Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a highly entertaining, fan-serving, and re-watchable addition to the Star Wars canon. But it’s got some problems.
Mainly, it needed to either scale-down or scale-up, but it’s stuck in Sarlacc’s throat, half-digested, left messy and smelly.
Here’s what I mean (Spoilers Ahead):
1) Too Much Fan Service
We already have a movie with tons of characters and places and events crammed into 133 minutes. Fan Service is cool, but do we really need to see the two thugs who harass Luke at the Mos Eisley cantina? And of course an SW film must have C-3PO and R2-D2, but their cameo seems more like an awkward product placement. What I enjoyed more than these straight-up fan-pleasing moments was seeing Jimmy Smits, once again as Bail Organa, reminiscing about the good old days (AKA The Clone Wars) with another prequel holdover, Genevieve O’Reilly’s Mon Mothma. I’m glad this Disney Star Wars film acknowledged that Episodes I-III exist, unlike The Force Awakens.
2) Chirrut and Baze
Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Imwe and Wen Jiang’s Baze Malbus are the most interesting characters in Rogue One. If any characters deserve a spin-off from this spin-off, it’s these two. They have the best entrance but the worst exit. I mean, Chirrut gets killed flicking a switch. Single-handedly wiping out a squad of Stormtroopers is one thing, but when the Death Troopers arrive, we first need to see how bad-ass the Death Troopers are, and then we need to see how more bad-ass Chirrut is. We don’t get either. Come on! Donnie Yen played Bruce Lee’s master in 3 films! Let him go out whooping the Empire’s elite in dirty hand-to-hand melee.
There’s a lot more here with Chirrut and Baze. Chirrut has great faith, and has Jedi-like command of his senses, but he is not force-sensitive. He’s not a Jedi as we quickly learn. If he were, he would have been purged anyhow. Just the fact that a temple guardian survived Order 66 and the purges is an interesting story in itself. Perhaps there’s guilt and why he’s loitered at a dead temple for almost two decades. Lots here with these two and why Rogue One missed an opportunity. Hopefully, there will be more on them.
3) Jyn’s Kyber Crystal Necklace
Whenever you introduce an object with significant weight, it needs to mean something. At the beginning of the film, Jyn receives from her soon-to-be-murdered mother, a necklace with a Kyber crystal, which powers lightsabers (as well as WMDs). Kyber crystals are a big deal. At that moment, I’m thinking this artifact will have a pivotal role by film’s end, but it basically disappears by the time Scarif is blown up. Again, more things thrown in to this messy stew, under-developed, that ultimately detracts more than adds.
What is the story with this necklace? Remember, Galen’s generation fought in The Clone Wars. That means he fought alongside the Jedi for the Republic (as well with Tarkin and Krennic), and probably knew at least a few of them personally given his position. So the Kyber crystal must have greater significance than we get from the movie, but we just don’t get it and are left wondering.
4) The Ending
The movie ends with Leia and the Tantive IV launching into hyperspace. We know from Episode IV that she’s on her way to Alderaan and that she gets intercepted by Vader. First of all, why isn’t she going to Yavin 4? Why wouldn’t she go to the Rebel base directly? Ultimately, that’s where the Death Star’s plans end up and where it’s successfully analyzed. It’s probably the best place to go.
And I’m not sure how far Alderaan is from Scraif, but Yavin 4 is not that far. It doesn’t take that long for the Rebel fleet to arrive at Scarif from Yavin 4. So again, why wouldn’t Leia go to the Rebel base when it seems like it only takes a few hours, or even minutes, to get there?
Also, how does the Tantive IV get intercepted by Vader at the beginning of A New Hope? We all know from the other Star Wars films, once you hit hyperspace, that’s it, they gone. At the end of Rogue One, Vader’s watching from the Alliance flag ship as Tantive IV disappears. How quickly is he able to get to the Devastator from there? How is he able to stop Leia over Tatooine? And why is Leia at Tatooine and not Alderaan or Yavin 4 by then? Before Rogue One came along, we just assumed the battle happened nearby and Tantive IV had a reason it couldn’t go to hyperspace, probably damaged from the battle. But now, we’re left wondering how it got stuck in the Outer Rim.
5) The Big Fuse
Okay, so Galen Erso added a flaw to the nastiest weapon in Galactic history. I wrote about this before watching the movie, and now that I’ve seen it…I still don’t like it. It means that a dude designed a flaw that was meant to be exploited. Something that was impossible without the Force suddenly became very much possible. It gives too much credit to Erso, and takes away from the power of the Force, and Luke’s accomplishment in Episode IV.
That vulnerability could happen without Rogue One’s justification, which serves more to redeem Galen Erso than anything else. Death Star was designed and built over twenty years. Geonosians and the Separatists started it, and then was handed over to the Imperial designers, of whom I’m sure there were many. It was relocated at least once and built by slaves. There was great pressure to finish it — from the Sith Lords! Of course there will be flaws! Actually, I’m surprised there’s only one, and it was one that was impossible to exploit without providence, until Rogue One came along.
Rogue One could have done with less, or gone the other way and added another 20-30 minutes to clean up some messy distractions. A movie with a similar plot, Guns of Navarone, is at 158 minutes. And actually, why not go all the way and hit Seven Samurai epic-ness at 200 minutes?
Rogue One is not a bad Star Wars film. Actually, I would place it above The Force Awakens (see my rankings here), but it could have been better.