Tag Archives: Science Fiction

Rogue One: The Best Thing Since The Empire Strikes Back

Rogue One theatrical release poster, wikipedia commons

Like the movie-slacker I am, I waited until Christmas Day to go see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story because I don’t care much for long lines and crowded movie theaters.

I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I saw Episode IV: A New Hope in the theater on its first run. I was three years old.  Like a lot of old school Star Wars fans, I loved A New Hope (which we always just called Star Wars), and found The Empire Strikes Back to be an even better movie. Return of the Jedi was not as good as the others, but provided us with the answers and closure we needed.




Then sixteen years later the prequels happened and my confidence in the franchise was shaken.  After this and Lucas selling the rights to Disney, I was skeptical about Episode VII: The Force Awakens, but it turned out to be a pretty decent reboot from George Lucas’ blunders with episodes I, II, and III.  Then with the announcement of Rogue One, I was certainly full of anticipation but was careful not to have too high expectations.

Well, any concerns I had about the quality of this movie were thoroughly assuaged. Rogue One is a brilliant addition to the Star Wars franchise.

 

It’s Star Wars

Rogue One is a Star Wars story. Unlike the prequels which barely resembled the Star Wars we old-schoolers know and love, and even The Force Awakens to some degree, Rogue One is built from the ground up with the imagery, style and elements of the original trilogy.  There are enough Easter eggs and callbacks to the previous films to plant it firmly in the classic Star Wars universe, but done effectively in a manner that didn’t appear cheap or uninspired.  Rogue One was more Star Wars than I have seen in years.

 

It’s a War Movie

Rogue One is a war movie to its core.  There’s not a lot of mucking about with deep philosophical themes, political intrigue, romance, or building big mysteries to be revealed in later installments. In fact it resolves some questions we had about aspects of the storyline of A New Hope instead.  It’s darker, grittier and more violent than any of those that have come before it.  The ground combat scenes are as intense as those in classic war films such as The Thin Red Line, or Full Metal Jacket.  The space battle scenes are some of the most epic and action-packed of any of the films.

 

A Troubled Alliance

I think a lot of times in the past movies it seemed like the Rebel Alliance was a wholly unified and cooperative effort of revolutionaries with only the galaxy’s best interests at heart.  In Rogue One we get to see a more nuanced rebellion, a complex network of disenfranchised and dysfunctional systems.  We get to see a diverse range of Rebels from senators like Mon Mothma, to radical guerilla fighters, spies of questionable morals, and former imperials.




Darth Vader

The impact of seeing Darth Vader in action again is a quality of the film that can’t be overstated. He doesn’t play a huge role in the story, but it’s a significant one that really makes an impression and builds upon the menacing character we got to know in the original trilogy.

 

A Deeper Perspective on “A New Hope”

Rogue One takes place over a matter of a few days leading up to the opening scene of “A New Hope.” Multiple loose ends are tied and questions answered that had always lingered from the original story.  Perhaps most significantly, the two movies fit together more fluidly than any of the prequels or the original trilogy, or most sequels of any movies.  They almost seem like two acts of the same very long movie.  It’s hard to walk out of Rogue One and not feel compelled to rewatch A New Hope shortly afterward.

 

Cons

No movie is flawless and I’m not such a Star Wars fan boy to not admit flaws when they are present. There are a few criticisms worth mentioning.  To begin with the first thirty minutes or so of the movie is a little too fast-paced with scenes jumping around so much that it seems disjointed.  Fortunately this a rectified and everything becomes clear in the later acts of the film.  While Vader’s scenes are dynamic and dramatic, his suit looks a little off.  The chain that holds his cape around his neck in all the other movies is absent and his helmet doesn’t seem to fit properly as the neckline sticks out in front of the chest plate too much.  It’s a bit distracting and seems inauthentic but it’s the rest of Vader’s scenes are so great it hardly matters.  Michael Giacchino’s musical score isn’t quite up to par with John Williams’ masterpieces in the previous films, but it doesn’t detract from the movie in the least.

 

In many ways Rogue One is the Star Wars movie I have always wanted, but I got the Skywalker prequels instead.  Rogue One is well out of the league of the prequels.  It’s more intense than The Force Awakens, and a better all-around production than Return of the Jedi.  To me, it’s the best movie since The Empire Strikes Back.




The Walking Dead – More than Just Zombies

Honestly, I don’t care much for zombies or zombie movies. I’ve always found them to be a little juvenile. Most Zombie films always seem like a trite rip-off of Night of the Living Dead. Well, AMC’s series The Walking Dead, although not particularly original in its title is anything but a generic zombie story.  Actually, I think it’s pretty damned good.




In the interest of full disclosure, I only began watching the show halfway through the second season and I never read the comic book series off of which it is based.  I was aware of the show, but as I said I don’t care much for zombies, and I figured it was just a long drawn-out rehashing of that god-awful movie 28 Days Later.  One night however, I was bored and decided to give it viewing.  I was hooked from the very first episode I watched. After that, I made it a mission to backtrack and catch up with all the episodes I had missed.

While I don’t like zombies (can I say that enough?), I have always been a fan of post-apocalyptic themes.  There is just something that fascinates me about a devastated world, sparsely populated with rag-tag bands of survivalists fighting to reestablish some sense of civilization, fighting against roving gangs of marauders, monsters or aliens … whatever, in an increasingly neo-tribal, neo-medieval environment – and THAT is what The Walking Dead does right – so much that the zombies don’t even bother me.

The characters in The Walking Dead are very well developed, and the social dynamics of the main band of survivors are intense and believable. There is everything from sexual dynamics, racial tension, and marital problems. It is filled with action, adventure, drama, a bit of romance (but not too much mushy stuff), tragedy and just the right amount of gore without going overboard.  There is not a flat or one-dimensional character in the series, at least not one that sticks around for very long. And that could serve as a warning to new viewers – be careful which characters you get attached to. They might not last very long.




The story basically follows Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia, whom after being shot in the line of duty wakes up in a hospital to a world populated by the cannibalistic living dead. He hooks up with a band of survivors, reuniting with his wife and son, and eventually finds himself thrust into a precarious leadership position. He begins the series as a down-home, mild-mannered, all-American family man. Then after many months of fighting zombies, marauders, back-stabbers, and watching his friends and loved-ones killed and “turned,” he begins to descend into a rather dark place. Even he is disturbed by his transformation.

The Walking Dead is a great series. In the end however, it is not about the zombies.  It’s really about people, humanity, love and cooperation.  It’s about being pushed to the breaking point and keeping it together. After society has completely broken down what’s important is more than just mere survival. It’s about finding a sense of meaning in a world of chaos. It’s about creating normalcy in an environment that is anything but normal. Each episode leaves you eagerly awaiting the next. And me personally, it leaves me pondering: “How would I have handled that?”