Let me start off by saying that the most entertaining theater experience of the year can be narrowed down to the last 40 minutes Rogue One. The third act engulfed entirely in action hops back and forth between two enthralling Rebels vs Empire confrontations. One on the ground, set unusually (in a good way) against a bright and sunny tropical backdrop not yet seen before in the Star Wars canon. The other a CGI fueled space battle up above, much of which shot in first person as if you’re on a ride at Disney instead of watching a movie (a tactic which I’ll come back to). Director Gareth Edwards used actual war photography from Vietnam and the South Pacific as inspiration for the ground warfare and it shows because Rogue One is much more of a straight up war movie than the other seven films in the franchise (looking past the fact that, you know, they are still shooting “laser beams” instead of bullets).
The action doesn’t let up and rolls steadily into a conclusion that ties up everything in a nice bow, one that both the fanboys and more casual Star Wars observers can appreciate, and also one that will make you forget about the pretty boring and nonsensical first two thirds of the movie. Sidenote: On a scale of 1-10, I’m probably only a 4 on Star Wars fandom. I grew up on the original trilogy but all of the locations and ancillary characters get the Game of Thrones treatment (you don’t know their names but can describe them). In comparison I’m probably a 10 on the Bad Boys universe fanboy scale and could tell you the names of all minor characters down to Mike Lowrey’s doorman (it’s Chet).
So where does Rogue One stand in the 2016 movie rankings? I think it lands as a Tier 1 but ONLY if you’re seeing it in the theater. It’s much more of a ride than most movies and might as well be in a completely different medium than 2016 heavyweights Manchester By The Sea and Moonlight. For obvious reasons, the quality of action movies tend to drop off when they hit the TV screen and this is especially true for the PG-13, CGI-heavy fantastical films that fall under the Disney umbrella (Star Wars, Avengers, etc). I would compare them to NHL games. In person there’s not a more exhilarating live sporting event to attend, but when it comes to TV I’d much rather watch the NBA, NFL, or shit even Vanderpump Rules. This doesn’t apply to all action movies. Films with more practical effects like Mad Max and Mission Impossible fare fine on the small screen, but Rogue One is likely to come off a little silly down the road. Tier 1 – Rated Greg