Rogue One Review (With Spoilers)

Star Wars Rogue One did something I did not think was possible: it made me feel excited about Star Wars again. Like, “I want to go out and grab a Star Destroyer model to build after I finish my next Gundam” excited.

I actually enjoyed Rogue One more than the last four Star Wars movies I’ve watched, at let me tell you, I’ve skipped a couple.images

Okay, yeah, it was not really pulpy, and as dumb as it sounded when those sites said “this is the first Star Wars movie about war”, they kind of had a point. This was not the Star Wars of the original trilogy, or the plastic and cartoony prequels and their spin-offs – this was expanded universe Star Wars: the Star Wars of TIE Fighter, X-Wing, Rebel Assault, and Dark Forces. In fact, it dawned on me when the blind Force Monk showed up: Rogue One is “Some Guy’s Star Wars d6 RPG Campaign: The Movie”, and I mean that in the best way possible.

There are no super powered characters here – folks rolled their stats 3d6 in order, and the casting choices reflect this. One of the striking things about Rogue One is how rough everyone looks; I mean, it really says something when Forest Whitaker is not the ugliest dude in your movie. Unlike TFA with all of the pretty but bland people, Rogue One’s cast is, while not traditionally beautiful, striking. Jeffro mentioned Jyn Erso having a fish-face, and once someone points that out, you can’t not notice it. I don’t know how to say this in a way that doesn’t sound mean to Felicity Jones, but the huge eyes, trout-pout and buck-teeth that together give her a touch of the Innsmouth look, give Jyn Erso a really distinctive appearance that’s in stark contrast to Daisy Ridley’s more generic Hollywood features. Jyn’s not a sexy, ass-kicking conventionally attractive Mary Sue who can do anything better than everyone else; she’s a weird, awkward girl who tries really hard and doesn’t give up, and you end up liking her for it.

It was kind of awesome having a Spaniard playing the male lead; every time he spoke, I kept thinking “My name is Inigo Montoya; I am looking for the plans to the Death Star!” The chemistry between Cassian and Jyn was subtle, never ham-fisted, but there were plenty of little moments, little glances that made me smile. I’ll admit, I was moved as Inigo and fish-girl held hands and embraced, watching the mushroom cloud of destruction roll towards them.

The rest of the characters filled the party nicely, again harkening back to the movie’s strong tabletop feel: Pilot, Heavy Weapons Specialist, Guy-Who-Likes-to-Play-the-Robot, and Guy-Who-Wants-to-Play-Eastern-Martial-Artist-in-Every-Game-Regardless-of-Genre. Seriously, the Force Monk is something I’d only ever really seen back in the 90s at the FLGS with people playing d6 Star Wars. His character worked, though, and frankly is far more like what one expected of the Jedi and wanted to see than what the prequels gave us.

Rogue One handled Vader much better than I could’ve expected. We got to see Darth Vader’s castle from Leigh Brackett’s Empire script, which was neat. We also get enough bits to reinforce the impression from New Hope that Vader thinks the Death Star is a dumb idea and Tarkin is an idiot who’s going to screw everything up. When Vader actually fights, he looks cool – he’s not jumping around flying all over the place like the prequels, and he’s not using the Force to throw hunks of trash at people like Empire. Vader was well done.

There were a few really bad spots, but most are easily forgiven with an eye roll (the criminals from the cantina running into Jyn and Cassian in the alley, R2 and C3PO’s cameo). Tarkin was not one of them. They really needed to find a better way to include Tarkin than having a body double with a creepy Peter Cushing Gollum face CGed onto him. While CG has reached a point where it can create photorealistic faces, it has not reached a point where movements and expressions are not noticeably and horribly out of place. CGI-face Leia was weird, but thankfully only one scene. Speaking of Leia, having her at the battle and having her Corvette be an escape ship smacks of continuity snarl (the next cut of New Hope will have Vader saying “You expect me to believe you’re on a diplomatic mission?! I was on your ship at the Battle of Scarif not 20 minutes ago!”) Also, would’ve been nice to have some bit about the rebels evacuating Dantooine and moving their base to Yavin 4, but that’s not as bad as the somewhat rushed denouement that leads straight into New Hope.

I can’t remember which blogger I follow who said it first, but I would much rather watch more movies about the characters from Rogue One than any of those from the originals, prequels or new trilogy. Which is a shame, because like so many RPG stories, this one ended in a TPK. In a way, I’m sad, because while this movie made me excited for Star Wars again, I don’t know what else there is to look forward to. I really don’t care about Episode VIII, and I find the promises that subsequent stand-alone films will focus on Han Solo and Boba Fett less than intriguing.* Now, if they announced a Marek Steele movie, I’d be all about that. For now, though, I’ll just have to wait and wonder. And check out how cheaply I can find a decent Star Destroyer model…

*:One interesting tidbit was the hint that there was another jedi out there and that jedi was a woman (and therefore could not have been Obi Wan Actually the Main Villain of Star Wars Kenobi). This could be interesting or terrible. Given how most of the movies have treated Jedi, I’m leaning terrible, but Rogue One was good enough that I may cross my fingers.

Brief Addendum:

Why I liked it better than Empire:

  • Seriously, the Battle of Hoth was the only good part of Empire, and Rogue One had its Battle of Hoth as the climactic ending instead of the first act.
  • Empire’s pacing is a damn mess and its timeline makes next to no sense
  • Despite all the love for the romance between Han and Leia, it drips with a lot of bad cheese and still has a lot of cringe; Jyn and Cassian were nowhere near as cringy
  • Star Wars becoming terrible can be pinpointed to the moment when Darth Vader started to use the force to throw giant hunks of trash Luke. From that moment forward, the Force stopped being mystical and became about moving garbage by pressing down-to-forward + punch. Blind Force monk felt way more true to the mystical rather than mechanical concept of the Force

Why I liked it better than Jedi:

  • C’mon, bro, we all know Jedi was trash!
  • Just Kidding
  • (Not Kidding)
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23 responses to “Rogue One Review (With Spoilers)

  1. They probably should have avoided close-ups of CGI Tarkin. It seemed realistic when he was walking around and the voice was good (was it recordings of Peter Cushing?) but the close-ups looked… off.

  2. I missed the hint that there was a female Jedi. Where was that?

    And for the record, I enjoyed this movie more than I expected to. Such a waste that the Force sensitive monk isn’t getting a movie of his own! What a great character and testament to Donnie Yeun presence. His charisma level was easily a 17-18! And should also serve as an explanation to some idiot players why it doesn’t revolve around pure appearances.

    Would have liked to see more of K-2S0 as well.

  3. I agree. Good war movie, good Star Wars movie. Nope, no heroes, just the expendable mooks who sacrificed to let the heroes have their moment of glory. And I enjoyed the heck out of it.

    I’m still hoping the Han Solo spin-off movie will be Some Guy’s Star Wars D6 Smuggler Adventure. I have that sourcebook and it’s awesome.

  4. “Some Guy’s Star Wars d6 RPG Campaign: The Movie”, Exactly and as someone that is in many way’s a SW rpg fan (as apposed to SW general fan) that’s what had me re-seeing this movie. In a lot of way’s the old expanded U (or posbley legends now? intile Rogue 1 I hadn’t bothered checking it out) , the RPG and off course fanfic was all about exploring this sort of stuff .

    Also when Blind Force Monk showed up my first thought was Force user (non-jedi) = character concept.

    • This is something that is difficult to convey to people who have not played the old Lucas Arts Star Wars compy games from the mid 90s or at least have passing familiarity with the old tabletop RPG.

      I’ve even pointed out that the kind of hackneyed ending with Vader and Leia is akin to the GM hamfistedly trying to shoe-horn in the epic TPK from his one-off session into the main continuity. While it doesn’t really work well, and is probably the most awkward part of the movie, it is understandable in that context.

      And no, of course it doesn’t ‘feel like a Star Wars movie’, but it should be noted that the Star Wars movies average out to be terrible, so that is a feature, not a bug.

      A couple weeks ago, I could not have possibly imagined myself defending this movie.

    • Thanks! Not yet; I’m probably going to wait until I finish the Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam I picked up last week + one paycheck before I drop cash on another big model.

      While I occasionally will talk about recent movies I’ve seen, I don’t see all that many of them so don’t write about them that often. I do, however, have a weekly column at Castalia House where I write reviews of 1940s pulp stories. I mostly focus on Sci-Fi stuff (most of what I’ve covered has been Planet Stories Magazine), but right now I’m reviewing a 1943 issue of G-Men Detective

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