Rogue One — as “seen” by a blind guy
First, let me just give a fair warning. This review includes spoilers. They are all in the second half, though, and marked out with an H2-headline so you can choose wether or not you want to read them or not. All spoilers are pretty mild, if you have eyesight (and have watched the trailers, for example) but especially for non-sighted viewers, consider this a warning.
That said – here goes.
First half – the spoiler free review
Rogue One is the Star Wars film you have been waiting on. And more specifically, if you have been a fan for a long time, it is the one you have been waiting on since “Revenge of the Sith”, Episode III of the saga, eleven years ago. Because, in short, it is exactly what Ep III was supposed to be, but was not.
Rogue One is “Episode 3,5″ in the continuum. It bears promise to tie off more of the loose ends than “Revenge…” did and it has also been promoted as a standalone introduction to Star Wars and bridge nicely to Ep IV – “A New Hope”, the film that started it all back in 1977.
So let’s just get this out of the system – it is the prequel AND sequel that is supposed to bring balance (…”to the Force.” As the prophecies have fortold). And yes. It delivers. I would argue, as a fan since my childhood in the 80s, that Rogue One is actually the strongest installment yet of all the eight films so far.
So what is so great about it? (Yeah – I promise again – no spoilers in this part!)
First of all – the dialogue. It sounds natural and it helps anyone who doesn’t see to follow the story really well. Even when you get to follow different groups in different places, director Gareth Edwards makes a great job of using just the exact right words to cue you in. The dialogue sounds natural, but could probably be used without images as a radio play, with little effort. So full points there.
Secondly – the story. The script is written by Tony Gilroy and Chris Weitz after an idea by John Knoll and Gary Whitta. As mentioned earlier, it is not easy to come up with “Episode 3,5″. You can risk either breaking continuity by including too much of your own stuff, or you might risk to just rehash the same ol’ same ol’. But Rogue One doesn’t feel like a fanfilm with a budget, but is a great film in it’s own right. Without breaking anything. Actually it adds depth and layers to the story, both in the prequels and the original trilogy.
Thirdly – the cast. The actors in this film really acts. They sound as if they believe what they say and every gasp of terror, sigh of relief or wide eyed awe is realistically acted out before the camera. In a film made in 2016 and hence is probably shot in great part before a green screen, that is an accomplishment in itself. The actors didn’t see what the audience sees, but have to react realistically to it. And they do. With honors. But it also shows that the actors themselves care about their roles, and it makes me believe in them and care about them too.
Rogue One is more than just entertainment. It is a very well made movie. I would go so far as to call it a “movie play”, because it is so immersing. If you are an old fan, just checking out the latest Star Wars movie, you will have a great experience full of “heck YES!”-moments and high fives with fellow fans. And if this is the introduction to the series for you, this is a treat, as well.
Regardless – don’t miss out.
Five light sabers out of five.
The part with (mild) spoilers in it
From where this film comes in the continuum of the series, you have probably already figured out that if Episode 1-3 was about how the Emperor came to power (populism and fear mongering), and Episode 4-6 was about the facist Empire and the tyranny of Vader and the Emperor, Ep 3,5 – Rogue One – is about how the Rebellion started. Simple cronology also suggests that Jedis and sword twirling will probably not take a huge place in the story.
The Ex-Jedi, proto-Rebel Alliance setting gives the story a special tone. The heroes are not part of a common Rebel Alliance, simply because such an alliance is not yet formed. Instead there are splinter groups and different motives, access to vital information and resources are all like scattered pieces of a broken lightsaber.
There have been mumblings on the Internet about the choices of making a woman be the main character, and having people of color being, you know, a normal part of the Star Wars universe. I, for one, welcome this diversity, even if some of it obviously is lost on a blind guy. I do hear, though, that people talk with different accents. And not in that Jar-Jary annoying kind of way, but as a way to make the story more believable. In this time period of the Star Wars saga, the story is about finding allies and friends, and they might come from all kinds of backgrounds.
As a blind person I also appreciate Donnie Yen’s character – Chirrut Imwe – the only “Force user” in the story. His role is important and adds to the overall story, but I find it important that he is not invincible. Instead he has to rely on the others in their little band of de facto, improvised, rebels. And they have to rely on him. The Jedi knights in Ep 1-3 had to be killed by deceit and by shooting them in the back. And the Jedi of episode 4-6 carries on the whole elite-thing. But here, you have a Force user that is a warrior-monk, sure, but still is vulnerable.
The film deals in contrasts. Small band of non-heroes against huge numbers of really corrupt evil hordes. Vulnerability versus Pride. Threat and violence vs hope. And this creates a dynamic in this fast paced, action packed film. It breathes life into an old concept. And this makes Rouge One to the film that you so desperately hoped that the Revenge of the Sith would be.