Friday 16 December 2016

#177 The force is strong with this one

"Is the dark side stronger?" "No! No. No. Quicker. Easier. More seductive."

Seduced, I was. Jyn Erso has all the trademark repressed seuxality of a true rebel leader but being noticeably more wide-eyed than the cold and scowling Rey, not to mention better dressed and endowed with something vaguely resembling a personality, our latest heroine is much more watchable over the two hours and thirteen minutes. This alone might be enough to make for some tough decisions between Rogue and Episode 7 when reaching for a DVD or let's be honest, a Putlocker link.

The visuals have come a long way since that Super Star Destroyer crashed into the Death Star and I'm not even talking about Tarkin, who probably deserves a paragraph of his own but might not get one because, well, he's a mean old bastard dagnabbit. The ships, shadows and scenery all compliment each other delightfully and the empire's flashy crib on what looks like the Dubai Palm Island was an ideal backdrop for some Apocalypse Now style jungle warfare, which nicely broke up the typical switch between sandy planet and grey spaceship.

Tarkin's colleague Director Krennic does a good job of leaving us wondering what kind of outburst or act of cruelty will pour out of him next. He's dastardly to the point of unprofessional, which irritates me. Still, he sets Vader up nicely, now that old Ani has matured from an impulsive and whiny Jedi into a more refined and graceful leader, no longer so torn between dark and light.

Less of a children's movie, Rogue One does have an annoying droid in it but he's so much less annoying than 3PO that he deserves some credit. I can understand why they left out R2. He might've overshadowed the appearance of another character. It seems possible that Wedge could've made it into the credits but I didn't miss him. The film is positively peppered with tiny salutes to the original trilogy, from the black-helmeted guys whose job is to stand surprisingly close to a planet-destroying laser, to their white-helmeted and equally useless plane-spotting rebel equivalents.

We get it. Asian people are all fighting monks. Are they really though? Putting another Asian dude with a large gun right next to the force-enabled mystic seemed to me a too obvious way of trying to offset a stereotype that needn't have been there in the first place. By all means use diversity in the movie but in a galaxy so far away and such a long time ago, does an Asian have to be cast as a spiritually-inclined martial artist?

One thing that Chirrut does achieve is to spew out a few religious remarks here and there. He's no Master Yoda but his words help to remind us that the rebellion's losses and casualties, while deeply painful and tragic at a personal level, are part of the natural development of a beautiful story. A comparable earthly example might be how the millions and millions of little chickens that humankind guiltlessly slaughters each year end up tasting inescapably marvellous once fried and smothered by the Colonel's secret recipe or drizzled with Peri-Peri. 

There's not much that the fans won't sit through for ten seconds of ATAT walking but I was entertained the whole way through this picture. As far as I'm concerned, it holds its own among the existing films and paves the way for some even more niche movies including the adventures of the rogue squadron itself or the antics of a younger Han Solo. With Disney bankrolling the franchise, armed with the ability to digitally re-animate key characters, it does indeed seem that the force might be with us, always.