Quick Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

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I’m not the type of moviegoer who likes to know much about a film’s premise prior to going to see it–especially a franchise film. With Star Wars it’s never really mattered in the past, since they fill you in during their famous opening crawl sequences. Unfortunately, Rogue One does not contain one of these. It was probably a conscious decision, since the film isn’t technically part of the main Star Wars series. But it’s in canon. It’s very closely tied in, and helps catalyze paramount events in Episode IV, so maybe they should have filled us in a bit.

They don’t. Because of this we spend the better part of the first hour playing catch-up. We find out that Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, is the orphaned daughter of the main scientist who acquiescently created the Death Star. However, he’s also secretly created a way for it to be destroyed (which clears up a lot of confusion I’ve held on to over the years).

As a young adult, Jyn is picked up by a Rebel officer, Cassian (Diego Luna)–a character mirroring a similar role to Han Solo, but not as good. He’s dry, unfunny, and uninteresting. He is, however, accompanied by a humorous droid, K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), who gives us some of the only humor throughout the film.

The lack of humor isn’t actually a bad thing. It never tries to replicate the modern humor that Marvel films have now popularized. It almost feels like a product of the 70s and 80s. Taking place immediately before Episode IV, the film does a great job of keeping that era’s technology in tact, so not to make it feel like it couldn’t fit in chronologically.

Aesthetically it’s very pleasing. We get some genuinely amazing shots throughout the film, which may at times be mistaken for a brisk narrative.

Other than the new droid and a blind warrior, Chirrut (Donnie Yen), who uses the force to win battles against Stormtroopers, we don’t get any new iconic characters to gush over. But I guess there is no need for them since this is a standalone film.

Another issue is our lack of interest towards the two main characters. Chirrut, who is a support character, is far more compelling than Jyn or Cassian. It doesn’t help that I was unclear of Jyn’s name for half of the film. I was detached. It’s like the writers realize that this is won’t be made into a series and forget that character development is allowed to exist over the course of one film. After all, Obi-Wan Kenobi dies in the first movie (spoiler alert?).

As nebulous as the first act may be, it pales in comparison to the 30 minute battle scene towards the end. It’s boring and far from captivating. But surprisingly, the film finishes brilliantly, and we appreciate again the fact that this is a standalone movie.

If you’re expecting something as jaw dropping as last year’s The Force Awakens, don’t get your hopes up. Rogue One isn’t a bad movie by any means. It’s just not undeniably good, either. People will think it’s better than it is because they want it to be, but it is what it is–a film for Star Wars completists. True fans. But with this new wave of Star Wars films being cranked out at an annual rate, I suppose it’s okay for them to toy around with spinoff stories like this.

Twizard Rating: 87

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Quick Movie Review: Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

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The good news is you don’t really need to watch the original Star Wars films in order to follow along with this film. But then honestly, why wouldn’t you have seen the original Star Wars films?

Star Wars is really an amazing franchise, starting in 1977 with the very first film. Can you imagine watching that in its inception? All these years later, you’re still in awe of the characters, the story, the effects, the set pieces–the whole universe. The sets don’t even look that different in this one than the ones from the ’70s. Yet, we’re still in awe.

Without giving too much away, Star Wars: The Force Awakens revolves around the First Order (the dark side) trying to control the galaxy while racing against the Resistance (the light side) to find the disappeared Luke Skywalker. The film mixes old characters with a band of new characters–characters that you’re going to love–and doesn’t stray from what was so charismatic about the original movies.

The film truly has that classic feel to it–from the scene cuts to the camerawork to the dialogue. This isn’t your Marvel movie, folks. In fact, it makes us rethink what exactly we love about those films to begin with. I mean, we have Star Wars back now. What more could we want?

But there is a different kind of levity brought here that we actually may be able to actually thank Marvel for. It’s not too much, but the perfect amount. In the originals, they would have never dared make light of any scene involving Darth Vader, but here we are given one surprising, yet heedful laugh during a bit that involves the neo-Darth Vader, Kylo Ren–who is just as bit of creepy and sinister as Vader.

The newcomers, John Boyega as an ex-stormtrooper, Finn, and Daisy Ridley as a orphaned scavenger, Rey, will have no problems being the new faces of the franchise. Their characters have a lot of depth already, with much more yet to be explored.

Harrison Ford is back as Han Solo, and he’s better than he’s ever been. His performance is actually award-worthy. I mean, just give the guy an Oscar already (he’s only had 1 nomination ever–seriously).

And what is Star Wars without a couple twists? The ones that we’re given are great, and you know they’re stringing you along for more. They don’t answer every question in this film. They answer a lot, but still leave you talking afterwards and speculating. It teaches us to be patient and we’re surprisingly okay with that. The film doesn’t give in to the immediate gratification that the Avengers culture usually demands.

It runs at 135 minutes, but feels no longer than 100. The pacing is basically near-perfect, which attributes to it’s deceptive length.

I truly didn’t want it to end. It’s the year’s best film and perhaps the best one I’ve seen in at least 5 years. It gave me the happy chills about eleven different times. I can’t even begin to explain how good it is. I guess you’re just going to have to see it for yourself. Who am I kidding? Everyone’s about to watch this movie. But that’s Star Wars for ya.

Twizard Rating: 100