Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Fourth Awakens

Rogue One, a Star Wars Story (d. Gareth Edwards, 2016) 

Well, I went and saw a new Star War tonight with my brother in law, as yet another installment in our 'due diligence' series of paternal gazumphing our boys' keenness to be part of the new Disney soft reboot shuffle. It was pretty good. Fantastic in places, a bit slow in others, a little wobbly in the plot department. Needed editing - particularly in the first half, where the movie was mainly concerned wth introducing its large cast and getting them to where they need to be in order that the main story begin.

The Star Wars universe was always classic Space Opera thanks to geography-busting hyperspace, but Rogue One's storytelling expediency has our heroes reach just where they need to be within five minutes of landing anywhere. Maybe, perhaps for the choppy first half, this is just as well, because it seems there are a lot of ducks to be set in a row in this movie before the action-packed second half gets into gear.

 That's a curious thing for this movie and its place in the Star Wars movieverse. I remember when Star Wars Insider magazine used to run a semi-regular column dedicated to readers who had found a friend who (gasp!) Had Never Seen Star Wars. That was... maybe fifteen years ago? In 2016 I think we should be able to decare that quest run to its logical conclusion. Nobody has not seen Star Wars now, surely. And yet despite its existence as a crowd-pleasing filler, Rogue One does go out of its way to explain, point out, and generally colour in the gaps for anyone who isn't already aware of the film's general story and maybe why there's no Wookie in this film.

Given that, this is (to me) the second attempt by filmmakers old enough to have at least lived through A New Hope's arrival in cinemas to pretty much tell the story from a different angle.
I suspect, in fact, that Rogue One is kin to The Force Awakens in both being irresistible attempts to re-tell A New Hope while 'improving' on the latter's limitations. A broader scope, greater diversity of races and species, more spectacle, a less lumbering baddie.

But once the story kicks in it does crack along, and though it's a well-worn observation, new droid K2SO is a fun addition - a sardonic and blackly comic foil with an intriguing hang-up. 

K2SO. Magnificent bastard.
K2SO is in places a practical effect, that approach so championed in SFX these days. There are of course two characters almost entirely reconstructed through CGI ... but as for finding our way out of Uncanny Valley, I think we're still not there, yet. But we've made good inroads, and maybe within five years we might actually be there. Suffice it to say, I think they really cracked it in A New Hope.

Should you see Rogue One? Yes, go and see it, and enjoy it. I was relieved that between the first trailer and the final cut some changes had been made. Not all reshoots need be a disaster, and it appears a different edit has done wonders to Felicity Jones' Jyn Erso, a character who really didn't appeal at all to me in those first teasers. The supporting cast are pretty good, and Ben Mendelsohn's Imperial foil a nice addition.

Still not sure whether I'm on board for Han Solo, though.

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