(When too much fan service ruins a movie)
As you can probably tell from the title, I did not like Rogue One. But please, if you are a big Star Wars fan, please don't let my opinion ruin your movie going experience. In fact, watch the movie first yourself, and then read my review.
This movie is probably going to leave fans divided. There are things to like in this movie. The designs, the vehicles, the costumes, the worlds... it all looks great. And the movie also has a spectacular finale. But if the movie fails to make you care, then there are no stakes, and that undermines the finale. The cringe is strong with this one, and I REALLY wanted to like it. I tried so hard to like it. But I hate to say it, but this movie is not as good as The Force Awakens.
The movie has a very hasty and disjointed beginning. It jumps all over the place, from location to location. It barely takes any time to work out a whole scene in each location. It kind of felt like we were sightseeing, instead of watching a story unfold. And I strongly feel that the entire introduction with Jyn Erso as a child could have been dropped from the film, and it would have been better for it. We do not need to know that Jyn was separated from her father as a child. It is so cliche, that it barely needs mentioning. And the movie would have been stronger if both the audience and the main character would have had doubts about Galen Erso's motives. Is he a pawn of the empire, or secretly a rebel? The movie leaves no doubt that Jyn's father is a good guy, and thus any suspense there is taken away.
The movie also has a very hamfisted way of introducing characters. They don't flow into the movie naturally, but are just dropped in suddenly, and then immediately named. And it doesn't help that they have a lot of silly Star Wars names. And many of the characters don't feel relevant to the plot. In fact, I believe the movie would have worked just fine with just the three main characters. I did like K2-SO, but only because he gets most of the funny lines.
The acting is also disjointed. Felicity Jones is great and likeable, but mostly because of her acting, not because of good screen writing. She delivers a good performance, which is undermined by poor direction and poor screenwriting, leaving you not really caring. When a movie has an emotional scene, you've got to feel it as a viewer. But despite Felicity's good acting, the movie fails to make you care. The other actors seem to struggle with their lines, especially the none native-English speaking ones. With Krennic this is especially a problem, because he occasionally slurs his lines, which doesn't make him very intimidating. The movie also fails to set him up as an intimidating villain. Forest Whitaker has a very distracting voice in this movie, but he's okay. The majority of the characters however get little to no character development or backstory. We learn nothing about almost all the characters, except Jyn. But the worst by far... and I hate to say this... is Vader. His lines are poorly written, his line delivery by James Earl Jones is underwhelming, and instead of being intimidating, he just does fan service stuff. Remember how Darth Vader was intimidating right from the opening of A New Hope? You didn't see him flailing his lightsaber around, force choking people left and right, and throwing rebels all over the place. The art of subtlety was lost in this movie.
The vehicles look great, but several I feel were simply dropped in because the filmmakers liked the toy. The AT ST that we see in the trailer is barely in the movie for like two shots, which begs the question why you would even have him in the scene. If you're going to throw an AT-ST in your movie, build an action scene around him. The movie also makes little effort to build up dramatic tension when these machines are revealed.
And then there is the fan service. This is where the movie got really cringy. My biggest complaint is the inclusion of a clearly CGI Tarkin. Peter Cushing is obviously dead, but it is REALLY hard to make a real person look convincing in CGI. Visually he's almost convincing, but it's in the acting, the movements, and the overall performance, that he looks fake. And he appears a lot in the movie, and has a lot of lines. So that sticks out like a sore thumb. There's also a completely unnecessary cameo by C3PO and R2D2, Vader himself didn't need to be in the movie either, and they name drop several Expanded Universe super weapons, such as the Dark Saber. And is it any surprise that we see Leia at the end? But I think one of the worst things they did is have this short action scene with Darth Vader at the end. Remember how Vader just walked in like a boss while his Stormtroopers did all the fighting in A New Hope? Well, not here. Vader's up front, deflecting blaster shots with his saber, and throwing rebels into walls. And it severely undermines him as a character. It feels so strongly as a piece of fan fiction, but they just couldn't restrain themselves.
The music also disappoints, and I can't believe I'm actually complaining about the music, but it stood out. Right from the opening title, it feels off to not hear the Star Wars theme, and the new theme that we hear just doesn't work. There's also an odd stylistic choice to not have exciting music during every scene where the Death Star fires. Why? Why does it feel like the composer is watching a different scene? Shouldn't the music pick up in excitement when the Death Star is about to fire?
So all this is a lot of negativity. But you are probably wondering, is there anything good? Well as I said, Jyn Erso and KT-SO are good. The finale is long and has great action scenes. The AT-ACT scenes are also well done, and I like the creature designs and all the costumes. I liked the visuals of the Death Star blowing up a planet, which lead to some really cool action scenes. Some of the city crowd scenes are fun, but it makes you wish they spent more time there, and took their time to write more than one brief scene for those places. I liked what happens to the main characters at the end, which I felt was a lot better than them just hopping on a spaceship and escaping in the nick of time. But all that is too little and too late to save the movie.
In the end, this is just full of bad screenwriting. They tried to include as much fan service as possible. And no matter how much I tried to like it, I couldn't. In fact, I could feel that it was bad right as the movie started. The polar opposite of The Force Awakens in a way, where the entire intro was really really good, and immediately made you feel like they got the mood right. Rogue One, despite all its X-Wings and Tie Fighters, did not feel like a Star Wars movie. It looked like one, but it made me feel nothing,