A STAR WARS STORY
Star Wars: Rogue One (SW:RO) is a stand-alone story set in the Star Wars Universe. It takes the exposition from the “story crawl” for Episode IV: A New Hope about stealing the plans for the Death Star and expands upon it. While not flawless in its execution, the story is well told and is an enjoyable Star Wars experience.
This is an ensemble film and I really like the characters that are presented. You can understand their motivations as they try to complete their mission. Some characters get more screen time than others, but the Droid and the “Force-Believing” character are standouts.
For all that it is a Star Wars film, the tone is actually quite dark. Without spoilers, it is hard to clarify why this is so, but be assured this one is probably as dark as Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, maybe more so. It does have the trademark humor, but most of it comes from one character in particular, so when that character isn’t on-screen, many of the scenes are fairly gritty.
Where Rogue One comes into its own is its 3rd Act. The characterization and Special Effects in that Act really emphasize the desperate nature of the characters’ struggle. They are fighting for something that matters, both to them and to the plot. The 3rd Act is truly where the film is elevated from merely good to great.
So, on a A-F scale, I would rate this as an A-. It is excellent with a few small flaws that keep it from being a perfect film. The earlier action, while necessary to both plot and characterization, sometimes feels as if it is just going through the motions to get to the stupendous final act. Also, some characters are given more time than others and we lose out on characterization of some of the more minor characters, but that is just the nature of ensemble films.
IMPLICATIONS FOR MY OWN WRITING
Having stakes that matter to both the plot and the character is a technique that I need to work on as a writer. I often have things that matter in terms of the plot–if “character x” doesn’t do this something (usually bad) will happen. However, I’m learning that I need to motivate the characters with some internal conflicts as well. In Rogue One, Jyn Erso is motivated by a desire to find her father and later by her faith in her father’s words. These are both internal to the character and intrinsic to the character. Yes, the Death Star is bad, but that’s not why looking for the plans (can’t go any deeper without spoilers). Her motivation comes not just from all the bad stuff the Death Star can do, but also how her father spoke about it and her relationship to him. I need to do a better job of finding internal motivations for my characters.
Have a Merry Christmas!