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Rouge One - A Review Before Viewing
Here's a novel concept... Writing a review for a movie before actually seeing it. Of course, an actual review will be posted immediately after I see the film. That will be on Friday, the 16th. But I had some thoughts in my head that I wanted to get out before seeing it.
I did something similar to this once. Before The Force Awakens came out... I posted a rant about how I thought the movie was going to suck. It turns out I was wrong about that. In this case, I'm walking into the movie with optimism. And here is why...
They are going to tell the story correctly this time
And there you have it. That is pretty much the "too long, didn't read" version.
The rest of this article will explain what I mean by that. But in short, it actually appears that they will tell the story in the established universe without going nuts adding shit in or changing things we already have seen.
Does everyone remember the prequels?
Yeah, well, I do... I may be the only person (old-school Star Wars fan) that actually liked The Phantom Menace. I mean, I really did. And it wasn't just because I really, really wanted to like it (although I did). I thought it had some pretty cool stuff in it. You know, as long as you don't overthingk it. And can deal with the silliness of JarJar. However, even though I liked it, there were some things about it that bothered me.
I've heard so many people complain about their reasons for disliking the entire set of prequels. Usually their gripes boil down to over-use of special effects, bad acting, bad story telling, Jar Jar, Jake Lloyd, or just general "This was made to sell toys!!"
Those aren't the things that bothered me. Damned near every movie made nowadays suffers from some aspect of that stuff in some manner. What bothered me was how they hacked the original Star Wars story to death.
Right up at the top of the list was where they completely changed Obi-Wan and Anakin's backstory. And not just a little bit. Here is a refresher... Obi-Wan was a Jedi, trained by Yoda. At some point, he met Anakin, who was by all accounts, about Obi-Wan's age, and had established himself to be a really good pilot. Obi-Wan was so impressed by how strong he was with The Force, that he decided to train him as a Jedi. By himself. In his arrogance, he thought he could do it without doing something stupid like letting him slip and become a murderous asshole that would kill all the other Jedi.
In The Phantom Menace, we find out that none of that happened. Obi-Wan had a totally different teacher that we'd never heard of before. We also find out that The Force is not some magical, mystical force, but is in fact a by product of microscopic organisms. They are so powerful that they impregnated a woman without a man's help. And here we meet Anakin. A 9 year old boy, who is in fact not a pilot, but a pod racer. And Obi-Wan was not impressed with him at all. His teacher was. And the only reason he took on training Anakin was because his teacher made him promise to do so before he died.
But wait, there's more
You may not have heard the term canon. To save you some trouble reading a Wikipedia link, it is basically a means of saying that something is officially recognized as part of a fictional universe, even though it was not written by the original author.
George Lucas had held tight to that concept for all time. Any time a new novel, video game, or comic came out, it had to be approved. You could not produce something with the name Star Wars on it if it was not approved as canon.
If it was not canon, you could produce it. But no one would be the slightest bit interested in it being part of the larger story. So it's important to note how many novels, video games, and comics were written and accepted as canon that took place BEFORE Episode IV, A New Hope. People had taken essentially what I dictated above, and expanded on it. Brilliantly so. So the backstories were there. They were already written. And the makers of the prequels quite purposely poo-pooed on the whole lot of it.
One more thing
The next very bothersome thing about the prequels was the inclusion of technology that was way different (more advanced) than what we had seen before. It's one thing for the people making the Star Trek reboot pull a stunt like that. Because it's a reboot. But, this set of stories was NOT a reboot. They are supposed to be taking place many years before the stories we'd already seen where the level of technology was clearly established.
Now, keep in mind, when I was a Star Wars fan in the late 70's, the thing that stuck out most for me was the visuals, the space ships in particular. I mean, I know that the original stories dealt with a good bit of good vs evil Force users. And there was a bit of lightsaber fighting. But for me, it was all about space ships and dog fighting. Things blowing up spectacularly. So walking into the prequels, I wanted to see spaceships that predated X-wings and Tie Fighters. What we got was Droid Fighters and a few other misc. fighters that had some aspects of the fighters they supposedly led to. But, no reasonable stretch of the imagination can force that to make sense.
It was like they made the front of one ship look like the cockpit of a Tie Fighter just so people would go, "ok. That's familiar enough." And they literally jimmied a spot for R2 on the left wing because, well, there really is no reason other than, we all love R2.
How does this relate to Rouge One?
Simple. In the trailers we see 2 very important things: AT-ATs, and Xwings!! That alone says to me that they are actually sticking to some sort of reasonable timeline for how those pieces of machinery came into being.
Maybe one of the dumbest designs in terms of practical warfare, but they are just SO cool that no one really much cares.
It's not just about the spaceships. It's about the people too. It's about an actual story of a group of people coming together to fight a common foe. And they aren't using magic and lightsabers to do it. The original trilogy really was more about a small group fighting a gigantic evil against impossible odds. And that concept was more or less set aside in the prequels, in favor of lots and lots of CGI characters and lightsaber fights. They got that part of it right with The Force Awakens. But that's probably because it's pretty much a retelling of A New Hope anyway.
What I'm really trying to say here is that fans like myself have been upholding a serious expectation for filmmakers to give us a film that fans would be truly happy with. I think they did a far better job at that with The Force Awakes than they did with the entire prequel trilogy. But even that one suffered from the same sort of "Screw canon, and screw the fans. We'll do what we please." What we really need is a film that is made by fans. The group that made this film, it seems to me, are not LucasFilm and they are not Disney. They are a group of people that wanted to make the best fan film ever seen.
Do I know for a fact that this is the case here? No. I don't know anything other than what I've seen in the trailers. I've purposely been avoiding spoilers. But what I've seen so far appears to be exactly the sort of film a bunch of fans would come up with. A bunch of people sitting in a group going, "Yeah! That sounds like something I want to see!! And it's got to have AT-ATs!!"
Nothing about this film looks like it was made with the mindset of the people that made the prequels. It really appears to be something made for people like myself that have been waiting for the old-school movies to come back.
Check back after I see the film. We'll see how correct my predictions are...