Monday, December 26, 2016

ROGUE ONE and ARRIVAL -- my review

I saw ARRIVAL one night and then ROGUE ONE the next so I thought I would review them both together because, well… they’re the exact same movie.

Both are about space and co-star Forest Whitaker.

Yes, there are subtle differences. I’ll try to delineate them without getting confused. One is a slow schmaltzy cerebral film trying only semi-successfully to convey complex concepts and esoteric ideas while the other is a combination war movie/video game. I think ARRIVAL was the former.

Both were at times confusing. And people wore orange space suits.

One starred Jeremy Renner, who had absolutely nothing to do in the film. The other starred Riz Ahmed, who was the kid in THE NIGHT OF, and found himself in prison again. Oh no. Now I’m REALLY confused.

One starred Amy Adams and the other toplined Felicity Jones. One was badass and the other was shot in profile a lot. Both saved the world, but only one will get Oscar consideration. It pays to have a nice nose.

Both films were prequels – one to the original 1977 STAR WARS movie and the other to THE THREE STOOGES IN ORBIT (which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1962).

Both movies were somewhat derivative. One had elements of CONTACT and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, the other was a highlight reel of all the previous STAR WARS action scenes, three STAR TREK space dogfights, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, THE LONGEST DAY, KELLY’S HEROES, and THE IRON GIANT.

One difference I was able to detect: ROGUE ONE was the film with a great last hour battle sequence. I know that for sure because of the two, that was the film I was able to stay awake for.

Beyond that, the two films were just a jumble of gobbledygook technical terms, soldiers running with machine guns, mythology, evil emperors, space aliens that looked like Donald Trump, daughters in trouble, CGI effects, scope, and of course, Forest Whitaker.

One aspires to lift the human spirit; the other hopes to knock off MOANA.

STAR WARS movies are always a little problematic for me because of the confusion factor. Another example: One of the STARS WARS chapters featured Natalie Portman. And this year she shows up in JACKIE (which is the exact same movie as the STAR WARS chapter).   Pictured left: Here she is in (I believe) JACKIE, but it might be STAR WARS.  It's just too close to call.

What’s a filmgoer to do?

But in all seriousness, ROGUE ONE was a fun ride and ARRIVAL was an ambitious Oscar-bait film that didn’t really fulfill its promise. And JACKIE I review Wednesday.


Johnny Walker said...

Ha. Channelling Woody Allen :)

I've also seen both and would agree with your assessment. I think ROGUE ONE, even though I ultimately enjoyed it, had a surprising number of issues on a script level though.

The film open with endless conversations about offscreen characters. Even as a STAR WARS fan I was wondering, "am I supposed to know these names? was the same name they mentioned previously, or someone else's? am I supposed to be remembering these things?".

Eventually we figure out, roughly, who these people are. Forrest Whittaker's character is the most interesting: A splinter of the Rebellion taken to extremist actions. It opens up a whole can of worms -- deliciously complex ones. The Rebellion are essentially terrorists, so how far can I get behind them and their actions? How far is too far? What are you prepared to justify in order to get what you want? And what do you do when you have an ally you're afraid of, or who don't agree with? These are the moral grey areas of all uprisings throughout history.

Added to this is the fact that he's completely paranoid and possibly being manipulated into being so by his second in command. Who's the real villain here? Is he a victim? Is he ultimately a tragic character? A hero who lost his way, and his mind, thanks to the horrors of war? Or is he right to be paranoid? What's going on? Where's this going?

Added to all of this is the complex relationship he has with the lead character. Wow. They must have some serious baggage, right?

All of this is set up to go... nowhere. Absolutely nowhere.

Why didn't they at least have the lead guy assassinate him? Helping us see the muddy waters of civil war, and paying off later in the story when he talks about the cost of Rebellion. Much better than the completely out-of-character way they resolve that story.

There's many more issues, but it's amazing that they managed to pull it back by the end. Such a great final act, even if it was all action.

Ralph C. said...

I don't go to the movies much, anymore. These are two reasons why. I wait for movies to be available to rent digitally through Amazon or Fandango. Much cheaper and more comfortable, to me. Most movies that are released I don't watch because they are uninteresting, to me. I'm glad there are reviews like yours Ken so I know what to avoid. I know movies that I will possibly like exist but they are to be found in the nooks and crannies of the movie world, their premieres whispered in the gusts from the mushroom clouds of the billion-dollar blockbuster releases.

Johnny Walker said...

Also, ARRIVAL: How selfish is Amy Adams's character? Yes, it's better to have loved and lost than have never loved at all... but what if you're the one being lost? Would a parent really do that?

Jonah Falcon said...

I loved Arrival, though.

Mike Botula said...

I'm glad I read your reviews before I see the movie, Ken. You save me a lot of confusion and angst. Sometimes, I go back and re-read them AFTER I see them, just to see if I got it right. Have you started screening the nominees for the SAG Awards? Your guidance would be very helpful to me.

Kosmo13 said...

What ruined Rogue One for me were the distractions caused by the heroine's big, giant square front teeth. Anytime she opened her mouth I expected that eventually we'd learn she had been cloned from woodchuck DNA.

I notice a lot of people on-line are misspelling the title as "Rouge One." That sounds more like a movie about the head of a cosmetics firm.

Peter said...

I think you're being a bit harsh on Arrival. I loved it.

But I'd really like to know what you think of Allied if you've seen it or plan to see it.

RyderDA said...

I have approximately zero interest in ROGUE ONE, or ROGUEs TWO through THIRTY SIX when Disney makes them (which they will).

The original STAR WARS (IV) was creatively interesting and broke ground. I like writers who do that. Episode V was more of the same, VI was OK but the nail in the coffin of milking a creative story to me. Then when they pumped out I, II and III, I avoided them like the plague (never mind incredible idiotic characters like Jar-Jar). Making related spin-offs like ROGUE N (where "N" is any number between 1 and 36) is the epitome of bereft intellectual creativity.

Change the above paragraph to LORD OF THE RINGS/THE HOBBIT and it's the same thing. LOTR I was awesome, HOBBIT III was just downright pathetic.

Writers, studios: If you want me to come to the movies (or buy a cable TV subscription), come up with the next creative, out of the box, inventive, character driven, ground-breakingly brilliant piece of work. I know it's tough -- really tough -- but it's been done before and will be done again. Be the one to do it, I beg of you. And when you do it, don't milk it until it has jumped the shark, and don't make an AFTER M*A*S*H to try to keep a once brilliant concept and execution going. At the very least, be like Aaron Sorkin and turn your SPORTS NIGHT into THE NEWSROOM.

blinky said...

Having just seen La La Land I would ask who is skinnier: Natalie Portman or Emma Stone? I don't think either of them has eaten this month.

Bob said...

Nothing like a hot Jewish actress pic to get your schmeckel going....Huh Ken ?

Aaron Hazouri said...

@RyderDA - I think there are so few people who care about "ground-breakingly brilliant" work that Disney is not concerned about them. They basically bought Star Wars as a license to print money, and so for the next, what, ten years they're going to keep pumping out the same story with the same characters (with the names changed up a bit) and millions upon millions of people will greedily lap it up and pay handsomely for the right to do so. And the toys - the new colors of light sabers, the new robots that are the same robots with different numbers and letters...

I'm with you: I liked the first two Star Wars and the one with the Ewoks was kind of fun but that's enough for me. But you and me need to get out of the way so the teeming hordes can rush past us and get more of that sweet sweet Star Wars!!!

scottmc said...

I look forward to your review of JACKIE. My reaction to it was unlike any I have had for a movie.

Dan M. said...

I think that's Keira Knightley in the photo.

Susan said...

That's not Natalie, Ken.

Will you be reviewing Hacksaw Ridge too.

I'm Outraged! said...

I'm pretty sure he knows that it's not Natalie Portman.

RyderDA said...

Aaron Hazouri, you are completely correct. Sadly Pixar were doing ground breakingly brilliant work before Disney got their claws into it. As examples:
2) MONSTER'S INC -- Then Disney's Xerox machine took over and begat MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, MIKE'S NEW CAR, and PARTY CENTRAL so far
3) FINDING NEMO -- Then Disney's Xerox machine took over and begat FINDING DORY, EXPLORING THE REEF, and MARINE LIFE INTERVIEWS so far

I don't think the capability for brilliant original work is that rare. Folks capable of it (writers, producers, studio execs) are lured by the promise of $$$ from low risk work, instead of coming up with the next big thing. Look at Spielberg: with an opportunity to make a sequel to E.T.- THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, he refused, saying it "would do nothing but rob the original of its virginity"

Create. Don't rob.

VP81955 said...

If it paid to have a nice nose, Myrna Loy (my second all-time favorite actress), would've had at least one Academy Award nomination.

Susan said...

Fred Nerk, Ken has used the pic next to where he talks of Natalie Portman. So I pointed out as someone had done in above comments.

It's not that Ken has simply started using skimpily clad actresses' pic for his blogs to get more views, has he?

Andrew said...

1) I enjoyed Rogue One. It wasn't great, but it was entertaining enough. I thought the cameos with Darth Vader were good reminders of his true villainy, before the prequels destroyed his "prestige."

2) RyderDA, are you kidding me? Toy Stories 2 and 3 each improved upon the original (which was excellent enough).

Diane D said...

When someone creates a movie with a story and characters that capture the imagination of every child on the planet, and continues to do so with every sequel/prequel, why does the fact that it makes money mean it is garbage? I'm referring to many comments, not Ken's post, much of which seems to be tongue-in-cheek and HILARIOUS!

And I wish someone could tell me the difference between a great TV show continuing season after season, and a movie franchise continuing with sequels as long as there is a huge audience who continues to love them. STAR WARS and all of those big block buster movies are for children, right? And shouldn't they be judged with that in mind?

Greg Ehrbar said...

The cool thing about JOSIE AND THE PUSSYCATS IN OUTER SPACE is that the entire premise takes place in the one-minute theme song. The rock group with long tails and ears for hats poses for publicity photos at a launching, Alexandra forces her way in front, knocking them all -- oh, no -- inside the space rocket and accidentally starting it (which is apparently really easy to do with one lever). Done. Start the show.

This series has the distinction of being mentioned extensively in an episode of MAUDE ("Maude's Facelift, Part 2") in which Walter and Philip are watching Saturday morning TV on the same network as their show, therefore breaking the fourth wall.

Walter: "You know Philip, there's something very important we can learn from watcing Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space. Though they're surrounded by Gorgo and the Canyonians on one side, and Rulo and the Arcovians on the other side, notice how neat their clothes are at all times."

Philip:"Maybe that's because they're the only rock and roll band in outer space."

Dixon Steele said...

Liked ARRIVAL for the most part. But can someone please explain the WTF ending?

willwebreathe said...

Like Scorsesee said, there's just too much chatter out there anymore. I would love a throwback to a moview that displays a true emotional storyline that doesn't try to one up that last action thriller will 1 million too many bangs and crashes. What ever happened to less is more... simple and elegant. Movies these days look they grabbed all the leftovers in the garage and threw them in there to create STUFF going on.

Trevor Cole said...

Ken, I find your blog posts fascinating. I always enjoy reading them. But I'm kind of shocked at your blithe dismissal of Arrival. I have — and every writer I know who has seen it has — gushed about this movie.

It's about language, about beings trying desperately to understand each other, about growing through communication. It's so much more than you suggest, and I'm sorry you've let the fact that you saw it back to back with a popcorn movie muddle your memory of it.