The Force is Strong
Living in a post “The Force Awakens” world, Disney still has the challenge of continuing to tell various stories in the ever-expanding Star Wars Universe. Rogue One, the first of what will hopefully be many excellent and unique Standalone films has the pressure of being the first ever Star Wars movie to be set outside of the Skywalker saga. The film is a thrillingly success, standing on its own while adding such much to the story we already know from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.
Taking place immediately prior to a New Hope the film centers on the Rebel Alliance discovering the existence of a galactic superweapon the Empire is building – The dreaded Death Star. Quickly a hunt begins to find the Empire’s schematics for the space station, in hopes of finding a weakness which can be exploited in the Rebels favor. The film does a masterful job of expanding on the information presented in a A New Hope – The seemingly poor design no longer feels a part of Deus Ex Machina.
Jyn Erson (Felicity Jones) is quickly recruited by the Rebel alliance to help find her Father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), a scientist forced into working on the weapons system of the Death Star. Teamed with Rebel operative and spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his often humorous droid K-2SO, they come into contact with various different figures on their mission. Ex-Imperial Pilot Bohdi Rook (Riz Ahmed), extremist Saw Gerrara (Forest Whitker) and fighters Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) & Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang).
Without getting into too much details about said characters, Saw Gerrara is a little of a let down. The character does feel like a natural evolution of the character first introduced in Season 5 of the clone wars (Forest Whiter does a great job here) yet never lives up to the way other characters talk about him. The empire refers to him as a Terrorist and Fanatical; the Rebels distance themselves from him for being an extremist. Unfortunately the film never does an adequate job of showing how his actions are so extreme, or contrasting his actions with those of the Rebel Alliance.
The rest of the characters are introduced very quickly and are all very likeable. Each one has their own reasons for wanting to fight against the empire; having regrets and doing whatever it takes to get the job done. The cast does an excellent job bringing these characters to life, portraying them with the humor, distance and hubris that each character deserves.
The film does a great job of showing off the scale of the Star Wars universe and the effects the empire is having. Within the first 25 minutes we’re already introduced to 4-5 different planets, and we see continue to see new and completely different worlds as the film continues.
While the franchise may have “Wars” in the title, The episodic movies have always come across as fantasy movies in a science fiction setting; Rogue one however feels very much like a war movie. Jedi, Sith & the Force are touched upon or play minor roles this time around, instead being replaced with Spies, Saboteurs and Soldiers. Fighting occurs on the streets, in the forests and on the beaches of Scariff all feeling very different from anything seen in prior films. While the film does have a different vibe and uses different storytelling techniques (Flashbacks instead of an opening crawl for example), it still manages to look and feel very much like a Star Wars movie.
While underused, as far as villains go Ben Mendelsohn’s Director Krennic is a worthy addition to the more militaristic villains of the Star Wars universe. His pride leads him into clashing with other Imperials, making for a more interesting and unexpected plot line than the trailers have led on. This ties in nicely with the rest of the expanded universe, showcasing how the Emperor likes to have those who work for him fight each other to propel their positions in his Empire.
The film manages to incorporate many characters from the prequel and original trilogies perfectly into the plot as well. Vader’s use in the movie is stunning and absolutely perfect. As for Fans of Star Wars Rebels, make sure to keep your eyes and ears open; there are plenty of fun easter eggs from the show incorporated into the movie.
Overall Rogue One is a fantastic addition to the Star Wars mythos. Featuring brand new and likeable characters, the (mostly) exciting return of old characters and a different vibe make this a must see. The film adds to the mythos and honors the original without stepping on its toes. The final act and especially the last 5 minutes of the movie are nothing short of pulse pounding, terrifying and purely excellent storytelling. Just as the rebels score their first major victory against the empire, Lucasfilm have scored a success with their first standalone film.
9.5/10 – I’ve got a good feeling about this.