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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – film review

December 17, 2016


Disney’s overblown fanboy fiction sidebar is ultimately superfluous.

Reviewed on Thursday 15th December 2016


Directed by Gareth Edwards. Writen by Chris Weitz & Tony Gilroy, based on characters created by George Lucas. Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Mendelsohn and Forest Whitaker. Running time: 134 mins.

A rag-tag bunch of rebels attempt to break into an Imperial stronghold in order to steal plans for the planet-destroying space station known as the Death Star.


I must admit, the idea of talented young directors who grew up loving Star Wars having a crack at George Lucas’ universe did seem somewhat intriguing at first. Although there was always the possibility that it would be nothing more than a cynical exercise in milking the Star Wars cash cow even further. Having enjoyed Gareth Edwards’ previous films (the microbudget indie darling Monsters and the 2014 version of Godzilla) – I was excited to learn he had been signed on to direct Rogue One. And there’s no denying this film is well directed. It’s not the direction I have an issue with – it’s the writing.

The first twenty minutes is a confused and muddy jumble of difficult to differentiate characters with no striking distinctions from one another (aside from the weapons they weild). And apart from the robot K2 – really the only truly engaging character     in the entire movie – the remainder of the characters are so bland – as to be almost non-existent. While pre-existing characters (or should that be post-existing characters) – feel shoe-horned into the narrative for no legitimate reason. Why is Princess Leia even in attendence during the battle to steal the plans? For no other reason than (much like the finale of Revenge of the Sith) – to connect this installment to the opening of A New Hope. Diehard Star Wars fans would no doubt call this nitpicking – but it all feels so contrived and clumsy; lacking in finesse.

However, the thing which irrevocably threw me out of the film – never to recover; has got to be the surprise re-appearance of the late Peter Cushing (here playing the same role he did in 1977 – before he died). Unfortunately, creepy computer-generated Peter Cushing is only just marginally less creepy than creepy computer-generated young Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy. Every time CG Peter Cushing appeared on-screen – I felt, well – completely unnerved. Sorry, but this CG depiction of real, recognizable people is still way too ‘uncanny valley’ for my liking. And, yeah, it completely threw me out of the picture.

Finally, and I know I’m gonna receive plenty of flack for this; the most problematic issue with Rogue One is the central character. Here again we have a young woman with familial abandonment issues (a long-time Disney trope if ever there was) – who is also a kick-ass fighter; which we only saw just last year with the character of Ray in The Force Awakens – and to be quite honest, this meme is already tired second time around. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for the depiction of female empowerment on-screen. But, by the same token; little boys these days are also (probably moreso) in desperate need of strong role models. And it’s telling that both Rogue One and The Force Awakens really do present no strong male role models to speak of. Hopefully future installments in the franchise will do something to redress this balance.

On a positive note, Michael Giacchino’s rousing wall-to-wall score perfectly imitates John Williams’ style, while the authentic recreation of John Barry’s iconic production design for the original Star Wars is also worthy of note. But these things alone don’t necessarily make this installment essential viewing in my opinion.

So how does Rogue One bode for Disney’s future side-bar installments of Star Wars? Well, for me, if this ‘first out of the gate’ installment is any indication – not that well     at all. I prefer my Star Wars to be escapist fun and not have blatant sociopolitical agendas and gender politics shoe-horned into it.

2 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Event Cinemas Megaplex Marion, Adelaide, December 16th 2016.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.


From → film reviews

  1. Whoops. Well if you’ve seen my blog entry, you’ll know how much I enjoyed the film. I can appreciate your arguments -and indeed there are many who aren’t enamored by the film- but for me, its classic Star Wars and great fun. Sure its not perfect -no Star Wars film has been, since Empire anyway- but for me it was much better than the contrived Force Awakens.

    I wasn’t entirely convinced by the score but the orchestration at least had that 1977 ‘sound’. I just wish modern films had stronger melodies and themes like they used to. There didn’t seem to be strong tunes/motifs but maybe I just need to see the film again, give it another listen.

    • gregory moss permalink

      I know what you mean about the current state of movie scores. Most composers these days appear to be aping Hans Zimmer. I love Hans Zimmer, but only when Hans Zimmer does Hans Zimmer. If everybody’s doing it, then they all tend to blend together – leaving no clear distinction between one score and the next. What John Williams did back in 1977 really was a masterstroke – essentially re-creating classic Hollywood scores from the 1940s – a period when melody was king.

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