Sunday, December 25, 2016

Rogue One: Better Than "The Force Awakens" (But Still Fan-Fiction)

I've seen Rogue One. That it is better than The Force Awakens is a factual statement. It is also damning with faint praise, as this is not a good movie. I was not satisfied at any point watching this film. I was not entertained. I did not have fun. Instead, I could not help but to think back to afternoons and evenings playing West End Games' Star Wars tabletop role-playing game during the glory days of the now-disowned Expanded Universe when a lot of what would later be recycled into this film, Star Wars: Rebels and related commercial works were instead done for fun by punk kids and kooky college coeds entertaining ourselves with our formalized What If? stories using that game, dice, and all the fanon we could remember.

Let me get to the specifics:

  • Digital Tarkin and Leia fooled the normies in the theater, but not the film buffs or the techies. The teens weren't even aware Peter Cushing was dead; their parents had to tell them.
  • The Darth Vader rampage delivered, as expected.
  • Krennic came off as a despicable weasel of a man, what Vox Day calls a "Gamma Male", and his constant scheming for recognition and undermining his superiors worked very well in showing his villanous nature (when outright dickery would not). As this was intended, good job. Alas, that's the best I can say for characterization.
  • At no time did I feel Jyn to be a real character. Not a Sue, despite the unbelievable Waif-Fu, but still terribly written. (And no, the other Ersos weren't much better.) Also, this part seemed like it was originally meant to be a male character, and changed by Executive Meddling into a female role.
  • No other character felt real either. I did not care one whit about anyone in this film. Neither hero nor villan, major or minor, did I care about. This film's cast, like the film itself, felt entirely disposable and pointless. No one was likable. No one was charismatic (not even Vader).
  • Too much bad pacing early on made the good parts seem either too soon or too late to achieve their dramatic impact, unraveling interesting in the film's events. Until the Dirty Dozen took off for Scarif, nothing worked narratively or dramatically; after that point, I knew I would see as brutal a battle as Disney would allow for Star Wars, and I got that, but it still felt like fan-fiction.
  • There was absolutely no tension at any point in the film. Even if the trailers did not give away key plot elements, and even if the media did keep its fucking mouth shut, there is still no tension. Because we know that the mission succeeds, you have to sell us on who does it and how- something Edwards failed to accomplish.
  • The depiction of the Empire overmatching the Rebels on the ground and in the air is belied by the two useless Star Destroyers over Scarif. Only Vader's ship actually did shit; if it weren't for that, the space battle would've been a clean victory. As for that ground battle, it played out exactly as every other objective raid that ran overtime did- no tension whatsoever. Yes, both inside the base and outside. Also, those TIE variants were utterly pointless; you have a standard TIE Fighter to handle that shit for a fucking reason- USE IT.
  • Yes, it was nice to see Donnie Yen whup the shit out of Stormtroopers. However, he was wasted here; he should've been playing a Jedi or a Sith in an Old Republic film.
  • The Scarif fleet battle and the ground battle felt like something out of a DLC pack for EA's Battlefront. Visually impressive, and full of fan service, but no emotional heft to it. Yes, it was nice to see what you can do to show us a significant war scene where we could follow the action, but by this point I knew it was going to happen and had a good idea of what would come of it so I was disengaged- as I am whenever I already know what the result is but don't give a fuck about who did it, how, or why.
  • Everyone Dies. Meh. I disagree that it HAD to end that way for everyone, especially when--believe it or not--that was survivable (and any fucking installation worth shit would have such capability installed, especially one that fucking important). Sure, those killed in the fight died properly. But Jyn and Cassian? Nope; they could have--and should have--survived; they committed suicide, as Saw Gerrara did, and I can't go for that. Suicide is despair's endstate, and victorious heroes endure in Star Wars.

TL/DR: Rogue One is a bad film. Better than Episode 7, but still not good. Get someone else to pay for it if you must. (I did.) But I would recommend instead watching it for free online, or buying used if you buy at all. Stop giving your money to people who won't deliver, and stop giving money to people who just make crap fan-fiction (however sanctioned) instead of true successors or worthy additions to the corpus. (And if you want to argue that point, then you don't know the difference- and I do not give a fuck who you are, you don't. You get to sit down, shut up, and learn from the adults.)

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