British director Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first of the standalone Star Wars films, has a lot to accomplish if audiences are to leave cinemas content.
A lot of the anticipation for the film, which hit Australian cinemas on December 15, came from avid fans of the series, who bemoaned news earlier in the year that Rogue One was undergoing reshoots.
Whether those reshoots, which are actually extremely common in large-budget filmmaking, benefitted or hindered Edwards’ film the world may never know, for all we have to appraise is the final product.
And the product is characterless.
Rogue One takes place shortly before the beginning of A New Hope, the first Star Wars film released, but the fourth in the story of Anakin and Luke Skywalker.
As a young girl, heroine Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) witnesses her father being taken away by the Empire so that they can profit from his brilliant scientific mind.
Years later, Erso is a soldier of fortune along the lines of a female Han Solo without the charisma.
She is rescued by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his droid companion K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) and taken to the Rebel Base.
As it turns out, Jyn’s father helped build the Death Star, and the Rebels want Jyn to help them find him.
If you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ll know what’s going on. If not, you’ve got at least one film of homework (A New Hope) before you watch Rogue One – possibly six.
Rogue One excels visually, a result perhaps of Edwards’ history in special effects. The Star Wars galaxy, and the creations that George Lucas immortalised in his original saga, have never looked so wonderful.
But those creations were always just extraordinarily designed embellishments to the two crucial factors that made the Star Wars franchise so beloved – the characters and the script. On those two fronts, Rogue One barely registers.
Edwards establishes his galaxy with potential and then abandons that potential by filling his film with characters with little more to offer than interesting costume design.
The dialogue is uninspired and delivered with a peculiar half-heartedness from a usually talented cast.
Watch the trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
There are good moments that might have been great had Rogue One offered anything to care about other than the exceptional visuals and its connection to the original saga.
It’s all happening in a galaxy not so far away from the central franchise.
With the universe to play with, Disney’s decision to focus on something so closely related to A New Hope (there’s also a Han Solo origins movie on its way) might be understandable from a financial point of view but somewhat disheartening from a creative one.
Rogue One panders to the widest audience possible. Star Wars has become a product.
The social media reaction
With its built-in marketing, Rogue One is an ideal product, but it hardly plays like a movie at all: https://t.co/7Y5pd61mHh
— Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow) December 13, 2016
Some of you will like ROGUE ONE. Some of you will not.
— Repeal & Suderman (@petersuderman) December 12, 2016
Gotta emphasize that it's dark, dark, dark. This is a war movie. It puts the Wars in Star Wars, to make a bad pun. #RogueOne
— Terri Schwartz (@Terri_Schwartz) December 11, 2016
Somehow I teared up four separate times in #RogueOne, both in overwhelming elation and emotional heartstrings tugs. What a film!!
— Maudie Garrett (@maudegarrett) December 12, 2016
Believe the hype. #RogueOne is amazing. One of the best Star Wars all time.
— Mark E Reilly (@ReillyAround) December 13, 2016