18 December 2016

What Is The Chance Of Success?

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Whether it be The Scorpion King from The Mummy franchise or a bit of dog shit from a bike tyre, spin-offs are not always very enjoyable. Rather than being a cash-in however, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is like a kid on the last day of school. You're still attending class and therefore have to abide by the bulk of the usual rules but so long as you don't do something too stupid like reveal the teacher's blatant alcoholism or out the caretaker as a nonce, then you're mostly left to do what you want. Well, in that vein, Rogue One is still very much a part of the Star Wars universe, but one that's not shackled to every single one of the tropes of the main episodes. So gone are the old familiars of an opening text crawl, the Jedi, and incest, only to be replaced by a much more gritty, much more self-contained story of blowing up.. well.. the Death Star. I guess some things never change and although we might not be so bound to the intergalactic episode of The Jeremy Kyle Show that is the Skywalker family, you can never have too many films in which a rag-tag gang of survivors must fight to destroy cinema's most devastating disco-ball.

In this film, we begin by seeing the creator of the Death Star being forced to complete his job after having figured out that his new creation might not be the most ethical of space-stations. I guess the clue would be in that it's called the fucking Death Star. After he's been dragged back by the Empire, his daughter grows up alone before eventually being found by the Rebels who need her to get a plan from her father. You remember how Luke fired those torpedoes down the Death Star's no-no hole in A New Hope before attempting to celebrate by firing a torpedo of his own down his sister's no-no hole? Well it turns out that that Death Star's self-destruct shaft wasn't just a massive balls-up by the Empire but rather a trap placed there by its reluctant creator as a way of sticking two fingers up at his management... and who hasn't always dreamed of doing that?! Rogue One therefore specifically deals with the mission of getting those plans from his brain and into the hands of Princess Leia in time for the opening credits of Episode 4. Not that you'd know where this film was located within the franchises timeline due to the lack of any opening exposition I suppose. I have no idea how many people will have attended Rogue One: A Star Wars Story expecting it to be Episode 8 and I have no idea how far into it they would have gotten before realising that it's not. However if the fact that we have to write 'do not drink' on bottles of bleach is anything to go by I suspect there'll have been a fair few and they'll have gotten a fair way.

In many ways there's almost more pressure on the shoulders of this film to do well than there was on The Force Awakens. Episode 7 came after the prequels and so all it had to do to win the world's approval was to simply avoid being as shitty as seeing a Wompa pinch off a frozen loaf. Rogue One however is following in the footsteps of one of the most crowd pleasing films of recent years and so had to be at least equally enjoyable whilst also setting the groundwork for exactly what these spin-off's would become. It had to be recognisably a part of the Star Wars Universe whilst being noticeably different to the bog-standard episodes that we've been used to for the last forty years. In both cases I'd have to say that the film is a huge success which is kind of the opposite of what the gossipy whore of the online world would have had you believe. For the last few months the internet had been inundated with stories of director Gareth Edwards original version of the film being so worryingly terrible that Disney went into panic mode. Rumours surfaced that they'd hired in a new director, spent millions re-shooting the majority of the film, and even had to rush Mickey Mouse to hospital after the stress began to cause him to shit blood.

Despite most of these rumours having the distinct click-bait-y stench of bullshit about them, it seems not to matter either fucking way at all right now. I mean, I'm not saying there weren't re-shoots because obviously there were. Firstly it's standard practice for a movie of this scale to indulge in a little extra filming at the end of its schedule, and secondly it seems that half of the cool shit from the trailers is missing. Both clips that had been released and the poster for the fucking film featured a gang of stormtroopers going for a tropical paddle and yet that's nowhere to be seen in the final product. I'm pretty sure that the trailer promised us a scene in which the lead character has her path blocked by a Tie-Fighter too. However to judge Rogue One: A Star Wars story from the rumours of its production seems to me to be a bit like judging a child from what you've heard about it's conception. I mean I have one friend that I'm pretty sure was conceived via an unwashed turkey baster however that hasn't caused me to have a low opinion of them. My low opinion of them is a coincidence, and a result of my friend's shitty personality. The same is therefore true of Rogue One in that, even if it was conceived up against a rat infested dust bin in a pissy alley, and after a toothless hooker had managed to score a bit of business from a tramp with a shiny penny, I just don't care. The film was fucking brilliant and in my humble opinion it may well be the best Star Wars film since about 1980 in which Darth Vader finally admitted he'd been significantly flunking on his child support.

In fact, the irony of the film's success is that, in my humble opinion, the two reasons that it stands out are the two reasons that everybody was originally worried. Firstly it was rumoured that the bulk of the re-shoots dealt with the final act of the film and yet it was this final act in which I found myself as blown away as a fart in the wind. However the climactic drama would hardly work at all if it wasn't for the fact the story had been so strong up until that point, with characters that you could actually invest in. I've already had one of my gimpy faced chums compare me to the psychotically blunt Imperial droid K-2SO which might explain why the droid is becoming one of my favourite things in anything ever. This love of the characters is also linked to the second reason why the film worked so well and that's the simple fact that it was a stand-alone movie. We've never seen these people before and there's no real reason why we should ever see them again and so for the first time in ages we get a big blockbuster film with an actual sense of threat. Sure we can work out the fate of the actual mission, but there's a tension and drama here as it becomes ever apparent that this space-hopping dirty dozen might actually kick the bucket.. and by kick the bucket I mean that they could fucking die and not that they might simply deliver a swift hoof to Vader's nut-sack.

Actually, speaking of Vader, it's worth noting that there has been a lot of hype around his long awaited return which must again presumably confuse the fuck out of anybody that thinks they're watching Episode 8. As nice as it is to see him again, particularly in regards to his concluding actions, there are a few other returning faces that people may be surprised and hopefully pleased to see. I won't spoil who they are but although they're clearly the result of either computer effects or a voodoo resurrection spell, I was more than happy to see them. Despite this though, it really was the new faces that made the movie the slab of genius that it is. With the small gang going rogue and with very little concern for their own lives when faced with the bigger picture, you can only imagine how embarrassed the cast and crew of Suicide Squad must be for releasing their own vastly inferior film in the same year. I'd even argue that this movie is better than The Force Awakens because its characters are all complete and self-contained unlike in Episode 7 in which we were presented with mysteries and questions in order to entice us back for the sequel. This film also works more on its own terms than The Force Awakens which borrowed heavily from the nostalgia and even plot points of previous films. Not that there's any need to pick a favourite, I suppose. After having spent ten years in a world in which no more Star Wars movies were going to get made and after we'd been left with the three shitty prequels, I'm just happy that these films are both as brilliant as they are. I suppose as far as this franchise is concerned, K-2SO summed it up perfectly when he said “Congratulations. You are being rescued!” Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.