I know that this is usually a tech/dev focused blog. But let's be honest, tech/dev types love Star Wars. So I'm comfortable posting this here.
I wanted to get some thoughts down about my first impressions. As I write this, I've seen Rogue One once, and I'll probably be watching it twice more this weekend.
The rendering technology is not quite there yet, but it was pretty good. His face looked a little shinier than the other actors, and the mouth movements sometimes had a cartoonish quality to them. It was in the uncanny valley, a bit. But I think that's okay, because Tarkin is ruthless, and looking at him should make you feel a bit uncomfortable. The other digital faces (Leia, Red Leader, Gold Leader, etc) were relatively convincing, although they were in short bursts.
The last time these sorts of effects were used in such a high profile way that I can remember is Forest Gump, where Kennedy and others were made to have brief conversations with Forest.
Moff Tarkin was most noticeable because he had a relatively large amount of screen time. I don't think the technology to do this convincingly for a main character is that far away. Which raises the question: how far will this go? Will voice actors and CGI faces be used on a regular basis to bring back dead actors? Will we see Heath Ledger's Joker, Christopher Reeve's Superman, and David Bowie's Goblin King brought back to life? What are the ethics and implications? And how will it affect Crispin Glover?
James Earl Jones
For the first time as playing Darth Vader, I could hear the aging in his voice. It was still good, but if Darth Vader is to continue being in Star Wars material, a good impressionist needs to be found. The "Chad Vader" actor is probably the closest we have right now, but James Earl Jones's voice is so distinctive and central to Darth Vader, that I think it's less likely that Darth Vader appears in future Star Wars "gaiden" movies.
3D Star Destroyer
In both The Force Awakens and Rogue One, there have been some really great shots of Star Destroyers that translate well to 3D. Speaking of 3D, am I ever going to get 3D versions of IV,V,VI? I want trench run, asteroid field, and battle of Endor in 3D!
Krennic & Erso
I did not find the Krennic and Erso conflict to be terribly compelling. I did not feel as invested into these characters as I do Kylo & Rey. This might be because I had a pretty strong suspicion that they were both going to die in the movie.
The truth-extracting octopus thing that Saw used on the defector. What was the point of that? It's supposed to make the subject lose their mind? The pilot seemed to only be affected by it for a short period. Speaking of the pilot...
I really enjoyed Chirrut and Baze. K-2SO absolutely killed it. But pretty much everyone else was stoic, bland, serious, stone faced. The characters in the "main" series are generally more colorful: whiny, sarcastic, hammy, angry, silly, etc. I think a little more spice would have been nice. It was alluded to that Cassian Andor had a dark history, but that didn't really stand out because it seemed like everyone had a dark history.
There was no opening crawl, which I'm fine with as a deliberate choice for the "out of band" movies. But, there were a lot of establishing shots with text. Seemed like maybe too many. Maybe because there were too many locations?
I only spotted The Ghost once: on Yavin. Suppposedly there are other shots of it in the battle, and there's a shot of Chopper somewhere that I missed. I'll look for it when I watch later.
Some other random notes
Jyn's mother being slaughtered was intense. The whole opening scene felt like an homage/foreshadowing to Owen and Beru being killed. The little girl in the middle of the battlefield was really intense, and had me thinking that this movie was going to get really dark. Those were probably the two darkest moments. Other than the absolute killer sequence of Darth Vader swatting Alderaan guards like flies.
Did I mention that K-2SO killed it? Best new character.
Kyber Crystals. I was apprenhensive that this plot device would end up being like midichlorians. But no, it was used well. It showed that the Death Star is built on the ruins of the Jedi, and that the Death Star's weapon is basically a giant lightsaber.
I got a little bit of an insurgent/terrorist vibe from Saw and his group. The scene with men in head scarfs ambushing a military vehicle made me a little uncomfortable (which is fine; good movies should make me feel all kinds of emotions). The Alliance leadership alluded to his methods being "problematic". This set a tone of moral greyness that I think straddles the black & white plots of IV,V,VI,VII and the ambiguous, politically complex (overly complex and boring sometimes) plots of I,II,III. It makes sense that the time between III and IV would be filled with chaos and shades of gray, as the Emperor moves from ostensible pariah to unabashed monster. If you're watching Rebels, you're seeing flashes of the same sort of progression.
Matthew D. Groves lives in Central Ohio. He works remotely, loves to code, and is a Microsoft MVP.