How many times after “The Empire Strikes Back” was a “Star Wars” sequel described as the best film in the series?
How long did it take for reality to set in before fans and general audiences finally admitted to themselves that episode whatever wasn’t the life-changing event they declared it to be?
I only ask because this seems to be the pattern for the last 33 years. A new chapter is released in the “Star Wars” saga, it’s prematurely crowned the new God-King of Movietown and then six months later Buzzfeed releases “The 27 Reasons Why ‘The Force Awakens’ is Like a Diarrhea Griddle in a Fart Factory.”
I get it.
The idea of “Star Wars” has left the world dopesick waiting for the next fresh hit of buzzy, warm nostalgia, and anything with a lightsaber looks like it could help us all relive that massive, toe-curling high.
But understand, films like “Rogue One” aren’t pure. Trace elements of “A New Hope” and “Empire” are there, but “Rogue One” is mostly cut with the shallow fan service of “The Force Awakens” and the superfluous, why-does-this-exist quality of “Attack of the Clones.” Sure, initially “Rogue One” will massage every inch of your brain with rose-colored memories of 1980 — Fruit Roll Ups and Big Wheels and whatever — but eventually it will leave you hunched over, grinding your teeth with the bitter realization that you’ve been burned again.
As most fans know, “Rogue One” is based on a throwaway line from “Episode 4” about the fate of the rebels who acquired the Death Star plans. I guess it’s not a bad five-second throwaway line to base a two plus hour movie around, but I would have preferred to see “Not as Clumsy or Random as a Blaster” starring Liam Neeson or a Jack McBrayer slapstick comedy based around the classic zinger “Into the Garbage Chute, Flyboy.”
At any rate, “Rogue One” opens with a scene that plays like the opening of “Inglorious Bastards” if it was written by someone whose only contact with the outside world was a tattered paperback copy of a “Warhammer” novel. Just, hokey, unnatural dialogue that is capped off with the sight of Forest Whitaker saying, “My child.” “My Child!”
If “my child” is uttered in a movie, Jesus better be kissing a leper in the next scene. After that, “Rogue One” quickly becomes convoluted as it suddenly jumps from planet to planet to introduce us to its rag-tag, misfit protagonists who are never developed beyond the fact that they’re kind of faintly annoyed. The characters are so underwritten they feel like they were adapted from an unfinished character sheet from an abandoned D&D session.
It’s 2016. Do we really need a blind Asian mystic character in a movie anymore? Where’s the Frenchman in the beret who never goes without his trusty baguette or the gangster in the pinstripe suit carrying around a violin case?
Eventually plans are made to steal plans and gritty things happen but only if you find constant glowering and PG-13 level violence to be gritty. Oh, and a Peter Cushing cartoon from an unmade Shrek sequel is also in this to make things far more creepy than necessary.
For a standalone movie intended to explore the large, divergent universe of the “Star Wars” franchise, “Rogue One” is narrow, familiar and predictable. Apart from the lazy rehashing of war movie tropes, “Rogue One” falls into the same fan service ruts of last year’s “The Force Awakens.” Complain about George Lucas’ prequels all you want but at least he managed to make three movies without using the Death Star as a plot device.
As irritating as Jar Jar Binks was, at least it was a new character and not another condescending unfunny robot with a British accent. At least Lucas was attempting something a little different instead of just giving us a medley of his greatest hits. Dear God, a movie in which Forest Whitaker sports a Frederick Douglas wig while playing a cyborg version of Osama bin Laden shouldn’t be this leaden or painful.
Mike Sullivan is a movie reviewer for Weekender. Movie reviews appear weekly in Weekender.
‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Felicity Jones, Diego Luna
Director: Gareth Edwards
Weekender Rating: W
Length: 133 minutes