Rogue One – Review

rogue_one_posterMrs Earth-Prime and I went to see Rogue One yesterday and while it’s fair to say I’m the bigger fan of the franchise as a whole, this is probably the first Star Wars film that she enjoyed more than me.

I’ll be upfront – I enjoyed it on the whole, but it didn’t set my heart a’flutter like The Force Awakens did last year.

For anyone who’s been living under a rock for the last year or so, Rogue One is the story of how the Rebel Alliance came into possession of the plans for the original Death Star and, by and large, it works. One of the main scientists/architects has sympathies with the Rebellion and tells his daughter, Jyn Erso, he’s built in a flaw without the Empire knowing. All Jyn has to do is convince the Rebels that he’s telling the truth, find the plans and get them to the Alliance without the Empire realising what the weakness is. Jyn eventually leads a daring attack against the data storage facility where the plans are held and (not really a spoiler) gets them to the Rebels.

And that’s pretty much it. There are plenty of nods to the original Star Wars – everything from a CGI Grand Moff Tarkin, to Darth Vader (who’s hanging out on Mustafar which, oddly, is the only planet not to get an on screen title, unless I missed it), to the two thugs from the Cantina that pick on Luke, to a jug of blue milk, and many more – not forgetting the apparently obligatory cameo of C-3P0 and R2-D2. The film romps along with Jyn picking up compatriots who aren’t really introduced until they all band together to go and get the plans, all the while being chased by the Empire, and that’s probably my biggest criticism of the film.

Jyn and her eventual partner Cassian Andor, are the characters who are the most developed, but even that’s done with broad strokes. Pretty much every other character are one note presences who turn up to do something and are then cast aside – you don’t really get to know any of them and so don’t really care too much when they inevitably die. Aside from Jyn and Cassian, perhaps the only exception is the re-programmed Imperial droid K-2SO, who is wonderfully sarcastic throughout.

That said, the final beach fight and the race against time to get the plans out and to the rebels works nicely, tying the film tightly to A New Hope; indeed, the latter could be said to start within minutes of the end of Rogue One. And it was those last scenes, particularly Vader arriving to try and prevent the plans escaping, that proved the most exhilarating for me. As I wasn’t invested in Jyn or Cassian or any of the others, it was seeing this story dovetail with the original that made me grin the most.

All in all, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t brilliant either. I don’t usually score the films I watch, but this one gets three Death Stars out of five.

three_death_stars

Powerless To Feel Optimistic

powerless_original_posterI try, I really do, not to be negative about things – films, TV shows, comics – before they come out. It’s so very easy to say “Oh my God this look so dreadful!” whenever the news lands about a new show or book when all that reaction is based on is one or two news reports on the net, and Cthulhu knows there are enough blogs and websites out there that do just that.

When it was first announced a few months back, the forthcoming show Powerless left me cold. A sit-com based in the DCU, about an insurance company called Retcon helping clean up after the mess caused by superheroes, didn’t fill me with anything approaching enthusiasm or interest, but I kept my mouth shut and this blog free of my opinion. Over the weekend, I read that the insurance angle is gone, as is the name Retcon, and been swapped out for a security company that’s a subsidiary of Wayne Enterprises, tying it even firmer to the DCU.

Despite liking the inside joke original name of Retcon, nothing about the premise of this show interests me and this latest article has made me throw caution and reticence to the wind and actually blog about it.

We comic fans are in a great place right now as far as TV shows go. DC’s FlashSupergirlLegends of Tomorrow and, while I’m not a viewer, Arrow are all garnering positive reviews. Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, the sadly cancelled Agent Carter, and the Netflix shows of DaredevilJessica Jones and Luke Cage have all done splendidly. Each of them, in their own way, enjoys a sense of fun and levity amongst the drama, punch ups and superpowered smackdowns, without edging into the world of a sitcom – they’re played straight, not for laughs, and that is what’s at the heart of my misgivings over Powerless.

Crimson Fox on the set of "Powerless"
Crimson Fox on the set of “Powerless”

I worry that by – potentially – laughing at the superheroes, the world of TV comic book adaptations will shoot itself in the foot. We all know that in the real world, men and women running around in spandex and leather is inherently silly, but the shows I mention above get away with it by shrugging their shoulders and buying into it. And because they’re playing it straight, we the viewer buy in to it too. The Crimson Fox appears on Powerless as seen on the right and her costume isn’t a million miles from the original comic book version; it’s difficult to judge from a few set photos, but that wouldn’t look out of place on an episode of Flash.

My worry with Powerless is that the superheroes become the butt of the jokes; if we start making fun of the heroes – their costumes, their names, their powers – on this show, then what’s to stop us doing the same to Daredevil or Arrow? Once we lose our ability to take those characters even slightly seriously, we end up heading down the road of the 60s Batman show. It gets silly, it gets campy, people stop watching, viewer figures fall.

Once that happens, networks panic and some executive decides the superhero boom is over. Shows get cancelled, nothing new gets commissioned and the shows we currently know and love disappear from our sets.

Like I said, I’ve been reluctant to post about Powerless – I have no basis for my concerns, I don’t know that the heroes will be laughed at or merely incidental to the show. But with such a lacklustre review of the first episode, I wonder if this is going to do more harm than good to the current crop of superhero shows.

If and when it turns up here in the UK, I’ll give it a look and reserve my judgement till then. However, I’m not that hopeful right now.