Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, 2016.
Directed by Gareth Edwards.
Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, and Forest Whitaker.
The first standalone Star Wars movie is out in a Blu-ray + DVD + digital copy set that has an okay batch of bonus materials. If you’re hoping that the deleted footage from the various Rogue One trailers will make an appearance here, you’ll be disappointed.
I was looking forward to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story one even more than The Force Awakens. Like John Knoll, who pitched the movie to Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy and who shows up quite a bit in the bonus materials in this Blu-ray release, I was always intrigued by the theft of the Death Star plans that was mentioned in the scroll at the beginning of Star Wars.
The wide variety of ancillary stories that showed up in novels, comics, video games, and TV series over the years helped whet my appetite for the appearance of such tales on the silver screen. I know, George Lucas said at one time that theatrical movies were reserved for the tales of the Skywalker family, but why not let the wider Star Wars universe experience the big budget treatment?
One of the things that really intrigued me about Rogue One was the opportunity to introduce new characters who brought no preconceptions with them. A new Star Wars movie involving the original cast members brings with it so much weight that it can’t possibly satisfy everyone, but when we don’t know who should live or die, we can be free to just go along for the ride.
I won’t get too deeply into the characters and story, since I’m sure most of you have seen the film and have your own opinions pretty well set, but I will say I enjoyed the ensemble approach. The film also had a nice war picture feel to it, and I liked the way the story showed how the early days of the Rebel Alliance were not easy, and many sacrifices were made along the way. (Is a standalone film about all the Bothans who died to get the second Death Star plans coming along some day?)
As probably everyone reading this review knows, a pair of characters from the original movie make notable CGI-generated appearances. I won’t mention the second one, just in case someone out there hasn’t seen the movie yet, but I don’t think I’m spoiling anything by mentioning that Grand Moff Tarkin plays a substantial role in the story.
While watching the movie in the theater, I thought Tarkin inhabited the uncanny valley, which distracted me from paying attention to what he was saying every time he was on the screen. The second time I saw it, on my HDTV set at home, the effect wasn’t as pronounced, but he still looked too much like a video game character for my tastes. There’s a good chunk of the bonus features spent discussing the two CGI characters, and when I saw Guy Henry on the set, I couldn’t understand why they didn’t just use some make-up techniques to get as close as they could to a likeness of Peter Cushing and let him play the role that way. I think the final result would have been much more natural.
Yes, I thought the other CGI character looked like something out of a video game cut scene too, but that appearance was so brief that I could live with it. I’m also not sure it would have made sense to cast someone else for such an iconic character.
Many Star Wars fans probably noticed that there were many shots in the Rogue One trailers that didn’t appear in the final film. In fact, there were some rumors that director Gareth Edwards had to step aside and let co-screenwriter Tony Gilroy tackle some story problems during the post-production phase. Unsurprisingly, those issues don’t pop up during the bonus features, and Gilroy doesn’t appear to talk about his role, although co-screenwriter Chris Weitz does. It’s a bummer, however, that the footage that was left on the cutting room doesn’t make an appearance here.
This release features the movie on Blu-ray and DVD discs, with a second Blu-ray devoted to the bonus stuff. There’s also the usual code for a digital copy of the film. You won’t find a commentary track on the movie disc.
The main bonus feature runs about an hour and is broken down into bite-size looks at the various characters in the film, as well as some background material. It starts with Knoll talking about how he got his job with ILM (it’s a great tale of chutzpah) and how his initial idea for Rogue One became a reality. After covering all the characters in the film, the documentary looks at the design work before concluding with a glimpse of the movie premiere.
The other bonus piece runs 4.5 minutes and points out many, but not all, of the Easter eggs in the film, such as the cameo by the toughs who accosted Luke in the cantina. I was disappointed that they didn’t cover the squadron leaders who were inserted from the original Death Star attack.
I can only assume that, as with The Force Awakens, another Blu-ray release is in the works that will have a commentary track and more extensive bonus features. Let’s hope the deleted footage shows up too, even if Disney still refrains from getting into the dirty details of what happened between Edwards and Gilroy.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★