I was pleasantly surprised, actually.

Not that I was expecting it to be a bad film, but I was worried that Rogue One was not up to my expectation with it being a side-story. My concerns were alleviated somewhat with the release of the teasers/trailers, the first of which came out back in April this year:

Then came a few more tidbits like the Celebration Reel and the final trailers. Exciting stuff, but somehow there was still this slight nagging feeling if this will work, especially with news that Disney ordered reshoots after an early test screening. One of piece of news that came out closer to the release was that the stand alone films will not have the classic screen crawl at the beginning. I was only slightly disappointed. Just.

That aside, my main concern was whether this stand alone film venture will merely create a biannual event of Clone Wars/Rebels release. I have seen Godzilla[1] and while that was good, it didn’t do that well as far as I remember. As this wasn’t the main nine saga films, the hype surrounding it prior to its release didn’t feel like it was at par with TFA.

Unlike TFA last year[2], I managed to snag IMAX tix for the first showing at 5 past midnight. There was less fanfare at the Cineworld foyer, with the numbers of costumed characters down to a handful. I guess it was to be expected, but there were lots of people otherwise.

By now, you’d prolly seen it, and even read all the reviews there are. My take on my Rogue One experience was that the familiarity the film evoked was at many levels made me pleasantly surprised. Visual Easter eggs notwithstanding, I can’t remember reading about how Michael Giacchino’s music for Rogue One helped in evoking that familiarity sometimes subliminally. How a familiar Episode 4 motif by the orchestras horn section playing on the Death Star, for example. Similar motifs are heard throughout the film.

As for the storyline, we knew the rag tag of rebels on Scarif would be successful in securing the plans for the Death Star, but we didn’t know how they’d pull it off. There were some clues in the trailers, but with the re-shoot and likely re-edits, a significant number of shots/dialogue seen in the trailers were not there in the film. As for the rag tag of rebels, Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO is my fav character, surprisingly funny with his dry wit and humour. I did think that the multinational casting for the main characters seemed a tad contrived, but these guys were great together on-screen. And any cynicism thrown against the choice of actors pretty much went out the window. The retraction of the “political” tweet by one of the writers was not necessary in my opinion. I don’t know what the writers were thinking when the story was written, but this was before what happened in the US late last year. And if it was, I think it was coincidental[3] – but trolls don’t know where to buy chill pills, do they.

The CGI cameos (not so for Grand Moff Tarkin) were another big surprise. I had no qualms in seeing the studio having Peter Cushing’s likeness brought to life, especially when his estate had given prior permission. Although this does bring up the issue of where does one draw the line in digitally resurrecting the dead for a film. And despite its title, this was the only film in the franchise that really felt like a war film.

So, the stand alone film that was essentially Episode 3.85 was fantastic. It had the best Darth Vader scene preserved on celluloid, as opposed to those seen in animation or games on the Playstation. But what would the upcoming Han Solo film be like, especially when we are told that Lucasfilm is keen to approach it differently this time, with a typical western feel to it. And I do hope they can make Alden Ehrenreich look like a young Harrison Ford.
[1]Not the Matthew Broderick one.
[2]Bog standard non-IMAX 3D, as I forgot to buy tix on the first day of sale.
[3]Just as much as Jedha is not an allegory to a troubled part on this planet that has deserts in it.