Darke Reviews | Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

If you remember my Force Awakens review I made it clear how good that one was. What I did not do was share my fan-girl credentials, which in this day and age may get me doxxed or called a fake geek girl. Suffice to say there was no one in my high school back in the early 90’s who could keep up with me on the Star Wars lore. I admit I am nowhere near the obsessive with it I was then, but Star Wars The Old Republic is kindling that flame again. I have felt the hype for this one since the first trailer when I heard Felicity Jones go “This is a Rebellion isn’t it? I rebel.”

So lets cut to it…does the movie live up to the hype?

Directed by Gareth Edwards, who I have raved on before with Monsters and Godzilla, does well with the small character moments and specific scenes. The reshoots, despite what others may say, however are painfully obvious. I can see where the studio and Tony Gilroy came in. I can see the asks, and honestly so can you. Just watch the trailers after seeing the movie. Edwards clearly had a vision for the movie and the studio disagreed, now he has said in a recent interview the “real” reason for the reshoots and what they solved for – but I am not entirely sold on that. While I am certain some pick up shots and additional reshoots may have been necessary; what we have as a final product shows the signs of having come undone at the seams and being restitched to use Riz Ahmeds analogy. The stitches are evident in many places and what I sadly cannot judge is  – were they fully needed.

The reason I say that is there are so many tonal changes in the film, the characters, and plot, – even the look sometimes that you can tell there is something wrong. Maybe it is me having seen so many movies, maybe it is just having my expectations too high. But the joint directing and production of this has created a series of irreconcilable flaws and issues with the film. There are times that they show rather than tell – which adds run time and an unnecessary scene that SHOULD be cut. Ironic as I have been vetching about bad editing all year.

Ok so directing and editing have flaws, but what of the script? The movie wraps with 4 total writers between story and screenplay. Tony Gilroy (Bourne 1, 2, 3, and 4) was brought into direct during reshoots and also has a screenplay credit which means he also got scripting edits in too. Knowing he is also behind the lackluster Bourne Legacy makes me wonder why he was selected to be brought in to help. Chris Weitz (Cinderella, Golden Compass) also has a screenplay credit and I sort of eviscerated him on Cinderella’s review too. This adds to my confusion and maybe if I had looked for this before going in I may have tempered my expectations. The story credit (so this is the original writers) goes to John Knoll who was a visual effects supervisor on A New Hope and Return of the Jedi amongst many other really good movies; yet this is the first writing gig. With him is Gary Whitta, who was  writer on the terrifically bad After Earth, but also 2 episodes of Star Wars Rebels.

At this point with these pedigrees – I am surprised the movie is as good as it is. I wish I could see the original script. I wish I could see the original cut. There’s so much good here and unexplored potential. So much that I can see the hints of something better than the final product. I mean the story has a foregone conclusion to it so nothing should come as a surprise, except the fate of our characters. Which we have to be introduced to and care about in the space of 2 hours and 45 minutes.

Thankfully – we do.

This is where the movie shines. The actors. Damn if they don’t have charisma and chemistry. Ok sure their performances are bordering on manic at times, but that isn’t their fault. That’s direction and story. Felicity Jones (Inferno, Theory of Everything) is more than capable of carrying the film. She’s remarkable, strong, vulnerable and everything I wanted. Diego Luna (Vampires Los Muertos, Milk, Elysium) does rather well with the complexity of his own character and pairs well with Jones like a fine meal. Alan Tudyk is a gift and a treasure. That is all you need know. Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang are fantastic and add to the story even if you will have trouble remembering their characters names. Ben Mendelsohn, has an unenviable task of trying to be the films bad guy. He has the shoes of Vader, Palpatine, and Ren to fill. He does his best, but lacks the weight of even Ren. I almost wish him and Mads Mikkelsen had switched their roles as Mads has that kind of weight. This isn’t to say he doesn’t give his best effort because he does. It just lacked something – but perhaps that is also the reshoots?

Technicals – ok 94% of the movie is flawless visually. There are literally hundreds of scenes of practical meets digital effects that are only improved. Musically it’s very good. They did a truly remarkable job making me feel like this was before Episode IV. What about the other 6%? Two words Uncanny Valley. You did something. You did it very very well – but it’s not perfect. That lack of perfection is jarring to my eyes and those of the person watching it with me. Two more years of technology advancement and I wouldn’t even notice. I would know but not notice and that is saying something.


The movie is good. The review above puts it through the meat grinder – because it could have been so much better. So. Much. Better. This is my expectations along with some very critical and painful editing choices. Not just the reshoots – which I have to admit may have improved the movie and I don’t know. That said; they may have also damaged it. I really can’t tell unless I could compare.

I know I am going to be in a minority on this one, but the movie is just a solid Good. It is deeply flawed and I don’t have to squint to see the flaws. This saddens and even angers me a bit. It should take more effort to tear this apart and it takes almost none. There’s good to defend, but it’s hard to overlook and defend the flaws.

The actors salvage this. Many of the visual effects shots are so gorgeous they fall easily into the category of best I’ve seen. That is why there’s anger. Because I can see where you did so bloody well. I just wish you had stuck the landing Disney.

Should you see it?

I still say yes – but temper your expectations.

What about 3-D?

Maybe. I can see where shots like the modified AT-AT’s walking out of the mist would be amazing in 3-D.

Will you buy it?


Are you seeing it again?

Yes and I am hoping I am more forgiving to enjoy all of it a bit more.

Last words?

Sorry folks. I wish I could tell you this was as amazing as I thought Force Awakens was. It’s good, but it should and could have been better. It deserved to be better.


Darke Reviews | Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (2015)

Do you realize it has nearly been 20 years since the first Mission Impossible film with Tom Cruise? How about this – 50 years since the original Mission: Impossible first hit the air? (side note: I had the opportunity a few years ago to meet Peter Lupus at a convention. The stories he told were incredible!) That one lasted 7 seasons, the 1988 reboot, sadly only lasted 2 and yet somehow Peter Graves looked no different. What we have established here is that Mission: Impossible has truly become a cultural touchstone across many generations and we should be thankful for that at least. While it may not have the impact Bond did to the spy genre, it certainly hasn’t gone away. This is one of those times Hollywood going back to the well was a good thing.

The question is did the well run dry with a Rogue Nation?

Some think it should have. It’s hard to run a franchise into 5 films successfully. Those not based on a book series are rare. So let’s start with the writing a moment. The story is by Drew Pearce and Christopher McQuarrie. Pearce somehow avoided my ire and righteous wrath for his screenplay work on detestable Iron Man 3. McQuarrie on the other hand has a masters hand with screenplays such as the perfection that is The Usual Suspects, the very serviceable Jack Reacher, and the criminally studio mismanaged Edge of Tomorrow; he also directs this film.

There are some odd pacing issues through this very traditional MI style spy thriller. It is a bit formulaic, but it should be. Just improve the formula a bit and keep us guessing a bit more and you’ve done your work to make a Mission Impossible film. The pacing, as I said, is a bit off where it drags for a moment here and there, but then brings you back in with a laugh or an “oh damn” moment. The theatre was laughing, wincing, and one guy even cried out in joy at a moment in the film (which got a laugh) – so pacing aside it knew what to do right to bring a reaction from the audience when it was needed and it was. Everything plays to type here from a story perspective and if there is any particular failing it is the villains. They just don’t carry the weight of Kaiser Soze or even what little Christoph Waltz has given us in the Spectre teaser. This isn’t to say they aren’t threatening or don’t have weight, because they do; however most of that weight comes from Ethan Hunt having to tell us rather than allowing us to truly witness it.

The US has a love/hate relationship with Cruise. I for one love him. He may be a wackadoodle in real life (I swear folks will never forgive him for the Oprah thing or Scientology), but on set all reports are he is a class act. Film wise, he has not disappointed me since 2001’s Vanilla Sky. Everything else I have seen him in he has been at the top of his game or at least the best thing involved in the films (I’m looking at you War of the Worlds). According to several video shorts, the airplane sequence is actually him, not a stuntman and not green screen. The driving sequence that closes out Act II is also him behind the wheel of the car. Does he have tropes in this film that he goes to? Of course he does. Once again it is clear he did not skip leg day. Tom Cruise loves to run on screen, when he can’t get a motorcycle – which he also gets. If that’s really the worst we can pick on then he is doing good. The rest of the performance is spot on and I want to say a few things I noted, but they verge to spoiler territory – talk to me about it after you see it.

Simon Pegg gets more to do this time and we should love the movie for it. He returns for his 3rd outing as Benji Dunn; I know most of us forgot he was in 3 along with the fact that 3 exists. I am not shy about saying I love Simon Pegg as a performer and he is further proof of how a great comedic actor can be the best in dramatic moments due to their understanding of timing. Ving Rhames and Jeremy Renner reprise their roles from the previous films, with Rhames not getting nearly enough screen time but making every moment count and delivering one of the funnier lines in the film. All others are serviceable in their roles, neither memorable nor horrible; save one who deserves special mention. Rebecca Ferguson. She effortlessly plays against Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt. She is fun, conflicted, memorable, and also most importantly – bad ass. I would happily pay to see the sequel with her story as she is easily Ethan’s equal in the film 100%; and wisely the film does not pull what they did with Paula Patton in Ghost Protocol and overly sexualize her. She is female, she is pretty, but these are secondary to the camera shots for the vast majority of the film. Please Hollywood – take note? K. Thanks.

From a plot and technical perspective? Well honestly the film is exactly what it should be – Hyper-reality. It is our world, our issues, but with a twist to make it and the characters bigger than life. While Ghost Protocol brought things down a notch closer to real and this one continues the trend; Mission Impossible was never meant to really be in our world any more than James Bond is. The movie understands very clearly where that line is and keeps a comfortable enough distance that we can all enjoy it. Well mostly anyway. Some of the fight sequence camera work moves a bit too quick and cuts away just a hair too much. The car, plane, motorcycle, and so many other sequences are both beautiful and energetic. I will give credit to the Cinematographer, Robert Elswit, whose credits have some truly inspired camera work (Salt, The Town, There Will Be Blood).


Very well – your mission should you choose to accept is to see Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and tell me if you enjoyed it as much as I did. This post will self-destruct in…

Do I think this is the best of them? I think this one is close with Ghost Protocol, it might edge it out if I rewatch GP and then this again. It is truly a fun, popcorn and soda film (or beer if you have it). I remember looking to my partner for the movie tonight and going “this movie brings me joy.” It really did. I smiled. I relaxed and I was able to enjoy the film, which while not flawless, was still just plain entertaining.

There’s no 3D on this one, so no warnings there. XD isn’t needed, but if you like the sound then the first sequence will be your payoff.

There is mostly August dump slot coming from the studios over the next few weeks. Things they don’t know what to do with and hope makes a little money before everyone goes back to school. Things I will see because I keep being told ya’ll love the reviews, such as Fantastic Four (why do you hate me?), Man from U.N.C.L.E., American Ultra and Hitman: Agent 47. If however, you need something we know to be good to close your summer out then accept the mission and don’t get disavowed.