Friday, December 16, 2016

Star Wars Rogue One: A lifelong Star Wars geek's dream come true

I just saw Star Wars: Rogue One today and I'm just beside myself with geeky glee!  I loved last year's Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which brought the fun back to Star Wars with it's mix of classic and new characters, but this new stand-alone film was truly made by Star Wars nerds for life-long Star Wars nerds like myself who grew up with, and loved, the Original Trilogy.  I can't believe some of the things I just saw in this movie!

I'm going to get spoilery, so if you haven't seen the movie yet - run away, far away, from this page!

Still here?  Ok, I warned you!

There were three big moments that made my jaw drop and just about pee myself - but - before I get to those, just a few quick thoughts on the overall movie.

Characters/acting:  I'm sure there will be some professional reviewers who boo-hoo over the fact that a lot of the characters aren't given enough time to be fleshed out, etc., so that their fates have more meaning at the end.  Well, boohoo idiots, go watch your fucking art films then that move at a snail's pace.  This is the fast-moving world of Star Wars where you gotta stay on your toes and be ready to jump straight into the deep end.  I loved all of the new characters, and I genuinely cared about them and their fates.  There really was not one bad performance in the whole lot - that's what really stood out for me in this one - not one bad acting job!  Seriously.  Even the great poetry-in-motion that was The Empire Strikes Back featured the clunker line "Two fighters against a Star Destroyer?".

My favorite characters were: Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen kicks physical and spiritual ass); Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones was fantastic - I didn't develop a crush on her like I did with Daisy Ridley in Ep. VII, but who cares - I'm too old for that anyway); Cassian Andor (Diego Luna's character was surprisingly good - I didn't think I would give two shits about him, but he really brought out a conflicted "dirty side" to the Rebellion that I've never envisioned); Director Krennick (Ben Mendelsohn going toe-to-toe with Grand Moff Tarkin and Darth Vader - wow!).

I thought I would like K2SO more than I did - Alan Tudyk did an awesome job and all - I laughed at some of his jokes, and felt genuine emotion at his fate - but, overall, just didn't become one of my new favorites or anything.

Also, though he also did not become a new favorite, Forrest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera was fantastic.  He was borderline Col. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now.  Though, to be honest, since the first movie I saw him in was the great Fast Times at Ridgemont High, I always hear him saying "Don't fuck with it!" whenever I see him on screen.  Sorry, Mr. Whitaker, I can't help myself.

Overall story:  Fantastic!  I can't wait for this to come out on Blu-ray so I can watch it over and over again like all of the others in the great Star Wars saga.  I'm pissed, however, that there was no opening crawl or classic Star Wars theme - I mean, c'mon man!  That's what makes Star Wars uniquely Star Wars!  A Star Wars movie with a generic opening is blasphemy as far as I'm concerned.  However, that's the only thing I didn't like about this film. 

Being a life-long Star Wars nerd, I was excited about the prospect of seeing a story about how the Death Star plans were stolen.  So, even though this is a "stand-alone" film, it really is tied closely to the "saga" films - it leads right into the original Star Wars for pete's sake (and I'll get to that pee-my-pants moment)!

I loved that the color palette for this film blended in perfectly with the 1977 original! The visuals were a joy to behold.  All of the ships had that OT model-look - though I'm sure they were mostly CGI.

The space battle in this made me feel like a kid again.  When I was growing up, I would often take a piece of scrap paper; a black pen; a red pen; and a green pen; and spend hours drawing space battles featuring X-wings, Y-wings, Tie Fighters, Star Destroyers, and of course a Death Star in the middle of the paper.  I could almost tell that whoever came up with this space battle choreography also drew these kind of pictures when they were was so damn awesome (which also featured one of my three jaw-dropping moments).

The fates of all the new characters were handled with care, and were all very touching - Chirrut's, and Jyn and Cassian's especially.

The movie's score wasn't bad - heck, I went and bought it right after - but it did seem like the composer was trying a little too hard to avoid copying John Williams.  Dude, it's ok, we expect a John Williams score in a Star Wars movie - make it sound like the Grand Master's! 

Oh, and before I get to my three jaw-dropping moments, I have to mention Darth Vader!  So badass in every brief moment he was on screen - especially the sequence at the end of the movie where he was slicing and dicing his way through the Rebel Troopers playing hot potato with the Death Star plans.  So.damn.good.

My three jaw-dropping moments
1.  Grand Moff Tarkin.  I repeat - Grand.Moff.Fucking.Tarkin.  Complete geek-gasm when he showed up and started talking.  I don't know who they got to play him in this one, but visually, he was about 98% identical to the late Peter Cushing; voice-wise, he was spot-on!  I don't know if they did any audio tweaking to match Peter Cushing's voice, but oh my God(!), it was fantastic!

1a.  Ok, I have to cheat here a bit, but I had to mention it...though it wasn't jaw-dropping, there was a nice cheezy moment in which Walrus Man and his disfigured dickhead pal bumped into Jyn and gave her the same threat that he gave Luke Skywalker in the cantina before getting samurai'd by Obi-Wan Kenobi.

2.  Red Leader and Gold Leader in the space battle!  Oh my God, I just about leapt out of my seat and started dancing in the aisle when I saw them show up in the battle!  How the hell did they do that?!  One of my all-time favorite scenes in the entire Star Wars saga is Gold Leader and Red Leader conversing with each other just before they dive-bomb the Death Star with John Williams' adrenaline-pumping score providing the wind beneath their wings.

3.  The Ending...featuring a 1977 Carrie Fisher playing Princess Leia!  My jaw dropped so far down, I think I tasted the dried popcorn and soda on the theater floor!  How the hell did they do that?!  When she took the plans, turned to the camera, and said "Hope" - everyone in the audience audibly gasped...and then the movie ends right there and you hear people saying "oh my god!".  I almost pissed myself.  I almost laughed and cried with geeky glee.

This movie had more than I could have ever imagined or hoped for - like I said at the beginning - this movie was made by Star Wars nerds for Star Wars nerds, and for that I'll be forever grateful.

As of today, my favorite Star Wars movies are in this order:

1.  Ep IV: A New Hope - 1977
2.  Ep V: The Empire Strikes Back - 1980
3.  Rogue One - 2016
4.  Ep. VII: The Force Awakens - 2015
5.  Ep VI:  Return of the Jedi - 1983
6.  Ep III: Revenge of the Sith - 2005
7.  Ep II: Attack of the Clones - 2002
8.  Ep I: The Phantom Menace - 1999

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