Review: 'Rogue One: A Star Wars Story' tells you what you already know

Marcus Goh
·Contributor

Should you watch this if it’s free? OK.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? No.

Score: 2.0/5

Secret ending? No.

Running time: 133 minutes (~2.25 hours)

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is a science fiction fantasy film that takes place in the “Star Wars” franchise.

It tells the tale of how the Death Star came to be, and the events that lead to the “Star Wars: A New Hope”.

It stars Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), Diego Luna (Cassian Andor), Ben Mendelsohn (Orson Krennic), Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe), Mads Mikkelsen (Galen Erso), Alan Tudyk (K-2SO), Riz Ahmed (Bodhi Rook), Jiang Wen (Baze Malbus), Forest Whitaker (Saw Gerrera), and James Earl Jones (the voice of Darth Vader). It is rated PG.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” is about the journey, rather than the destination, since you already know the outcome of the protagonists’ quest — they succeed. That being said, it’s got a muddied perception of what its audience wants. If you’re a long time “Star Wars” fan, this adds nothing to your enjoyment and understanding of the franchise, besides throwing you a few bones in the form of fan favourite characters making cameos. If you’re a newcomer to the franchise, you’ll be lost. What’s happening and who are all these people running around shooting at each other? It’s truly a title that has gone rogue in its objectives.

Highlights

Appearances by other Star Wars characters

Characters of varying degrees of popularity from “Star Wars: A New Hope” make an appearance in the film and some even play a surprising large role in the plot. It’s interesting to see where all the characters are at this point in the series, and it plays on the nostalgia for the old “Star Wars” films since they lend a sense of familiarity to this foreign universe. And this is ultimately the highlight of “Rogue One” — entertaining you with a few minutes of scenes that are reminiscent of “Star Wars: A New Hope”.

Letdowns

A confusing and ultimately purposeless first two Acts

The film opens with a cliched, but still passably touching sequence which shows us how our main character came to be, then skips over formative years of her childhood to show us Felicity Jones as an adult Jyn Erso. Then it immediately goes into characters asking other characters about different characters, without explaining who any of them are (and why they’re important) to us. They then fly from a planet we know nothing about to another unknown planet, with nary an explanation about the locations. Only much later do we hear something familiar, the Death Star, and from then on everything becomes clearer.

But for the first hour, expect to be confused. Either that, or read as much as “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” news as possible to help you figure things out.

Exposition is uneven

There is exposition, and you’ll know why the Death Star was built with such a cringe-inducing critical weakness and how Princess Leia got ahold of the plans for the Death Star by the time the credits roll. The problem is that nobody explains anything in the first Act, and everyone’s wearing the same drab colours. Then suddenly, in a meeting room no less, a chunk of exposition is dumped on you about who this motley crew of characters are and how everything’s connected. Would it have hurt to have paced this information out over a few scenes?

Sudden changes in character motivations and allegiances

Characters change their minds in this film through pensive looks and beatific poses. It’s amazing how a few seconds of looking thoughtful can cause a person to take a complete U-turn on their stances and become inspirational speakers or loyal fighters, when earlier on they’re whining about how they only care about themselves. The plot is what drives the characters, instead of vice versa, making this a story that happens only because the writer says so (as opposed to being character-driven).

Adds nothing to the Star Wars mythos

Most insulting of all is the fact that it adds absolutely no insight to the existing “Star Wars” mythos. It doesn’t shed new light on any characters or places, it doesn’t give us a fresh perspective on the war, and it doesn’t enrich our understanding of the series in any meaningful way. Granted, it’s hampered by the fact that the outcome is already set in stone. But if it adds nothing new, then what’s the raison d’etre of the movie?

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” spends a lot of money to tell audiences what they already know without any of the nostalgia of a remake.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” opens in cinemas:
– 15 December, 2016 (Singapore)
– 15 December, 2016 (Malaysia)
– 15 December, 2016 (Philippines)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.