This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Flo Lieb’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
If someone were to put a gun to my head and make me decide to either rewatch the Ghostbusters reboot or Rogue One I'd probably say "just pull the trigger".
This is The Force Awakens all over again, all the bad and the ugly with nothing good close in sight. In a way it's even worse.
I will never understand why Disney felt they needed to tell this story. There is no point to it. Everyone already knows how Rogue One will end before they even see it. Their mission – steal the blueprint/plans for the Death Star – will succeed. And everyone will die. That is not a spoiler, it can't be a spoiler. Every character in this movie that you don't know from the original trilogy has to perish since otherwise you would've have seen or at least heard of him (or her) in the original movies.
But even as unnecessary as Rogue One is I still believed that you could tell an interesting story and something that is different from the other Star Wars movies. As it turns out instead they just went and made another Star Wars movie. You could've told a kind of heist-thriller with a group of people infiltrating the Death Star or some Empire base and stealthily trying to escape. So the Empire doesn't even know you were there and copied the blueprints. Which is not what happens here, making the Empire look even more stupid in Star Wars. Why not make it kind of like the rescue mission in the original film when Luke and Han freed Leia? Why did the movie have to turn into another Marvel superhero blockbuster in the last act? Complete with aerial battles and airships crashing from the sky? Why does this movie have to feature so much explosions and destruction? Why do we have to see the Death Star blow up a city not once but twice?
The climax of Rogue One is essentially the climax of The Force Awakens which itself is essentially the climax of Return of the Jedi which itself is essentially the climax of Star Wars. They are all the same fucking climax since they all revolve around blowing up a Death Star. This franchise contains eight movies now and four of them are concerned with the destruction of the same bloody doomsday device. That is 50% of Star Wars movies revolving around the same plot! It is kind of ironic that 3 out of the 4 films that don't have to do with heroes trying to blow up a Death Star are the prequels. The ones everyone hates. So what made Star Wars great again was simply turning the plot back around to the characters trying to destroy a doomsday device.
But Rogue One not only borrows the premise of the movies before it, we also get the same visuals and set up. Gareth Edwards replicates scenes from the original movies rather than coming up with scenes of his own. This is the ultimate pandering movie: this shot looks like Luke in the Vader scene from Empire Strikes Back, this shot looks like the rebel attack during the last act of Return of the Jedi, this shot looks like this, that shot looks like that. But it doesn't stop there we also have to endure side characters which are shoehorned in. Look, it's those guys from the cantina scene in Star Wars! Look, it's that chick who ran the rebel alliance in Star Wars! Look, it's Darth Vader! Look, the dude who was in charge of the Death Star in Star Wars!
I don't know what is more horrible, the look of Vader in this film, the performance of Forest Whitaker or the horrible CGI resurrection of the poor late Peter Cushing as Grand Moff Tarkin. It probably is the CGI human character. Yes, a CGI human character. I don't see why you need Tarkin in this movie. There are so many ways to tell the same story around Tarkin. Make Krennic the top dog, he dies anyway so we can just assume Tarkin took over the project. And if you have to have him in the movie than use him sporadically and not all the time if he looks that bad. Have him call in with a hologram phone call to check on Krennic. This would also help you to disguise your shoddy CGI portrayal of Peter Cushing. "Krennic, how is the project coming along?" – "Well, so-so" – "Get on top of that shit, Krennic. Or Lord Vader will pay you a visit and you won't like that" Krennic gulps just thinking about that. There you go, that shit writes itself.
Speak of the devil, Vader doesn't have to be in this movie as well. Neither does Mon Mothma. Or Leia. These are all characters you could simply reference – just like you did with Obi-Wan here – without showing them played by computer generated images or lookalike actresses. I was counting on seeing Nien Nunb any moment but he didn't show up. Seemingly this is where Disney drew the line. Go figure.
The plot of this film – besides the premise – is borderline idiotic. There are so many stupid scenes, again resulting from unnecessary approaches to telling the story. For some reason Rogue One lifts the skirt of the big question why the Empire build the Death Star with a air chute that when you shoot into it will make the thing blow up. Was that really a pressing question during the last 40 years? I mean if I shoot at the fuel tank of a car it will explode too, it is not some overlooked fault in the machinery, you just can't make that shit perfect. If a bird flies in the turbine of a plane the whole thing can go down. That's just how it is not because the technicians wanted to leave a back-door in case you want to destroy it. Geez.
So Mads Mikkelsen's character built the Death Star and laid a trap in it so you could blow it up. The rebel alliance has to know about this so he is recording a message for them or his daughter respectively. He says "I built the thing, you can blow it up, go find the blueprint". He could've just told his daughter HOW to blow it up, but he went for telling her to check the blueprint. It is like telling someone how much money you have in your wallet but not simply telling them the number but instead where they can find the wallet to look for themselves how much it is. So the daughter tells the alliance where the plans are and the alliance decides it is a suicide mission and therefore does not pursue it. Until the moment when they find out Jyn Erso just went by herself with a dozen people. And then suddenly the alliance mobilizes its fleet. "We are not doing this!" – "The girl went by herself" – "Alright, everybody buckle up!" This is what happens, I kid you not.
As bland as the story is the characters fare even worse. They are one-dimensional lifeless cardboard figures. The blind Chinese dude who mutters the same line over and over again like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. Another Chinese dude whose sole characteristic is that he carries a big laser gun (probably so they can sell his toy figure). Riz Ahmed is playing a defected pilot – and that is it. There is nothing more to the character. We don't even get to know why he defected. At least in The Force Awakens we see Finn on a mission, watching people getting killed and his Storm Trooper comrades too. He didn't sign up for this, so he runs. And since he needs a pilot to escape he frees Poe Dameron and gets entangled in the bigger plot. With Bodhi Rook we get nothing. Diego Luna plays an assassin for the alliance who sort of has a hard time dealing with killing Storm Troopers. He can't bare it, it eats him up. Han never had those issues but Han is Han and just way cooler than anyone in this movie. At least Cassian decides not to kill Jyn's daddy – but the alliance does. As a consequence of this Jyn is pissed at Cassian – but not at the alliance. It is a hilarious scene when she stands in the midst of the people who killed her father and doesn't even tut them for it. No emotional scene, no accusing. Water under the bridge I guess.
There is a big scene with Forest Whitaker's character where it is implied he and Jyn have personal history. We don't get to see that so it is basically like the scene in Attack of the Clones where Obi-Wan and Anakin were making remarks about their adventures to imply they have a friendship and bond. Maybe Jyn and Saw have that also. Maybe I just have to watch those cartoon shows about Clone Wars and Rebels but in this movie it doesn't exist and therefore doesn't work. The same can be said about the tone which is totally off, mixing dark and serious with optimism (you would not believe how often the characters vomit out the word "hope" simply to remind you that the "next" movie, formerly know as Star Wars, is subtitled A New Hope) and light humor. The latter thanks to the obligatory Star Wars droid comic relief who is basically a slave here and portrayed to be as sincere and sarcastic as the robot in Interstellar. R2 and C-3PO show up, too, for no real reason except further pandering.
Honestly, there is so much pandering in this movie it is exhausting. From the comic relief droid who hacks the Empire computer system in the finale to the by now overused line of someone having a bad feeling about this (they butchered that line like Arnold did his "I'll be back" quote) and even if they don't have Nien Nunb or Admiral Ackbar in the final space battle they have another goddamn Mon Calamari (or fish alien) who is in charge of one of the ships! They couldn't come up with another Star Wars alien instead and probably couldn't use Ackbar himself since most of the characters in the climax die. There's even more pandering than that, it really is enough to make you weep.
This review is already longer than I wanted it to be. I could go on further why Rogue One is such a bad film. Probably not by itself, it could be okay-ish if it was the only Star Wars movie that exists but as a Star Wars story (and it carries that even in its title) it is just abysmal. The saddest thing about The Force Awakens and Rogue One is not how terrible those movies are. It's that they could've been actually good if you would try to tell some original stories with them rather than regurgitating the same story over and over again, copying the iconographic moments from the original movie and getting lost in generic action blockbuster tropes. Shit on the prequels as much as you want at least they tried something different.
Alas, I guess we have to watch the characters in Episode VIII again try to destroy a Death Star, finishing that story in a big bombastic aerial battle like Age of Ultron, The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Trek Into Darkness, etc.
May God have mercy on our souls.