Monday 12 December 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ... Only the battle sequence stands out

THE synopsis of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story reads: "The rebellion makes a risky move to steal the
plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow."
    This tells you all you need to know about this standalone Star Wars film, which is set just before Star Wars IV. I'm not spilling the beans when I say that the rebellion does succeed at the end, because the entire world knows that jedi protege-cum-pilot Luke Skywalker brings down the Death Star in Star Wars IV, thanks to the stolen plans.

   So, if everyone knows how Rogue One will end, what's there to watch? Viewers are treated to a rather mundane first half about hope springs eternal and an extended battle scene that reminded me of the final battle sequence in Revenge of the Jedi (1983), but lacking the latter's panache, humour and energy.
  Let's face it, the battle scene is the the raison d'etre to watch Rogue One. It certainly gave a jolt to my system and fulfils a prominent character's statement: "War is inevitable." War is, of course, why the United States's military budget is humongous, which means that it is the sole superpower in the world.
(From left) Diego Luna, Felicity Jones
and stand-out-performer Alan Tudyk.
   And just like in Star Wars IV, no one in Rogue One makes an attempt to seek peace. War really is inevitable in the world of Star Wars, and this is perhaps the worldview of its creators.
    Heck, even the FARC guerillas and the Colombian government sought a peace deal after 52 years of bloodshed.
   I found myself getting restless before the battle scene kicked in. Rogue One bogs you down with details and lame mantras like "rebellions are based on hope".
   Spunky heroine Jyn Erso (English actress Felicity Jones of Inferno and The Theory of Everything) will  rouse a rebellion and any man's loins, but I did not find her as entrancing as Rey (Daisy Ridley) in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).
     Just because Jyn's had run-ins with the law and her scientist-turned-farmer father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is the one who built the Death Star do not mean that these events will make her the natural leader of a rebellion. She lacks the charisma to get people to lay down their lives for a cause.
    Then we have Alliance Captain Cassian Andor (Mexican Diego Luna), whom I had a hard time understanding because of his accent. You'd have thought that director Gareth Edwards would have cast a wider net to get someone whom viewers could understand.
   Cassian is assigned to carry out a dastardly act but goes against his orders to help Jyn.
Wen Jiang and Donnie Yen reflect China's
 vital importance to US films.
  Meanwhile, I wonder why rebels and oppressors can never guard their air bases or military installations properly.
    In one scene, Team A's jet fighters attack Team B's installation with impunity, and I was thinking to myself: Doesn't Team B have a radar system that would have tipped it off to Team A's impending arrival?
   Forest Whitaker plays Saw Gerrera, the leader of the rebels. Saw, as the sole black character in Rogue One, should have got more screen time, but alas, this was not to be.
   However, two Chinese actors get decent screen action time: Hong Kong martial arts expert Donnie Yen plays blind jedi Chirrut. He can ward off enemies easily since he depends on other senses, but his character reminded me of that played by Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli (2010).
  The other is Wen Jiang, who plays Baze, Chirrut's sidekick. Their presence shows the great importance of the Chinese market to a US film's success.
   Riz Ahmed (Nightcrawler and Jason Bourne) plays an Imperial pilot who has a change of heart about his allegiance.
  Darth Vader appears sporadically, and his chokehold isn't as frightening as it used to be. The film lacks a really evil baddie, which is probably a reason for its lacklustre mood.
An Imperial tank comes under attack by rebels in
a narrow Baghdad-looking street.
 I was reminded of real rebels in Iraq setting a trap for US soldiers.
    There is one character that left a lasting impression on me, and it's called K-2S0 (Alan Tudyk), an Imperial robot who tells it as it is. Tudyk, incidentally, voiced the robot Sonny in I, Robot (2004).
   The loss of a parent is briefly discussed in Rogue One, as is the reasons for joining a rebellion. Rebellions incur great losses, but nothing will be more heart-wrenching than watching a non-human taking one for the team.

 2 1/2 out of 5 stars




The Rebellion makes a risky move to steal the plans for the Death Star, setting up the epic saga to follow.

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