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'Rogue One': A Star Wars Miss

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” – One of the benefits of growing up during the late 70s and early 80s was attending the original Star Wars films in the theatres, in 1977, 1980 and 1983. These experiences have been well documented by the media for decades, but I can tell you, personally, that these films were science fiction events that the world had never seen before. Admittedly, I am a Star Trek fan, but there is no denying my excitement over the original Star Wars trilogy. Now, in 2016, Disney has released “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, which takes place between Episode III and IV, and features the caper behind stealing the blueprints of the original Death Star.

Here, the rebels - led by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and a former Imperial labor camp worker Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) – embark on a renegade mission to steal the Death Star blueprints, because an Empire engineer deliberately created a weakness in the gigantic warship, as a passive aggressive attempt against his employers. I guess he makes stealing company pens seem like child’s play, right? For the Rebel Alliance, securing these plans is vital to destroying the indestructible.

This film carries all the potential to both combine the Star Wars universe with a thrilling, James Bond-like spy mission that could break the mold with the previous eight films. Even though the picture looks terrific and introduces the average fan to almost a half dozen new locations – like the Ring of Kafrane, Jedha and Scarif – the story plods along with all the thrills of an escalator ride at a brand new airport. Sure, the airport’s massive, colorful murals look beautiful and the dozens of sandwich places and clothing stores – that splatter themselves with the local sports team’s logos – might provide some fodder to kill some time, but – in the end – one is just making a brief stop towards a final destination.

The final destination for our heroes – who also include an android K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), and Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) – is obviously location of the Death Star plans, but there are very few obstacles for them to overcome, other than some internal squabbles amongst themselves. Cassian and K-2SO follow their Rebel marching orders, Chirrut blabs on and on about the Force, but is not a full-fledged Jedi yet and Baze fires the Star Wars universe’s version of a Gatling gun, which – quite admirably – does the job. I am not exactly certain what Saw Gerrera contributes, and quite frankly, I did not remember any of the names of the previously mentioned characters other than Jyn Erso and K-2SO.

What does that tell you?

There is very little fun in this story, other than on occasional quip by K-2SO, but it does not work with its darker tones either. There is one particular intriguing arc for Jyn Erso, but an important event occurs about half way through the picture and presents a fulcrum to her destiny. Unfortunately, the supposed emotional impact never resonated with this audience member, and her reaction to this event baffled me even more.

The third act leads the team to the Death Star plans and with various, involved battles with the Empire, but it led me to wonder: Why couldn’t the Rebels hire an expert hacker to grab the plans electronically, from the comfort of his or her own living room, rather than charge up very expensive and elaborate fights?

Despite all of the pomp and circumstance, my blood pressure probably never rose above 50, as a fought for a reason to care - amongst manufactured plot points and inexplicable onscreen decisions - until the last five minutes of the picture, that is. Five minutes, regrettably, a movie does not make. If I sympathized, emphasized or truly rooted for the vast numbers of characters, I surely would have felt invested for the other 2 hours and 9 minutes. I’m sorry, but just presenting a litany of amazing visuals and regularly cueing the music are not enough.

What a shame. What a missed opportunity.

Sadly, the filmmakers gave me no reason to care, other than the ongoing conflict between Galen Erso and Orson Krennic, played by the vastly talented actors, Mads Mikkelsen and Ben Mendelsohn. Sadly, they did not receive enough screen time.

Also sadly, I cannot in give this film a positive rating, and it is in the running for the biggest letdown of the year with “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, but should every Star Wars fan still see this film? Yes.

Will you enjoy it more than me? I hope so.

Then again, I am not setting a very high bar. Sigh, 1977, 1980 and 1983 seem like a long, long time ago.

(1.5/4 stars)

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