Anghus Houvouras on Rogue One’s Saw Gerrera…
Disappointments are the product of anticipation. The more excited you are about something, the more likely it won’t live up to your expectations. Soaring heights soon turn to flaming fuselage. No one is going to be disappointed by The Fate of the Furious because not even fans of the franchise have high expectations. You may want to see the eighth Fast & Furious film, but I’m guessing there’s very little in the movie that wouldn’t deliver exactly what you were expecting. This is why franchises like Fast & Furious and Transformers never generate a lot of passion or anger. Sure, you might have been upset after seeing the original or Revenge of the Fallen, but after that you knew you were never going to get a remarkable Transformers movie with Michael Bay and his creative team at the helm.
Star Wars is the franchise that sets the bar for anticipation and therefore is probably the most prone to causing disappointments. I was excited to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, then disappointed by the end product which was an uninspired copy/paste clone of A New Hope. Rogue One was a film that generated a lot of excitement because of its anthological nature and being removed from the main Star Wars story. Something film fans are unaccustomed to. But then the finished film was released, stripped of all its potential by a studio afraid to take risks. The life of the film ultimately choked out by reshoots and a mandate to tidy up the narrative.
Even though I was disappointed by Rogue One, there was a far more savage crime which occurred: The complete and utter waste of Forest Whitaker. One of our most gifted actors cast in a role which seemed to have so much potential. Unfortunately, 90% of Whitaker’s part was whittled away in favor of speeding the story along. His presence in the film almost feels like a joke. Like Andy Garcia in the final scene of Passengers. You ask yourself “Why on Earth is this extremely talented actor given absolutely nothing to do?”
The mystery of what Saw Gerrera’s original story will be just another thing of cinematic ‘what might have been’. Like the original third act of World War Z, Eric Stoltz in Back to the Future or that version of Weekend at Bernie’s where they used an actual corpse.
Rogue One has many problems, but one of the biggest is Jyn Erso’s terrible story arc featuring two father figures that the audience never gets to know. It would be fine if we never really knew her real father because in the narrative Jyn doesn’t either. But to be raised by Saw Gerrera and never show any kind of bond between them or the years he spent training her feels like the most glaring omission in a movie that was all but neutered by reshoots and studio tinkering.
I mean, come on. This is Forest-fucking-Whitaker. The idea of teasing audiences with an awesome, batshit crazy character then delivering a flaccid five minutes of nonsense is a grievous error. The disappointment not only comes from the wasted potential of a strong character and a gifted talent, but from what we learn from those choices: There’s a formula here and Disney will lay waste to the original vision in order to see story beats achieved at the right times and embrace the warm safety of structure.
Yes, these are Star Wars films and there is a four quadrant mandate. But chopping a film with an axe so mightily and unforgivingly that we never get to know or understand Saw Gerrera is a Bantha sized disappointment.