Last year we were treated to The Force Awakens. This long anticipated follow up to the original Star Wars Trilogy was going to be the film that washed away the prequels and cleansed our Star Wars palette. Lucas was put on an ice-float and set adrift. No one knew if The Force Awakens would be the franchise savior desperately needed or if it would be a Jar-Jar Binks infused mess of a money-grab. I for one was very happy with the final result. Yes, it was basically the same plot of A New Hope with recast characters and some fresh twists but that was just the bones. The flesh is where they won me over. Great writing with great acting and great dialogue made this the movie I had wanted it to be.
Fast forward to one year later. The release strategy that Disney has put out is incredibly smart. Develop one-shots and spin-offs to release in-between the big sequels. This keeps the brand on people’s minds and keeps the desire at the right pitch. The only trick is to make sure the one-shots and spin-offs do not tank the thirst for the main courses. So when it came out in May that major re-shoots needed to take place, some saying up to 80% of the film, I was actually happy. Most people think re-shoots are a bad sign and signal doom but Disney has a vision for the Star Wars Universe and the re-shoots, at least to me, spoke to an unwavering and iron-clad control over the product. If your director, Gareth Edwards, brings you his finished product and it is not in-line with your vision or overall theme and he has changed the tone then you re-shoot that god damn film until it fits. This actually gives me hope for each subsequent spin-off. I was afraid they may phone it in or allow some films to be too whimsical or play with the source material too much.
Now that my preamble is finished let us get into the actual meat and potatoes. I absolutely loved this film. I knew that this was going to be a not so happy ending movie from the beginning but Disney really went out of the way to kill each and every person introduced. My main gripe, and I am nit-picking really, is that Cassian Andor is such a dick at the beginning of the film and still pretty unlikable throughout. Of course he gets his redemption but it seemed inevitable throughout the whole film. His character’s development seemed forced and cliche. It was also inevitable that he would save Jyn at the last moment in the final scene. Formulaic is not always bad and it definitely works for this film but I would have enjoyed the Director playing with the formula here. Especially since everyone was going to fucking die anyways. The fun would have been to tweak people’s expectations a little.
The only other complaint i have about the ending is K-2so’s death. Mid-way through filming everyone involved had to notice how awesome Alan Tudyk was at playing this character. Why didn’t anyone think to have his scene be at an orbiting space station that controlled the data remotely so his death could be left in the air? Have him set-off a bomb that blows a hole in the side of the station and sends all the Storm Troopers and himself into space for instance. This serves the same purpose of him martyring himself and leaves it open for him to be found floating in space during one of the new sequels. You instantly get a character that has a proven track record in the sequels and imagine him interacting with C3p0 or Chewbacca. Cinematic gold. It also would have given his little quip earlier in the film some great foreshadowing qualities. When he said everyone would die in space, except him. Missed opportunity in my opinion.
Forest Whitaker should never be cast in a space movie for the rest of his life either. His acting was painful to watch and I kept thinking of his character from Battlefield Earth. Can we all agree that Forest should be barred from future Science Fiction films?
Ok, done with the negatives. K-2 IS FUCKING HILARIOUS! Sarcastic robots apparently are the way to my heart. His interactions with Jyn are perfect. They play off each other like an old married couple. Felicity Jones was also quite amazing. She played the role perfectly well and rumor has it that before the re-shoots she was a lot more anti-empire from the beginning. I like the change from instant anti-empire to a slow progression. This gave her arc a lot more development and you were on the journey with her.
Mads Mikkelsen should be cast in everything. I have never seen him not act the hell out of a scene and give it emotion. He actually is the hero of this film in my opinion. His sacrifice was understated but incredibly poignant. Baze Malibus and Chirrut Imwe were a smart addition to the team as well. They added levity to a situation that would have remained fairly dark. I was hoping throughout the whole movie for Chirrut’s staff to burst into a Lightsaber at the end and have him go Jedi on some people. When he died and inspired Baze I then expected Baze to do some Jedi shit. I clearly needed some Jedi in my life.
The last character of importance on the protagonist side is Bodhi Rook. It felt like they left a chunk of his story and development on the cutting room floor. He had a mind wipe and then suddenly was better. One annoying thing is everyone kept calling him a defector then challenging his loyalty when he had done everything in his power to prove what side he was on. It was actually kind of sad when he was blown up but i was not as emotionally invested in him as i could have been.
The Director was a good antagonist but he wont be very memorable. He came off as a power hungry career military officer and I can only assume that is how it was meant to be. Over-confident and surrounded by incompetent soldiers is always a bad recipe. He served a purpose and didn’t overshadow the main bad guys to come so I suppose that was what I should have expected. Darth Vader however was a beautiful destructive force that may have been apart of the best scene in the film. I like that he was only in it for a small part of the film. They really capitalized on his screen time. Even the surprise use of what of CGI to bring back some actors to play their original roles went smoothly. It was noticeable, but forgivable. It was high quality and kept making me think of Doby from Harry Potter but it definitely added to the story.
In closing this movie was better than I had hoped and gave me hope for the future of the spin-offs for the Star Wars Universe. As long as Disney is not afraid to step on a Director’s toes and basically emasculate them in public, this will be a fun ride going forward.