Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk
Directed By: Gareth Edwards
Written By: Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy (screenplay), John Knoll and Gary Whitta (story), based on characters created by George Lucas
PG-13; 134 minutes
3 stars (out of 5)
It's not Force Awakens, and Disney (now owner of LucasFilm) insists it's not meant to be, but...
This is a story taken from a single line in Star Wars, you know, the one about how many people died to get the plans of the Death Star? So, taking that into consideration, it's no wonder a movie based on a line of dialogue is a bit flimsy.
PLOT DETAILS FOLLOW
(skip to next header if you'd rather not know)
Galen Erso helped design the Death Star but then "retired" or something as a farmer because he no longer wanted to be part of the Empire's big plans. So when he's recalled to complete the job, he sends his daughter Jyn into hiding and she ends up raised by Saw Gerrera, who in turn becomes an extremist against the Empire. Jyn wants nothing to do with that life, but of course gets dragged into the Rebel's efforts because of her ties to the Death Star.
There are some problems. Like the fact that Galen sends a message to Saw but the message is mostly aimed at Jyn even though Galen acknowledges in the message that he doesn't know if Jyn is alive, nor does he assume she is with Saw. Like, what? Why send Saw a message and then talk to Jyn the whole time?
Then there are things like the semi-reanimation of Peter Cushing so that Governor Tarkin can live again. Yes, I know they also used Guy Henry, but there are still some issues that become increasingly obvious the longer he's on screen. It's like they were so proud of themselves for this technology—and it's very good, no question—that they wanted to parade it a bit. Problem being that the more it's paraded the less wonderful it appears. The skin over the cheeks in particular did not move correctly, and once I'd seen that I couldn't stop seeing it.
The story then devolves into an overlong bad-day-in-IT in which servers and networks and communications break down and need to be put back online or something. Yes, I'm oversimplifying. But the movie really did not need to be as long as it was.
SAFE ZONE BELOW
I will say that I really liked a lot of these characters. Donnie Yen did a nice, gentle job with a role that could have leaned toward corny. Alan Tudyk is, as ever, one of the best things about the film. (And hey, I've worked with Forest Whitaker, which puts me two degrees from the Star Wars universe now! Woohoo!) I guess I just wish there had been a bit of a stronger story for all these great characters and actors. It's not a terrible movie, and I didn't go in with any big expectations, yet I still walked away a wee bit underwhelmed.
ETA: Upon second viewing, I did like it a bit more. However, I still find the last part of the movie too long. And I realized part of my problem with the reanimation of Tarkin is the way he turns his head and the way his eyes move . . . There are just a combination of elements that make him a little too animatronic.