Nuggets of Wisdom

Monday, December 26, 2016

Rouge One Was A Disappointing Mess (Spoilers!)

(Start Mr. Plinkett impression)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was the most disappointing thing since the 2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars movie. I mean, how much more could you possibly f*** up the entire backstory to Star Wars: A New Hope?

And while The Clone Wars eventually led to a somewhat entertaining TV series, the unfortunate reality of Rogue One is that, due to its indirect connection to A New Hope, it will be around. Forever. It will never go away. It can never be undone.

And if you're someone under the age of like, 20, who claims to be one of those "alt-right" Trump supporters who ironically tweeted #BoycottStarWars, and you say the worst thing about this movie is that the main lead has a vagina and the other characters have much darker skin than your own, then I suggest you stop reading this review right now before I carefully explain to you how much of a f***ing racist sexist idiot you are, especially since you wasted your vote on Cheeto Hitler.

So where do I possibly start? Nothing in Rogue One makes any sense at all. It comes off like a script written by a corporate hack wanting to cash in on the Star Wars franchise. It's like J.J. Abrams finished the script in one draft, and they decided to go with it, without anyone saying it made no sense at all, or that it was a stupid, incoherent mess.

I guess at this point who's going to question J.J. or tell him what to do? He controls every aspect of the Star Wars franchise now ever since he successfully brought it back from the dead. He probably got rid of those people that questioned him creatively a long time ago because of that.

I also think that everyone just assumed a new Star Wars movie would be an instant hit, regardless of what the plot was or who the characters were. Really. How hard could it be to screw up? It's like screwing up The Last Airbender: you take the bald kid with the arrow on his head, you give him lines...

(End Mr. Plinkett impression)

Call me unoriginal for ripping off that spiel from Mr. Plinkett's review of The Phantom Menace, but the fact that those very words can easily and appropriately describe the mess that is Rogue One to me speaks volumes about that movie.

Trust me: I wanted to like Rouge One. I even saw in in 3D because I assumed it would enhance the experience. (And also because I arrived at the theater too early and didn’t want to wait another half hour to watch the 2D version!) I even had higher expectations for it than A Force Awakens. Now the only good thing I can say about this movie was that it made me better appreciate Episode VII. I may still consider that movie overrated, but at least it was a halfway decent movie with memorable characters. That’s more than I can say about Rogue One.

And before I discuss why I didn’t care for Rogue One personally, let’s address the elephant turd in the room that is #BoycottStarWars. Many an alt-right loser whined about how this movie was “feminist SJW propaganda” simply because of its lead female character and rainbow-colored cast. Those basement dwellers are racist, sexist morons, and their reason for hating the film is stupid.

Rouge One is not bad because of “diversity” or “multiculturalism” or “white genocide” or “Jewish propaganda” or whatever other empty buzzword 4chan loves to throw around. This movie is not bad because its characters are diverse. This movie is bad because its characters are empty wooden puppets.

The biggest problem with Rogue One are its characters: there aren’t any! The only exception is the main character, Jyn Erso, who is the only original character to be provided a backstory and story arc—they're extremely flimsy and generic at best, but at least its more character development than any other "character" in this movie receives.

Everyone else is nothing more than a cliché character archetype: a pilot, a scout, a sniper, a robot, and a monk. Aside from the abilities that come natural to their respective archetypes, none of them have any unique personality or character traits whatsoever. I doubt they even have names! (Okay, to be fair, each of them were introduced at least once in the movie, but I easily forgot their names afterwards. These characters are just that forgettable.)

And the thing is, I really wanted to like these characters. I thought they were all somewhat interesting—some of them really interesting—and I wanted to get to know them better. The problem is that the movie didn’t allow me to get to know them—at all!

Take Chirrut Imwe. He’s a blind monk who’s “Force sensitive” and who performs martial arts. How cool is that? Wouldn’t it be cool to learn more about him? Too bad the movie doesn’t allow us to do that. Throughout the whole film, we never learn why he can feel the Force, or why he can perform martial arts despite being blind, or why he’s blind in the first place, or even why he’s even helping the main characters. Yes, when he’s first introduced, he just “decides” to intervene and help the other characters during a main fight because—REASONS! And he’s captured with the rest of the characters and forced to join them because—REASONS!

And that’s the main tragedy behind these characters. As cool as they are, as cool as they could have been, we never really get to know anything about them, and they never develop any real character outside of the stereotypes they’re supposed to portray. As such, they come across as hollower than the action figures made after them—and I’m still not unconvinced that they weren’t created for any reason other than to sell more action figures!

“But that’s not fair!” I hear some defenders cry. “This is only a two-hour movie, and there are just too many characters. How can you possibly develop them all as fully fleshed-out characters without going over the duration time?”

That’s a perfectly legit question. Allow me to answer that with a counter-example, which was, ironically, also made by the same company: Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

Like Rogue One, Atlantis was an action-adventure movie with an equally large cast of characters. All of them were part of a ragtag team sent on an important mission, and who were also a diverse cast of different races and genders with individual characters that could be surmised by a cliché archetype: bookworm, mechanic, engineer, explosives expert, doctor, chef, radio technician, and—er, creepy mole man.

The difference between those characters and the ones in Rogue One were that the Atlantis characters were fleshed-out characters with their own unique and recognizable personalities. They even had back stories, goals, and ambitions. Granted, it was all provided in one campy campfire scene, and their character development was churned out mostly thought exposition, but at least it was more development than any character in Rogue One other than the main lead received.

Seriously, Rogue One could have easily been redeemed had there been one scene—one f***ing scene!—where all the characters had a chance to speak to each other and get to know one another. They could have easily been sitting within a mess hall at the Rebel headquarters shooting the breeze about their pasts over grub. We could have learned who they were, where they came from, what their relation towards the Empire was, and why they wanted to fight it. One five minute scene like that could have fixed the problem with their characters and the whole movie. But I guess that would have distracted us from all of the spaceship battles and pointless cameos!

Perhaps even more insulting are how most of the characters are killed off. (Oops! Spoilers!) Each of these characters are given their own dramatic deaths, and they’re all played out as melodramatically as possible—almost as if the movie is looking directly at me and asking, “Aren’t you just so sad to see this character die?” To which I would reply, “What have you told me about this character to make me remotely care about them?”

That’s the thing about character deaths: they only work if we care about the characters, and we only care about the characters if we know anything about them. This is why we vividly remember the deaths in Bambi and Lion King and remember very little about the "death" in Frozen. We got to know and care about Mufasa. We got to know and care about Bambi’s mother. We know as much about any of the characters in Rogue One as we do about Anna and Elsa’s parents. (No. Scratch that. We at least know that the King and Queen of Arendalle screwed up royally at being good parents!)

As such, the problem I have with this movie is a similar problem that the Nostalgia Critic had with The Last Airbender: it’s all explanation without the humanity. (So kindly excuse me as I rip off a spiel from that review and use it here!)

The identity of these characters? Who gives a s***?! It can't be nearly as important as having them fight in a pointless battle within a pointless marketplace. Or having them escape a pointless explosion created by the Death Star. Or having one of the pointless villains encounter Darth Vader in his Bowser's Castle evil lair. Or even having all of the characters inevitably fight to the death obtaining the Death Star plans.

Why should I care? I don't! And you know why? Because I never once heard anyone in this movie say "I 'feel' this" or "I 'like' this" or "I 'wonder' this". There are no emotions being addressed.

Traditional storytelling is setting up a character, sending them on their journey, and learning more about them through their journey. Rogue One is just chess piece storytelling: Character goes here, character goes there, character says this, pawn to king four.

So when each of these “characters” eventually meet their demise, I ask that you remind me what was revealed about them that's worth giving any emotional investment into them whatsoever. This isn't me being angry that Rogue One is different from the other Star Wars movies. This is me being angry that it's missing the most essential element of telling any story: if the character can never express any emotion, why should the audience ever express any emotion?

(End ripping off Nostalgia Critic.)

The only saving graces were the special effects and fight scenes. I would say that the cameos and Easter eggs were also good, but honestly, they came off as extremely distracting. In fact, everything that could be considered “good” about this movie comes off as mere distraction from the flimsy plot and characters. It’s the equivalent of dangling car keys in front of an infant!

Rouge One attempts to be as awesome as the original Star Wars movies, but only when it comes to the fight scenes and special effects. But none of that is what made the originals memorable. What made the originals great were the characters. Luke Skywalker was a lowly farm boy who desired adventure but started to doubt himself once he was thrown into that adventure. Han Solo was a lowly thief who only cared about making ends meet before learning to live and fight for a greater purpose. Princess Leia was a fearless leader willing to help her own people however she could even if it meant risking her own life. Even R2-D2, C-3PO, and Darth Vader had enough personality about them to have us like and even empathize with them. They were all well-developed enough for us to care about them, and we were able to know more about them by the end of their movie. I can barely remember the names of any of the characters from Rogue One!

Again, I don’t want to hate this movie. I wanted to like it. I wanted this movie to live up to its hype. And I admired its attempt at being an original film with a diverse cast to help appeal to the fans who weren’t nerdy white boys. And sure, perhaps the younger female and POC fans who don’t know better will like Rogue One the same way I like the prequels when I was their age. Perhaps this movie will see young girls dressing as Jyn Erso and Asian boys dressing as Chirrut Imwe for Halloween. It’s simply a shame that the costumes have more character than the "characters" they represent.

To anyone that loves this movie and think it’s the greatest Star Wars movie ever—even greater than Force Awakens—good for you! I’m not here to take away your enjoyment of the movie. Feel free to agree to disagree. But if you think that my opinion about this movie is wrong, at least go ahead and prove why it’s wrong. Don’t just hate me because I refuse to praise the film like you do.

And if you do want to prove that Rogue One was good, here’s how you do it. It’s also from Mr. Plinkett’s review. In that review, he asked random people to describe Star Wars characters without saying what they looked like, what kind of costume they wore, or what their role or profession in the movie was. As could be expected, they were able to perfectly describe the characters from the original trilogy but not the prequel trilogy. Can you describe the characters from Rouge One the same way?