Is Rogue One a good movie? Yes. Is it great? Maybe. And while it comes to, perhaps, the most rousing conclusion of any Star Wars movie to date, it has some big flaws that are hard to overlook. Namely Darth Vader. But we'll get to that in a minute. While most people won't bother to read why he's handled so poorly here, we'll first admit that he's fun to watch. And if what he were doing didn't happen minutes before we see him in Star Wars: A New Hope, it would be some of the best Darth Vader moments we've ever witnessed in a movie or TV show.
But, alas, his final scenes in Rogue One happen just mere minutes before we first meet him in the original 1977 classic, and for whatever reason, he's just not the same Darth Vader from earlier in the franchise. But perhaps there is a logical reason for that. We'll get to fan theories a little later, because we're sure Rogue One will help spawn a lot of new ones. Before we continue, abandon ship all ye who fear spoilers, because there are going to be a lot of them from this point on.
The story behind Rogue One is simple enough. In fact, the entire plot is revealed in the opening crawl for A New Hope, giving a third act spoiler nearly forty years in the making. In this Star Wars spin-off, we get to see the Rebels first great victory over the Empire, and boy, is it a doozy. What happened to this regime by the time the Rebels get to the Death Star in a New Hope? Neither side of this space war seems to be holding up their end of the bargain in terms of what happens here. This is a galactic brawl unlike no other ever witnessed in the franchise. And it can't help but dwarf the iconic climax of the original.
And that may be the biggest problem with Rogue One. It's too big. It's too ambitious. It's too full of energy. Basically, it's everything you want in a Star Wars movie, but it's in danger of making the 1977 original kind of suck. It's nearly impossible to watch Rogue One and A New Hope back to back. Sure, that's the intent by Disney and Lucasfilm. One movie seamlessly drifts into the other. The Rebels steal the plans, Princess Leia gets them in her hands, and fans know the rest by heart. But Rogue One now makes A New Hope look like a lethargic lumping beast of boring. It's like watching The Road Warrior and Fury Road side-by-side. The new, fresh energy of today's filmmaking techniques simply aren't on display back decades ago. And it's jarring to say the least.
But the abundant energy in Rogue One isn't the only thing making it awkward in terms of what has become before it. There are a few issues that are hard to over look. Or just simply annoying. The cameos are fun, but some don't make sense, some feel shoehorned in, and others are hampered by their quality, because, let's face it, some of the VFX still aren't where they need to be to pull this off. But that's where George Lucas' tampering with his old classics might have set a precedent for better things to come. And maybe in a few years, Lucasfilm will revamp some of the flawed VFX imagery here. And yes, we did just call this stunning achievement flawed. While he doesn't want to be named here, one of the top Star Wars fan leaders reluctantly agreed that perhaps some of the VFX could be improved as technology continues to evolve. You probably know what we're already getting at before we dive into this.
Watching Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, it's hard not to get swept away by its grand adventure, its thrilling space battles, and its dark take on the material. There's a lot of death and destruction in this movie, and if you suspected that none of the new characters make it out alive you'd be right. But we don't think those are problems at all. Now, what follows are the true things I feel Rogue One got wrong about Star Wars.
Darth Vader's intensity doesn't add up.
Here's the thing. I remember being in the theater for an advanced preview screening of Attack of the Clones before the general public got a chance to see it. And the audience went ape poo-doo when Yoda ignited his lightsaber and proceeded to trounce Count Dooku. Then, I was there opening night, with none of the filmmakers or press in attendance. And the scene got a similar standing ovation. People loved it. It was thrilling in the moment. But then a few weeks later, the buzz wore off, and people suddenly had a problem with this scene. It has since become one of the more criticized things in the prequel trilogy. Some hardcore fans absolutely hate this character development in terms of the Jedi master's overall arc, presumably showing why he was so revered. Twenty-three years pass in the life of Yoda before we see him again, as the aging Jedi Master is too frail to move like he once did when Luke comes calling.
So. Here's the rub. Darth Vader gets a similar scene in Rogue One. He does get to use his lightsaber. And in the moment, it is awesome. The audience was cheering. It brought the house down. But watch A New Hope immediately afterwards, and it's a definite buzzkill. The Darth Vader we see at the end of Rogue One is not the Darth Vader we meet in the opening moments of A New Hope. In this spin-off, he is full of piss and vinegar. He is ruthless as he kills rebels left and right to get back the Death Star plans. He takes on an army all by himself without even breaking a sweat. But then, literally a few minutes later, switching movies, we see him lumber through the Tantive IV, and he does not kill one rebel soldier with his lightsaber. Instead, he sacrifices the lives of many stormtroopers. Why? He just proved he's a bad ass that can kill everyone in this hallway. Why doesn't he continue his reign? It's not like he storms the Tantive IV slicing everything in sight like the monster Rogue One makes him out to be.
We used to think Darth Vader was a bad ass in the opening moments of 1977's A New Hope. But now he's a slow moving mellow fellow who comes across pretty nice from what we just saw him do only mere seconds ago. Okay, maybe overlook that. But then later on in the movie, we see him fight Obi-Wan Kenobi, and he moves like an old man who has just gotten off the couch at the nursing home for the first time in years to swing his lightsaber around. He gets winded, quickly, and if Obi-Wan hadn't of sacrificed himself to save Luke and his friends, we're almost sure Kenobi could have taken the Sith lord.
How in the hell does Darth Vader at the end of Rogue One go from a bad ass killing machine to a lumbering giant who mostly relies on his choking powers in A New Hope? Well, I have a theory on that.
I'll call it the drained battery theory. Perhaps the Bacta tank we see Darth's limbless body in at the halfway point of Rogue One is giving him renewed energy. He is completely at 100% when he gets out of the bacta tank. Then he drains his energy the more he walks around in that sure to be heavy helmet and cloak. After he kills that squadron of rebels, he's pretty tired. And with the events of A New Hope moving like they do, perhaps he never gets to climb back into his Bacta tank until his big showdown with Luke Skywalker in Empire Strikes Back. It could explain the waning lightsabers and the lumbering half-assed moves we're now forced to contend with in A New Hope. Because the Darth Vader at the end of Rogue One, mind you, meets up with Obi-Wan just a few days later. And there is no way the Darth Vader at the end of Rogue One doesn't just wipe the floor with Obi Wan, killing him with a few swift strokes before single-handedly taking out the Millennium Falcon. But, alas, he does have to let Luke get away, or the Empire would have never found the hidden Rebel base. So there is that. Again, is anyone bothered by how epic the end of Rogue One is when compared to the end of A New Hope? Just in Tie Fighter numbers alone, they should have been able to wipe out the Rebels small fleet without much effort. But forget that. I'm getting off track. The Darth Vader at the end of Rogue One is a slaughtering, all-powerful badass fool. In A New Hope, he has trouble fighting an old man with a stick. Rogue One is in danger of making me never want to watch the original Star Wars again, and that in itself kind of sucks.
Overuse of CGI Grand Moff Tarkin and CGI Princess Leia
Robert Downey Jr. Left jaws agape in Captain America: Civil War, when his pretty young face appeared on screen unblemished by years of hard living. It was the RDJ we remembered from the 80s, as fresh as the day he starred in Weird Science and Back to School. Some truly believed VFX had reached the ultimate pentacle, where aging, very old, or even deceased celebrities could be brought back too their prestige heyday. Rogue One, with Lucasfilm and ILM at their side, proves we're not there yet as they resurrect Peter Cushing from the grave to reprise Grand Moff Tarkin and give Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia a 19-year-old facelift. The CGI in the movie is amazing. Some of the best ever put on screen. But that doesn't keep these two beloved characters from looking like video games, or cartoons here in 2016. It's jarring and it took me directly out of the movie. These characters just don't look or feel right, and while it's exciting to see a young Princess Leia, it feels wrong to see her like this. Why not just recast these roles with younger actors? They're going to do it for Han Solo. The only saving grace is that this technology seems to be improving at an expedient rate. Perhaps George Lucas set the precedence. And a decade from now, LucasFilm and ILM can go back and improve these VFX so that they look more human? Also, the reason Downey looks so good in Civil War? Because he still looks good now, and it doesn't take much to clear up his aging skin. We're seeing Downey with a VFX facelift. Here, we're watching blatantly CGI'd resurrections done through motion capture. And yeah, we can definitely tell the difference.
Title cards introducing planets isn't very Star Wars.
Director Gareth Edwards wanted his standalone Star Wars spin-off to stand out from the previous 7 live-action Star Wars movies. So he took a cue from the Ewoks TV movie and abandoned the opening crawl. He gives us a prologue instead that introduces Jyn Erso at a young age as her father Galen is stolen away by the Empire and her mother is shot dead as Bambi, a Disney tradition. That is all well and fine, and works for the movie. But then he goes a step further, doing something no other Star Wars movie has done yet. He introduces each planet and location with a title card. That's okay for some movies, I guess. But it rubbed me the wrong way here. I've heard others say they liked this. But the problem is, no other Star Wars movie had to introduce its planets in quite the same way. Sure, we didn't know the name of the planet Luke had secluded himself on in The Force Awakens until weeks after that movie's release last year. But that was part of the mystery. Here, like other Star Wars movies, we hear the names of these planets mentioned enough times that we know what they are and what they're called. Especially Jedha and Scarif. We don't need bothersome title cards that introduce each and every planet. It's a different kind of sci-fi for a movie that isn't Star Wars. Sure, it makes this one stand out from the Skywalker saga, but it doesn't help anything, and sorta takes away from the mystique and vastness of the Star Wars universe.
Walrus Man and Dr. Evazan cameo timeline seems off.
Ok, this is going to be a decisive one, and people will surely rush to its defense. But did we really need to see Ponda Baba (a.k.a. "Walrus Man") and Dr. Cornelius Evazan (Mr. "I don't like you either!") on the moon of Jedha? This cameo is the very definition of fan service, which there is a lot of in Rogue One. But it's not that they're in the movie that is so bothersome. It's what happens shortly after we see the pair walking down a road. I don't know about Ponda, but the Dr. is wasted. They bump into Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO, do their little song and dance, and then go on their way. They seem to be enjoying some off time on Jedha, a Jedi holy planet. What they're doing there? Who nows, doesn't necessarily look or sound like a place these two miscreants would hang out. But whatever, that's not the problem. The area is heavily secured by Imperial Forces who are checking everyone's I.D. So coming and going looks about as fun as crossing the border of Mexico and infiltrating a police state. But then, well, all hell breaks out. And then, a big portion of this planet is blown to smithereens. Let's say the Empire doesn't mind wiping out their patrolling troops. The Stormtroopers are as bad a shot as ever. But I find it hard to believe that with what goes down on Jedha allowed for these two to get out and get to Mos Eisely just a few days later. Sure, maybe they were on their way to their ship. And they abandoned the planet ASAP. But I'm more inclined to believe that they died in the after math of everything that goes down on Jeddha. Hopefully I'm proven wrong, and there is some kind of comic book or novel that gives us the backstory on how these two got off the explosive, planet of doomed Jedha and to the Mos Eisely Space Port. Perhaps Star Wars Rebels can address it in one of their future episodes?
C-3PO and R2-D2 quickly shoehorned in for fan service.
Ok, so this isn't a Skywalker family saga sequel, or anything like that. So there really isn't much of a place for C-3PO and R2-D2 story-wise. But we know the iconic droid pair are around someplace. And yup, there they are, on Yavin 4. Rogue One doesn't break the tradition, leaving the droids out. Though, they are relegated to the sidelines, and only get a few minutes of screentime. Perhaps 90 seconds. At that, they feel shoehorned in, and their scene does nothing to advance the story. Sure, it allows the audience to howl loudly and applaud, but because of that, you can't even hear C-3PO's one line of dialogue. They are just quick window dressing hung as an easy Easter egg to point and marvel at. It's a speedy cameo that could be cut from the movie, and no one would ever know the difference. But their cameo on Yavin 4 also calls into question just why they were on Tantive IV and how they got there. I'm sure there is some logical explanation, but something about it doesn't quite sit right. We see Tantive IV heading into battle during the big climactic end fight scene. Why not have their cameo there, if have it at all? Just to be able to keep saying that 3PO and R2 are the only characters to be in every Star Wars movie? Meh.
Cassian coming back to life after his big fall... just in time to save Jyn.
Is Cassian a slasher in a horror movie? Cause he sure comes back from the dead like one. It's obvious that the ending was changed watching this movie. And it seems like Cassian really should have died during his big long fall that saw his head smashed against a couple of metal beams more than once. The broken ribs alone would have kept him from being able to raise his blaster, let alone shoot it. Unless his race have plexiglass bones, or something? There is a scene in the second trailer, which I'll get to in a second, that hints Cassian really did die in that fall. And that Jyn also met her demise in a completely different way than what we see play out here. In the original cut, these two did not die starring off into the sunset of Scarif as the Death Star demonstrated its immense powers. But the ending was changed for whatever reason, and because of this, Cassian got to live a little while longer, only to die again seconds later. But not before killing main bad guy Orson Krennic, who succumbs to the fallacy of the talking killer, the cliche of all cliches. It will be interesting to see how the original ending played out, which we're sure to learn in the days following Rogue One's release. Which brings us to our next item on the table.
Jyn faces off against a Tie Fighter
Were you waiting for Jyn Erso's climatic duel with a Tie Fighter? I sure was. As it was the money shot in the second full-length trailer that was released. And part of that scene is still intact, so you have reason to be waiting for it. But it's one of what is possibly many scenes cut from the movie. Who was in the Tie Fighter? Was it Krennic? Did he gun down Jyn in cold blood? Or did a X-Wing Fighter save her at the last minute? Or was this Cassian, who still survived his fall in the original cut, coming to rescue her the same way Chewbacca and the Ewoks did at the end of Return of the Jedi, when they seemingly had Han Solo and Princess Leia cornered with their stolen AT-ST Scout Walker? Rogue One already has kind of an 'end of Jedi' feel too it. Perhaps this scene was just a little too on the nose. Whatever it is, it was a disappointment to see it missing. And they are still using it in the TV spot running heavily right now.
Missing Darth Vader footage
And speaking of deleted scenes, the first Darth Vader footage that audiences were shown in the second trailer, where he stands agains a red screen, is missing too. Which means there was more Darth Vader to go around. Yes, the trailer serves as proof that some Darth Vader scenes got cut out of the movie as well. Perhaps because he was old and slow in these scenes that matched up with A New Hope, and the Disney brass didn't like that? It's obvious that Darth Vader's big gotcha moment at the end of the movie was tacked on at the last minute. But it would have still been cool to get some of these missing scenes in the movie. Perhaps we'll get to see them when the Blu-ray comes out. Though, there are scenes in The Force Awakens trailer that we still haven't seen, that have skipped two different home releases. This movie could have used more old school Vader. Too bad, it looks like that all wound up on the cutting room floor.
Everyone in the Rogue One gang bonds a little too quickly...
This is a gripe that has been heard a lot. But it sure seems like Jyn and her crew come together a little too swiftly. It's rushed along, and the ragtag gang of lovable scamps is only in place to service the story. While it's sad when they all die, we don't ever really feel that any of the core Rogue One team members were truly friends. Sure, Jyn and Cassian get a few nice moments there at the end, but did they care if Chirrut and Baze passed away? Did they care f-all about poor Bodhi Rook? Maybe the point is that they all came together out of necessity not any kind of camaraderie or friendship. And that certainly appears to be the case. Problem, we don't get the same feeling from these characters that we did when Obi-Wan, Han, Luke, Chewbacca, Leia and the droids all formed their little family. When it comes down to it, it's not supposed to feel that way I suppose. Instead, it feels oddly economic and devoid of emotion. It's hard to get attached to or care about any of these new guys the same way we do other characters in the previous movies. This gang of new characters is all fodder for the Imperial death machine. They make a great sacrifice. But I wish we felt more for them. Instead, the end comes like a quick game of ten little Indians. You can only shrug and think, 'Whelp, that's too bad. So sad. Let's see, who buys it next?'
Where are Porkins and Biggs?
Maybe I'm missing something in the Star Wars folklore or canon. But the raid on the Death Star presumably took place not even a week after the Rebel raid on Scarif. So where the heck are Porkins and Biggs during this big space battle that ends Rogue One? They go out of their way to show us Jon "Dutch" Vander (a.k.a. Red Leader) and X-Wing pilot Garven "Dave" Dreis (a.k.a. Gold Leader) in the fight against the shield gate. And it appears that the Rebels have drug their entire army out of hiding for this raid. Are Porkins and Biggs sitting back on Yavin 4, letting their pals die? Are they second stringers? Where the heck are they? Well, we know from some deleted scenes that never made it into A New Hope that Biggs could very well be on Tatooine with Luke Skywalker during this big battle. Or maybe Gareth Edwards and his team just didn't want to overload with cameos and Easter eggs. But the return of Porkins would have brought the house down. Where the hell else will he ever show up in a Star Wars movie but here? This is a big missed opportunity.
Lightsaber Kyber Crystals plot is mostly abandoned.
Leading up to the release of Rogue One, there has been a lot made about the first-ever big screen introduction of the Kyber Crystals, which are used to fuel a Jedi's lightsaber. They also give the Death Star its immense power. But it all comes on like an after thought here. Not much is made about the Crystals, aside from Jyn looking at the one that sits around her neck. It does allow for one flashback, and it serves the story ever so slightly, but anyone looking to learn more about the Kyber Crystals or their true place in Star Wars lore will have to look elsewhere. They are underutilized and never quite explained in a way that would make them seem so important to the lay fan, watching and learning about them for the first time.
Jimmy Smits' Age in Sith Vs Rogue One Doesn't Match Ewan McGregor to Alec Guinness in a New Hope.
Perhaps the air is a little bit fresher on Alderaan, or his race of people have mighty good bone structure. Whatever it is, Bail Prestor Organa, Leia Organa's adoptive father, looks damn good for his age. At least when we compare him to Obi-Wan Kenobi in a New Hope. We see Bail just days before his death by decimation of the planet Alderaan, and he doesn't look a day older than he did in Revenge of the Sith (okay, maybe a little, but not much). The Senator of Alderaan has held it together very nicely over the 19 year gap between those two movies. Obi-Wan Kenobi, on the other hand, must have been hit by those twin suns on Tatooine pretty hard, and perhaps that accounts for his aged skin. In Revenge of the Sith, Bail appears to be older than Obi-Wan, with actor Jimmy Smith current age 61. Ewan McGregor is 45 years old. Though, he was playing Obi-Wan at an older age when we saw the then 34 year old actor last play the character. Though, that said, Alec Guinness was roughly the same age Jimmy Smits is now when he played Obi-Wan, though we think he was meant to be older in character. However you want to divide facts, Obi-Wan Kenobi looks very old in A New Hope, and Bail, well, he looks damn good for his age.
Riz Ahmed goes full-on Doc Brown.
While most of the movie kept me rapt while watching it play out, the big Back to the Future moment at the end of Rogue One pulled me right out of the experience and had me groaning. Bodhi Rook, a former Imperial pilot with strong technical skills now working with the Rebel squad, is trying to get a communication link open to the rebels above him, who have been shut out of Scarif by a big galactic gate surrounding the entire planet. And while trying to run cable from one position to the next, he runs out of wire just like Doc Brown at the end of Back to the Future, trying to get the cables set up for the lightening strike. And the rest of this moment plays out with the same kind of tension. Only, it doesn't quite work here, because we've already seen this before. It's a weird nod that was clearly inspired by that 1985 classic. But it felt cheap, and used, and recycled. Seriously, why did the end of Rogue One suddenly have to turn into Back to the Future? It's a strange choice. And it doesn't help that I, myself have always been perturbed by the tension this scene causes Doc Brown. Watching these moments play out again in Rogue One felt like my fur being petted backwards. Speaking of which, and on a side note, Salacious B. Crumb and Chewbacca not withstanding, how come none of the characters in Star Wars have ever been seen owning a pet? Doc Brown had one...Just saying...
The Death Star has too much backstory compared to The Starkiller Base.
Perhaps this is more a flaw with The Force Awakens than it is Rogue One. It all depends on how you look at it. There is a lot of info about the construction of the Death Star in Rogue One. And it's mostly information fans of A New Hope never needed (unless your name happens to be Kevin Smith). There's so much story here, some of it gets abandoned, like the Kyber Crystals that fuel its immense power. This seems to be an important subplot, but it all but disappears, and we never hear the word Kyber Crystal again through two more movies about the Death Star. No one mentions these crystals in The Force Awakens, either, which we believe may tie into some of the story in Star Wars 8. The Force Awakens wrapped up its death station storyline succinctly with a janitor throwing a captain down a garbage chute, allowing the Rebels to win the day. Here, it takes an entire Rebel fleet a very hard struggle to achieve something that carries a lot of weight and emotion. One of the two movies is screwing up big time here, depending on how you like your entertainment served. But this creates a very lopsided wedge in the force story telling structure. Perhaps The Force Awakens is so nonchalant about it's Starkiller Base because of what we see in this movie?
Saw Gerrera's eyes have changed color.
This is just a quick gripe, and one that was brought up before the movie even premiered. But Saw Gerrera has luminescent aquamarine colored eyes in the Clone Wars animated series. Forest Whitaker keeps his natural brown eye color in tact. Why? Did he not want to wear the contacts? If that's the case, couldn't they have fixed it in post? While a very minor gripe, some hardcore fans are already upset about this one. It seems like such a simple thing. But in true established Star Wars canon, Saw is not the same as we see him on screen. Perhaps this could be explained away if he was part of the Star Wars Legends literature. But he's not. What gives?