I am writing this with the assumption that you have seen the movie, and at least looked at the very bottom of my spoiler-free review to look at the pros/cons list so you know my general opinion.
This is a SPOILER-RIDDEN DISCUSSION. Please do not read further if you do not wish to spoil the movie. I will be talking about major plot points, characters, and easter eggs.
This will get very nerdy.
Okay. So I really liked Rogue One. Before the movie came out I had this conversation with anybody that would listen. I listed 3 things I wanted from this movie:
1. I explained that what I wanted out of this movie was a self-contained story, where it ties up loose ends and deals with the characters in it in some way that explains why we never see them again. For me, it made the most sense that the main characters needed to die. I wasn't expecting all of them to die, but the main characters that did most of the work needed to die. I hate it when prequels have this awesome character, but then they aren't in the original stuff. It just irks me.
2. I also wanted it to enhance the OT in some way as I think all prequels should. I wanted it to make OT characters better, make us care more about what happens in A New Hope, or give us fresh insight into something we either didn't have an answer for, or clarification.
3. I wanted Darth Vader to do something badass. I wanted us to see why he is so feared in the OT. He already had a reputation in A New Hope and I wanted this to showcase why.
Rogue One delivered on every account. :)
2. This movie really enhanced the OT in a lot of good ways. A major one is the explanation of why the Death Star has a critical weakness. Before it was always a joke on Star Wars, that the Death Star had such a critical flaw that could so easily be exploited. It never seemed right in fans'/critics' eyes. This movie actually gives a very legitimate and more believable explanation, that it was sabotaged and purposely built with a design flaw, so that one day it could be destroyed. It's a wonderful bit of information that really changes what you are thinking during A New Hope. It makes so much more sense now.
We got to see several A New Hope characters in this film as well, and their performances helped round out their characters we would later see in episode 4. Governor Tarkin takes the cake in that department. They really nailed his voice, even though the CGI was horrendous. But his character felt correct and it was fun to see him manipulate Krennic and do his various dastardly things.
I said in my initial review that the pacing felt a little off. I still can't fully explain why that is but it might just be from having a different director at the helm. We didn't have the screen wipes and gentle fades into scenes. They were much more abrupt. The 1st act of the movie was pretty slow, although it wasn't really a bad thing, and it really picked up the pace in the final act, but it still felt weird. Maybe it goes back to my feeling like this was a TV episode, rather than a movie. It had similar pacing to a TV show. There were breaks that could have easily been split up to watch once a week, or with commercials.
There are quite a number of easter eggs that I spotted on my first watch:
1. We see the Ghost (from the TV series Rebels) on two separate occasions. Once on Yavin, and again when the Rebel fleet arrives to battle the Empire.
|Bottom left is Ghost, Bottom center is Hammerhead, giant right is the new capital ship|
2. We hear over the loudspeaker on Yavin calling for General Syndulla, which is another Rebels reference.
3. We see a Hammerhead ship which is yet another reference to Rebels, but originally also points back to the now-Legacy ship design from the Knights of the Old Republic.
4. We see Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba on Jedha (somehow they escape)
5. We see Emperor's Royal Guards protecting Darth Vader in his castle. The Royal Guards typically only were with the Emperor, so that is new, and Darth Vader's castle is another set that was originally in the Legacy stories, but we haven't seen anything like it in the new time line.
6. Saw Gerrara is a character from the Star Wars Clone Wars TV show, which is the precursor to the newer Rebels show. He is a main character for several episodes and you can learn more about his character from watching that.
8. We learn/see how the gap in Red Squadron comes about that Luke fills in A New Hope.
9. Reference to the Whills, which goes back to George Lucas' original plan for Star Wars and the Force
10. There is Blue Milk in the beginning of the movie. This drink was made famous in A New Hope in Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen's house in the beginning of that movie.
11. Speaking of blue, one of the main squadrons in the battle was Blue Squadron. In the original script for A New Hope, as well as the novelization, it was Blue Squadron, and not Red Squadron, that was the main group that included Luke Skywalker.
12. We get to see Darth Vader's Star Destroyer Devastator live up to its name at the end, as well as the frantic escape of Tantive IV.
13. Darksaber is mentioned when Jyn and Cassian are looking through Imperial files. This is a Legends super weapon. Read more about it here: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Darksaber_(superweapon)
K2SO also needs to be mentioned. I absolutely loved his character, however I don't believe that the Empire wouldn't have mass produced these droids because of their ridiculous offensive capabilities. Perhaps it was due to his new programming, but he is so much better than any other fighter in the movie. He can take on several squads of Stormtroopers by himself, all while withstanding tremendous punishment. The Rebels should have made copies of his programming and give it to a lot more droids.
There was also some new ships in Rogue One that force us to ask why we never see them again. We get the U-Wing, which I think makes the most sense why we never see it again as it is a troop transport/fighter and the OT didn't really have a need for it. We get a new capital ship which maybe is one of a kind, but it's still new. We get the Hammerhead ship which we see in the TV shows, but never in the OT. We get a new Empire transport too. There is a new Empire shuttle and Death Troopers but maybe it's explained that they are custom for Director Krennic. The Tie Striker is a new TIE model that we never see again, but maybe it's more for atmospheric combat and we didn't see a lot of that in the OT other than Bespin. Maybe it was unique to the Death Star construction as well.
I think there were too many things that were done differently that didn't make it feel like a Star Wars movie. I touched upon this in my spoiler free review, but the soundtrack felt much different. Losing the opening crawl was different. The overall plot and self contained story is different. The deaths of characters all in one movie is pretty different. The text showing you which location you are at is different. No Star Wars fades/wipes to break up the scenes either. Also, this is shot like a war movie instead of a space opera. Each one of these are little, but when you add up all the differences, it can take you out of feeling like you are in a Star Wars movie.
That's not to say I didn't love the movie. I really liked several of the characters
Saw Gerrera is a very interesting character. He really helps gray the lines between good and evil when it comes to Star Wars. In the OT the Empire was clearly evil, and the Rebels were clearly good. Then the prequels came and showed the precursor to the Empire as being good, and the Separatists bad. When the Republic turned into the Empire, a lot of the Separatists became the Rebels. It was an interesting switch. Rogue One showcased that Separatist-like aspect of the Rebellion. They were fighting a guerrilla style type of war with the Empire, and that is not always pretty. As much as I love my country, I have to admit that we broke the "rules of combat" during the Revolutionary War all the time. War is hell. If you read up on anything about the lives' of soldiers in any war, you will quickly learn that both sides do horrible things. Rogue One showed the more real side of war. The Rebels could only fight the Empire on their own terms, and so sometimes had to resort to less-than-ideal tactics. I will say that the mainstream Rebels did speak out against Saw Gerrera and his tactics, which was nice to see, but action was necessary and when the Rogues went out on their mission, the Rebellion backed them up.
Chirrut was an odd character. We'll have to wait and see what other tidbits of background story we get, but there is something more to him than just a blind warrior monk. He has to be attuned to the force in some way because I don't buy for a second he could have traversed all those areas without a little help. Hearing only goes so far. But it was a cool take on someone who is living in an era where the entire Jedi Order has basically been wiped out, and even wiped from memories. Propaganda was used by the Empire to constantly bring doubt to supporters of the Jedi, and they worked very hard to get rid of all traces. Jedha was an interesting planet that showed us worshipers of the Jedi way as more of a religion and belief system rather than people that actually could use the force. This lines up better with Han Solo's doubt in A New Hope.
The other characters were also interesting, but they didn't spark my interest as much as these two. I will look forward to getting a little more backstory to Captain Andor and Bohdi Rook though.
The battle scenes were amazing. The space battles were epic with X-Wings and TIE Fighters weaving and around capital ships, bombing and blasting each other out of the sky. We got to see various heroics of individual pilots before they met their end. There were even atmospheric battles where we got to see ships take out the new AT-ACTS, saving the Rebel ground forces. I enjoyed the flowing switches from aerial combat to ground combat by showing a fighter duel and then having a fighter crash into the ground in front of some ground troops, and then to have us follow them for a while.
The sound effects were good, they felt Star Wars-ey. The new technology also looked like Star Wars. The locations and new planets were all a single terrain like they should be, lol. We got a rainy and mountainous planet, a paradise planet, another desert planet, and perhaps a new lava planet although I honestly can't remember if they said it was Mustafar or not.
Well the story wrapped up nicely. All the principal characters are dead, so there's not likely to be a sequel (other than ANH). I wouldn't mind having a similar story done to explain how the plans are gotten for the 2nd Death Star. We would have to have Bothans, or at the very least a character named Manny Bothans. It would be somewhat similar except that the Empire would be purposefully allowing them to steal it, so it would have a slightly different twist. I would have maybe some characters figure out that it is a trap, but that they die before being able to tell anyone, something like that. Could be fun. They'd really have to make it different from this one though.
We have Episode 8 to look forward to next year, followed by the Han Solo movie, which I am more concerned about, but seeing how good this one was makes me more hopeful. I really want a hunting down Jedi movie maybe starring bounty hunters working with Darth Vader to kill the last of them. We could see Darth Vader dominating several Jedi, and have bounty hunters with cool weapons. The bounty hunters would be interesting characters that maybe start to change their minds about what they originally set out to do.
I really liked Rogue One. It was a story of hope, despair, war, redemption, reconciliation, sacrifice, all the themes I enjoy in a movie. This is a must have for my Star Wars collection and a glad addition. I can't wait to see what the EU gives us to expand on this. I can't wait to see what new stuff I spot in my second viewing less than 24 hours apart, lol. I hope you enjoyed this rant on the new movie. I'm sure my excitement will die down soon and I'll start thinking about and noticing various plot holes and issues, but for now I am still excited. Thanks for reading!