I had started writing this before seeing Star Wars: Rogue One which I originally had no intention of seeing at all. I liked the concept and after originally hearing it was being made, said it would be the last chance before I stopped going out of my way to see the movies. A little closer to release I had decided not to see it because of the antics on Twitter of a couple of the writers and other concerns. However after a glowing review from John C. Wright and having a friend who wanted to see it, I decided to go along on new years day.
It wasn’t terrible but that’s not saying much. I had thought the concept was a good but seeing it made the whole idea pointless. The characters were uninteresting and at least one (I later found out) is in it solely to pander to the Chinese market. I can’t even remember any of their names as of writing and I’m not bothered enough to check. The action scenes were legitimately impressive and probably the only aspect (outside of the good company I was in), that saved me from regretting my ticket purchase.
With that said, I have often wondered if it’s not nostalgia for the original trilogy that puts a dark cloud over every new release. This is something I’ve observed in other people who in whatever media, never seem satisfied with anything new. Books, film, video games and music; it doesn’t matter, nothing is ever as good. It has also been reasonably pointed out that the original Star Wars films had bad dialogue, plot holes and in the case of the last film; far too much going on at once. These were all complaints leveled at the prequel trilogy but even taking this into account, they are not nearly so bad in the originals. The release of Episode VII, while having few of the problems found in the prequel trilogy, was just a rehash of the events of the first film and at least from my point of view; boring. I also should add that I have enjoyed many Star Wars video games and novels which tell new stories in the universe which goes against it being merely nostalgia.
As the title of this post might indicate, I’m not writing a review or wanting to write about the Star Wars films as a whole. The subject of this post indeed applies to many franchises and not just in film. That is, the attempt to fill in every piece of information and leave nothing to the imagination.
When I was a child, I was given a Star Wars book called Rebel Dawn by the late A.C. Crispen which was the third of the Han Solo Trilogy leading up the events of the original Star Wars. I have not read this book for a very long time and I recall very little of it but one of the reasons I was reminded of it is because there at some point is a subplot involving the theft of the Death Star plans by a female Rebel named Bria Tharen (I looked up her name). One of the reasons I liked the idea of Rogue One is because I thought that this was where the idea came from but it isn’t; at least apart from one of the leading Rebels being a female. As an aside, many books written in the universe have been made “non-canonical” after the Disney takeover. Something made all the sadder considering the two films they’ve since released as “canon” have been unimpressive at best.
Now the first problem with this book, is that it’s a trilogy. Why? Is it forced or does it really merit it? Probably the former. It didn’t really matter anyway as I found it enjoyable enough for what it was without having read the previous efforts and many Star Wars novels were written as trilogies from very early on. One thing that did bother me was the way the author seemed to be forcing Solo’s involvement into key events leading up to the original movie, even having the aforementioned Rebel be a love interest. Again, why? Why does that connection need to be there? The book (which is the final in the trilogy) ends with Han sitting down at the table in the cantina to meet Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker. I remember as a kid thinking how the events of just this one book would have made Han act completely differently with regards to the Rebels. Rather than adding to the main story, I felt like it took a lot away from it.
Rogue One takes this to even greater extremes. As is probably well known by now, the late Peter Cushing who played Grand Moff Tarkin in the original film, has been digitally brought back to life and the less late Carrie Fisher also makes a brief appearance. Despite what John C. Wright says, these appearances both sent me tumbling into the uncanny valley being technically impressive yet unconvincing. But my main problem (along with the appearance of Darth Vader), is they were completely unnecessary and actually hindered the movie. The main reason is that the inclusion of so many elements from the original film made it much more difficult for the film to truly stand on it’s own as these scenes do not make sense unless you are familiar with the original films. They also take even more valuable screen time away from the poorly developed new characters.
The main problem with Rogue One is that there is far too much time and effort spent connecting it with the original films. The film even ridiculously ends within minutes or hours of the opening of the original Star Wars. What made the concept of Rogue One interesting was that it could tell a different story that is separate but related. It was more than enough to be told in the original film that the Death Star plans had been stolen. The audience didn’t need to know how — just that it had happened. But the story of how the plans were stolen told separately as say, a heist film sounded quite appealing. And it would have been so had the people producing this film focused on that alone.
Instead, what we have is a pointless but visually pretty film that seems like it was made by committee to maximise fan service and box office returns in China. When I saw Episode VII in early 2016, I commented that I would have preferred they turned the Jedi Prince series of books into films because they were at least original. I remember reading two of them when I was twelve or thirteen and thought them awful then but still better than that movie. Rogue One had it much easier. It just needed to be it’s own film. This is indeed the last one I’ll go out of my way to see and certainly pay for. I might be just getting older, or it may just be nostalgia but no film since Return of the Jedi has done the franchise justice.