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Movie Review: ‘Rogue One’ Indulges the Darker Side of Star Wars

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Rogue One Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

How does Rogue One: A Star Wars story stack up to the legendary Star Wars franchise? Find out by reading our movie review:

[dropcap]R[/dropcap]ogue One is the first Star Wars movie to open without the booming John Williams score or the expository text crawl. I braced for the silence of the credits to be obliterated by that familiar theme, but was surprised that it never came. The opening sentence of placing the setting a long time ago in a galaxy far away is still present, but the movie still makes itself clear as not being a normal Star Wars story.

Without the baggage of adhering to strict Star Wars plots and characters, director Gareth Edwards is able to take this franchise in a radically new direction for this one-shot prequel that plays as anything but predictable. This is the Star Wars universe we know, but not the same old Star Wars formula. No expected pluckiness, no required lightsaber duels and no guarantee that every hero will live.

Rogue One Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

Some of the main ‘Rogue One’ characters.

Taking place before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope, the planet-destroying weapon of the Death Star, sometimes mistaken for a moon, is nearly completed and the Empire is eager to give their new toy a test. But the Rebellion forces that oppose the Empire are still in the dark about what this weapon is and what it is called.

They decide to enlist the help of the troublesome criminal Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) seeing as how her father (Mads Mikkelsen) was working on the Empire’s secret projects. She hasn’t seen him since she was a child, but the Rebellion still believes her to be an asset given her more recent interactions with rebel fighter Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), an aged cyborg that has lost his legs and his mind.

She’s not alone in her tough mission of infiltrating the Empire. The Rebellion allies her with risk-taker Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his smart-mouthed droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), but she acquires more comrades in her travels. The blind and Force-spiritual Chirrut (Donnie Yen) and his trigger-happy pal Baze (Jiang Wen) make a capable pair of warriors in combat, both close and distant. A defecting Empire pilot provides the perfect in for helping Jyn and her pals evade security and infiltrate Imperial strongholds.

They’re a colorful bunch that work together as well as any ragtag group of outlaws banding together for a common good, but they are also focused enough to not rely on punctuating quips or emotional mistakes. We don’t delve too deep into these characters’ pasts, but perhaps we don’t need to. There’s not enough time to be charismatically comical or forlornly nostalgic when Stormtroopers are shooting at you with their entire armada. And their weapons are most certainly not set to stun.

As Jyn gains more followers in her mission, it isn’t long before the entire Rebellion armada joins her in a grand battle to snatch the plans for the Death Star from a heavily guarded planet. The Death Star itself is being finished by Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), dressed in a cape-touting white uniform, whom Jyn has known since childhood. He’s become bitter and frustrated with his project that has been undermined and stolen by the likes of Grand Moff Tarkin.

Rogue One Movie Review MovieSpoon.com

‘Rogue One’ gets right into the thick of the battles.

Tarkin, you may recall, was the strict no-nonsense Death Star director played by Peter Cushing in Star Wars: A New Hope, which adds a whole new dimension of sinister to his character. With Darth Vader also breathing down Krennic’s neck (in addition to choking it), there’s enough to warrant the evil nature of this villain who is struggling to hold any level of authority within the Empire.

The problem with any prequel is the question of how to raise tension and excitement when we know how certain events will transpire. We know the Rebels will acquire the Death Star plans and that a handful of familiar characters (most notable being Darth Vader) will survive this ordeal without harm. But Rogue One avoids the predictability plotholes by featuring original characters and ramping the stakes so high that you really do start believing the heroes will not succeed. The only downside is that most of the familiar characters are reduced to cameo roles which, while not annoying, felt unneeded in a picture that stands well enough on its own. Must C3PO and R2-D2 be in every Star Wars movie? Haven’t they earned a break by now?

Director Gareth Edwards was best known for his sci-fi pictures Monsters and Godzilla, two films where he kept the special effects mostly hidden or saved them up for a few money shots. Edwards pulls out all the stops with his take on Star Wars, staging large-scale battles on land and in space, never crowding the screen too much or shaking the camera to the point of being a constant blur. He wants to show us how cool it is to see AT-AT walkers on a beach or squadrons of Y-Wings disable a Star Destroyer. And because there is so much going on, without so much as a breath of a comic relief scene or a romantic subplot, the action never feels as though it’s fulfilling a mandatory beat or acting as flashy filler. There’s a little more tact required for this mission than just blowing something up – though there are plenty big balls of fire to be had in Rogue One’s take-no-prisoners climax.

Read more to get the rest of the movie review for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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“Captain Marvel” Retains Top Slot at the Box Office

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It’s no surprise that in its second weekend, the first Marvel Cinematic Universe of 2019 is still riding high. Captain Marvel, the latest in the MCU with Brie Larson starring as the lead, generated another $69 million over the weekend, placing its domestic total at $266 million. Tallying up the international box office, the film’s global total to date is $760 million. Despite the online controversy, the film is looking to be another strong box office smash for Disney and Marvel.

As for the premieres for the weekend, and there were plenty, they were all over the map. Just below Captain Marvel was the animated adventure Wonder Park, bringing in $16 million, another film with controversy when the director’s name was removed from the picture after sexual harassment charges. Five Feet Apart, the dying teen drama about a romance amid cystic fibrosis, only came in at #3 with a weekend gross of $13 million. And debuting the lowest in the top 10 for debuts was Captive State, a sci-fi dystopian tale, only making $3 million. The film debuted so low the little film No Manches Frida 2 was able to sneak about it at #6 with a gross of $3.8 million.

Drops were fairly low all around for the returning films, mostly because Captain Marvel was dominating the previous weekend. The only milestone worth noting is that The LEGO Movie 2, after six weeks at the box office, finally cracked $100 million. And the sun is now setting on Green Book’s post-Oscar run by coming in at #10 for the final weekend of its top 10 run over the past few weeks.

View the full top ten weekend box office results below:

Captain Marvel ($69,318,000)

Wonder Park ($16,000,000)

Five Feet Apart ($13,150,000)

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($9,345,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($8,085,000)

No Manches Frida 2 ($3,894,000)

Captive State ($3,163,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($2,135,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($1,900,000)

Green Book ($1,277,000)

Next weekend, Captain Marvel may very well have some competition when Jordan Peele’s new horror film Us hits over 3,600 theaters.

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“Dragon” Continues To Soar, “Funeral” Close Behind, “Green Book” Back

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With little competition for the weekend, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the third in the animated fantasy saga, was able to secure the box office once more. In its second weekend, the animated epic made $30 million to push its domestic total to $97 million. So far the film has done about the same as the previous film and is on track to stay in the top 10 for a few more weeks in March.

Debuts this weekend were small with one big exception. Tyler Perry’s latest Madea film, A Madea Family Funeral, naturally made a relatively big splash with its dedicated audience. Starting at #2, the film made $27 million for its first weekend. No word on the budget yet but it’s most likely on a budget as most Tyler Perry productions are, so it’s safe to call this a success, especially for debuting with a box office so close to Dragon.

The rest of the premieres were not as strong at all. Greta, the new thriller starring Chloe Moretz, debuted all the way down at #8 with $4.5 million box office. To be fair, however, the film was in a constant battle for its spot as three other films also reported earnings around $4 million for the weekend. Of note, Green Book, fresh off winning the Academy Award for Best Picture one weekend ago, splashed back into more theaters to arise even higher in the top 10 with its domestic total now sitting at $73 million. Don’t count on it remaining there long as bigger blockbusters will be swooping as we plow through the last remnants of winter movies.

Check out the full listing of the top 10 box office weekend results below:

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World ($30,046,000)

Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral ($27,050,000)

Alita: Battle Angel ($7,000,000)

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part ($6,615,000)

Green Book ($4,711,000)

Fighting With My Family ($4,691,284)

Isn’t it Romantic ($4,645,000)

Greta ($4,585,000)

What Men Want ($2,700,000)

Happy Death Day 2U ($2,516,000)

Next weekend is once again all about Marvel as their latest superhero solo film, Captain Marvel, will be appearing in 4,100 theaters.

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Review: “Captain Marvel” is a Solidly Sensational Sci-Fi Adventure

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Captain Marvel joins the ranks of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a much different way. She slides into the MCU via a twisty sci-fi adventure of the 1990s, before the Avengers were formed. And though the film does serve as a strong bridge picture that answers a few more questions about the Marvel universe, the film quickly becomes its own thing and gives its hero a real identity as the powerful addition to the superhero ensemble.

Brie Larson plays Carol Danvers, a woman not sure if she’s a human pilot of Earth or a soldier of the Kree empire’s Starforce. There’s little time to explore these conflicting visions she’s having when there’s special energy powers to control and a war being waged against the shape-shifting Skrull alien creatures. A detour to 1990s Earth gives her a bit of time to find out more while also hunting down some more Skrulls, leading to some interesting scenarios when combatting aliens that could look like old ladies.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) ..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

Carol’s landing on Earth leads to treading down familiar Marvel timeline territory as well as evoking plenty of dated 1990s bits. What started drawing me into the picture was how the film holds itself back from the obvious. The 1990s setting is used for some gags of video stores and Windows 95, sure, but never goes the extra mile of becoming an aggravating reference fest, keeping a certain vibe the way Guardians of the Galaxy embraced the 1970s and 1980s. And just like that film, there’s a nostalgic soundtrack to boot, with choice tracks for just the right cue.

Samuel L. Jackson pops up in the film as a younger Nick Fury with his two eyes still intact. He teams up with Carol in her intergalactic spy adventure and thankfully never goes to the booming lengths he was known for that decade. And the filmmakers could have easily made this younger Fury go full Die Hard 3 or Pulp Fiction but he never does, always keeping that cool persona he has been known for in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Marvel Studios’ CAPTAIN MARVEL..L to R: Att-Lass (Algenis Perez Soto), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2019

But the one aspect that is never shunned and built up grandly is the aspect of female empowerment. Danvers is established as a woman who doesn’t have a clear identity or mindful nature of galactic politics and has to build herself up when she realizes she may be a very powerful pawn in a big game of intergalactic chess. Her memories are that of always being told to back off from non-traditional activities for girls and, sure enough, she rises up to become the smirking and energy-shooting hero when the final piece of her character puzzle is pieced together. It’s just unfortunate that the film spends so much time doing the building amid a twisty sci-fi spy story that Brie never gets a moment to shine as brightly as she could, despite a very enthusiastic third-act closer.

If we’re being blunt, no, Captain Marvel doesn’t quite have the same gravity to be a cultural milestone of a comic book movie. Where others have pointed to Black Panther as not the first the most insightful and cultural of black-led superhero movies, I doubt many will look towards Captain Marvel as the grandest of female-led comic book movies, making its motives known with the power and subtlety of a supernova. But, in terms of what the film is aiming towards, it doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone and that’s perhaps the point. I just wish that Captain Marvel’s astounding powers to destroy starships and aliens had a much bigger punch for a picture that wants to obliterate the glass ceiling and merely cuts a narrow hole within the MCU. It’s a nice hole, mind you, and still weaves a capable and compelling sci-fi adventure with a surprisingly more engaging finale than most Marvel solos.

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