Rogue One – Tied Down by Franchising

Because my job is awesome, I got to see Rogue One today with my work squad. I honestly wasn’t planning on watching this unless the WHS group wanted to go as a group, but I did watch it and it was… pretty good! But this is an NCB review so I can’t let this movie get away unscathed.

First of all, I liked a lot of the stuff this movie did. It distances itself (relatively, at least) from the “main plot” of the Star Wars franchise, which can only be a good thing. It does a lot of unusual stuff for a big tentpole movie, like emphasis to dying people and moral ambiguity when it comes to its terrorist metaphors. It packs diversity and an ensemble cast, which is a pretty ambitious thing to attempt, even if your eventual goal is to turn them all into action figures (except the girl, who is the ensemble lead, ironically…)

But the film is restricted by its existence in the Star Wars universe. The writing often feels scattered and inconsistent, jumping rapidly from Serious Business to Avengers-level snarking. The ensemble cast is fun but mishandled; nobody, not even Felicity Jones, is given quite enough time to flesh out their character properly. There is just too much going on.

A big part of this problem is, like I said, the fact that Rogue One is shackled to the parent franchise. By necessity, the movie has to drop the word “hope” once every 10 minutes to foreshadow a movie that’s been out for nearly 40 years. Much like Halo: Reach, which is probably way more similar than you’d like to think, the conclusion of this movie is forgone, which robs the film of a lot of weight. A prequel has to be interesting in the events that happen, and while Rogue One is indeed that, it needlessly wastes time in many places by pretending that there is a “maybe” in any situation where we know there isn’t.

I can’t say that Rogue One is bad, and I can’t even say that you shouldn’t see it, because it’s quite good. But, much like with Pixar or Quentin Tarantino, please please PLEASE don’t give it more credit than it deserves. It’s got a lot of flaws and most of them come from the fact that it’s a Star Wars movie. But this story wouldn’t be sold if it wasn’t a Star Wars movie. So go out sometime and take a chance on an obscure movie that seems interesting to you.