SPOILERS ARE HERE *****************************************

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Well, that was a bummer.

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We all know the mission in Rogue One is successful and going into it you should suspect the fate of the characters. Is there a hot Latino captain in A New Hope? There is not. So the effectiveness of Rogue One depends on getting the audience to care about these people and making their deaths as meaningful as possible. On every level the film fails at that.

Jyn starts out well. As a child she sees the Empire’s forces murder her mother and take her father against his will. Solid backstory. When we see her as an adult she’s in custody for reason we never learn. The Rebels break her out but she wants nothing to do with them. Why, after seeing what she did as a child, did she become indifferent to the Empire? “Who cares?” is this film’s answer. Maybe we’re supposed to assume that she doesn’t care about anything except survival, but the movie doesn’t push that idea at all, which is a terrible mistake since she dies at the end for a cause she couldn’t give a shit about in the beginning, and that is supposed to be the big emotional crux of the film. Within the first few minutes the film has robbed us of understanding something central about Jyn and therefore the change she undergoes is not impactful. Her motivation does a 180 halfway through for reasons that don’t fit. Suddenly she’s lecturing the Alliance on the necessity of something she did not care about for the first half of the movie. This change is brought about by witnessing her father’s death and learning that his life’s work was creating the flaw in the Death Star that will allow the Rebels to destroy it. But Jyn doesn’t talk about how this was her father’s dying wish and that he risked his life every single day for 20 years to do this and that she’ll do whatever she has to do to honor that. She’s giving a big rousing speech about the importance of rebellion and hope and trying to get the Alliance on board with what she wants. But the Alliance are the ones who murdered her father. She does have this fight with Diego Luna immediately after her father dies, but it still makes no sense that she then goes to the council making big speeches about how important it is to stand up against the Empire. She’s fucking furious that the Alliance used her to get to her father and then suddenly she’s completely okay with working with them for reasons.

Cassian is obviously incredible because he is Diego Luna. The character has his own tragic past that we never get the full story on, but can basically guess, and he’s made moral compromises for the cause he believes in. I’d have liked more exploration of the toll that takes on him but mostly I was fine with everything not being spelled out in this case. However...

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There’s no chemistry between Jyn and Cassian. They don’t like each other, they fight about the fact that his actual mission was to murder her father, and then out of nowhere they’re making puppy dog eyes at each other. This is not Han and Leia bickering but underneath it there’s attraction and friendship and admiration that we’ve seen grow over the course of their time together. It’s SCENE: “You lied to me and used me to find my father so you could murder him.” Next SCENE: cue My Heart Will Go On. There’s a part where she thinks he’s dead and has no emotional reaction to it, nor does she have an emotional reaction when he turns out to not be dead. THESE PEOPLE DO NOT CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER WHY ARE THEY BEING FORCED TO PRETEND THEY DO?

Donnie Yen’s character is so underused I never even caught his name. He believes he’s a Jedi or at least believes he’s Force-sensitive, which exactly was unclear, and it’s unclear why he believes whatever it is he believes I don’t know what happened here I was so excited about Donnie Yen.

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Donnie Yen’s friend is a character even less developed than Donnie Yen. We know literally nothing about this character besides the fact that he’s Donnie Yen’s friend and shoots stormtroopers to protect him. Again this film gives no fucks for why, it just is, and we’re here to accept it and, I’m given to understand, write gay fanfic about it. I’m sure the gay fanfic is better than the script.

Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi is Finn-like in that he starts out working for the Empire and ends up with the Rebellion. We just have no idea why he choses to oppose the Empire. Jyn’s father sends him to deliver the message about the flaw in the Death Star, but why him? Once Bodhi is with the rebels is he there because he has no choice now or because he believes in the cause? WHO KNOWS? WHAT IS CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT? There’s also a scene where Forest Whitaker uses a truth goo monster on Bodhi to ascertain if he’s telling the truth about delivering this message. The goo monster supposedly has the side effect of making people lose their minds, and indeed we see a brief scene of Bodhi staring at a wall, not responding to the people talking to him. Then he snaps out of it and is fine for the rest of the film. Because character development, consistency, and sense of urgency and consequences were things this film decided it didn’t need.

There was no point to Forest Whitaker’s role in the movie. He’s there because they needed a reason for the Rebels to save Jyn from the Empire and that reason is that Forest Whitaker is too extreme for the Rebels but he was friends with Jyn’s father and helped raised her so she’s the only one he might talk to. This could have been good, seeing him again could have been one of the things that makes Jyn decide to join the Rebels, but this is another point the movie fails to hit. These two don’t feel like surrogate father/daughter or even like people who used to know each other. The relationship between them feels totally forced.

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As a team, the Rogue One group never coheres. They’re thrown together accidentally, never coming together to become a unit that trusts and cares for each other. When the planet Jeda (sp?) is destroyed, this would be an excellent opportunity for them to work together, save each other from danger, and for Donnie Yen and Donnie Yen’s friend to mourn the loss of what seemed to be their home planet. None of these things happen. They zip off the planet with no threat to the ship or passengers and no emotional fallout from what they’ve just witnessed. Oh well. Who needs to see them become allies and friends? Certainly that wouldn’t add to the payoff at the end when they all die fighting the Empire.

Alan Tudyk was cheeky as that robot. That part was good.

Darth Vader makes a pun. That part was bad.

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Ben Mendelsohn’s villain is rendered useless by the presence of Tarkin (Can we please not bring dead actors back to life with CGI? Let’s just not.) and Vader, whose legacies within the franchise squash whatever chance Mendelsohn had to make his mark on the film. His scene with Vader undercut his character completely, and there was no real reason to include it. We already know Vader is a scary mofo who uses The Force to freak the fuck out of his employees when they annoy him. It’s there for fans who want to see Vader do his thing. Either make him the primary villain again or allow the guy you hired to be the big bad of this film actually be the big bad.

Finally, most of the climactic moments in this movie involved people pushing levers. That should have been a clue to the filmmakers that something was wrong.

TL;DR this was the laziest story telling I have ever seen. It counts on the audience’s attachment to this franchise for all of it’s impact. The Force Awakens did an incredible job of creating fleshed out, lived in characters, who had instant, tangible rapport with each other. Rogue One is such a disappointment.

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What I will say for it is I’m glad it’s doing well because it infuriates MRAs and racists. Can you imagine living on this Earth, knowing people of numerous races and ethnicities exist on this one single planet, and then looking at a franchise about an entire galaxy and being like “There would only be white people.” Now I hope those actors go forth and make good movies.