Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 4/5
The movie started off a little choppy and rough. There isn't an opening crawl so you get right into it and learn the exposition as you go. Not necessarily a bad thing, but Star Wars is usually pretty spoon fed. You start off this film kinda not knowing what's up exactly and who is who and why is what.
Then as it goes you start to pick up steam and things start to fall in place better. Works through a couple lulls and I even had an eye-roll at one point.
But once it gets to the end it goes and goes and goes great. Its fabulous. Radical. LIT AF FAM!!!1!!
Its a very WW2 style story for chunks and is shot in a similar manner to classic war films. The classic WW2 style shots and battles that are less fantastical than your usual Star Wars fare. There is some excellent cinematography for scene transitions that really add to the pacing.
I was a bit of a curmudgeon sitting down in the theater before the movie. I'd been making the joke about "We know how it ends" since the couple TV spots and trailers I saw had them saying things like "We need to stop The Empire" and "We can't let them build the Death Star!" Pretty sure Episode IV happened. But the way it got there and the way the story was told works.
In a The Hobbit-ish way, it shows you some things you'd always heard about in Lord of the Rings, but never seen. So seeing those things is great, and its even better when it handles the tone so well.
The characters aren't terribly fleshed out, but that's pretty well a norm for Star Wars. As much as people laud the original trilogy, I don't think George Lucas is a skilled enough writer to really have done everything character wise that the last 30-40 years have claimed. I think a lot of fandom and nostalgia gets in the way and has added to the mythos. (Like, Darth Vader wasn't space Satan. He was an asshole General/Commander who wore a cool suit. He was the Witch King, not Sauron. But pop culture sure treats him like he's the greatest thing since electricity.)
Back to Rogue One... They're archetypes of your misfit gang of heroes. They're not your usual Star Wars characters. They're... dirtier(?). Also, I don't really think much of the cast is terribly charismatic or really brought anything extra to the roles, and maybe they appear shallower and less interesting for it. There is perfectly fine and good acting, but that extra layer of spice or chemistry or whatever just wasn't quite there.
There is a bit of a test I have for movie characters which falls into a "How willing am I to buy a Funko Pop or SH Figuarts or other such figure of these characters?" and while I enjoyed the movie, no one stuck with me.
Mads Mikkelson is radical. He just has a great face. I'm so excited for Death Stranding.
There's gonna be stuff you don't want to think too hard about. There's nostalgia and some fan service. The story isn't much and its kind of a moving target as they go. I feel like Gareth Edwards, director, knew how he wanted to end the movie and kinda filled in the rest with Good Enough Stuff.
Star Wars as a property has a thing where once you get too far from Storm Troopers and TIE fighters and X-Wings and the Empire and the Rebels there hasn't been enough to establish what else makes up Star Wars. So while this is "new" its also familiar. Mileage may vary on viewers craving new-ness.
Whether I like this more than Episode VII is yet to be determined. I want to say yes, but a lot of that is recency bias. Also, its fair to question how much of Star Wars this got right versus Star Wars fandom.
I can't say enough good things about once you get to the end of the movie. Well executed action all through the final act whether its from the ground or the space. It has been so long since one of these big CGI, action franchise movies made the decisions this movie made. It does things totally different than any of the other seven films in the series. I like that.
And seriously, the ending of the movie was excellent.