‘ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY’ (2016) SPOILER REVIEW – The Spoils of War
So now after a second viewing i feel like it is time to finally delve into all of the secret spoilery moments of Rogue One that i couldn’t mention in my Non-Spoiler review. Yes, as the title says, this review is going to be filled with spoilers so unless you want to ruin the film for yourself then leave this page now, see the film, and come back afterwards. There may also be some spoilers for the novel ‘Star Wars: Catalyst’ and the Disney X D show ‘Star Wars Rebels’ in here too, so be warned.
One of the craziest things happening right now is that the more i think about all of the genius ways in which the film includes Easter Eggs and connections to Episode IV and the other films and TV shows in the Star Wars universe the more i love this movie and want to relive it again and again. But before we get to those really big and awesome moments lets start at the beginning of the film where we see for the first time ever in a Star Wars film….. no opening crawl. Now, i’m not one of those whining brats who think they are owed an opening crawl and that it isn’t Star Wars without it, because that’s just a ridiculous overreaction. In fact, i was fully on board with the idea of not having an opening crawl going into this film for multiple reasons. One being that the events of the film are somewhat introduced in the opening crawl for Episode IV and so you don’t need a long scroll of text explaining where the universe it at because we already know. The other reason is that it would be a good way to differentiate the Star Wars Anthology films from the Episodic films, a sign that the general public can use to figure out that this is not following the main Star Wars story. Now after seeing the film twice, i have to say that my opinions on the matter have most definitely changed. For various reasons i think Rogue One would have actually benefited from having an opening crawl.
For instance, a lot of the backstory for Galen Erso, Orson Krennic, and even Saw Gerrera isn’t explored or explained in this film and is rather featured heavily in the novel ‘Star Wars: Catalyst’ which is essentially a prelude to this movie. I believe it would have been better for this film to include an opening crawl that briefly runs through Galen’s history with Kaiber Crystals, Krennic and the Empire, Krennic’s relationship with Galen and his running feud with Wilhuff Tarkin, and maybe even a little bit on Saw Gerrera’s attachment to the Erso family. This would have been very useful in catching the general public up to speed and giving more meaning to the opening scene and the conversations between Krennic and Galen, and Krennic and Tarkin. The other reason is just because the way they actually chose to open the film, with a cold open right after the ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…’ screen was very jarring and not well handled. If they were getting rid of the crawl it would have been best to either remove that ‘far, far away’ screen too and keep the cold open with the Rogue One title coming later OR keep that ‘far, far away’ screen but put the large Rogue One title screen straight after then ease into the story. But anyway, it is what it is and i’ve spent way too long analysing a missing slab of text.
I’ll get the ‘Star Wars: Catalyst’ related material out of the way now seeing as though i’ve already mentioned it….. When reading this book prior to seeing the film i thought it was a really good way of introducing the Erso family to the Star Wars Universe and would be something that wasn’t necessary to really get emotionally invested with those characters in the film and understand their past. Now that may be true when talking about Saw Gerrera and Lyra Erso but with Galen Erso and Orson Krennic i feel like to truly understand many of their scenes together the events of the book are pretty necessary to know. The film does a good job at giving you enough information about Saw Gerrera to where you understand his history with the Erso family enough to care about him when he eventually bites the dust (literally). Also as Lyra Erso gets killed right at the start of the film none of her content in the book is necessary for the general audience to know, it’s just so die hard Star Wars fans can experience this greatly written character before she is killed off.
But, much of Galen Erso’s backstory and his relationship with Orson Krennic remains a mystery throughout this entire film. The most you can gather from the film is that he once worked for the Empire and then escaped to a farm. You don’t get any information on how he and Krennic have a long history predating the Empire or his affiliation with Kyber Crystal research and it adds so many layers to his character providing new meaning for his dialogue scenes in the film. And the same thing with Orson Krennic’s character, many times in the film Krennic is criticised by both Tarkin and Darth Vader on the success of the super weapon and whether Galen Erso’s work was successful. You never really get the why in the film and it could have been done in one line of the opening crawl. Even the feud between Krennic and Tarkin is left quite ambiguous as to why they hate each other and the events of Catalyst really do add a lot to that conflict. What i’m essentially getting at here is that there are many moments in the film that don’t allow general fans who have not read Catalyst to get invested in them nearly as much as they should be.
Now for some of the characters we follow in the film, firstly Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus who are two of the most intriguing characters in the movie both for their interesting backstory, great chemistry and close relationship. Watching them clash with their very different approaches to combat and beliefs made for many great back and forth conversations that really allow you to see the bond they have and commitment to one another. The fact that Chirrut (like Lyra and many others in the universe) believed in the power of the force and was in tune with it not only made for awesome Donnie Yen style action sequences but was very cool to see how the force is more than a power utilised by those who are force-sensitive. I have a feeling whether it is in the form of a book or a comic we will see some sort of backstory for these characters before the Empire took over Jedha.
Something really awesome that i wasn’t really able to talk about in my normal review is the return of of many iconic characters from the Star Wars Universe. Firstly, seeing Mon Mothma in the film was just really cool, it’s an awesome way to really tie in the authenticity of these events with those in the original trilogy. Now seeing Bail Organa again played by Jimmy Smits was not only awesome it really was heartbreaking, especially knowing what happens to his character at the beginning of Episode IV. The line where he expresses that he needs to travel to Alderaan killed me because we know the fate awaiting him on that planet and being one of the founders of the Rebel Alliance alongside Mon Mothma we just wish he never died. He also has a really cool dialogue scene with Mothma where he perfectly sets up and hints at the events to come with by mentioning a certain ‘Jedi in exile’ and the person he trusts with his life to go and seek out this new hope to put an end to the Empire.
Now one of the biggest and most surprising character returns in this film is most definitely Grand Moff Tarkin, one of the Empire’s most decorated employees and Darth Vader’s right hand man is Episode IV. Not only is his appearance surprising because i didn’t know he would be in the film that much but also because well… Peter Cushing, the original actor of Tarkin, died over 20 years ago. So seeing Peter Cushing again, playing the role, with the voice and everything, was incredible, especially for someone who isn’t alive. Personally i thought the CGI to bring him to life was incredible…. not perfect, if you look closely you can see through it but if i said it wasn’t messing with my head i’d be lying. Like, i was looking at Peter Cushing and my eyes are telling my brain that, but my brain is saying that he is dead. This technology has come such a long way that i reckon there are definitely people out there who couldn’t tell that character was entirely CGI (with someone as a base model of course).
The other character return whose return wasn’t really a surprise was that of Princess Leia Organa looking exactly as she did in Episode IV. I had a very strong feeling that we were definitely going to see her in this film but i thought it would be a shot from behind or a shot from the neck down or at the very most a far shot to where you can’t distinguish her face. But nope, she gets the Tarkin treatment, and you get a very convincing young CGI Leia who also speaks a short line. It really was such a great way to end this film and tie it in perfectly with Episode 4 using one of the biggest and most important players in that film.
OK, i’m trying to keep my cool whilst talking about this character…… When it comes to returning characters, no-one is overshadowing the return of the all mighty Darth Vader to the big screen. Knowing he was going to be in this film it was obvious he wasn’t going to get more than 10 minutes of screen-time, but every scene we got of Vader in this film was just undoubtedly amazing. The first time you see him in this film he is in a more vulnerable state coming out of his Bacta Tank which is used to accelerate the healing of the full body burns he suffered at the end of Episode III on Mustafar. This was a cool scene just seeing what Vader does when he isn’t mowing down rebel soldiers. Speaking of Mustafar, seeing the planet once again was really really cool, and seeing that Vader has built a castle of sorts on the planet he obtained his injuries on is a nice little touch to his backstory. Then you get the great scene with Vader and Krennic discussing how the development of the Death Star Weapon had progressed so far where you see first hand how terrified Krennic is of Vader’s presence. This scene is also where you get some more hints of Tarkin lying about the functionality of the Death Star to stay one step ahead of Krennic. And then to top off this awesome scene you have Vader force choke Krennic and deliver a chilling one liner featuring a pun; “Don’t choke on your aspirations, Director Krennic”. Great way to end the scene.
But it doesn’t stop there, NO. IT. FUCKEN. DOESN’T………. Because right at the end of the movie after everyone else is dead and the Death Star plans are in the hands of the rebels all is good right??? WRONG! Because Darth Vader is on a mission and he will not stop until he gets his hands on those goddamn plans. This makes way for by far the BEST Darth Vader sequence in the history of Star Wars where he relentlessly fucks up two entire rooms full of rebel soldiers with absolute ease. When he first unleashes his saber you know shit is about to go down, and he deflects every damn bullet whilst at the same time cutting down rebels, whilst also holding people up to the fucking roof with the force and giving them the Darth Maul treatment. I don’t know how long this scene was but i was constantly losing my absolute shit second after second because it was so damn awesome……. Ok, lets bring it back down a bit, it’s an awesome scene that is probably the most memorable one from the entire movie.
Now lets talk about the third act of the movie which consists of an all out war breaking out over Scarif between the Empire and the Rebels which is one of the most thrilling space battles in the Star Wars films. The stakes were high, and you really felt that throughout the entire sequence where everyone is giving it their all, racing to find a way to get the Death Star plans successfully beyond the shield defences and off the planet. The scene is large in scale and many many people die brutally. The scene is also full to the brim of Easter Eggs and little details connecting the film more to Episode IV. One of the coolest details is that the footage inside the fighters of ‘Red Leader’ and ‘Gold Leader’ is actually unused footage of the real actors from Episode IV. The fact that Gareth Edwards sought out those clips and included them in the film is a really awesome detail that only links these films further in terms of authenticity. Also in this battle sequence is a really cool Easter Egg for all those ‘Star Wars Rebels’ fans. If you keep an eye out during that battle you can actually spot the ship ‘Ghost’ that is piloted by the rebel crew in the Disney XD show. Who is piloting it in this battle? No-one knows, and we may not know unless the show overlaps with the events of this film in the future. Also speaking of ‘Rebels’ Easter Eggs, if you actually listen during one of the scenes at the Rebel Base on Yavin 4 you can hear someone over the intercom calling for a ‘General Syndulla’, in the show Cham Syndulla is commonly known by that title, but i believe that at the time of this film it is his daughter Hera Syndulla who has taken up the General Syndulla title…… Just something to think about.
Oh, and speaking of everyone dying…… yeh, everyone dies in this film. Which is essentially what needed to happen in order to explain why none of them appear in the future Star Wars films, something that would be very hard to believe considering how instrumental they were in this film. And it was handled really really well, our group of Rebels all go out in very powerful scenes and in ways that connect to what Saw Gerrera talks about earlier in the film. In his conversation with Jyn he talks about fighting and doing things “for the cause” and this is like a sleeper theme that plays out throughout the entire film. Like, Galen Erso sacrifices his life and becomes a slave to the Empire for the Rebel cause, Chirrut Imwe sacrifices himself for the same cause, K-2SO does the same thing, it was a very subtle idea that if you pick up on it actually adds another layer to the film.
The Death Star obviously has a large presence in this film and the way they handled the use of the planet destroyer was great. The fact that they didn’t just go murder-crazy destroying entire planets at will and instead opted to use single reactor strikes to test the thing out was a really realistic look at it. And it also means that Alderaan will forever remain in history as the first planet to be destroyed by the Death Star. Also the fact that they addressed why the Death Star was so vulnerable from the exterior is such a clever connection to Episode IV. What this does is it prevents people from complaining that the damn thing was stupidly easy to destroy. This essentially means that Galen Erso is one of the most important people if not the most important person in the Star Wars universe as if he doesn’t put that flaw in the Death Star the entire Rebel Alliance would have been wiped out during and after the Battle of Yavin.
One scene i have to mention as literally serving no purpose in terms of the story, featuring a bland CGI tentacle monster, and being weird in general is the scene where Saw Gerrera wants to read the mind of Bodhi Rook, the pilot who defected from the Empire. Firstly the tentacle monster was that one bit of CGI that really stands out and doesn’t work in the film which it looks like every Star Wars film will have from now on….. (The Rathtar scene in The Force Awakens). Also this scene did not matter at all when looking at the main story or even a side-plot in the film. The whole point was for Saw Gerrera to see if Bodhi was lying about Galen Erso, but then in the next scene where he talks with Jyn he is stil skeptical about the authenticity of his story……. sooooo….. the mind reading doesn’t work???? And he mentions that “One tends to lose one’s mind” when subjected to the aliens tentacles…… and it does work, for half a scene and then he’s back to his normal self. So really this entire scene served no purpose at all.
Now that the film is out and if you are reading this you have seen the film a really interesting thing to do is to go back and watch the early Rogue One trailers. Specifically check out the first Rogue One Story Trailer, one thing you will notice (other than the missing scenes/lines) is that there is a very different story being told there and one that would have made a very different film, at least in the first two acts. The funny thing is, no-one is going to care or even notice this difference or stupidly blame reshoots because the movie was good. If this movie turned out to be anything less than good then there would be riots of keyboard warriors blaming the reshoots and saying that the story being advertised in the early trailers would have been better. But guess what, who cares, it’s a really interesting juxtaposition that gets you thinking what was this film before? We will never know….
And so there you have it, that is my spoiler review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story which i can firmly say is a fantastic Star Wars movie that Star Wars fans will love for the connections it has to Episode IV and really from now on should be watched back-to-back with that movie. To save people the time Lucasfilm should release a Blu-Ray where the last scene of Rogue One instantly transitions into Episode IV and just have a massive 4 hour movie. That first scene of Episode IV means so much more now that we know what Vader just went through or should is say WHO he went through. But anyway if you’re looking for my score you can find that in my Non-Spoiler review and until Episode VIII next year….. May the force be with you.