What Went Wrong with Rogue One

There’s no doubt in my mind that Rogue One: A Star Wars story will continue to dominate conversation topics across the world for some time now, and I say, let it be so. I know from the title of this article that it sounds like I’m about to start giving a Star Wars film shit that isn’t The Phantom Menace, but don’t worry, I’m not completely insane – I actually quite liked Rogue One. Overall, it was a decent film, I mean, it wasn’t The Force Awakens by any stretch, but it certainly wasn’t on the level of ‘I’ll try spinning, that’s a good trick’ or ‘I hate sand’ kind of Star Wars we’ve seen – and even those, I can’t say I really hate.

Let’s face it, Star Wars is bloody great.

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BUT, what I will say in regard to the first spin-off film of one of the most iconic cinematic franchises, is that I didn’t like it nearly as much as I thought I would. You know when a film does pretty much everything right, yet you can’t help but feel a wave of disappointment which won’t quite just wash over you? It can be easy to brush off sometimes, but there are other times, special times, reserved for films you just couldn’t wait to see that the disappointment leaves a particularly bad taste. This is one of those times. So, with anticipation and discouragement coming so head to head like this in level and magnitude, I decided to look deep down and discover exactly why I simply wasn’t that into it.

Just want to say, first off, that Rogue One technically isn’t a spin-off film really. While it does have a completely new set of characters in its foreground, there’s just too many little nods to the main series in the background. Characters, places, even bloody dialogue that we all remember is in abundance in Rogue One and it just confirms that this isn’t the first attempt to launch a series away from its establishment, but in fact Episode 3.5.

Squad looking fresh
Squad looking fresh

But that’s just me being a picky arse. Overall, I’ve found the root of my disappointment in something much more trivial – it makes me slightly more cynical about the way I see things because my gripe with Rogue One is something that couldn’t be avoided, no matter how hard it tried. Simply put, it just didn’t feel like a Star Wars film.

I know it sounds stupid, but because I’ve had seven star wars films to get up to speed with the way they’re put together and what they’re all about, having an eighth film come along and try something different feels incredibly alien to me. It’s not Rogue One’s fault at all really, it’s just that it was different. A lot of the symbolic traits of the Star Wars franchise are missing which is hard to get used to; there’s no emphasis on the force for instance, and only five minutes of a lightsabre being used; our protagonists are a group that aren’t really separated at all; there’s no classic droid on droid banter.

K-2 wasn't even that funny, come on.
K-2 wasn’t even that funny, come on.

There was a lot of introductions to new places, but that too proved to push me away, as while I firmly believe the beautiful way in which both Force Awakens and Rogue One were shot is what Star Wars dearly needed, they make it feel too real sometimes. I know it sounds weird, but you remember all the planets in the original trilogy, hell even in the prequels? They were always strange and unusual, and slightly campy to say the least, but nearly all of planets we’re introduced to in Rogue One have a terrain and atmosphere like different places we’d find on our own blue planet.I remember a friend of mine saying the last battle resembled a Vietnam war film, and he really wasn’t wrong.

Get Some!
Get Some!

The thing is as well, when it comes to pitching into the think tank of spin offs, I would say that books will always be able to do them better, and Rogue One is a good example of that. With books, we’re able to craft our own senses of the material given to us,  pretty much inviting the full scale of your brain to imagine and design your own version of what’s going on. We can effectively establish our own story from the one we’re being told. The Star Wars spin-off books, no matter how far away from what we know they are, will always be able to emulate that familiarity because we’ll build from what we know in our heads.

See? Strange and unusual!
See? Strange and unusual!

While film is in no way less inviting and thought-provoking, it can’t bring that familiarity back to unfamiliar scenarios as much because it’s a visual media – if it’s different, you just have to deal with it, because once you’ve seen it, that’s how it stays. It’s less open to interpretation. So whenever Rogue One gives me something different, it’s very hard to be like ‘Yay! Star Wars’ because it just doesn’t feel that way, and that is in no way the film’s fault. Basically what I’m saying Rogue One, is that it’s not you, it’s me.

Thanks for a great ending though!

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Author: diagnosedcinephile

Film critique is love. Film critique is life.

1 thought on “What Went Wrong with Rogue One”

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