Anyone who has followed me since I started reviewing movies knows how I feel about Star Wars Episode VII: it was highly entertaining, crowd pleasing, and severely overrated. When Rogue One: A Star Wars Story came out, I had extremely similar feelings.
In the grand scheme of things, I think they’re both better than all of the prequels and worse than all of the originals.
But which one is better between the two? Objectively I mean, not which one is better to fanboys. To me, the answer was pretty obvious after letting both movies sit… but I didn’t want to admit it because I didn’t want to label either movie with the title of “better”.
I’ve separated the aspects of the movie into seven different categories: leads, secondary leads, side characters, villains, story, action and humor, and soundtrack. At the end, I’ll lay out my final consensus.
(SPOILERS FOR BOTH MOVIES)
Rey and Jyn: The Leading Characters
It’s very odd comparing the two because they’re both so similar: both women, both white, both separated from their parents at a young age, both have one-syllable names, both have been damaged, and both are primarily defined by being strong and independent. Also, neither of them are interested in romance because [reasons].
But how their characters were approached in their respective movies are definitely different.
Rey has an air of mystery to her that completely works. One of the few things that impressed me about The Force Awakens is that Rey’s unknown ability to harness the force is so understated that you were able to pick up on it on your own. The movie doesn’t shove it in your face, and this mysterious element definitely allowed Rey’s character to be more interesting.
But what really sells Rey is Daisy Ridley’s performance. She’s charismatic, she’s successfully quirky, and she’s very lighthearted. The chemistry that she had with all the other characters, but especially Finn, really added to her character.
Is she a unique and complex character? Nope. Does her character successfully work? Yes, without a doubt.
Jyn Erso, on the other hand, is a woman with a chip on her shoulder and has some visible father issues (I would say daddy issues, but that usually implies that she’s attracted to people instead of being completely asexual). She has no interested in being part of the rebellion because she doesn’t want to get her hands dirty, and then by the end of the movie, she is full-scale supportive of the entire rebellion.
Now Jyn’s transition from passive observance to rebel-with-a-conviction could have been something that truly defined her character. Instead, Rogue One does a sloppy job at explaining why there was such a drastic change of heart. It’s not just that she now supports the rebellion, but she drank the koolaid; she’s such a fangirl now that she’s actually lecturing the leaders of the rebellion! But because there was no buildup of this, the entire thing seemed forced, unnecessary, and stupid.
This isn’t even to mention that Felicity Jones’s performance seems so half-hearted in this movie.
So Rey is more charismatic, more likable, and more interesting than Jyn is. First point obviously goes to THE FORCE AWAKENS.
Finn and Cassian: The Secondary Leads
Both of our male counterparts in the movie both do a relatively decent job in their roles, but it’s pretty obvious which one is better…
Cassian, the stoic soldier of Rogue One, only had one scene where I really enjoyed his character: at the beginning of the movie, when he’s talking to an ally of the rebellion, and they end up attracting the attention of storm troopers, but the ally’s physical condition renders him completely unable to escape them. So Cassian embraces the ally and puts a laser through his chest. As he does so, the camera focuses on Cassian’s conflicted look. It was the only scene where I felt like I was truly getting to know his character.
Afterwards, he just kind of slumps into generic, stale bread. There was a moment where Cassian is secretly told by higher-ups to kill Jyn’s father. This was a forced subplot to create the obligatory conflict transition, but it could have been a defining moment for his character: how does Cassian as a character handle this conflicting command?
The answer? He doesn’t do anything because he’s such a good guy; it was the most cliché, generic, safe answer the movie could give us. The result is that Cassian was so forgettable. What else is there to his character? He’s been a rebel since a boy, he has a chip on his shoulder, and then he blindly follows Jyn into battle because reasons. The chemistry between him and Jyn wasn’t there either.
The Force Awakens has Finn. Finn’s problems are mostly from the story. His almost immediate transition from stormtrooper to rebel (er… resistance fighter?) pokes some major holes into how The First Order actually works. His escape with Poe was all sorts of convenient, and so on (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, read my analysis on The Force Awakens that I wrote a year ago).
But Finn as a character almost completely works well outside of the story. He genuinely cares about Rey (and might be attracted to her?), he does have some strokes of cowardice, and he often reveals that cowardice through his lies and his attempts to abandon Rey. His eventual salvation was one of the more interesting aspects of the movie. If the movie didn’t neuter its villains, then it would have been even more interesting, but what can you do?
The bottom line is that Finn is a much more likable and understandable character than Cassian is, and unlike Cassian and Jyn, I actually enjoyed Finn and Rey interacting with each other.
Another point goes to THE FORCE AWAKENS.
Villains can make or break movies. In both movies, the villains are largely uncompelling and unthreatening. So I guess they both take a loss in that regard… so what do they have to offer character-wise?
In The Force Awakens, General Hux never breaks into a realm of memorableness.
As for Captain Phasma?? Ha! She was barely in the movie! And when she was in the movie, it was just to get trounced by Finn and Han Solo.
That just leaves Kylo Ren, and he at least had some definable characteristics. He’s a bit of a zealot, he’s completely unsure of himself, and he’s unrefined. This of course makes him a villain without any menace, but at least he was watchable.
Orson Krennic (yes, I had to look up his name) of Rogue One, does have… some menace. However, his character is mainly just an incompetent punching bag. It’s a shame that the movie focuses on him so much because he added almost nothing to this movie.
Grand Moff Tarkin does come back in this film, and there’s a bit of admiration that I have for the movie for trying something so new: having a completely digitally animated character, and of a man who passed away, no less. Now there’s some debate about how good the CGI was, but I thought it was largely competent. There were moments where I could tell that it was a computer, but it worked enough for me in this movie. Tarkin was a much more memorable presence in the movie than Krennic, but that largely has to do with how good Tarkin was in A New Hope.
Finally, there’s Darth Vader.
Darth Vader is Darth Vader is Darth Vader.
He was good. His presence in the movie was largely fan service, but at least there was a moment where his presence was threatening. It was a small moment, but it was good nonetheless.
There is some compulsion to give Kylo Ren some points, but in the end, the villains in Rogue One were slightly, just slightly, more compelling than The Force Awakens.
Point goes to ROGUE ONE.
The Supporting Characters
This is a bit unfair because one side has Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Oscar Isaac; and the other side has a bunch of nobodies.
Han Solo does great. I really liked him. He adds a lot to this movie.
Chewbacca is Chewbacca is Chewbacca.
Poe Dameron was a great character, and I hope he’s in the next movie even more.
BB-8 was just there… he was a milquetoast version of R2D2.
By contrast, I would argue that Rogue One’s K-2SO is the shining star of Rogue One. He’s the only thing in the entire film that was more than enjoyable. And when all of the ensemble dies at the end of the movie, the only person I was sad about was K-2SO. His death is not only the most tragic and built up to, but once he died, there wasn’t much else to keep me in the movie.
The blind Asian guy has his moments, but he was largely forgettable.
The tank guy and the empire turncoat are both characters…
So yes, I really really enjoyed K-2SO, but The Force Awakens makes all their characters important enough to care about. Sure, I might not be keen on BB-8, but I’ll remember him more than… Chirrut Îmwe, or Bodhi Rook, or Baze Malbus…
But that might be because BB-8 is more merchandise-able.
Point goes to THE FORCE AWAKENS.
This is where The Force Awakens really loses me…
I will say this until I am blue in the face: The Force Awakens is just a ripoff of A New Hope, and it is immediately disqualified from winning this category.
Rogue One is good because it tries to make its own story. The problem, unfortunately, is that Rogue One is so heavily reliant on all the Star Wars movies before and after it. If Rogue One were to stand on its own, without any of its predecessors, then absolutely no one would remember it.
I heard someone in a random conversation once say, “I think Rogue One is a movie that works well as a stand alone film.” And I tried so hard not to laugh.
So which category wins? Rogue One, but that’s only because it’s the only qualified movie in this category.
Point goes to ROGUE ONE.
I’m not going to spend too much time on this category, but suffice it to say that both movies have a very sufficient amount of action and humor.
And that’s because these are fan movies. If they weren’t fan movies, there would have been more time invested in the story. But children and neckbeards alike both love action and they both love to laugh.
But action and humor are supposed to compliment the story and the characters.
Neither movie has a memorable story, and only one movie has more memorable characters than just one.
So point goes to THE FORCE AWAKENS.
There is no contest. The Force Awakens is better.
- John Williams is a fantastic music composer who has done all of the Star Wars movies before The Force Awakens. He came back for The Force Awakens, and he’s fantastic in it as well.
- Whoever replace John Williams for Rogue One did not do as good of a job. The music in Rogue One sounds like something off of a Star Wars B soundtrack.
Point goes to The Force Awakens.
I’m sure by now that you have gotten an inkling that I’m not too keen on either of these movies. I think they’re both good movies. I gave both of them a 6 out of 10, but just because they both have the same rating does not mean that they’re both equal movies.
Rogue One may have a better story, and it may have slightly more compelling villains…
But neither of those aspects come anywhere close to compensating for how forgettable all of main characters were. This problem is something that doesn’t exist in The Force Awakens: though it lacks an original story, it is completely populated with characters I cared about and ones that I still remember.
There’s no question that THE FORCE AWAKENS is the better movie.