I have had a weird time talking about Rogue One with people. Either they are so firmly decided that the movie was amazing and could do no wrong or they think that it was terrible and a disgrace for the Star Wars series as a whole. However, I assume there are a small few of us that liked the movie but by the end felt kind of unenthused about the whole thing. I will attempt to explain why I personally did not like the movie that much. To preface, I will say that it wasn’t a bad movie. It was a perfectly functional Star Wars movie and I didn’t leave saying “Wow, that was a bad movie.” It simply wasn’t the golden goose that everyone is hailing it to be.
I will knock out the thing that everyone largely agrees on first: the Kyber Crystal was weirdly not used at all. Rogue One put a fairly heavy emphasis on the Kyber Crystal that Jyn Urso was given by her mother, and was never really brought up again except to shoe-horn in Chirrut Îmwe, the Kyber monk, as a character. I kept thinking that Jyn would be at least a little force sensitive, in the same way that Han or Leia were. Yet, it never materialized and the Kyber Crystal was dropped as a plot point. Maybe I just wanted it to play a larger role, especially in relation to Îmwe, but the Kyber crystal necklace was under-used. In fact, I wanted Îmwe, at the very end of the movie during his death march, to grab the crystal, click It into his staff, and start deflecting lasers left and right. I would have been able to suspend my disbelief that his staff was actually an active light saber missing a Kyber crystal rather than have myself believe that a squadron of elite combat units would miss a man walking into an active fire zone. That would have been an awesome moment that would have resonated rather than a slow walk while praying his same prayer he states over-and-over again. This brings me to my problems with the character of Chirrut Îmwe, the single most heavy handed character in Rogue One. His depiction of the Force is so contrary to the rest of the universe that I didn’t really understand him as a character. He treated the Force as a fanatic and prayed to it like a god, while in almost all other depictions of the Force in the other movies this is not the case. I understand that he was a monk guarding the essential center of the Jedi world but he was so overt that I hardly ever felt like he had a genuine faith in the Force. He almost seemed like he was trying to put on a show for the rest of the group in order to really show the audience “Hey, I’m super into the Force.” After Rogue One I went and watched Episode VII again, and I was blown away by the difference in the Force, especially in the character of Maz Kanata, the alien woman with the large eye glasses. From watching her you could tell she was in tune with the Force on a different level, and not one time did she say “I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.” She described the Force as an energy that flows through every living being and connects everything and you know what? She believed it. That was the difference that really struck me, Îmwe just seemed so fake in his belief of the Force to the contrary of almost every other figure in the Star Wars universe, especially a person so close to the Jedi way of life.
I think that was my largest problem that all the other problems stem from: I couldn’t bring myself to suspend my disbelief. Galen Urso was such an obvious candidate to sabotage the Death Star, it’s a wonder that no one caught him beforehand. I feel as though the Empire would have some type of re-education program designed for defectors that were too valuable to let go of. It seemed as though Orson Krennic got Galen back and went “Yep! He is 100% back to normal, no need to look into this any further” and then just got up and left Galen to go his merry way. I never believed that Galen wanted to come back to the empire in any fashion, even 20 years down the road when you see him again before his death. Galen should have just went “Well, I guess I have to go back, but I’ll destroy it all by being the most loyal engineer that the Empire has ever seen so as to not attract suspicion.” Then when he meets Jyn for the last time he could tell her the secret that he has had to do terrible things in order to save the galaxy. This would have made Galen a much more believable character rather than what was presented. Lastly, it should be mentioned that there was no villain in this movie other than the Empire as a whole. Now, before you go furiously typing (if you haven’t already) “but Krennic was the villain!” hear me out. He was most definitely not the villain, Krennic just ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time about 5 separate times. The Rebellion was never really in danger by Krennic, he was just trying to save his own skin and because of that mentality I was never scared of him as a threat. He was overshadowed by the power of characters such as Darth Vader and Grand Moff Tarkin, the commander of the Death Star in Episode IV: A New Hope. I feel like Darth Vader also should have made a better appearance than he did.
He essentially was presented as fan-service for all of the fans of the series but served no real purpose. I would have loved to see him personally assault a ship or a planet and just tear people to shreds. In episodes 4, 5, and 6 everyone is scared of him because he has such a reputation as an evil character. However, the original Star Wars movies never explored this and unfortunately neither did Rogue One. We have never seen Vader be an actual viable threat to anyone: he ends up grand standing and announcing his relation to Luke more often than actually being scary. When they first showed him in the tank, I would have loved to see him a broken man- a man who could barely move, was in a constant state of pain, and who channeled this pain just to keep himself moving. He could have been a shell of a man and then suddenly, through the Force, could have given himself vigor and life. He should have been able to breathe the Force as if it were oxygen, because in the same way it was keeping him alive. This would have given the following three movies a much different approach to Vader. When we are introduced to him in Episode IV, instead of seeing a monster in a black suit, we can empathize with this creature just trying to hold onto something, in Vader’s case, power. It would also make him seem more like the puppet of the Emporer he truly is in the final three movies instead of the autonomous bad guy in the black suit we know him as. Rogue One had so many opportunities to develop characters (in better ways than Lucas did in the prequels), but broadened its scope too much and could not handle 15 backstories in two hours. In lieu of making Vader the main villian (which would have been appropriate considering he’s the main villian in the proceeding movies), Krennic was so comparatively small-potatoes that he never really seemed like a viable threat to anyone but himself. I felt like he was too personal to be a big looming threat, but too skiddish and unplanned to really be a threat to the Rebellion. However, the one purpose he did serve perfectly was to be the fodder that was thrown at the protagonists for dramatic tension at the very end of the movie. He, like the rest of this movie didn’t *quite* fit together. It felt like a puzzle that had one small piece missing- you can still tell what the image is without it, but if the piece was there it would be complete. However, Rogue One seemed to be the puzzle piece that *just* didn’t fit. Sure, you can probably force the piece into the puzzle but it only serves to color 1/100th of the puzzle that, on closer inspection, wasn’t really missing any detail after all.