Why am I reviewing a movie that I've already reviewed on this site before? Well, it's simply because my thoughts on the film have changed since I first saw it. I've honestly wanted to write this specific article for a while and seeing as how I'm in the middle of reviewing all of the "Star Wars" film in preparation for "Star Wars: The Last Jedi", I see now as the perfect time to clarify my thoughts on this movie now that I've seen it multiple times and reevaluated my opinion.
"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is set right before "A New Hope" and it focuses on the group of Rebels who stole the plans to the Death Star, the Empire's space station that's capable of destroying an entire planet in one fell swoop. I don't want to repeat too much of what I already said in my original review, so I'll just leave the plot synopsis at that.
When I first saw and reviewed this movie last December, I stated that I really liked the movie and I gave it a "Full Price!", my second highest rating for a movie. Roughly a week later, I saw it again in theaters and while minor nitpicks were more noticeable, I still maintained that it was a really good movie...then came the Blu-Ray release earlier this year. I picked up the movie on Blu-Ray, watched it again, and almost immediately felt something different than the previous two times. I felt nothing for the characters and I even felt like some scenes were just flat out unnecessary and - dare I say - just plain stupid. And now that I've seen the movie for a fourth time as of recently, I can honestly say that this movie has lessened in quality the more I watch it, so here's my review explaining why.
My biggest problem with this entire movie is that a majority of the characters are dull, empty, and uninteresting. Our main hero is Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones. Jones herself is a fantastic actress, but she's really bogged down by the fact that Jyn comes across as lifeless and uninterested in everything that's going on in this movie. She talks in a monotonous voice through a majority of the film, her backstory regarding how she got to be the rogue that she is is lackluster, and she just comes off as too passive for my liking.
A key component in crafting an interesting character is showing the choices they make in a given situation. Here in this movie, Jyn doesn't make much choices of her own free will. She's strong-armed into joining the Rebellion with threats of prison, and the rest of the film is just stuff happening to her while she follows behind other characters like Cassian Andor. We don't actively see her making choices that define her as a person. She just plays along in the plot until she dies at the end, resulting in a death scene that doesn't leave me feeling anything. The only time Jyn really opens up is when she sees her father Galen as a hologram for the first time. She breaks down in tears, but the relationship between her and Galen is never fully fleshed out, resulting in another emotionless death scene when Galen is killed off.
Another character is Cassian, played by Diego Luna. Again, there's a great actor playing the character, but said character isn't fleshed out enough. There's an effort to paint him as a rebel who's had to make tough choices in life and this is actually reflected quite well in Cassian's opening scene where he kills one of his own informants. The problem is that there's nothing more to it than that one scene. There's one moment near the end of the second act when Cassian opens up to Jyn about how he's been fighting the Empire since he was a kid, but that entire scene reeks of a last minute reshoot that was filmed and added at the last second, most likely because director Gareth Edwards knew how bland Cassian came off as through the rest of the movie and he felt it necessary to cram in one forced scene where Cassian starts rambling about his past for no reason.
The biggest offender when it comes to the boring characters is Bodhi Rook, played by Riz Ahmed. He's basically a pilot who defects from the Empire in order to warn of the Death Star, but his only purpose in this movie is to just be a pilot. There's no interesting personality behind him, just an empty shell who constantly says "I'm a pilot" throughout the movie. Seriously, go watch this movie and take a shot for every time Bodhi mentions that he's a pilot. You'll be shit-faced and puking in the toilet by the time the movie is over.
Honestly, the only interesting heroes in this movie are the droid, K-2SO, a smart-mouthed droid who isn't afraid to speak his mind, and Chirrut Imwe, the blind warrior who is sensitive to the Force. K-2SO certainly did his job in providing comedic relief to the film and I honestly did feel something when he gets shot down by stormtroopers. Chirrut also has plenty of badass moments where his knowledge of the Force is put on display, and we as an audience even learn a thing or two about the Force without being given too much information that ruins the mystery. It's just a downside that Chirrut's sidekick, Baze Malbus, is another bore of a character who just spends the entire movie moping and grumbling.
Problems with the characters aside, this movie also has some serious pacing issues, specifically in the first half. After the opening scene with Jyn as a kid, it jumps to the future in which we jump back and forth between various planets in a small amount of time. One minute we're seeing Jyn as an adult, then it's jumping to Cassian and his informant, but wait a minute, now we're jumping to Bodhi being captured by Saw Gerrera's men. All of this happens in a span of just a couple of minutes and it makes the movie come off as rushed. Moments like these are where you start to take notice of the production problems that went down.
I'm not going to spend this entire review pointing out negatives. The fact remains that there are still a lot of good things in this movie. Surprisingly enough, I actually really like the CGI facial reconstructions of characters like Tarkin and Princess Leia. In my opinion, the CGI used to recreate Carrie Fisher was near seamless. To this day, I still think it looks great, whereas the CGI Tarkin does unfortunately give off the Uncanny Valley effect. Granted, Tarkin in this movie is entirely relevant in expanding the origins of the Death Star, and I still profess that while his CGI isn't perfect, it's grown on me and I'm really interested in seeing this type of technology used in future films.
The usage of Darth Vader in this film is also something that I really like. He only has two scenes and his first one isn't until halfway through the movie. It's when he's on Mustafar in his domain, talking to Director Krennic. Krennic is a perfectly serviceable villain as is, but Vader is the real antagonist we all came to see. His appearance in which he's displaying full power over Krennic is very gratifying to see, though I still heavily dislike his line of "Be careful not to CHOKE on your aspirations, director." In the original trilogy, Vader was known to turn a saying or phrase against someone, but "Rogue One" has him throwing out lines that sound like bad puns and dad jokes, as is the case with the above line.
However, that bad line is rectified by Vader's second scene in which he absolutely slaughters a group of Rebels trying to escape with the plans to the Death Star. This is the Vader that we all wanted to see in the prequel trilogy, the formidable, imposing badass who knows the dark side of the Force more than anyone, not counting the Emperor. I'm actually quite satisfied with the amount of screen time that Vader has in this film and his inclusion doesn't feel cheap or forced at all.
This movie's entire third act is great to watch. As much as I gripe about how little character development there is, I can't deny that the climax of this movie is something special. We have the Rebels battling the Empire on the planet Scarif, there's X-Wings and TIE Fighters fighting in the skies above, and our heroes are infiltrating the Scarif base to find and upload the Death Star plans. This entire action climax is exhilarating, full of nonstop action, nice little references to the original trilogy, and it crafts a wartime feel that we have yet to experience in this universe. Gareth Edwards said that he wanted to make a "Star Wars" movie that also acted as a war film and that's what we got.
When it all comes down to things, this movie certainly has plenty of positives such as some entertaining characters, a great usage of Vader, great action scenes, and an overall beautiful aesthetic look, but there are flaws to be found. Sure, I can talk about nitpicks such as the annoying character of Saw Gerrera and his ridiculous CGI tentacle monster, or the forced fan service with cameos from characters like C-3PO, R2-D2, and even Ponda Baba and Dr. Evazan. But those are just small flaws that don't compare to the movie's pacing issues and underdeveloped characters.
Overall, I still enjoy "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story", but not as much as I did when I first saw it. Many people have said that it's a genuinely great film in its own right, as well as even the best "Star Wars" movie since "The Empire Strikes Back". I respectfully disagree on both counts. I think this is a perfectly entertaining flick as well as a functional addition to the saga, but I'm not going to remember it as anything more than that. This was just one of those instances where my fanboy goggles got in the way of me objectively critiquing the film. It wasn't the first time, and it wasn't the last.