Media Monday: Review, Rogue One

Rogue One movie poster.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One was a pleasant surprise. I must admit that my expectations were low, due to the disappointment that was The Force Awakens. I hadn’t been paying much attention to the media, so going in I didn’t know where it fit in the Star Wars time line. Though it’s being billed as a “stand alone” film, Rogue One fills in the gap between the 1977 first movie (also known as Episode IV) and Revenge of the Sith (Episode III.) It’s exciting, action-filled, and best of all, it’s original.
The screenplay was written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, based on a story by John Knoll and Gary Whitta. Yet another director, Gareth Edwards, takes the helm for this installment, and he does an impressive job. The story line is fairly straightforward: the characters find out about an insidious Imperial plot to build a “planet killer,” which turns out to be the original Death Star.
One of the more satisfying things is how the movie explains one of the most glaring flaws in Episode IV: why does the Death Star have an explained weakness?
Like the force awakens, there’s a spunky female protagonist, Jyn Erso, played by the always delightful Felicity Jones. Unlike Force’s Rey, Jyn doesn’t benefit from a sudden unexpected blossoming of Jedi powers. She has to use her brains and daring to achieve her goal, to steal the plans for the Death Star.
It also introduces an endearing non-human character: the cynical android K-2SO voiced by Firefly alumnus Alan Tudyk. Maybe this is because, as our society becomes more automated, we need to give machines a personality.
According to Wikipedia, one of the film’s controversial aspects was the use of computer-generated imagery to portray the deceased actor Peter Cushing, and to show Carrie Fisher as a much younger woman. I expect we’ll see a lot more of this in the future.
I’d also like to comment on another controversy that’s arisen in the alternative media: that Rogue One serves the “social justice” narrative by casting non-white and Hispanic actors (such as Diego Luna as Cassian Andor) in the heroic roles, while the bad guys are all white. If this was indeed a goal, it didn’t detract from the movie. After all, the Star Wars saga is supposed to take place “long ago in a galaxy far away.” The fact that the characters are even human is one of those unexplainable coincidences of science fiction.
I’d like to close this review by wishing the great Carrie Fisher a speedy recovery from her recent heart attack.

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MEDIA MONDAY: Movie Review, Inferno

Inferno movie poster

Don’t think, just run!

Inferno, the new movie starring Tom Hanks, is based on the Dan Brown novel of the same name. It’s the fourth in the series that includes the controversial Da Vinci Code, all of which feature the same protagonist, Professor Robert Langdon.

At the opening of the movie, Langdon (Hanks) awakens in a hospital bed in Florence, Italy, with a pounding headache and no memory of the previous 48 hours. Before he can assess his situation, an assassin dressed as a policewoman invades his room, riddling the place with bullets. With the help of his doctor Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), a self-confessed fan of Langdon’s work, he survives and evades a multi-agency dragnet. Langdon and Brooks must solve a puzzle to defeat a sinister conspiracy. Billionaire and environmental fanatic Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) has created a deadly virus, to be released at any moment to decimate the human race.

I’ll admit that the movie is exciting and visually interesting. Director Ron Howard does a great job keeping the action going and the cinematography is superb. Tom Hanks is convincing as Langdon, though his character spends much of the movie befuddled by his injuries. Felicity Jones is such a visual delight I’d watch her even if the movie was terrible. The story has some interesting twists which I’ll admit I didn’t see coming.

The story, however, is also the movie’s biggest flaw. To enjoy it, you must turn off your brain and not consider the plausibility of anything. I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if it addresses the issues any better, but I doubt it. The plot is so riven with holes, it’s difficult to know where to start. The basic premise is not the problem; plenty of globalist elitists have expressed a desire for a plague or other disaster to “solve” the population problem.

That’s about the only thing that’s believable. To name a few of my objections: Why would Zobrist direct his followers with an elaborate puzzle, rather than using some more reliable method such as encryption? How could he believe that a one-time democide would permanently fix the overpopulation problem? It seems he’s made no provision for his group to survive the plague and guide humanity to a zero-growth future. Why would his plan depend on a single distribution locus for the virus, when viruses are easily replicated?

One plot element I did enjoy was the secretive private security firm led by Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan), a maverick businessman who makes an unlikely action hero. Since ideas can’t be copyrighted, I’m tempted to borrow this concept for a work of my own.

As for the rating, I’m seriously conflicted. Because it’s an enjoyable diversion, I could give Inferno 4 out of 5. However, I need to detect at least one star for insulting the audience’s intelligence, so let’s make it 3.