I’ve been doing these in in-universe chronological order, rather than release order, so I started with the Prequels last week.
That post is here:
I’m moving onto the inter-Trilogy movies, which are actually among the most recent Star Wars movies despite taking in place in more or less at the end of the beginning of the overall Saga.
I’ll be continue to do this in chronological, rather than release, order. Even though Solo is the more recent movie, it takes place about a decade before the Original Trilogy, whereas Rogue One ends about fifteen seconds before A New Hope starts. All of which is to say, I’ll be looking at Solo first.
I’ll also have a few quick thoughts on the Interquel TV shows.
I’ll be honest, I’ve had to force myself to sit through Solo.
Which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, I know. But for what it’s worth, I think the issue is just that Solo gets has a bit of a slow start. Once the main group of characters gets together and starts the Space Heist that drives most of the plot, it becomes much more enjoyable.
Solo isn’t a bad movie. It isn’t even a bad Star Wars movie. But it’s not a great Han Solo origin story. Largely because Han Solo didn’t really need an origin story.
Now, Alden Ehrenreich and Donald Glover are great as Han and Lando, but they never felt to me like they were Han and Lando, they also struck me more as people cosplaying Han and Lando, which is a big problem for a movie called Solo.
Again, it’s not a bad Star Wars, and I think it may have even been more positively received if it had been called something like “Scoundrel: A Star Wars Story” and the lead had been named anything other than Han Solo.
Notably, Solo does have the distinction of being the first Star Wars film to be a box office flop — even the widely-reviled Clone Wars movie met (its admittedly low) expectations. Sidebar: The Clone Wars movie isn’t great and feels rather like several episodes of the cartoon crudely stapled together (which is exactly what it is), but it’s not a complete disaster. At the very least, it serves it purpose as an introduction to the cartoon.
Now, I don’t know enough about the intricacies of Hollywood to really understand why Solo flopped. Maybe it was because people were turned off by Last Jedi, which proved rather controversial (more on that when I get to the Prequels) and came out only half a year previously, maybe it’s because, like I said, Han Solo didn’t really need an origin story, maybe the film’s notably troubled production and subsequent near-total reshoot under Ron Howard (who, as you’ll recall, also directed Willow).
Whatever the reason, Solo flopped and possibly even spelled the end of the Star Wars anthology series. Notably, planned Boba Fett and Obi-Wan movies were retooled in Disney Plus shows. In fact, the reworking of the Boba Fett movie gave us the basis for The Mandalorian.
The failure is unfortunate, because while Solo is rather more style than substance (talking about it with my family on the way home from the theatre, my exact description was “all sizzle, some steak”), there are some positive qualities than make it worth watching.
Like I said, Han and Lando never quite feel right, though the performances are great. For the most part, so is the rest of the cast. Woody Harrelson is great as Han’s mentor figure who spends the film alternating between sincerely helping Han and trying to double-cross him.
Similarly, Paul Bettany, who is delightful in pretty much any role — whether it be as a robot, a different robot reconstructed from that robot, a 19th century naval doctor, or a famous Medieval English poet — is, as usual, delightful as the psychotic, yet outwardly affable and refined crime boss who steals both of the scenes he’s actually in.
Plus, I’m always down for a good Space Heist.
Rogue One is near-universally regarded as one of the better Star Wars-es, to the point that a not-insubstantial part of the fanbase regards it as either the best of the Disney-era movies or even the only good Disney-era movie.
In a way, Rogue One is the least dramatic Star Wars movie. We’ve known for nearly 50 years that the Rebels get the Death Star plans, and since we’ve never heard of any of these characters, we can safely assume they’re all going to die in the attempt.
Of course, it’s not the destination it’s the journey. And the fact that our heroes are, by necessity, doomed, the movie’s allowed to be decidedly darker and more grim than is typical of Star Wars. Even Empire and Revenge of the Sith ended on fairly optimistic notes.
And Rogue One does too, all things considered. Again, we’ve known for nearly 50 years that the Death Star’s going to get blown up, so we can all breathe easy knowing how this all ends.
Fundamentally, watching Rogue One made me really want to watch A New Hope again. Not because Rogue One is a bad movie, but because it’s a perfect lead-in to the Original Trilogy.
Now, Jyn and Cassian are indisputably the leads and the mainest of the main characters (and maybe also the robot). The rest of the group of main characters feel a little underutilised but all get at least enough characterisation to set them apart from the literally nameless tag-along Rebels who are there just to be cannon fodder.
Plus, all the named characters all get at least one chance to do something cool.
Rogue One is a dark movie. Not least of all because everybody dies…
Which extends to even the bad guys, as evidenced by the fact that we’ve never heard of Director Krennic (ably played by Ben Mendelsohn, whom I don’t ever recall watching before Rogue One, but now also recognise from the MCU) before now, even though he’s the one who built the Death Star…
Sidebar: Rogue One is also a visually dark movie, with more than a few scenes taking place at night or in caves or in a dark hallways. Now, I’m sure that is deliberate, but I’m not sure how much of that was the result of me watching most of the movie this time around on my computer…
In a lot of ways, Rogue One is an atypical Star Wars movie. Honestly, the most obvious comparison in terms and style and tone might actually be Saving Private Ryan (which I don’t really want to link to; it is both brutally depressing and brutally brutal).
Like I said, Rogue One is dark and even the good guys do some pretty grim things this time around. Most of the action is ground-level and fairly small-scale, with the exception of the climactic final space battle and for the most part it ends up feeling more like as much like a real-world spy movie or war movie as it’s possible for a Space Opera.
Furthermore, there are no Jedi, no recurring characters barring a few minor roles and cameos — the only real exception is that Grand Moff Tarkin is one of the main Imperial characters — and the only lightsaber that makes an appearance is Darth Vader’s (more on than later).
And it’s probably the most violent Star Wars has ever been and probably has one of the highest body counts (if not the highest) in the series — notwithstanding the fact that Luke exploded a million people when he blew up the Death Star…
But also, the Empire are a bunch of conniving, scheming backstabbers trying to outmaneuver each other, the Rebels are shown to have to rely on brutal and dishonorable tactics to try to win the war, one Rebel-aligned group is pretty much literally a gang of terrorists.
Plus, we get a couple ground-level views of what the Death Star is capable of. In a way, watching the Death Star at less than full power only mostly blow up a planet is more visually impressive than watching the Death Star completely blow up Alderaan, though maybe that’s thanks to nearly 50 years of improvements to special effects.
But also also, everybody dies.
Darth Vader is in the movie for about fifteen seconds. Those fifteen seconds are the best part of the movie. And again, easily one of the most brutal scenes ever included in a Star Wars film.
It’s, uh, not for nothing that basically the only line of dialogue in the scene is Rebels screaming “Help us!”…
On a more production-related note, Rogue One took a certain amount of flak, or at least raised some eyebrows for its use of CGI recreations of Grand Moff Tarkin and a young Princess Leia — the later leaving a bad taste in a lot of mouths since Rogue One released a matter of weeks before Carrie Fisher died.
Maybe it wasn’t strictly necessary from a storytelling angle, but there’s at least a certain level of justification. Tarkin was literally in charge of the Death Star and Leia is the one who ended up with the plans. It would have been difficult to tell the story of the Death Star plans without neither of those characters, though simply using different actors may have been better received.
From a purely technical point of view, the CGI faces don’t look terrible, but they do look more than a little uncanny. The whole thing with Princess Leia is mitigated somewhat by the fact that she gets one line and a handful of seconds of screentime.
Rogue One doesn’t necessarily feel like a Star Wars movie, and that generally seems to be regarded as one of its major strengths.
Even though it doesn’t tonally fit in with the larger series, it does a phenomenal job of nailing the aesthetics of A New Hope. Characters have hair and moustaches straight out of the late 70s, though the cast is much, much more diverse than the Original Trilogy ever was — both in terms of the real-world ethnicity and gender of the actors and in terms of more characters being aliens.
Who all die…
Some Other Stuff
Since it fits with the Interquel Era, here are some quick thoughts on the Rebels cartoon.
I actually liked Rebels more than Clone Wars. While not unheard of among the fanbase, it’s definitely a rare opinion.
I think a large part of it is that I never watched Clone Wars when it was originally airing. I don’t even remember what channel it was on here in Canada — I’m wondering if it even did air up here originally; it must have, but I have no memories of it.
On the other hand, Rebels aired live on Disney XD and I watched through the entire series in real time. I think watching Rebels first and watching it live helped me. I didn’t have Clone Wars to compare it to, and inevitably had Rebels in mind when I finally got around to binging Clone Wars on Disney Plus.
But even in general, Rebels has about half as many episodes, and thus fewer episodes intended to fill airtime. The plot moves faster and more decisively. Also, Rebels follows a smaller main cast and does less hopping around between different parts of the exactly.
Now, Obi-Wan Kenobi is recent enough that I think there’s still a reasonable fear of spoilers (incidentally, there will be spoils if you click on that link, so proceed with caution), so I won’t go into too much detail. But I loved it. It’s probably my favourite Star Wars show since The Mandalorian and Ewan McGregor is (still) a phenomenal Obi-Wan.
All of the things I wanted to happen in an Obi-Wan Interquel series happened, so I’m happy.
You should watch it.
Rebels is also criminally underrated, especially because it’s inevitably compared to Clone Wars which is invariably overrated (again, it is good, but I genuinely do not get why it seems to be completely immune to criticism among the fanbase).
Everything in the Interquel era is worth at least watching once, introduces some interesting elements or expands on a few previously-vague aspects of the Saga and does demonstrate that there are still cool Star Wars stories to be told outside either the main case of the main timeline of the Saga.
Next up, the Original Trilogy. But, also: art, other Pop Culture critiques recommendations, and a new chapter every Friday.
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