ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Produced by: Kathleen Kennedy
Written by: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, Gary Whitta, George Lucas (original characters)
Starring: Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkleson, Forest Whitaker, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen
Released: 15th December 2016
Jyn Erso, a Rebellion soldier and criminal, is tasked by Rebellion leader Mon Mothma to steal the plans for the the Empire’s devastating new weapon, the Death Star. Forming an alliance with rebels, an intelligent droid, a spiritual swordsman and other forces Jyn soon discovers that something bigger is at play than she thinks.
These days it seems that we are subjected to a gamut of sci-fi movie concepts every other week. From the existential machinations of Battlestar Galactica to the controlled way of life in Equilibrium, from the twisted telekinesis in Chronicle to the now-somehow plausible adventures of Star Trek. Any idea of what *could be out there* is being brought to the big and small screen and there’s no shortage of fantastic escapist stories to keep us occupied.
After the resounding success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens Disney sought to continue the franchises renewed worldwide interest by producing a series of one shot SW-related movies. The first on that list was announced as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and entered production quickly.
Very few details were given to what this solo story would be about other than that it would be a prequel to Star Wars episode IV: A New Hope. So much was held in secrecy by the filmmakers and cast and all for the right reasons.
Let’s get this out of the way: Rogue One is not your usual SW movie. It does not ascribe to the usual story formula or scene structure or feature the crawl at the start of the movie. What we do get is an immediately dark and ominous tone that carries the story throughout the film and synonymous with every film in the franchise. It is with that tone that we are introduced to the Rebels future heroine Jyn Erso and her family in a past prologue, which also tells us of her unfortunate connection to the Empire’s dastardly plan. Her father, Galen Orso.
A flash-forward, some 20 years later, Jyn is a criminal and being moved to a prison. She is swiftly broken out of her transport vehicle by Rebel Captain Cassian Andor and the droid K-2SO, who take her to their secret base. Saw Gerrera, the stoic leader of a rebel faction and former ally to Jyn, has acquired vital information key to defeating the secret “planet destroyer”. He has gone into hiding along with his band of hardened soldiers in order to protect this information. Rebel Alliance leader Mon Mothma (in full flimsy nightwear gown) tasks Jyn to find Gerrera for this intelligence and receive an equally important personal message from an unlikely too.
At the centre of the Empire’s flagship creation is the methodically cruel Director Krennic, dressed clinically in full white tunic and cape. Krennic is eager to receive praise for his incredible achievement but even his peers seek to usurp his position for their personal glory. He is a brazen thorn in the teams mission and Jyn’s very personal nemesis.
While the movie is massively entertaining and highly spirited in action and adventure with some very deep and strong moments you may question whether something is missing from making it even greater. Every scene is intrinsic to the plot and its conclusion but structurally it works more like an extended short story with plenty of drama and climaxes to keep you interested. However, it lacks enough screen time for some of the more key players, like Baze Malbus (Chirrut’s gun hand aide) and Bail Organa, in order to feel for their cause and personal motivations. Which is upsetting, as everybody here plays a crucial part in the mission and to know them a little better will feed your reason to see them strive and survive. However, it is in the films mid-section where your attention could wane (much like this review). Yet you remain enthusiastic in knowing what kind of major battle is approaching and what new surprises are in store.
Rogue One delivers plenty of fan service to keep fans serviced throughout but maybe too little for those who are not cut from the Jedi cloth or overtly enthusiastic for the genre. When a movie is packed with so many nostalgic moments how can it go wrong? And how long can the writers keep it up before fans become more tickled by the references than the actual story? Thankfully, the writers here keep those points to an even balance knowing that it’s a prequel and not independent story.
The movies stand out performances come from former Imperial droid-turned-Rebel intelligence soldier K-2SO, voiced confidently by Alan Tudyk, and Donnie Yen’s master swordsman Chirrut Ìmwe, who’s Zoitichi-esque fighting and spiritual dialogue will find everlasting life as quotes of advice or on social media as quirky memes.
The take home from Rogue One is that it meets a new standard in storytelling for the franchise and branches out in creating new locales, characters, ships and vessels (oh so many ships and vessels). Maybe it’s the films title that suggests why it goes off formula and the real rogues are the writers who are daring to fuel us with a new format for new followers of the saga. What some may find fault with here is something which others may embrace: the ambitious CGI creations (you’ll have to see it to understand) of certain characters and the presence they create in their scenes and how they interact with others and their surroundings.
Overall, the balance of the story and its conclusion delivers is a dark and strong enough story to be reminiscent of The Empire Strikes Back. Yet, it manages to carry its own weight and hold its own as a standalone feature. Qualities we hope the filmmakers carry on to all future Star Wars movies.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story gets 4 droids out of 5.