over the house as the little girl moves inside to warn her parents, who then proceed to prepare the escape. What was the point of the lookout droid, if the girl alerted her parents? They start packing too late, hug slowly, stare. But the shuttle was just seen over the house, it is here, whatever “here” means. Maybe the house terrain has no parking spots and they need to land a mile away. But we don’t know that. Next, the shuttle is somewhere far away over the mountains. Is it lost? Then a stupid character jumps on a squad of scary troopers with a blaster, effectively disintegrating the film. But wait, there is more.

In a labyrinthine urban skirmish, the male lead, with hands down, meets and shoots a stormtrooper with hands on the gun, pointed at him. Why is the Imperial soldier so merciful? AT-AT walkers are useless too, like the Empire in general, so where is the suspense and urgency? White helmets’ incompetence is nothing new under the suns, but the Rogue One tone is different and should have coherent editing and solid staging. It tries to be a gritty down-to-earth spur-of-the-moment film, not a broad space opera.

Star Wars, being an outsized fantasy, has never been about exact logical events and scenes. But it had arresting poetic description of the Force in simple yet captivating terms, unlike Rogue One’s device, the grating line “One with the force”, repeated over and over again. After another character repeated “I’m the pilot (heed my exposition)” too many times. Great filmmakers have a poetic style which sometimes trumps logic and leads every part of the production. Here, direction is only one of the many disposable parts and the leading force is re-editing and over-the-shouldering explanations. Half of the dialogue is done for exposition, not for character development.

The whole production is so cynical, the inevitable mention of “Hope” and idealism is ridiculous. Then “Hope” is repeated again. We get it in film history terms. But in political terms, it is degrading. Political movements with that slogan suggest the people have only hope and no actual power leverage.

Storytelling in this galaxy goes like this: look kids, here is a Mythical Moment, just like Star Wars, so Awesome! As an alternative, consider the surprising subtlety of The Force Awakens. A veiled slave woman in the (Arabian) desert is slaving away, pushed around by ugly creatures with absolute power. She ends up discovering inner strength, driving a space ship and shaking up the status quo. That was really cool and not spoon-fed. Like the young Sith wannabe satirizing oh-so-dark contemporary culture and mirroring the new trilogy’s aspirations. Such good times are sadly absent from dull Rogue One.

Some parts of the film are good on paper. A scheming career-climber villain submits to depraved lust for power, mostly off-screen, only to be shrugged off and minimized, not to disturb the children. Or, God-forbid, connect with real situations and figures. The association with Jeddah, Saudi Arabia remains little more than a fleeting whisper. Where is the rebel spirit? Express an opinion, don’t just remix PC issues like a court jester. After all, the worst that could happen is a Bigelow.

We were all sick and tired of Death Stars, so here are more Death Star attacks. Rogue One has Disney’s Aladdin etc plot where the man deceives the woman but they make up anyway. The Whitaker character’s meaning is explained only through a few stupid lines of dialogue. Edwards’ forté is stunning vistas with small people in the foreground, but when it comes to dynamics between characters and environment, he goes into carbonite sleep.

Vast planets and installations are home to outrageous coincidences of characters being just at the right place at the right time. Not inherently a problem, but when directed badly, it is a big flaw. The paternal masterplan is a little too far-fetched and convoluted. Lightspeed jump solves everything. Surprise instead of suspense. Guessing the password. Deus ex machina shooting the villain who is certain to kill the protagonist. Twice. Seriously! Also the line “Seriously”.

Adding insult to injury, the serviceable to bad music. The score was The Force Awakens’ main character and best part, but here it’s a cacophony of embarrassment. Sound editing-wise, I heard buzz in all lines of dialogue. Could be because of separation of original and dub tracks for international markets, but sounds like amateur hour.

Acting-wise, more bad news: Infinity Stare posing is presented as good acting, like the woeful trend goes. Jyn’s Chin is the protagonist, supported by angry and awkward-busy characters, amounting to weak sense of relationships. A PC story, pandering to every cliché in the Galaxy, wants us to root for the rebel characters, because they had a short motivational speech.

Apart from that, Rogue One is an OK diversion with great sets, props and costumes.

★✩✩✩

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This post was written by rado

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