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‘Rogue 1’ makes IMAX debut at Manhattan complex

By Gary Clift

The new “Star Wars”related movie “Rogue 1” opened in Manhattan as the first new film to play in the mall’s new movie theater, and the first movie of all time to play in town in an IMAX theater. Tickets were $20.12, but we attended anyway.

It took a few minutes inside the theater to get used to the apparatus. Apparently we shouldn’t count on the usual 20 minutes of ads and trailers that usually run before local showings. The stadium seating featured pretty fancy chairs and numerous divisions of the auditorium into sections.

The IMAX screen was just the least little bit curved—not domelike in the way of old Omnimax theaters— and we were given bulkier 3D glasses to wear over our usual eye wear. The 3D effect was more pronounced than it has been in the theater 3D we’ve become used to. But still it is dark. Images seem to appear in horizontal rows, as if we were looking at a toy theater, and the far edges of the images seemed blurred.

Once the viewer became used to those details he could begin concentrating on the movie proper. Now, the “Star Wars” films have won fabulous popularity. It is widely believed that George Lucas sold the rights to the franchise to Disney because he was unhappy with the reception that the second appearing set of three movies got. Well, “Rogue 1” turns out to be a vindication of Lucas. The new film is very close to what fans wanted all the “Star Wars” movies to be. And yet, while “Rogue 1” has its attractions, it is not so serious or aspiring a motion picture as were “Phantom Menace,” “Attack of the Clones,” and “Revenge of the Sith.”

“Rogue 1” is like something the crew of “The Empire Strikes Back” might have turned out without oversight, albeit with better special effects and cheaper-looking settings. It gives us a couple of the complicated but likable characters of the original series—the great Forrest Whitaker, for example, is dressed as if he has one artificial foot in a bucket and is given the name Saw Gerrera.

Then there is a young, potentially romantic couple, though no one would mistake the chilly Felicity Jones and the Latin Paul Peterson (remember “The Donna Reed Show”?) Diego Luna for actors we would take to the way we did to Carrie Fisher (who also appears here, momentarily) and Harrison Ford. The only humor in the new movie is “Star Wars’” stock robot tone-deafness jokes, delivered this time by Alan Tudyk, who deserved better material.

And there is a familiar plot used repeatedly— our pals arriving on a desert planet, sneaking into position, fighting against odds and from the air as well as on land, setting off or being surprised by explosions, and then making a dangerous and quick escape in a single rocket ship.

In “Rogue 1” this story is used to dramatize the search for and transmission of information about the engineered Achilles heel of the Death Star (a huge globe space ship with terrifying fire power). The evil Empire forced the father of Jen (Jones) to work on building the round weapon.

Now he has sent a young pilot out to tell the rebels that the Death Star has a weakness. As Jen’s father appears in a hologram, I may think of this movie as “Jen and the Holograms 2.” About the same time, the rebel allies have grabbed Jen in hopes she will lead them to her childhood guardian, Gerrera. They want to off him because he, being more of a rebel than are any of them, keeps fighting independently, thus complicating their strategy.

But the stuff with Gerrera doesn’t really figure in the story. Nor is it necessary that the engineer’s daughter join the single spaceship full of rebels that heads to the Death Star’s home port to steal its plans, thus making the weapon’s destruction possible.

The thing is, the action is what the film has to offer. The story doesn’t really need to make much sense or to be plausible. This is science fiction, after all, and sort of pulpy sci fi at that. As it happens, the action sequences are exciting and well filmed.

So probably lovers of the “Star Wars” set of films will enjoy “Rogue 1,” and will continue to look forward to the two concluding movies in the original set of nine, scheduled for release in 2017 and 2019. Oh, and there are supposed to be a couple more of these movies that weren’t in Lucas’s original plan.

Which makes one wonder if Lucas wasn’t right to avoid repeating himself in the second trilogy he made. Disney may play it so safe with repetition of what audiences like that ticket buyers will tire of the series. Especially if tickets cost over $20.

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