Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rogue One: Initial Thoughts, Part Two

* Saw Gerrera. One character, one monster, and one idea too many for this movie.

* Don't get me wrong. I like this character and the idea of a more militant band of rebels. And I dig what Forest Whitaker's doing. It's big - but he's in control of the performance. And we need more weird performances in sci-fi movies. Here's the problem: we're introduced to his rebels and the Guardians of the Whills on Jedha. All of our affection goes to Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen's characters before Jyn reunites with Saw.

It's too much information in too short a time - because this movie moves.

* Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe. My favorite new character by a country mile.

* I wish we got more on the Guardians - and how the Empire is stripping another piece of the Jedi from history. I'm not sure why Saw wasn't a part of this group, especially since there isn't much tension once Jyn and company arrive at his base. That feels like a cleaner narrative.

* One idea half-explored in the final cut is that the rebellion is trying to be an army while clinging to the democracy they once were. You see an uglier side of the Rebellion here, and it feels like Saw Gerrera was designed to show a road they shouldn't go down. On that front, he's in and out of the movie too fast for that to stick.

* There are only a few moments in this movie I actually dislike - and the brain-sucking monster is one of 'em. It's ticking off a box on a list of things we expect from Star Wars. First off, it seems weird that a group of insurgents travels around with a polygraphuosaurus - but hey, it's Star Wars. Let's not get too Comic Book Guy about this.

My beef is they set up that this monster will fry your brain while sucking it. After his brain-sucking, Bodhi Rook (a great Riz Ahmed) snaps back awfully fast with no harm done, and the creature is never seen again. Maybe a previous draft featured Saw attempting to use it on Jyn or Cassian? As is, it feels like a long way to go for one small link in the narrative chain.

* There are a lot of good things in this part of the movie, too. The battle in the city streets of Jedha is fantastic, gritty and visceral. And as I said on Twitter, Donnie Yen kung fu fightin' stormtroopers filled a hole in my heart I didn't know was there.

Galen Erso's holographic message to his daughter is powerful stuff. Jyn's scenes with Saw are too brief to have the same power, but I appreciate how Saw's death is handled. He'd only slow Jyn down. Saw looks death in the face, knowing he did what he could. It's a nice bit of foreshadowing for where the film ends up.

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