Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Diego Luna, Felicity Jones, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker, Ben Mendelsohn
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the year for various reasons. Reason number one is audiences can’t get enough of Star Wars and number two, they wanted a better Star Wars film than The Force Awakens (2015), which though fun and entertaining, was just a carbon copy of various other Star Wars films. Not that The Force Awakens didn’t have any original elements to it, it did, and it had its fare share of awesome moments to spare no doubt, but it was too much like Star Wars: A New Hope (1977). People wanted a Star Wars film that would break new ground, expand the universe just a little more and The Force Awakens didn’t have enough of that I guess. So here comes Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, promising us a new take on the Star Wars universe, this time there would be no Jedi’s, no magic, no light saber duels, what Rogue One was proposing us was perhaps something totally unheard of in the Star Wars franchise, a nitty-gritty war movie. Did it deliver?
The premise for Rogue One stems on that mission that occurs somewhere between Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) and Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977). Rogue One is all about the mission that the rebels go through in order to retrieve the schematics for the Death Star, so they can discover its weakness and destroy it. We get a group of rebels, who are so rebellious they even rebel against the rebels themselves and go out on their own mission. Most of us know how the story turns out because after all this is a prequel, this is an in between tale, so it’s not so much about what will eventually happen, it’s more about how they go about it. How exactly do they do it?
So at least from an originality stand point, I have to give Rogue One: A Star Wars Story kudos because it’s not a carbon copy of anything, it’s at long last a somewhat original story. I mean, if I was to say it was a little bit like anything out there, I’d have to mention that the opening sequence did echo Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastards (2009) a bit, but that’s about it. Rogue One is a one way ticket to hell in which the mission matters more than those trying to achieve it, like many a war movie. The whole War Movie angle is very satisfying, especially when it comes to those awesome and extended space battles which are very complex. It was very focused on those space dog fights, loved that about it.
Kudos to director Gareth Edwards for making a Star Wars movie with decent performances, excellent action sequences and good effects! And all without light sabers and Jedi’s? That’s a feat right there! How original was it to have a Star Wars film take place on a beach? I mean, did you ever think you’d see Storm Troopers or AT-AT’s on a freaking beach? Nope, but there they were fighting amongst the tide and the palm trees! A totally new environment, which goes in tune with Lucas’s formula for his Star Wars films: the ever changing environments. This one takes place in a forest, another one is in a dessert; the other one is in the freezing tundra and so on. So Gareth Edwards didn’t deviate from Lucas’s Star Wars formula, he simply gave it his own spin and sometimes even surpassed Lucas in terms of direction. For example, I loved how Gareth Edwards got to squeeze out intense performances from his actors, something Lucas was never successful at. On Rogue One we get some real drama, the dialog doesn’t feel cheesy or forced. It was delivered with intensity and emotion. I mean, this movie was dramatic and had an overall dead serious tone to it. The robot of the film, Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO does add some levity to the film, but on the upside K-2SO is not annoying or silly like C3-PO could be. So on this film, even the robots act well.
The film is not without its missteps though. First, Felicity Jones does not make the strongest lead. She’s supposed to be a rebel leader, but her performance just doesn’t transmit that. By comparison, Rey from The Force Awakens (2015) felt like a much stronger character. It’s not that she’s bad in the role, she does fine, but she doesn’t excel, she doesn’t come off as memorable. She didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. Second weak spot comes in the form of CGI replicas of human characters. In my book, this has never worked well because humans are too hard to duplicate. We’ve seen this tried before in films like TRON: Legacy (2010), a film in which we saw a CGI version of Jeff Bridges. So far, Disney films are the pioneers in this field. The character they brought back to life for Rogue One is Grand Moff Tarkin, originally played by Peter Cushing. While the CGI replica of Cushing does look, move and talk like Cushing, you can tell it’s not a living breathing thing and so it’s like right there in your face how fake it is and it kinda takes you out of the movie. I would have left these CGI characters in the shadows, or not focus so much on their faces, I mean, as it is it feels like Disney studios simply felt so sure of themselves with their CGI creation that they went and put it right there, up front, for all to see how good they are at computer effects. But truth is no matter how well made these computer effects are, you can always tell when it’s not a human. I really hope film studios will stop doing this sort of thing. To me it’s disrespectful to the actor who’s passed away. But you be the judges on this matter, what say you my dear readers? Should actors be duplicated by computers in this way? To me nothing can replace a real live actor.
But these are minor hiccups in an otherwise amazing Star Wars movie. If you are a fan, you will love this movie. It is not as in your face with the fan service as The Force Awakens was, there are still inside jokes here and there throughout the movie that only true blue hardcore fans of Star Wars will get. Like for example, Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor has no problems in shooting storm troopers first! You’ll see characters you recognize from A New Hope scattered all throughout the movie. You’ll see familiar spaceships, familiar landscapes, aliens and dialog that hints at other films. This is a movie made for Star Wars fans, but without being in your face about it like The Force Awakens was. Final words on Rogue One is this is one of the best Star Wars movies to come around in a long time. So far Disney is doing a fantastic job with these Star Wars movies, can’t wait to see what Episodes 8 and 9 have in store for us. With the amount of money these movies are making right now, I’m sure we’ll be seeing Star Wars movies for a long time to come.