Let's Talk About The Problems I Had With Rogue One
Disclaimers abound: This is an unordered list. I'm sure I spelled several things incorrectly. If you want to argue with me in the comments, go right ahead, but abusive stuff will be deleted.
And I suppose I should start this off with the biggest disclaimer....
I liked Rogue One.
But as much as I enjoyed it on the surface. I spent half the movie distracted by issues with both the writing and the direction and in the end, I walked away feeling unsettled.
Let’s talk about my problems with the movie:
Cassian had no backstory.
Here’s a guy who’s a wonderful character that you manage to like despite the fact that his introduction has him killing his contact, a guy who doesn't have an arm (I’m guessing there I couldn’t really tell what was wrong with it). This dude just killed a guy who was HELPING HIM because he shot some storm troopers and got them in a tight spot (that was in no way arm guy's fault). But it was easier to kill him than figure out a way for both of them to get out. Without backstory for Cassian, the only way I know he’s supposed to be a good guy? The trailers. The writers/director gave us all these hints of a tragic backstory and then gave us NOTHING to back it up.
Jyn didn’t have enough backstory.
So, let’s talk for a moment about what backstory we did get. Onscreen tiny Jyn is supposed to run away but winds up being witness to the murder of one parent and the abduction of another. Offscreen Jyn is abandoned by Saw. Onscreen Jyn is scooped up by her father who was still, at that point, working for the empire.
Why did she then show up in prison? (Which was not a necessary shot, let’s be honest. Setting up the capture of Jyn could have been handled in a more meaningful way).
I know that Beth Revis (Across the Universe) is writing a tie-in YA novel about Jyn
but that doesn't make up for the lack in the movie
The lack of backstory for so many characters might be because the writers expected their audience to have watched Rebels? Whatever the case, it didn’t work out so well for those of us who haven’t had a chance to get to it.
There was too much unnecessary CGI for characters.
I HATE the CGI use for Tarkin. I get it, Peter Cushing is dead. He’s been dead for 22 years. You knew that going in. LIMIT his involvement. That felt like a writing error. I know there’s something in the EU that goes into the rivalry between Krennic and Tarkin, but without that, knowledge (which I’m guessing a good 85% of the viewing audience doesn’t have) it felt forced. If they’d had Tarkin show up at the very end and used a little more cinematic trickery to keep from giving us the overly fake character….
And honestly? Leia’s CGI cameo was utterly unnecessary. We all knew what was happening as they ran those plans from one end of the ship to the other. A simple pass off through the door. Maybe a silhouette of her iconic buns in a frosted over viewport… something.
If they were going to make a CGI Tarkin and Leia why didn’t they take the time to age back Krennic at the beginning? You have a man who’s in a crazy stressful job. A man who’s clawed his way up from the bottom and managed to create a freaking death star without being pushed out by some other imperial toady looking for fame and glory. Dude would age like crazy. And yet, his appearance changes very little.
The CameosThe only cameo I actually approve of was the one of R2D2 & C3PO.
Even the addition of the fighter pilot footage from the originals was too gimmicky for me.
The Vader cameo (and I don’t care what anyone says, that was a cameo) was possibly the worst. Here you have a character who IS Star Wars. And somewhere along the way someone forgot that simply putting a guy in a suit and using James Earl Jones’ voice isn’t what makes the character. His dialog was all off. Nothing about that conversation sounded like Vader. I don’t even care about the pun in the grand scheme of things.
Needless Planet Hopping On The Front End
We only needed to see Lah’mu, Yavin 4, Jedah, Eadu, and Scarif. We didn’t need Woobani, we didn’t need Mustafar’s cameo, and while the asteroid (the name of which is escaping me) was super cool, we didn’t need it either. Heck, you could have gotten rid of Lah’mu and put the Erso homestead on Jedah.
Or, beyond that, why bother tossing names at us (for every planet but Mustafar, which felt like a production error when Yavin 4 got one too) when we don’t need to know them because we’re never coming back to them. And Jyn’s incarceration blips didn’t need a planet name, or a “work camp” designation. All you needed was the barred door and the manacles. Your viewers aren’t idiots.
The Shield Destruction Plan
Here we have a movie seemingly made to shut up the people annoyed by the oddity of that little flaw in the death star plans, that gives us the destruction of a planetary shield buy having a spaceship crash into an orbital gate . The whole "Hit the gate facility, DESTROY THE SHIELD" feels false... how would the gate be the thing holding the shield together? Wouldn't that come from generators on the planet? *cough* Return *cough* It didn’t work for me.
Also, as soon as the shield showed up, I leaned over and asked when the vacuum would be showing up before I remembered it was Scarif, not Druidia.
That didn't work for me.
The Pilot and the Truth Blob (the name of my new hit single)
So you have this part where Saw tells Bodi that he’s going to get the truth sucked out of him by this horrible CGI blob (throwback to the prequel trilogy?) and that it’s probably going to make him lose his mind. And then all that happens is that he doesn’t know who he is for the three seconds it takes Cassian to tell him who he is. That should have been ditched… or, they should have used the shit out of it. Watching it, I held my breath, hoping to have this amazing character. A man whose mind was scrambled, but still functioning in cryptic ways. I wanted a character who was more or less a combination of Mad Murdock and Harley Quinn. The sort of person who does something utterly contrary to the situation at hand… and manages to have it be EXACTLY what they needed in the end. Instead of a wild card, we get a man who is still useful, but also a let down.
Cassian’s Weird Sudden Devotion to Jyn
Maybe this is an instance where something got cut that would have made this clearer. I don’t know. But he goes from being full-tilt “YOU DON’T KNOW MY LIFE” to “We’re with you all the way” a little too quickly. It could have made more sense if Cassian was visibly at the awkward meeting with Mon Mothma and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. As far as I can tell, he didn’t hear her speech (maybe he was hiding in a dark corner, who knows).
A Question of AT-ATs
The AT-ATs on Scarif didn’t make sense. That’s not a something you tuck away for a rainy day. That is battle artillery. Unless they were dropped by one of the imperial ships (which would have been pretty hard to do with the shield up) why are they there? They're enormous. WHERE DID THEY STORE THEM. The overhead shot showed like... no garage space. How do you pull a bunch of AT-ATs from out of nowhere?
Here are some things did enjoy...
Jedah’s landscapes, sculptures ala LOTR and the destruction of the first city were all gorgeous.
The imagery of the death star through the atmosphere both from the planet and in orbit.
All of the space battle scenes were lovely… as they usually are when you have Disney's budget.
The Lack of a Romantic Subplot
I knew pretty early on that everyone was going to die (it just made sense) and the star destroyer crashing into the planetary shield was pretty predictable (but the hammerhead corvette bit was lovely). What I didn’t know was if they were going to mess it all up by having Jyn and Cassian make out after knowing each other for all of what… a week? So when they were in the elevator, I sat in that dark theater wincing against the idea of it. Thankfully that didn’t come to pass. Holding onto each other on the beach, knowing they’re going to die. That makes sense. No one wants to die alone.
and yet, with ALL of the things that annoyed me...
I still liked it.