Initially, I wasn’t going to write a review for Star Wars: Rogue One. It’s been out in the theatres for a while now, and I’ve already seen many reviews for it, after all. I’ve seen people praising it left, right, and centre, going on about what a great addition to the series it was.
But, honestly? I don’t really see it.
I mean, it was okay. It was a decent action film, and there were quite a few fight scenes that I thought were pretty fun. Some of the call-backs to the older films were pretty cute, and K-2SO is officially my third favourite droid (R2-D2 is my first, BB-8 is my second. Fuck C-3PO). Not to mention, I enjoyed every scene with Darth Vader in it (that’s right, all two of them). But, overall, I’d say it’s my least favourite of the Star Wars films – and I’m including the prequels in that. Because, yes, the prequels were stupid. The prequels were filled with stilted dialogue, forced scenarios, and wasted opportunities. But at least the prequels made me feel something, which, with the exception of the occasional exciting cameo or (admittedly incredible) Darth Vader scene, Rogue One simply failed to do.
And to explain why I didn’t enjoy Rogue One all that much, I think I need to go back and explore what it is about the other Star Wars movies that I enjoyed so much.
The thing about the Star Wars universe that I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed is just how good at writing characters they are. Luke Skywalker, for example, is probably one of my favourite characters in fiction, based simply off of the fact that he is, in my mind, the perfect example of the archetypal hero. He begins as a young boy with good intentions, and through the course of the series, he learns how to become the ideal hero – how to put the lives of others (including the villains) above his own. And, opposite to him, we have Darth Vader, who is a brilliantly written villain. He’s a man who does bad things, but who is not, himself, evil. He has his own morals, lines that he will not cross, people that he loves and would do anything for. He is a complex individual who is so much more than the simple sociopath that we see in so many stories.
And beyond that, I just like these characters. I like Princess Leia, simply because she is a strong, authoritative woman who is never once denied her femininity as a result. She can still be a princess, while simultaneously kicking butt and showing the boys what’s-what.
I like Han Solo, because he tries to come off as this super-cool smuggler who doesn’t need anybody, but in reality, he’s actually much more vulnerable than he appears, and he does, in fact, need to be loved and validated.
Even if we were to look a bit more recently in the Star Wars canon, I liked all the characters from the Force Awakens. I liked Finn – he was very funny, and I thought it was very interesting that they were turning a Stormtrooper into a hero. I liked Rey – I thought that she balanced strength and vulnerability very well, and in a very different way than Han Solo did. While Han Solo always tried to present himself as strong while actually being vulnerable, Rey didn’t seem to be trying to present herself as either – she simply was both, and I found that balance very interesting.
But in Rogue One? There were simply no characters that I cared about (apart from Darth Vader, but he doesn’t count – I care about him because of other films, not this one). Every once in a while, they’d introduce someone who I thought looked interesting, but it never felt like we, as the audience, delved much deeper than the surface. For example, we got a very interesting action scene with Chirrut Îmwe, leaving me thinking, “whoa! Who is this guy?” and I don’t feel like I ever really found out. All that I got was more action, maybe a hint at a moral dilemma that I didn’t really feel like I could take all that seriously because I knew how it was going to end, and then the movie was over.
But, then again, I was never interested in Star Wars because of the action. I was interested because of the characters, and the way that they were explored and developed. So I suppose if you’re only in it for the action, then you will definitely get what you want out of this movie. But personally, I found this film disappointingly underwhelming. Because, hell, for all of the faults of the prequel films, at least Anakin Skywalker had a personality.