I have missed out on seeing Arrival, which was one of my most anticipated films due to the director’s previous work with Prisoners and Sicario. A big issue has been my schedule so far but I am hoping to have more free time later this month to see Rogue One, ideally during opening weekend.
The original Star Wars trilogy wasn’t perfect by any means, with episode IV featuring some weak acting from Mark Hamill. However, his and Harrison Ford’s skills developed as the series progressed. The story was creative and executed better than the prequels, with less time devoted to a tepid love story between Anakin (Hayden Christensen) and Padme (Natalie Portman), played terribly by both parties. The effects for the original trilogy have obviously aged, but many of them were groundbreaking for the time. With the prequels, we got cartoonish special effects in many places where sets, actors and makeup would have been better. I have no problem with special effects, but the prequels overused them and also had poorly rendered special effects in numerous places.
The special effects were much improved in Star Wars: Episode VII and the filmmakers made better use of motion capture to create more realistic CGI characters. Episode VII was also aided by better performances from its entire cast. Less Jake Lloyd, less Hayden Christensen, less Natalie Portman. Portman has been great in other roles but Star Wars was not one of them.
Getting to see the original cast and characters again was pretty much worth the price of admission for episode VII and was probably the greatest appeal. I also loved Daisy Ridley and John Boyega’s performances. Kylo Ren wasn’t as great as Darth Vader but I did like him as a villain, even if he was slightly disappointing. I expected the world, and the character fell short of that, but was still a good villain. As I look back on the film, or watch parts of it on Netflix, I empathize with one of the main criticisms: It is a rehash of a New Hope. Finding a young orphan on a desert planet (Rey) who comes to grasp with her Jedi skill to help defeat an evil empire. We even got our third death star and another revelation about unexpected familial bonds.
Once I finally quieted the fanboy in me, and looked at the film more subjectively, I was disappointed by all of the rehashed material. Rogue One could obviously end up being the same since it is a prequel, but the trailers already show us some interesting new characters and new worlds. There are also other star wars spin-offs in the works such as Han Solo, with Donald Glover cast as the lead. Initially, I saw these films as a sign of greed and excess by Disney. They still could be, and obviously money is a factor even if it isn’t the main one. After Episode VII I do appreciate the chance to see a new crop of characters, new villains, new plots and new worlds. Maybe even some heroes and villains who aren’t related to one another.
I won’t begrudge Disney their profit if they hire a team that brings new, exciting and skillfully crafted Star Wars stories to a hungry audience.