I’m sitting at home 12 hours after watching Rogue One in theatres with my friend. Throughout the film, I was entertained; I laughed, I cringed, and I was genuinely into the film. The ending of the film, however, gave me pause and caused me to look back at the film to see if I really had enjoyed it overall. I suppose I would’ve done that regardless but the ending really cinched it for me.
I normally try to write reviews without any spoilers in them but this one WILL have spoilers because there’s a lot that I want to discuss about the film and the specific issues I have can’t really be addressed without them. I guess I should state here that this isn’t so much a review of the film as a way for me to process my feelings for Rogue One, so I’ll start things off by stating this: I liked Rogue One. I think it’s a good movie that you should see in the theatre. The epic space battles and the sprawling landscapes of other worlds should be seen in a seat with a giant-ass screen in front of you. I liked Rogue One a lot… but I didn’t love it.
It was hard to put my finger on the things that I had issue with but thankfully my friend Nyron (hey Nyron!!!) talked things through with me after the film finished.
1) Jyn is not really a character. I mean, she OBVIOUSLY IS and like, I’m super on board with cool lady leads but she doesn’t really have any actual personality. If you were to try to describe her with more than just “Well, she’s a rebel…” and you’d be hard pressed to do so. She’s not given enough backstory to really justify her actions throughout the film. We get virtually no backstory on her and the backstory we do get is really to know more about her father, not Jyn.
They could’ve showed us her time with Saw Gerrera, which they hint at for all of 30 seconds, but they don’t. They do what Zack Snyder and company did in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman’s Lois Lane where they just tell us that she’s a rebel who’s been doing rebel things and was the best at rebelling and just like, a really good rebel. Such rebel.
None of Jyn’s motivations are really her own throughout the film. We don’t get to see why she’s been imprisoned. We see her “liberated” and then basically held at the mercy of the Alliance to help them. She hates her father and says that she likes to imagine him that he’s dead? And then all of a sudden, she turns and she’s back to remembering being Stardust to her Papa and there are tears and feelings and tears. None of her story is about Jyn Erso; her story solely exists to validate her father’s. Sure, they could’ve cut her out and focused on Gaelin and they didn’t, but that still doesn’t make her agency legit.
I thank the stars that they didn’t push for a romance story between her and Cassian. Don’t get me wrong, they woulda made a REAL CUTE COUPLE, y’all but we’ve seen enough space love sagas lately and this was a movie about war.
2) Cassian doesn’t have a backstory either. You know that he’s done some REAL BAD SHIT because he mentions it every chance he gets.
Jyn: How are you feeling today, Cassian?
Cassian: TROUBLED BY MY PAST… but I did it for a CAUSE, JYN.
Cool story, bro.
I get it. The film was pretty lengthy (a good length though) and if you’d added more in for him, it would’ve been a hella long film. That being said, I didn’t feel a huge emotional connection to him as a character because there’s nothing for you to really care about when it comes to Cassian. You could be like, I hope he lives so he can hook up with Jyn! or something but that ending kind of killed any hope of that. Literally.
He flip flops on what he believes in and let’s be honest: it’s 40% because he cares about the cause Jyn is asking for support with and 60% because he definitely has a crush on Jyn.
3) You know what? K-2SO is the snarky ass droid I’ve been looking for. This section isn’t going to be nitpicks, I promise… just a little ode to K-2, who was the shit. His dialogue and behavior was amazing and I genuinely wish that he hadn’t met his untimely end. His lines, paired with the BEST line of the film (Donnie Yen’s Chirrut being blindfolded and saying “Really guys? Really?! I’m BLIND!”
NOTE: I just googled K-2SO and learned that K-2 is voiced by Alan Tudyk and now I love him EVEN MORE. UGH LIFE IS GOOD.
4) This was more of a nitpick for Nyron than me, but I do want to address it. Rogue One is a prequel. Not in the same sense of THE Star Wars Prequels but it happens before stuff. There were a bunch of things that they felt the need to throw in for nostalgia sake.
There was NO REASON to have C-3PO and R2-D2 in the film, even for those 3 seconds. Like, that’s cute but nah, I was fine without it. I think the title for The Verge’s article really sums up our feelings on all of it: An exhaustive list of Rogue One’s many Easter eggs. EXHAUSTIVE. As in even the fans found it tiring to have all these throwbacks. Just have a standalone film, guys. We’ll watch it without cameos and shit. We promise.
The ending with Leia was SO HOKEY. SO MUCH HOKEY. You could’ve simply have left her with her back turned to us and we would’ve been like OH SHIT, THAT’S LEIA!!!!! But you had to have her turn around and ruin the moment with THAT LINE about hope. Ugh. WE GET IT. REBELLIONS ARE BUILT ON HOPE. Blah blah blah.
One good thing from the fan service though? The cameos of the female rebel pilots. Like HELLS YES. It was amazing getting to see them in action, FINALLY. Susana Polo at Polygon wrote a great piece on it here.
5) Darth Vader. General Tarkin. Princess Leia. Oh my god. The CGI. Ok, Darth Vader not so much but his costume was weird, right? Anyone else notice that? Like, I’ve seen better Darth Vader cosplayers, to be honest. The eyes were just not right? It kept taking me out of the whole thing because his costume just looked… wrong? Ah well.
General Tarkin was played by Peter Cushing and in the film, they resurrected him with CGI to have him play a major role. I didn’t like it. I mean, it was COOL, but we’re not QUITE there with the CGI to where it looks 100% natural alongside real people. His part in the film took me out of things quite a bit too. I just couldn’t stop staring at his weird CGI face. Same with Leia, which was admittedly a much smaller role. IT WAS REAL WEIRD.
6) I have more feelings but I’m going to wrap up here for now: I’m bummed. I’m all about killing off characters if it fits in and makes it a better story but I felt so dissatisfied with how everything went down in the end. I wanted to get more of Jyn in the future maybe… more of Cassian. Not necessarily together but I wanted their stories to be fleshed out more and to give me a chance to come to love Rogue One. That was obliterated. Literally. It just didn’t seem like a good end for these characters. I think I could’ve been on board with it, but I wasn’t. For characters that I didn’t really get a chance to be attached to, I sure wish that they had lived.
The bottom line here is this: I LIKED Rogue One. I am incredibly grateful that we are getting new Star Wars films and they’re GOOD Star Wars films. I’m glad of ALL the cool geek things that we’re getting and that the world is embracing and appreciating. I AM VERY GRATEFUL. This is a war film, which we haven’t really seen in Star WARS, so it’s apt that we get to go there.
I will never stop having an inquisitive mind though. I will always want to ask questions and pursue intelligent debate. So while this seems like a lot of nitpicks, let me assure you that it only comes across this way because I’m not doing a full review of the film which also highlights the amazing parts of it. I wanted to discuss the bits I saw to be problematic and open the floor to having conversation with people who may have felt the same or who can offer up a new perspective to me.