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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendehlson, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed
Directed By: Gareth Edwards
More so than The Force Awakens, Rogue One needs to succeed. As the first of the anthology Star Wars films, there’s a lot at stake for the future of the franchise riding on the shoulders of director Gareth Edwards’ film. If it fails, we’d still get Star Wars movies, but ones that would strictly be within the “saga”, which would be a waste for a franchise so rich with potential. As much as I love Star Wars, I don’t want to be watching adventures of Finn and Rey in “Episode 19”. With Rogue One, the possibilities exist for the franchise to continue on outside of the Skywalker family and those around them, and Rogue One is a pretty damn good start for this area of the franchise.
For those unaware, Rogue One follows the small group of Rebel Soldiers who steal the Death Star plans, thereby allowing the events of the original Star Wars to take place. This may sound like a pretty “by the numbers” movie, but what Rogue One may lack in the plot department it more than makes up for in the character one. Felicity Jones’ Jyn Erso, Diego Luna’s Captain Cassian Andor, Riz Ahmed’s Bodhi Rook, Donnie Yen’s Chirrut, and especially Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO all make immediate impressions on you. The characters feel like ones that would exist in the Star Wars universe, and we’re given just enough information into their lives to make use really care about them when the final act comes around.
Felicity Jones’ Jyn is one of the standout characters, and she brings a great sense of longing and power to her role. Like the other Star wars protagonists before her, Erso is separated from her father, Galen (an always awesome Mads Mikkelson), who has helped the Empire build the Death Star. However, Galen isn’t as invested in the Empire’s goals as his fellow officers, which leads to some problems for Director Orsen Krennic (Ben Mendehlson). Jyn’s relationship to her father makes her a key aspect in the Rebellion’s fight against the Empire, especially when they get confirmation of the news of the massive super weapon being built under their noses.
Aside from Jones, the other standout is the already mentioned Mendehlson, who plays Krennic as a man who has worked his way up the Imperial ladder and has a very large chip on his shoulder about it. Krennic is the embodiment of every one of us who has had to work for a boss that you don’t respect, and his few moments of unfiltered outbursts, both at this subordinates and his superiors, make for some of the best moments of the movie. With any other actor, Krennic could’ve been a boring suit of a villain. But under Mendehlson, he’s fascinating. He brings a new angle to the inner workings of the Empire, something that was never shown in he original trilogy.
There’s a large sense of scope to Gareth Edward’s Rogue One, and it helps flesh out this time in the Star Wars canon. There’s something truly stunning about seeing an Imperial Star Destroyer in orbit over a planet, or the looming presences of the Death Star eclipsing the sun. Stormtroopers patrol the streets, pulling over anyone they want with little to no reasoning. Even the members of the Rebellion don’t quite trust one another. Not only that, but unlike those OTHER Star Wars prequels, there’s nothing in Rogue One that directly contradicts (or needlessly explains) something from the original films. In fact, the one explanation in this film actually helps solve a plot hole from the original Star Wars.
As fun as Rogue One is, it does have a few problems. First off, the first act is a bit of a mess, as it jumps around from planet to planet in pretty rapid succession. It makes for a pretty confusing opening, and really had me worried that Rogue One would be trying to cover too much information in too little time. Thankfully though, this is smoothed out as the movie goes on, and leads to a spectacular final act that will probably leave you pretty emotionally drained.
One other problem Rogue One has is definitely a SPOILER, so you have been warned. If you really don’t care, keep going, but if not, skip ahead a paragraph or two.
Still here? Okay.
Grand Moff Tarkin is in this. Pretty cool right? Well, it would be, if Disney and Lucasfilm had just hired a look a like and not tried to digitally recreate Peter Cushing from old footage. When you first see Tarkin, your eyes and brain immediately tell you that he looks fake, and the longer he appears in the movie (which is a pretty good handful of scenes), the worse it gets. It’s fine in far away shots, but in close ups or in scenes where he’s talking with Krennic, it’s pretty bad, like a live actor is talking to someone from The Polar Express. It’s clear that Disney’s ambition far exceeded the tech they had, and begs the question, if you were going to use CGI recreate Peter Cushing, why not just put Thrawn in his place?
Despite this, there’s still plenty to like in Rogue One. Hell, it features one of the greatest Darth Vader sequences I’ve ever seen, and director Gareth Edwards creates some truly incredible action set pieces and scenery. The dogfights alone make this movie worth watching on the biggest screen imaginable. Not only that, but Edwards finds a way to make a movie where you already know the fates of the main characters into something hopeful.
I really think that Rogue One will work better the more you see it (or if you watch Star Wars right after it). As the start of the Star Wars franchise branching out and trying out new stories to tell, it’s a very solid start, and now that we’ve got this aspect started, it’ll be really interesting to see what Lucasfilm has next for the future.
Jonwahizzle is a comic book slinger for Jetpack Comics. Find him on PSN (Jonwahizzle), follow him on twitter and check out his blog, The Collective: Examples of Nerdery for more!
6 thoughts on “Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Tale”
I loved this movie! I liked it better than The Force Awakens. I do think it could have used just a little more screen time involving overall character developement but, the last 3rd of the movie is an absolute thrill ride! I thought Darth Vader’s parts were fantastic!
I saw Rogue One this morning and loved it. I need to watch it again but I do think I like it more than Force Awakens. I do agree that the CGI character recreations were just a bit too fake but they didn’t hamper my enjoyment any. The only thing this movie was missing were speeder bikes and wookies. Between Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar, Disney is really firing on all cylinders. It was also nice to see clips of Red and Gold Leader from the original Star Wars make it in this, too bad Porkins couldn’t have made it 🙂
Just saw it for the second time this evening. Took the kids this time, as the wife and I saw it last night. Have to say it was better in the second viewing because the shock of seeing Cushing reanimated from the beyond had passed. I’d have been fine if all the scenes with Tarkin had been from behind or from profile, which would have worked with keeping his character slightly more mysterious.
In fact my only complaints are there are some odd shots in this film. Lots of times characters are filmed with just the speaker in frame. I kept getting the feeling the actors weren’t even on set together especially early on in the Saw scenes. That and why have the octopus?
I refer to Krennic as “Middle Management” with my wife… I think someone should start a hashtag for that.
The movie was good I just had issues with the blind Kung fu master, and the over complicated archive machine. Loved that ending.
Liked it, didn’t love it.
The returning “characters” were nightmarish, and took me right out of the movie, but overall, good fun. And this one movie had more bold choices than like all the MCU movies combined. Top marks for that.
I definitely liked this more than episode VII. That movie is fun, but the actual “war” aspect to it and the world building leaves a lot to be desired. Whereas those things are what this movie excels at.
I disagree about January Jones’ Jyn being one of the best parts of the movie though. Her arc was fine, but Jones just lacks personality. She’s like a female Sam Worthington, standard good looking, but bland as fuck.