Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

How the plan was stolen.

When Disney and Lucasfilm first announced the idea of a Star Wars standalone film aside from the core “Episode” series, I wan’t completely sold on the idea.  As the months approach, I’m starting to warm up to the film, but still have doubts here and there.  After seeing the film, I’m happy to say that for the first time in Star Wars almost 40 years history, I feel truly moved and satisfied afterwards.  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is fun and thrilling, and in many ways a much better film than any Star Wars films released before.

The film takes place right before the events of Episode IV: A New Hope where the Rebel Alliance is trying to steal the plans of the Death Star for its infamous weakness.  You know, the same information we’ve read in A New Hope’s opening crawl 39 years ago.  The film stars Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso, a criminal recruited by the Rebels because her father Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) is working on the Death Star in a crucial role.  Jyn must teamed up with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) to contact ex-Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) and extremist and veteran of Clone War Saw Gerrara (Forest Whitaker).  The journey also allows her to cross paths with others colorful characters such as Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang).

Right away, Rouge One is obviously different than the previous core Episode films.  It doesn’t have opening crawl, and it comes with other elements such as time jump, flashbacks or even onscreen text to identify different locations.  These are all small details to separate the first Star Wars standalone film from the previous ones.  If anything, I would really like to see the onscreen text coming back in future films though, they would be really helpful for my viewing pleasure.

The film has plenty of easter eggs too.  From characters such as Mon Mothma, Darth Vader and Bail Organa we’ve seen in the trailers already, the film also has cameos from various character including two that are in every Star Wars films already.  Not to mention two more I didn’t expect at all, but definitely welcomed.

However, to achieve these cameos, the film has to use digital effects to recreate actors’ appearance from the original trilogy, and it kind of enters some uncanny valley.  A character’s appearance is clearly animated, and it can be quite distracting.  However, another one at the end of the film does a wonderful job, and I’m all for it.

Even though it is a standalone film, Rouge One serves as a direct prequel to A New Hope, and it has plenty of connections to that film.  It’s a dangerous move, as it can easily tread on the sacred ground of the classic film.  Turns out, while the film plays on the idea of the first film, it’s really unique and stands out on its own.  Even with the word “Wars” in the title of the franchise, Rogue One is perhaps the first film to really feel like a true war movie.  No Force or Lightsabers or any other fantasy elements, the film features characters in their all out brawls in various locations.  It shows a true side of war, and I even forget I was watching a Star Wars film for a moment.  The style and tone of Star Wars have already been set, but Rogue One speaks its own beautiful language.

What makes Rogue One so powerful is the core group of characters that’s easy to invest in.  They are all very likeable, and I care about every single one of them right away.  Jyn’s backstory is strong, and we can easily understand what kind of character she is.  Luna does a great job as Cassian, and we can see how charming and unease he is as the Rebel Captain, doing things he’s not always proud of for the greater good.  With the among of new faces introduce in the film, it’s understandable that some characters are bit overlooked.  Chirrut and Baze duo are great, and they provide plenty of action heroes moments to cheer on.  However, there are not enough background provided for these characters, so their motivation to help is not clear at all.  This is especially the case for Bodhi, who appears to betray the Empire because of Galen Erso, but the film never makes it clear how Galen influences Bodhi at all.  It would be nice if we get that information.

Out of all the strong cast, it’s Tudyk’s K-2SO that steals the spotlight.  An Imperial Droid that was reprogrammed to help the Rebels, K-2SO is like a very dark C-3PO with plenty of funny one-liners, and can be quite grim.  Funny that a Droid is the heart and soul of the group, but that’s how K rolls.  Tudyk also does a great job performing here, giving the Droid the live it deserves.

The villains of the film are great too.  Ben Mendelsohn is perfect as Director Krennic.  He’s a really creepy and a powerful villain all and all.  Meanwhile, James Earl Jones return as our good ol’ baddie Darth Vader.  He’s not in the film a lot, but his appearance is really effective.  I especially love his ending massacre at the end, as it gives a horror vibe to the film.

The film also does a great job expanding the universe of Star Wars.  We get to see different kinds of aliens, vehicles, droids, troopers and even planets.  After so many films taking placing on deserted planet, it’s cool that we see a whole different planet Scarif and its beached environment.  The special effects here are great, and the Star Wars universe really comes to life under the modern technology.  And I know I mentioned the uncanny valley earlier, but that’s not the case here.  This is where modern technology creates an amazing world and visual.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a great film.  It expands on the already established universe, with great story and characters we can easily invested in.  It’s also the first film that really plays on the “wars” in Star Wars.  The first Star Wars standalone film is a success, and I can’t wait to see what Star Wars has in store for us next.


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