Rogue One

Rating:

ONE SINGULAR SENSATION

Main Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna

Director: Gareth Edwards

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My fans are clamoring for my exclusive dolls to add to their collections.

I owe an apology to all of you lovely people out there in the dark for being so incommunicado the past few weeks.  The combination of work and the holiday season has been taking its toll.  Fourteen hour days on the set of my new musical spectacular, an adaptation of Stephen King’s It with yours truly in the title role, have not left me with much time to watch and comment on other people’s films, especially as so many of them are such inferior products when compared with my amazing filmography.  Principal photography is nearly complete.  We only need to do the It Came From Outer Space ballet for the epic conclusion for the film and I will finally be able to take off the clown makeup and get back to my much more sensible everyday wear with gorgeous color and moisturizing toner from my own Lesterene beauty care line.

The new west wing is essentially complete at Casa Maine and what few spare hours we have has found me and Normy busily arranging our new work spaces, complete with several guest suites, so my various employees can be at my beck and call during the crunch times on my various projects.  The first thing on the list is getting the mail order business back to scratch.   Orders during the holiday rush simply weren’t what they should have been.  Therefore, Leah, my gal Friday whom I am promoting to head of merchandising, and I are having a number of meetings to make sure that we can totally rebrand and rebuild my Lesterene beauty products, GlamourPuss Gowns haut couture, VickiWear casual wear and Mrs. Norman Maine collector dolls.  I’m thinking a full variety hour on QVC ought to do the trick.  Musical numbers, glamorous guest stars and a real sense of excitement about the products while the 1-800 number flashes continuously at the bottom of the screen.

Normy and I did manage to sneak out the other night for a quick dinner at The Ivy and, driving back to Casa Maine on Sunset, we passed the local Cineplex and I spied a large sign for a movie entitled Rouge One.  As I am looking for new ways to incorporate beauty makeup into the active gal’s life, I asked Normy to pull over and I quickly ran up to the box office for a couple of tickets, hoping to see a film about contours, shadow and fabulous eyeliner.  Imagine my disappointment when I took a closer look at the tickets and noticed that the film was actually entitled Rogue One.  Ah well, the money was spent so we might as well enjoy ourselves with a large popcorn mixed with some peanut M & Ms and washed down with a large coke.

Having been cooped up on a movie set the last few months, I had heard little of this film and did not know what to expect, until some very familiar looking titles and music crossed the screen, signifying that Rogue One was part of the Star Wars universe, but not part of the main saga; instead it spends two and a half hours answering a forty-year-old plot question.  Just why did the Death Star, the most powerful weapon the galactic empire had built at that time, have a fatal flaw that allowed a single pilot to destroy it with a couple of torpedoes?   I guess this makes the film a prequel of sorts, following a cast of characters involved in the heist of the Death Star plans which forms the McGuffin around which the original film is based.

Rogue One opens with the family Erso farming on a planet that looks suspiciously like Iceland.  Papa Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) is an engineer who is hiding out from the empire as he does not wish to participate in their weapons program.  The empire, of course, arrives in the person of Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), who takes Galen away, kills mama but manages to miss their daughter Jyn who hides in a cave.  Fast forward a decade or so and Jyn is now a woman grown (Felicity Jones) and a captive.  There’s a bunch of exposition about the empire and various rebel factions during which I used the lavatory, but eventually Jyn falls in with Cassian (Diego Luna), a rebel agent, a wise cracking security droid (voiced by Alan Tudyk), an ex- Tie fighter pilot (Riz Ahmed), and a couple of Asian monks that seem to have escaped from a Jackie Chan movie (Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen).  They all get together in the desert hideout of Saw Generra, a rebel extremist (Forest Whitaker) until the empire shows up with its new weapon and our motley crew are off to find Jyn’s father who has been one of the chief engineers on the Death Star design team and later the plans which could help the rebels defeat the empire.  Along the way, we run into a CGI Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin, various inhabited planets, narrow escapes, action scenes, and our old favorite Darth Vader who, in a stunning scene near the end of the film, shows his true colors.

The Star Wars films are, for the most part, epic interconnected fantasies, mainly quest myths with much in common with westerns and classical swords and sandals pictures.  Rogue One is not.  It is a war film very much in the vein of The Dirty Dozen or The Guns of Navarone in which a band of unlikely and bickering allies are thrown together in a dangerous, if not suicidal task where each of their individual strengths is necessary for them to succeed against the odds. At least the second half is a war film.  I’m not as sure about the first half which gets lost in a lot of unnecessary politics and exposition.  We are familiar with this universe and its rules and the major players.  We don’t need anywhere near the long drawn out sequences of the first forty-five minutes or so which bring our heroes together.  There needed to be a lot of judicious editing and the entire Saw Generra subplot could have been jettisoned for something much simpler.  It’s always nice to see Forest Whitaker on screen but he’s unnecessary to the film.

Once our heroes do find each other and band together, the film takes off like a rocket and the last hour or so is as gripping as any of the films in the saga.  The climactic battle which cuts between a daring raid on a data facility, tropical beach warfare and an epic air and space battle above is a masterpiece of pacing, timing and editing.  (Kudos to director Gareth Edwards – best known for the most recent Godzilla remake and the low budget Monsters and to cinematographer Greig Fraser and a crackerjack editing team). But even when the battle is over, there are more great moments to come with Darth Vader and an eventual perfect last line delivered by an old friend.

Performances are solid throughout Rogue One.  Alan Tudyk, as the wise cracking droid K-2SO, gets all the best lines.  Felicity Jones and Diego Luna, who carry the film between them, create glimpses of complex interior lives and give us some romantic tension.  My favorite character, however, was Riz Ahmed’s turncoat imperial pilot who provides the rebellion with the information necessary for their cause, and the plot to go forward.

The film is littered with Easter eggs and references to all the other films in the saga.  Minor characters we’ve met before turn up on the periphery.  We correct some of the implied sexism of the original trilogy by having female fighter pilots.  The CGI used to recreate Peter Cushing, who has been dead for more than twenty years, is impressive, if ethically questionable.  There are a few other uses of CGI for facial features which are also rather well done and not as ethically questionable as the individuals involved could give consent to recreate their younger selves.   The visual effects and sound remain top notch and Michael Giacchino’s score riffs nicely on John William’s classic themes.

All in all, I was prepared not to like Rogue One after it’s halting beginning, but once it gets going on all cylinders, it’s a worthwhile addition to the Star Wars canon and I plan to go back for a second look.

Important stardust.  Questionable motivations. Holy cities.  Droid wisecracks.  Metallic cameos.  Ruthless light saber wielding. Tower climbing.  Gorgeous tropical archipelago.  Crashing imperial star destroyers.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

photo by MoscheDayanTomaz

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Comments

  • Alex J Diaz-Granados

    April 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm
    Reply

    Great review, as always. However, I must point out that Forest Whittaker's character's name is "Saw Gerrera." He was included in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" to connect the film with the Prequel Trilogy era; he wasn't in the […] Read MoreGreat review, as always. However, I must point out that Forest Whittaker's character's name is "Saw Gerrera." He was included in "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" to connect the film with the Prequel Trilogy era; he wasn't in the live-action films, mind you, but he was introduced in the Onderon arc of the "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" animated series. Read Less

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