At it's core, STAR WARS is mythology. It's the stories the old men told around the fire and now tell on a giant screen in a dark room filling us with hopes and dreams. The seven movies up to this point have been that: grand epics that tell us the sweeping story of one dynasty and it's influence over a Galaxy Far, Far Away. And that's the first break that ROGUE ONE makes and it works, because it's not trying to be epic, in the literary sense. It hints at the epic-ness of the "universe" (and I don't mean the Galaxy Far, Far Away) without trying to get into the epic structure that we are familiar with. It does something else and that's where it appears to struggle with early on the the story and comes to a nice head in the movie's action filled, tense and incredibly satisfying climax.
And as much as STAR WARS is about mythology, it's about what came before. The Original Trilogy is a million homages, from the works of Kurosawa to the movie serials of the 50s to Westerns and the Prequels aspired to be Shakespearean tragedies (obviously falling short) and ROGUE ONE is no different and that is where I had a problem, because early on it feels like it didn't know which of the homages they were going for: was it going to be a heist movie or a war movie? And that indecision led to some of the choppiness people complained about, but it follows the tropes of both of them. When it decides it wants to be a war movie (which is what it is), it becomes a better movie. Sure, we'd love to find out more about the characters we meet, but we get enough of them that it's effective. I was disappointed that we don't find out more about the soldiers that volunteer to go with Jyn and her team, because they are great.
Are there plot holes? Is it a STAR WARS movie? And as with every Star Wars movie, they are all forgivable.
The movie is really good, a little slow at the start, but not any slower than any other war movie I've ever seen and a really good and different STAR WARS movie.
Some random thoughts:
- VADER. We finally get to see Vader as a bad ass. I mean from the castle scenes to the boarding scene. I mean when that saber lit up, I gasped. Vader has been maligned lately and it's good to see he's getting his mojo back.
- CGI Characters: I know that lots and lots of people had issues with it. I found myself not minding it as much as others did. I mean seeing the dripping evil of Tarkin was great and chilling. And Leia at the end, considering Carrie Fisher's passing, I found something in my eye and a gasp in my throat as she uttered her lines.
- Putting the War In STAR WARS: ROTJ gets a bum wrap, giving us the best space battle in the trilogy. Well, ROGUE ONE topped it by far. The space battle was amazing and intense while the ground battle almost makes you forget about ewoks and gungans by giving us real action. Like I said, I wish I knew more about the soldiers and pilots, but obviously there isn't the space for it.
- If you aren't shipping Chirrut and Baze you are doing it wrong. Wikipedia calls them best friends....can we edit that to make them partners/husbands/whatever.
- GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY took a ton of cues from the Original Trilogy and without a doubt, ROGUE ONE took a cue from GOTG with the planet name cards. It's a little thing, but it was noticeable.
- Some depth to the Galaxy Far, Far Away. No Jedi. Limited reference to the Skywalkers.
Highly recommend it.