Amy Yabao & Artemis The Archer join us to talk Rogue One: A Star Wars Story!

It’s that magic time of the year again, the time where we get bundled up, and spend time with our loved ones. Of course, I mean it’s time to celebrate a new addition to the Star Wars series, this year with the first anthology film, Rogue One. So why review it here? Because Never Nervous is for the children. Or I mean, because Star Wars is Universal. Maybe both? I don’t know, but I do know that I’m ready to type words about laser gun battles and spaceship shenanigans, so let’s get to it. Read on as we discuss the new flick with a few choice friends that share our love of Star Wars.

EDITOR’S NOTE: There are spoilers ahead, so if you haven’t seen the flick, come back afterward. We figured a week and a half was enough time to ingest this galactic enchilada, so keep in mind that major plot points will be discussed. You’ve been warned.

Sci-fi is where my heart is, now and forever more. Crack up your laptop or open a paper and you’ve got plenty of reasons to be anxious, if not outright furious about the world around you. Hell, just the fact that we live in a culture identified as “post-truth” is enough to make me want to scream at a cloud like Abe Simpson. But sci-fi offers a reprieve from that madness, although despite whatever Bob Iger wants you to believe, there are definitely politics, albeit of the hyperbolic variety. I doubt that Trump and his growing Legion of Doom have the resources to fund a Death Star or anything like it, although I am equally confident that they will prove vicious and shrewd in their policies all the same.

What he might have meant was that there were no overt political elements to the film, or at least none intended to reflect our current politic climate. Still, it’s impossible not to see plenty of that in the film. A band of rebels against an oppressive regime? Who can’t identify with that? Unfortunately, that’s the sad truth, that there are plenty of people who will see their prerogatives reflected, no matter how off base that may be. I can already imagine some alt-right prick seeing the censorship of the Jedi as their worst fear about a War on Christmas or religion (read: only Christianity though), which misses the point entirely; the Jedi are gone because of the literal threat that they pose, not because of their religion.

“A band of rebels against an oppressive regime? Who can’t identify with that?”

An exercise in writing, Rogue One fills in the gaps that immediately precede Episode IV, and in doing so grant a fresh context for the events of that film. There is fan lip service here, but it’s fun throughout, and seldom shoe-horned in. Except C3PO and R2D2. That cameo was pretty pointless other than to keep their track record of appearing in every Star Wars film going.

Jyn Erso is everyone of us. She just wants to be left alone. She doesn’t want to fight, but (and this is certainly unlike me), she can whip an ass if necessary. The stormtroopers (and all their righteous variants) are a bit more volatile here as well, a welcome change to their otherwise incompetent portrayal in every other film. Director Krennic is the perfect foil to the characters here and one that happens to show the Empire at the height of their hubris; they don’t bother with more than Krennic to resolve this conflict, because they don’t value their threat.

I went to the theater with my son, his dad, and my boyfriend to see Rogue One. I wanted to go in with as neutral of an opinion and as few expectations as possible for someone so obsessed with Star Wars to begin with. I didn’t read much about the movie beforehand and all I knew of the plot was from picking up bits of conversation or scrolling past some nerds freaking out on the Internet, but I was quick to try to push those presumptions out of my mind. After watching Han Solo get impaled and then plummeting to his death in The Force Awakens, the one thing I did try to prepare myself for, however, was overwhelming sadness, and Rogue One delivered it in abundance.

“After watching Han Solo get impaled and then plummeting to his death in The Force Awakens, the one thing I did try to prepare myself for, however, was overwhelming sadness, and Rogue One delivered it in abundance.”

To me, there was very little in the plot that allowed for an “a-ha!” moment, which I relished in all the other movies and even in several episodes of the Clone Wars Cartoon Network series. I found the repetition of the word “hope” to be a bit hokey — like, we get it. We know what you’re doing. For as much as I tried to blind myself to any prior media coverage of the movie, I was incredibly disappointed in how unsurprising and forgettable the plot was, even though it was a very important story to tell.

What I didn’t find lackluster were the characters. There was no shortage of depth in each and every one of them, which I found impressive to do in such a short time frame — they had 2 hours to convince me that these were all real people, and they nailed it. Although each character sort of fit a certain mold that is to be expected in cinema (Baze Malbus dons heavy army and wields big guns, so he’s probably going to have that “I’m a badass” mercenary attitude), their reactions were certainly not always predictable and every bit of dialogue seemed fluid and appropriate — nothing was so ridiculous that it took me out of the experience, like pretty much everything anyone ever said in Episodes I, II, and III.

I came out of that movie with so much love for K-2 that it was probably a little weird for anyone listening to me talk about him. He reminded me of HK-47, the assassin droid in Knights of the Old Republic, and I absolutely adored him. Now you can probably see where I’m going with the abundance of sadness part. I don’t know how many spoilers Never Nervous is okay with me having in here, but yo — literally everyone dies. They’re all dead. I know it would have been pushing it to have them survive and then they magically disappear in Episodes IV, V, and VI, but come on… everyone died. They did a magnificent job developing these amazingly intricate and relatable characters in a very short period of time, and then they snatched them away — every single one of them. Even the fucking droid. He’s gone forever and he was so cool and I loved him and now he’s gone.

I told my son I was writing this little snippet for NN, and I asked him if he wanted to put in his two cents. Here’s what he has for you: “My favorite part was on the end when Darth Vader is trying to stop the Rebels from getting the plans, when he’s like — when he’s using the Force to try and get the plans from the Rebels. I’m finished. I’m finished. Yeah, uh-huh.” – Daniel Weis

As excited as I was before and after Episode VII, the pending release of Rogue One had a completely different sort of anticipation for yours truly. So we get to hang out in the Star Wars universe a few weeks before A New Hope? Cool, I guess. However, there was a bit of wonder and fascination lost going in as any fan of the series more or less knew what the major plot point would end up being: a few “good guys” acquire the plans for the Death Star.This was spelled out in plain English during the opening crawl in Episode IV: “Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR.” And yeah, both of those major components happened, but I guess I was supposed to be excited about HOW and WHY this happened, which I sort of was, and after watching the movie for the first time, I’m not sure how much I really cared.

To be blunt, this movie is incredibly flawed, starting off with the first 30 minutes where you’re quickly introduced to a slew of new characters and planets so quickly that I was confused more often then not. There must have been some major editing here, as nothing seems fluid making my head spin. Having said that, the cinematography is fucking beautiful throughout the film even if there is a bit of wonky CGI that temporarily takes you out of the moment from time to time.

Jyn Erso’s story could have been so awesome, but there’s so much of her upbringing that was left on the cutting room floor that you’re never sure about her motivation of why she’s doing what she’s doing. I do like the angle that her father was one of the main dude’s behind the construction of the Death Star’s super weapon, and his whole sabotaging the Empire with a secret weakness that only he know about. But still, this all seems unnecessary to me.

Ben Mendelsohn as the new big bad guy Orson Krennic is certainly a good time, but the entire time I’m thinking “well, he’s going to die, obviously” so it’s hard for me to care about him too much. I mean, The Empire obviously does just fine without him in the original trilogy, so why do I give a shit if he get’s blown up?

My biggest complaint in the movie is the resurrection of Grand Moff Tarkin in the form of an embarrassingly bad CGI creation with a gross plastic look that immediately takes me out of every scene that he’s in. It’d be one thing if he was in one scene and had one or two lines of dialogue, but this faux Peter Cushing (who has been dead for 20+ years) actually plays somewhat of a significant role, and for me that’s unforgivable. It looks really bad, and I feel it’s pretty distasteful to the legendary late actor.

“My biggest complaint in the movie is the resurrection of Grand Moff Tarkin in the form of an embarrassingly bad CGI creation with a gross plastic look that immediately takes me out of every scene that he’s in.”

Having said all of these negative things about Rogue One, I will say that I did enjoy parts of the movie a great deal. Donnie Yen as the blind wanna-be Jedi Chirrup Îmwe gave a few action scenes the umph and comedy relief that this movie was desperate for. A few more laughs come from the new droid K-2S0, who’s design is sort of stupid looking, but you could tell that the writers really wanted to give him a few zingers. Sorta like C-3PO did in the original trilogy.

The ending scene with Darth Vader going full Force Unleashed on a bunch of rebels was pretty cool, but at the same time I feel it’s just fan service to nerds that have been begging for this ultimate bad dude to be set loose at the peak of his power. I understand the motivation behind this ending scene (directly connecting Rogue One with A New Hope), but just like the majority of this flick, it’s totally a fan fiction flick with a big budget.

While I definitely need to see this movie again to answer a heap of questions, I must say this movie left me more confused than excited. After my showing, I rushed home and washed that taste out of my mouth by putting in Episode IV, and at last I was one with the Force and the Force was with me.

For once, your Facebook friends were right; Rogue One, the prequel to the sequels of the prequels, was amazing.  It was the perfect fill to the gaping plot hole in A New Hope that most casual viewers didn’t think twice about. But don’t get it twisted, even though the film is directly related to the events that occur in Episode IV, this is the first stand-alone Star Wars film and Disney has done their job of separating it from the running series (wtf no opening crawl??). Nonetheless, it still felt like a Star Wars film; I was transported to the same universe that I’ve always loved and even saw a few familiar faces that I wasn’t expecting to see.

“…it still felt like a Star Wars film; I was transported to the same universe that I’ve always loved and even saw a few familiar faces that I wasn’t expecting to see.”

If you don’t know the premise of the film, I’ll give you a short rundown of why it exists. Basically, it was pretty impressive that the Alliance knew the greatest weakness of the Death Star, but even more impressive that the weapon’s designers had overlooked such a huge vulnerability. So impressive that the nerdy kids in the 70’s & 80’s didn’t buy that shit; the Empire had managed to build a weapon that could decimate an entire planet, but couldn’t find a more secure way to dispose of the heat created by the reactors? Poor engineering at best. Regardless, there needed to be an explanation for how easy it was to destroy the destroyer of planets, so they came up with one…. nearly 40 years later. So here we have the movie that explains why a weakness was purposefully built into the galactic superweapon and how the Rebel Alliance got their manipulative little hands on it.

I know it sounds like I’m being a little condescending, but I was truly excited to have another Star Wars film two years in a row, not to mention another female lead. Felicity Jones, who plays Jyn Erso, did an awesome job portraying her character. It also wouldn’t be complete without an overly ambitious male lead and his droid sidekick, so I’m glad Diego Luna (Cassian) and Alan Tudyk (K-2SO) were featured so heavily (I mean they were really main characters but they take the backburner to a badass female fugitive any day).

I was halfway concerned about the outcome of Rogue One since it was labeled as a “stand alone” film early on, but Disney put as much effort (and probably money) into this as The Force Awakens so it was hard to be anything other than impressed. I’m just jealous that my younger siblings get to associate these Star Wars films with their childhood while I grew up with Jar Jar Binks and a prepubescent Natalie Portman.