Rogue One Rated: 4/5
Rebellions are built on hope.
So, after seeing that optimistic upbeat Rogue One image above, let’s talk about The Force Awakens. That movie, honestly, wasn’t as great as people are making it out to be. They’re just excited that it’s made better than at least two of the films in the prequel trilogy. But that should be a bare minimum requirement for a film in this franchise.
It needs to be more than just a rehash of plot elements from Episode IV and V. Because that’s essentially what The Force Awakens is. Starts out on a desert planet where a droid is left to wander until it is rescued by the main protagonist (Oh my God! Luke is a woman!), who then proceeds to go on an adventure, in space! But to throw some twists and turns, the Obi-Wan character isn’t introduced until they get off-planet, in which case Harrison Ford shows up, who is now old enough to be the teacher rather than the student. Except that this mentor doesn’t teach the protagonist much, because she already seems to know everything (I’ll get to that in a moment), including the ways of the force better than anyone is the movie (save for stopping a laser blast in mid-air and holding it in position, which they didn’t do enough with; I’ll get to that later). But he still dies like Obi-Wan, with the same “No!” reaction by the protagonist, except she’s capable of actually getting tears in her eyes while young Mark Hamill couldn’t pull that off. Oh, and there’s another fucking Death Star (couldn’t last that long without throwing in a fuck-bomb), only bigger. Bigger isn’t always better!
And then there’s the plot holes. Chewy survived setting off the explosions? The villain managed to get off the planet in time? They could time slowing down from light speed at just the right moment that perfectly?
The main protagonist of The Force Awakens, Rey (mine as well be Ray for ray of sunshine, hardy har har), is nothing short of a Mary Sue. What is a Mary Sue you might ask? Well let the Urban Dictionary explain it for you:
A female fanfiction character who is so perfect as to be annoying. The male equivlalent is the Marty-Stu. […] The Mary Sue character is almost always beautiful, smart, etc… In short, she is the “perfect” girl. The Mary Sue usually falls in love with the author’s favorite character(s) and winds up upstaging all of the other characters in the book/series/universe. There are several main types of Mary Sue:
Warrior!Sues: The Warrior!Sue is usually loud, obnoxious and (of course) an amazing warrior. She’ll usually have some tragic past that led her to become a warrior, and she’ll upstage all of the Canonical characters with her mad Sueish powerz.
Mage!Sue: Similar to the Warrior!Sue, the Mage!Sue has amazing stregnth in magic, or has a magical power that nobody else has. She’ll usually wind up upstaging all of the magical characters of the series.
Finally, Sues often have wierd, improbable or impossible bloodlines. A secret half-elf child of Elrond and a nameless human would be an example of this. A character who was Dumbledore’s grandchild and Tom Riddle’s daughter would be another example.
by nscangal July 29, 2005
In other words, someone who is too perfect, too good, who has little to no room for character improvement, whether it be overcoming flaws in her character, personality, or skills. Because without any teaching or guidance or even learning by example, by the end of the film and over the course of one or two day’s time (tops), she has not only learned the ways of the force to the point of being able to mind control others, read minds, and learn how to fight better than anyone else (though to be fair, she did show good combat skills early on before she got swept up in the adventure in space), but she also learned how to fly a fucking spacecraft with very little experience flying spacecraft, and no experience with the Millennium Falcon whatsoever. I mean, seriously, what does she have to fear at this point? What the hell is Smeagol supposed to bring to the table in the sequel (hope I eat my words on that)? What improvements does she need at this point?
I’m just hoping that The Force Awakens exists just to get the Callback 101 out of its system, and (light)speed character strength development so that they are at top optimum strength for some epic battle that is to come in the sequel. But if the sequel is more of the same uninspired unoriginal bullshit that The Force Awakens is, then I’m going to consider The Force Awakens to be a very terrible film. I’m already predicting some, “I am your Mother/Father/Brother/Sister/Nephew/Cousin/Former Roommate” twist for Rey in the sequel (isn’t everyone? My bet’s on Smeagol), but I’m also hoping she will go to the dark side. That would be an excellent twist. The dangers of power, of acquiring power so fast, that she becomes mad with the powers of the force she has. Just go all in with that. Then the once savior of the universe now becomes the universe’s worst enemy, and that Fin guy from the movie will have to go against her in some fashion after becoming more developed, fleshed out, and more skilled. Say what you will about Fin being a bit annoying when he’s trying to be funny, but at least his character arc has better setup and potential than hers, especially if they don’t go with the “she goes evil” twist. Honestly, most of the attempts at humor annoyed me more upon revisit than it did initially when I saw that movie again.
And say what you will about how terrible the prequels were, at least they didn’t rehash plot elements from the original trilogy. Not only that, but each film had at least one outstanding memorable moment. The Phantom Menace had Darth Maul, the pod race, and Duel of the Fates. The Clone Wars had that arena battle, and Yoda using a lightsaber for the first time on-screen. Revenge of the Sith had General Grevous, a bunch of amazing battles to behold, and two incredible lightsaber battles in the finale. What the hell does The Force Awaken have other than Han getting killed (cheap ploy since it’s a rehash of Obi-Wan dying in A New Hope) and having the first lead female jedi?
And, honestly, am I the only one who thinks there were too many teenagers in that movie? Aside from the old cast showing up, where the fuck were all the adults to put these kids in their place? In both the Rebellion, Resistance, or whatever they call themselves now (watch Rogue One and you’ll get that reference), and the First Order (why first? didn’t the Empire come before them? Why not the Second Order, or Third? Hell, why not Fourth since it rhymes with Force, sort of, and is a callback to the franchise starting on episode IV?). And that other non-Smeagol villain in the movie. Oh my God. He really hammed up his role as much as he possibly could didn’t he? I mean, that speech he gave just before the Death Egg fired its laser. Priceless overacting.
Right, the positives for that movie. Special effects were good. It was nice to see practical effects take stage with the CG, more-so than the prequels did (especially the Special Edition versions, where they remove puppet Yoda). The villain Kylo Ren, it’s nice to see a villain who has anger issues and is a bit of a crybaby as opposed to a mature self-controlled leader like villains of the past. That’s a nice change-up. Also cool to see that Storm Troopers are equipped with weapons that can go against lightsabers. And it had one decent long take with that X-Wing taking out a bunch of tie-fighters while Fin is fighting on the ground. And the film recaptures that fun sci-fi adventure that the first film had, even if it had to rehash a lot of the first film to do that.
The Force Awakens Rating: 2/5 (subject to increase if the sequel is great)
Now, for Rogue One.
I find this film to be almost better than The Force Awakens in every way. It’s darker, more serious, and the stakes feel real. I mean honestly, aside from Han Solo (who’s death I called because I could see him as the Obi-Wan rehash that he was), did you ever feel that characters were in any real danger in The Force Awakens? Because I can tell you that’s not what I was feeling in Rogue One, and the film knew to play to that strength since it’s a stand-alone spin-off from the franchise with no returning characters, save for Darth Vader.
Oh who am I kidding? This is less of a spin-off and more of a prequel to A New Hope. Hopefully later on when Disney continued to milk this Star Cow we’ll get a legit spin-off that can be viewed independently of virtually all other Star Wars films (you don’t have to be fucking Marvel and try to make everything fucking connect Disney! I’m getting sick of that shit!). But I’m willing to settle for this for now, since it’s actually good.
I should point out that not everything we see from the teaser trailer made it into the final cut of the film, which is a shame in one regard. First, the line, “This is a Rebellion isn’t it? I rebel.” I could spot one instance where that could’ve been thrown in for good effect, but the film seemed to work just fine without it. That’s not the part from the teaser that I wish they kept in the film. That would have to be a line which gives depth to Forest Whitaker’s character Saw Gerrera. “What will you do when they catch you? What will you do if they break you? If you continue to fight, what will you become?” That line is great! It fills in the hole that was missing in Gerrera’s character. It’s implied that he’s a man who had gone mad during his time in the Rebellion with much of the stuff he’s seen and faced, but that brings it full circle. Him giving that speech as a warning to Jyn Erso (another female protagonist). It makes it clear that he had been captured by the Empire at one point, tortured, and somehow managed to escape and became much more radical and borderline insane with his paranoia than ever before. His trust issues are already apparent, implying that it was a traitor that caused him to get captured and tortured in the first place. But because that speech is missing, there isn’t enough to him. He doesn’t feel like a well-rounded character. They left too much on the cutting room floor for him. I sense some fan cuts are needed for this film some time down the road.
Anyway, yes, this film has a Death Star in it too, much like The Force Awakens. But as a film which serves as a prequel lead-in to the movie with the Death Star, this actually has a good reason for it. It’s a necessity. It’s integral to the plot. If they wanted to make a super-weapon again in The Force Awakens, they need something that isn’t shaped like a ball. There’s already 2 balls in the original trilogy, it would’ve been perfect if The Force Awakens had a giant fucking Death Dildo to go with the two Death Stars. But they didn’t do that, so now we have 2 small balls and a big ball to make a Mickey Mouse head (see the How It Should Have Ended video above). Disney, you son of a bitch.
And the finale, while good, fell a tad bit short for me in one scene, mainly with the final confrontation with the main antagonist and Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones). Didn’t have enough of a payoff, plus it looks like they left some finale bits on the cutting room floor regarding a tie fighter (see image above). I’m starting to question some of these reshoots that I’ve heard about with Disney vs. Gareth Edwards (some speculate it was changed to be less of a heist film and more of a war film). Very eager to see deleted scenes and special features on the blu-ray, assuming they will be included and not be like another Christopher Nolan release where he refuses to show anything that was left on the cutting room floor.
Some complain that the characters aren’t all that memorable or developed enough. Again, that might be due to the reshoots screwing with things. But on the other hand, Gareth Edwards has yet to make any memorable characters in any movie he’s ever done. Granted, I didn’t think they were weak in this film by any means (save for Gerrera, but I do blame reshoots on that), they were competent enough. But none are anyone that will be remembered over the years, not like those from the original trilogy, or even some of the characters from the prequel trilogy (except Jar Jar Binks, who’s memorable for all the wrong reasons, for the new trilogy we get Jar Jar Abrams). But again, I think they were competent. Plus it’s nice to see Ip Man star Donnie Yen finally be given a more solid role in a more solid American film, where they still managed to let his martial arts skills shine, if only for a couple scenes.
But if there’s anything that should be talked about with this film, we should talk about the CG replication of Leia and Peter Cushing, especially the latter. I appreciate the effort, but I fucking hate CG face replications. I really wish they would just hire actor look-alikes. Because they’re not fooling anyone, not even with how good those effects can look at times.
Honestly, don’t they look similar?
Lastly, there are a couple scenes that seemed unnecessary. Like when those two assholes from the bar in episode IV show up who would get sliced to pieces by Obi-Wan. Seriously, why are they in this? And how did they get away from the city in time before it blew up? Get rid of that scene, along with the pointless fast-open/fast-close vent system in the finale.
And honestly, those are the only arguments I have against this movie. Because this movie kicks loads of ass and is paced extremely well. The only way it could’ve been more awesome is if Ip Man faced off with Darth Vader in some insanely entertaining martial arts vs. the force fight. But we got the awesome Vader moment near the end to make up for that, so I’ll live. Gareth Edwards brings back his talent for creating scope and scale to create a menacing presence for the Death Star and AT-ATs much like he did for Godzilla a couple years ago. Not just seeing them from the angle that we get, but also hearing the booming stomps of their approach. Not quite as chilling as in Empire Strikes Back, but they’re definitely intimidating.
And unlike The Force Awakens where you know that just about everyone is going to make it out alive at the end (save for Obi-Wan rehash), in this film you just don’t know for certain. And the stakes continually get raised with each death that happens. Things get more desperate. And each time someone gets blasted, blown up, or each time an X-Wing got shot down, I felt it, like it was another big loss for an already faltering rebellion that is losing hope with each passing day. That’s what makes these darker films work. The darker they are, the more oppressive it feels, in that the protagonists are out of their depth and always facing an uphill battle, as opposed to a more light-hearted film where it’s just an illusion of an uphill battle without generating the feel.
The film also fills in what some may consider to be a leap in logic regarding how easy it is to destroy the Death Star in A New Hope. How one of the main engineers intentionally put that flaw into the design as a way to offer a chance to strike a blow to the Empire. I thought that was brilliant, and makes this film feel like it belongs as a canon prequel. It gels.
And on top of all that, this movie makes Darth Vader scary again. It makes him downright terrifying. I don’t think he’s ever been more intimidating of a presence than in the sequence he’s in during the finale. It’s intense, and it’s only amplified by hearing the cries and screams of the soldiers, especially the one at the door screaming out of terror and desperation, “Help us!” And the urgency is even more pronounced since those troops are the ones holding the plans, and Vader is that close to just wiping everyone out and getting them back. Star Wars doesn’t get any more intense than in that moment. It’s perfect, and perfectly shows why it is that so many fear Vader. Those soldiers paused for a moment when they saw him, knowing exactly who he is, and knew of his reputation. You could see the fear in them before they started firing futily at him. That’s the one thing George Lucas could never pull off on his own, making a villain truly terrifying. In The Empire Strikes Back, it took Irvin Kershner to pull that off successfully for the first time, not A New Hope.
I give a rock solid recommendation for this film. The first two thirds are a bit on the slower side, but with good action bits here and there when they show up. But that last third, everything is piled on into what will probably go down as one of the greatest finales ever put to film. It’s unexpected that it would get that large, and it’s wonderful. This is the Star Wars film I was hoping The Force Awakens would be. It ranks up there with the best of them.
Current Star Wars film ranking, not including the animated films, the Ewok movies, or the cocksucking Holiday Special:
Empire Strikes Back > Revenge of the Sith > A New Hope > Rogue One > Return of the Jedi > The Phantom Menace > The Force Awakens > The Clone Wars