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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Now With 50+ Images! Check Out the First Trailer to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story!!

Rogue One Trooper

by: Jay Carlson – Editor-in-chief

Wow, here it is, the first trailer to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Take a look!

And just like that we now have our first real look at what’s in store for us with the first Star Wars spinoff film. I’d seen a few things previously, (that I’ve unfortunately been unable to report on) that had me really believing in this film. To be honest, I was sold when I’d first heard the ingenious idea to have a film centered around the theft of the Death Star plans that was only referenced in Episode IV, giving a new twist to the whole story that we already know so well.

Lucasfilm’s Rogue One, which takes place before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, tells the story of unlikely heroes who have united to steal plans to the dreaded Death Star. 
 
The cast includes Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, and Forest Whitaker. “Rogue One” is directed by Gareth Edwards, produced by Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur, and Simon Emanuel, executive produced by John Knoll and Jason McGatlin, and co-produced by John Swartz and Kiri Hart.

The First Image From ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ is Dark and Moody and Raises Some Interesting Questions

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by: S. Scott Stanikmas

At the D23 Expo this weekend, the first official picture from Star Wars: Rogue One was released, and it was a dark little picture that set off a myriad of questions:

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First off, I love the feeling this picture gives off. It looks like a ragtag group of rebels picked for the worst job ever. Like they know it’s a suicide mission, but if they don’t do it they know it won’t be done right.

Now onto the questions. This picture raises quite a few of them:

  • Donnie Yen’s character looks blind. How exactly does he help them out? If he’s not a Jedi that uses the Force (this has been said to be a Force-less film), just what does he do to make an impact on the mission?
  • Techie Riz Ahmed seems to have a Galactic Empire insignia on his outfit. Is he planning on going undercover in the quest to steal the Death Star plans? Is he the way in for the rebel group? Did he flip sides and join the rebels?
  • Why does Diego Luna look like Biggs Darklighter? This is a bit of a theory shooting around the internet right now, but the actor is sporting the same sweet ‘stache that Darklighter has. With Felicity Jones’ character already being rumored to have ties to original trilogy character Boba Fett, is this just another tie-in to the universe?

With shooting underway in the UK hopefully more news is forthcoming. However we may have to wait until the Gareth Edwards’ directed Star Wars Story (now the re-branded name from Anthology) hits theaters on December 16, 2016.

‘Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One’ Signs ‘Sherlock’ Actor Jonathan Aris

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by: S. Scott Stanikmas

It looks like Star Wars is raiding the Sherlock cast for its next cast member.

Jonathan Aris, who plays forensic team member Anderson on the hit BBC drama Sherlock, has signed on for the first Star Wars Anthology film, Rogue One.

The news comes from the actor’s Spotlight page, where it has him listed as a character named Senator Jebel.

Other actors who have listed their castings on the page have all turned out to be true, so even though this wasn’t announced through any official channels this could pretty much be taken at face value until proven otherwise.

Nothing else is known about the character other than his name. With the film beginning filming very soon, I’m sure we’ll find out more as time progresses.

The Gareth Edwards’ directed film is set to be the first in a series of anthology films that follow storylines outside of the main Skywalker story going on in the main Episodes. This film will revolve around a heist of the Death Star plans that takes place between Episode III (Revenge of the Sith) and Episode IV (A New Hope).

Star Wars: Rogue One will hit theaters on December 16, 2016.

‘Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One’ Eyes a Pair of Actors for Major Roles.

by: S. Scott Stanikmas

The world went a little nuts when director Gareth Edwards took the stage at Star Wars Celebration this past weekend to talk about the upcoming film Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One. Along with plot points, Edwards confirmed Felicity Jones as the only cast member. But things are changing.

It’s being rumored that Riz Ahmed, who was amazing alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler, is in the cast of the first Star Wars Anthology film.

The Wrap is also reporting that Sam Claflin (from the last two Hunger Games flicks, Catching Fire and Mockingjay Part One) is a “frontrunner for one of the ensemble roles.” The website is also reporting that the rumored casting of Ben Mendelsohn is in the bag and a sure thing.

Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One will be a different film from all the other ones we’ve seen in a galaxy far, far away. Edwards has said that his film, which centers around the mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, will be more of a war movie than a sci-fi flick. It won’t focus on Jedi knights and lightsabers, instead it will tell the story of “a group of individuals who don’t have magical powers that have to somehow bring hope to the galaxy.”

Star Wars Anthology: Rogue One is set to storm theaters December 16, 2016.

Details About ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’ From This Weekend’s Star Wars Celebration!

by: S. Scott Stanikmas

So Star Wars Celebration 2015 is in the books. It started with a bang and ended with one as well.

Today’s main panel had Godzilla director Gareth Edwards talking about his upcoming standalone – excuse me, Anthology Film, Star Wars: Rogue One.

Edwards was quoted as saying during the panel that he “couldn’t sit in the cinema knowing someone else made this film.”

The main focus on this film is that it’s a war. Set between Episode III and Episode IV, it has been confirmed that the plot revolves around plans for rebels to steal the designs for the Death Star. It was said that this film will be more about the grays of combat, with good guys doing bad things and bad guys doing good things – pretty much just people trying to survive in the hell that is war.

The absence of the Jedi Order will be felt, but we’ll get a more defined sense of the black and white / good vs. evil world that was A New Hope.

The heist aspect was downplayed and the war movie aspect was really stressed, meaning we can expect something more along the lines of Zero Dark Thirty and Saving Private Ryan than Ocean’s 11, like was originally thought.

Edwards can create a world where characters matter – his first film Monsters showed us that. If he decides to go the route of “regular soldiers fighting the good fight” instead of “Jedi’s taking in a hundred soldiers at once” we should get a very interesting piece of work.

And the Actress Leading the First Standalone Star Wars Film Is…

by: S. Scott Stanikmas

The internet is buzzing with the casting news for the first standalone Star Wars film. Many sources were stating that Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany was a lock for the role. But the folks at The Hollywood Reporter have the inside track that actress Felicity Jones has landed the coveted role in a galaxy far, far away.

Jones was thought to be out of the running as she was signed on to be in Ron Howard’s upcoming film Inferno. But it looks like the stars have aligned and Disney/LucasFilm snatched the young up-and-comer to the role of a lifetime.

It looked like Felicity Jones was going to make her mark in movies when she landed the role of Felicia Hardy in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. That bit part was supposedly going to morph into a larger role as Hardy would eventually turn into her comic book alter-ego, the super thief Black Cat. But with the franchise possibly being rebooted for a third fresh start, those plans went down the drain.

Most recently Jones was seen in the critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated The Theory of Everything alongside Eddie Redmayne.

Now that the role of lead actress has been cast, the studio can turn it’s attention to who will play the male lead. Rumors are currently swirling that Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul and Edgar Ramirez (Wrath of the Titans, Deliver Us From Evil) are currently leading the pack for top choice.

The first standalone film, which is to be directed by Gareth Edwards, is set to hit theaters December 2016.

Will the First Star Wars Spinoff Film Have Both Han Solo AND Boba Fett?

by: S. Scott Stanikmas

Looks like the upcoming Gareth Edwards directed Star Wars universe set film is gearing up to start production in the near future. Our good friends over at Making Star Wars have recently had some sources let loose with some info that may tell us the direction the non-trilogy film is headed in.

It was said that many believe on site work will be primarily in Mexico and that bounty hunters will be important to the film as well. Ater pooling from a couple different sources, these are probably the two biggest talking points. We reported previously that this new movie could involve bounty hunters stealing plans for the Death Star. Latino Review has sources claiming that both Han Solo AND Boba Fett would make appearances in this film. This could lead to the film being a prequel in which we see a younger Han and the Fett cross paths, possibly while working for the Hutts. And Jabba’s base of operations on Geonosis could be portrayed by the Mexican landscape.

Another point was that set pieces from The Force Awakens are going to be repainted in a cost cutting measure. Again, the guys at Latino Review take this to mean that the newer stuff may get a paint job to resemble the more “old school” look from the time frame of the original trilogy.

It takes a lot on faith but that would be pretty cool. Especially to see a fan favorite charcter like Boba Fett back in the mix, even if it is only a prequel and we know what his fate will eventually be.

There’s still so much that could happen between now and when we get official word as to what the film will be, but specualting and being a geek about this stuff is half the fun, right?

Edwards Star Wars spinoff film is set to release on December 16, 2016.

The First Star Wars Spinoff Film is Auditioning Some Great Actresses

by: Jay Carlson

Even though we are still the better part of a year away from Star Wars: The Force Awakens hitting cinema screens, it doesn’t mean that the next Star Wars films aren’t moving full steam ahead.

Recently, screenwriter Gary Whitta parted ways with the production of Gareth Edwards’ upcoming Star Wars spinoff film after turning his first draft, but that hasn’t stopped Edwards from beginning to audition actresses.

The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that Gareth Edwards has auditioned Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany and is set to audition Rooney Mara this week as well. THR also reveal that Edwards and team also have recent Best Actress nominee Felicity Jones in their sights, but that scheduling may preclude her from the film.

These three are all wondderful actresses. Mara is able to play a myriad of emotions and can certainly go dark when the role requires it, while Jones really showed her chops in the Theory of Everything and Maslany has been ready to break through to the mainstream in a big way with Orphan Black.

What do you think? It might be telling that Edwards is speaking to actresses rather than actors first. Let us know what you think in the comments below!

The Plot of the First Star Wars Spinoff Film Revealed?

by: Jay Carlson

The good folks over at /Film have just dropped a potential bomb regarding the rumored plot of the first Star Wars spinoff film.

They’re reporting that the Gareth Edwards directed, Gary Whitta written film will focus on the theft of the Death Star plans from the Empire for the Rebellion by Bounty Hunters. This of course dovetails in nicely with the beginning of A New Hope. The film is reported to be a guys on a mission film in the vein of “Seven Samurai or Suicide Squad meets Ocean’s Eleven in the world of Star Wars.”

Take a look at /Film’s piece for a bit more info on who might appear as well as what ship might make an appearance. It’s a lot of rumor and  speculation at such an early stage considering we still know next to nothing about the Star Wars film being released prior to the spinoff.

What do you think? Does the expansion of the Star Wars universe sound like it’s getting off on the right foot? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

Another Character Rumored to Possibly get a Star Wars Spinoff Film…

 

Obi-Wan

Our pal Jason over at Making Star Wars is reporting that there are now renewed rumblings that Obi-Wan Kenobi might have a winning ticket in the Star Wars spin-off film lottery.

I’ve heard from quite a few people now that an Obi-Wan Kenobi movie is in the works. For the spin-off movies they were initially going to stay away from any Jedi or Sith characters. But I’m hearing now that because of the popularity of Obi-Wan (fans recently voting for him on the official website etc) that an art team is now working with a writer on concepts for an Obi-Wan movie.

The only thing we do know for certain is that Josh Trank (Chronicle and the upcoming Fantastic Four) and Gareth Edwards (Monsters and Godzilla) are each directing a spin-off film.

Rumors have swirled about who the spin-off films would focus on. Initially it was rumored that the three planned films would focus on origin stories for Han Solo, Yoda and Boba Fett. Obi-Wan was also mentioned last year, at one point. This could just be that original story popping up again, which tends to happen.

If there is a prequel planned for Obi-Wan I’d be curious about how far they’d go back into his history. I think the prequels wasted the talents of Ewan McGregor and would be ok with seeing him take another crack at it with the aid of a good script and a solid director at the helm. McGregor has stated as recently as last year he’d be up for a spin-off film, telling MTV News: “I think it’s a good idea. The only bit that I could get away with doing is after the last one I made, Episode III, before Alec Guinness, there’s that period where he’s in the desert.” McGregor went on to say that a story focusing on Obi-Wan surviving on Tatooine, prior to meeting Luke in Episode IV could be the way to go. “That might be my window, there, to tell that story. I don’t know what he did in the desert. We could make up some stuff.” He ended by saying, “Could be quite exciting. I’d be up for it, for sure, of course!”

I think with Disney calling the shots it’s a safe bet that all of these characters will eventually end up in some kind of spin-off film at some point, it’s just a matter of when.

How would you feel about Obi-Wan having his own film? Which character would you like to see in their own film?

 

The First Star Wars Spin-off has a Director!

Godzilla director Gareth Edwards has been signed to the first Star Wars spinoff film written by Book of Eli scribe Gary Whitta. No word on what the film will be, but if that leaked Star Wars release schedule is accurate it could very well be the Boba Fett standalone movie.

Below is a video of Gary Whitta geeking about Star Wars Long before getting the gig.

Indie Revolver and The Big Guy Take on Godzilla

 

Above you’ll find The Big Guy’s review for Godzilla. He is pretty high on it.  I’ve never been much of a Godzilla guy. I loved Godzilla 1985 when I was a kid. But I’m not among the legion of fans who LOVE Godzilla. And to be fair, outside of Godzilla 1985, the only other Godzilla I have seen since that time was Roland Emerich’s Godzilla abortion in 1998. I re-watched that one last night and it’s baffling how Ferris Bueller went from being one of the coolest characters on film to what he became in Godzilla 1998. Seriously, when did Ferris Bueller start running like a ponce?

As far as the new Godzilla, I liked it, but I didn’t love it. Not in it was glaringly disappointing and there were some bright spots but I did not find it especially remarkable. What did I like? Bryan Cranston, He was the most compelling part of the story. Actually, his story would have made a compelling non-Godzilla story. A lot of people are complaining at how little Godzilla there is in Godzilla. I, for one, didn’t mind this. They managed to make the story of a giant Dinosaur-like creature somewhat believable. This meant not having Godzilla Stomping around onscreen the whole two hours. I was surprised to see other creatures, even though they were evident in the trailers. I wasn’t expecting them to make Godzilla the good guy. Outside of Cranston and Juliette Binoche’s story he was the most sympathetic character of the film. What didn’t I like? It felt lonnnnng. The running time was only two hours and three minutes but it felt like a much longer film. Certain points dragged for me.  Once the focus became Aaron Taylor-Johnson moving a bomb I felt like we were plodding along until it was time for the creatures to finally fight.

The creatures fighting was fun to watch but after a couple minutes of it I wished that some mech-suited Jaeger’s pop in and knock some shit around. As far as creature films, I did like this better than Pacific Rim, which I also didn’t love. The human element was far more enjoyable in this one than Pacific Rim.

The film felt a bit uneven to me. When the film was good, it was great. When it wasn’t, it just seemed to suffer in comparison to those parts.

Godzilla fans seem to really love this. I guess I’m just not a Godzilla guy. Ultimately,I’d probably only watch this one once or twice more and never really seek it out again.