Rogue One is a film about people who are repeatedly told not to do something or they will suffer, choose to do it anyway, and suffer. Now if that’s not a film about today’s world I don’t know what is.
On rewatch the impact of Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One is largely disappointing. The dark overtones were a welcome juxtaposition to the crowd pleasing The Force Awakens on first viewing but in retrospect the rest has very little going for it. Where Rogue One suffers the most is in its meandering middle which is both flat and lifeless. This is not helped by a frequent introduction of dreadfully dull or overly colourful characters who just don’t get enough time to develop or gel, indeed it introduces enough new characters to film a whole new trilogy. This gives us very little reason to buy into their struggle, instead Edwards wastes some of the lengthy running time throwing in cameos and in-jokes that I’d happily have done without. Often I wished I was just watching Mads Mikkelsen, who is criminally underused, developing the Death Star and scheming instead.
I’m a huge fan of Ben Mendelsohn but, as already mentioned, he doesn’t get the chance to shine here. Most of the time he is just reacting to things and we never fully understand his real objective. In some ways the film would have been more interesting if it was filmed from his point of view as a slapstick comedy called “The Worst Week of My Life”.
Considering what a revelation Daisy Ridley was in The Force Awakens it’s a shame that Felicity Jones’ character Jyn is such a poor lead – someone with a posh voice becoming frustrated by experts telling her what to do and choosing to go it alone instead. When she breaks from the Alliance she finds herself appealing to hardliners each of whom crazier than the last. Stop me if that sounds familiar.
Next up there’s Forest Whitaker’s character, Saw Gerrera, who is as mad as a box of frogs – somewhere in the range of a cartoon Jim Carrey or Nicholas Cage. Often I couldn’t tell if his whole performance was an outrageous joke or not – it’s possible neither does he. Echoing current events it’s interesting to see when he’s presented with the truth or facts that go against his established opinion, he assumes it’s fake news and rejects it.
Then there’s the robot K-2, who is introduced uttering the terrifyingly prescient line: “Congratulations. You are being rescued. Please do not resist”. Intended as a sort of C3-P0 mark 2, unfortunately only about half his jokes land. He then spends the whole film coming out with data analysis and statistics which mostly all turn out to be false.
Rogue One’s saving grace is its marvellous set pieces where the visual effects dazzle and the final battle involving crashing Star Destroyers is the kind of spectacle cinema is made for. Although a question mark still hovers over the CG reincarnation of Peter Cushing that already looks like it will date worse than Han stepping on Jabba’s tail in the Special Edition.
Overall a minor misstep in the Star Wars universe but a harmless and mostly forgettable one.
Rogue One was on general release in the UK in December 2016.