Movie Name: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Studio: Lucasfilms Ltd.
Release Date(s): December 10, 2016 (Premiere)/December 16, 2016 (US)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) grew up on the run. Her father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) was an Imperial scientist who was taken before her eyes and her mentor Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) left her due to his increasing activity as a Rebel. When a rebel pilot named Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) claims to have a message from Galen, the Rebellion needs Jyn. Forcibly teamed with Cassain Andor (Diego Luna) and his droid K-2SO, Jyn must get her father’s message and get it to the Rebels. Teamed with a mercenary named Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen) and his blind ally Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), Jyn must get the Rebels the plans if there is any hope for their survival…because a device called the Death Star lurks on the horizon!
Directed by Gareth Edwards, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (also simply called Rogue One or Star Wars: Rogue One) is the first of a series of spin-off films from the popular franchise. Being released after Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, the story for Rogue One falls immediately before the original Star Wars (1977). The film was released to positive reviews and a strong opening.
Star Wars is always hard. I am inherently going to like it due to my childhood, but it always runs the risk of extreme disappointment like with many of the prequels. Star Wars: The Force Awakens was entertaining though mostly a remake of Star Wars in story and spirit. Being a tie-in, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has no pretenses tied to it to it…you don’t know what you’re getting going into it. Due to storylines a ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the remainder of the review.
To start with, Rogue One immediately breaks with the Star Wars storytelling by avoiding a crawl…it is a bit unnerving and that is a good way to establish that this really is not a sequel. It is dark and much more brooding and surprisingly nips a romance story in the bud. The entire time while watching the film as the story unfolds, you keep wondering how the film will go to a good place (like many Star Wars films) and you keep finding that there are no outs…until the end in which everything goes to hell for the characters. There isn’t a moment where the heroes swoop in and rescue everyone. The only movie’s hope is the future (and Star Wars: The New Hope).
The cast is quite strong and more diverse than some other Star Wars films. I do wish Felicity Jones had a bit more of a “bad ass” feel to her and she seemed a little soft for a hardened veteran on the run. Diego Luna does have the coldness I wish that Jones had and is a nice male lead in that he feels like a darker version of Han Solo. Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, and Riz Ahmed round out the “Rogues” and K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk) gets the right balance of humor than characters like C-3PO, R2-D2, and Jar-Jar missed in the prequels. Mads Mikkelsen is nice in his small role and I wish we had more of Forest Whitaker’s character. James Earl Jones returns to voice Darth Vader for a few scenes but it is very eerie to see the recreated Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher portions of the film…showing how far the technology has gone.
The movie also looks very good. It often comes off as a Saving Private Ryan or a video game like Call of Duty in the battle sequences with a bit of a feel of an Akira Kurosawa film. Unlike some of the recent Star Wars, there is a nice balance between fast and furious editing with snap zooms and more traditional Star Wars style shooting in the battle scenes. The film did less to create new stuff (which is more realistic) and reused a lot of the old technology that the characters used in previous films.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story gives me a lot of hope (ironically). I hope that both Star Wars VIII and the other spin-off movies use ideas and the stylings of this film to improve on their product. I hope that some of the darkness rubs off on the other films as well but also some of the originality to make the sequels different than the previous trilogies. I don’t know where Star Wars will go from here and it is a nice feeling.