So, back while everyone was awaiting Star Wars Episode 7 with baited breath, I wrote a post called “Let’s Talk Star Wars” in which I ranked the first six Star Wars movies in order of my enjoyment of them.
So now that Disney has put out three new Star Wars films, two of which are continuing the main story, how do they stack up? Let’s take a look.
First up: Rogue One. I’m starting with this one because it is a standalone film. I only saw it once in theaters, so bear with me. I don’t dislike this film. It actually had a very strong “Star Wars” feel to it. The CGI faces of Tarkin and Leia were disturbing. As for Leia, they should have not shown her face at all; we all saw the woman clad in white with the signature hair buns from behind, so we knew who she was. Also, the Mon Calamari dude who was not Ackbar looked funny; maybe they should have gone with a practical effect for this alien instead of CGI, like the original Ackbar was. Anyway, the characters in this film were not wholly memorable. I don’t think I could name any of them outside of saying “The Girl”, “The Droid”, “The Rebel Dude”, “The Pilot”, “The Blind Asian Dude played by Ip Man”, and “Ip Man’s Friend”. Were there other main characters? I don’t know. They all died, so I didn’t bother to remember. Anyway, most of the characters were fairly bland and generic; the only ones that stuck out to me were Blind Asian Dude and The Droid. Especially The Droid. When BB-8 was mega hyped for Ep. 7, and turned out to be a let down, The Droid from Rogue One reminded me that droids with unique personalities (that weren’t R2-D2 or C-3PO) were still out there. It also reminded me why Ep. 7 was so… blah. At any rate, this movie was still fun but not perfect. I would rank it as better than Ep. 1.
Speaking of Ep. 7, The Force Awakens, it was very much a blah film. Let me be clear, I saw it three times in theaters, twice ALONE, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. But outside of the theater? I have felt no compulsion to watch it again. The film was technically good, essentially a rehashing of Ep. 4 (my all time favorite). The new main characters weren’t very well developed during the film, and the character of Rey kind of got on my nerves after a while, mostly because she just so happened to be good at everything and bad at nothing. I really wasn’t given a reason to care about these characters. But they interacted with old school characters of Han and Chewy, so good fun was to be had for all (except Han). The film needed more Poe Damaron. In both of the other trilogies, the films revolved around a trio of inter-connected main characters: Han/Luke/Leia in the OT and Obi-wan/Anaking/Padme in the prequels. Setting up a trio of Rey/Finn/Poe in this film would have been better, as opposed to just doing Rey/Finn. It doesn’t work as well. I heard that Poe was originally supposed to die, but JJ Abrams changed his mind later; it makes sense with how Poe was handled in the film, but it still leaves the question of who the third member of the trio should have been. BB-8 was basically a slightly useful puppy, not really a character in its own right. R2-D2 and C-3PO were clearly their own characters. The Droid from Rogue One was clearly his own character. BB-8 was a glorified pet. And Kylo as the villain was… lame? More of a petulant child than a force to be reckoned with. His introduction, where he was able to stop blaster bolts with the force was cool… and then he fizzled. The film as a whole lacked that “Star Wars”; there were moments of it here and there, but it felt just like the JJ Abrams Star Trek films: just another sci-fi/fantasy action flick, But With Lightsabers! Any way, after I had first seen the film I would have rated it above Ep. 1, maybe even Ep. 2. But after further reflection I saw that the film doesn’t make me feel anything. Like I’m pretty apathetic towards it. Like I mentioned, I have no intention of actively watching it of my own accord, especially when I could just as easily watch the vastly superior Ep. 4. It is just blah. And since I think a film should make you feel something (whether it’s love, hate, hope, anger, whatever) I have to rank this below Ep. 3, because at least that film made me feel something, even if that something is seething anger.
Now for Ep. 8, The Last Jedi. Oh boy did I have a lot riding on this film. I was one of those people who said we should wait until Ep. 8 comes out before completely ruling out Ep. 7. And boy, did that come to bite me in the butt. Ep. 8 was a mess. A visually stunning mess, but a mess nonetheless. I’ve pretty much exhausted my frustration with this film by talking ad nauseum about it with friends and colleagues, so I’m going to boil this down to two things that put the nail in the coffin: the Disney Humor and the final act. The first is easy to explain: there is a lot of Disney Channel-esque hokey humor in the film that really ruins otherwise good moments. Like, in the originals there were funny moments, but they weren’t deliberate jokes. The prequels had some cheesy joking, but it was mostly inoffensive. For this film (I did not notice it in Ep. 7) cool scenes like the opening fighter attack was ruining by a cheap throwaway gag. Not cool, Disney. Now, the final act in and of itself was not wholly bad, but in conjunction with the rest of the film it felt very disjointed. I define the final act as the scene on the red dust planet. I think the film should have ended with the Rebels escaping the First Order, getting to the planet, their future uncertain and needing to regroup and reconnect with other factions, and with Rey flying in the Millennium Falcon to meet up with them, leaving that final act to either occur at the beginning of Ep. 9 or just not at all. I would have been okay with that film; it was full and complete, the characters had all gone through more development, and I was satisfied. But the final act not only felt tacked on, but it just dragged out the film, added some really awful, stupid plot moments, and did a complete 180 on Kylo’s character development. Like, it just took all that development and chucked it out the window. I was done. I left the film saying, and I quote, “Well… that was a movie.” Because there was nothing else to say. This was the movie that was supposed to make Ep. 7 worth it. But it didn’t. Were there good things in this film? Yes! Not only was there more Poe (who is the best new character in the series), but the opening scene with the X-wings (minus the aforementioned gag), the lightsaber fight in Snoke’s throne room, the Force connection between Rey and Kylo, and the infinite Mirror Scene with Rey: all well-done, engaging elements of the the film. I understand why people might like it, and I don’t begrudge anyone’s enjoyment of this film. But there was a lot, a LOT, wrong with it. So, I have to rank this above Ep. 7 (and below Ep. 3). Without the final act, it would have ranked above Rogue One.
Anyway, that just my opinion. I love Star Wars, and I’m not giving up on it yet (although I have no plans to see the Solo film – it just looks unnecessary). My butt will definitely be in a theater somewhere when Ep. 9 comes out, you can count on it. May the Force be with you!