Monday, December 18, 2017

Rogue One

Rogue One; science-fiction action, USA, 2016; D: Gareth Edwards, S: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Forest Whitaker

A long time ago, in a Galaxy far away... As a little child, Jyn witnessed how the Imperial troops killed her mother and kidnapped her father, Galen, forcing him to work on a weapon of mass destruction. Now, Jyn is rescued by the rebels and decides to join them. A small faction, led by Cassian, discovers that the Galactic Empire created a "Death Star", a giant space station capable of destroying planets. However, Galen designed a fatal flaw inside it before getting killed. Jyn, Cassian and several other rebels storm Scarif, an Imperial planet under a force field, and manage to find the plans of the weakness of the Death Star and send it to the rebels, before getting killed by the Empire.

Even though many feared a pure "Star Wars" exploitation flick, Gareth Edwards and his screenwriters Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy proved to be quite competent authors when they kicked off the "Star Wars" anthology film series with a surprisingly good instalment, "Rogue One", that can "camouflage" itself perfectly as a "Episode 3.5" of some sorts. One of the reasons that justify the existence of "Rogue One" is that is helps illustrate a broader picture of events in that Universe: one of the major problems of the original "Star Wars" trilogy was that it utterly neglected to show the effects of the establishment of a Galactic Empire on ordinary people across many planets (unlike "Legend of the Galactic Heroes"), and without that sense of an oppression, it was left open as to what would motivate people to join the ranks of the rebellion. The opening act of this film helps correct that by showing that feeling of repression: among others, Jyn witnesses how Imperial soldiers storm her home and attack her family while she is sent to a labor camp on a distant, cold planet.

Whereas the original trilogy was more of a fairy tale, this film is surprisingly more realistic, gritty and tragic, since it is obvious the protagonist are sent on a suicide mission from the get go. The battle of the underground rebels against the Stormtroopers and their armored vehicle on the streets of Jedha City reminds almost of Pontecorvo's "The Battle of Algiers". Their struggle and sacrifice carry much more weight than expected, and this in turn contributes to the feeling of understanding the determination of the rebellion. Some "fan service" was again shoehorned into the story (such as the unnecessary "cameo" by Ponda Baba and Evazan from the cantina sequence, for instance) whereas, except for Jyn, all other characters were thinly developed, and thus stayed unmemorable, yet several epic action sequences are impressive (in one scene, the Death Star tries out its laser and shoots and destroys Jedha City from the orbit, while the Imperial commanders are observing a giant pillar of dust rising to space from the planet; the Scarif planet, where the Empire has placed a giant force field around the entire planet) while it was even interesting to watch CGI "recreate" Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher as they were back in '77. The dialogues are rather stale, except for a few exceptions of "raw" inspiration ("Trust goes both ways."), yet "Rogue One" ends on a remarkably natural and logical conclusion, a one that leaves Episode IV seem as a genuine follow-up to these events, whereas the last word of one character at the end are almost magical.


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