The dregs of my Star Wars fandom motivated me to confine my review of Rogue One to its weaknesses and points in its favor. On balance, these canceled each other out, and by the time I was ready to think about Rogue One again I concluded it was no better or worse than The Force Awakens.
1. At last, a new Star Wars film whose universe has the grime, decay, and dilapidated equipment of societies under siege. The first two entries in the series looked like space depictions of Eastern European under Communism; Force One gets the art direction right. Computer status bars, failed land line connections, the Purina dog chow stripes indicating military rank — a long time in a galaxy far, far away was also the Devonian Period of technology.
2. The most convincing CGI-rendered battles I’ve seen since Lord of the Rings (e.g. Star Destroyers crashing into force shields; the Death Star appearing through beautiful orange morning mist, ready to vaporize a metropolis).
3. I’m told Diego Luna and Felicity Jones are in it.
4. Darth Vader’s hallway scene, as fans across the internet have labeled it, is terrifying, excellently staged.
4. Rogue One requires Jyn Erso (Jones) to fly to a distant planet called Jedha so that the independent agent Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) who’d saved her life as a girl can give her a certain message. The problem is, director Gareth Edwards never establishes why we should care about this plot strand — couldn’t the movie have introduced the message in fleeter fashion? Also, Saw Gerrera is the silliest name in Star Wars history. As played by Whitaker, in a performance style combining the villain from Jason of Star Command and Baron Harkonnen from Dune, I couldn’t look at him anyway. Could his scenes have ended up on the cutting room floor?
5. Another redundancy: weapons expert Krennic, played by Ben Mendelsohn in a white cap in a performance style combining Captain Harris from Police Academy and the fop in Spaceballs .
6. Rogue One is the fourth Star Wars in which the Death Star and blowing it up is a plot point; half the series involves the goddamn Death Star.
7. While I knew Grand Moff Tarkin appeared, I’d no idea CGI would raise Peter Cushing from the undead. It looks dreadful; I started noticing the concavity of the computer reproductions and bemoaning how no one thought even in 2015 when this film was in production that mutton chops and disco-era Bela Lugosi hair were fashion trends best left under six mounds of dirt.
8. Union trouble still slows down construction of the Death Star.