Another year, another Star Wars film -- except this isn’t just another Star Wars film. Director Gareth Edwards brings us the story of a ragtag group of people from the Rebel Alliance and their mission to steal the Death Star plans from the Galactic Empire. Going into this film, many were curious as to how the general audience would receive a story that’s not mainly connected to the major plotline. There were rumblings as to whether or not this film is a sequel to J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens and confusion as to whether or not Felicity Jones’ character is the same as Daisy Ridley’s Rey. Rest assured, the distinction is made clear from the opening sequence of the film, detailing a young Jyn Erso’s (Felicity Jones) background, which clearly contrasts Rey’s mysterious parentage.
As reported by many news outlets, the film had a more dreary tone than the saga films. In contrast to to the saga films, a darker, bleaker world of Star Wars was presented to the audience in Rogue One. It really brings back the “war” in Star Wars, as the film has a ton of amazing action sequences, space battles, and blasters- basically everything a Star Wars fans could ask for. The original trilogy depicted the Rebel Alliance as a heroic group of soldiers, but Rogue One portrays the Rebels at the brink of desperation, with their backs against the wall.. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) managed to perfectly exemplify this side of the Rebels as he’s put in situations throughout the movie where he’s conflicted with the orders given to him by the Rebels and his own morals. Diego Luna’s acting really strengthens the impact of every scene he’s in, and he is able to convey Rebel’s gloomy situation to the audience masterfully. Coming off her academy award nomination for The Theory of Everything, one can already assume Felicity Jones would bring her A game and boy did she! There were multiple instances in which you can’t help, but sympathize with her character Jyn. I was so moved by her performance that there were few instances that almost brought tears to my eyes over her own personal strife and the eventual acceptance of her fate. With a well-assembled cast, all the characters had their moments to shine. While Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) has less screen time than other characters, he does without a doubt play a key and significant role. What he did in the movie manages to enrich the story of the original Star Wars: A New Hope as well as explain a looming question that have always comes up in discussions of the movie. Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) is a great villain not because he’s menacing or successful in his ventures, but because he’s very human; he made mistakes and displayed the emotional outcome from conflict between himself and another Imperial officer.
Rogue One did bring back a well-known character not just in Star Wars fandom, but in pop culture in general: the infamous and iconic Darth Vader. While there was much speculation on how big of a role he plays in the film and how much screen time he gets, I can say that his part is small, but justifiably so. Many would have hoped he had more screen time, but the story revolves around this group of Rebels’ mission and the filmmakers wouldn’t have wanted to detract away from that. Easter eggs and little bits of information pertaining to the saga films were treated with care and felt very organic to the story without blatantly name dropping. Darth Vader’s scenes are short, but so amazing that one of his scenes can easily be considered one of the greatest Star Wars moments of all time. I think the unexpected breakout character of Rogue One was the droid K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk. For a droid, K-2SO had so much heart and, in some ways, had more character development than most of the other characters. For a darker film, Alan Tudyk was able to bring a lot of humor, sass and charm. I applaud the handling of where this movie fits in the timeline as Gareth Edwards ensured Rogue One flowed seamlessly into the next film.
Minor gripes I had with the film starts with things that happened or didn’t happen before the film actually began. This film felt very geared towards the more knowledgeable Star Wars fan than the casual fan. The signature opening crawl of all Star Wars films is missing and feels missed not just because of the nostalgia it gives off, but because it would have helped the audience ease into the film and digest new info easier. The score itself isn’t anything to brag about and it missed John Williams-esque style and flair that his music usually adds to films. Another minor issue is the film’s second act. While the first act is paced quickly to introduce characters and plot points, the second act feels slower and longer with a lot of setup for the third act. The setup for the third act, however, pays off well as the third act really picks up and takes off as an action packed, well tied together story. What I found most troubling about this film is the use of CGI for a certain character. While I understand the character to be necessary to the story, his presence felt very jarring. Often times it took me out of the movie and had me thinking about the CGI and the risk they took instead of focusing on the scene itself.
Rogue One does what the filmmakers originally set out for this film; to stand on its own as a Star Wars film that’s different than the saga films. For its dark tone, Rogue One perfectly shows the coming together of a group of people for a greater cause through heroism and sacrifice. Through clear direction from Gareth Edwards, as well as an amazingly talented cast, Rogue One solidifies its place in Star Wars history as one of the greats. It not only manages to stand on its own, but supplements and reinforces the story of the original trilogy. Lucasfilm and Disney should be proud of what they’ve accomplished with this film because Rogue One is sure to be a huge win. Rogue One? More like Rogue Won! Casual moviegoers are going to like this film, but Star Wars fans are going to love it. I give Rogue One a personal rating of 4.25 stars out of 5, and I invite you to go see it as soon as you can.