Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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Do you know someone that is not a fan of Star Wars? Yes, shocking as it may seem, those people actually do exist. And for those people that are out there, I truly feel sorry for them this weekend, because that means they are making the decision to not see what may be one of the better war films we have had lately in ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’.

Now for those of us who are Star Wars fans, ‘Rogue One’ is the first of the anticipated anthology films that LucasFilm and Disney are going to be giving us on a bi-annual cycle, in off years from the main saga films. And admittedly, if the first film that we have received is any indication of the quality of films that will be forthcoming in the anthology series, we will all be in for a treat.

‘Rogue One’ tells the story of how the original plans for the Empire’s super weapon, the Death Star, come into the hands of the Rebellion. Alluded to during the opening crawl of ‘Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope’, the theft of the plans is a very important moment for the Rebel Alliance in their attempt to overthrow the First Galactic Empire.

The new film is an interesting mix of new ideas, taking old threads and increasing their importance, and also providing enough easter eggs for fans of not just the main saga films but also the current in-continuity projects such as the TV show ‘Star Wars Rebels’, that it really is a full run time that does not feel that it takes anywhere near the two hour and 13 minute run time that it is listed at.

From giving glimpses of new unseen planets, some new technology and ships, to showcasing well known locations such as Yavin IV and glimpses of favourite vehicles and ships as well, ‘Rogue One’ is a great melding of both new and old.

But it is the old that really grabs your attention here. Set designers did a wonderful job of building sets that give a real 1970’s vibe at times, which is critically important as ‘Rogue One’ is a direct prequel to 1977’s ‘A New Hope’, so much so that one wonders just how much time actually separates the films with regards to their timelines.

Over to the characters, and you really gain an appreciation of how much the new generation of Star Wars films are going to pushing forward with strong female leads. While I don’t really believe most people have fully appreciated just how strong of a character that Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia Organa was in the original trilogy, they have really pushed the envelope with the main front running character in both ‘Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens’ and now ‘Rogue One’ both being female.

Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso is really setup as a character that is being used to reach a goal for the Alliance, but at the end of the film, has become a great driving force for the Rebellion and is one of the more important cogs to the success not only of the mission in the film, but the film in theaters as well. While sometimes falling flat at the dialogue provided, Jones still does enough to pull off being a natural leader, one that uses her name when needed to get results, and in a great continuation of what Star Wars does best, not force a female character to be female to be a strong character.

The other characters of the main cast are at times overshadowed by both lack of development, essentially being wallpaper to Jones at times, and also by well known characters who are here to tie ‘Rogue One’ into ‘A New Hope’. This boils down to just how difficult it is to give proper character backgrounds and explore character depth in a film that is just slightly more than two hours in length as opposed to having seasons of a television show with which to build characters.

There are definitely some new characters introduced in ‘Rogue One’ that I would love to see explored more, and maybe we might get to see that in ‘Rebels’ if the show continues long enough to make it reach the timeline of this film.

But the thing that really sets ‘Rogue One’ apart from the previous seven live-action Star Wars films we have seen in the past is not the characters, but the genre of the film. While the main saga films are epic space operas, this film is a gritty war movie. From discussions of rebellion versus extremism, to being a spy and the dirty hands that come with it, to undercover beach heads, and the largest space battle we have seen before, ‘Rogue One’ is in fact what the series calls itself, Star Wars.

Regardless of if you take the main saga films to be the rise, fall and possible rebirth of the Skywalker family and their ties to The Force, or a higher overreaching arc of the eternal strife between the Jedi and the Sith, ‘Rogue One’ slots in perfectly as an entry into the history of what is now a franchise across multiple platforms.

So much so that I slide ‘Rogue One’ as the second best of the eight live-action films, trailing only ‘Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back’ as the best of the bunch, and that is high praise indeed as I view that film as one of the best films of all time.

In the end, if you love Star Wars, ‘Rogue One’ is for you. If you enjoy war films, you will enjoy this film. If you don’t enjoy either, I’m not sure what you are doing making it all the way through this.

I do promise that I am back to reviewing films on a regular basis as we now have enough stability in our home to allow it. Expect a full review of recent Marvel films coming soon. As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer for movie talk and more. Cheers all.

The Martian

themartianAs I have grown older, I have noticed that my taste in films has also changed, heading to, over the years, more adult based fare. Now, I guess that this is probably quite normal, but in the past couple of years, I have really found myself drawn to certain kinds of films, and the newest on that list is ‘The Martian’.

I need to preface this by saying that I, for the most part, really enjoy Matt Damon as an actor and think that the majority of Ridley Scott directed films are top notch, so much so that I place Scott in the top echelon of film makers today. With the combo of the two involved, I really had high hopes for ‘The Martian’, and I am happy to say that it delivered on the mark.

The not-so-distant future setting of ‘The Martian’ allows it to come off as something that we can actually believe as reality, and unlike 2014’s “Interstellar’, this film was able to pull off a whole other level of realism and convincing us that a singular human, stranded on a barren planet, could actually survive, and that is exactly what Ridley Scott does with this adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel of the same name.

That being said, the star of this film is and always will be Matt Damon. Damon, he of the face on a poster type of movie star, allows you to get inside the head of his character, Mark Watney. Watney, a botanist, comes across as a likeable every man, even if he is a pretty intelligent one at that.

The supporting cast for ‘The Martian’ is fleshed out with amazing actors and actresses from Jeff Daniels to Jessica Chastain and Chiwetel Ejiofor. To see these names filling out their characters just goes to show the quality of this film. Each of the supporting characters has reason to be there and a key role to play in the main arc of getting the stranded astronaut home.

The visuals for this film, when needed, are near perfect for the kind of story that Ridley Scott was looking to tell, which you would expect nothing less from the man that brought us other breath taking films like ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Kingdom of Heaven’, to say nothing of his other sci-fi work over the years.

At the end of the day, what we get is a film that tells a wonderful story, keeps you on the edge of your seat in doing so, and does it without ever feeling like the 141 minutes it is. ‘The Martian’ is an amazing film, well worth its Oscar nomination for Best Picture and Matt Damon shows us why he will one day win a Best Actor Oscar after securing his second ever nomination in this film.

Also, something new for you all on this review, I am going to start a ranking of the films that I review, and for ‘The Martian’, it gets 4 1/2 Martian potatoes out of 5.

Thanks for reading all and bearing with me while I go through some spurts of not getting these reviews out. As always, for all this and more, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @kymayer and cheers!!!