Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ★★

For years, Hollywood and the surrounding Culture Wars have asked a question: Do Critics Matter? It's a frankly boring question, but the main anxiety has developed out of a growing disconnect between Rotten Tomatoes Favorites and the American Box Office. But Disney and their expanding intellectual properties have put a new spin on this story: critics don't matter, but studios deliberately position / design films to harness their words in order to enter The Cultural Conversation. Their movies are no longer meant to be experienced; only consumed in order to generate more content. Whether this translates to dollars (especially abroad), I'm less sure. But I am sure of one thing: reviews of Rogue One are designed to write themselves.

Rogue One is different, you see. This is because there is no opening crawl, and the story jumps quickly into the action without much exposition. It's an all new story with original characters, taking place on worlds we've never seen before. Most importantly: it is a war movie (the way Ant-Man is a heist movie and Guardians of the Galaxy is "weird"), with a darker visual palette and more handheld camera work (note that DP Greig Fraser shot Zero Dark Thirty and cite his mentions of the influence of Saving Private Ryan). The effects and combat look more realistic than ever (insert an Arri Alexa reference for tech geeks). The director Gareth Edwards previously made Godzilla, which was a film that had a sense of scale, and this movie has a sense of scale by taking place from the ground, and thus it is intimate with its characters. The cast is very diverse, from its Strong Female Protagonist to stars from Mexico and China, not to mention an African American and a Pakistani British national. There is a sardonically funny robot, who is sardonically funny. If fans missed not having a big space fight in The Force Awakens, They Will Not Be Disappointed. And while it might not look and act like a Star Wars movie, there is plenty of fan service to go around. But This Is A Movie About Representing Our Current Political Moment, And Thus More Relevant Than Ever. [ed. the publicist notes while you should not spoil the movie, you should mention if you cried.]

Vadim Rizov called for better criticism with regards to blockbusters, echoing J. Hoberman's call to treat such major culture industry investments as found objects. Sometimes, blockbusters hand you their weird odds and ends—thanks, Transformers. But in their ever growing quest for domination through intellectual property and synergy, Disney is scrubbing away miscellanea to give writers / bloggers / explainers the least required effort to essentially repackage their press releases. Critics Don't Matter, but with Rogue One, what is there to discuss that is not what Disney already wants you to write about? Resistance is futile.

Peter liked this review