Choppily edited throughout that I wonder how I’m supposed to enjoy it? Any of it? Get my drift? Rogue One is just like any other “Star Wars” movie except it having no rhythm in scene transitions, containing more gobbledygook dialogue than usual, featuring actors with bleak charisma, and set on spaceships that are hunks of junk that share no comparison to the one-time elegance of the Millennium Falcon. The worse franchise movies are when the producers try too hard, and here, to jack up bogus intrigue, the script jumps around from one planet to another, waylay to bartering posts, mining stations and militarized zones. It’s grimy and exasperating.
This is hyped as the prelude story that is supposed to go into why the Death Star in the 1977 “Star Wars” had a weak point – a defective reactor that could be exploited. There is a difference between how and why, but regardless, the answer to that comes halfway through in “Rogue One” and it’s something I could have guessed without seeing it.
Felicity Jones plays a freedom fighter for the rebellion named Jyn whose father (Mads Mikkelson, not much to his performance) was stripped away from her and forced to work for the Dark Side as a genius engineer. I’ve seen Jones impressively enough in a lot of mature work (“Like Crazy,” “Breathe”), but she’s a glum sourpuss here, although, she gets one great gung ho monologue about fighting back against the Dark Side because to refuse to do so would be an act of submission across the galaxy.
After a mostly muddy visual affair, the last half hour feels like a totally different and better movie. Jones and Diego Luna, plus a chatty droid with boxing skills, have found themselves on a very blue water planet to raid an evil fortress that holds the Death Star blueprints. The adversary is the effectively sneering Ben Mendelsohn, whose Orson Krennic character was the one responsible for abducting Jyn’s father many years ago. An analog battle with whooshing star fighters takes place above the planet, and while the strategy is sometimes murky, shooting or deliberately colliding with the Dark Side ships that are half-surrounded by a force field, it’s at least visually stimulating.
The one flawlessly directed scene by Gareth Edwards (whose first film was the lyrical “Monsters” in 2010, and yes, if you haven’t seen it, it’s lyrical and not for a moment chop-chop), is a final scene with Darth Vader as he effortlessly slays a series of Rebellion fighters – it’s Vader at his most ruthlessly monstrous.
133 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
SCI-FI & FANTASY / ACTION FANS / BLOCKBUSTER WEEKEND CROWDS
Film Cousins: “Star Wars” (1977); “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” (1999); “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” (2005); “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015).