Since its acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012, Disney has released revitalized interest in the Star Wars brand with a steady stream of movies, television shows, books and comics. There’s so much Star Wars I hardly know what to do. Every morning when I get dragged out of bed by my kid I wonder “How is Star Wars going to affect my life today?”
It turns out that everywhere I go there’s Star Wars. “May the Fourth Be With You” (May 4th) is basically a national holiday. We are now “blessed” with the prospect of a Star Wars film every year, with main saga and side-stories alternating every year.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the most recent release in the Star Wars Saga. It follows the adventure of largely forgettable members of the “Rebel Alliance” (and a sometimes funny droid) as they steal the plans for The Death Star, a massive super-weapon and iconic plot device of the Star Wars universe. Popular bad guy Darth Vader was in it too. Rogue One had a lot of problems as a Star Wars film and doesn’t deserve the pantheon it’s been placed in.
I can’t remember the last time I saw a big budget movie with such forgettable characters. I remember Darth Vader because Darth Vader. This movie failed to keep me emotionally engaged with the struggle the characters went through. Why do I care about the rebellious Rebel Jyn’s relationship to her father? Why should I like Rebel Captain, Cassian when he’s shown to be a cold blooded killer? What makes totally-not-a-Jedi Chirrut Imwe so compelling as a character?
The answers to these questions often lie in Expanded Universe content that the average viewer doesn’t consume. I shouldn’t have to read the tie in novel Rogue One: Catalyst to get emotional context to a movie. Rogue One also felt off in it’s tone. I’ve always wanted a Star Wars film that was filled with no joy. Empire was dark but it still had moments of humor.
The reliance on nostalgia in this film was painfully obvious. The whole time I watched this film it felt like the writers kept saying to me “Do you remember that from the old movies?” I will admit the nostalgia moments made me smile at times but it was too heavy handed. Minor Spoiler: Finding out why Luke had the Red Five call sign for his X-Wing was a neat wink to the audience.
I did love the last third of this movie when the action starts to pick up. It finally felt like a Star Wars film. The end sequence with Darth Vader was a neat surprise although totally unnecessary. Darth Vader was a menacing presence in the Original Trilogy despite only igniting his lightsaber three times and only using the Force to kill Imperial Officers. I don’t need a sequence of him cutting down Rebel Soldiers to solidify why he’s terrifying.
I make these criticisms solely out of love for the franchise. I want Disney to take risks with Star Wars but not lose the soul of the series. We’ll have to wait and see how The Last Jedi turns out. My hopes are high but I’m trying to stay off the hype train.