This is our round table review for Rogue One with some of our Patreon donors.   We have with us Keri, Joel, Kyle, Jared, and Derek.  What were your expectations going into the movie?  What did you expect to happen?

Keri:  I’m starting to realize if I go in to a movie (especially a big one, like this) with little to no expectations, 1) I can enjoy the movie better and 2) I’m more likely to be surprised when I like the movie more than I expected to.  That said…  This is a Star Wars movie, so I already have expectations that it will be a decent movie.  Beyond that, I expected what the movie was billed as:  the story of how the Alliance got the plans to the Death Star.

Joel: My expectations were high. I’m on record saying if any Star Wars film is going to win Oscars in major categories, it’s going to be this one. I expected a gritty platoon level war film in the vein of Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. And I expected all the Rebel characters would die because that’s what happens in good war movies. I’ve been making “deadpool” remarks for months now.

Keri: I think we all lost the deadpool, by the way…

Kyle: My expectations were that it was going to be a top tier Star Wars film and it did not disappoint.

Jared: I usually try to go in without having a ton expectations. I expected a more gritty Star Wars movie which is what we got.

Derek: I expected a dark gritty war story ending with Vader killing most of the characters, but some of them getting away… because surely a commercial movie like this would never have the chutzpah to kill every single hero off???  I expected the Death Star to blow up Jedha halfway through and for Saw Gerrera to die pretty early on.  I thought Galen would be a major character and our heroes would sneak aboard the Death Star to rescue him.  I knew going in I was going to love this movie, the only question was how high would it rank and would there be any small problems?

Were your expectations met or exceeded?

Joel: They were exceeded by far. I think I won the “deadpool” at least for the Rebel crew! And I am comfortable with being on the record that this is the Star Wars film which will win major Academy Awards. The zeitgeist is right and the film mirrors it frighteningly well.

Kyle: The movie met them overall. However the last act of the film exceeded them. It might be the best third act of any of the films.

Jared: They were definitely met and I’d say exceeded too. While it was weird not having a film based upon a Skywalker it did a great job at feeling a part of the universe.

Derek: They were exceeded just about everywhere.  This is an amazing movie with only the smallest of complaints.  I got into this story and geeked out in so many moments.  I really felt the tension and hopeless of their cause.  There were also many more callbacks and cameos than I expected because I had managed to stay mostly unspoiled.

Keri: Rogue One far exceeded them.  When I first started hearing reports that people thought it was the best Star Wars movie since Empire, I admit that I was slightly skeptical, even given some of the sources.  But…  Wow.  Even after two viewings, I’m struggling to find words.  Rogue One deserves every bit of hype that it’s getting.  The things they managed to accomplish.  I never even considered that they would bring in some of the characters they did.

What were the biggest surprises for you?

Kyle: I can’t believe we saw so much Tarkin in the movie.  I thought he would have a cameo at best and would not be a full-fledged supporting character. It was a pleasant surprise and I loved it. People say the CGI was distracting…yeah it was distracting with how freaking great it was.

Jared: The amount of screen time that Tarkin had.

Derek: All the cameos.  Every single character dying.  The Death Star doing low level blasts multiple times.  The extensive Tarkin screen time.  Andor being a spy/assassin; I thought he would be the quintessential Rebel who would inspire Jyn to be a hero, and it turned out to be the other way around.   I really didn’t expect Saw and Galen to die almost the moment we met them, particularly Galen.

Keri: I’d heard rumors of Tarkin but I didn’t think they would use him the way that they did.  So, like Kyle, that was a big surprise.  I’m surprised they actually went through with killing the entire main cast.  I mean, I was prepared for the possibility, but I didn’t think they would actually kill EVERYONE.  I came out of my second viewing thinking it was a bit of a waste, because I would want to see this team working together more, in some capacity.  But, at the same time, it’s not a waste, because we know what the end result of their sacrifice was.

Joel: What surprised me about RO was the first half of the movie which was right out of a John le Carré novel. RO is actually a two-genre film. The second act may be all about combat and the war genre but the first act is essentially an espionage film. I didn’t expect that. I knew the plot involved the stealing of the Death Star plans which clearly involves intelligence work but the first act wasn’t about that. It was about the moral equivalence, the use of violence, and hard-held political beliefs. Elements of it reminded me of John Frankenheimer’s Ronin.

What did you think of the characters?  Who were your favorites?

Jared: I loved all the characters. The film did a great job of making you feel connected to each one even though they didn’t spend a ton of time on each character. For me it’s kind of a three way tie. Bodhi, K2 and Chirrut. I was surprised at how much I liked Chirrut as I wasn’t expecting him to be a favorite.

Derek: Like Jared I loved every character, even the minor supporting ones.  I never thought I would feel this strongly about Bodhi or Imwe and Malbus!  Jyn is my favorite of course, though Andor was a close second.  He had a really interesting story and performance.  They all did.

Keri: I LOVED Chirrut.  He was just so much fun and awesome to watch in action.  “Are you kidding me?  I’m blind!”  HA!! Love it!  And K-2SO, but I think that one’s the obvious answer.  That was an awesome droid.  Can we PLEASE get Alan Tudyk back for another movie?  And maybe not a CGI character, this time?  Please?

Joel: The characters were great. I can’t think of any which were not acted well or was necessary for the story. They were layered and had depth without being rote. But two characters stood out for me among the cast: K-2SO and Chirrut Îmwe. K-2SO provided badly needed comic relief while ingratiating himself as someone the audience cares about. And he’s the first member of the crew to go down. Meanwhile, Chirrut Îmwe provided the religious and philosophical underpinning of the film. And who doesn’t like a “drunken master”? The Îmwe character reminded me of that bagpiper who stormed the beaches on D-Day in WWII who the Germans didn’t shoot because they thought he was mad.

Kyle: K-2SO was my favorite character and it makes me sad we will never see him again. K-2SO had a twisted sense of humor and was extremely useful to the story.  I also really enjoyed Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus’ relationship and how well they worked together. I am with the Force, the Force is with me.

What did you think of the action/visuals?

Keri: Amazing!  I loved them to the point where I can’t form coherent sentences about how good they were.

Joel: Stunning. All it needed was a good car chase scene and RO would be in the pantheon of classic spy movies. And Gareth Edwards knows how to work film visuals. The scope of the setting shots makes you feel lost among the stardust.

Kyle: Amazing. It was great seeing a Star Wars film go to so many different environments we previously haven’t seen. Scarif was my favorite location visually. It was nice to see a Star Wars film be heavier on the action than usual.

Jared: I thought the visuals were amazing as everything felt true to Star Wars. I enjoyed the action too. I’m not a big fan of over the top action and while this had a little bit of that it fit in well.

Derek: I couldn’t believe how realistic everything looked.  Those cities really seemed to exist.  I was a little wary of a Star Wars movie completely absent of Jedi and lightsabers, but these ground and space battles were absolutely thrilling.  I also really appreciated how the movie established the geography and strategy of the fights so clearly, particularly the space battle over Scarif.  I would say the visuals were even better than The Force Awakens, and that’s saying something.

What were your favorite scenes?

Joel:  My favorite scene was Chirrut Îmwe’s martial arts fight scene on Jedha and his comedic line following his capture by Saw’s people when he questions why he needs the hood over his head because he’s already blind. That works on so many levels. I can’t wait to see it again.

Kyle: My favorite scene was the Darth Vader massacre and the Rebels desperately trying to get the plans away from him and onto the Tantive IV.

Jared: I would say getting to see Vader be a complete badass at the end. That is the Vader that we have seen in the comics and books. Also, anything with Bodhi!

Derek: All the scenes on Yavin IV, the city of Jedha, the entire Battle of Scarif, but the topper is Vader cutting apart Rebels left and right.  The Hammerhead ramming a Destroyer and pushing it into a second one.  I loved the way we saw the Force at work at the ending, keeping everyone alive just long enough to finish their cog in the machine, so that their sacrifice was not in vain.  Everyone had a beautiful death scene.

Keri: Any time Chirrut was on screen.  When he shoots down that TIE fighter.  That was just so awesome.  Also when Jyn sees her father’s message.  That’s had me tearing up twice now.  Especially knowing how the rest of the movie plays out.

Did anything NOT work for you?

Kyle: The new opening of the film without a crawl and the original score was jarring at first. But after my second viewing I knew what to expect and it played out much better the second time around.

Jared: The only thing for me would be how it jumped around so much at the beginning.

Derek: Like Kyle, I really, really wanted an opening crawl.  More to the point, I think it’s important for the casual fan to understand what’s going on.  I was disappointed that Saw and Galen died the moment we met them.  I really wanted more scenes with them.

Keri: I didn’t mind so much that there wasn’t a crawl.  I knew not to expect one.  What WAS weird was the way the camera panned up through the planet’s rings, at the beginning.  I thought they were doing something weird with the opening credits.  Until I realized that they weren’t…

This is where I diverge with the guys on Echo Base…  When Leia appears, at the end…  There’s something a bit…  off about her.  Maybe it was the lighting the brighter light didn’t work so well with the CG.  Tarkin was almost always in a darker setting, and that worked better for me.  I remember having a similar issue with Tron Legacy.  The shots of young Jeff Bridges, at the beginning of the movie looked almost plastic, compared to when we see CLU, later.  Don’t get me wrong!  I loved the cameo and it works with the film.  It just looked… off.

Joel: I didn’t like some small story issues. For instance, in the prologue when the child Jyn Erso is running away from the Death Troopers and hides in her cave-disguised safe room, the ground is wet dirt. Surely the troopers would have seen Jyn’s footprints in the mud and track her? And there was also the small issue of cross-fire when the engineers were executed by Orson Krennic’s troops on Eadu. Look where everyone is standing. That’s a big tactical no no. And we are talking about Stormtroopers after all.

What was your favorite cameo?

Jared: Seeing Red and Gold Leaders was pretty amazing. While watching it, I thought they may have used some of the original film footage for them, which they did and it was awesome.

Derek: Oh man, too many to pick from!  Bail Organa.  Threepio and Artoo (had NO idea they would be in it!).  CGI Tarkin.  This is small, but the biggest surprise for me was Red Leader from New Hope.  Such a minor character to bring back!

Keri: Bail’s technically not a cameo, since Jimmy Smits is credited.  So Red and Gold Leaders.  It was nice to see those guys again.  I feel I should point out that the appearances of 3PO and R2 didn’t annoy me like it has others.  I’m just trying to figure out when they got to the Tantive IV, before it took off.

Joel: My favorite cameo was the return of Dr. Cornelius Evazan and Ponda Baba. The scene happens early in the film when this pair shows up unexpectedly. It helps set the film’s mood. I laughed out loud at their appearance. No CGI necessary. It was a great way to link RO with ANH through even minor characters. No arms-length treatment here. It’s great to see Lucasfilm limbering up the franchise.

Kyle: Seeing R2-D2 and C-3P0 was really fun even if it was just for a second. My favorite though was seeing Leia after such a terrifying end to the movie was a welcome and happy surprise.  It was an amazing moment, however brief and might have made me tear up….

Did you read Catalyst?  If so, how did that inform your opinion of the movie?

Keri: I did read Catalyst.  I think it gave me just enough insight into the relationship between Krennic and the Ersos and also more of an understanding as to why Saw was brought back in to this story.  I’m still trying to figure out why Krennic was so focused on the idea that he couldn’t complete the Death Star’s weapon without Galen’s help.  As Galen says, Krennic could have found a way to do it without him.

Joel: I read Catalyst before seeing RO and although I don’t think it’s necessary to enjoy the movie, Catalyst does gives insight in the Galen Erso/Orson Krennic relationship.  It adds depth and context which are always welcome.

Kyle: Yes. I did read Catalyst. Like Keri and Joel said it gave a lot more information concerning the Erso family and Krennic’s relationship. If you didn’t read the book you might think Galen was evil and wanted to create the Death Star but since I read the book I knew that wasn’t the case from the start.

Jared: I am extremely happy I read it.  It added a lot of nuance to things going on in the movie and enhanced how i viewed the characters of Galen and Krennic.

Derek: Funny how many of us read it!  I did and I was surprised at how little it had to do with the movie.  Based on the book, I really expected Galen and Krennic to be more important characters than they were.  I kind of assumed Lyra would die in the flashback, but I really thought the story would revolve around Galen, so I was really shocked that he died immediately.  Also, if you didn’t read Catalyst, I wonder what sort of impression Krennic would lead since he doesn’t really do much of anything in the movie and they never explain his back story.

How would you rank this against the other movies?  Against The Force Awakens?

Joel: This is a matter of some debate. Time will undoubtedly tell but right now I am having a difficult time saying if RO or TFA comes in third place in my own personal preference after ESB and ANH. They were both outstanding albeit for different reasons. RO for its seriousness, execution and themes vs. TFA for a successful Star Wars re-awakening and the return of the original cast.

Kyle: I would say TFA, ESB, and then Rogue One right now. It was not a better Star Wars movie than The Force Awakens. The Force Awakens remains my top Star Wars movie right now. That shouldn’t take away how great Rogue One was though. Because of how Rogue One is set up as a movie it doesn’t get the chance to develop characters nearly as well as The Force Awakens was able to establish. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie more after the second viewing. I was able to focus and relax with the hype and excitement of opening night behind me.

Jared: I don’t know where I would rank it overall. I did enjoy it more than TFA though.

Derek: It’s so hard to rank these things.  It’s apples and oranges.  I absolutely loved the movie and had no substantial complaints about it.  Does that make it better than the Prequels and ROTJ?  I don’t know.  Time will tell.  Right now, I’m absolutely glowing about it, and I would rank it just as highly as The Force Awakens, which is fair praise.

Keri: I’m not quite sure yet how I would rank RO against the rest of the movies.  I feel it is definitely high on my list, but I’m not yet prepared to give it a definite rank.  Is it better than The Force Awakens?  Yes and no.  As I said, I was somewhat prepared for the possibility that everyone would die.  If we’re going just off emotional impact, then no, it’s not better than TFA.  I was NOT prepared for the emotional impact of things that happened in TFA.  Whereas, in RO I think I didn’t allow myself to get as attached to the characters.

Thanks everyone!