A review of “ROGUE ONE”

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.36.29 pm.pngAnother scene that #Didn’t happen

MIDNIGHT

I didn’t expect to watch another 12:05 viewing of a movie — and not by myself — something I would have found so utterly pathetic when I was a 12 year old. Which is perhaps the average age of the initial target audience of this movie. (I realise the studio is also expecting a lot of coin from people like me).

But the excitement just overwhelmed me. It was a Wednesday night and I had nothing better to do, and I had arranged that Thursday off on the ‘morrow so I could watch it at a more respectable hour. (It turned out I had to go to work — but that is another story.)

So it was fun and exciting to get to have a nap at 8pm, then snap up an hour later in a daze and stumble for an hour over to Southbank and mix it up with my fellow nerds. They were an eclectic bunch — in nerd terms. There were coolsies that wouldn’t look out of place at a Laneway Fest. And then there were the gender-ambiguous overweight people in big black tent-like clothing — channeling the Comic-book-guy from the Simpsons.

It was mostly dudes.

Everyone was well behaved. Although a group of lads kept grappling randoms and saying, “Did you know Darth Vader is Luke’s father?” Like it was the funniest joke ever. Douchecanoes.

HERE’s WHAT TO EXPECT FROM BELOW:

a) A review
a.1) A note on “Mendo”
b) The Elephant
c) FAN-SERVICE — What I cringed about
d) FAN-SERVICE — What I thought worked
e) Why the TRAILERS are so different (or “What I thought the movie might have been )

a) A REVIEW

WARNING! MAJOR PLOT SPOILERS BELOW

First of all I want to say I enjoyed it. As a major Star Wars fan it is certainly entertaining — but it’s not as good as episodes 4, 5 (my fave), 6 or 7. (I don’t acknowledge the prequels.)

Secondly, it had a major feature which I found quite distracting — and something I thought was a dangerous precedent in film-making. (I’ll cover that later).

It’s a lush movie. Visually very diverse and all the settings are amazing. I recognised Iceland immediately. A cheap setting for an alien world without any set-dressing or CGI.

The characters don’t get developed much. I think Jyn was a little hard to truly care about. I found the droid K2-SO’s tragic end far more emotional. (He was obviously inspired by the robot in Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky.) Long arms and tiny head. Always looking downtrodden. Plus maybe the Paranoid Android in the Hitchhiker’s Guide.

laputaRobot_preview_featured.jpg

k2so.jpg

And the Baize and Chirru bromance was much more thematic. Cassian was almost interesting, but again a little unappealing.

Well before the movie came out, the nerds had guessed that the perfect-defect in the Death Star was purposely designed. And the trailers pretty much gave that plot point away with Galen Erso telling a baby Jyn that everything he did, he did to protect her. So that revelation was put down pretty early. There was no way the script writers could have avoided this obvious plot-gift. Someone on the inside was a Rebel at heart and had made this hideous planet-destroying-machine hopelessly weak.

Moving on.

a.1) A NOTE ON “MENDO”

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.28.19 pm.png

Ben Mendohlson. What a bloody legend. Deadset legend.

He’s like the David Boon of acting. Boony being the very first deadset legend.

He’s like an enigma, wrapped up in a dirty, dweeby, wrinkly paper bag.

He’s like an older brother, or a shitty cousin that is sometimes your bestie, but is so mercurial he becomes a crazy psycho with no warning.

Whenever me and Dee see Mendo in super-acting-genius — we call it “Classic Mendo”. Others have different terms. Tony Martin calls it, “How Mendo is that?”. And seeing Mendo in Bloodlines was incredibly sublime. He was so, so, so good in that series.

And when he was cast in Rogue One I instantly thought, “Wow! Mendo is going to rip shit up as a Star Wars villain.” Holy shit! I was so excited.

But although there was a bit of “Classic Mendo”, sadly I think he was always a bit comprimised. Apart from the beginning, he never really got to rise in darkness. He had his lisp thing — “Classic Mendo”. He had at least two moments when he got to say something so evil and maniacal. “Classic”. He gets a cool cape. (Though Dee thought it looked plasticy). And he gets to be annoyed most of the time — but I don’t think he ever got to be truly scary or about to snap and lose it.

I guess any character that gets force-choked by Vader can never be treated seriously as a villain. If Vader cuts off your airway it means, “you’re a dickhead. And you’re expendable — to the plot.”

And Mendo’s doom is ultimately kinda pathetic. When he says, “Who are you?” it’s not what a true villain would care about when they were pointing a gun at their defeated (and seemingly doomed) pugnator. It’s like a confession that he was always out-played. I suspect Mendo had a far sinister role in the original movie (before the reshoots). But more on that later.

b) THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: RESURRECTING PETER CUSHING

Apparently they announced over a year ago but I missed that memo. So they made a CGI version of Peter Cushing (who died over 20 years ago) rather than employ a real actor to play the role of Grand Moff Tarkin. Admittedly it was convincing so far as CGI goes. While watching I thought it might even fool someone who hadn’t seen Star Wars or hadn’t realised Cushing was long dead. It was definitely a grand achievement in the technology. Cool even.

But is it ethical?

How does a dead person get to control the appropriation of their likeness? (I know the character’s intellectual property belongs to someone else — and you can’t own your own image, be it a picture or a painting or a film of yourself.) [Although I think France has different laws about that.]

But what about the way you played that character? What about your voice or mannerisms — what you can uniquely bring to your performance? Isn’t that going to be forever connected with the original actor?

Another quite bizarre outcome is that “Rogue One” is now one of Peter Cushing’s films on his wikipedia page. Am I the only one who thinks this is weird? I haven’t dared to check IMDB. I don’t care if he was a big fan of the franchise. (Apparently he was). I don’t care that his family approved. (Apparently they gave it their blessing). I just wonder. I just wonder for the future.

And I am very, very nervous that they will do the same treatment to Sir Alec Guinness. I impurity certain he would turn in his grave if his likeness is used next. (Admittedly his voice is appropriated in The Force Awakens and I did not get up on my high-horse about that. I feel a bit conflicted about that.)

Obi-Wan-Kenobi_6d775533.jpeg

SO WHAT IS NEXT?

I can just imagine in the next decade some douche will release a film with a recreation of James Dean or Marilyn Monroe or Elvis. If there’s money to be made — what’s stopping them?

They’ve done it to Audrey Hepburn. And in the 90s they did it Humphrey Bogart, Louis Armstrong and James Cagney for a fucking Coke commercial for fuck’s sake. Ugh. [Note: these were not CGI but real footage mixed into new scenes – but essentially their image in a very new context].

So I will say to the actors of today — make a stand if this means something to you. Can you let this precedent continue? My nephews saw that film and had no idea that was a CGI Princess Leia or Moff Tarkin. What happens to your likeness when you are long dead? What happens to your legacy if you get shoved into an absolute dud of a film and your character gets blamed? Actors — how do you feel as artists — how do you feel about people making money out of your likeness? What’s stopping the studios making new Indiana Jones movies with a fake “Harrison Ford” forever and ever?

ALSO OF NOTE!

All the scenes, out-takes or actual footage from A NEW HOPE that they re-purposed for this film in the final space-battle. Is that ethical? Should we care cause I for one found it so fucking obvious and gratuitous.

For details see below.

c) UNNECESSARY FAN-SERVICE DETAILS IN ORDER OF SHITNESS (apart from Grand Moff)

1) adding C3P0 and R2D2 — for months I vowed to throw something if they were included. But thankfully my civility prevailed. Instead I just cringed and shook my head. Don’t these people making these films have any shame? It’s literally getting to the point where anyone making a Star Wars movie just can’t help but chuck in these two “classic droids” like it was the Force controlling them. But it is just so redundant. So unnecessary. Except if you’re Anthony Daniels and you get a truckload of money each and every time.

2) The old footage of fighter pilots from A NEW HOPE (ANH) getting regurgitated. There were at least three pilots who got re-hashed and one had their sentence “I am starting my attack run on the…” re-purposed to say “shield gate” at the end while the vision tracked to that big shield gate thing.

3) The recreation of that exact scene from ANH with that cranky fuckwit with the deformed face (and his mate). Rehashing the exact dialogue from the cantina scene just before he gets his arm cut off. Embarrassing.

4) All the extra references to “Hope”. One is enough.

5) CGI Leia. We got it from the costume. There was no need to go further. And it was almost like a big, “Look at how impressive our CGI is” rather than a true addition to the film.

6) It’s a diverse cast — if you’ve got balls and a dick. Just cause you have a female lead doesn’t mean you are excused to make every other role — including robots — a male. I doubt it passed the Bechdel Test.

d) COOL FAN SERVICE

1) I think I spotted a Wilhelm Scream from the first stormtrooper that gets nailed in the Jeddah battle.

2) Donk droid. And maybe a couple of other droids from ANH

3) Referencing “A New Hope” was ok. (But see above)

4) Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) were inoffensive and kinda drove the plot. Although of course it was a bit excessive.

5) Mon Mothma was excellent — and she a great fit for that role.

e) THE TRAILERS WERE LIKE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MOVIE

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.27.09 pm.pngTie-Fighter confronting Jyn at the top of the communications mast #Didn’t happen

About 8 months ago the studio announced it was doing a big bunch of re-shoots. I took this to mean they were finessing the film. Getting it even more perfect. Taking pride in the job. Realising they didn’t need to rush things. I saw many fans appreciating the “quality over quantity” vibe. They were not disappointed.

But it seems the film was rather drastically changed if you go by the trailers. There’s the  redundant footage which is not a hanging offence. But then there’s the just plain wrong scenes. Scenes that don’t happen. Scenes where characters interact which makes no sense. And it wasn’t just the footage — the dialogue was also stupidly weird at times and inconsistent with what the finished film delivered. It was grossly unsettling.

I suspect the nerds would have already taken this to pieces. OK a quick google revealed this. It’s embarrassing really. (Another precedent this movie has delivered: How can we trust any trailers now?)

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.34.48 pm.pngSaw Gererra without hair lecturing Jyn about joining the fight #Didn’t happen

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.35.15 pm.pngCrennik getting his tails wet on the Skarriff beach #Didn’t happen

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.30.37 pm.pngIn the trailers they imply Vader is confronting Galen Erso in this scene

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.33.08 pm.pngJyn in shackles at the Rebel base #Didn’t happen

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.13.04 pm.pngRebel pilots in shackles, led by Stormtroopers, (presumably on Jedda) #Didn’t happen

So here is my stupid idea about why they changed the film — apart from the fact I suspect the director was a bit of a dud and the movie he delivered was shithouse.

It seemed the end of the movie was going to be a bit too much like Return of the Jedi (RTOJ). The final act in RTOJ has the rebels on Endor trying to get the shield generator while those up in space are waiting for that to happen so they can launch an attack. But the Emperor has set a trap. “It’s a trap!” Admiral Ackbar famously (or memes-worthy) says.

It already is very much like ROTJ in those last scenes, but from the trailers you get the impression that Krennic had set a trap just like the Emperor had done in ROTJ. Krennic is seen gracefully walking over the shallow water on Scarriff with his cape getting a tad damp. You see a tie-fighter jump up and confront Jyn when she’s up on the mast just below the satellite dish. And from the whispers in the spoiler’s community, there definitely was a scene shot and CGI’d where a group of AT-ATs emerge from under the ocean to gradually rise up and make the rebel troops shit their collective pants. (Which would have been so, so cool!)

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 2.36.00 pm.pngAnd Cassian and Jyn are in the above scene. #Didn’t happen #wtf?

Anyway. I think that movie might have featured a bunch more dramatic scenes, but not a more plausible plot. And plus, as I said before, so much like ROTJ. But in these “re-shoots” I honestly suspect they ruined the character of Krennic. Maybe I am just being a bit romantic about “Classic Mendo”. Or maybe not.

So I give the movie a pass. On a good day I’d give it a 7. The test will come if I choose to see it again and again.

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