Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Blu-ray)

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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Blu-ray)

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Review of "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Blu-ray)"

published 22/05/2017 | hogsflesh
Member since : 19/04/2010
Reviews : 826
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About me :
Not as much time as I'd like for ciao at the moment.
Good
Pro Enjoyable film, good-looking blu-ray
Cons Not very original, relies too heavily on franchise
exceptional
Did you enjoy it?
Story
Characters / Performances
Special Effects
Soundtrack

"This technological terror you've created"

A Star Destroyer

A Star Destroyer

This blu-ray is £15 in HMV or on amazon.

Another year, another Star Wars film. This will supposedly be the case until human life is finally snuffed out.

Rogue One was enormously successful, and continued the critical rehabilitation of the Star Wars saga after the catastrophic prequel trilogy. It’s the first of the one-off movies that are to be set in and around the existing main Star Wars saga. It’s set just before the opening of the original Star Wars (which has been renamed ‘A New Hope’ by morons, but for me will always just be called ‘Star Wars’).

Year: 2016
Director: Gareth Edwards
More information at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3748528
IMDB user rating: 7.9

You remember the text crawl at the beginning of Star Wars? This film basically acts that out – the Rebel Alliance discovers the existence of the Empire’s Death Star, and a team of agents has to go and recover the plans in order to save the galaxy.

Inevitably, a story like this is going to lean heavily on what viewers already know from the existing films. Probably the main criticism of Rogue One is that it has no real existence of its own – it would be entirely meaningless without the context of the franchise it slots into. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for anyone, but does no one else get the feeling that western culture is effectively eating its own tail now? All the new blockbusters are based on decades-old franchises, and we slurp them up like that guy in Oldboy eating the octopus. If all our new films are basically nostalgia pieces, what will future generations have to be nostalgic about?

Still, I enjoyed it. Original it isn’t – it just takes the old World War Two mission movie and transplants it into the Star Wars universe (they’re very honest about that in the extras – no one even hints at the existence of an original thought). And its full of fan service – cameos that range from the hilariously gratuitous (Walrus Man and his ugly friend trying to pick a fight with the heroine) to the actively irritating (I guess Anthony Daniels must want to be in every Star Wars film ever made, so we have to see C3PO for a few seconds). Mon Mothma, the rebel leader from Return of the Jedi, is back, and clips of some of the original rebel pilots from Star Wars are used in the big battle scene (sadly not including Porkins). The extras claim it even uses characters from a Clone Wars cartoon that apparently exists.

As a Star Wars fan, I’m happy to enough to laugh at the harmless little retcons (ever wonder why Luke’s call sign was Red 5? Me neither, but they told us anyway). But this does feel like a worrying trend. The Force Awakens wasn’t very original – it was almost a remake of the first Star Wars – but that was OK. Disney had spent a lot of money acquiring the franchise, and the first film needed to set a solid foundation and – of course – make a lot of money. But I’d rather hoped, with that out of the way, that later efforts might have made a bit more effort to do new things. You couldn’t really argue that Rogue One does.

Anyway, Rogue One is slickly entertaining. The action scenes are great, and even though we know the end result already, it’s still suspenseful. Most of the visual effects are good (a few dodgy CGI moments excepted), and more importantly, they serve the plot, rather than being an end in themselves, as was the case in the prequels. It’s probably not the darkest film in the Star Wars series – I’d guess episode 3 is darker, though I’ve not seen it – but it is kind of grim. The Rebels here aren’t always the unambiguous good guys we’re used to (it never uses the word ‘terrorist’, but some of what they do definitely has that vibe). And the film has an unusually unflinching ending. There’s perhaps more of an emotional heft than you expect in Star Wars.

But it’s also lots of fun. The fights are exciting, the worlds that we visit are reasonably well drawn, and the sound and visuals are all spot on (and I must admit, it’s lovely hearing the exact right blaster noises from the various different ships and vehicles). New, fun ways are found to destroy familiar spaceships and AT-AT walkers, the Death Star itself is used very smartly, and the characterisations are reasonably good. The dialogue itself is pretty terrible, but that’s to be expected in Star Wars.

The actors do their best, anyway, and are a mostly likeable bunch. Felicity Jones, playing main character Jyn Erso, doesn’t have as many facial expressions as one would like, and has a slightly annoying habit of nodding her head when talking, but we can still root for her. Diego Luna as Rebel spy Cassian, and Riz Ahmed as defecting imperial pilot Bodhi, give probably the best performances, making a lot out of underwritten parts. Hulking droid K-2SO gets the best lines. Forest Whitaker hams it up as an old radical Rebel (his accent slips a couple of times).

The Force Awakens was criticised by the alt-right for having an assertive woman and a black guy in the lead roles. This felt like a necessary adjustment after Lucas’s years of poor roles for women and non-white actors. But now Rogue One has a woman and a multi-ethnic cast as the heroes, and a bunch of old white (mostly English-sounding) guys as the villains. This feels a lot more deliberate; calculated, even. Could it be that Disney is actually trolling the alt-right? Well, probably not – it's much more cynical than that. Disney will feel that they've already got the white male demographic sewn up - the new films are targeting women and BME audiences, and evidently doing very well at it.

Two Chinese actors, Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang, are also on the team (which is a blatant attempt to sell the film in China, but whatever). Unfortunately, making one of them a blind ninja given to gnomic zen-like utterances about the Force is, well, a tad racist. Is it really better to include non-white actors and then give them terribly stereotyped roles? Maybe. Baby steps and all that.

Ben Mendelsohn is good as the main villain, Director Krennic, making him human and fallible, and the film has a good sense of Imperial office politics. Mads Mikkelsen, TV’s Hannibal Lecter, plays Jyn’s dad (always have to have a father-child relationship in Star Wars), and is fine in a rather limited part. Jimmy Smits also turns up, reprising a part I’d completely forgotten he played in the prequels.

Most problematic is the presence of Grand Moff Tarkin. They had to include him, as he’s clearly shown to be in charge on the Death Star in the first film. Unfortunately, Peter Cushing died a long time ago. What they’ve done is hire an actor (Guy Henry, whom I’ve seen on stage many times), and then superimpose a CGI Cushing-face on him. The first problem with this is that it looks terrible – like exactly the kind of video-game cut scene that the films should have left behind with the prequels. The other problem is that Henry speaks the lines using his own voice, rather than trying to sound anything like Cushing. So you have someone that looks like Tarkin, more or less, but doesn’t sound like him, and whose face doesn’t move in a natural way.

And then there’s Darth Vader. He makes two memorable appearances in the film, and his sequence at the end is pretty cool. But he sounds wrong. It’s great that James Earl Jones is still with us, but his voice has changed considerably since the early 80s. And whoever is now in the suit needs to work on the walk – Vader shouldn’t swing his hips so much, he’s not bloody Zoolander. He still does the remote strangling thing, but now throws in terrible puns while he does it, like a Bond villain.

This is the first film to do without John Williams’ music (apart from a burst of the main theme at the end). The new music is mostly appropriate, although one triumphal theme sounds more like it belongs in the original Battlestar Galactica than in Star Wars. A lot was made in pre-publicity of the fact that Rogue One does well without such perennial features as a Williams score or an opening text crawl. But the film is so heavily indebted to the rest of the series that it might as well have them.

I enjoyed Rogue One while I was watching it, but the more time elapses since then, the more I find it hard to remember. It’s fun, and I’d happily watch future Star Wars films if they were of similar calibre. But I hope they won’t all lean quite so heavily on the old films.
Blu-ray

As you’d expect, the film looks and sounds tremendous in HD. It obviously relies heavily on effects, but sequences like the Star Destroyer slowly emerging from the shadow of a planet look amazing. The one annoyance is that when you pause the film, a small blue box appears in the bottom corner of the screen with the name of the chapter in it. Apart from minor spoilers in the chapter names, this box also stays on screen for several seconds after you unpause. I don’t know why that was deemed necessary.

The extras are on a second disk – as with The Force Awakens, Disney have chosen to annoy fans without Blu-ray players by not including any extras on the DVD release. You have to buy the Blu-ray to get the extras. The main extra is a making-of documentary of about an hour’s length, which interviews everyone important. It’s exactly what you’d expect it to be. (Footage from the premiere includes women and Asian fans cheering about the franchise’s new-found love of strong roles for women and non-white actors. In your face, Trump voters). The only other extra is a five-minute piece explaining some of the less-obvious references to other parts of the franchise. I don’t see why they couldn’t have added the extras to the first disk – they don’t seem that hefty.

Anyway, calculated and cynical though it feels, Rogue One is still enjoyable. As long as you’re not expecting anything that reinvents the wheel, and as long as you have a reasonable knowledge of the Star Wars universe (is there anyone left who doesn’t?), then you’ll probably enjoy it.

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Comments on this review

  • siberian-queen published 13/06/2017
    i did enjoy it but i preferred the originals
  • Secre published 09/06/2017
    At some point I'll get around to watching this...
  • mikemelmak published 08/06/2017
    I was surprised to see Peter Cushing appear. First class piece.
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Product Information : Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Blu-ray)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

Actor(s) (Last name, First name): Whitaker, Forest

DVD Region: Blu-ray

Video Category: Feature Film

Production Year: 2016

Director(s) (Last name, First name): Edwards, Gareth

EAN: 8717418500771

Classification: 12 years and over

Actor(s): Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Diego Luna

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Listed on Ciao since: 13/05/2017