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Rogue One - A Spoiler-free Movie Review

Nathan Strum


I got the chance to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on Thursday night (okay - technically Friday morning) thanks to a friend of mine who invited me to a screening at Disney Feature Animation. Nothing like seeing a Star Wars movie in a room full of nerds. :D

I'll try to keep this brief, because it's 3 AM and I'm really, really tired. Oh, and so it doesn't get all wordy and boring. That too. ;)

I'd been looking forward to Rogue One (and avoiding spoilers) because the trailers looked really cool, and the characters, as brief as they're featured in the trailers, already seemed interesting and different. Plus, not being an "episode" it would give Star Wars to stretch out into different storytelling territory. I felt that The Clone Wars and Rebels animated series did (and do) that really well. But would it translate to the big screen?

In short - yes. In fact it felt very much like Rebels, since Rogue One also takes place just prior to the original Star Wars (no... I'm not calling it Episode IV) and deals with the burgeoning Rebel Alliance.

Hey... I think that's the first time I've used "burgeoning" in my blog. Cool.

Oh right, brevity.

Now, I should mention that I saw it in 3D. I don't really recommend it, because while the 3D in the film is generally pretty good, it took me about 20 minutes before my eyes were dialed into it and just accepted it as "normal". Your mileage may vary. But I don't think it adds anything to the film, and at times is actually a little distracting because you become aware they're intentionally sticking something in the foreground. But if you do see it in 3D, during the end credits, flip your 3D glasses upside-down. It inverts the depth-of-field, and puts the credits behind the stars. It's cool! Seriously!

Probably shouldn't do it during the film though.

So how was the movie itself? Well, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Was it "jump out of your seats, flailing your arms and cheering like a crazy person" awesome? Well, no. But it was really good. And a lot of fun to watch. Mostly.

The lead characters are excellent, and a bit different than what we've come to expect from typical Star Wars good guys. They're noticeably a bit rougher around the edges, and clearly, they have to be. It's not a happy time in the galaxy.

The lead actors - Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso and Diego Luna as Cassian Andor, do a great job of carrying the movie. They bring great depth and likability to their characters. Alan Tudyk as K-2SO does a great turn as a droid with a distinct and fun personality. Unlike C-3PO (especially Episode II) or those idiotic prequel Battle droids, he doesn't wear out his welcome as comedy relief.

But the standouts for me were Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe and Wen Jiang as Baze Malbus. They're supporting characters that nearly steal the film. They're terrific fun to watch together, and it'd be great to see them featured in their own dedicated story (probably coming soon from Marvel Comics).

The Imperial characters don't fare quite so well, since they're just there to be bad guys, and that's basically all they do. And while it shouldn't come as a surprise,

yes - Darth Vader is in this film. Quite a bit. And while at times he's impressive and formidable (during one scene in particular) the rest of the time he seems to be practicing his stand-up comedy routine. (Okay - it's just one line. But it is a bit hammy.)

There are plenty of callbacks to the original Star Wars movie, which makes sense, but at times it gets to be a bit gratuitous. Without giving too much away, if you're familiar enough with the original movie, you won't have any problem recognizing certain... elements. In fact, I had trouble trying to ignore them after awhile.

And speaking of callbacks, my single biggest gripes with the film are

the ill-fated attempts at using CGI humans for certain roles in the movie. They just don't quite work - they look creepy and wrong. Yes - the Death Star plans are apparently located on the other side of the uncanny valley. Sometimes, it would just be better to recast a role. We can live with that.

Apart from my aforementioned gripes, the majority of special effects throughout the film are excellent, with the exception of some of the CGI aliens, which look like CGI aliens, and might have been better served by practical effects.

The action scenes are first-rate though. There are some terrific battles in this movie, and while the space battles are on a larger scale than the original Star Wars, they still looked like they could have been part of that era.

Although borrowing the planetary shield from Spaceballs was probably unnecessary.

There are a couple of weaknesses in the film that really jumped out at me, however.

One of the lead characters, who starts off uninterested in the whole Rebellion, does one of the quickest character turns I've ever seen in a movie, and seemingly in the span of one sentence becomes the Rebels' biggest cheerleader. I kept thinking, "Wait... did I miss a scene?" Maybe seeing it again would make it clearer to me.

The other is predictability. And it's a problem the movie simply can't avoid. It was designed into the film, because of when it takes place, and what must take place. If you know Star Wars, you know what they have to do. What keeps you interested is how they do it, but even that has a little bit of a problem in that it's a bit too reminiscent of other film tropes.

Think Captain America: Civil War meets Mission Impossible.

Hey... I think that might be the first time I've used "tropes" in my blog, too. Funny, I would've thought I would've used that already because it's a good, you know... um... trope.

And while there are some other parts of the movie that are also nitpickyable (pretty sure I've used that word before...), the cool moments and compelling characters far outweigh them.

It's a different Star Wars story to be sure, but it's a good one. Perfect? Nope. Flawed? Somewhat. But better than the prequels, and I'd put it above Return of the Jedi, too (I've said it before - not a fan).

It's about on par with The Force Awakens. Interesting new characters, a few too many callbacks, fun but flawed. But since it has the real Death Star in it, and not a shoddy J. J. Abrams copy, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story gets an 8.1/10.

But see it in 2D. If God had intended us to see movies in 3D, we'd have been born with polarized eyeballs.

And please use Spoiler tags where appropriate in the comments. Thanks!

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Rogue One?


Ack ack...I mustn't know.....No Spoilers! no Spoilers! No!!...NO!! Arrg!!


OK I was really just looking for Artie the Atari....But randomly clicked over here... (My own fault too aaaaackkk!)


I did my best to skim your review without actually reading anything...I spent 3.7 seconds on it...And gathered what I needed...I just wondered if you liked it and how it compares to The Force Awakens...I've got the gist ...That's all I need...


HMMmmm I'm not gonna read any spoilers whatsoever if I can help it until I check it out for myself...


I wonder if this is going to be tougher than I thought?



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Just stay off the internet. And don't watch TV. And don't go near anyone that might be having a conversation about it.


I managed to avoid spoilers for The Force Awakens last year for almost two weeks after it opened when I finally got in to see it. So it's possible. :)

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CGI humans are definitely getting better, though General Tarkin gave me the heebie-jeebies at times. I suspect a few more years and we'll have finally broken through the Uncanny Valley.


Princess Leia was on screen for such a brief moment that I had no problem with her.


Some of the rebel pilots looked like they were as well though, like Leia, they had such brief amounts of screen time that it wasn't distracting.


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I was immediately creeped out by Leia as well, although coming from an animation background as soon as anything is slightly off it immediately jumps out at me. In both cases, they could have simply written around them - Tarkin could have appeared only as a hologram, which would have worked fine (being all distorted and jumpy), and Leia could have just been glimpsed through the door. The "hope" line at the end was too on-the-nose, and certainly didn't need to be delivered in close-up, if at all.


The familiar rebel pilots were simply lifted straight from Star Wars, and composited over different backgrounds. There was no CGI there - just cut and paste. The dialog they used on camera was straight from the original film, and where it varied they cut away from them to an exterior shot.



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I picked up on something from the cut/paste of the old film stock then - something was off, so I assumed it was CGI like Tarkin and Leia.


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Tarkin wasn't 100% of the way there yet, but I didn't mind. Have you ever watched any SW film where you didn't immediately think of a character as an 'effect', be it CGI or even puppet? I was impressed that they tried and mostly succeeded in having Peter Cushing in this. I couldn't tell if the X-wing pilots were CGI's or new actors who look similar. I thought I saw Biggs - one of the pilots had that mustache, didn't he? But the net tells me no Biggs.



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Great review. Saw the movie yesterday and I enjoyed every bit of it. I liked it more than "The force Awakens", toward which I have mixed feelings.
I need to rewatch it when it will be out in home-video, but right now I consider it my 3rd preferred movie of the saga (after StarWars and The Empire Strikes Back)

I agree that CG recreated Tarkin and Leia looked a bit creepy, but in this particular case, (and since the two characters have little screen time) I think it was the right choice. A recast would probably have bothered me more.
The characters were born on the big screen in the first place, so everyone ever only imagine Leia as Carrie Fisher and Tarkin as Peter Cushing. And the events in the movie take place just before the original StarWars, so you want them to look like in that movie.

> "Although borrowing the planetary shield from Spaceballs was probably unnecessary."

It's fun that you mention that, when I saw The Force Awakens last year, the scene where the Starkiller base "recharges" the weapon, made me think to the "Spaceballs" scene where the Mega Maid sucks the air out of the planet with the giant vacuum cleaner...


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Saw it in IMAX 3D yeterday. I think part of the problem with 3D movies (especially those not shot in 3D) is the dichotomy between depth of focus and 3D depth. This really (really) stood out in the hanger scene with Cassian being in focus and "in front" of the out-of-focus volunteers. But then the camera changes focus for just a moment to put the crowd in focus, and Cassian out of focus. Ugh


Nathan, do you know how they created the CGI models of the Star Destroyers? For some reason they sometimes looked to me like they were made from LEGO.


My only problem with the movie is it's a one-shot. While it does a great job filling in the backstory for a couple of lines in A New Hope, I'm not sure there's a lot of other similar opportunities in the movie canon.

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Yeah - I'm not fond of 3D films in general, but there were some glaring issues in this one. Especially when they tried to force more depth into a scene than would actually be there.


No idea about the CGI Star Destroyers. I know what you mean about the LEGO shots though - that crossed my mind as well. I think they were attempting to make them look/behave more like the physical models of the original trilogy.


As for other films, they can always do a one-shot about all of the Bothans who died stealing the second Death Star's plans.


Then re-shoot half of it, and take out all of the good stuff that was in the trailers. :roll:

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Cool video - I'll have to watch the whole thing later.


I like the part about the kit bash library. Maybe the problem Eric mentioned was that they didn't use enough CG glue when putting everything together. ;)

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Cool video - I'll have to watch the whole thing later.


I like the part about the kit bash library. Maybe the problem Eric mentioned was that they didn't use enough CG glue when putting everything together. ;)


I agree, a very interesting video - thanks for linking to it.


Now knowing how they probably created it, I don't think it was a texture / model issue (although I have to wonder why they didn't start with the 8 foot model, maybe it doesn't exist anymore...), more a paint & shadow problem I think. It was just too smooth and too perfect, maybe. Something to freeze frame when it comes out on Bluray.

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