Rogue One and also in theaters
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story debuted in theaters this month. It was critically acclaimed, and just another successful outing for the Walt Disney company. Disney, with Rogue One, Finding Dory, Zootopia, Moana, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, and the Jungle Book remake. I have a couple opinions I’d like to share about this movie, but most of them hinge on spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, scroll past the picture of protagonist Jyn Erso and go onto the next section.
Rogue One was fun, but I’m just glad Americans finally understand how great Donnie Yen is. Having only seen Yen in Ip Man and Hero, I can tell you that his badass kung-fu style is not exclusive to Rogue One. The same can be said for former Firefly star and perennial Disney voice actor Alan Tudyk, who voiced the robot K2SO, one of the most amusing characters in the film. These characters are well designed and fun to watch, but like most of the cast, there isn’t much to them beyond that. Yen’s Chirrut Imwe is agile and meditative, but that’s about it. Tudyk’s K2SO is sarcastic and remorseless, but that’s about it. The main character Jyn Erso says some things about hope, but again, that’s about it. In the beginning, when Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor kills a rebel informant in cold blood so he can’t give secrets away to the Empire who’s about capture him, I expected to see him struggle with the guilt of that decision later on – he vaguely mentions the terrible things he’s done for the rebellion, but doesn’t go into any more detail about it. Nobody really has any particularly notable character growth. Sure, Jyn does complete her father’s vision by leaking the Death Star plans to the rebellion, but this doesn’t fundamentally change who she is.
All right, now that I’ve talked about everything from this movie which wasn’t particularly great, I’ll discuss some of the things that make it wonderful. Basically, everything that happens within the last forty-or-so minutes of the film.
The action is superb, the stakes are high. As many people have noted, these last few scenes make the movie feel like a war film more than a Star Wars film. Since this film was more-or-less a standalone, none of the characters had plot armor, so the fact that none of those heroes made it to the end was a reasonable outcome. It even made it refreshing. These high stakes did make the story notably more compelling. It’s all kind of epitomized in the shot of Cassian and Jyn sitting on the beach as the planet is about to blow up, watching the explosion come like a sunrise over the horizon. (Sidebar: very glad there was no kiss during this scene. The two characters really had no chemistry and any romance between the two of them would have been shoehorned in.)
Rogue One fulfilled the rather important task of vindicating one of A New Hope‘s most glaring plot holes. Why did the Death Star have a gaping hole? Wouldn’t they just close it up? Well, Galen Erso designed it that way because he hated the Empire. How satisfying must it have been for Gareth Edwards, who claims to have watched the film several hundred times as a child, to make something that actually improves the original film?
If there’s one thing this movie has done wonderfully, it’s giving more canonical depth to Darth Vader. We got to see his awesome castle on Mustafar, and it even gave him a humorous moment where he almost choked out Ben Mendleson’s Orson Krennic saying “Be careful not to choke on your aspirations.” And I don’t purport to have seen every movie this year. But Rogue One‘s final sequence with Darth Vader was perhaps the best action sequence of the year, other than Captain America: Civil War‘s Team Cap vs. Team Iron Man Fight. One friend I saw the film with compared it to a slasher/horror. I found the scene important to the Star Wars mythos because outside of Revenge of the Sith, we’ve never really seen Vader as unhinged as he was here. (That does refer only to the major entries in the current Star Wars canon.)
The last thing I want to discuss were the CGI recreations; First, there was Peter Cushing’s Tarkin from the original film – the Imperial general who Vader answered to in the first film. Some friends who I saw the film with claimed that the effects looked a little off, but I for one thought that they were well done, or at least as good as we’re going to get. The inclusion of Tarkin was great because it provided a confounding rival for Director Krennic. And of course, in the last shot, when we saw the recreation of Princess Leia, just before A New Hope. I had seen the film before the passing of Carrie Fischer, but I can hardly imagine how emotional it must feel for long-time Star Wars fans to end the film with this tribute to a wonderful actress and her most iconic role.
Oh man, a lot of exciting new trailers dropped this month. Let’s go through a few of them.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is guaranteed to be a fun time. Since Groot was such a scene-stealer in the first film, I had my doubts about replacing him with Baby Groot (is replacing the right word?) but I think that this trailer proves that this change will certainly work out. This really is just a teaser, showing us mostly how things will be the same. Going forward, I’ll be interested to see how this movie is going to be different from it’s predecessor – for example, how about Kurt Russell playing a giant, talking planet?
In my post about PCS Person of the Year, I discussed Tom Holland and how he revitalized the on-screen portrayal of Spiderman, as well as was just an all-around swell guy this year. So, in this comeback year for Spiderman, I think it was a fitting move on the studio’s part to drop another trailer for Spiderman Homecoming. This looks good. Michael Keaton seems like he’s certainly going to rock this role. I like the chemistry between Iron Man and Spiderman. Again, I feel like this movie will be a lot of fun.
War for Planet of the Apes is actually a movie I have nothing to say about since I haven’t seen the two movies that precede it, but I’ve heard only the best things about them. This looks great, and I’m definitely excited for it. Maybe I’m so excited for it that I’ll actually watch Rise and Dawn of Planet of the Apes.
This is the first we’re really seeing of Blade Runner 2049. For a while, I doubted this sequel, and whether or not it was necessary. And admittedly, there’s not much to this trailer. All it really shows us is that this movie will be visually beautiful and capture the same eerie sci-fi noir aesthetic seen in the original. I certainly don’t think this movie will be bad; I think it will either be one of the best or most disappointing films of the year.
Favorites of the year?
It being the end of the year, I’d like to run through a few of my favorite movies for this year. Of course, there was Captain America: Civil War, which I feel hit many of the highs which the Marvel Cinematic Universe – and the superhero movie genre in general – has been building to over the past few years. And the eerie and thrilling 10 Cloverfield Lane, which had two stellar performances by John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, would also crack my list of favorites for this year. One comedy I absolutely adored that seemed to fly under the radar was the satirical Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, which brought the mockumentary format seen in This is Spinal Tap to a Justin Bieber-style character. The movie was hilarious and well-received, but made back less than half its budget. And then there are other movies I have yet to see but I think could be some of the best, like Moana, or Arrival, or La La Land. But my personal favorite movie of this year was Kubo and the Two Strings; it’s one of the more beautiful-looking films I’ve ever seen, with wonderful voice acting, and a poignant message about grief that most movies marketed towards children wouldn’t dare to take on.
In Memorium; What to do when our favorite entertainers die
I thought about making this a full post, since we lost so many wonderful entertainers this year. This month was no exception. George Michael passed away on Christmas Day. Star Wars actress Carrie Fischer passing several days later. And two days later, Fischer’s mother, actress Debbie Reynolds also passed.
Plausibly, I could write an entire post about Carrie Fischer, Princess Leia, and Carrie Fischer’s life outside Leia, but seemingly everyone else has already done that. HBO will air Fischer’s one-woman show Wishful Drinking, as well as debut a documentary about her relationship with her mother this coming year. Furthermore, we can also look forward to next December, when we will see Carrie Fischer play Leia Organa one last time in the next Star Wars film.
People say that 2016 took so many wonderful people from us, as though the Year itself was a spiteful person who could take lives at will. Entertainers are people, and like all people, they eventually pass on from this world. But before they pass, they give us the music, movies, shows, books, or what-have-you that we come to love them for. That’s their public legacy. To borrow from Westworld, “Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin never died. They simply became music.
To say that this year killed everyone we loved and gave nothing back is misguided. Every year, many people die, and many famous people die. But every year gives us something we will look back fondly upon in many years’ time. When Kit Harrington passes away, people will fondly recall “Battle of the Bastards.” When Chris Evans is no longer with us, we’ll remember his turn as Captain America. When J.K. Rowling is dead, people will still be reading Harry Potter or Fantastic Beasts.
All we can do is revel in the wonderful gifts that were given to us by the people who we lost this year. So go ahead, listen to Bowie or Prince. Quote Muhammad Ali. Read To Kill a Mockingbird. Watch as Fischer or Wilder become your favorite characters. Remembering these great performances is the surest way to honor those we have lost this year.
Wishing all my readers a happy New Year. ❤
Questions of the Month
- Did you see Rogue One? How did you like it?
- What movie coming in 2017 are you most excited for?
- What was the best movie this year? What was the best television show this year?
- What’s your favorite Carrie Fischer moment?