I saw Rogue One this past weekend. It was the very same mid-December Sunday matinee at which I saw The Force Awakens last year. My interest in seeing the film was muted from the beginning. I barely watched the trailers — obviously I didn’t post detailed breakdowns about them here — and I knew just about nothing about the characters. The plot, of course, is common knowledge, given that it’s an expansion of a few lines from A New Hope and technically a prequel. And you know what? Rogue One is pretty good; great even. I enjoyed it. I’ll get into extreme detail shortly.
This may be a recurring disclaimer here, but if you’re afraid of spoilers, run away as fast as you can! I’m serious; drop your computer and sprint away from it.
Rogue One is the first film of the Star Wars Anthology Series, an interstitial to saturate our popular culture with Star Wars while we’re anxiously awaiting the next sequel in the new trilogy. Like Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, it will make billions and billions of dollars, and perhaps a few good movies will even come from it. I have concerns about this model that I’ll get into at the end. For now, let’s talk about this movie specifically.
The plot of Rogue One, while it can be broken down in a single sentence (a band of rebels steal the plans for the Death Star) it has a few turns that make it a bit more convoluted than perhaps it needed to be. The first act and a half are slow, combining a ton of exposition with the requisite character meetings and beats for their individual motivations. That said, the third act and the film’s climax are some of the most beautiful, entertaining, exciting, and heartbreaking of the entire Star Wars saga. It was worth 90 minutes of slow build for the end.
In fact, I thoroughly enjoyed Rogue One’s aesthetic style and visuals throughout the entirety of the film. Remember, it’s contemporaneous with A New Hope, so there is no shortage of continuity nods, classic vehicles, locations, costumes, characters, sounds — it was perhaps almost too much.
The characters are decent, though lacking a real standout. Rogue One is centered around Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of the chief designer of the Death Star, and starts more or less as her quest to return to her father after he is forced to rejoin the Empire and complete his work. She is joined by Rebel officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a smooth, ruthless soldier, and his sidekick droid K-2SO, voiced by the always delightful Alan Tudyk. Rounding out the good guys are a defector Imperial pilot, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), and a pair of guardians from Jedha: Chirrut Îmwe, (Donnie Yen), and his companion Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen).
Additionally, Forest Whitaker is in this movie’s first half, playing Saw Gerrera, a rebel militant warlord-type figure, for a handful of scenes. In just writing that down, I can see why there’s a slight lack of focus to this film, but we’ll get to that.
On the dark side, we have Orson Krennic, (Ben Mendelsohn), an Imperial officer/scientist/engineer, who is the director in charge of the Death Star development program. Jyn Erso’s father, Galen, (Mads Mikkelsen) is the chief scientist on the project, but his loyalty lies superficially with the Empire — he is the reason the Death Star is so easily destroyed in A New Hope. Also Darth Vader and a re-animated Grand Moff Tarkin are here. You’ll see.
The score was composed by Michael Giacchino, who I feel like does every movie these days. I recall both feeling ambivalent to the score and also enjoying it a lot at certain times, specifically the climactic battle. I fear the parts I enjoyed are those appropriated from John William’s original score, but I’m not totally sure about that.
Okay, enough teasing: without jumping around too much, here are my thoughts on the movie plot points, characters, and other randomness, scene by scene, beat by beat, starting from the top (last warning, I spoiled the entire film):
- Rogue One starts unlike any previous Star Wars film (where have I said that before?): without the STAR WARS logo and title crawl. Like The Force Awakens, it too has no 20th Century Fox fanfare, but I won’t note it again because that is the new normal.
- Following “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….” the score snaps away the blackness to a star-field, panning up into a planet’s rings, half shaded. I love the concept of an Earth-like planet with rings, and the visuals here are fantastic already.
- The shuttle here is of a Lambda-like design, but with a thin, triangular hull.
- Inconspicuous zoom on a carafe of blue milk.
- The homestead on this unnamed planet bears a resemblance to the Lars Homestead, with its underground, domed structures, and those spired instruments surrounding it.
- The man in white, Director Krennic, has the rank insignia of a general. His Stormtroopers are dressed in black, while he is in white. He will wear white for the whole film, in contrast to all other Imperial officers dressed in dark green, black, and gray.
- There wasn’t really a lot of nuance in the evil of the Empire in the first Star Wars — here it’s just as plain. I guess that’s fine, though I expect more out of a modern movie. The sequel trilogy, however, seems to be setting up the potential for shades of grey.
- The Stormtroopers that search the homestead make mechanical sounds while they move. Are they droid soldiers? Drones?
- Krennic orders his solider to shoot Galen’s wife, and he does. Just like that. This isn’t going to be a happy movie, is it? (Spoilers: NOPE)
- Forest Whitaker shows up to rescue the little Jyn. Then, bam! ROGUE ONE titles on the screen. The font is a bit odd; thin and strangely kerned. Almost looks placeholder-ish. There are a few things about this film that feel rushed.
Rapid-Fire Planet-Jumping Exposition:
- In the present day, Jyn is in prison, in a dank, dreary cell guarded by Stormtroopers.
- On an asteroid city in the Ring of Kafrene (whose name is shown on screen for the first time in a Star Wars movie), we meet Cassian Andor. The setting here is very Nar Shaddaa; it’s almost Blade Runner-like with its narrow, dark, grungy streets, and the tall city above.
- Cassian learns from an ally about the defection of an Imperial pilot to Jedha, where the Empire is harvesting Kyber crystals for a superweapon. There’s a lot of exposition here in a short time. Paying attention will make this act a lot more understandable. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons this film is a bit bloated. At over two hours, the plot could have been streamlined, but here we are.
- The Stormtroopers who find Cassian in the alley have the same voice as every other Stormtrooper. They are also killed just as quickly.
- The other guy bemoans the fact that he’ll never escape with his wounded arm. Cassian tells him “calm down, it will be alright” before murdering him with a close-range blaster to the back. Ten minutes in and we’ve already gotten cold-blooded murder on both sides.
- Jedha is a(nother) desert planet. There are giant toppled statues that are as large as mountains. Very Ozymandian.
- This captured guy looks nervous. He should talk less. His head is covered in a bag and he is led away. I am unsure whose side any of these folks are on.
- Wobani is the name of the planet Jyn is on, moving to/from an Imperial labor camp on a transport vehicle.
- The door to the vehicle is blasted off in one piece and in come rebels to rescue her, presumably.
- She fights them as soon as her handcuffs are removed — she must be some kind of mercenary — but is caught and slammed to the ground by K-2SO.
- Yavin 4! Remember Yavin 4? I ‘member.
- Since this is just before A New Hope, it makes sense that the rebels are in the same base among the Massassi Temples.
- We are led through the Rebel base on a dolly shot. Everything is there. The pilots in orange walking around. X-Wings in the hangar. Voices on the public address system. An extremely dark background to hide the depth of the set.
- The war room is a faithful replication of the original. I won’t spend much time comparing and nitpicking this; it looks great!
- General Dodonna is there, played by Ian McElhinney, known probably to most as Ser Barristan Selmy in Game of Thrones. I couldn’t place him until I saw his name in the credits.
- Mon Mothma! She wasn’t in A New Hope. I wonder where she went after the events of this film. Her actress is also a pretty faithful portrayal. I do wonder, however, why does she need to be wearing a total facsimile of her Return of the Jedi wardrobe? We know who she is. Or better yet, we shouldn’t even care if it’s her or not. Guh, I’m starting to like the concept of prequels less and less, even if they are of decent quality like Rogue One.
- Saw Gerrera is being set up as an important, mythical figure. He’s described as a militant, leader of a divergent extremist sect of the rebels but still fighting the Empire.
- Galen Erso is critical to the development of the Death Star. We already know he was the chief designer from the prologue. The mission put forth is to capture him and bring him to the Senate to testify, I guess.
- Out of the shadows steps Senator Bail Organa, played by Jimmy Smits, to the tune of The Force Theme. That’s a firm link from the prequels to the original trilogy.
- K-2SO makes his introduction to Jyn. He seems fun. He was programmed with no filter and dry sense of humor. He’s the comic relief for the film, apparently. K-2SO is to Rogue One as C-3PO is to The Empire Strikes Back, if we’re going to make parallels to other films. (I am)
- The rebel commander General Draven simplifies the mission objective for Cassian — find Galen and kill him. That will play well with Jyn, I’m sure.
- “We’re going to Jedha. That’s a war zone.” I found it very hard to disconnect the sacred-ish, desert setting of Jedha from the real-life, sacred, desert, almost-war-zone of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. It was a bit distracting. I haven’t yet found out if it was named so intentionally or not.
- “Would you like to know the probability of her using it against you? … It’s high. … It’s very high.” K-2SO channeling C-3PO.
- As the shuttle flies away, we see a rebel sentry tracking it from one of those pod things. References! Nostalgia!
Saw Gerrera and the Pilot:
- On Jedha, we are reacquainted with Saw Gerrera. He has artificial legs, walks with a limp, and sports a cane. More machine than man.
- The defector is identified as Bodhi Rook, Imperial cargo pilot from Jedha. He still talks too much for me to trust him.
- Also, Riz Ahmed, with that facial hair, bears a striking resemblance to David Blaine from the YouTube series. I can see him coming up to Saw and his crew saying: “Hey fellas. Do you wanna see some magic?”
- Saw also has a separate breathing apparatus, which upon use appears to give some kind of high. He reminds me of Immortan Joe.
The Death Star:
- I will never tire of seeing Imperial starships flying into or out of shadows. Such a cool visual, especially here, when paired with the Death Star.
- Interior of a Star Destroyer. Now that’s another setting I cannot tire of. They were used extensively and to great effect in The Empire Strikes Back. Here, Krennic meets a familiar “face” by a window overlooking the Death Star.
- The head-shape and hair are unmistakably that of Grand Moff Tarkin. The face reflected in the window, the same. The voice? Eh, close enough. And then, the reveal…
Let’s talk about Tarkin for a minute. Peter Cushing, the actor who portrayed him in A New Hope has been dead since 1994. Here, we’re treated to a display of modern CGI technology — the grafting of a long-dead man’s face onto a stand-in’s. In stills, it looks okay. In motion, it looks uncanny. His face moves like a cartoon character. In good lighting, it looks fine. Hell, as the movie went on, I noticed it less and less, but upon first viewing, yeah, it’s pretty weird. Obviously, Tarkin plays a major role in A New Hope, and given the subject matter here, it would be a glaring absence were he omitted from Rogue One. I’m just not sure this was the right move. In re-watching scenes from The Empire Strikes Back recently, I noted that, while not perfect (especially the stop-motion effects), the movie typically holds up from a visuals standpoint. It’s almost forty years old now. I suppose we’d never advance in face-grafting-effects technology if we never used it, but I don’t think this is going to hold up at all, even in the short term. I mean, today the prequels look like they were made on cheap computers. I’m going to leave it at this: it’s a risk that doesn’t fully pay off, but one that was probably necessary. It ruined my immersion for a quick second, unfortunately. I tried to not notice but I couldn’t not.
- Switching back to the content of the scene, Tarkin admonishes Krennic for the defection of the pilot. Where Krennic was the alpha dog having fun torturing Galen and his family in the prologue, he finds himself subservient to a higher power in Tarkin and those above even him in this situation. The power dynamic within the Empire’s ranks is a fascinating one to explore, given how much shit flows downhill in these films. I can almost empathize with Krennic and the pressure he’s under to get his project done on schedule.
- In what appears to be a prequel-style apartment on Coruscant, Krennic and Galen share a drink as young Jyn watches. There are quick cuts to flashbacks from the prologue before Jyn wakes from sleep. Her personal mission seems clear to me — reunite with her father.
- I like Cassian. He’s a soldier version of Han Solo crossed with Inigo Montoya. Smart, scoundrel-like, and very Spanish.
- The Rebel shuttlecraft lands on Jedha with its wings still in folded hyperspace mode. It took off from Yavin with them extended wide. What gives?
- I love the shot of the Star Destroyer hovering over Jedha City.
- I thoroughly enjoyed the interplay between Jyn, Cassian and K-2SO in this scene.
- In Saw’s stronghold, Bodhi is … interrogated … by a tentacle monster, Bor Gullet. This scene is strange. It doesn’t really amount to anything, and given how long this film is, it could have just as easily been cut.
- Jedha City is similar to the Kafrene outpost, except in daylight. It’s a Middle Eastern-styled city with numerous aliens and creatures in the busy streets. To relate directly from past Star Wars films, it’s basically Mos Eisely.
- Indeed, Jyn bumps into our old buddy Cornelius Evazan and his partner Ponda Baba. “Hey! You just watch yourself!” References! Nostalgia! It’s fine to throw in an old face; did they have to use the exact same dialogue? What are these two doing on Jedha anyway?
- “Hope?” “Yeah, rebellions are built on hope.” Obvious nod to A New Hope and the message Leia gives to Obi-Wan.
- The necklace Jyn was given by her mother in the prologue is sensed by Chirrut Îmwe, and he summons her in the street. “The strongest stars have hearts of Kyber.” Jyn, Stardust, Death Star. It’s all right there, folks.
- Chirrut is one of the Guardians of the Whills. That’s an obscure reference to the original name of both the Force, and the working title of the first Star Wars film: The Adventures of Luke Starkiller as taken from the “Journal of the Whills”
Battle in Jedha:
- The Empire rolls through infantry and a tank. The unit is ambushed by Saw’s insurgents. It feels like an obvious allusion to the current wars in the Middle East — which would make America the Empire. Right, almost forgot this was Star Wars for a second.
- Jyn saves a helpless little girl crying in the street seconds before an explosion. Action movie cliché ++.
- Also, rewind. Why does the Empire have a straight-up treaded tank? That’s extremely out of place, in my opinion.
- The battle here is brutal. There are bodies flying around and guerilla attacks. It feels like a normal war movie until an AT-ST strolls into view down the alleyway.
- Jyn destroys an Imperial droid that looks like K-2SO, just as K-2SO shows up behind its falling body. “Did you know that wasn’t me??”
- K-2SO casually lobs a grenade into a forming group of Stormtroopers. Cold.
- There’s a crashed X-Wing in a Jedha street.
- “I am taking them… to imprison them… in prison.”
- Chirrut shows up, saying “Let them pass in peace.” For a second, I was convinced he was Jedi mind tricking the Stormtroopers, especially as they didn’t respond immediately.
- He takes out all of them with a staff. Their aim is just as bad as it ever was, though the martial arts tactics were quite useful.
- Chirrut’s protector Baze Malbus shows up just in time to wipe out reinforcements with a repeater rifle. As one of the knocked out soldiers tries to get up, Baze blasts him in the head. YIKES! And there were kids in this theater!
- Saw’s men show up the second his name is dropped and capture our “heroes”. Neat!
- “Are you kidding me? I’m blind!”
Death, from Above:
- The Star Destroyer departs. There’s something funny to me about that giant triangle ship drifting at a slight incline toward space.
- Saw’s base is a giant butte in the desert. Still getting those Fury Road vibes from him and his setting.
- This place is full of soldiers of various species, all staring at Jyn as she is escorted through. Just like Jabba’s Palace!
- Saw and Jyn have an exposition-filled chat. I’m not sure I really follow their relationship or why it matters.
- “It’s a trap!” Saw is paranoid, but Jyn doesn’t care about the rebellion. She just wants to reunite with her father!
- OH SHIT here comes the Death Star, floating into view.
- Watching Krennic and Tarkin discuss the imminent weapons test made me think perhaps Charles Dance could have made a decent stand-in for the Grand Moff.
- As the Death Star prepares to fire, we’re treated to a brief shot-by-shot recreation of the original firing sequence from A New Hope, inter-cut with new ones. Right in the nostalgia.
- I like how the quiet conversations between Baze, Chirrut, Cassian and Bodhi in their holding cells are contrasted with their imminent demise. They have no idea what’s coming.
- Galen’s message is played for Jyn. A full-sized hologram of Mads Mikkelsen, delivering a sweet, heartfelt message to his daughter, all the while the Death Star’s firing sequence continues. It’s been a slow film to this point, but I like the build-up here.
- Galen Erso, forced to design and build the Death Star against his will, places a weakness inside the station — one that they would never detect. That little line explains how the Death Star blew up so easily from two little proton torpedoes.
- The Death Star eclipses the sun. In a moment, it annihilates Jedha city. We’ve never seen its force second-hand until this moment, and HOLY SHIT is that remarkable.
- Galen basically describes the entire process, later repeated by General Dodonna at the Battle of Yavin briefing, that will destroy the Death Star. His message is cut off as the tremors of the nearby attack increase.
- “There is a problem on the horizon. …There’s no horizon.”
- The gang blasts their way out of their cells, and Cassian comes to grab Jyn. For some reason Saw stays behind?
- When they get out, they see the blast continuing to rise in front of them, like an Independence Day ship entering the atmosphere from below. The crust of the planet is folding up like a giant wave. And this is the Death Star on low power.
- It gets close, but don’t worry — shuttle ex-machina. The special effects here are outstanding, but there’s no tension in the scene because we know they’re all going to live.
- What I didn’t expect though, is for the shuttle to be overcome by the planet’s crust. Like a closing space slug’s mouth, it just about crushes them before they light-speed out.
Meanwhile, Back on the Death Star:
- Krennic earns some much deserved praise from his boss, Tarkin. However, it’s short in that Tarkin subsequently takes full control of the Death Star, the credit for the achievement in the eyes of the Emperor, and uses the previously described security breach as a pretense to dismiss Krennic. Tarkin, you bastard. I hope you explode in your moment of triumph.
- We learn the defector pilot came from Galen Erso’s facility on Eadu. Another planet to remember.
Meanwhile, on Yavin IV:
- The rebels receive word from Cassian about what just happened. I just wanted to take a second to note the extremely 70s hairstyle and sideburns on that communications officer. They really went for it, didn’t they? Makes sense, given where on the timeline we are. Hooray, continuity!
Meanwhile, in hyperspace:
- Bodhi Rook is a nervous guy who wants to be brave. I’m starting to think he might be trustworthy after all. It doesn’t take a genius to see where his arc is heading.
- Jyn forgot to pick up the message on her way out of Saw’s fortress. Oopsie.
- Krennic’s shuttle launches from the Death Star on a course for Eadu. Our heroes arrive there a moment later.
- Eadu is a stormy, dark planet with sharp mountain peaks. It’s like a rainy version of the planet Altamid from Star Trek Beyond.
- The rebels’ shuttle hits a peak with their engine and crash lands, in a sequence reminiscent of Luke’s impact on Dagobah. It was, however, onto hard rocks at nearly full speed. Somehow they all walk away without injury. I don’t understand.
- Their communications are knocked out, so General Draven dispatches a fighter squadron to attack Eadu. Impulsiveness never caused any harm, right?
- X-Wings launch from Yavin, so now we’re set up with another ticking clock scenario. An espionage mission running against an oncoming assault. In this case, I’d take stealth any day.
- Krennic arrives at the base on Eadu. Bringing those engineers out onto the platform into the rain for an “announcement” seems very suspicious. It also feels like a situation I’ve been in before…
- No, Krennic! When you have talented people, you can’t just kill them! Do you have any idea how hard it is to find good engineers!? Also, was the Death Star engineered by just five people? Madness!
- Jyn climbs up to the shuttle platform from below and pulls a Stormtrooper by his leg to his death. I am now afraid of being pulled to my death from beneath a ledge.
- Meanwhile, the rebel forces arrive and conduct a quick, surgical strike of the facility. Now that’s something we’ve never really seen in Star Wars, and I am loving it.
- A Y-Wing drops a single bomb on the platform and just about kills Galen, whilst leaving Krennic’s shuttle completely untouched. Weird.
- Chirrut takes out a TIE Fighter with his lightbow, such that it rams into the base’s defense turret. Nice shot! The Force is definitely with him.
- Minor detail: I love the blasts of fog when the shuttle doors open and close.
- Krennic’s shuttle lifts off, rotates 180 degrees, and fires its thrusters. Jyn, you are in the shuttle’s engine wash!
- Jyn and Galen are reunited in the rain, just in time for him to die.
- Baze takes out the entire garrison with his repeater rifle. Man, that thing is OP.
- This whole scene on the cargo freighter between Cassian and Jyn, I wish there had been more of it in this film. It’s one of the best up to that point. I think they’ve done a pretty decent job showing the human toll this war is taking.
- Krennic’s shuttle makes its way to a dark planet with flowing lava, to an ominous looking tower with a lava spout at its front. Did we just transport to Mordor? Why are we at Barad-dûr all of a sudden? The shuttle flying around the tower looks exactly like a Nazgul. I’m not opposed to drawing some visuals from The Lord of the Rings, but this feels like a different film all of a sudden.
- A hooded figure walks into a room. There is a bright pillar in the center, flanked by two Imperial guards. Who’s this guy?
- That is unmistakably a Bacta tank. Inside is a naked, scarred figure connected to tubes. His breathing is labored in a very specific way.
- At the hangar where Krennic is waiting, the door begins to open, slowly revealing a silhouette. The shot is reversed, projecting a very large shadow onto the wall, in a very specific shape.
- The Imperial March plays. One of my wishes for the future of Star Wars is to have another piece of music so memorable and awesome as that. Remember, it wasn’t until The Empire Strikes Back that we first heard it, so there’s hope for the middle film of the new trilogy to deliver.
- Darth Vader. His eyes are tinted a dark red, as they were in A New Hope.
- His voice is a welcome treat to my ears, although James Earl Jones seems to have softened in his old age.
- Krennic, you can’t rat on Tarkin to his boss. Rookie mistake. Remember when you were acting all tough in the prologue? You’re outmatched here, bro. (Though, I must note that Tarkin is basically Vader’s boss in A New Hope, so I’m not sure how this works. I assume Vader reports directly to the Emperor, given the whole Sith thing.)
- I love how the Force choke was done here. The woosh of noise, the groveling, and the low rumbling throughout.
- “Be careful not to choke on your aspirations, Director!” That’s the witty Vader I remember from such quips as “Apology accepted, Captain Needa!” and… I’m sure there’s another somewhere…
- Krennic, by the way, has been sporting the rank insignia of an Admiral in this time period. Still wearing that spiffy white uniform.
- That’s the last we see of this planet. I have to assume it was Mustafar, though it’s not explicitly noted anywhere. Strange to think that Vader was perhaps hanging out there in that tower from his last days as Anakin right up until the Tantive IV. Also, why? Wouldn’t Vader want to get as far away from lava as possible?
Debate Night at the Massassi Temple:
- The rebels are absolutely terrified of the Death Star. And why shouldn’t they be? Did you see what they did to Jedha!?
- There’s a non-Ackbar Mon Calamari here. Looks very different, but sounds similar.
- “A Death Star? This is nonsense!” – Rebel pilot, channeling the fandom’s response to Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.
- “Rebellions are built on hope” redux. I thought it was a clever, but obvious nod before. Now they’re whacking us in the face with it.
- The council doesn’t agree on the proper response, so there will be no coordinated assault on the Imperial installation at Scarif. Of course, our heroes are going to do it anyway. Seems a bit daft to rebel against the rebels!
- “We’ve all done terrible things on behalf of the rebellion.” Yes, even the good guys have blood on their hands. It’s not as cut and dry as the Saga films make it seem. If you haven’t gotten it already, this is a straight-up war movie. I know, I know, the series is called Star freakin’ Wars, but it’s never been depicted like this before.
- “May the Force be with us!” It begins.
- “What’s your callsign, pilot?” “It’s … um … Rogue?… Rogue One!” – roll credits! *ding*
- The stolen Imperial shuttle flies away, with the sentry watching, but not tracking! Unexpected launch is unexpected!
- Bail Organa has to return to Alderaan. Welp.
- He and Mon Mothma have a suspiciously non-specific conversation about “the Jedi” from “the Clone Wars” who’s been “in hiding” and needs to be sent for. I wonder who that is?
- (It’s Obi-Wan Kenobi)
- Who can Bail Organa get to send for him? A “her” that he could trust with his life! I wonder who that is? Any guesses????
- (It’s Princess Leia)
- Scarif is a Class-M planet with a planet-wide shield. There’s a single entry gate, which is apparently right above the target installation. Convenient!
- Of course, what comes next is basically a redo of the Shuttle Tydirium sequence from Return of the Jedi. I gotta say though, with the classic Star Wars visuals, it feels better than if a much different feeling film tried this.
- The shuttle’s designation is SW-06-08. I bet that stands for Star Wars… and it refers to the fact that they’re stealing this scene from the sixth movie, and that this is technically the eighth movie. Checkmate.
- The visuals of the Citadel Tower and its surrounding islands are, again, absolutely stunning. I can’t get enough of these worlds. To recap the Star Wars Universe, we’ve had: desert planets (Tatooine, Geonosis, Jakku, Jedha), jungle planets (Yavin IV, Dagobah, Takodana), ice planets (Hoth, Starkiller Base), a gas giant (Bespin), forest planets (Endor, Kashyyyk), an ocean planet (Kamino), city planets (Coruscant, Hosnian Prime), temperate planets (Naboo, D’Qar), and a lava planet (Mustafar). In addition to Eadu being the first mountainous world, this is the first tropical island setting we’ve been to. I assume the entire planet is like this — this is Star Wars, after all.
- It’s true, the Empire has no idea they’re coming. Krennic should know, but he’s blinded by Tarkin’s power grab.
- As the stolen shuttle lands, the Imperial station conducts an inspection of the vehicle. TK-421, why aren’t you at your post?
- I kinda like the brief scene where Krennic enters the Shield Gate, just to see how easy it is for him compared to the rebels.
- There’s something funny about Cassian dressed as an Imperial officer. The long hair and facial scruff don’t fit at all into the Imperial aesthetic.
- “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…” “quiet!“
- The Citadel is surrounded by a deep pit, into which water from the surrounding ocean flows. It’s a neat visual, and again, I’m drawn to The Lord of the Rings and the flooding of Isengard.
- The corridor into which Jyn, Cassian, and K-2SO disembark from the tram is so very obviously a subway station.
- Chirrut and Baze’s shenanigans against the Stormtroopers at the start of the operation are fun. “What the–?” *gets tazed*
- In another corridor, a singing MSE-6 droid rolls around.
- K-2SO mind melds with another droid of his model. Right through the back of the head, in one of those spinning receptacle things.
- “Light it up!”
Assault on Scarif:
- Watching those posts explode one by one. Yikes. The terror on the faces of the Imperial officers is real.
- As the garrison is deployed, we see some tan-colored Stormtroopers run by. Beach troopers?
- At this point, CGI Tarkin looks less obviously fake to me. His scenes are best kept brief.
- “Can I help you?” “That won’t be necessary.” *whack* K-2SO is savage.
- Mon Mothma and the Yavin IV base receive word that the rebelling rebels have begun their attack on Scarif. The smile that forms on her face says everything.
- The Rebel base on Yavin IV begins to deploy their own forces. Pilots ride around on transport scooters. Others climb ladders into X-Wings. Of course they show the fuel hose being connected to one of them.
- C-3PO and R2-D2 make a brief, completely unnecessary, cameo. It’s only two seconds long, but come on. (Shouldn’t they be getting aboard the Tantive IV, anyway?)
- The battle on the landing pads rages. It feels straight out of a World War II Pacific Theater movie. (or, real life, as it were). You know, aside from the fact that there are Stormtroopers and blaster rifles exchanging fire.
- AT-ATs make an entrance. I like seeing them knocking over and crushing palm trees.
- The rebel fleet makes an entrance! X-Wings! Y-Wings! Transport ships! Corellian corvettes! Nebulon-B frigates! A larger, previously unseen Mon Calamari-type frigate. If this is anything like the Battle of Endor, I will be a happy camper.
- Gold Leader and Red Leader are here! Again, it makes sense they’d be there, but splicing in actual footage/outtakes from A New Hope? Didn’t see that coming. It’s pretty well done.
- A few X-Wings make it through the shield. Some do not. So that’s what would have happened if Lando didn’t tell the fleet to pull up? Ouch.
- With all of the AT-ATs all over the beaches, I’m wondering exactly where they came from. I didn’t really see a place to store them in the wide shots of Scarif.
- X-Wings make quick work of some AT-ATs. I thought their armor was too strong for blasters? Perhaps the Empire strengthened them over the course of the next three years? Or maybe the Snowspeeders have weaker blasters? Maybe both?
- The bridge of the new Mon Calamari ship is at the bottom of a long protrusion. The admiral’s chair floats over a glass floor, to see the action beneath. Neat!
- The fighter action shots here are fantastic. This is the best space battle since Return of the Jedi!
- The Citadel archive data vault is also really cool. Of course, it’s unnecessarily vertical but it wouldn’t be Star Wars if it weren’t. The ovular lights that run up the corner walls are the same style as those in the Death Star’s chasm areas. Continuity!
- Using a remote to find a data tape within the data vault reminds me a lot of the beginning of Space Quest I. The cylindrical arrangement of the tapes and their method of recall also brings to mind, more recently, a certain location in the wonderful Cyan game Obduction.
- K-2So is such a badass over the next few minutes. Shooting Stormtroopers without looking, keeping the door unbreached.
- I love seeing Y-Wings do their thing. I’m still not sure why there weren’t any in The Force Awakens, but I’m glad they’re here.
- The Shield Gate launches a metric shit-tonne of TIE Fighters.
- This is battle is done very much like the climax of Return of the Jedi, to add to the already noted parallels. There’s a ground assault, a space battle above, and a third quiet sequence focused on one/several of our heroes deep inside an Imperial installation.
- The more I think of it, Rogue One is basically structured the same way as Return of the Jedi overall. It’s got a slow start in (mostly) a desert world, a lull in the middle, and the aforementioned climax. Thank goodness there aren’t any Ewoks this time.
- Joining the X-Wings on the surface assault are a few of those same shuttlecraft Cassian and K-2SO flew in the beginning of the film. Wookieepedia calls them U-Wings.
- “Stick close Red Five, where’re ya goin’?” – Red Leader, from a cut A New Hope scene. He’s originally talking to Luke, but here Red Five is shortly thereafter blown away by TIEs. Explains why Luke’s future call-sign was available when he joined the Rebellion.
- K-2SO is an aimbot.
- Back on the surface, an X-Wing is pursued by a two-winged TIE Fighter. Wookieepedia calls this a TIE Striker.
- The Death Star’s project codename is “Stardust.” Jyn Erso is the Death Star, confirmed.
- K-2SO is overwhelmed by Stormtroopers. His heroic last move is to indicate the location of the plans in the vault and lock down the archives. He is Swiss-cheesed by numerous blaster shots. One down.
- Security breaches continue to haunt Krennic. He decides to see about this one in the vault personally.
- With the power down in the archives’ data vault, Jyn blasts the window to get in. Really, glass? Seems rather insecure to me.
- A large TIE transport ship deploys black-clad Stormtroopers to the beachfront. I assume these are some kind of Imperial special forces. They have no trouble taking out numerous rebels, barely missing a shot, for once.
- One of the rebels decides to make a break for the master switch to enable communications from Scarif to space via the Imperial shuttle. He is immediately taken out by one of these black Stormtroopers. Brutal.
- Krennic shows up at the vault with his guards and begins firing on Cassian and Jyn. Their aim is restored to terrible, as our heroes have plot armor.
- Chirrut calmly walks into the crossfire to get to the switch. Since the Force is with him, he gets the job done.
- Cassian is hit by Krennic and falls down the vault shaft to a lower platform. I’m sure he’ll be fine… right?
- Chirrut is rocked by an explosion at the master switch. Baze comforts him in his last moments — his life’s mission is done. Two down.
- A squadron of Y-Wings fires ion torpedoes at a Star Destroyer. Faithful to The Empire Strikes Back and every subsequent Lucasarts space-sim game, this disables the vessel. Continuity!
- With the communications up, Bodhi alerts the rebel fleet that the plans are in hand and ready to transmit. His fast talking nature pays off — shortly after his transmission, his shuttle is destroyed by a grenade. Three down.
- Baze, seeing the explosion of the shuttle in the distance, is driven to advance on the special forces troopers, one-shotting them with his repeater. Badass. One of them is killed holding a live grenade. He looks back at Chirrut’s body as the grenade explosion overtakes him. Four down.
- I can’t say I got too attached to these characters, the way I would have with the originals, but man, this is heartbreaking. One by one they fall, leaving the fates of the rest a foregone conclusion. We know how this ends, so it’s not a lost fight; it’s a Pyrrhic victory.
- Jyn leaps up into a shaft, blocked by a continually opening and closing circular gate. It’s the same as the hatch on top of the Millennium Falcon. Strange.
- The Hammerhead corvette sequence is one of the coolest, most ingenious of the film. It impacts the disabled Star Destroyer and pushes it into, onto, and through another one. The vehicular carnage is gorgeous. The collidee is shredded and both end up on a course toward the Shield Gate. Well done, Admiral not-Ackbar!
- On top of the Citadel tower, Jyn seeks to transmit the data plans to the Rebels. Naturally, the antenna is misaligned. The controls are on a precarious platform out over the edge of the tower. Is there no OSHA in the Empire?
- Aside: the first trailer has a really terrific shot of Jyn walking out to the platform and a TIE Fighter hovering up to stop her. That’s not in the final cut. In fact, a lot of the scenes from the first two trailers aren’t in the film, due to extensive re-shooting. The shots I’ve captured come only from trailers, and boy was it difficult to find a great variety of scenes from the actual film in them.
- Krennic shows up atop the tower to give his villainous speech. Jyn tells him he’s lost, echoing her father’s last words to him. He talked too much, unfortunately, and Cassian shows up to incapacitate him with a blaster shot. Didn’t see that coming!
- As the wrecked Star Destroyer takes out the Shield Gate, there are muted sounds and the score takes center stage. This is not a new thing in film, but it’s new in Star Wars, I believe, having only been used previously during the Starkiller Base firing scene in The Force Awakens. The visual of the Star Destroyer hitting the shield is, of course, drawn from the Executor impacting the Death Star in Return of the Jedi.
- When the plans are received by the Rebel fleet, the screen shows the old 70s-style schematic from A New Hope. Continuity!
- Suddenly, the Death Star emerges from hyperspace. Oh, shit.
- “Lord Vader will handle the fleet.” Oh boy, oh boy!
- The Death Star aims to destroy only the base at Scarif. Its first planet-sized victim will have to wait.
- Krennic recovers just in time to glimpse his work in the sky, aiming down on him.
- “You may fire when ready.”
- The Death Star firing sequence is shown again, briefly. It fires, annihilating the top of the Citadel (and Krennic), and impacting the Scarif ocean some miles away due to the angle of the shot, creating a massive fireball in the distance. The rebel fleet has seen the capability of this weapon first-hand. They jump to hyperspace…
- …until Vader’s Star Destroyer, Devastator, emerges from hyperspace itself, colliding with a rebel transport. Amazing. The rebel ships that remain are dissected and boarded by the Imperial fleet.
- With no way out, Jyn and Cassian make their way to the beach to observe the coming fireball. It’s beautiful. They embrace as the light envelops them. That’s six — all of our heroes have fallen.
- With the Death Star plans on the rebel flagship, Darth Vader boards.
- On the rebel ship is chaos. The classic red alert alarms are wailing. Soldiers with half-egg-shaped helmets run down a corridor. The door jams. The lights go down. The ship creaks.
- The breath. A red lightsaber illuminates the corridor, revealing Darth Vader.
- The soldiers fire but their blasts are parried deftly. Vader advances, throwing a man to the ceiling. Their shots are returned. Their guns are ripped away. They are butchered, one by one.
- The data disk is given to another who runs down a corridor into the Tantive IV, picture-perfectly recreated. It launches from the Rebel flagship as Vader surveys the now empty hangar bay. Seeing the determined Vader pursuing the Rebels is incredible.
- On the Tantive IV, the plans are delivered into the hands of none other than Princess Leia. She is revealed first from behind, standing in a white cloak. The shot cuts to hide her face, before she slowly turns around. It’s a CGI Carrie Fisher from 1977. I think she looks better than Tarkin, but she also does less so it’s hard to say.
- “What is it they’ve sent us?” “Hope.” She smiles.
- The Tantive IV blasts into hyperspace, and the credits roll.
Well, that sure was one hell of an ending! The Vader scene is easily one of the best in Star Wars history. We’ve never been subjected to that kind of brutality from him before, much less from the perspective of Rebel soldiers soiling their pants in terror. I thought the “hope” line was a little too much, since we’d already had two previous allusions in the film. The ending also felt strangely rushed, though that does play well with A New Hope. Rogue One ends just about exactly where A New Hope picks up — I didn’t know that going into see the movie — so, while it speeds through the escape sequence and ends abruptly, it adds a requisite sense of urgency, and if you’re so inclined to resolve the story, you can simply pop in the next movie and continue.
Concerning Rogue One as a whole, I definitely enjoyed it. I especially loved the visuals, the continuity nods, the old and the new playing together. While a bit disorganized at points, and with a few superfluous characters, I though the slow build-up paid off tremendously with an absolutely superb third act. I have to reiterate for emphasis: the Battle of Scarif is totally worth the first 90 minutes of the film. Even still, the first two acts do have their moments. I was a bit nitpicky above, sure, but every Star Wars film has some questionable points. Rogue One made me feel like I was watching the action sequences of Return of the Jedi with fresh eyes. When I was a kid, that was my favorite part of that movie. Nowadays, I appreciate the quiet and the characters more — something Rogue One could have used more of, for sure — but for what it was, it was great.
What Rogue One does that’s unique in Star Wars is paint a brutal picture of the effects of war, of what it really means to fight against the evil Empire and the cost the rebels paid to win in the end. It’s dark, but not in a Revenge of the Sith kind of way. It’s The Empire Strikes Back, where the heroes lose, mostly, but without so much quippy dialogue and humor. Like I mentioned above, it’s a war movie, plain and simple. Don’t bring your children to see Rogue One; it’s not for them.
While I did like Rogue One, something left a bad feeling in my gut. This was a decent movie, but it didn’t jive with the hype around it. And that’s a problem. We’ve got one Star Wars movie coming every year confirmed until 2020, and I assume that will continue indefinitely as long as the series turns a profit (read: a long-ass time). What I fear is Star Wars fatigue. I bet I’d already start feeling it if I paid any attention to the saturating fervor surrounding the release, a now annual tradition. Rogue One alone doesn’t really deserve that kind of hype. It’s a fine movie, yes, but let’s pace ourselves. It’s going to be even more painful down the road when, inevitably, one of the Anthology films (or heaven forbid, one of the new Saga films) is a stinker. I all people who care about Star Wars even a little bit to collectively examine their desires and to take a deep breath. Temper expectations, lower the hype, keep an open mind, and please, please don’t let Star Wars burn itself out too soon.