ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY Movie Review
By Victoria Alexander, Film Critic
Las Vegas Informer
It’s constant blowing stuff up. Jyn Erso is STAR WARS “Joan of Arc” without a zealot’s fervor or dynamic leadership presence. She is the only female fighter and all the nomad soldiers blindly follow her. What happened to Mendelsohn’s face?
The rules to see a press screening mandated a Tuesday, December 13 at 9:00AM embargo. Of course, twists, surprises and fan favorites are all verboten for reviews. I’ll just briefly tell the outline of the story and then give you my impressions of the next universally loved blockbuster film.
Jyn Erso should have been modeled after iconic warrior “Joan of Arc.”
Martyr, saint and military leader: Joan of Arc. When Joan of Arc (17 years old at the time) was in battle, she defied the cautious strategy that was well-known in the leadership of the French. During one prior attempt on the siege of Orleans, it ended horribly. When it was Joan of Arc’s turn to lead the siege, she continued to defy the war council and took fortress after fortress during the siege of Orleans.*
The battle between the Republic and the Separatists is closing in on our very own Hundred’s Years War.** The Republic’s Chancellor Palpatine (he hasn’t made “Emperor” yet) gave Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) the top job to develop a super-nasty, planet-destroying weapon, called The Death Star. Krennic assigned scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) to head the project.
After being disbanded due to subpar testing, Galen flees to an isolated, barren land with his wife Lyra (Valene Kane) and young daughter, Jyn (Beau Gadsdon and as younger Jyn, Dolly Gadsdon). But Galen and his family know that sooner or later Krennic will come for them and they have been getting ready. They are prepared.
When Krennic does come for the family, Galen and Lyra forget their plans and all hell breaks loose.
The outcome leaves Jyn (Felicity Jones) to be raised by Saw Gerrera (Forrest Whitaker) and Galen to return to the Republic and continue working on the Death Star.
Jyn has become a Rebel soldier and therefore a wanted criminal by the Republic. Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), who heads the challenge against the Republic’s draconian rule, has enlisted Gerrera to induce Jyn to re-unite with her father who has spent the past many years developing the Death Star.
Along with Rebel soldier Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), who just happens to be a blind swordsman, Jyn commandeers a gang of un-incorporated soldiers to steal the plans for the Death Star and save their part of the Universe.
While Whitaker chose to craft his character using Marlon Brando’s “Creating a Bizarre Unforgettable Character” principles, Mendelsohn completely confounded me. I am a huge fan of Mendelsohn, especially his brilliant work in KILLING THEM SOFTLY and Netflix’s BLOODLINE, but his appearance looks so strange in ROGUE ONE, I kept questioning whether that was indeed him. It sure sounded like him. I do not know how or why they altered his face so dramatically, but I hope it is just CGI smoke and mirrors.
It was great to see Ben Daniels as General Merrick, however briefly. He’s under-used here but maybe he will survive. Daniels made a terrific appearance as Claire Underwood’s lover on HOUSE OF CARDS and now stars as the “defrocked” exorcist on the TV series THE EXORCIST. As Father Marcus, he brings a chilling fanaticism to fighting demonic possession. Daniels would make a formidable villain for James Bond.
I did hunt and found one female soldier and one female pilot. The rest of Jyn’s army was made up of men. Jones’s quiet manner and slight build works against the role of a toughen soldier on a mission. Why did the men respect her so easily? Well, at least the writers, Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy (and the imdb’s 3 more writing credits) did not give Jyn “daddy issues.” Luna is fine and has become far sexier with age, but Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook is given nothing much to do but look confused and trying to find his footing in Star Wars land.
Cinema’s great villain, Darth Vadar, holds a defining position in our minds because his heavy breathing contraption enhances his fearsome presence. It identifies Vadar as a more superior being, inhaling more life and expelling more of his cellular identity in the environment. In my opinion, it is not a detriment to his power. Vadar has made it an asset of fear. We hear him before seeing him. Its his theme music. Its his drum roll. Darth Vadar is the diva of the STAR WARS Universe.
In ROGUE ONE Darth Vadar appears but his costume has been altered slightly. It is kind of silly. Darth Vadar has a silly walk! It looks like he is wearing skinny 501 black jeans. He has also lost height and awesomeness. He looks like a little stunt guy in a too-big mask.
I would have liked more story on the Republic and exactly why there is a rebellion. What is the Republic’s platform? How are they oppressing the little people – the one’s without titles? So there is a caste system in play but all races live in harmony? Isn’t that contradictory? What was the giant half-human-like mass in the huge lab tube? And what happened with the animators? Did they just decide to give up and use Miami Beach as a location for the final confrontation?
However, the denouement was quite clever and really worked. It is perhaps worth the weak storyline and the overwhelming bombardment of crafts crashing into each other and destroying structures and land. As we know from Earth wars, it is necessary to claim victory by occupying the ground.
*After that victory, Joan of Arc persuaded Charles VII to grant her co-command of the army to take over Reims. This was an unbelievable proposal because Reims was deep in enemy territory and twice as far away as Paris. She would eventually take Reims and everything in between, making her a well-known force and making the English fear Joan of Arc in battle.
In battle, she wore men’s clothing and the armor of a knight.
Joan of Arc’s legendary status as a leader was cemented when she took an arrow to the neck, but returned wounded to lead her troops in the final charge. For her troops, all harden warriors, Joan of Arc was a true leader. She was brave beyond that of most warriors in her army and she had the respect of all the men who served under her. With that kind of leadership, she was able to get near super-human results from her troops, which led to her victories.
**The” Hundred Years’ War” is the term now used for the series of conflicts waged from 1337 to 1453 by the House of Plantagenet, rulers of the Kingdom of England, against the House of Valois, rulers of the Kingdom of France, for control of the Kingdom of France. Each side drew many allies into the war. It was one of the most notable conflicts of the Middle Ages, in which five generations of kings from two rival dynasties fought for the throne of the largest kingdom in Western Europe.
Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/.
Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at email@example.com.