Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Star Wars : Rogue One (2016)"

a film review by CatsMando

     I've seen alot of Star Trek movies, I've seen all of the major Star Wars films. Never been a fan of both. I don't know why but those has all of the things that should be an easy sell for me. The pure lighthearted adventure, one dabbles deep in the philosophy of sci-fi, the other is an honest-to-goodness space epic. Both banks hard in space battles and with good reason; they're well made and very much worth watching. Those two are actually good big sci-fi franchises...but yeah, I'm just not fully hooked on either one.

    So why put this thought in this here review? Because this is me, a non-fan, saying that yeah, Rogue One is a movie struggling to be coherent. Starting act's as messy as paint in an air blower. And the honestly great roster of characters are not fully brought out. But...I like it, I really like Star Wars Rogue One. Like Wrath of Khan in the whole Star Trek fare, Star Wars Rogue One is, even to my surprise, my most favorite movie of all Star Wars stuff.  I put forth those introductory lines because I understand and admit, I don't have any authority or say for the franchise so I may be on the wrong here and yeah, the film indeed has alot of bad spots and beats...but, man, I just love Rogue One.

    So okay, bad stuffs first. It's already understood by everyone going into the film that this is going to be the prequel of sorts. It's the bridge between the prequel trilogy and the original trilogy. As established by its premise alone and the fact that this is now coming from Disney, there's no question that the good guys will get the job done. And they did. So what I'm saying is plot wise, it's thoroughly "okay".  It works. It's, "meh".

    The characters, well, all of them sounds good on paper, is actually good to look at, and works great together when the movie gives them time to do so, but they're barely making it on "good" territory. I think the problem here is that it's just too many introductory characters for a movie gunning for a singular wrapped-up narrative. It feels like each of them ought to have their own prior standalone films. And I'm not just counting the protagonists, this is Star Wars after all, even the bad guys are way too interesting to compete for such short screen time(what the hell look at that, two hours-worth of film and here I am complaining it's not enough). It's just alot of characters, and each of them are too deep, too entrenched in their own actually-interesting backstories(Jyn Erso's past, her upbringing through Saw Gerrera, Cassian's first brush with the empire, Chirrut and Baze's past adventures, and alot more of this promising nuggets of interesting backstories simply hinted through their limited dialogue exchanges), in the end, none of them are fully fleshed out. In the end, the character that felt like having solid arc came from a goddamn, wise-ass android.

   On the narrative, it's the whole "rebels stood up against some powerful evil" storyline again and yeah, another "okay" points there. By structure and pacing, it's conflicted. As I said, the characters struggle to be whole and competes in each other for a meager part of the film's runtime because the alot of it is used in exposition-ridden way on establishing and reinforcing the main adventures' plot. Characterization and the main group's individual interesting arcs are sacrificed just so they can make time rehashing the base story that we can pretty much guess since we already get it six movies ago.

   So there, those are my considered bad beats, and some of them sounds so bad that you may now be wondering why I love this particular film of all the other better ones in the franchise. Well, let's dive on those then!

    First off is it's tone. Yeah it still hits that Disney grade of "dark" and we all see there are some points that they will never go. But still, very refreshing to encounter a Star Wars film that doesn't feel like a Star Wars film. It's pacing, it's firefights. It's more gritty, most especially during the rebel attack on Jedha that more closely mimics a modern-day violent insurgent attack than a clean, traditional Star Wars battle.

    And such tone seeps all throughout the film. There are no Han Solo-type of charming rogue here, one is willing to lie, to kill-not just in self-defense in combat-but to actually just kill in the name of the cause. Others are more into pushing other people. Alot of them are like this, to try to persuade others towards being their means to their ends. It's expected for the empire to see this kind of thing, it's weirdly refreshing, and a very bold move for the film to show that the "noble", "righteous" rebels would easily do the same to win this war.

    Second, as I said, the beginning part's a very messy start narrative-wise, it jumps back and forth multiple characters, thinking that it's pretty clever with itself making us track multiple storyline until all of them meet narratively and literally by the middle part. It's not, because it doesn't work. And I think it doesn't work because I said, it's just too many (new)characters at play here. But after the group finally formed, starts to sort itself out and actually start with our heroes' venture towards their true mission, the film really starts to pick up its right pace. From then on up 'till the very end, it's just pure entertainment.

    Another good thing, the whole Star Wars style, the theme, the aesthetic, the iconic characters and cameos, the weapons, the vehicles, whatevers, it works. One of my most favorite thing right off the bat is how the film tries to get the vibes of the 1977 movie. It's technology and iconography, and the look of the movie's cinematography(a bit grainy and bloom-y and a bit stutter-y), really calls back to the first Star Wars' feel.

    And finally, the cast. As I said, I'm disappointed by the way the casts' screentime is handled because all of them truly works from the get-go. Felicity Jones carries her no-nonsense, devil-may-care Jyn Erso better than Daisy Ridley's Rey(or maybe that's their point with her?, we'll see when episode VIII comes out). Diego Luna's morally indecipherable Cassian Andor is a very good complement to the more straightforward Jyn. It's a pleasant surprise they threw the film's levity to Jiang Wen (as Baze Malbus), Alan Tudyk (as K-2SO), and Donnie Yen (as Chirrut Îmwe), and thank god, Yen's talent isn't misused here, unlike the unfortunate Iko Uwais and company in The force Awakens. (This may be a very good platform for him to get into american cinema...still trying to forget Blade II). Everyone else work well too. Bodhi Rook is the likeable little scamp, Saw Gerrera is a broken man barely holding at the cause, Galen Erso is a man wo just wants to do good to everyone but cannot. I'm not even counting the antagonists and the returning characters! Again, so many ACTUALLY interesting characters in only two hours.

    The final epic attack up to the very end is just overflowing with awesome. And this is coming from a non-fan. The way it weaves both the dogfights, the ground combat, and the espionage, culminating in a unified escape from the Empire, strongly reeks of those old-school pulpy action-WWII movies and I just love it. And man, Darth Vader is just...they really know what makes him work and they ran away with it. Very satisfying for his brief appearance.

    It struggles in the start, but it manages to pick itself up halfway through and it wrap itself up very nicely in the end. It's not the best Star Wars movie, it's not even a great one. But it's good, and it tries to delve somewhere that the other Star Wars film didn't dare before, and I like it alot because of it.

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