“The Dark Side” – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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A review of the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. *Spoiler alert!* Please note, details of the plot are revealed in this article that may ruin the film if you have not yet seen it.

 

Being named after a certain Skywalker, my love of Star Wars is a given – even after the travesty that were the prequels. Inevitably, with deadlines done, I went to the midnight release of the eagerly anticipated Rogue One. At around half past midnight, it began.

And… it was pretty terrible. Arguably worse than Episode III. I’ve never seen a movie that lurched from one scene to the next quite like this, nor one with dialogue that felt so stilted. It was like every character was delivering a soliloquy instead of talking to each other. There were so many jaw-droppingly dumb moments. Gareth Edwards, the director, should never be allowed near a Star War again, nor anything with a modicum of sentimental value to anyone. I was sad that Tony Gilroy, who’s made the superb Michael Clayton and penned all the good Bourne movies, was one of the screenwriters for this. Then I remembered he cut his teeth writing classics like Armageddon and The Devil’s Advocate.

Tonally, it was magnificently overwrought without having earned any of it. Every character acted like they were all going to die, well before it was clear that’s what was going to happen. It’s as if the screenwriters wrote the characters knowing the audience would know there was no happy ending coming for them. This isn’t helped by the fact that the score rumbles and churns way, way too early, promising terrible things in scenes that don’t convey any sense of foreboding themselves. Forest Whitaker was massively wasted. Donnie Yen was a caricature, and Wen Jiang his sidekick. As for the robot, it was mercilessly and predictably overused for comic relief.

The last act, which appears to already have somehow achieved mythical status, is only redeemed by the fact that there’s a lot of action, and not all of it bad. But then, it wasn’t particularly memorable either. If I were to remember it for one thing, it would be the ridiculous series of convoluted challenges our heroes had to overcome to transmit the data back to the rebels alliance. It was like a first person shooter with a dastardly set of mini-games.

Image courtesy of starwars.com
Image courtesy of starwars.com

Oh, and then there’s the aimless fan service. Did you write that shit as well, Gilroy? What’s the point of showing that C-3PO and R2D2 were at the rebel base? What’s the point in Admiral Ackbar’s dad leading the rescue efforts? What was the point in Darth Vader showing up in the movie? Was it to drop that cringeworthy pun about “choking on ambitions?” Or was it to give the film a lightsaber swish in its final moments?

This was a huge, incredibly dumb movie, and I really deeply disliked it. There are a lot of things I disliked about it, but I think what I disliked the most was how obvious a cash grab it was. Of course every franchise, especially Star Wars, is always going to be a cash cow to some degree. But when the right people are working on it, you can forget your cynicism for a couple of hours and enjoy some good entertainment, with a big dollop of nostalgia. That’s something I thought Episode VII did perfectly. This, however, didn’t come close.

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