Dubious Rogue One Reviews

Rogue One has been a huge success at the box office, but has received its share of less than positive reviews. I think many of them are ridiculous. 

Being a good writer doesn’t make you a good thinker.  There have been a lot of negative reviews for Rogue One, some of which have some merit.  But many are based on ignorance, false assumptions, prejudice, or non-factual information.

Here’s some examples.

Richard Brody at the New Yorker didn’t like the acting in Rogue One, and blamed everyone but the actors for it.

Whether the downplaying of the formidable cast’s charismatic energies is an intentional downplaying of the potential risk to the characters that they play—whether it’s a matter of not actually allowing viewers to get too attached to characters or actors, not allowing viewers to be bummed out by bad news but rather breezing past it in a spirit of fealty not to these characters or performers but to the franchise—is the kind of corporate Kremlinology that would rightly take the place of criticism in assessing the substance and tone of the movie.

Star Wars isn’t high art.  I’m not sure how you can complain about character development in an action film and be considered a reasonable film reviewer.  That was never one of Star Wars’ strengths so I’m not sure why that would take away from this film.   Maybe he didn’t like that they didn’t get time to be “bumbed out by bad news” but even Princess Leia said “we don’t have time for our sorrows” (thats’ kind of a Star Wars mantra).   Action/Adventure films often have too many steps included in order to go into deep, emotional character development.  Rocky, for example, had very few points of plot movement.  So all we had to do was train along with him and share Rocky’s emotions.  Rogue One actually gives us a lot of scenes where we learn about each character and their motivations (if any; Chirrut and Baze were captured and just tagged along so they didn’t die).  The actors had their chance and they didn’t hit the emotional mark all the time. If you don’t like the acting, it’s okay to blame the actors.

 

Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter seems a bit gender-confused.

What the film really lacks is a strong and vigorous male lead (such as Han Solo or John Boyega’s Finn in The Force Awakens) to balance more equally with Jyn and supply a sparring partner. None of the men here has real physical or vocal stature, nor any scenes in which they can decisively emerge from the pack in a way that engages audience enthusiasm.

There’s way too many gender issues to unpack in a simple blog post.  It’s a sexist statement, both in the assertion that a strong female character is somehow illegitimate without an “equally” strong male character and its presumption that only “physical” or “vocal” stature are the measurements of strength.  I’d only share with Mr. McCarthy that cowardice and heroism come in all packages and the best movies bear that out.  If ultimately he didn’t like the characters or found the acting lacking then fine, but proposing some flawed gender dynamic as a solution to it is just ignorant.

 

Richard Trenholm at CNET writes in his review:

Technically, it’s a prequel — slotting into the saga in the wind-up to the 1977 original and therefore stuffed with references for fans to enjoy. But from labour camps to occupied desert cities to minor military outposts, its focus stays with the bit-part players who drive the action when the big names are off addressing galactic government, wooing royalty and practising their lightsaber swing.

This perspective is bewildering.  Referring to non-episode characters as “bit-part players” presumes that the only thing in Star Wars that are important are the Skywlkers.  These aren’t bit part players.  They’re regular people who saved the galaxy.  This argument  also seems uninformed to the nature of having a “prequel” – to focus on the storyline that led up to those events in the original trilogy.  So this criticism undermines the entire reason to have non-episodic Star Wars, or even Star Wars stories beyond the original trilogy.  That’s not how The Force works.

 

Graeme McMillan at the Hollywood Reporter writes a very interesting compelling argument detailing how Jyn Erso’s character is a passive presence in this film.  In his final paragraph, he writes:

What remains in the finished Rogue One, however, is the ultimate argument against those who would try to convince you that Jyn Erso is just another Rey (Daisy Ridley) from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. That’s clearly not the case, because Rey managed to take control of her own destiny and stand up to the forces working against her.

This statement is incorrect.  Rey was caught up in an unwanted adventure and tried several times to run away.  She only responded after she had been captured and cornered by Kylo Ren.  Jyn was inclined to run away as well, but made the decision to stay and try to rescue her father (even after she figured out Cassian was going to kill him).  She chose to appeal to the rebellion, even after they killed her father.  She decided to steal the Death Star plans after the Rebellion decided not to act.  I don’t think decision-making life or death choices is consistent with the definition of the word “passive”.

 

Then there’s this guy:

 

 

Mr. Plinkett has good comments, but only on an absolute basis.  Star Wars is unique in that it doesn’t have to explain itself.  He might have appreciated Rogue One: Catalyst more.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion.  But everyone is entitled to be foolish as well.

Rogue One has flaws.  But I suspect that it will be better appreciated over time.   These reviews I think are poorly thought through.  But not all the negative reviews are bad.

 

 

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