“Rogue One,” the first of the Star Wars anthology films, was released on home video earlier this month after a successful run in theaters worldwide that brought in more than $1 billion. Overall reviews from fans and critics were positive and confirmed that Disney is on the right track in its mission to bring “a new hope” to a certain galaxy far, far away. Yet now that several months have passed and the hype has died down, how well does the film hold up?
As a dutiful Star Wars fan, I pre-ordered my copy of “Rogue One” as soon as I could. 😉 I was excited to watch the movie again at home and see how well it worked on the small screen. While big-budget epics like the Star Wars movies are always going to be the best on a huge screen at the theater, it’s still very enjoyable at home. There’s some really beautiful cinematography in this film, and it smoothly integrates actual locations with CGI effects. One of the biggest problems fans had with the Star Wars prequels was the over-use of CGI; the special effects were dazzling but the locations felt too artificial. The use of real sets in “Rogue One” (and “The Force Awakens”) helps these newer Star Wars films to feel more grounded.
After my home re-watch, I love “Rogue One” just as much as when I saw it in theaters back in December. I didn’t get quite the same adrenaline rush during the final battle, because I already knew what was going to happen, but that allowed me to focus on some other aspects of the film.
One of the common criticisms I have heard about “Rogue One” is that it didn’t have enough character development. However, after watching it again, I’m actually fine with the amount of character development we got. “Rogue One” really is more of a war film than a space opera, and it’s not an epic about heroes fulfilling their destiny. It’s about a group of ordinary soldiers without remarkable back stories who are thrown together (somewhat unwillingly) by circumstances beyond their control. Dwelling too much on their lives before they joined the Rebellion would have altered the feel and pace of the movie.
Fans have been theorizing about the film’s much-publicized reshoots, and of course the scenes from the trailers that never made it into the final film. It’s hard not to wonder “what if” and ponder what kind of film “Rogue One” might have been before those reshoots. Ultimately, I’m happy with what we got, especially after viewing the film several more times. Although the shots of Jyn and crew running across the beach and Director Krennic surveying the burning aftermath of the Scarif battle are really cool to look at, I think the ending is pretty much perfect. ***Spoiler alert!*** Krennic being destroyed by a blast from his own creative obsession, the Death Star, packs more of a narrative punch than him surveying the aftermath of the battle. The final scene of Jyn and Cassian sitting on the beach, watching the wave of destruction come towards them, also is a very emotionally powerful scene. ***End spoiler!***
The movie’s soundtrack has also really grown on me since first watching the film. I didn’t notice the music at all during my first viewing in the theater. But after purchasing the soundtrack and re-watching the film, I noticed it a lot more. Due to some scheduling snafus, film composer Michael Giacchino only had about a month to write the music for “Rogue One.” While I’ll always wonder what he could have accomplished with the score if he had been given more time, he was able to create some really lovely and emotional themes for the movie (my favorite is “Jyn Erso and Hope Suite” from the soundtrack album).
Finally, if you really loved the movie and want to hear an expanded story, I highly recommend the film novelization by Alexander Freed. So far, I’ve had mixed feelings about the new batch of Star Wars books now that the old Expanded Universe is non-canon, but this one is a must read.