[MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW]
Let me preface this post with what I know about Star Wars: The 7 (now 8) live-action movies, and the animated Clone Wars series that was on Cartoon Network. So, I’m technically knowledgeable on the new-EU canon, but in terms of the legacy canon, not so much.
The previews and the pre-release controversy about Rogue One suggested it would be another “white people are evil, women are just as good as men, bigot!” type of political commentaries and it was in fact none of those things.
Rogue One already had branded itself as a “Star Wars story”, acknowledging it is a separate entity from the 7 main movies. This is reinforced by the lack of a title crawl that Star Wars is famous for. At first this was a little surprising, but once the movie begins you almost immediately forget about it. The intro begins with the main protagonist as a child, her father was a retired Imperial Officer who was the lead designer of the Death Star. After Orson Krennic comes to force his return, Jyn’s (the protag) mother is killed and Jyn runs away.
Now, I’m not really here to summarize the movie, I’m instead going to talk about why I thought it was a good movie (but it’s certainly no Kino).
In my honest opinion, Rogue One was miles above The Force Awakens in terms of quality. Quality of writing, quality of characters, quality of design. Without J.J. Abrams behind the helm we were spared his forced jokes and “humor”, and given a more serious script (although there was still humor, but it was more natural than J.J.’s). The plot itself seems a little messy, but if you have seen at least Episode IV (and understood it), you would easily understand what is happening in Rogue One.
Character wise, there was not a single character in TFA that I would say was better than any of the characters in RO (I’m talking about newly introduced characters of course). Jyn was a much better protagonist than Rey, and Cassian a much better sidekick than Finn. I would much rather see more movies with Jyn and Cassian than Rey and Finn. The entire cast of Rogue One was given ample screentime for their characters, and led you to care about their deaths (yes, everyone that was apart of Rogue One died). In TFA I could not care less that Han died (this may be once again a result of J.J.’s writing).
Another improvement were the Stormtroopers themselves. They still died en masse, but you actually felt like they were a real military force, not just “people to get shot at”. They were made a bit more competent (especially the TIE pilots), and better shots. The rebel’s themselves were portrayed in a better way as well. The sympathy for them was not as drummed up as it could have been (and this is a good thing), and they were not given crazy superpowers against the Empire (except Rogue One but then why else would they be protagonists).
The antagonist, Orson Krennic, was also fantastic. An ambitious Imperial Officer who let’s his own arrogance and pride be his real downfall. Him alone, without even being a Force user, was more interesting than Kylo Ren. And of course, Darth Vader stole every scene he was in, and his final scene was the greatest on-screen portrayal of his true powers.
I’m realizing now, that if I wanted to go into even more detail about this movie, it would be another 1000+ words, and I do not think you want to read that (and I honestly do not want to write that). So, I’m going to wrap it up very shortly.
The final battle of the movie, was without a doubt, the greatest battle in the Star Wars movies. It combined a space battle and a land battle, and with forces you care about (not fucking Gungans). The land battle was a brutal slog for the rebellion who was only able to get one ship of reinforcements in, and one squadron of X-wings. As the battle progressed you became increasingly aware that Rogue One and the Rebellion were not going to make it. As a matter of fact, they do not. Every rebel on that surface ended up dying from a weakened Death Star blast (in the movie they use a single engine to power the beam and destroy two cities on different planets). The Battle of Scarif on the surface was one of the best done battles in the franchise yet. In space too, the battle there was one of the best yet. Being led by an Admiral, the fleet responded to his commands and he made on-the-spot audibles to their tactics. Without the singular focus of Jedis, the space battle was truly a group effort, and it paid off. You would almost forget you’re watching Star Wars. One of the most impressive space battles in the series, and I would pay to watch just the final battle scene again.
Now let me wrap this up with a quick mention of the final scene. Here is where Darth Vader shows us his real power. Now, you can say the original trilogy was hindered by limited technology, but this is power not even seen by anyone in the prequels. Rogue One was able to successfully send the Death Star plans to the Rebellion fleet before being wiped out. All of the fleet was able to retreat except one that collided with Vader’s destroyer after it appeared from Hyperspace. The next scene looks like it is straight out of a war movie. The rebels are trying to load the plans onto a chip so they can escape from Vader and secure the plans. The problem is one of the blast doors won’t open, and so they are stuck between that broken door, and Vader, who appears by himself. Drawing his saber, Vader then proceeds to eliminate 10+ rebels using his saber and force abilities (choking, slamming people against the ceiling, deflecting blaster bolts). The rebel with the plans was able to slip the chip through a crack in the blast door to another rebel (who escapes and gives the plans to a CGI Leia) as Vader’s saber penetrates both the abdomen of the rebel, and the blast door. This was my favorite portrayal of Vader I have ever seen outside maybe of the battle against Luke in ROJ.
Overall, I would put this movie above TFA and probably all of the prequels too. It just worked as not only a Star Wars movie, but a sci-fi war movie as well. I recommend watching it yourself if you are even into this genre (but if you aren’t why are you reading this?)
If I wanted to double the size of this post I could, but I think I’ll leave it as is.
Thank you for reading,