From Lucasfilm comes the first of the STAR WARS stand-alone films -- ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY, an epic adventure. In a time of conflict, a group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire's ultimate weapon of destruction. This key event in the STAR WARS timeline brings together ordinary people who choose to do extraordinary things, and in doing so, become part of something greater than themselves.
I'm not going to lie to you. When I first saw Rogue One in the theaters, I didn't think it was a very good movie. After watching it twice more in the past week – once in 2D and once in 3D – I've warmed up to it quite a bit, although I still think it has some serious problems. Is it better than the Prequel Trilogy that George Lucas gave us? Most certainly. Does it compare favorably with the Original Trilogy and 2015's The Force Awakens? Not really. That leaves Rogue One somewhere in the middle among Star Wars movies – a title that is neither as good as you're heard or as bad as you feared. It's entertaining, but ultimately not as memorable as it could have been.
To Rogue One's credit, it tries to be different from the other movies in the canon, and for a while, it works fairly well. The opening scenes of the movie are strong, and although most going into the movie know the events in the story will lead up to the opening of the original Star Wars film, there's a sense that Rogue One wants to be its own thing...until it doesn't anymore. My fellow High-Def Digest reviewer, Matthew Hartman did a solid job recapping the plot of Rogue One in his review of the digital version, so I won't waste a bunch of space recapping it here – but be sure to check out his review if you'd like a better idea of all the characters, as well as an alternate opinion of the movie (Matthew liked it much more than yours truly).
Perhaps my biggest issue with Rogue One is its lack of characterization and its parade of seemingly single-dimension characters. We only learn a little about our lead character, Jyn (Felicity Jones), during the course of the movie and next-to-nothing about the supporting cast – who all give fine performances, but never reveal much beyond their basic personalities. Yes, I realize this is only a slightly over two-hour movie, and yes, I realize the primary focus here is on action – but I felt I learned a whole lot more about Rey, Finn, and Kylo Ren after watching The Force Awakens than I did any single one of the characters in Rogue One, and that's a shame – not only because this is the only film we'll see with these actors playing these parts, because I found all of them to be interesting, and it was frustrating that the movie didn't feel the need to delve further into what makes each one of them tick. Ben Mendelsohn's Director Krennic was the biggest disappointment, as Mendelsohn is by far the best actor in this cast (and he's great in every scene he's in), yet the script turns him into nothing more than a mustache-twirling villain (sans mustache). What makes him so evil? What turned him into what he became? This movie never lets us find out.
Another problem I had with the movie – and one in which I veer sharply from the opinion of most Star Wars fans – is just how much "fan service" takes place in Rogue One. For a movie that wants so hard to be different, there's a ridiculous number of nods towards other parts of the franchise – starting with five (count 'em, five) major characters that show up from the original Star Wars film, and a few minor characters from that movie as well. Go online and you won't have to go far to find people raving about Darth Vader's final scene in this movie. They love it. I hated it. It has absolutely nothing to do with the characters we just spent two hours watching, and it's only there because, hey, we've got Darth Vader in this movie, so let's see him do something really cool. Of all the fan service in Rogue One, that final Vader scene is the worst (and, for the record, it was part of Tony Gilroy's much-talked-about reshoots and not part of Director Gareth Edwards original vision nor the original screenplay for this movie).
So with all that doesn't work in Rogue One is there stuff that it actually gets right? You bet. First of all, this is easily the most "adult" Star Wars movie to date – to the point where I'm not sure any kid under 12 would find much to like about this movie. There's a bit of fun and humor to be sure (almost all of it coming from Alan Tudyk's Imperial droid, K-2SO), but I enjoyed the story's overall somberness, as well as the fact that no one here felt the need to give these characters a happy ending. As for the action sequences, they rank among the best we've seen in a Star Wars movie, with the climatic act out-doing even the impressive battle sequence from the end of Return of the Jedi, with which it shares a lot of similarities.
Despite my many misgivings, I didn't hate Rogue One, I just felt that there were a lot of missed opportunities here. But for the franchise's first standalone flick, things could have gone a lot worse. I'm just hoping we'll eventually get a Star Wars movie that doesn't feel the need to rely so much on the stories we've already seen. It's a big galaxy out there, there's no need to use what came before as a crutch to tell a good story.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Rogue One lands in your local Target (or via their online website) in special exclusive packaging. The first thing buyers and potential buyers will notice is how thick the quad-fold Digipack pack is. It's almost exactly as thick as the 3D release of The Force Awakens, but just a tad smaller horizontally and about a half-inch shorter vertically. The five discs in the set – a 3D 50GB Blu-ray movie disc, a 2D 50GB Blu-ray movie disc, a dual-layer DVD movie disc, a 25GB Blu-ray bonus disc, and a single-layer DVD bonus disc (with two extras exclusive to this release) – are held on three full-card plastic hubs, with the first two plastic holders having the top disc slightly overlapping the bottom one, so that the top one needs to be removed to gain access to the other disc. The third plastic holder is a single centered hub holding the DVD bonus disc. Also included inside is a sealed insert containing a peel-and-reveal code for a digital copy of the movie. The front cover (the first fold of this Digipack) has a sleeve that contains five glossy color photos, featuring the characters of Jyn; K-2SO and Cassian; Chirrut and Baze; Director Krennic; and Bodhi and Saw Gerrera, respectively. The photos can be used as alternate covers for the box cover, but they would look nice in frames as well, should one so choose (each measures roughly 6 ?" x 5 ?"). The packaging concludes with a clear plastic slipcover that slides overtop, which has the Rogue One logo on the front top and sides, and blue-lined Death Star schematics over the rest.
When you first put in any of the three movie discs or the DVD bonus disc, it will ask users to enter a language selection before continuing. This option doesn't happen on the Blu-ray bonus disc, as English is the only audio available, although there are subtitle options. None of the discs in this set are front-loaded with any trailers or other advertisements. The Blu-ray discs' main menus have a blue-colored tinge, with a rotation of stills of the main characters along with footage from the movie playing in the background. Menu selections are horizontally placed across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-rays in this release are region-free.
Rogue One was shot digitally on the Arri Alexa 65, and the 1080p transfer here is taken from a 4K digital intermediate of the movie (which makes one wish Disney would release this title in 4K, but they've yet to take the jump to that format). The movie is presented in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
I didn't seen either the IMAX 3D or RealD 3D presentation of Rogue One in theaters, so this home video 3D version was my first exposure to the movie in this format. The 3D here is all about depth, so those looking for objects coming out of the screen at you may be disappointed. Even The Force Awakens had that one Star Destroyer image coming out at you, but there's really no such moment in Rogue One. Keep in mind, of course, that both these movies are post-conversions and no scenes were originally shot with 3D cameras. With that said, this is still a very pleasant viewing experience and I enjoyed watching the movie in 3D quite a bit. I will say that the biggest difference here is the dimming of color that happens when watching this version – the 3D image doesn't have those really lush colors that I loved so much when viewing the 2D version. In fact, many of the darker scenes fall a little flat in this format. On the other hand, thanks in no small part to the brightness of the backgrounds during the movie's final act, the big battle sequence on Scarif is really fun to watch.
Is the 3D worth the upgrade? Yes. If you're lucky enough to have a 3D compatible TV (which aren't being manufactured anymore, sadly), this provides another version of the movie that most should enjoy. It's about on par with the 3D quality of The Force Awakens for the most part – not quite as good in some of the movie's darker moments, but equal to it or superior in many of the well-lit sequences.
The main audio track here (the audio and subtitle options are identical for both the 2D and 3D Blu-ray) is an English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one, and I know there are a lot of you out there waiting to see what I thought of it. While I was perfectly happy (indeed, I gave it top marks) with the track on the Blu-ray release of The Force Awakens, I know there were a lot of complaints out there about the lack of "weight" that it provided, with weak LFE reproduction and a general lack of "oomph" when it game to things like explosions, laser blasts, etc.
I'm happy to report that's not an issue this time around – and, trust me, I was paying attention to see what the bigger moments in the film provide. The use of lasers in the movie have that hefty, powerful feel to them that you're hoping for, and explosions in the movie are deep and rumbling. Disney/Lucasfilm seem to have heard the complaints and perhaps even erred on the side of providing a little too much, but it's hard to imagine anyone will be disappointed by this track – unless, of course, one wants to complain about the lack of Atmos here, an audio format that Disney/Lucasfilm still doesn't support on home video, despite the fact that this movie was released in theaters with an Atmos track.
As for other aspects of the 7.1 track, there's a great deal of directionality and use of the rear speakers throughout the movie. I'm not sure it ever feels fully immersive, but there are a number of impressive sequences in the film – most notably the short battle on Jedha and, of course, the movie's big climatic battle – including the scene that everyone seems to love featuring Darth Vader. There were no noticeable dropouts, glitches, or other problems with the audio, and dialogue is clear, well-rendered, and properly mixed with the rest of the track.
In addition to the 7.1 lossless track, there's also 2.0 English Descriptive Audio, along with 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks in French and Spanish. Subtitles are available in English SDH, French and Spanish.
The bonus materials in this section appear only on the standard 2D Blu-ray included in this set. All the bonus materials except one, "Rogue Connections" are under a menu selection titled "The Stories". Why they seperated a single (and short) bonus feature from the rest is anyone's guess, but perhaps it's because all the other featurettes are really just broken-up parts of a larger documentary. Indeed, there's a "Play All" option for these segments, which is really the way to watch them (the total running time for them is 1:08:57).
A Rogue Idea: (HD 9:00) – This is a quick look at John Knoll's initial pitch and the hiring of Gareth Edwards idea featuring interviews with Kathleen Kennedy and various other Lucasfilm major players.
Jyn: The Rebel (HD 6:16) – We get a quick introduction to Felicity Jones' character and the various attributes that make her unique and set her apart from the other characters within the film.
Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills (HD 6:20) – Actors Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang talk about the audition process and landing their respective roles and their experiences filming.
Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot and the Revolutionary (HD 8:35) – This is a quick look at the characters played by Riz Ahmed and Forest Whitaker and their place within this story and past events.
Cassian: The Spy (HD 4:14) – A very brief look at Diego Luna's character.
K-2S0: The Droid (HD 7:43) – This is a fun look at Alan Tudyk's robot character, the motion capture work he did. It's pretty clear they let the guy improve a lot of his deadpan humor.
The Princess & The Governor (HD 5:49) – This is a very brief but interesting look at how they digitally recreated two integral characters digitally. The stuff covering Guy Henry's recreation of Tarkin is particularly impressive.
The Empire (HD 8:18) – This is just a quick run through of all the dastardly diabolical bad guys making up the primary evil Imperial players.
Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One (HD 8:24) – I honestly wish this segment was an hour longer. Part of what made Rogue One so fun and unique was that it looked so different from the other films while still appearing somewhat familiar.
Epilogue: The Story Continues (HD 4:15) – This is a quick look at the premier of the film with some bits with fans and the key production crew.
Rogue Connections (HD 4:31) – This is a very quick look at all of the tangent tidbits that connect this film with other events in the Prequel Trilogy and the Original Trilogy, and is the only bonus feature separated from the others.
I wasn't as crazy about Rogue One as the majority of fans, but I appreciate it more now than I did when I first viewed it in theaters. My biggest issues with the film are in terms of characterization and the need to include so much "fan service", but there's still much to like here. This Target exclusive provides everything available on the standard Blu-ray release, plus the 3D version of the movie, a pair of additional featurettes, and some nice collectible cards. It's probably not the set to get if you're so-so about this film, but if you're one of its more rabid fans (and not much into steelbooks), I think this is the version you probably want to invest in. Regardless of which one you choose, I'm still giving Rogue One a firm Recommended, even with the reservations I have about the movie itself.