Thursday, January 12, 2017

Rogue One: A STAR WARS STARWARS

Star Wars Star Wars Star Wars Star Wars STAR WARS. Everyone loves Star Wars, because Star Wars is Star Wars. And I hope you nerds out there are happy, because we're gonna be seeing new Star Wars movies every single year until we're all dead. Ask 14-year-old me if that sounds appealing, and I would say absolutely. But 14-year-old me was basically retarded -- I used to love Jurassic Park 3, for example. So now that Disney owns Star Wars they're gonna milk it as much as they can, and while I enjoyed The Force Awakens (simultaneously admitting it's many flaws), this movie feels like the first example of the new age of Star Wars. The dead, lifeless, made-by-a-committee age. This wasn't a real Star Wars movie, it was a glorified fan film.

So before I start ranting about everything and lose sight of the goal, let's start at the beginning and why I hate this movie so much. As previously stated, I used to LOOOOVE Star Wars. I was basically obsessed, as my fanboy love clouded even my judgment of the prequel trilogy. I knew the acting was bad and a majority of the events taking place were dull and uninteresting, but I didn't care. It was STAR WARS, I had to love it even if it was bad. I didn't have good enough taste to care, and flashy lightsaber fights were more than enough reason for me to love all 6. Obviously I preferred the original trilogy, but the only copies of those movies we owned had distracting CG additions (hurray for Lucas' tampering) that made watching them more annoying than anything, so I generally would watch the prequels. In other words, I was dumb. Very very dumb. I don't need to rethink the prequel series, because I've been watching them off and on for over a decade and they've stayed the same level of blah. But they did one thing that sets them apart from the existing trilogy: they had actual characters.

Granted, the fan-service in those three movies was VERY strong, and a good deal of the characters weren't original to the series, but they did a good job at adding motivation, emotion, and a little bit of depth to their roles. We got a good look at Anakin, Kenobi, and Palpatine, and this backstory for them all wound up fleshing them out in a way that may change the way people see the original movies. It took away some of the mystery, but giving some perspective and filling out these interesting characters made for a good core story. At its heart, it was still very true to the series and felt like it's own thing. Rogue One is a movie filled with non-characters, based on a non-plothole that's been blown out of proportion by obsessed fanboy nerds with nothing better to do with their time than theorize about things that don't matter even remotely (and this is coming from someone who is totally obsessed with movies). This whole movie didn't need to happen, and only existed to fill out the already-too-long series with pointless side plots to capitalize on the Star Wars brand name. Needless exploitative nonsense.

And how is it nonsensical? Well, let's start with a very important and often overlooked plot chasm (because it's much larger than just a plothole): Mads Mikkelsen (I couldn't be fussed to remember the names of any of these people, since they weren't even actual characters in the first place) was able to record a private message intended for his daughter and other fighters in the rebellion instructing them on how and where to go to find the weakness in the Death Star. And what is the weakness in the Death Star? All it takes is one shot in the correct place to blow the thing to smithereens. That's it. Instead of having to orchestrate an entire mission infiltrating one of the most secure and dangerous locations in the entire galaxy, this all could have been avoided by just saying "hey, shoot the Death Star over here". You could say that he was trying not to be too specific and give away the weakness in case the hologram fell into the wrong hands, but since he included the information that there was a critical flaw in its design and all it would take was a look at the blueprints to figure this out, that whole theory disintegrates.

And onto the heist itself. As the massive action scene that it is, no one has seemed willing to dissect it and actually talk about what's going on here, because explosions apparently are an adequate substitute for good writing. I've only seen the movie once, so I can't pretend to recall every single event that took place and the exact order in which they did, but I can say that on first viewing, I genuinely have no idea why anyone started shooting in the first place. They successfully managed to sneak into the Empire's base, took the outfits of Imperial people for disguises, and started working their way into the core of the building to find the Death Star plans. This managed to happen without any suspicion on the side of the Empire. But then the good guys start blowing things up and the movie distracts the audience with so many explosions, you'll forget that all of this could be avoided entirely without any change to the plot whatsoever. But apparently heist scenes are too boring for people and they just want to see explosions. Because people are stupid and keep giving equally brainless people with money even more money to make more brainless entertainment for those same stupid people. It's an endless cycle. Chicken, meet the egg.

But why do I need to care about the plot when there's so much else to love? Let's take the wonderful characters, for example. Take Felicity Jones' character, or Diego Luna's character, or Forest Whitaker's character, or Mads Mikkelsen's character, or the robot character, or Donnie Yen's character, or the other Asian guy's character...and let's not forget Ben Mendelsohn's character, the unforgettably villainous Crentist...or was it Crenworth? Crenwick? Ben Mendelsohn. Yeah, that's the one. Who could ever forget such iconic heroes and villains? They had such deep backstories, including the one where Felicity Jones has her father taken away and Diego Luna's apparently had a bad life. This was as far as they went. By the third act when their lives were in peril, I had nothing attaching me to these people. They were used as plot devices, never revealing themselves to be anything more. The plot moves Felicity Jones to F-6, Donnie Yen captures a rook, and so on. And it's never any less mechanical than that. The most interesting characters in this movie are the special effects.

I suppose it's time to talk about something that I actually do like. By which I, of course, mean something that I could've not hated and wound up hating anyway. Peter Cushing, as my most loyal readers would probably know, is one of my all-time favorite actors. No exaggeration, he is one of my 2 favorite actors ever, so seeing him in a new movie was a very bittersweet experience for me. The "sweet" came from the fact he was kind of in this movie. The "bitter" comes from everything else surrounding him. It obviously wasn't actually him and was instead played by a CG monster. To paraphrase Rich Evans (I believe) from RedLetterMedia, he looked like he fell head first down the uncanny valley. The "performance" if that's what you can even call it, was stiff and his appearance was just distracting and bothersome to me. The same goes for Princess Leia, who was equally as creepy and melted looking. Especially so considering I watched the movie less than a week after Carrie Fisher's passing.

Okay, now let's seriously talk about something I actually liked. Well, also just kind of. The appearance of Darth Vader was largely a fan-service bit of eye-roll worthy ugh-ness, his dialogue was far too jokey (Darth Vader made a goddamn pun, people) and his voice was distracting. That being said, the scene at the very end of the movie where he whips out his lightsaber and starts mowing down rebel soldiers was the only part of the entire movie that I can even remember enjoying. And it lasted roughly 30 seconds, which I think is a fairly strong indication of how much this movie annoyed me. The attempted humor provided by the robot was also occasionally cringe-worthy, only rarely making me chuckle slightly, so I guess you can put that in the "sort-of good" category. Thsee were the highlights for me, and they would have been nothing in an actual movie.

It's easy for people to go into this expecting a popcorn movie and walk out feeling totally satisfied, and to most people, this movie will not disappoint. I get to be in the distinct minority here, much like I was with Sully, in feeling that more thought needs to be put into movies that are often considered great, but apparently that's flawed thinking on my part. I go into movies people declare as masterpieces expecting something halfway decent or inspired, and when they feel cheap and nonsensical like this, I feel especially cheated. As a Star Wars admirer (I can barely call myself a fan at this point, considering I like only 4 of the 8 movies), I was pretty excited for this movie. The cast looked interesting and I was intrigued to see if they could make it into something more than a sidenote. They didn't.

But what about the visuals and action sequences? I'll give them credit here, the effects were effective. Apart from the deformed looking CG recreations of Cushing and Fisher, the visuals looked about as good as you could expect a movie to look at this point. But with a budget of $200 million, it damn well better look great. That, to me, is a given and shouldn't even be considered in an actual criticism or dissection of a movie. They spent more money to make this movie than I could ever see in 100 lifetimes. It's a shiny sci/fi action movie. Who cares. As for the action sequences, it was hard for me to be invested in them due to how little I cared about any of the "characters" in them. A lot of moments had me scratching my head as they defy logic even within a universe with things like the force and lightsabers. I had plenty of moments where I was confused by the characters and their blasters. One scene with Felicity Jones that gets pointed to a lot as some sort of badass moment involves her whacking stormtroopers with a nightstick, all while holding a blaster that isn't out of ammunition (or whatever the hell blasters use). Why didn't she just shoot them and save herself the physical exertion? Another bit of blaster nonsense, Ben Mendelsohn stands next to two stormtroopers who are firing at Diego Luna. Luna's fires back at Mendelsohn and keeps missing. He only makes the shot when he changes the target to one of the stormtroopers, because why not? How did any non-stormtroopers die in this movie, again?

They've painted themselves and the rest of us into a corner. Making references to the original series seems to be all people need to be satisfied, and just rehashing and playing off of these classics is all this is. The Force Awakens opened the door for this crap, but this is the first non-episodic entry in the Star Wars film franchise and is going to be the reason why we're stuck with new crap with a Star Wars label every year until the end of time. This movie didn't need to exist, the plot made no sense, the characters weren't even characters, the sense of humor was too calculated and unfunny...this was a bad movie. If you like it, fine, I'm glad you didn't feel like you wasted your time here. But if you aren't willing to acknowledge these flaws, all you're doing is feeding a machine that realizes it doesn't matter what kind of crap it's feeding us to make money, and the artform will surely begin to die. And I personally care about movies too much to not say anything. I didn't just dislike this movie, I hated it.
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