Rogue One - A Reclamation Society Review

Rebellions are built on hope.

...and so are the spending habits of Star Wars fans! We hope every movie will be awesome, and we've been lucky, because Star Wars has given us some of the best movies of all time. But, is Rogue One in the top tier of Star Wars films? I think so! Here's my review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

The first part of this review DOES NOT have spoilers, but the second part DOES have spoilers. Which means, if you don't want to be spoiled, stop reading when you see the spoiler warning!!!

Rogue One: Summary of the Review

I've only seen Rogue One once thus far. Obviously, that's not enough for me to be definitive. But my gut feeling is that Rogue One will fall into one of the top three Star Wars films. Right now, here's how I'm ranking the series (scale of 1-10, 10 being best):

  1. The Empire Strikes Back - 10/10 (keep in mind that ESB is my favorite film of all time)
  2. Rogue One - 9.85/10
  3. The Force Awakens - 9.75/10
  4. A New Hope - 9.5/10
  5. Return of the Jedi - 9.25
  6. Revenge of the Sith - 7.5
  7. The Clone Wars - 6
  8. The Phantom Menace - 5.5 (this movie has some awful parts, but I love the pod race and the fight sequence at the end between the Jedi and Maul)

Rogue One comes in at #2 on the list! And maybe that's just the "newness" talking. I'm not sure yet, which is why more viewings are required. However, here are some of the reasons I love it:

It Feels Like It Belongs

It makes sense in the canon. It also fits perfectly into the timeline. Whereas the prequels felt "off" to me (the aesthetic didn't match my expectations), this feels perfect. It nails the style of the original trilogy, even when it's replacing what once were models with CG. It didn't make me feel as though the creators were trying to "break the mold." But...

It's Not Your Traditional Star Wars Film

It's a war film. It's also darker and grittier than traditional Star Wars films. This feels more like "real life" and less like space fantasy. I LOVE that aspect of it. That said, it still possesses fun moments, and it's not all doom and gloom.

It Explores Spirituality

At the Reclamation Society, we always prefer it when films dig a little deeper into spirituality. And Star Wars has been a little "all over the map" in this regard. Sometimes the Force is explained in scientific terms (#ThanksQuiGon), while other times its spoken of in terms of "feelings" (#ThanksObiWan). This is the first film in the Star Wars canon that feels more relatable in regards to how people like you and I might view spirituality. It seems to go a little deeper, and I love that (though, granted, it could go even deeper).

It Begins Well

I really like the beginning of the film. Everything is as it's supposed to be, but we suddenly get the sense that something's wrong. Tension immediately fills the screen. That tone sets the stage for the rest of the film, and it does so brilliantly.

It Ends... Magnificently

This is one of the best movie endings of all time, particularly for Star Wars fans. It's amazing. From the beginning of the third act all the way to the last second of the film, Rogue One NAILS the ending. After the movie ended I sat there thinking, "Wait, you have to rewind that! I must see that again!!!" It's extraordinary.

The Not-So-Good Parts

It's not a perfect film. The middle, for me, was a bit slow. Some of the dialogue is a bit "on the nose" and/or excessively expository (though, this has been a complaint of mine for multiple Star Wars films), and some of the humor seems a bit forced, particularly given the darker/grittier feel of the film.

Most of the effects are astounding, though there are a couple that are distracting (which is often the case when a film is trying to break creative ground).

One of the biggest criticisms I have (which, to be fair, I need to test on a second watch) is that the film seems to put plot above character development. This is where films like The Empire Strikes Back, The Force Awakens, and A New Hope have a leg up on Rogue One. In those films, we see the development of the characters. They change significantly. In Rogue One, some of the characters shift their opinions and change their actions or attitudes, but we don't see major emotional/value system changes (again, upon first watch--I need to watch it again!).

And now, let's talk through some of the more specific parts of the film...

[SPOILER WARNING - STOP HERE IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN ROGUE ONE!]

Darth Vader

The first scene with Vader, when he's talking with Krennic, was okay. I love that they used the costume from A New Hope. That part was fantastic. But, to me, Vader seemed a little "verbose." He used a lot more words than I think he needed to in order to make his point. He also seemed somewhat less imposing than he did when we first saw him in A New Hope. But, those are minor complaints, especially because...

HOLY $*%&. THE SCENE WITH VADER AT THE END OF THE MOVIE IS PHENOMENAL!!! That scene, at the tail end of Rogue One, is the best scenes in Star Wars history. It's AMAZING. I loved it. It was the Vader we've all wanted to see since Return of the Jedi!

CG People

What did you guys think of Tarkin and Leia? I loved that they were included, and it really bumped the nostalgia up for me, which I really liked. However, I have a feeling that upon multiple viewings, Tarkin and Leia will be somewhat distracting for me. The CG is outstanding, but it's still not totally human-looking. It still looks fake. I liked it, and appreciated the nostalgic aspect of it, but CG still needs to get better before it can replace a real human being and not have it be obvious.

More About That Third Act

One of the things that makes the third act so good is the ever-increasing threat of failure. The pacing of the end is nothing short of artful. At every turn, the level of intensity rises. One minor thing becomes a major thing. One enemy goes down, and a more powerful enemy steps in to take its place. The AT-ACTs are fantastic. The ground battle is amazing. And the space battle is outstanding. There are so many great parts to the battle footage, including the camera angles and "surprises."

It Happens to Everyone

What did you think about everyone dying? I loved it. I really expected several of the characters to live (most especially Jyn and Cassian), but they didn't! And each character died appropriately. They didn't all die in the final explosion (in my theater, everyone gasped when Bohdi died). I thought that was perfect way to handle these characters. It fit the overall tone and feel of the movie, and it proved that it costs to rebel. There's a price to be paid. Freedom isn't free.

Cameos

The cameos were really fun, and some of them were unexpected. What was your favorite cameo? Mine was Red Leader. I believe they used the same footage from A New Hope, but I'm not sure. He was a really fun addition, though.

Faith and the Force

I appreciated how they treated Chirrut and Baze's faith. Chirrut stepped out in faith, and he was rewarded for it, even though it didn't "save" him in the end (he still had a time to die). Baze, on the other hand, seemed to have a doubting faith that became stronger when he witnessed Chirrut's faith in action. That was cool.

Conclusion

Well, that's about it. Expect a more detailed dive into the movie, including it's thoughts on spirituality, human nature, relationships, and its stance on government policy and procedure when the movie is available for purchase. Until then, be sure to check out our Star Wars fan film, Star Wars: Rivals! In fact, we'd love to do a sequel to Rivals. And you can help us make it. Just cruise over to www.reclamationsociety.org/give and donate to the Reclamation Society. We're a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which means your gift is tax deductible! Another way to support us is by purchasing a pair of Urban Vinyl headphones! For every purchase that's made through our special link, Urban Vinyl will donate to the Reclamation Society!

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Be sure to leave your thoughts below! Let us know what you think of Rogue One, and may the Force be with you!