Ben Mendelsohn

Reality is a bummer, and so is this movie  

Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) enters the Oasis via his virtual reality gear. 

Let me start this review with a caveat, since I know there are a lot of die hard fans out there of Ernest Cline’s 2011 sci-fi book Ready Player One, on which director Steven Spielberg’s new movie is based: I have not read the book. So if you’re looking for a detailed synopsis of how the movie is different from the book, you may as well click off Spinning Platters right now and search for a different review. That said, however, I did attend the screening with a friend who had read the book, and he let me know that much of the film’s plot differs dramatically from Cline’s story; he also opined that he thought a lot of the book’s charm was lost on screen. But that’s where I come in: to discuss a.) what, exactly, is on screen; and b.) to tell you if it’s worth your time and money. And the short answers are: a.) not much of interest, and b.) no.
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Star Wars goes rogue and leaves strong character development behind.

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When Felicity Jones goes rogue, we all go rogue.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the fifth best Star Wars film! Now that I’ve gotten my controversial statement out of the way, let’s continue. We can have the ranking argument later. For now, let’s just concentrate on what’s good and what’s not so good about the first ‘standalone’ Star Wars film, aka the first one to focus a story outside of the Skywalker saga. Except, it’s not exactly a standalone film, nor is it completely focused outside the aforementioned Skywalker saga. In fact, its central storyline comes from the iconic opening crawl that begins the original 1977 Star Wars film, Episode IV: A New Hope. Thus, the odds were always stacked against Rogue One. After all, its story is one in which we, more or less, know the fate of the central characters. So how can a film make us care for characters when we already know how their fates will be sealed? Well, in the hands of director Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla), Rogue One is full of impressive visuals and gripping action and just enough interesting characters to get by. There are easter eggs and callbacks aplenty in Rogue One to fully satisfy traditionalist and hardcore Star Wars fans, and enough stylistic changes to fulfill Disney’s initial attempt to launch a series of films meant to explore the expanded Star Wars universe in a way that is new but familiar. Rogue One is far from perfect, but it’s a fantastic movie-watching experience thanks to its exhilarating war movie feel and robust scope.

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