Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the Star Wars movie that bridges the gap between the events of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Episode IV: A New Hope. It follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) the daughter of esteemed kyber crystal scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) who is taken away from his family to work for the dreaded Empire during Jyn’s childhood. After years without contact an eerie message is sent to the Rebel Alliance from Galen warning them of an imminent weapons test. Jyn, along with a ragtag group of Rebels, must find and retrieve the plans to the formidable weapon, named the Death Star, before the test commences and it is used on the Rebels.
In the words of Bill Murray’s Nick Winters, “Star Wars nothing but Star Wars.” This tune was exactly what I was humming coming out of the theater upon viewing Rogue One both times I saw it. The entire film is a gift to Star Wars fanatics with subtle, and not so subtle, easter eggs and callbacks to the original Star Wars movie. For fans of the series all of these nudges towards the original trilogy fit within the context and story of Rogue One without isolating non-hardcore fans. This gives the film a tasteful fan-service quality that will have preexisting Star Wars fans rocking in their chairs while also allowing new fans to be able to revisit the film once they catch up on all of the others.
The original and inventive narrative, and overall story, of Rogue One makes it not only a thoroughly enjoyable Star Wars movie but a great Dirty Dozen-esque war film as well. Everything from the not-so-polished portrayal of the Rebellion to the exploration of Empire-occupied territories helps paint a broader picture for not only the circumstances of the story but to the galactic view of both factions during the events of the original trilogy.
Rogue One certainly had limitations as far as the story went considering the fact that we know the plans end up in the hands of Princess Leia at the beginning of A New Hope. However, the director (Gareth Edwards) does an absolutely fantastic jobs filling in the grey areas between points A and B. He crafts the story in such a way to include familiar characters while also adding to the lore of Star Wars in honestly some of the most fitting ways possible. Furthermore, his direction of action and war in the movie sucks the audience into seamlessly transitioning space, air and land battles happening simultaneously. It’s truly quite amazing.
The only real negatives to Rogue One are the slow pacing of the first half of the movie and some character development. While the first half of the film is slow, it also is the part of the story that most directly deals with the Rebellion and how they operate things. People are certainly entitled to their opinions, but a kindly reminder would be that just because there isn’t a lightsaber or blaster going off doesn’t mean the story is bad. After all Rogue One’s purpose was to create a Star Wars story completely dependent of itself and not rely on the force, Jedi or lightsabers to further the story. As far as characters go there is a ton to like, but also not a lot of time given to like one particular character separate from the others. The film could’ve either spent more time on each character to flesh their backgrounds or tightened up the script to include more meaningful points to their respective stories.
Despite its minor flaws, all of the hats I own are off to Edwards who managed to walk the fine line of previous knowledge and building upon the universe in a highly entertaining fashion. Rogue One is genuinely a spectacle to behold and an exquisite high-octane, must-see movie.
————————————-Warning: Spoilers to Rogue One Ahead————————————-
Spoiler talk! You’ve been warned! Ready? Here it comes…DARTH VADER! Man, watching that first sequence with Vader on Mustafar was great. It was classic Vader talking one-on-one with with an Imperial officer being smart and snappy while never being anything less than intimidating. The ability of Edwards to build on the lore of Vader by showing his retreat, a fiery castle concept that had been in place since the early art production by Ralph Mcquarrie on the original Star Wars, was wonderful. Plus the extra glimpse into Vader’s psyche through the bacta tank treatment gave Vader a sense of vulnerability that hasn’t been seen onscreen since the display of his meditation chamber in The Empire Strikes Back.
I have to admit I felt content with Vader’s appearance on Mustafar thinking that was all we were going to get of him, but man was I wrong. Vader’s presence at the end of the film had my jaw to the floor. At first I was certain the film would cut away when you see him standing down the corridor. And then his lightsaber ignited. Once again I thought, man now they’re going to end it? Come on. Nope. You get to see him in full action and Vader came to play. He went to town and completely wrecked shop on all of the Rebels. Watching that sequence made me give serious props to the one Rebel who knew he wasn’t going to survive and just got the plans the heck out of there.
Not only were Vader’s appearances great but Edwards’ overall skill to make Rogue One feel in place with the rest of the Star Wars universe was great. The shots of the blue milk, the moisture farming equipment, the references to the Whills, the Rebel base on Yavin IV, Mon Mothma, Bail Organa, Gold Leader, and Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba were positively delightful! Edwards made such deep cuts for fans that weren’t necessary but they also didn’t effect the story at all. It was the perfect blend of storytelling and fanservice.
Another awesome quality to Rogue One was the inclusion of Grand Moff Tarkin via CGI effects. While to me, and it seems a lot of people, the CGI got better as the film went on it still wasn’t quite “there” yet. There were times you could certainly map out the effects of the digital Peter Cushing especially in the eyes and around the mouth area. However, this did not detract from the film for me. I quite enjoyed seeing Tarkin one last time on the Death Star and bossing around people.
The last scene of the film also hits home more now than the first time, or second, time I saw the movie. That would be on the account of Carrie Fisher’s passing. Much has been said about the famed actress since her passing. Countless tributes and testimonials to her not-so-Princess, but hilarious, persona offscreen and overall positive views on life as well as her many contributions behind the camera. Not only Star Wars fans, but people all over the world will forever remember her as Princess Leia. Not only because of her character’s attachment to the Star Wars universe, but because of how Leia was portrayed. Fisher essentially created the first woman on film that couldn’t be rivaled by any man. Her wit and charmed mixed perfectly with her ability to hold her own, all the while remaining ever so sassy. During a time when women’s roles were limited to dim-witted clutz or basic romantic interest, Fisher burst onto the scene playing a smart and sophisticated badass that just so happend to be a woman. Fisher will be deeply missed because she gave us all something we needed. Hope.