Rogue One is a feat. I say this because I typically don't write reviews or first impressions, but in the case of this Star Wars installment I couldn't resist. It's fantastic. How fantastic? Well, let's compare this film to a massage parlor on Tatooine rumored for Happy Endings. But this time you're really hoping for multiple Nerdgasms. Medically impossible? Maybe... But, before we get there, let's touch upon Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
If I was forced to go to Las Vegas a year ago and bet on who would make a better Star Wars film -- J.J. Abrams or Gareth Edwards -- I would have put it all on Abrams. Do I need insurance on that bet? No insurance. I'm confident.
Results are in -- I would have left Vegas humbled and broke. In an unexpected twist, and with Rogue One there are many, Gareth Edwards far exceeded what was achieved by Abrams. Plain and simple. If that's all you were looking to hear, there it is. Rogue One is a far better movie than The Force Awakens. But let's get back inside that massage parlor.
Rogue One Review: Nerdgasms Aplenty
The Force Awakens was a good Star Wars installment and a perfectly fine movie. It lays on the nostalgia so thick, however, it's like having your Tatooine masseuse constantly er, brush against your nethers without moving onto the full tug. Sure, there are a couple standout moments that cause the goosebumps to rise and the Nerdgasm to pop, but they were limited. Case in point is when we see Rey out force-pull Kylo Ren for Luke's lightsaber. Queue original Star Wars music and fans couldn't help but blow their loads. A great moment.
And Rogue One has about two dozen of these types of moments. It's like the masseuse won't stop jerking you off -- Jabba only hires the best -- and, as a medical miracle, you can't stop blowing your loads. Even better, a lot of the moments are completely unexpected, which is a refreshing change for the franchise. It's like if you were to Nerd(or)gasm while your masseuse was in the process of cracking your toes. Completely unexpected and medically miraculous! But with Rogue One, the masseuse almost has no time at all for your toes, because she (or he for the ladies or those with a sexual preference) can't stop tugging!
By the end of the film's running time you are literally exhausted, probably in tears, and, of course, ready for a second round.
I so badly want to discuss the film but, in similar marketing fashion to The Force Awakens, Rogue One has kept a lot hidden up its sleeves. Not sure if you have heard, but a lot of the visuals in the trailers are actually not in the film. A way to trick audiences and keep plot points secret? Maybe! So let me just point out some assumptions about Gareth Edwards approach and the production of this Star Wars spin-off.
Rogue One Assumptions
Let's talk about the reshoots. Our first assumption was fear. Something has to be wrong with the movie, right? Wrong. Now I'm thinking that Rogue One's awesomeness played through, and Disney saw the value in dumping more money and making this film even more awesome. They weren't upset. They were further investing to put the icing on the cake in regards to this Star Wars installment.
Let's talk about war. Over three decades we have forgotten that this franchise is essentially a giant war feature that has ups and downs for both sides. Typically when one side is up, the other is down. Rogue One is the first to find a grey area. While George Lucas is editing New Hope to ensure Han Solo comes off squeaky clean by not shooting Greedo first, Gareth Edwards throws all that out. Even though the Rebellion's purpose is for the greater good, there are no good guys in war. Innocent people are killed by both sides, as an essential means to win a war. In short -- Shit just got real.
For the first time ever, our heroes are not exactly good people. They have good intentions sure, but they are willing to do terrible things to accomplish their mission. This makes so much more sense than the whitewashed Alliance or Jedi Order we saw in the Old and New Trilogies. Rogue One even features collateral damage from friendly fire, another first.
While Rogue One should be a "win" for the rebellion, it certainly doesn't feel that way. It turns out that war is incredibly tragic!
More Rogue One Assumptions
Let's talk about Stormtroopers. A running joke is that, even after all the training, Stormtroopers have shit aim. Well, Gareth Edwards has given the units some added time at the shooting range, and now they hit their targets. The result is terrible for our rebel fighters, as they get mowed down just as quickly as the enemy. By the time credits roll, you might once again be craving the "inaccurate Stromtrooper."
Let's talk about Vader. Yes, he is in this movie. And, though his moments are short, you can't help but fall in love all over again with this evil character. He is incredible! My only complaint is that he seems to now walk with a bit of swagger, which is odd considering how he moved in New Hope and the damage he took in Revenge of the Sith. Does he light up his lightsaber in this Star Wars installment? I can't say, but let's say he will provide you with one of the largest Star Wars Nerdgasms you have ever had!
Let's talk about CG characters. Some (human) characters are brought back in CG form. I feared this would prove a major distraction. But instead the characters are terrific additions. Oh, and other characters from both New and Old trilogy definitely make appearances. These will, of course, factor into additional Nerdgasms.
Let's talk about the ending. Oh what an ending! Now that's how you end a film like Rogue One! Never has a Star Wars films had an ending like this.
Final Two Important Rogue One Impressions
Let's talk about the drama. The Star Wars franchise is known for having a bit of corniness in every storyline. It's cool, it's part of the franchise. Gareth Edwards seems to have bailed on this formula entirely. Creating one character, droid K-2SO, to deliver almost all the puns. It's genius, as the character provides some comic relief in a surprisingly stressful film.
And, finally, let's talk about the intimacy. We can watch five planets get destroyed at once in The Force Awakens and it has no real effect on audiences save for driving the story along. Instead of tears, our first reaction is, "Ooh, what's Han gonna do about that!?!" It's a tragic disconnect with moviegoers on an emotional level. Gareth Edwards puts audiences on the ground for this story and, with stunning effect, seeing a city get destroyed by the Death Star feels so much more tragic than an entire planet.
Even though this is a stand alone installment that doesn't get to take advantage of any previous character development, by the third act we care about these characters. So much so that about one-third of the audience was crying by the times credits hit. Were they crying because the film is sad? Hell yes it is, but it's everything else as well. It's hope, it's honest, and it's a celebration of a franchise we've loved for over three decades.
For a moviegoer who grew up Star Wars, this is the installment you've been looking for.
Rogue One (2016)
Rating - 9/10
Rogue One not only exceeds The Force Awakens as a better contribution to the franchise, but raises the bar for future Star Wars installments.