The very first thing you notice about Rogue One is the jarring musical introduction that sounds as if it is the ending of an opening score of some sort. I was immediately taken aback. As if there at some point actually was a “title crawl,” but they decided to nix it late in the edit. It threw me, but it was also a statement: “this is a different kind of Star Wars movie.”
It very much is, as “Star Wars” doesn’t even appear on the title card after the cold open that sees Ben Mendelsohn‘s Director Krennic coming after the Erso family, but, it’s undeniably “Star Wars.” The look and feel is there from the onset, though I can’t imagine someone who wasn’t already a Star Wars fan being drawn in so easily. Still, points for being different. From there, we get swooped into the plot of how heroism is defined by the choices we make. This “low hanging fruit” is a hallmark of Star Wars movies. Good is good. Bad is bad. Little room for gray. Though, I suppose they do toy with gray ever so slightly in this. Or, more pointedly, they want you think they are toying with gray.
The real morality issue with this film isn’t in the plot, and here’s where I say SPOILERS to follow…
Disney was damned if they did and damned if they didn’t include Tarkin in this movie. In Revenge Of The Sith, he was played by Wayne Pygram. He didn’t have any lines, but he looked the part if you squinted just right. It also didn’t hurt that the scene was like what, 2 seconds long? Anyway, here in Rogue One, we have a full on mo-capped Peter Cushing Tarkin and the effect was pretty unsettling. While one of the best renderings by ILM, there’s still way too much uncanny valley going on and it was uncomfortable to watch. What does this mean for film making as a whole moving forward? While it was used as a means to an end in something like Fast & the Furious 7, are we now going to see our late Greats digitally resurrected for prestige Academy bait many years after they die? I don’t know, it just seems like a “slippery slope” to some future where no one dies and famous names get diluted by work they may or may never would have attached themselves to while they were living.
As for the rest of the film, Rogue One is absolutely at it’s best when no one from A New Hope is on screen. Even Vader. Especially Tarkin. This band of Rebels is kinda fun and would have loved seeing a film divorced further from “Brand Awareness” than what we got. What I’m saying is I really enjoyed about 90% of this movie and it’s by far the best prequel in the series. I just wish film makers would think about plot holes they inadvertently create with films meant to fill in other pieces of backstory(how exactly does Leia think Vader doesn’t know the truth about the plans when the closing salvo of Rogue One has him literally chasing them into her ship? Why would she bother with “we’re on a diplomatic mission” business?). There were some real weird choices made in the production of this film-to the extent that most of the coolest imagery from the previews wasn’t even in the thing. Some were good and some were not, but I appreciate that they made the most difficult decision that goes against all conventional wisdom in today’s serialized movie market and killed everyone. That makes story sense in the larger scheme of things. It also made it more of a war movie than any previous Star Wars in that the heroes made the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good.
That’s my hot take.