Saturday, 17 December 2016

It Can Also Refer To A Mountain.

Many years ago (before the dark times, before the prequels) I was quite the Star Wars fanboy. Of course, I still am. However I'm starting this in the past tense for a reason, so please bare with me.

There was some some bit of comedic fan ephemera or other that, for some reason stuck with over the years. Maybe it was somewhere in the Star Warped CD-ROM. Maybe it was just on some random internet list or other. But somewhere in there there was a phrase that always had the power to make me giggle uncontrollably.

Peter Cushing's Live Forever Pills.

Well, that was weirdly prescient, wasn't it?

Spoiler warning I guess?

So then, Rogue One is now a thing that exists. And it's not bad. Possibly even quite good. It certainly lived up to my expectations in a few respects. Firstly in that in looked like it wasn't going to be terrible (it wasn't). Secondly in that K-2S0 was clearly going to one of the best characters (he was) and finally that everyone was going to die.

Seriously, what did you THINK was going to happen?

Now, I appreciate that self-congratulation on predictions that you haven't actually managed to discuss with anyone ahead of time isn't really something to be proud of, so let's see if we can't find anything more interesting to talk about with regard to the film, shall we?

That everyone in ot was doomed was a given from the start. What's weird is that I didn't really see much in the way of discussion about this rather obvious fact. I mean, sure, they're going to suceed in stealing the Death Star plans and transmitting them to the Rebels. But then what? You've got an angry Darth Vader hot on your heels. How are you going to get out of that one?

Hands up all those characters who appear in A New Hope.

Just to be clear I don't think this is a particularly bad thing. This is a film quite clearly made in the "Empire Strike Back is the best Star Wars movie" frame of mind, so a certain amount of doom and gloom is only to be expected. Indeed, this may actually be the darkest one yet. 

Make  your own damn Revenge Of The Sith joke. 

 What's interesting is that a lot of that darkness comes from the Rebellion itself. This is the closest we've ever really gotten to Rebels as Terrorists. Certainly a lot closer than you'd ever expect to see in a DISNEY film. Torture, murder, paranoia, betrayal, hopelessness... And these are the heroes.

The villains are a bit... odd though. I mean, it's cool we get to see a bit of the Empire in action, being brutal oppresive bastards and all. But the thing about Director Krennic was that he'd gien the impression of being something of a stand in character for Grand Moff Tarkin, what with Peter Cushing being unavoidably dead at the time of filming. And then they bring back Tarkin anyway.

CGI has come a long way since Jeff Bridges was alive.

It's remarkably well done though. One has to wonder what percentage of the films budget was spent on him. The voice is spot on as well. Seriously, it's most impressive. To the point where one starts to worry what this is going to mean for future productions and an actors control over their own likeness. Might we one day no longer have actors, just vast render farms and Chritopher Lee impersonators for the voice over?

We can only hope.

I think though it's here where we start to get into the problem with the film. Now, it's not a bad film. The plot holds together well enough and rattles along in good order. But there is, I think, just a little bit TOO much referencing of characters from the original Star Wars. We knew there would be a Vader cameo, and Tarkin was a nice suprise. But then they start trotting out Dr Evazen and Ponda Baba, Senator Organa, even bloody C-3P0 and R2-D2. Did we learn NOTHING from those bloody prequels?

...and wipe the audiences memory.

We even get stock footage of Red Leader from A New Hope. I don't mind a few callbacks, but it just feels like they overdid it a bit. None of that is game breaking per se, but I would have preferred something a little less.... overt. You've got Jimmy Smitts, no need to remind us of the prequels any more than that.

The other major gripe I have is that Darth Vader should NEVER try and do witty one liners. It just doesn't work, sorry. Darth Vader trying to be funny is like Darth Vader saying "Padme"


Which is a  shame as apprt from that this is probably the most bad-ass Darth Vader has ever gotten to be. That last scene in the airlock butchering rebel troopers? Awesome stuff.

I'm not sure that, overall, I rally have much worthwhile to say on the film though. It has it's flaws, but overall seems to be trying to be a good Star Wars film. Which is subtly different from just trying to be a good film, but when you're telling this particular story in such a referential fashion I'm not sure what else one can expect. I wouldn't honestly say that it was particularly NECESSARY for this film to happen, but I don't think it's existence is offensive or detrimental in any way. Indeed, as someone who has previously voiced the idea of remaking Star Wars entirely I think if we're going be doing these stand alone Star Wars movies this is a good way of doing them. Just letting people have decent ideas and try to make good films out of them.

Whether or not they can keep that up remains to be seen. But as long as nobody tries to bring Boba Fett back then I'm reasonably confidant things will remain tolerable.