Thursday, 15 December 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (12A)

Sometimes you wonder why a film exists - this year's Turtle disaster, for example, or any of the Transformers films after the first one.

The answer, obviously, is money - even if that's baffling in the above examples. Cash chats, as the saying doesn't go.

Hence Rogue One. Star Wars is back from three different brinks and it's time to cash in, clearly.

The 'sell' is a simple one - how do we get from the end of Revenge Of The Sith to the start of A New Hope?

Answer? By explaining how the rebels got the plans to blow up the death star. Apparently, it's that simple.

It's being billed as "A Star Wars Story" because none of the much-loved characters are involved.

Arguably, it's THE Star Wars story, given it's how we get to where things all began. Before we went back to where they all began again before they began.

Cheers George.

Now, it's important to note at this early juncture that - as with The Force Awakens - George 'prequel' Lucas is well away from proceedings.

He gets a name check at the start, then we're done. Proper film makers who can tell a tale are now in charge.

Or in this case, Gareth Edwards.

Edwards gave us Monsters, which is brilliant, and Godzilla, which isn't. So it was always going to be fun seeing what he did this time round.

He hasn't been helped by the committee that clearly gathered to sketch out proceedings before the script was even started.

The conversation went something like this:

"What do people like in a Star Wars film?"

"Big blowy-up space battles!"

"Good, Jones, well done. Anything else?"

"A love story!"

"Well, yes... Hasn't that been.... No, no matter, must be thinking of something else, chuck it in the mix."

"That Battlefront game!"

"Jones, you're on fire - yes, let's have some of that action in there. Lots of those machines too. That'll shift some units."

"A droid with character!"

"Well remembered! Almost forgot that bit. Definitely need one of those. Right, sling that lot together, try and get a story to tie it all together, but don't sweat too much - clock's ticking here..."

And that, boys and girls, is how Rogue One was born.

Approaching it with a heady mix of trepidation and excitement, the biggest question was always going to be how they got to the start of Episode Four (or the first one, if you're still on the Imperial System).

And as the action unfolds, the question looms larger and larger - like a Death Star ambling towards you, humming.

Will they even manage it, or is another sequel on the way. A Rogue Two, if you will...


Ha, like we're giving that away.

Instead, let's actually talk about the film. As much as we can, anyhoo.

Front and centre we have Felicity Jones in her first blockbuster action role.

Always a firm favourite here at Popcorn Towers, there was still some fears over her ability to make the switch.

Fears which were washed away within minutes of her first appearance.

Strong, composed, assured, borrowing slightly from Han Solo in places, she delivers a fantastic performance - and proves her versatility as she beats the wotsit out of Stormtroopers with the same depth as she delivers the more emotional scenes.

Diego Luna, meanwhile, (he of Milk and Y Tu Mama Tambien fame) holds his own alongside her, giving a performance of equal depth and strength.

From there however...

You see, one of the things that has always stood out among the battles and characters of all the Star Wars films is the colour pallet.

Each film has very clearly had it's own 'look'. Star Wars was brown, Empire was white, Jedi green. And furry.

But Rogue One seems too keen to reference all of those, meaning as we planet-hop about the place the tone of the film changes. Noticeably.

It's not too distracting, sure, but the final third looks like a totally different film to the one we started watching.

Then there's all the references.

Keen to keep the fans on board, Rogue One is littered - almost cluttered - with tropes, musical nods, faces and gimmicks that reference what is to come (if you're sticking to the proper time line).

And it feels like it's been done for no other reason than to reassure people that this IS a Star Wars film.

No, really. It is. Look, there's the guy from the first one. Or next one, now.

And I'm not saying I didn't enjoy such moments, but they feel thrown in. A patch, rather than being woven into the fabric of the story.

A couple of them do work - one hugely - but the overall feeling is slightly disjointed.

And yes, OK, they answer the long-running question/joke about the Death Star - but it feels like that is the only thing they had going for them.

Two hours to explain something that's kept geeks going for years.

It hardly seems worth it.

It also raises new questions. Now, alongside who shot first we can discuss how those two got from there to where we know they need to be...

All of which sounds a bit negative - and it's not meant to be.

As a stand-alone film (which it can't be, obviously, but let's try) it's fine. It's good fun and there are jokes. Ones that actually make you laugh, too.

As a Star Wars film, it's one for the fans. Coming to this fresh and new will not endear you to the universe we all love so much.

Does make me want to watch the first one again right away though.