ROGUE ONE review, with minimal spoilage

I still remember how I felt, coming out of STAR WARS: Episode I. Very mixed emotions. I kept telling myself that it was impossible for STAR WARS to capture me, as an adult, in the same way I had been captured as a child. I kept telling myself that it would get better—with the next two movies. Hope sprang eternal. But then . . . Episode II also let me down. And Episode III was such a colossal mess, I was forced to conclude that Lucas had laid a massive egg. No, three eggs. In a row. And nobody had taken Lucas by the lapels and screamed, “My Lord, George, do you have any idea what you’re doing?!” The man who had gifted us with STAR WARS ,had also nearly ruined STAR WARS. It was a bitter pill, which went down very gradually.

Having seen the new ROGUE ONE, I think the other prequels can be quietly swept into the memory hole.

Which is not to say ROGUE ONE is perfect—it’s not.

But my gut check on any film I see, is always: did I lose track of the clock?

If the answer is yes, I know I’ve enjoyed myself. It doesn’t happen all that often. It happened with Episode VII, though I think ROGUE ONE is actually superior to Episode VII on most levels.

I’ll try to explain why, without giving out tons of plot spoilers.

The cameos by known characters were superbly done. Especially Governor Tarkin. Amazing, how they can resurrect an actor with CGI in this manner. The technology has come even further, since they used it extensively for TRON: Legacy. It was almost like Cushing had returned in real time. Extremely crisp, and barely noticeable—so far as CGI goes. We saw just enough of the familiar faces, to impose verisimilitude on the new film’s emotional landscape.

The central villain was meaty, too. Whereas I wanted to drown Ben/Kylo in a toilet—on account of him being an emotionally unstable, whiney, butthurt little emo jerk—I thought the new main villain for ROGUE ONE was actually composed, and sympathetic. Not because he’s not bad—he is. But because you can see how the pressure cooker at the top of the Imperial pecking order breeds, and then grinds down and uses up, capable men. I didn’t root for him, but I didn’t actively root against him either. He was . . . necessary.

The overall mood of the film is most closely matched by Episode V, to which ROGUE ONE is already being favorably compared. I agree with the comparison, insomuch as ROGUE ONE cannot (by design) have a happy ending. Nevertheless, the mains were given compelling plot arcs and the acting was very nicely done. Just like in Empire Strikes Back. The chief difference being, The Force is not a center-stage player in the plot. It’s there, just not overtly at work. There are no Jedi, but they have left a long shadow across the fabric of the galaxy. This was evocative of the original films, and helped to give ROGUE ONE a level of gravitas that Episode VII occasionally lacked.

ROGUE ONE also sufficiently plugs a monstrous plot hole—from Episode IV—which has bothered many a STAR WARS fan for decades. You will know what it is, when you see it in the new film.

And of course, the space battles and planetside fighting sequences are literally spectacular. As we’ve come to expect from any decent STAR WARS outing.

My only regret, is that ROGUE ONE is a ship in a bottle. It cannot “go on” the way the other films do, because it’s sandwiched between the events of Episode III and Epiisode IV. We’re given a brilliant snapshot of the Empire at the near-zenith of its might, coupled with a Rebel Alliance being compelled to find its feet.

Now, as stated earlier, ROGUE ONE is not perfect. It’s got the usual problems the series is prone to, from a hard-science perspective, as well as the same tendency to gloss over certain necessities of fully-fleshed plot development; for the sake of action-packed plot advancement. This is Space Opera, after all. Sure, you could have probably made two ROGUE ONE films, and dialed pacing down for the sake of getting a slow-boil. But this seems to have been a decision of economy, lest ROGUE ONE steal the spotlight from the main plot core of the seven films which have gone before it. Which I don’t think ROGUE ONE was meant to do.

Rather, ROGUE ONE gives us a picture of the struggle as seen from the eyes of the “little” fighters—the men and women whose names and deeds won’t ever reach the level of a Skywalker or a Solo. Yet their actions are still vital to the Rebellion.

In final, I offer some (not always serious) observations, as well as questions:

Mads Mikkelsen gave a very dignified, tragic performance. His character reminded me of Dr. Baranovich, from Firefox.

Felicity Jones and Diego Luna played off each other believably.

Why does the Empire love death-defying vertical shafts, and improbable catwalks?

Likewise, why do the clone troops wear bulky armor that is clearly worthless against blaster fire, as well as melee weapons?

The Imperial officer corps must get otherworldly perks and benefits, since the higher you climb in the ranks, the more savage and hostile the environment becomes.

It was nice to see the Rebellion’s blemishes brought into the light—the drive for winning and surviving at all costs, can make even good people do terrible things.

The hammy droid antics were minimal. Thank goodness.

Gorgeous original X-Wing and Y-Wing battle footage. Absolutely gorgeous.

The matter of planetary shields again raises its head. We know they had one on Hoth, but it was apparently porous to landing craft. Yet, the shield in ROGUE ONE blocks everything and anything, including transmissions? Except for when the plot requires otherwise? And how come such a shield never equipped the Death Star proper? Eiither 1.0 or 2.0?

Heh. Again, the point is not whether the plot holes exist—they do. The point is that ROGUE ONE was bona-fide rip-roaring, with some substance to boot.

I think I now have to rank the entire STAR WARS franchise (from most-favorite to least-favorite) as follows:

1) Episode IV
2) Episode V
3) Episode VI
4) R1
5) Episode VII
— (I prequel redacted from personal fan canon)
— (II prequel redacted from personal fan canon)
— (III prequel redacted from personal fan canon)



  1. Grumble Grumble

    Right now I’m debating if I want to purchase the novelization because I’m over my budgeted amount for books.

    Too many more reviews like this and I will break my book budget. 😉

  2. I thought that was the point of Han, Leia & Chewie’s ground mission on Endor: to destroy the shield generator protecting Death Star 2.0 from the Rebel fleet’s attack?

  3. I actually can answer the armor question – shrapnel.

    There doesn’t seem to be any armor (except perhaps mandalorian, which has to be prohibitively expensive) that can stand up to blaster fire. But in some of the fights (boarding of the Tantive IV comes to mind) some of the rebel troops get taken out by near misses that blow up the wall panel next to them, which I don’t recall ever happening to a Stormtrooper, except in large explosions.

    As for Ewoks… they have to be far stronger than their size would suggest.

  4. Thanks for the review! Sounds like VIII is better than I was hoping. I’m thinking your assessment will be pretty accurate for my taste, as we both rank the movies in the same order (though yeah, admittedly, that’s pretty common in people who saw the movies as children, as they were released, from episode IV on). My only quibble with your ranking is that some days I think maybe VII is better than VI. Except, man, that first scene in VI… I still remember how it felt to see Luke looking and being super bad-ass.

  5. Seeing Luke in full Jedi garb, choking out the guards . . . yep. That, and much more, keeps VI in the top three for me. Even if the ewoks have not aged well, with reflection. 😉

  6. True that. My first thought is to say “because that’s the plot device” :-D, but the nerd in me says “because Death Star 2.0 was still under construction with big chunks of the superstructure open to space and the ground-based shield generator was only meant to protect it until they finished building it.”

  7. The other day I heard someone noting a few good points about the Ewoks.

    For one: they demonstrate the overwhelming arrogance of the Empire: how the bike troopers talk about rumors of these creatures running around, as if the Empire didn’t even bother looking too closely at the planet, just plopped their base there and assumed all the creatures were just inferior animals, completely missing the Ewoks’ sentience.

    And for another: those woks might look like Teddy bears, but they were ready to EAT the heros! And all those Stormtrooper helmets they were using as drums? You realize the Ewoks probably ate the Imperials inside them!

  8. “Why does the Empire love death-defying vertical shafts, and improbable catwalks?”
    This goes back to Lucas’s love of old adventure serials.

  9. I got the idea that the “shield” on the Ice Planet only protected the Base from attacks from space and never “reached the ground” on the planet.

  10. The shafts and catwalk also makes perfect sense if you consider they were around hhe turbolift that was the only way into the Emperor’s throne room, so any assassin team would be very vulnerable on trying to attack. Just the sort of measure a tyrant would take.

  11. I always assumed that after the clone wars they stopped using clones and started regular conscription.

  12. But Brad! You’re supposed to hate this because diversity! If you keep this up, people might start to think you’re not a Hatey McHaterperson, and then what will you do?

  13. The Star Wars the Old Republic game has an optional companion they released a couple years ago. An Ewok named Treek. She’s delightfully psychotic if you pay attention to the conversations you can have with her. It’s more obvious if you play an Imperial character.

    (As a companion for running dailies and so on… I think I called her a Teddy Bear Of DOOOOOM when I first used her as a tank.)

    Shields. I think Hoth may have covered a limited area and they landed troops at the edges and marched under it. I’m guessing there’s a huge power cost for projecting a planetary shield, though it popped up in the Thrawn novels. Thrawn snuck a cloaked ship under the shield (got there before it deployed) and tricked a planet into surrendering by making it look like he had a weapon that could get through the shield.

  14. *SPOILER* The iris thingie at the top of the tower made me think of the chompers in Galaxy Quest. Wonder if that was intentional.

  15. My take on the planetary shield difference is that the Imperials would have the money and equipment necessary to make a shield strong enough to repel not only craft but transmissions as well. The Alliance is probably cobbling together left overs for what they need. I also recall lines from Empire Strikes Back saying the Hoth shield only covered a portion of the surface, and that Vadar instructed Piett to land their forces beyond the energy field.

    Any chance you’ll post a spoiler version of this for further discussion?

  16. I especially loved . . .




    . . . Krennic’s reaction to the Death Star test: “It’s . . . beautiful.”

  17. Brad, this is in response to your latest FB post. You definitely have the gift for words and I’ve no doubt of your storytelling prowess — but your choice of title for your books you might reevaluate about. They’re not catchy enough. No use alluding to the previous ones but the one coming up “A Star-Wheeled Sky” — it somehow lacks punch again. Sometimes it’s all about interesting-sounding captions on the cover to draw all kinds of readers. Perhaps it’ll make even a tiny difference. This is meant as a constructive assessment.

  18. Dammit, Patrick Chester, you’re making me want to cough up the cartel coins for Treek. It’s just…it says it only unlocks her for ONE character–so…is that the case, or can I buy her with one toon and then unlock her on legacy? I’ve always wondered about that…

  19. I’m pretty sure you can buy her for other toons with credits rather than cartel coins.

    HK-52 similarly, though he’s expensive enough that the cartel coin option is better, in my opinion.

  20. You can buy the contract for a few million credits from a droid in the cartel bazaar on your faction’s fleet station. That and if you buy it once for one character via cartel coins you can unlock it in collections and download the mercenary contract (if you want to see the introductory scene again) or under the legacy tab there’s a way to unlock her if she’s already unlocked on one character for about 300k credits. I did that last part accidentally. It removes the introductory scene on the fleet station and she just appears on your character’s ship.

    You may want to search YouTube for cutscenes before deciding if you want to recruit her or not.

  21. HK-51, IIRC, has to be unlocked via that LONG quest chain ONCE. Then he can be unlocked via the legacy tab. Since who wants to use that stupid detection device on all those annoying places again? 😉

  22. Just got back from watching it. Yeah, lost track of time though I made the mistake of drinking something before I entered the theater. Need to stop doing that since that provides a definite reminder that a lot of time has passed. 😮

    I’d heard that there’d been a few Easter Eggs from the CGI series Rebels, but only spotted one. There’s a… familiar-looking freighter in that big battle at the end and no, it’s not the Millennium Falcon. Supposedly there’s a grumpy-sounding astromech droid (not R2) hanging around Yavin Base as well, but I didn’t spot him.

  23. Thanks for the Treek info! 🙂

    I’m hoping things align properly tomorrow that I can get in to see Rogue One after work…

  24. Well, it’s over 2 hours long. Don’t drink anything before or during the show or you’ll end up regretting it since there appears to be NO safe point during the last 45 min or so that you can run to the restroom without missing something. 😮

    No end credit teaser, though. So you can make that dash then.

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