Rogue Three: Kurt Halfyard, Contributing Writer
Two lines of dialogue in essence sum up my Rogue One (A Star Wars Story) experience.
The first line is the films’ thematic keystone: "Trust goes both ways."
The ship-full of disparate, and morally grey, ne’erdowells start out as vagrants - at best criminals, at worst terror cells, who end up defying The Rebel Alliance leadership to go, ahem, rogue. The aim is clearly to get what is needed to be done, in spite of the Yavin 4 bureaucracy.
Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, and Princess Leia all mean well, but they are the executive committee, while Jyn and Team-Rogue are the rank-and-file that understand the devil is in the details. The characters (and creators) may be the second tier, but that does not mean they are not onto a successful approach -- one which underscores why this years other B-Team, Suicide Squad, fell flat. It is a growing trust between those on-the-ground, and in particular between Jyn and her reluctant ‘handler’ Cassian (a spy who is quite capable of casual murder if it suits his purpose), that make this movie more than just a sum of jingling and jangling set pieces, or the specter of pandering fan service.
The key second line is casually tossed out (in the same scene as the first) by reprogrammed Imperial strategy droid, Kaytoo: "I find that answer vague and unconvincing."
As with the J.J. Abram's soft-reboot of the franchise, these new Star Wars stories, whether they follow the ongoing adventures of the Skywalker clan, or not, are made in the 21st century fashion: i.e. don't stop for anything as the audience might get bored. The many death scenes in Rogue One (take for instance a certain iconic Danish thespian) are a wee bit unconvincing and emotionally flat due to the speed with which set up and execution occur.
Some advice to blockbuster film-makers: Slow down and remember your 1970s movie-brat training: allow locations and ideas to breathe before running headlong into the thick of it. More glue and less paint helps story and emotion resonate in a way that might elevate your franchise chapter to 'movie classic.' (And while we are offering advice, keep the CGI zombie-actors off screen. Digitally resurrecting dead people is a questionable idea, done here with questionable execution.)
Along similar lines, two planets get offed in this chapter, which diminishes the significance of such a monumental destructive act. Planet killing, perhaps, should not be too casual or commonplace (see also Abrams' Star Trek reboot). Now that a new Star Wars movie plops off the assembly line on an annual basis, the consequences of such predictable regularity are that of diminishing impact. Making every entry 'exceptional' is a contradiction in terms. I personally feel that these interstitial stories should be small and gritty and experimental, not ‘just another Star Wars movie.’ Rogue One is, too often, just another Star Wars movie.