So no. Not a review.
However, I know whether or not I enjoy something, so it is my thoughts on Rogue One, as a massive Star Wars fan. In part I'm writing this because I'm trying to process and acknowledge my disappointment, and not spend days trying to convince myself that it was the best thing ever - like I did with The Phantom Menace. Before, y'know, finally admitting to myself that it was terrible and weird, like everyone else did.
Rogue One isn't terrible. It's a servicable action movie, which is painted with big, broad, Star Wars-y brush strokes, many of which put a big, broad smile on my face.
So... why am I disappointed? What's going on? Follow me as I try to find out.
Beware: Here be a few spoilers!
My other half reminded me that this time last year the run-up to The Force Awaken had put me in a terrible mood.
After the Prequels, I wanted - needed - to love a Star Wars movie again, and there was so much riding on it for me. I was tense, anxious, worried... Frankly, I went into that film looking as if I'd ingested a cup of wasps.
And I came out beaming.
I honestly loved The Force Awakens, and I so wanted to love Rogue One. Instead, I just sort of, kind of, liked it. It's a decent, competent, action movie. Hence: disappointment.
Look, I know I bought too much into the hype.
Well... not so much the hype from Disney and Lucasfilm, but all the hype from people who went to the premiere last week. The Kevin Smiths and Wil Wheatons who said it was the best Star Wars since Empire or the original. They should've kept their stupid mouths shut, and downplayed expectations for the rest of us.
I get that they must've been caught up in the excitement of a big movie premiere. I should've known better than to listen to them. But I also bought into this week's reviews - almost all of which were unanimously positive.
Including the one from middle-aged Pete "A Shame For Everyone Involved" Bradshaw in The Guardian - and he'd previously had a great time tearing into the low-budget children's film Pudsey The Dog: The Movie for his shits and giggles. I'd imagine the dopamine rush he got from that review gave him an enormous erection. Well, as enormous as you can manage anyway, with an underfed micropenis.
Foolishly, I didn't even manage to temper my excitement with a bad mood this time around. There was no Cup-a-Wasp. I so need to love Star Wars that even before a film comes out I'm grasping for the hope that I'll love it. So, part of my disappointment here is my own fault - my own inability to reign in my expections after 40 years of loving the franchise - barring a decade where I felt confused by the prequels. The Force Awakens got me all giddy.
I know Episode VII has come in for a bit of a backlash of late, for being too slavish a recreation of the original template, but for me it got so much right. Importantly, it got the feel right. It was a reminder of the thing the world fell in love with back in 1977.
Most importantly, though, it got the characters right. From the off I loved BB-8, Poe Dameron and Finn, and was intrigued by Kylo Ren. Rey I still haven't much warmed to - but she's still more likeable than almost anyone in Rogue One.
And that - I think - is at the heart of my issue with it.
There are myriad reasons why Star Wars became so loved. The mythos, the universe, the special effects and action. In Rogue One, all of these are present and correct in often unexpected and beautiful ways. It looks like Star Wars, it feels like Star Wars - and the final 45 minutes are as Star Wars-y as anything that has ever been put on screen before. If not more so.
The action in the movie is fantastic, and so true to the originals in its clarity. There's not much which happens that feels truly original, but it does feel truly authentic (at least in the action). Even the Star Destroyers - though CGI creations - look as if they've been built from old model kit parts.
But the characters... ugh. I liked K2-SO - the reprogrammed Imperial droid, who was commendably sarcastic. I liked the two Asian Guardians of the Whills guys. Everyone else was just a cipher, sketched in, there to service the plot. Rebel spy Cassian Andor - who seemed so likeable and Han Solo-ish in the trailers and pre-release interviews - just mopes around frowning.
When I came out, I realised that none of the characters - until Jyn Erso saves a young girl about halfway through the movie (by which time it's too late) - have a "Save the cat" moment.
You know: a scene where one of the protagonists - even if they're playing someone who is fundamentally unlikable, or makes bad decisions - does something selfless (such as, y'know, saving a cat). It's formulaic and manipulative, but virtually every movie has them, and movies have them because they work.
In The Force Awakens, you care about Poe when he saves BB-8 from the First Order. You care about Finn when he decides not to shoot the villagers. And Rey when she saves BB-8 from the Teedo scavenger. Almost all of them, within their first couple of scenes, have done something selfless.
From that point onwards you're with them. You like them. And... they're funny. Poe and Finn and Rey and BB-8 all crack jokes, or have a bit of attitude. And they like each other: characters are defined by their relationships to one another: it tells the audience what to think and feel about them.
There's none of this in the first half of Rogue One, and despite a ton of eye candy - like, a ton - I actually felt myself getting a bit bored. That didn't even happen with the Prequels (albeit only in the same way as you'd struggle to get bored if you were locked in a dumpster with a lunatic, a box of matches, and a load of Roman candles).
In Rogue One, none of the characters have a moment where I fell in love with them, and barring the odd line from K2, Chirrut, and Baze, there's virtually no humour.
They don't even seem to like one another, so there's no warmth either. Jyn loves her dad, but that relationship is so sketched in that it barely registers.
Consequently, when the action is happening during the final battle - as stunning as it is - I found it hard to be invested in it. Even when the characters meet their inevitable fates - and Jyn and Cassian suddenly seem to care for one another, out of nowhere - it just washed over me.
The strongest, most memorable, character in this movie is far and away Darth Vader, who appears twice. They're fantastic appearances - managing to somehow put extra flesh on his rotted bones - but made me wonder why he wasn't in it throughout.
The argument went that they didn't want him to overshadow the movie... but more of his shadow would've certainly helped. Having him rasping down the characters' necks would've added more of a sense of jeopardy.
Ironically, here I am wanting more Darth Vader, when perhaps my biggest problem with the whole thing is regarding the other returning characters.
You see, Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia are both in this movie, played by CGI freaks.
They look as much like Peter Cushing and a young Carrie Fisher as Kevin Spacey looked like Kevin Spacey in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (at least Spacey was interacting with other CGI characters).
Leia just has one tiny moment right at the end, but why go the route of making her a distracting, CGI, puppet, leaving that as the final image for the audience?
The technology must surely exist to be able to cut her out of Star Wars and drop her into a new scene? I mean, they blended old and new in Star Trek: Deep Space 9 years ago, on a TV budget. You wouldn't even have needed to give her any dialogue. That way at least I wouldn't have been distracted by her weird, CGI teeth.
Tarkin is a much bigger problem, because he's actually a pretty significant character in Rogue One.
He has dialogue scenes, but he just doesn't look real. He's completely distracting every time he's on screen, and it's only going to look worse as this movie ages. If they'd just recast him - as they did some of the Rebel top brass, and as they did at the arse-end of Revenge of the Sith - it would've worked far better.
I'd have accepted a living, breathing, human being, who wasn't the late Peter Cushing, more than I would this soulless, wax-eyed, golem. He looks like he's stepped in from The Polar Express, or that horrible CGI version of A Christmas Carol. Chilling, for all the wrong reasons.
Fair play for trying to bridge the Uncanny Valley, but the rocket sled - once again - fell out of the sky halfway across.
Alternatively: just not have him at all! Write a script which doesn't rely on doing things which aren't yet able to be done! I work in kids' TV, where most shows have a budget of about sixty quid. I write within the limitations of that budget all the time. And you know what? It forces me to focus on character.
For me, while this movie dovetails beautifully with the original Star Wars, the Tarkin and Leia resurrections feel like a transgression, the way the additions in the Star Wars Special Editions did. Perhaps more so, because at least then I felt it was George Lucas's right as the series' creator - however wrong-headed the decision - to overload Tatooine with farting Jawas and slapstick droids trying to put hydrospanners up one another's metal bums.
Ok. I know. It's just a movie. But to me, to others like me, Star Wars is more than that. I can't help it.
It was as much a part of my childhood - my entire life - as my own family. I mean, there's love there for it from me. Genuine love. It is one of the fundamental building blocks of who I am.
So when it lets me down, it lets me down more than it otherwise would.
It might be that you're less of a fan than I am, and consequently you won't have as much of an issue with it as I did, and think I'm a bit mad. Or maybe the Star Wars-y-ness of it will go straight over your head and you'll just think it's a mediocre action movie.
I dunno. I honestly don't. I'm too close to it, too invested in it. I take no pleasure in expressing my disappointment. As I said above: I need to love Star Wars movies. And with The Force Awakens, I had my love rekindled. It was like going back to the location of a first date with somebody you've been with for a long time.
LIKED A LOT OF WHAT?
For all this rant... I also liked a lot in this movie, and I'm seeing it again next week. This time at an IMAX. Maybe now I've got this off my chest I'll feel better about it.
I mean, it looks great, the action is great, I like what it adds to the Star Wars mythos. It just lacked an emotional core for me. Actually... no. What it really lacked was a sense of fun. It was just so damn dour. I was hoping some of that freewheeling lunacy, that the Marvel movies have perfected, would make its way to LucasFilm... and here I am ranting about it again.
WHY CAN'T I STOP?!?!?
Marvel knows how to make you care about its characters, knows how to give you a good time, and it knows how to throw stuff on screen which you've never seen before: look at Ant Man and Doctor Strange. Rogue One feels too slavishly wedded to recreating the world of the original Star Wars movies instead of giving us brand new visuals that we've never seen on screen.
We were promised that Rogue One would be something very different from the other Star Wars movies, but it isn't really. It's very Star Wars. And maybe it would've been better if they'd had the courage to be more bold with it, and really go all-out to give it a different tone and look. Instead what they've done is offer up Star Wars, but without the bonkers playfulness.
Also: please... can this be the last Star Wars lead for a while who isn't a posh, white, brunette English girl who sadly isn't a brilliant, inherently charismatic actress?
Or if you do cast another one, at least give them something more to do than being a) An orphan, and b) Good at hitting people with sticks. That's not the same thing as characterisation.
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