Review – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-Chief

They didn’t lie. Rogue One was certainly a Star Wars Story and a pretty damn good one at that. Equal parts thrilling, dark and hopeful.

The concept is brilliant, focusing an entire film on the theft of the plans to the Death Star which served as the impetus of A New Hope, the very first Star Wars film. It’s such an important detail, but one that most probably never gave a second thought to. Credit to John Knoll for spotting that seed and Gary Whitta for developing a story and creating a whole crew of characters that are new but feel quite right in the Star Wars universe.

First off, fans can breathe a sigh of relief.  The widely reported reshoots do not impact the viewing experience. Rogue One is not a damaged, incoherent film in any way. Is it a perfect film? No. But that doesn’t mean that anything is broken. My complaints after one viewing are all fairly small.

From the get-go we know that this is not our typical Star Wars film. Sure, it begins with the usual “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” but missing is the subsequent text crawl that we’ve grown accustomed to seeing in every other Star Wars film previously. This was an inspired decision, one that subconsciously disorients the viewer and puts them in a position they’ve never been in with a Star Wars film before. We have zero idea of where we’re being dropped in the Star Wars universe. We’re not entering with the big picture having just been spoon fed to us. Anything is possible. This is followed by a VERY Star Wars moment, a ship in outer space. But this familiar opening is subverted since we find ourselves in a flashback, a first in Star Wars cinematic history (Rey’s force vision in The Force Awakens is not a flashback). It’s like they’re kinda, sorta playing by the rules, but not. Until I was sitting there watching it unfold, I hadn’t realized how much I’d gotten used to the way a Star Wars film is presented. It was exciting to be in that universe and have things be just a little bit different and not knowing what to expect.

The plot of Rogue One focuses on Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones. Jyn is tough as nails as a result of what she’s seen and how she was raised. She is stoic, even when over her head but there’s a vulnerability that Jones brings to the character that adds an important dimension. But make no mistake, as much as the film hinges on Jyn’s story, this film is an ensemble piece and they’ve assembled a very deep bench of talented and diverse actors and actresses unseen thus far in any Star Wars film, which is great news. There is representation for nearly everyone in the film and it never feels gimmicky or forced.

Most intriguing among them is Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor.  Andor is man of mystery, a character who operates in the gray area, doing bad things for a good cause. He is a means to an end and a character we haven’t seen the likes of before in any Star Wars film, a dark character in a world without much hope. Andor is another example of the way that Rogue One separates itself apart from past Star Wars films. A good guy has never been this bad before. In the other films the characters are either white hats or black hats. (This is where some will bring up Anakin. It’s very different because Anakin was never doing bad things for altrusitic reasons) That is not the case in Rogue One. People who had reservations about Han shooting first are likely to take umbrage with Andor and his actions early in the film. I’ve heard people refer to Cassian Andor as the Han Solo of Rogue One. He’s not. People have a tendency to put characters in a bucket with one of the others that have come before. It’s a mistake and a disservice to well written characters to do this. Han Solo is a fast talking, charming smuggler, which is the polar opposite of Andor, who is a (seemingly) cold and calculating soldier doing whatever it takes for the rebellion.

Also of note is Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe, stealing nearly every scene he’s in with his daredevil-like fighting prowess and zen-like optimism. Chirrut is the closest thing we have to a Jedi in Rogue One. I wouldn’t want to spoil his backstory but suffice to say this is with good reason. Also noteworthy is Ben Medelsohn as Orson Crennic who delivers a chilling performance, making me wish we’d gotten this same intensity from Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux in The Force Awakens.

Star Wars fans have come to expect that we’ll have multiple films to explore new characters and that is Rogue One’s real problem. I wanted more time with characters like Cassian Andor, Jyn Erso, Saw Gerrera and Chirrut Îmwe. I wanted to see these characters journey prior to Rogue One. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the plot of Rogue One is utilitarian and has to operate at breakneck speed from the very beginning. The plot is literally life or death and there is precious little time to stop and smell the roses, which I appreciated. But the result is that the time we have with these characters feels truncated and left me wanting more. I’m sure that we’ll be getting a lot more of these characters via novels and comics and all the other avenues that Disney have in their arsenal for fans to get their Star Wars fix, but none of it is a suitable replacement for writers, actors and filmmakers all collaborating to bring a performance to life onscreen.

Going in, I was especially worried with how they were going to use Darth Vader in this film after early rumors indicated that we might see Vader in heavy action. It wouldn’t make sense that the very stiff looking Vader of A New Hope would be running around pulling ships out of the sky in action in Rogue One. I was happy to see how they handled Vader in the film. His last scene had me grinning like a fool.

Beyond Vader, it would have been very easy to fill Rogue One with too many nods to the subsequent Original Trilogy films. There are some great references in there, that will have fans excited, but it didn’t feel like they went over the line. This brings me to one of my main issues. Without revealing too much, there is a character in the film that has been brought back by use of CGI and it just doesn’t look right. I’m never that guy who whines about bad CGI, I’m usually pretty forgiving with that stuff, but this is a Star Wars film. Spend whatever you need to spend and take the time to make it look right. Or just don’t do it. As cool as it was that we were seeing this character, the CGI took me right out of it. I’m sure as a still shot the character it looks spot on, but in motion among real actors, it stuck out like a sore thumb. The rendering looked far too smooth and it felt like the dialogue would fall out of sync at any moment. There is another character brought to life with CGI that also bothered me a little, but at least it was brief. Less could have been more in both of these cases, though.

Ultimately, I had a great time with Rogue One. There is something in the film for every Star Wars fan. A credit to the cast and filmmaking team for actually expanding the Star Wars universe in a new and exciting way. I hope that Lucasfilm and Disney take note of what was accomplished with this film and apply what they’ve learned to other upcoming films under the “A Star Wars Story” banner. How cool would it be to have a television arm of Star Wars stories like this? An anthology series with wildly different types of stories that take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away? It’s big galaxy with a big sandbox, let’s get even more talented filmmakers in there and have some fun building things.

I’m sure you have your tickets already, if not get some. I can’t wait to give this one another look, or ten.

What an amazing time it is to be a Star Wars fan!

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Josh Weighs the Options on What We Might See for the Third Star Wars Spin-off Film

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by: Joshua Outred – Staff Writer

We’re so close to the release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story that I can taste it; in a matter of days we’ll be settling into our seats at the cinema ready to watch the first non-saga Star Wars film, a very special occasion indeed. The release of this first spin-off film will not only be important for us fans but for the creative minds behind Star Wars too, as Rogue One will stand as a sort of judgment point, where reactions will be analyzed and decisions made about where next to take these standalone movies after the release of ‘Han Solo’ in 2018.

In his recent coverage of Rogue One, Anthony Breznican of Entertainment Weekly reported that January will see the Lucasfilm brain-trust gather together, where they’ll map out the future of Star Wars cinema past Episode IX. Breznican finally confirmed that the third spin-off, set for 2020, was the long rumoured ‘Boba Fett’ film. That film has been temporarily put on hold since Josh Trank’s sudden departure last year. This begs the question of What ‘Star Wars Story’ will we eventually see in 2020? Will the Fett film be reignited, or will a great response to an all new cast of characters with Rogue One see Lucasfilm decide on something completely different and unexpected?

With the future of Star Wars cinema beyond Episode IX being a big question at the moment, I decided to take a little dive into what the third spin-off film could be. What do the fans want, as opposed to what is likely to be greenlit and announced next year.

 

Fan Favorites

Star Wars fans, we’re so demanding.. always wanting for nothing.. Joking aside, I feel like demand is the perfect word to describe certain areas of the fanbases’ hopes and dreams for the third spin-off. Although many of us will be happy with whatever is announced, there is most certainly a fan demand for specific character stories, starting with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Yes, Kenobi, he’s most certainly a film people want, and according to Anthony Breznican is high on Lucasfilm’s list awaiting the green light. The idea that Obi-Wan spent a many number of years on Tatooine watching over Luke intrigues people, and I can see why they want that story, Ewan McGregor was great as Kenobi in the prequels and seeing him play Obi at an older age where he’s probably learning great truths about the Force is exciting. If the Kenobi film were to be set in the period between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, there’s also a chance we’d see a younger Luke Skywalker and other classic characters return at a point in their life we have yet to see, I can see the interest. One thing that puts me off is this, what more about Obi-Wan Kenobi do we need to know? He’s a character with a lot of exposition thus far and unless Lucasfilm has great plans for him, I’m not so invested in a film revolving around him.

kotorfullboxartThe Old Republic and Origins of the Jedi. These two also keep coming up, there’s a huge amount of love out there for the Old Republic games, although I’ve never cared for them or that era. There is a large portion of the Star Wars fanbase who want to see that era reimagined on screen in the new canon. I think it’s an era that will eventually be explored, I feel that the current sequel trilogy is going to set up some form of backstory in which an Old Republic-Jedi Origin film will be able to explain how the Force became more than just that, how it became something beings embraced, using for good and for evil. I feel that a Jedi-Origin story could certainly tie into that era, hence why I’ve included both in this segment. It’s possible that Lucasfilm would want the origin of the Jedi Knights to be set in an era where the Old Republic exists, in doing so we would gain exposition on both stories, ‘killing two birds with one stone’ so to speak. I’ll be completely frank with you here, I have absolutely zero interest in visiting the Old Republic era and/or the complete beginnings of the Jedi, I don’t feel like it’s an era that necessarily needs to be explored, and to be honest, a time set so many thousands of years prior to where The Phantom Menace began may feel too far departed from what Star Wars is, a certain visual language that may have to abandoned when traveling so far into the past. The Jedi Origin story would be better utilized in pieces, being referenced in the films, not demystifying the whole thing with a film laying it all out. Sometimes less is more. (Jay: I’d imagine a lesson was learned by demystifying Vader in the Prequel Trilogy)

One more popular choice, there is.. Now, who could that be? The little green guy himself, Yoda. Although not voiced as often as the previous mentions above, people really would love a Yoda origin story. When it was first announced back in 2012 that Lucasfilm would be producing spin-off films, the popular three that were rumored were, ‘Han Solo’, ‘Boba Fett’ and ‘Yoda’. We now know we’re getting the ‘Han Solo’ film in 2018, and have recently gained more confirmation on the Fett film being one of the other’s, originally set to be the second until the controversy with Josh Trank benched the film. So could the other long rumored ‘Yoda’ film be the third standalone? Unlikely. The reason I say so is because I don’t think it’s a character Lucasfilm wants to necessarily Yoda Frank Oz Star Warstell a personal story about (at least not yet), I have no doubt that it’ll be made eventually, but in the first wave of films, doubtful. Yoda is a wildly popular character, and he’s shrouded in mystery so much so we don’t even know the name of his species (maybe Lucasfilm doesn’t either..?). A Yoda origin story could be incredible, not only would his character be exciting to really open up with, it’d be an incredible chance for the filmmakers to push the boundaries and use
every trick in the book to pull off successfully, embracing the oldest filmmaking tricks all the way down to those yet to be explored. I’d say leave it for now, it may be something better left for the future. (Jay: fingers crossed that it’s a romcom between Yoda and Maz Kanata. Imagine that Meet/Cute)

 

Likely Announcement

lando-fettWith the Lucasfilm brain-trust getting together in January to plot and green light future projects, it’s up in the air as to what will be chosen as the third Anthology film. The answer essentially comes down to the reaction of Rogue One, even though I feel that specific line of thinking is a little safe, that’s
Lucasfilm basically saying that if Rogue One doesn’t receive outstanding reactions they’ll go back to playing it safe, when they should really be going with whatever stories they want to tell, not what we want them to tell. So, what’s likely? Well, we’ve heard that the ‘Boba Fett/Bounty Hunter’ film mentioned previously is still a favorite and they’ve already done quite a bit of work already behind the scenes, but it would certainly undergo some changes with a new director coming on board. The Fett film could also tie into the ‘Han Solo’ film if it’s set around a younger Boba, being a perfect opportunity to tie two origin films together. Although a Fett film isn’t as much a popular choice as say, Obi-Wan, it’s a film I want to see and have always wanted to see. Boba Fett is a badass looking character, his imagery is iconic and yet he’s done nothing but flop on screen, I get that.. his onscreen physical performances ave kinda suck thus far, but it’s time to see the real in-universe reason for his reputation. There’s a story to be told with Fett, whether or not it’s of his younger self and a possible rivalry with young smuggler, Solo, or if they canonized his escape from the Sarlacc pit, there’s story there to be told. Imagine a noir-esque crime-thriller with Fett as the leading man? Yeah, I’d dig it!

 

What do I want?

What do I want to see? Well, I set that one up for you already and most who know me well know I love Boba Fett, I’m also an absolute sucker for crime-thrillers, so combining the two and having the likes of Kim Jee-Woo (I Saw The Devil) direct, I think that speaks for itself. I’m definitely interested in seeing Lucasfilm experiment with genre-style films for the spin-off’s, I’m less interested in seeing these flicks just explore the lore of Star Wars and more interested in the filmmakers bringing their specific styles to the table, where they can really let loose and spin the visual language of Star Wars in beautiful knots with a more personal stylistic language.

Rogue One is a matter of days away, and this is going to stand as a turning point in Star Wars cinema. It’ll set precedent for what comes next, and I truly hope Star Wars cinema pushes its boundaries, continuing diversity in its casting and stylistically speaking in terms of the visual language used by the future filmmakers.

Check Out the Two Newest Rogue One International Trailers! Chock Full o’ Rebel Goodness!

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From Lucasfilm comes the first of the Star Wars standalone films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, an all-new epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire’s ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the Star Wars timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.

I’m getting really excited for Rogue One, the last US trailer really got me buzzed and I’m enjoying the little bits that these new International variants are providing us. It’s hard to believe we’re barely a month off from another new Star Wars film. This was inconceivable five years ago. I don’t want to ever let this feeling go.

While this production as been mired in controversy over reshoots and internal power struggles, what really matters is what ends up on the screen come December 16th. We could all use a victory against the Empire, don’t you think?

Today’s third Rogue One International Variant:

 

And yesterday’s second:

Rumor: Christopher McQuarrie Did Some Work in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

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by: S. Scott Stanikmas – Senior Staff Writer

Star Wars fans are an obsessive bunch. Especially now with the saga continuing, via the regular Episodes as well as the off-shoot anthology series, any time a speck of news or rumor comes out the fan base is quick to pick up on it. So you have to wonder how the fans feel about the latest rumor that Christopher McQuarrie was brought on to do a little script doctoring for Rogue One.

Latino Review broke the story that the screenwriter / director came on a while back and did a little script work. He didn’t do a complete overhaul or anything drastic. The original script work was written by Gary Whitta, but he bowed out and then Chris Weitz took a whack at it. McQuarrie apparently came on for about two weeks, most likely to tighten up some nuts and bolts and smooth out some  edges.

If you’re looking for someone to doctor a script you could do far worse than McQuarrie. The man won an Oscar for The Usual Suspects, wrote the scripts for Valkyrie and Edge of Tomorrow, and wrote and directed Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and the VERY underrated gem Way Of The Gun.

With a resume like that McQuarrie is the man you want to try and toughen up a script. And with Rogue One being a war movie with no Jedi knights, tough is definitely the way you want to go.

Nothing has been confirmed yet by Disney or Lucasfilm, so we may just have to wait and see if McQuarrie gets a writer credit when the film comes out.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, with director Gareth Edwards at the helm, is filming now for a December 16, 2016 release.

Is ‘Rogue One’ Bringing Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin Back From the Grave?

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by: S. Scott Stanikmas

For a man who has been dead for almost two decades, Peter Cushing may have one of the biggest roles in the upcoming Star Wars: Rogue One.

Sources have been telling The Daily Mail that the studio is currently going through one of the most rigorous CGI re-creations ever to stay faithful to the character and bring Cushing as Tarkin back to life on the big screen:

“This is one of the most complex and costly CGI re-creations ever. Cushing is a pivotal plot line as he was the one to create Darth Vader and there’s a whole back story that will come out.”

One of the things people shit all over with the prequel trilogy as well as George Lucas’ tinkering with the original three films was the overuse and almost sickening reliance on computer graphics over conventional props and puppetry. This could turn out to backfire against the House of Mouse and LucasFilm in the long run.

People do love their throwbacks, and if the rumors are to be believed about the connections to the original trilogy, this will just be another in a long line of blasts from the past for the hardcore fans to geek out about.

I will give it up to the studio – at least they want to be as faithful to the actor as humanly possible. Even going so far so far as to watch hours of other footage to get the actors complete body down pat (in the films Cushing was in he always wore slippers and his feet weren’t visible):

“They are going through hours and hours of old footage from [Peter Cushing’s old] horror movies to recreate his legs and feet to produce realistic movements. It is eerie to see someone who has been dead for so long come to life on a screen.”

Hopefully this all works out for the best and it doesn’t seem hokey. I don’t think Disney would put out a subpar product or even let the process get this far unless it looked really good.

We’ll find out when Star Wars: Rogue One hits theaters December 16, 2016.