Rogue One: Midnight Launch @ The Orpheum, Cremorne (15 December 2016)

The opportunity to see one of the most hotly anticipated films of 2016 before most of the rest of the world is an excellent Australian perk. This is particularly the case considering we wait on average about 5 years for (legal) access to various Netflix series that every other continent has already enjoyed.

Yes, Australia gets the short end of the content stick.  We pay more.  We wait longer.  Our internet sucks.

But that old friend Papa Time (aka “AEST; UTC+10:00”) means we experienced the 15th of December before almost everyone else.  This is particularly nifty (never used that word before, won’t again) when you appreciate that your attendance at the midnight screening of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story at The Orpheum in Cremorne means you will know more about one of the biggest mysteries of the Star Wars saga than most diehard Star Wars fans around the world, even for just a few hours – Geek mode activated.

Walking up to the cinema, I reflected with my friend Victoria about the excitement I felt a year ago walking to The Force Awakens at the now closed IMAX, dressed as a terrible Han Solo.

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I was so concerned about how Episode VII would turn out given the mediocrity of the recent Episodes I, II and III.  Modern day Star Wars had proven disastrous and when it was announced that Disney would be at the helm of the sacred sci fi classic going forward, I didn’t know what to think.  But it all worked out.  Force Awakens reignited an almost waning franchise, and now, thankfully, Rogue One continues the momentum in a spectacular fashion.

11:30pm at the Orpheum is a strange place to be.  People shuffle about half tired, half excited, some in costume (goth Jedis were present), some in their pyjamas (we saw a classic tracky-dack, socks and sandals combo, a real “I’ve always wanted to wear this in public and it’s almost midnight so I’m just going to do it” type operator).  We were pretty exhausted (keeping in mind we had just had a 34 degree Sydney day) but despite our exhaustion, the Orpheum’s signage put us on the right path:

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After ensuring we didn’t accidentally walk into Trolls in cinema 5, we took up some seats close to the front of the Orpheum’s largest (and most beautiful) cinema and sat back for the ride.

And what a ride it was.  A dark ride.  Empire Strikes Back dark.

This is a gritty, almost morose Star Wars.  It’s mature, and adults will take more from it than children.  There is a loss of innocence.  Death is prevalent.  Sacrifice is at every turn.  It isn’t strictly good and evil, black and white.  There were some grey areas.  The film delves into the factions, divisive politics and moral tensions that perhaps were taken for granted when the original three films were released.  The more recent three films tried their best to convey the political landscape of a “space senate”, but, as stated above, this was mostly lost in the disaster that was the acting, script writing, direction, plot line and Jar Jar.

There were a few familiar faces in Rogue One (including entirely CGI renditions of some older characters, one of whom receives quite a bit of screen time). This makes sense given the chronology of the film (between Episode III and Episode IV, but much closer to Episode IV) and fans were delighted to see a few nods to A New Hope, as well as some characters in action in ways we hadn’t seen them before.  I was particularly excited to see brilliant Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn (known to me for his ominous role as Pope in Animal Kingdom, also in Netflix’s Bloodline series) as Director Krennic, the latest Imperial antagonist.

Visually, this film was spot on.  Beautiful settings in Jordan, Iceland and the Maldives have been reimagined and speckled with classic Star Wars architecture – from the mud huts and intergalactic mosques of Tatooine-esque Jeddha, to the harsh black and grey of Imperial outposts contrasted against the bright blues, greens and sands of tropical Scarif.  There was no denying this movie had all the features of a Star Wars film:

  • Wise old dude and the Force.
  • Sneaking around Imperial bases.
  • Bad ass epic lead chick.
  • Droid based comic relief.
  • The prolific use of miniatures and models.
  • Names that are hard to remember.
  • Lots of planets.
  • Incredible sound and score.
  • Epic space battles replete with close up cock pit X-Wing fighter deaths.
  • Senseless Storm Trooper massacres.

But what this film provided that other Star Wars films haven’t is the answer to one of the most contentious and heavily scrutinised plot holes in cinematic history: the Death Star plans.  How did the rebels get them? What was the reason for the Death Star’s gaping design flaw?  Why the hell is Hannibal actor Mads Mikkelson a good guy???  These are (mostly) answered.

So for the questions that it answers and for the consistent treatment of its subject matter (a strong flow on from the success of Force Awakens), this is a movie worth seeing in a cinema with a large audience.  Organise a group session on Viva and get all your friends together for the spectacle – you’ll have a blast!

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