Movie Review: Rogue One

by Brad Nelson5/28/17
Rogue One tells the story of the downfall of the Death Star that materially occurs later in Star Wars: A New Hope. The plans for the Death Star are stolen from the Imperial archive and transmitted to rebel forces. These plans, as you know, end up in the memory banks of R2D2. And off we go.

So, first off, there is no new ground being broken here. Although I think the designers did an excellent job of evoking the look of the original Star Wars, the story itself is not memorable. But at least unlike the truly horrible Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Rogue One is watchable from a purely throw-away-entertainment standpoint. Star Wars purists (such as myself…if there are many left…we’re sort of like Obi-Wan at the start of A New Hope, exiled to a cave) may bemoan the lack of good characters and story, but most people care only that a lot of things are moving on the screen at the same time and look good.

Indeed, the movie looks very good. But although this isn’t as horrible as the prequels or Episode VII, it is still more cotton-candy for the mind. The central character, Jyn Erso, fufills seemingly the only one requirement placed upon this character: to be female. Beyond that, Felicity Jones offers absolutely zero in regards to acting, character, or charisma. (She’s no Carrie Fisher.) Her only positive attribute is that she is not annoying like, say, Jar Jar Binks. But even in that respect, Jar Jar wins because at least he is memorable, if only in a bad way.

Jyn Erso, on the other hand, is just lifeless and bland. The rest of the cast isn’t much better. None of these characters seem like real people with the possible exception of Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna) who at least gives the impression that he is fighting for a cause he believes in. The rest of them are cardboard cutout characters, especially including the really stupid Chirrut Îmwe character who seemingly escaped from a Jackie Chan parallel universe.

At times, Mad Mikkelsen (who plays Galen Erso, the chief scientist behind the Death Star) plays a grown-up and sober character, almost reminiscent of someone you’d find in the better Star Wars movies. But his role is minimal.

As one reviewer noted, this isn’t a movie so much as a nod to various previous Star Wars elements. If you like Darth Vader — check — you’ll see Darth Vader. If it thrills you to see someone who is made to look like Peter Cushing (or is that CGI?), then you’ll be happy to relive that memory as well. And that’s the heart (or lack of same) and soul of this movie. It provides no new memories but simply lives on recycling the old ones.

Watch it. It has entertainment value. And it obviously made a lot of money which is the only judge of quality these days (aside from having politically correct themes, which really doesn’t apply in this case). But as a worthy addition to the Star Wars legacy, it is a bust and will quickly be forgotten while the original trilogy will remain an icon, and rightly so.


Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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32 Responses to Movie Review: Rogue One

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    As I was telling my younger brother, probably the best way to describe the character/performance of Jyn Erso was physicist Wolfgang Pauli’s famous critique of a young physicist’s sloppy thinking: “Not even wrong.”

    It’s not that her character and performance are bad. It’s that they are not even a character or performance.

    On the positive side, and I suppose I could have included this in the above review (although I wanted to be as concise as possible), the comic-relief robot was above the threshold of “Not even wrong.” The comic-relief robot is K-2SO. He’s an Imperial droid that has been reprogrammed and is now working for the rebels. He’s annoying, as any Star Wars android tends to be (done comically well in regards to C-3PO and never again matched). But he’s not as annoying as one would have expected. Yes, a few of his quips fall flat. But a couple don’t. He bats at least as well as a major leaguer for whom one-out-of-three is considered excellent.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I’ve usually been entertained by the various Star Wars movies, though the last one I saw was #2. But except for the first couple of movies, mindless entertainment is all they were. But then, that’s usually what one gets in Hollywood — and the exceptions all too often are just leftist propaganda.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      What it’s interesting is the current cultural phenomenon. Never before have the special effects been done with such care. But there is truly no artistry to the characters and stories.

      What is obvious to anyone with taste is that a good story is not set over or against the special effects. That is, no one who admires jiggling things on screen for the sake of jiggling things on screen is going to be put off if the visual extravaganza is intermixed with a great story.

      The real story of our culture is an excess of technical expertise and a deficit of thematic artistry. Films, too, have been dumbed down.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Yes, we see a lot of professionalism, but professionalism in the name of what? It’s the same with journalists, who instead of reporters are now professional propagandists. In the movies, the lack is artistic inspiration; in journalism, what’s missing is integrity.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Other than what I view as a female lead as little more than political correctness, it’s interesting that the Star Wars franchise has not yet devolved to themes of environmental destruction, etc. They have not yet become Avatar-ized (perhaps the unintentionally funniest movie in living memory).

  3. Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

    I have seen the original three films and the three prequels. The best of these was “The Empire Strikes Back.” I will probably not see any of the others because the quality of the series dropped off hugely after the original three.

    I could not stand Jar Jar Binks, but even worse was the choice of the Hayden Christiansen kid as a young Darth Vader.

    Mads Mikkelsen is an interesting actor. He can certainly bring a certain amount of menace to the big screen.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I recommend that you don’t watch the prequel. There is little to recommend them to a true Star Wars fan. Patches here and there are good. But that’s about it.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Thanks. At my age, I resent losing time on a bad movie.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          A reviewer I read had noted, Mr. Kung, that this is the first Star Wars movie without a light saber or a Jedi. Can it thus really be called a Star Wars movie?

          Be that as it may, I don’t deny that as a strictly boredom-relieving piece of cinema, it serves that purpose. But it still astonishes me that there is so little talent assembled in regards to the story and characters. Yes, I know that this is partially the case because many yutes have little sense of taste. Perhaps Leftism has inundated their lives with “narratives” here and there and everywhere that what yutes most long for is as escape from stories themselves. This is, admittedly, a far-fetched view but one to keep in mind. How else to explain the truly expert handling of the visuals while the story and characters themselves are parched?

  4. Rosalys says:

    This franchise cow has been milked to death. The best part about this movie is that it seems the main characters have all been killed off – so there’s no chance of them appearing again. I decided not to go see it, but it was shown on TV. Glad I didn’t waste any money on it.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      This franchise cow has been milked to death.

      That’s exactly the description. Instead of extending the series, they’ve simply set back and milked it. Still, the ultimate goal has been achieved. They made lots of money.

      Some suspect that the content of many movies seems odd to normal movie-goers (those who seek good stories and characters as well as visual effects) because these movies have been focus-grouped to death. And the movies, particularly this one, do look like the whole point was to appeal to existing tastes, not write something new and interesting. They are modular. “Make a chick the lead character. Show Darth Vader. Show Governor Tarkin. Have a Jackie-Chan-like sidekick character who is ‘mystical’ and can kick ass. Have a Death Star. Have big Imperial ships. Have rebels. Have a funny robot. And above all, have as many bright, shiny, rendered pixels moving on the screen at one time as you can.”

      And when they are rewarded with big money for these Erector-Set movies, the people making these movies would consider it crazy to try to do something artful, creative, or new. Milking brings big rewards. I mean, one of the worst blockbuster movies that took focus-group milking to a new level ($336,000,000 box office) was Spider-Man 3, a truly awful movie. Yet people were drawn to it…or at least let mere “hope” for a good movie open their wallets.

      One thing I’ve noted regarding movie reviews is a general aversion to calling a spade a spade, to note that something is subpar. I think today people are relating to movies as a bit more than entertainment. Movies seem a way of life, perhaps part of their identity. I don’t pretend to understand this. But people are averse to admitting that what they just watched is mediocre, at best, that they just wasted $10.00 (or more) and two hours. Again, I don’t understand this phenomenon of self-lying about mere movies. But it seems to set up a psychological momentum whereby people keep paying more and more for worse and worse and then raving about it.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        I noticed a similar effect with regards to the Star Trek movies. Instead of gradually phasing in new characters as the old ones aged, they killed off some of the few new ones they had, and kept all the same crew, in the same roles, on a ship with the same name and even hull number.

  5. Steve Lancaster says:

    Folks,
    I think your asking too much for a movie series that originally was intended to be one movie, perhaps two when it was conceived almost 45 years ago. I recall reviewers saying that it would never make a dime and Lucas was a hack director.

    The movie was intended to call back to the serial B movies of the 30s, mostly but not all westerns and it did exactly that. So yes, the acting is often stiff, the plots see-through and the ending intended to bring you back next week/month/year and the Star Wars movies have been doing exactly that since 79.

    The success of Rogue One is that after all these years people still want some escapist entertainment that pits good and evil together and good wins every time, but not without loss.

    On a broader note, don’t forget where we we were in 79. A traitor in the White House, 58,000 dead in a war no one wanted to win, hostages in Tehran held in an act of war the traitor refused to acknowledge and a congress that could not find its way out of a wet paper bag. Is 2016 any different than 1979?

    We just ended 8 years with not only a traitor, but a known communist as president.
    The number of battlefield deaths have not reached anywhere near Vietnam levels, but the war is world wide, and the attacks on civilians is intensifying. It may be only a short time until some city in Europe or the US is glowing from a nuclear detonation and the return address is Iran or N Korea perhaps both.

    So, give Star Wars and all its chapters a break, its escapist entertainment and badly needed.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Actually, the original Star Wars came out in 1977. I first heard about it from someone who’d actually seen it while doing an installation for Olivetti in Cincinnati that summer.

      I also wouldn’t quite call Carter a traitor, though he was certainly a weak president. Treason is specifically defined in the Constitution: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying War upon them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” One can make a good case that Obama qualifies, starting with the Bergdahl deal.

      • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

        Actually, the original Star Wars came out in 1977.

        You beat me to it.

        I recall the time as I had been living in Switzerland for a few months when it came out. I was sitting in my one room apartment, which was part of a 400 year old building near the clock tower in Zug, Switzerland. I sat down to read The International Herald Tribune while having a cup of coffee on a Friday. Every Friday, the Int’l Herald Tribune ran a long article above the fold on the arts and culture or something that was not strictly “news”. On that particular Friday the article was about the new movie of a different king, which was about to be released nationwide. The article predicted it was going to be a big hit. As I remember things, the movie was being released by Warner Brothers. I called my father and advd him to buy Warner Brothers stock. He didn’t and, of course, the stock shot up shortly thereafter. That was one of three recommendations I gave my father, while I lived in Switzerland, which he did not take. The others were to buy gold and bulk diamonds. Both turned out to be very good recommendations.

        Later he did take my advice to buy Compac Computer and Apple, which turned out to be ok.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          Similarly, the connection to my job helps me remember when it was. Incidentally, I understand that there have been people who would buy stock in the publisher of the Harry Potter books whenever a new one was about to come out.

      • Steve Lancaster says:

        No, I said traitor and I meant traitor, not ineffectual, not incompetent, or even clueless. He spent 4 years actively giving aid and comfort to our enemies, foreign and domestic. And just to add glaze to the pot I believe he is the most active anti-Semite elected official of the 20th century.

        It is fortunate that the 73 war did not occur on his watch or the Palestinians would now inhabit Tel Aviv. And James E. Carter could practice his fake Christianity on the remnants of the second great diaspora.

        He is malevolent to the core. He is worse than Obama, because he pretends to Christian virtue and humility. We all knew what Obama was the first time he spoke.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I think this is indeed a good description of Carter, but it’s also true that (as a typically self-righteous liberal) he was angered when Reagan defeated him, and then again with the honors heaped on Nixon at his official funeral. How much of his poisonous attitude came from this I don’t know, but some of it undoubtedly did.

          • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

            From friends who had relations with Carter through the Carter Center, I can tell you that Jimmy was actively lobbying for a Nobel prize as far back as the early 1990’s.

            And just as an aside, Bill Clinton’s little brother Roger tried very hard to do business with Russians in the the mid-1990’s while Bill was in office.

        • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

          One should specifically mention the mess that is The Islamic Republic of Iran is largely due to Carter’s stupidity or evil intent. I don’t know for sure which, but the result has been horrible.

          I went to college and university with a number of Iranians and they were clever modern people. No burkhas to be seen.

          The country was very wealthy, but no longer.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Steve, I hear what your saying. And whether 79 or 77, it makes no difference. I get your point.

      I watched the movie again today with my little brother this time. I liked it better the second time around. As a pure adventure movie, it works. As a Star Wars movie, it’s quite lacking. The lead character is completely lacking charisma or charm. She’s dull, dull, and duller and has about only one look (sort of a bitchy and pissed-off one).

      I picked up on a few things I’d missed while watching with my older brother, if only because he was cracking so many jokes at the time (and he really likes the movie, but he also thought the blind Asian character was ridiculous…and so he did indeed ridicule him). I like that Governor Tarkin had a personal advancement reason for nuking the archives.

      One of the main problems of this movie is that the Force is not with it. The Jedi are non-existent. The mysticism of the Force is non-existent, particularly reinforced by the one Asian guy repeating over and over “The Force is with me.” Someone with the Force doesn’t have to chant. There is therefore little sense of grand purpose or destiny. In essence, this episode of Star Wars is pretty much a James Bond movie in space. And that’s fine. But as a Star Wars movie, it lacks the Jedi heart and soul. And with Jyn being such a stiff in the lead, this is even more so.

      But the movie does have some nice cinematic moments such as when Cassian is lecturing the bitchy, whiny, Jyn about what the rebellion is really about and what it costs, and that as a late-comer she’s in no position to lecture others. And I give it some credit for not having frenetic pacing, which dooms too many movies. But it lacked the Jedi soul. And even if most of the Jedi were killed or in hiding, I expected them to at least make a cursory examination of the Jedi temple and showing who-knows-what secrets.

      But that never happened.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        Not having the Jedi might be a problem, but it actually reflects the situation as Obi-Wan told Luke in the first movie — that Darth Vader had basically destroyed the Jedi knights (and killed Luke’s father, which turns out to be a very dubious tale).

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Very little mention is made of the Jedi. Not even a “Gee…too bad that the Dark Lords of the Sith wiped out the law enforcers of the universe or we might find it a hell of a lot easier fighting the empire and destroying the Death Star.”

          Continuity was lacking.

      • Steve Lancaster says:

        Brad, I get your point and for the most part I agree. The Jyn character is thin, bitchy and whiny and without Jedi there is no super hero.

        That said, wars are fought by multitudes of people who do not get their names in the paper, so to speak, but they die anyway. Jyn and the entire crew die fighting for a cause that is, at best, ephemeral. They will not become glowing ghosts in the next movie. Vindication of their sacrifice does not happen until three more movies.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          They will not become glowing ghosts in the next movie.

          We can be thankful for that. Upon second viewing, although he has some kind of a strange accent I can’t quite place (French?), the character of Cassian Andor clearly should have been the lead character and Jyn a sidekick at best.

          The secondary cast was lackluster. Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe was awful. Wen Jiang as Baze Malbus was forgettable. Forest Whitaker was out of his element. Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook is the insertion of a goofball character where it seemed unneeded and inappropriate. My little brother thought that Ron Perlman would have spiced up the cast of regulars. And I think he’s right.

          The original trilogy was a character study set within a large and gathering conflict. After having watched this movie two times now, there is nothing at all memorable about it. There is no take-away. Nothing stays with me. It reminded me of the line in Macbeth: “The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.”

          What shimmer it does have is because it points to a movie that is memorable.

        • Timothy Lane says:

          I take it you’re referring especially to that gagger of an ending to the third movie.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            Yep. He surely is referring to the “shimmer hall of fame.” A cringe-worthy moment. Now I know why Catholics believe in Purgatory. At best, in order to return to the fold, Anakin Skywalker had a mountain of penance to perform. Instead, he shows up all shimmery. Entire planets destroyed because of him? No problem. Just raise the glow of the shimmering.

            Had they panned a little further to the right at the ending of Episode VI you would have seen a smiling Hitler, Stalin, and Mao sitting side-by-side. All shimmering.

            • Timothy Lane says:

              Only if they repented at the end. Somehow none of them impress me as the sorts who would. But that was a popular criticism of that gagger scene.

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Many say that the first sign of Lucas going to the Dark Side of Cinema was with the introduction of the Ewoks. Still, it’s his story and you have to give him a bit of leeway and respect.

                I didn’t mind them so much. To me they all seemed like dirty old men disguised as playful fuzz-balls. But I think they were all, and immediately, lusting after Lea. Whatever it takes to get you through the Ewoks, I say.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s an article by Seth Franzman that asks: Why Can’t America Make Innovative Movies about the Future Anymore?

    I think Seth raises a good question even if he doesn’t come up with much of an answer. But clearly the Star Wars franchise, for example, is doing little but repeating itself. There are no original characters or themes, even taking into account “there is nothing new under the sun.” Artfulness, imagination, and creativity can combine things into at least somewhat novel implementations.

    As Marion (the one an only other poster at the moment) pointed out, the studios are hooked on doing “safe” blockbuster sequels and such. This and other reasons surely apply, everything from the degradation of our culture to the influence of feminism (the generic “kick ass female,” for example, has become yet another dull stereotype, killing originality as writers just seemingly construct movies and plots as they would play with a prefabbed Lego set).

    Bad movies can act as a Rorschach test in regards to what you think is wrong with the culture. And some of these factors will no doubt be at least partially true. But first off, I don’t think it’s ever been easy to make a good movie. Neither studio executives, unions, nor bankers are particularly friendly to maintaining an artist’s vision. There will always be the pull toward safe and therefore dull and uncreative. And even if you get the banks, studios, and everyone else on board (including a good cast…no easy thing in itself), big movies today are triumphs of logistics if not often of a compelling artistic vision. Perhaps only a full-scale war involves the marshaling of so much materiel, money, and people to achieve a rather hurried end than does movie-making.

    Even so, given that today’s movies are often marvels of technical prowess (in terms of special effects), clearly these projects are not proving too big to handle. And money is often no object. This leads credence to the idea that there is some underlying cultural or psychological problem in regards to the bland and uncreative stories and characters typical of today’s movies, particularly (ironically) the blockbuster ones. So many of them are technical marvels but parched and bland when it comes to story and characters. Clearly there is money to hire good writers. But clearly the writers do not have majestic thoughts in their heads.

    My own pet reason for the degradation of movies is that mankind has lost the ability to think great thoughts. This culture, driven as it is by Cultural Marxism whereby one is taught to be guilty about every achievement the West has made, has little room left for heroes and optimism, for a story about a character moving upward from point A to point B, what Joseph Campbell (and George Lucas) would call “the hero’s journey.”

    This may be a factor, minor or large. But the stark evidence at hand is that blockbuster movies typically are deserts in regards to any type of creativity and grandiosity other than the special effects. It’s as if people enjoy having their own inner blandness reflected back at them as normal.

    To me, you have to have a certain grandiose yearning for great and good ideals to even begin to appreciate movies such as Casablanca, for instance. Even if we can’t achieve these ideals in our own lives, they are (or historically have been) compelling to see portrayed in the arts. But now we seem satisfied with dull mediocrity. And why shouldn’t the movie studios give us more of the same if they are so profitable?

    There are indeed highlights here and there, such as Marion pointed out. The Fifth Element and The Matrix are notable examples of good movies, let alone good sci-fi. But can the generations who have lost their ability to think noble thoughts (and caterwauling over the fraud of “climate change” is not a noble thought) create great art? It seems an uphill battle.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      I think you can do a good movie even without much originality. Most movies made from books aren’t all that original, but some are quite good. Of course, a lot of them are more inspired by the book than based on it (e.g., Hitchcock’s great spy movie, The Thirty-Nine Steps. But Rosemary’s Baby follows the book closely, and it’s an excellent movie. Casablanca itself is based on an unsuccessful play. But we do have a lot of movies that seem to be rehashes of earlier movies. A hideous example was the decision, at the end of Star Trek The Voyage Home, to basically just restore the original crew in their original positions in something very much like the original ship.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        “Nothing new under the sun” is such a generic and general phrase, it’s not particularly useful in most circumstances.

        Still, although no English sentence (other than special symbols, numbers, etc.) use more than 26 letters, we create new things under the sun all the time. Arguably, despite the billions of English lines that humans have written throughout history, it’s doubtful anyone has written exactly the previous sentence.

        So although every plot may include a villain and a hero, it would be saying little to say “Nothing new under the sun.” Even so, much like a beautiful woman, there are basic themes that appeal to us and can be dressed up in different ways.

        My gut feeling is that classical beauty (including the appealing nature of a historically noble story) is lost on the generations whose minds, hearts, and souls have been corrupted and disenchanted by Cultural Marxism (and atheism, and feminism, and all the other isms that drain nobility and distinctiveness from the human soul).

        That is, you can’t deconstruct everything and then have anything left to construct.

        Regarding Star Trek movies, even the better ones, I try to pretend that they don’t exist. 🙂

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