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Title: Rogue One
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Published Date: December 16, 2016
December 19, 2016
I remember as a twelve year old going to see Jurassic Park, a film for me which must have been the same as Star Wars had been a generation before. There was so much hype around that film that no matter how fantastic it was, it was never going to live up to that expectation. It tried, it was a truly magnificent film, but I still remember that I was just a little bit disappointed the dinosaurs had not left the screen and chased me round the cinema.

Wind forward another 20 years with me trotting off to see the latest instalment of Star Wars, but with a completely different set of expectations. I wasn’t expecting the Force Awakens as this is just a fill in film between the main instalments. To be honest I wasn’t really expecting much at all, I had just promised my daughter that we were going to the cinema to see ‘one of daddy’s films’ and as the previous two times had been such a success, she was more than happy to come.

I did have one expectation, one that I felt was completely sensible and reasonable, that this would be a Star Wars film and frankly, that was the one thing I did not get. Please do not misunderstand me, this has everything element you could expect from a Star Wars film, the action, the battles, the technology, the mysticism and it even has Darth Vader, but what it missed was the one thing that they said over and over in the film – hope.

Never before have I seen a film that I would describe as one of the best films I have ever seen, while at the same time being a complete disappointment. Imagine going to see a film called The World at War and when you see that you end up watching Monty Pythons Life of Brian. Sure you got to see one of the greatest comedy films ever made, but it really wasn’t what you thought you were going to see.

I realise that many people come out of a film raving about how it is the best film ever, and a month later do exactly the same about the next one, but this really is just that good. I came out of The Force Awakens buzzing, but a few hours later all I could think about was how regurgitated the story was. Replace one death with another, one bad guy with another, split Luke into two characters and you are watching A New Hope all over again.

But not this time. I did not see a single plot hole, and that is rare; really rare. I can see films that I really enjoy and then spend the rest of the day hating the fact that there is a glaring plot hole that invalidated the whole film. Sure there were a few moments in the film which made me question why someone had not done something earlier, or why you would create a data filing method that is frankly more archaic than Dewey Decimal Library system, but nothing to really spoil the film for me.

No, what this did was far worse. And doubly so because of sitting in the cinema with a 6 year old daughter. She has seen all the Star Wars films with me and enjoyed them all, disappointingly naming Jar Jar as her favourite character followed by BB-8 and C-3P0, but at least she consistently likes the comic relief. What she has learnt from all those films is that no matter how bad it gets, it gets better by the end. She even accepts that the end of the Empire Strikes Back is in the beginning of Return of the Jedi and that there is a happy ending there after all because it is the hope that those films provide that makes it palatable.

I cannot say much more without completely ruining this films for people who have not seen it and that for me would be unforgivable, but suffice to say, this film takes the concept of hope, talks about it, gives it to you throughout and then drives the Death Star straight through it and utterly crushes your soul.

Having accepted the soul crushing nature of this film and relegated it to the same part of my brain that contains Schindler’s List and Grave of the Fire Flies, what was it about this that made this both great and crushing at the same time? The honest answer is pretty much everything. The music by Michael Giacchino is so John Williams I had to double check I had not misread that; the casting was utterly superb throughout and should be noted by everyone who tries to shoehorn in diversity as an example of how to create an uncontrived diverse cast; and the special effects were frankly, truly special.

Do not misunderstand me, this does not make for a perfect film, merely the perfect film that could be made at this time. They digitally recreated Peter Cushing and it was 95% there, but I think that a recast real actor would still have been superior to the digital recreation. It was so close, but it just missed the mark slightly and it made me look even closer for the inperfections.

One of the films biggest flaws, was also its greatest success. They managed to make this film fit in so perfectly into the time line between Revenge of the Sith and a New Hope, but in doing so made it almost an in complete film. Any film that requires either time or location captions to let you know where they are is making things too complicated. Jumping from Yavin to Mustafa, Jedha to Scarif and back again is a lot to keep track of. When you pile on top of that numerous characters from the Prequel trilogy as well as cameos from character from the original trilogy, on top of the biggest ‘hero’ cast list of any Star Wars film makes this almost impenetrable for the non-initiated.

However for me its biggest weakness has nothing to do with the film itself, rather the callous nature of the film rating board. Or more likely I suspect the money grabbing Disney executives that forced the film rating board to give it the rating it got. There is little onscreen violence in this film, practically no blood, absolutely no bad language or nudity and yet this film is categorically not suitable for a younger audience.

Even the official MPAA rating utterly misses the point. This film was rated PG-13 (12A for us in the UK) because of ‘extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action’. That utterly misses the point. I would prefer to have shown my daughter Nightmare on Elm Street followed by Saving Private Ryan and Saw rather than subjecting her to the emotional torture this film created. At least with all of those graphically violent films she could have looked away at the nasty bits and frankly she would have just been bored by the rest of them.

No what this film did was far more cynical and at the same time absolutely astonishing. It gave us a film called Star Wars, promised us more of the same, gave us hope and then utterly crushed it. If you thought the Empire Strikes back was a ‘dark’ film where the bad guys won and you had to wait 3 years for Return of the Jedi to right those wrongs, consider this; this film stands alone, it will never have a sequel and the ending will never be righted. In the greater scheme of things this is a film where the bad guys won, the heroes lost and while the war goes on and is ultimately won, it just leaves you utterly crushed.

For me, I can take that, and I can see beyond the loss to what comes from this film. For my daughter, Star Wars is dead and her Daddy is an evil man that even Mcdonalds cannot fix. So I am torn, this film is everything I could have wished it was not, while at the same time being brilliant beyond words because of that; I just wish the marketing department at Disney/Lucas Film could have taken a leaf out of Deadpools book and told the world the truth; this is an adult film with adult themes cynically marketed at children; children who will take a long time to forgive them for this.

But perhaps they will look back on this film in 20 years, not as the film that was over hyped and ultimately under-delivered, but as the film that crushed their hopes and dreams but they learned to love despite it.
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