Death of the Critic

Rogue One - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich


Rogue One
is a very different Star Wars movie than we have ever seen before. It lives in a grittier, dirtier, more disheveled world that neither the original nor prequel trilogies got near. It is one of the best Star Wars movies and it takes the franchise to a place far from it’s almost cartoonish roots. But at the same time, it doesn’t do much. By virtue of its place within the franchise, it can’t change anything, and at some points, it felt like it was here purely as a way to tie up loose ends that fans have been desperately asking after for years.

The movie is about the group of rebels that steals the original Death Star plans, but it felt more like a two-hour long explanation of the fatal exhaust port flaw. And it does a pretty good job at making you forget that the entire thing is just an elaborate, endorsed, multimillion-dollar fan fiction. Despite this, the entire time that thought was in the back of my mind. You know how the movie was going to end. You know that the rebels escape with the plans and it undermines the suspense that the second half of the movie is built around.

Along with its awkward place in the franchise’s chronology comes a rather tenuous attachment to the lore. There are a lot of references to the main
Star Wars fiction baked into the story, and it was cool to recognize people and technology from the other films, but at the same time I had a nagging feeling that you could replace the Death Star with any other sci-fi super weapon and have the story make complete sense, and it was a little disappointing. The Star Wars details felt like window dressings around a central plot of a group of soldiers stealing plans for something that we’ve seen dozens of times before.


The war these soldiers find themselves in is the most compelling part by far. It’s an ensemble cast, hastily brought together in the second half by awkward hopeful speeches and a seeming desire to give everyone their own quirk. You have the blind but faithful monk with Donnie Yen and his disillusioned comrade in Jiang Wen. You have a wisecracking robot and two reluctant main characters. The most interesting of the bunch is the deserter shuttle pilot who joins them, and his path of redemption is the most satisfying bit of character building we see in the film.

The battles aren’t as clean as the robot vs clone fights of the prequels or the small-scale encounters of the original trilogy. It is meaty and satisfying, and by showing us the characters that go into each battle, we root for them so much more than we would for a group of faceless rebels or identical clone troopers. Thankfully the storm troopers have finally received a much needed upgrade, feeling dangerous and competent for the first time that we’ve seen them, and the jet black “Death Troopers” were more than a little intimidating.


There is a really great scene where a group of rebels attack an Imperial convoy, and it is basically everything that I wanted from a
Star Wars battle that I never knew until now. The rebels are from a more violent, splinter faction of the Rebellion, and their tactics reflect it. The ambush is violent, unrestrained, uncoordinated, and sudden, as ear crunching explosions go off and laser fire pours through smoke. They took cues from guerrilla warfare for the tactics and it draws an interesting (if a bit obvious) comparison between the rebels and terrorist groups across the world, attacking an occupying force from doors and windows and rolling grenades under tanks to incapacitate them.

It’s a damn good looking movie, and there were more than a few moments that had me on the edge of my seat. If you get the chance to see it in IMAX, you definitely should, as there are a few scenes that shine when played on the massive screen. It is a remarkably competent war film that finds itself in the middle of the
Star Wars franchise. They don’t do anything shocking, but it is worth the cost of admission to see the movie play out. It makes me excited for what will come next from the franchise.


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Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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