Let’s get this out of the way, anybody who tells you Rogue One is the best Star Wars movie since Empire is totally lying to you. In fact, anyone who says the movie is better than The Force Awakens is making a bold claim. Rogue One is not a bad movie, but it’s a movie that leans heavily on its connections to the Star Wars universe and would be difficult to watch otherwise. Unlike Force Awakens (or even Revenge of the Sith), I’m not sure I’d sit through it a second time. Here are our biggest complaints about the movie. We’re hiding major spoilers below but – it goes without saying – if you haven’t seen the movie, read with caution. Spoilers abound.
It Is Nothing But Dark
Star Wars movies have gone to some dark places before, but usually there’s some levity to balance out the darkness. It may be banter between characters or cute Ewoks or the abominable Jar Jar Binks, there’s always something to lighten up the darker areas of the plot. Rogue One has none of that; it’s pretty much all dark all the time. K-2SO does a great job bringing some jaded sarcasm to the movie, but he’s not in enough of the movie to balance out all the dark, [SPOILERS] particularly in a movie when all of the heroes die. I get that a lot of Bothans died to bring this information, but I also don’t think that Star Wars necessarily needs to try to achieve the same level of pathos as Saving Private Ryan.
It’s Way Too Jumpy
Many reviewers have said that they haven’t seen any evidence of rewrites and reshoots in the final version of Rogue One. We respectfully disagree. In the first few minutes of Rogue One, we visit four different planets in rapid succession. Not only is it very disjointed and hard to follow, but it also seems really unnecessary (much of this stuff could be explained, not shown). Various plot points are introduced and never really reflected upon later. One character is ordered to kill another, but these orders just seem to drift away. One character is tortured to the point of insanity (by another character we’re meant to emphasize with) but seems largely all right when we see him later. Other interesting characters seemingly appear without any real backstory, explanation, or competing commitments (they join right up with Jyn’s mission without a second thought). The final product feels a bit unpolished and awkward. Not Suicide Squad level awkward, but awkward all the same.
Jyn Does Not Fight a Tie Fighter
There is a long history of cool moments in trailers that do not appear in the final film. Rogue One is no exception One moment from the trailers I was looking forward to was the scene where Jyn, seeming bereft of options, faces off against a TIE fighter with just a blaster. I was really looking forward to seeing how that scene played out, particularly with all the reviews I’ve read talking about what a badass warrior Jyn is. In the entire movie, Jyn doesn’t really do anything all that remarkable. There are no scenes in which she does anything uniquely heroic or iconic. In the end, she has a brief standoff with a villain before being rescued by another character. Jyn has all the ingredients to be a really cool Star Wars protagonist but the one thing she’s missing in the movie is a great scene to establish herself as a warrior. As it is, there’s not a sequence in which I can remember her doing anything all that amazing in the movie. Obi Wan fought Darth Maul, Luke killed the Rancor, and Jyn really needed to battle that TIE fighter.
The Godawful CGI
CGI in Star Wars movies is a bit of a mixed bag, but a good rule generally is that less is more. Probably the best example of this are the two uses of CGI to recreate characters from Star Wars: A New Hope. One is brief and sentimental and perfect. The other is persistent and unconvincing and ridiculous: Grand Moff Tarkin from A New Hope appears in a substantial portion of the movie. Peter Cushing was a great actor who brought a lot of depth to a character who could have been very one-note. His computer-animated appearance in Rogue One, however, doesn’t work. He dives right into the uncanny valley, screaming all the way down. As much as we loved both Cushing and Tarkin, there is no reason to slide the character into Rogue One in this way. He looks obviously animated alongside the human actors around him. His appearance in a video monitor or as a hologram would have been fine. Likewise, they could have simply recast a similar looking actor. Here it looks like the hired the evil food critic from Ratatouille and the effect is just silly. God help us if they ever do the same thing for Alec Guinness.
One Plot Hole Gets Fixed, Numerous Others Get Created
Part of the purpose of Rogue One is to explain why the original Death Star (an enormous weapon the Empire seems to pin all of its hopes on) is so utterly vulnerable to even the smallest spaceship. While the movie explains this well, the movie introduces a number of other inconsistencies along the way. For example, C3P0 appears briefly in the movie to comment on the departing fleet, but he is supposed to be on one of the ships that’s part of that departing fleet. Relatedly, the movie ends with Vader chasing Leia’s ship as it escapes from the exploding Empire outpost on the planet Scarif. In that context, Leia telling Vader at the start of A New Hope that she’s on a diplomatic mission makes absolutely no sense. Vader’s reply in the movie – “If this is a consular ship, then where is the ambassador” – also seems less appropriate than something like “Bull$%^&! I JUST saw you at Scarif and chased you here.” The movie seems so focused on shoring up the most glaring plot hole in A New Hope that it careless makes several new holes along the way. Perhaps we’ll see a new Star Wars movie in a few years that explains what happens from the point Leia’s ship fled Scarif until Vader catches them. Heck, if each new movie introduces additional inconsistencies, perhaps we will never run out of Star Wars movies.