Right, I’ve seen Rogue One for a second time now, and that means it’s time for a Rogue One spoiler review. We’re going to talking in-depth about the movie’s pros and cons, so if you’ve not yet seen Rogue One, it’s time to click away NOW.
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FINAL SPOILER WARNING
An extra warning for those of you who’ve missed the big red letters above. If you want a spoiler-free review for Rogue One, click here.
Ready? Here we go!
The AMAZING Ending
I said in my review that the first act of Rogue One isn’t all that enthralling, and whilst the second act improves, it’s still not as good as it could have been.
All that changed, however, when it came to the exceptional final act. The finale is arguably the greatest action sequence in Star Wars history, and easily the most beautifully directed and visually spectacular battle in the series, putting me on the edge of my seat as the Rebels steal the Death Star plans.
The tension builds brilliantly over the course of the climax, and as we begin to lose major characters, with Bodhi Rook, Chirrut and Daze all killed in action, I was thrilled to see the writers taking such a brave approach to this final battle, really cementing the film’s gritty, war-like atmosphere. With main characters dropping left, right and centre, the moment where we see the blast from the Death Star raging across the ocean towards Cassian and Jyn as they sit helpless on the beach was the icing on the cake, and by far the most intense Star Wars finale we’ve ever seen.
Except, there was one more treat for us at the very end. After the deaths of our heroes, we’re given what can only be described as the most epic scene in Star Wars history. Upon arriving above Scarif, Darth Vader boards a Rebel ship, and begins ruthlessly murdering every single enemy in his path with an array of lightsaber kills and force chokes.
It’s an utterly astonishing scene, and following the intensity of Cassian and Jyn’s deaths, I was tearing up with joy at the sight of such a beautiful and thrilling finale to Rogue One.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Rogue One has one of the best endings in all of film history. Building brilliantly throughout the third act, the brave decision to kill off every single main character, and then go insane with a terrifying but epic Vader scene before feeding directly into A New Hope, was exceptional, and would have been flawless if it weren’t for one small detail.
The CGI Humans
That small detail was one computer-generated Princess Leia, who appears briefly as the film transitions into the beginning of Episode IV. Unfortunately, the CGI was just a little too noticeable, and was particularly jarring as the film came to its epic close.
However, Leia wasn’t the main CGI character, as we saw numerous scenes with a reanimated Peter Cushing, the man who played Grand Moff Tarkin back in 1977. Whilst it wasn’t quite as jarring as Leia, the CGI recreation of Cushing’s face was still very noticeable.
I think it was a noble idea to go for the CGI Cushing, rather than recasting him, but I’ve got to say that it’s a major thorn in the movie that really takes you out of it. Whilst he’s not a major character, the scenes in which we get close-ups of his face are very distracting, and not quite good enough for a movie of this calibre. It’s a technology that’s almost there, but this wasn’t quite right, and I’m afraid to say that it’s going to look incredibly dated (even laughable) in a few years’ time. (Although, the rest of the visual effects are utterly astonishing).
Moving on now to something that the film has received a little criticism for: the characterisation. Without a doubt, Rogue One’s characters are more interesting and entertaining than in the prequels, but in comparison to the likes of The Force Awakens, they do feel a little thin.
With the exception of Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, with whom we do get the chance to establish an emotional connection , the lack of strong characterisation was particularly noticeable throughout the first act. When it came to the action sequences, it wasn’t so problematic, but I felt that the main reason the first act, and to an extent the second act as well, dragged so much was because of the characters.
The actors all do a great job to make the team brilliantly likable, particularly Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen, however that wasn’t quite enough to make the film as riveting as it could have been in the slower, more dialogue-oriented periods.
All The Fan Service
As I said in my main review, Rogue One is an exceptionally nerdy Star Wars movie, something that the hardcore fans will love, but may turn off one or two general audience members.
However, looking at it as a Star Wars fan, it was a real treat to see so many clever little references and tidbits of information in this film that, as well as putting a little smile on your face, added to the continuity of the Star Wars universe.
At times, things like blue milk, Bail Organa from the shadows and C-3PO and R2-D2 felt a little overly cute, the film also gave us the reason why Luke Skywalker’s call sign in Red 5, as we see the previous Red 5 die in the Battle over Scarif, as well as an ingenious explanation for how the Death Star was able to be blown up, as we learn Galen Erso deliberately placed a weakness that would destroy the entire weapon if hit.
If the entire movie were that nerdy, it would have been wonderful for many of us, but for the rest of the world, it may have been a little much. However, I thought the film struck a good balance between catering to general audiences and die-hard fans, something that many other blockbusters nowadays don’t manage to do.
Did it work?
As admitted by Disney CEO Bob Iger, Rogue One was ‘an experiment’, to see if fans and audiences wanted to see a more in-depth look into the Star Wars universe, even if it wasn’t all about lightsabers and the force. However, did it pay off?
In my book, it certainly did, and Rogue One is easily one of the most entertaining and visually exhilarating films of 2016. It’s not quite as good as The Force Awakens, but its originality, grittiness and extreme bravery in the exceptional final act all made for a brilliantly exciting watch throughout.
Rogue One will be a big financial and critical success for Disney and Lucasfilm, and that opens the doors for many more Star Wars standalone movies over the coming years, and if they’re all up to the fantastic standard of Rogue One, I can’t wait to see what we’re going to get.