I went to watch Rogue One this weekend. I had heard it was good, and different, so I caved to my craving to go watch it. I talked with a friend who absolutely loves Star Wars (much more than me, anyway), and as an early Christmas gift I took him to see the movie along with me.
Spoilers to follow.
The movie is about the events immediately before Episode IV: A New Hope. It follows Jyn Erso, the daughter of Galen Erso, a key engineer in the making of the super weapon, and how she eventually decides to help the rebels steal the Death Star’s blueprints.
One of the very first things that bothered me in this otherwise fine movie was just how quickly it jumped from child hiding away into (young) adult being broken out of a prisoner’s camp. Anything that might have happened, relevant interactions and relationships are instead merely referenced when they are used. While we can guess she’s going to be raised by Saw Gerrera after she’s found hiding, the very important detail that he abandoned her after training her to be a criminal is instead relegated to a line of dialogue explaining why she’s reluctant (rightly so) to be in good terms, much less work with him.
This leads me into the other aspect of the movie that bothered me (and my friend): it needed more time with the characters. There is a flashback to when Galen was working with the Empire, and Jyn was a child. The flashback itself is good. Great even. It is just too little in the overall movie. Likewise, there just wasn’t enough screen-time for the characters for me to feel attached to any of them. The two temple guardians, exactly because they had a pre-existing relationship, are one of the stronger characters. After all, there is a dynamic between the two, where they’ll tease each other and be willing to speak. The robot, due to the unfiltered dialogue, is likewise much more characterized than most other characters. Sure, Jyn goes from reluctant participant to willing hero, but due to just how empty she felt as a character, it didn’t go much farther from the trope.
Onto some of the movie’s good points, the ground combat was good. The ambush in the holy city was entertaining to watch, and was quite messy after the fire started. Of course, it wouldn’t be star wars without some comic relief, or badass characters doing badass things, but overall it was good. Likewise, the guerrilla tactics employed by the rebels in Scarif’s beaches, their desperate retreat, counter-attack and push was worth every second of screen-time it got. Fitting of a war-movie. Scarif’s entire operation would also be quite good as a video game campaign… say, an expansion for that star wars video game that came out last year…
Finally, Vader’s brief moments on screen, whether it was him reminding Krennic to not choke on his own aspirations, or dealing with the rebels stuck in the battleship that received the blueprints, were excellent.
And indeed, this was a movie full of people doing badass things. If only we had gotten to know them. Rogue One could have definitely be split into two. Perhaps uncertain this tonal shift would be well received, they decided against betting on both movies being successful. Perhaps, during (script) editing, it got cut down to fit into one, and decided to leave the action-filled scenes in instead of betting on the characters. I could see why such would be the case. Or perhaps it was something else. If anything, I am saddened it is unlikely we’ll get a two-movies-long version now.