Gisell Says Temper Your Enthusiasm For ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY!

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FILM REVIEW: ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY

BY GISELL BUTLER

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Despite what some will say, Star Wars is a franchise that will always be around. It’s instantly recognizable and has had a devout fan-following for close to 40 years. Most filmmakers aren’t lucky enough to say that their movies will continue to inspire and be built upon with more motion pictures so many decades later; while remaining both relevant and long-awaited for fans of all ages. George Lucas has made some questionable choices in the past, but whether you hold onto some bitterness for his past decisions, you have to appreciate the special world which Lucas has created. The films have established a pop culture sensation and are arguably the most celebrated of any movies in the history of cinema. Rogue One is the first movie in a string of solo films, which are being released as companion pieces to the Star Wars universe. This movie will make you feel like a kid again, with its reappearance of time-honored characters and action-driven space fighting sequences. This is a movie, in which we all know what happens at the end, however we don’t know how it happens and that’s what this film does; it fills in the gaps and offers up connections to some new information.

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I’ve always been a Star Wars fan, so each film (even those controversial prequels) are special in their own way. Like a beginner, Rogue One is almost like an apprentice in training, ever eager to teach itself some new tricks, and to prove what it has learned in the past, however, it doesn’t have much of anything fresh to show for it. Aside from a few familiar tactics that we all will come to recognize, it seems like some better ideas may have fallen into a sarlacc pit. I’m not saying that this film is hopeless, no pun intended. But, with a $200 million-dollar budget and a story of this magnitude, I would have liked to see more fleshed-out characters, utilization of time and story development in the first act, better writing, and casting decisions. I didn’t watch this film just to see Star Wars money shots, I actually approached this story, with an excitement to learn more about these rebels and take interest beyond that of the big fight. Truthfully, I have a deep veneration for Star Wars, I’ve seen all the movies and I’ve played the games; but I wouldn’t consider myself, what you might label, a “fanboy”. I won’t trade-off an hour of crucial character development for oversaturated money shots that will appease the nostalgic kid at heart. And why can’t we have both anyhow? I feel that with the film being over 2 hours long, that there was plenty of opportunity to accomplish that and more. Instead, the filmmakers decided on playing hide and seek with them across the galaxy, taking too long to bring them together, which in my humble opinion, really wasted valuable time that we could have had getting to know these rebels better, along with their backstories.

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Rogue One is also the first which didn’t employ John Williams for the instrumental score, and the first which doesn’t include the traditional opening crawl, which is usually attached to each Star Wars film and is a staple of the franchise. While these changes aren’t exactly deal breakers for me, we do get more than a strong indication that the studios and filmmakers have made it abundantly clear that the ambience of this movie had to be distinctive, in order for it to be set apart from the anthology of the classic Star Wars universe. However unique the studios planned on the film being, the storyline seems humdrum and the original goal of this story seems to fizzle all too soon. Some of the characters whom were involved in Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope, do make appearances in this film, since this is the prelude to that film. Once you see the film you will understand when I say that the greatest quality in this story, is its visual effects. The special effects are amazingly realistic and the space scenes, as well as the galactic ships and environment does feel like you’re in a Star Wars movie. Also, you can’t help but get goosebumps whenever you see one of your favorite characters make an onscreen appearance. Hearing James Earl Jones speak as Darth Vader again in full theatrical glory for the first time since 1983 (not counting Revenge of the Sith) is pretty much guaranteed to make the fanboys go crazy.

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My main concern with this film is the overplayed hysteria which has ensued since early screenings have commenced. I’ve already heard people saying that this is the best Star Wars film that they’ve ever seen. As Admiral Ackbar would say, “It’s a trap!”. It’s a decent solo entry to the universe, but I wouldn’t compare this film to the others. If you choose to make such a comparison, you might be left feeling somewhat underwhelmed. It’s not a bad thing, but to try to make this film live up to its previous incarnations is not wise to do. The other films are full of incredible space-buddy adventures and fun-spirited plots which contain the excitingly optimistic tone of the Star Wars films. Whereas this film is a one and done entry, with audiences going in knowing almost 90% what to expect. There’s a dark cloud which looms over the film, and the only silver lining is hope; which leads seamlessly into Episode IV. We get a somewhat loosely defined character arc for each of the rebels and we’re not given much history on them, however the film still manages to inspire the audience to care just enough for them, even though at times they feel like they’re background fodder.

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My recommendation is to go into this film seeing it as a separate addition to the Star Wars universe, not another film which is supposed to improve upon or surpass previous installments. There are some nice tie-ins to the other films and I enjoyed seeing how they pieced certain ideas together. However, I wouldn’t say this is the best Star Wars film, only because I feel that half the movie was severely mismanaged in terms of writing and direction, and the last 30 minutes is where fans will get what they came for. The great thing about this film is that it is certain to bring about differing opinions from fans and audiences, and will act as a measure towards more Star Wars films. I will support that endeavor in any way that I can, because I believe that further material deserves to be manifested onscreen for new generations of audiences to enjoy. I think the films and stories are special, they generate chatter and sometimes some debate, but it’s a place in which we can all connect and share a formidable bond. There are still many stories that can be told and avenues which can be taken in order to promote and encourage this universe.

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Rogue One is but a stepping stone to more chronicles, and though it feels like a film that is at times inconsequential, it’s redemption can be found in its stunning visuals, blockbuster action sequences, and some light-hearted moments that we all can come to expect of a Star Wars film. Those anticipating a wow-factor or a shocking moment which offers something completely unexpected, may need to look elsewhere. There’s no big reveal here, it’s a clear-cut war story and maybe that is where its faults reside. Rogue One is directed by Gareth Edwards (Godzilla-2014) and written by Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass, Cinderella) and Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Films, Armageddon). It also features the music of newcomer Michael Giacchino (Up, Doctor Strange, Super 8), whom was given a month to compose the instrumental score for the film. It stars Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), Mads Mikkelsen (Galen Erso), Diego Luna (Cassian Andor), Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe), Alan Tudyk (K-2SO), Jiang Wen (Baze Malbus), Forest Whitaker (Saw Gerrera), Ben Mendelsohn (Orson Krennic), and Riz Ahmed (Bodhi Rook).

 

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