Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review
6.5 out of 10
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review:
Before delving into Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the newest Star Wars offering under the Disney banner, I’m going to assume that you have seen Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. I feel safe in assuming that because Disney and the filmmakers behind Rogue One are assuming the same thing. Rogue One gets down in Star Wars lore and rolls around in it like a pig in a mud pit; it luxuriates in it almost to the exclusion of all else. Rogue One is essentially not understandable without being well versed in Star Wars and in the first film in particular.
Which makes sense from a corporate point of view — there are a LOT of Star Wars fans after all — and that is what Rogue One is: the corporate vision of a popular IP, one which plays to its base and takes absolutely no risks or chances. It’s thoroughly competent and utterly uninspired.
For those not in the know, a long time ago, a galaxy far, far away was run by a tyrannical Empire looking for a way to cement its grasp on all the planets under its sway. The various bureaucrats (Mendelsohn) running the Empire think they’ve finally found that in the spherical form of the Death Star, a space-faring super weapon which can destroy entire planets with one shot of its giant cannon. Specifically the planets supporting the tiny Rebel Alliance fighting against the Empire.
Their only hope to stop such a weapon lies in being able to analyze the plans for the station in search of a weakness. And their only hope in getting their hands on those plans is in the hard-bitten daughter (Jones) of the station’s chief designer (Mikkelsen), who unfortunately doesn’t care about the Rebels, the Empire or anyone else.
As you’d expect from the artisans at Lucasfilm, Rogue One is an action-packed, visual extravaganza which spares no expense in the effects and production design departments. In some ways it is a new look at this very familiar saga. While Production Designers Neil Lamont (Harry Potter) and Doug Chiang (Star Wars Prequels) have spent a lot of time looking towards the original films for inspiration — when they aren’t out and out recreating sets from A New Hope (but more on that later) — cameraman Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty) has brought some needed experimentation to classic visuals of the series. From his muddier, high-light free palette (at least partly a result of the choice to shoot on the Arri Alexa digital camera and its more constrained color space) to his choice of handheld shots and atmospheric close-ups, Fraser has brought a new look to the galaxy far, far away and in turn delivered a Star Wars film which does and doesn’t look like a Star Wars film.
It’s a trait which extends to the frequently-marvelous visual effects from John Knoll (who also contributed the film’s story) which ably replicate the original film’s designs while doing things which were impossible in those films. It doesn’t always work, but when it fails it tends to be more conceptual issues than technical ones. A prime example is the planetary shield covering the vault planet the Rebel spies must break into to steal the Death Star plans; it’s the focus of much of the drama of the last act, but it comes across as a suped-version of Planet Druidia’s air-shield in Spaceballs.
Conceptual issues like that are…