Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Spoiler Alert: There are LOTS of spoilers ahead so if you haven’t seen the film yet, please stop reading and bookmark this page to visit AFTER you’ve seen it.
He’s chiseled. He’s principled. He’s a sharp dresser and has a wicked sense of humor. The “he” I’m talking about is Imperial military director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) – and he’s oh so dreamy. That’s right: this feminist has completely abandoned her rebel flair, giving it up because of a dude. You’ve lost me to the dark side. There’s better wardrobe on this side anyways – capes! He’s just the kind of bad boy anyone would fall head over heels for – only that stone cold fox is in league with the Empire and, welp, probably too far gone to the dark side to feel love. But hey, I can fix him.
One of the main reasons why I’m so willing to abandon my altruistic notions of peace is because my team leader, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is just a wisp of a rabble-rousing badass trailblazer. She’s not exactly a force of nature anyone would be willing to sacrifice themselves for. She’s only in this because her scientist engineer father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) was used as a tool of the Empire and she’s carrying out a task he could not. Her rebellion and commitment to the cause is not born of personal free-will – it’s out of familial duty. Weak sauce.
Though she can fight and kick ass, Jyn’s assertions couldn’t get half the fleet to follow her into dangerous territory. She lacks the ability to truly inspire more than a handful of people. Meanwhile, my boo gets shit done, rallying his troops, killing anyone who dissents – or is suspected of dissenting.
It’s more than possible I’m connected to the actor versus the character. Even sweating profusely and looking like he smells like a two-day-old ashtray, Mendelsohn could still get it. He’s a skilled mercurial performer (see MISSISSIPPI GRIND, SLOW WEST, BLOODLINE, ANIMAL KINGDOM). Jones is fine, but has found better strength with intimate independent films. She’s adorable and you want to have tea with her. Unfortunately she’s not as much of a commanding presence as the Aussie treasure.
Nevertheless, I firmly believe this isn’t about the casting. It’s about the writing. And if Jyn, our heroine, isn’t written strongly enough, where is our (new) hope? She’s not allowed any star-making moments that will have people talking about her magnificence. I’d be hard-pressed to tell you of memorable scenes where she exhibited powerful fortitude. She’s a sharp shooting dynamo and rescues a kid caught in the crossfire. That’s about it.
Remember when we saw Rey (Daisy Ridley) very capably navigate the Millennium Falcon out of harm’s way in THE FORCE AWAKENS? Remember how we all felt about Rey after she had that incredible light saber fight with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)? Remember those goosebumps that you felt on your skin after seeing her harness the force? There’s nothing like this in ROGUE ONE for Jones. She’s part of an ensemble.
On the other hand, Krennic has more than a handful of indelible scenes: He confronts Galen in a field, his caped windbreaker dripping with rain and disdain. He stands in the shadow of a certain baddie, his ambition morphing to desperation. In Jyn’s flashback, he looms while the Ersos have a family moment, perhaps indicative of something greater we’re never shown. After giving the Death Star a test run, he proclaims, “Oh it’s beautiful!”
No, Krennic – YOU are.
ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is now playing.