Posted on Tuesday, December 13th, 2016 by Peter Sciretta
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits theaters later this week and avoiding spoilers until after the Thursday night debut may be as hard as stealing the Death Star plans from the Galactic Empire. But like a band of Rebellion soldiers, we have your back. What follows are my spoiler-free thoughts on Rogue One.
Here are a few of the questions I answer: Is it good? Is it better than The Force Awakens? What is not so good about the film? How was Michael Giacchino’s score? Were the reshoots obvious? Are there a ton of connections to other Star Wars movies? What do I need to see/read before watching the film? Is Darth Vader in a lot of the movie?
Hit the jump to read my Rogue One spoiler-free review.
Is Rogue One Good?
Yes! Rogue One is thrilling, an action-packed adventure in a chapter that we never imagined we would ever see on screen. It’s a fantastic trip to new worlds within a galaxy we love, adding to the mythology without having to be beholden to the Skywalker legacy as a focal point. It may have taken four decades, but this film finally earns the word “Wars” in the “Star Wars” branding. And we finally get a Star Wars prequel movie worthy of playing alongside the original trilogy.
It’s gritty and dark, yet gorgeous and big scale. We feel more in the center of the action, and it often feels different than what has come before in the series. For instance, Donnie Yen’s character Chirrut Îmwe brings a samurai-style that gives us a nice break from the blaster firefights and X-wing battles of old.
I was surprised at how much humor Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO brings to this movie, and Donnie Yen’s Chirrut Îmwe was the other standout. The third act of this film is on-the-edge-of-your-seat thrilling. At very least, you will love the last sequence in the movie, and that is all I will say about that.
What’s Not To Like?
All the rebels introduced in this new film are characters I wish we could spend more time with. If this movie has one huge flaw, it is that in the ensemble, we don’t get to spend significant time with any of the new characters, and thus we don’t become as emotionally invested in them as we have the previous films (Force Awakens and the original trilogy). The characters are each interesting on the surface, but we learn very little about them.
The film features Saw Gerrera, an extremely minor character from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, but his role in this story feels weirdly out of place. Forest Whitaker does the best he can with this role, but Saw Gerrera will probably become known as the Maz Kanata of this Star Wars standalone movie. His character may confuse some moviegoers, and he feels like an element that may have been altered by the reshoots.
Most people I talked with after the premiere screening seemed to hate a couple of the computer generated characters in this film (you will probably know them when you see them), this was not something that bothered me.
Could You Tell What Was Changed By The Reshoots?
Much has been made about the extensive reshoots of this production. While reshoots are not uncommon for a big film like this, the reported five weeks of reshoots far surpassed the norm. Rumors circulated that Disney wanted to tone down this dark and gritty war film, which worried a lot of fans.
Tony Gilroy was brought in by Disney for the reshoots, reportedly supervised the additional photography and the edit, and is now one of the two people sharing a screenwriting by credit on the film (which if you know anything about the WGA, this means he was responsible for significant changes to the story and characters).
I don’t know exactly what was reshot or reworked, and it’s a real testament that I couldn’t easily see patched seams on a first viewing. The story does not feel like it has been neutered — and by that, I mean, for a Star Wars movie, this film is pretty gritty and has enough dark moments that I would not recommend parents to heed the MPAA rating and not take their young children to experience this film on the big screen.
The biggest clues to what may have been reworked probably lie in the marketing for the film. The trailers contain a wealth of material and dialogue that doesn’t appear in the final film. In fact, the billboards showcasing the Stormtroopers patrolling the tropical water don’t even appear in the film. This isn’t a slight on the movie at all; it’s actually refreshing to go into a movie and be surprised that it doesn’t play out the way it did in the marketing.