The Rogue One reviews are in, and this Star Wars story might be one of the most polarizing films with critics since Mad Max: Fury Road. This is because the film didn’t give us much of anything franchise fans expected.
Star Wars movies are often rife with the classic fantasy trope of a clear good versus evil scenario, which Gareth Edwards’ latest foray in cinema basically threw out like last week’s garbage. This isn’t saying that all movies in the franchise before were horrible, although some will argue that the prequels were the equivalent of George Lucas giving them a “swirly.” It simply means that Rogue One is almost nothing like the others.
Fans of the franchise might actually dislike the latest Star Wars story. It feels more like a novel based on the extended universe which J.J. Abrams tossed out when he directed The Force Awakens. The novels weren’t known to be action-packed. They were more of an actual story riddled with characters developed through backstory and scenes which don’t translate well to the big screen. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was like that, and the movie went in the opposite direction.
If you’re the type who needs something to grab your attention in the first 20 minutes, you probably won’t care enough to finish it. The story starts out extremely slowly and could leave you wondering who these people are and why you should care. The somber setting doesn’t help and could make you feel like Disney tacked “A Star Wars Story” onto the title to remind you of what’s coming, if familiar things like Imperial ships and storm troopers don’t. This slow start is so different from previous films that you might occasionally glance at your ticket stub just to remember why you’re watching it.
It’s toward the end that the movie starts paying off with the action scenes you might have shown up for. Donnie Yen’s fight scenes alone are arguably worth the price of admission as he takes out a small army literally by Force since he’s blind. That scene could have gone so wrong since it’s the premise behind many single-player action video games these days.
So why should you care about anyone at the beginning of the movie? Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star, and it might have been nice if the film had told us that earlier. Instead, it hints over and over that she’s important to the story.
Where this fails is that it’s almost like watching the movie through the blinds from across the street because the neighbor’s 70-inch 4K TV is on way too loud and their curtains are letting you see everything. Some might appreciate this and claim it adds to the drama, but drama has rarely been a part of the franchise.
One possible reason for this is that Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla did something similar. It barely showed you the titular monster, instead teasing it throughout the film.
USA Today claims that the slow burn actually gives you more of a scope of what the Death Star is priming to do. As the rebels scramble to retrieve the plans and gain a slight advantage, we see the collateral damage in gritty detail across several planets. This is admittedly where the very first Star Wars failed, not giving us the up-close glimpse of a planet being destroyed, but instead just glossing over it. We were shown nothing of the citizens of Alderaan before the Death Star obliterated it.
The New York Times reveals exactly why Rogue One might fail as a story, explaining that it waits until the end to tell you why you should care about everything that just happened over the last hour.
What do you think? Was Rogue One a horrible example of storytelling, or a daring masterpiece on par with The Empire Strikes Back?
[Featured Image by Walt Disney Pictures]