When Disney bought out Lucas Film for over $4 billion in 2012 it was with the sole purpose of delving back into the wonderful world of a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. When an Episode VII helmed by J.J Abrams was announced in January 2013, it took no one by surprise. However, in May 2014 when an announcement was made that Gareth Edwards would be directing the first film in the “Star Wars Anthology” – a series of unconnected stand alone films set within the Star Wars Universe – it did take many by surprise, with Disney applying the Marvel Cinematic Universe treatment to this beloved franchise.
Details remained extremely sparse until March 2015 when the title was revealed along with a brief synopsis that the film would be the story of how the Rebel Alliance secured the plans to the Death Star – effectively taking a single line from Episode VI: A New Hope and making a feature film of it.
Following the strong performance of Episode VII: The Force Awakens in December 2016, the excitement for this film built and built into a crescendo that resulted in massive expectation for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. And following its general release yesterday, it is safe to say it have delivered on all the hype, and then some.
VERY MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD!!
As mentioned, Rogue One tells the story of the series of events that led to the Rebel Alliance securing the plans for the Galactic Empire’s ultimate weapon; the Death Star. Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is a former Empire weapons expert, now living in hiding with his wife and young daughter, Jyn (Felicity Jones). Imperial Director of Advanced Weapons Research Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) manages to track him down and takes him prisoner to assist in the development of the Empire’s ultimate weapon. A young Jyn manages to escape and is rescued by the infamous Rebel Fighter Saw Gerrera (Forrest Whittaker), a hardened veteran of the Clone Wars.
Fast forward fifteen years, and Jyn has broken out of an Imperial prison by the Rebel Alliance and recruited by them to assist in making contact with the now rogue Gerrera as intel suggests he has been approached by an Imperial cargo pilot, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) who has defected and is carrying a secret message from Galen. Teaming up with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a Rebel Alliance spy, Jyn reluctant agrees to help. Along with reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO (voiced quite spectacularly by Alan Tudyk), they travel to the Imperial held planet of Jedha where Gerrera is believed to be hiding. There, they meet up with blind Force believer Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and his mercenary friend Baze Malbus (Jiang Weng) and are ultimately captured by Gerrera’s forces, coming into contact with Bodhi for the first time and discovering the secret message Galen has sent. He has included a specific design flaw in the Empire’s ultimate planet killer weapon that the Rebel’s could exploit to destroy it, but they will need to secure the plans to the space station first.
Together this unlikely bunch much overcome extreme adversity to provide the Rebel’s with a tiny glimmer of hope in the battle against the Imperial might.
The end result is truly something spectacular. It feels different from any other Star Wars film in that it focuses more on the ordinary heroes rather than the Force sensitives and that pays off dividends. It’s dark, its gritty, it portrays the true horrors of the Galactic War presented through the original trilogy. Visually, this is the most impressive journey into the Star Wars universe ever. Using a vast range of locations, you get a real scope of the different planets in the Galaxy. Beautifully filmed, it’s an absolute feast for the eyes and the action scenes in particular feel almost Saving Private Ryan levels of authentic. It feels immersive and inclusive, moving away from the mythical fantasy to the more realistic, with rewarding results.
While Jyn Erso,Cassian Andor and Chirrut Îmwe stand as great Star Wars characters, it is in K-S2O that a new absolutely iconic character is found. As the comic relief throughout what is a rather bleak film, Alan Turydk steals each and every scene he is with fantastic observational dialogue.
There is enough nods to the bigger picture of the franchise as well, with cameos from some of the franchises’ biggest players. Grand Moff Tarkin is brought back to life through a CGI following the death of original actor Peter Cushing in 1994, and for the most part works reasonably well for the story. The biggest tribute to the original trilogy comes with the climax which seriously gave my goosebumps goosebumps!
Following strong early previews, I went in with expectations higher than those for any other Star Wars films, and it did not disappoint – Rogue One is one of the best entries in the entire Star Wars canon. The last time I left the cinema with such a grin on my face was after Doug Liman’s stellar Edge of Tomorrow, and Rogue One is on a very similar wavelength.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. The plot isn’t truly watertight and some of the acting just isn’t up to it, most notably Forrest Whittaker, who surprisingly for an Oscar winning actor, is pushing into Jar Jar Binks territory of annoying. The dialogue also falls into realms of downright chronic at times, but on reflection that is a common issue with Star Wars films in general. While I applaud the CGI work of Cushing – and it is a nice tie in to the original trilogy – it is at times beyond obvious. Given the amount of screen time he gets, it does start to become a gripe and you wonder if a cameo would have sufficed. While overall a wondrous cinematic experience, it does feel a little safe overall – although that’s not really a criticism, more an observation.
Ultimately this is an entirely different animal to anything Star Wars you may have seen before. It is, at its heart, a gut wrenching, adrenaline pumped war/heist movie mash-up that just so happens to be set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.
If you are a Star Wars fanatic like me, go see this movie as soon as possible. Hell, go see it a dozen times!
And if you are not? Well this probably is the one Star Wars film that will really appeal to you!