One of the more exciting prospects of having Star Wars back is thinking of all the possible stories that filmmakers can tell in this universe. Aside from being pre-established with rich and beloved characters and worlds, the Star Wars franchise is as much of an open book as anything. A filmmaker with the right story and even a fraction of George Lucas’ creativity can take what we know and love to a new and exciting level.
The first of these standalone stories tells the tale of how the rebels successfully stole the plans to the Death Star that set the original film’s events in motion. Already we’re delving into an important piece of this franchise’s history, one that still remains wide open for interpretation. In this regard, Rogue One is the perfect first taste of what’s to come from these new standalone films.
Unfortunately, what was brought to this story added nothing substantial. Aside from some fun, effects-heavy action and a welcome change in tone for the franchise, Rogue One suffers from characters that fail to make much of a connection to the audience – probably because they’re suffering under an exposition-heavy and thus immensely dull script.
What saved The Force Awakens from its way too familiar plot was the fun batch of characters introduced. Rey, Finn, Kylo Ren, Hologram Guy and Maz Kanata were interesting characters that I’m dying to know more about in next year’s Episode VIII. Meanwhile, you couldn’t get me to care about the Rogue One group for the two hour duration of this movie.
The actors behind the performances are a top notch group (including Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, and the voices of Alan Tudyk and James Earl Jones), and they get to squeeze what little they can out of their characters whenever director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) gives them a chance. But with every character awkwardly shoving the story along with expository dialogue then there’s little room for actual character to shine through.
The characters never make much of a name for themselves from their introductions, leaving it up to the action to carry the weight in the latter parts of the film. In Rogue One, the story and settings are more down and dirty than anything seen in the other seven films. Gone are the polished stormtroopers roaming the halls of the Death Star, and here are the dirt-stained and cracked suits of war. For a series that has generally played it safe, this was a welcome change of tone.
And while that’s nice, it’s still a shame the characters never had too many chances to shine. Regardless of how interesting it is to see a Star Wars movie this dark and dirty, it’s going to be tough to come back to this one knowing there’s not much of an emotional connection to the story.