I could end this review simply stating: everything The Last Jedi does wrong, Rogue One gets right. I mean, it’s no secret that I gave The Last Jedi a banana peel in my mini review (and if it is, *surprise*, even if that was in no way surprising). Also unsurprisingly, I don’t want to spend all my precious time dwelling on a movie I didn’t like- buuut the thing is when I was watching Rogue One I couldn’t stop comparing the two movies. Because in every area that TLJ was deficient, Rogue One restored my faith in Star Wars (well, in the sense that I’ll happily go back and watch the originals, at this stage I’ll pay money not to see the new ones 😉).
Let’s start with the fact that Rogue One MIRACULOUSLY had compelling characters. I know, what a *crazy, out-there concept*. Somehow, the writers figured out that giving Jin a solid backstory and reasons for doing things would actually make me care about her 😉. One of the most frustrating things about TLJ is that it could’ve been half decent- if they hadn’t forgotten to fill us in on all the whys and wherefores and skipped straight to “subverting expectations”. In order for that to even work, you’ve got to start with the basics building blocks of characterisation. You’ve got to give them motivations and fixed personality traits. I mean, it’s the bare minimum expectation when it comes to stories: it should all make sense internally. Sadly, in TLJ characters acted with so much inconsistency it made my head spin. Doing this for Rogue One made for a far more satisfying adventure.
Funnily enough, this movie also recognised the need for characters to have different roles, making them fulfil different purposes in the story. Putting my sarcasm aside- I have to *explode with rage* for a second that in both Force Awakens and TLJ this wasn’t seen as a crucial part of storytelling, cos Rey had to kick-all-the-butts. Making Rey *all the characters* is the perfect way to create a Mary Sue- and a good way to alienate a large proportion of your audience. Far more entertaining is to do what Rogue One did: have a pilot, a rogue, a fighter and a sort of jedi. All of whom bounced off each other dramatically and organically grew together. Wowee, the main characters actually get character arcs and it works!
Paying close attention character development is the least of it though. Not only does Rogue One avoid all the little flaws that made TLJ so unbearable, it also managed to create an interesting narrative. There’s actual tension and real conflict- and not just “because the plot demands it”. There’s none of that contrived drama where the commander and subordinate bicker constantly over the need to have a plan vs let’s just wing it (JK I secretly have a plan all along). Add some genuinely *scary* villains to counterbalance the hero’s aims and you have a plot! Together with real stakes and a moving conclusion, you have an actual movie. The sole downside of Rogue One is that (obviously) if you know the original trilogy, you will guess every plot point before it happens. That said, I was predictably a blubbering mess by the end, so clearly the sense of inevitability doesn’t get in the way of its tragic delivery. If anything, it only heightened my foreboding (I would like to do an experiment and show this to someone that’s never seen Star Wars before though- I reckon it would destroy them emotionally *evil laughs*).
After seeing Rogue One, I can understand why fans are divided about these movies. Rogue One fans just wanted to see a well-structured story with fun characterisation; TLJ folk wanted something totally different. And I get that. But I would argue, Rogue One did it better, even in this regard. Yes, Rogue One is standard sci fi fare… and yet, it’s also moving, visually stunning and had a bold ending. Relying on strong storytelling principles, I was transported to a galaxy far, far away. And that tragic twist meant the story not only played the game, but did something out of this world. That’s why there’s a clear winner here. I hereby take my banana peel for The Last Jedi…
And raise it 5 bananas…
With that, all that’s left to say is: May the Fourth Be With You!
So, have you seen either of these movies? What did you think of them? Did you have a preference? Let me know in the comments!