Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Release date: December 16, 2016 (USA)
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Screenplay by: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker, James Earl Jones
As much as I love Star Wars: The Force Awakens (and I really do), I cannot ignore the critics of it being a bit too similar to Star Wars: A New Hope. So, it was really Rogue One: A Star Wars Story the one everybody was wondering about. This was an experiment for Disney, so they could see if they could make different and interesting things with their newest franchise. And there was a lot of potential in the first of these “Star Wars stories” that were part of the universe but not part of the main story. Then the news of large quantities of reshoots, last-minute changes on the script, and more appeared, and people started worrying it might not work after all. Well, it seems we had nothing to worry about. Disney has the Star Wars franchise in good hands.
Rogue One is about Jyn Erso (Jones) and a band of the most rebellious rebels go on a mission to get the plans for the Death Star in order to, hopefully, put a stop to it. So basically the opening crawl from A New Hope.
While this film is a sequel to Revenge of the Sith, it is mostly a prequel to the original Star Wars and, in fact, fits seamlessly into that first movie.
The whole main cast was very charming, even if Jyn Erso was the one who got a proper character arc. She starts the film wholly uninterested in the cause, then joining for personal reasons, and finally finds out reasons bigger than herself to move forward with the mission. That said, of them all, K-2S0 (Tudyk) and Chirrut Imwe (Yen) were the ones who stole the show. The first is the Imperial enforcer droid reprogrammed by Cassian Andor (Luna) to serve the Rebel Alliance, and he’s the best deadpan snarker on board. Chirrut is the blind warrior monk who has an interesting relationship with the Force, even if he’s not Force-sensitive himself, he’s in charge of some of the emotional impact of the story, a touch of humor and many of the badass scenes.
The main characters include Cassian Andor, who’s the first person of the Rebel Alliance we meet who’s not squeaky clean; he has had to do shady stuff because this is war and one usually doesn’t come out of it with their hands clean, and it’s good a Star Wars film acknowledges that. Then we have Baze Malbus (Wen), a freelance assassin and BFF of Chirrut, who’s dealing with a crisis of faith; and Bodhi Rook (Ahmed), former Imperial pilot who defects and he’s the one bearing the secret message who will start the whole story.
Outside of the main team, Galen Erso is one of the stand ups, with Mikkelsen plays estranged father of Jyn and Death Star’s main engineer with stoic suffering. In him we have finally a logic reason about something Star Wars fans have been wondering for ages. Then there’s Whitaker as Saw Gerrera, a veteran of the Clone Wars whose extremist practically terrorist practices had him break up from the Rebel Alliance… and, man, does he chew the scenery sometimes or what.
As for the bad guy, Mendelsohn plays Orson Krennic as a guy desperate for recognition, who’s clearly had to fight his way to the top, and is not going to let some “minor” setbacks ruin his chances. His relationship with Galen is very interesting because of their shared history. Another interesting relationships are the ones he has with iconic characters like Darth Vader (voiced once more by Jones). He’s not there very much, and in fact, if he weren’t there we wouldn’t miss it much except for those last moments.
As for the other character Krennic interacts most with, let’s say CGI was used so we can see characters we wouldn’t have because the actors are long gone or have aged quite noticeably. The CGI used in those cases is hit-or-miss, either flawless or a tad “uncanny valley“, still they pack a powerful punch.
We also get to see characters from the prequel trilogy, like Bail Organa (Jimmy Smits) and Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly, and not Caroline Blakiston who played her originally in Return of the Jedi), who show us that the Rebel Alliance were not necessarily the most agreeable folks, there’s dissension and doing things behind people’s back.
And yes, we are riddled with references and fanservice, but those don’t take over the story. In fact, Rogue One tries to stay away from the look and feel of the main films, it doesn’t have an opening scroll, it doesn’t have the same editing (good-bye cool transitions!), or cinematography (it has a more intimate feel with hand-held cameras and ground perspective during battles). The special effects and action were fantastic, both the land skirmishes and space fights were some of the most imaginative we have seen in the franchise yet.
One thing that was not great was the music, it wasn’t bad, but it won’t be as iconic as the Star Wars music usually is. But I understand that Michael Giacchino was brought late into the productions following the reshoots, so he made do with the limited time he had.
Talking about those reshoots, it is clear that some of the trailer scenes were taken out of the final edition, and that was a good call, since those that were edited out were actually the most cringeworthy.
If there’s one thing we can nitpick about the film is that it has a very slow and convoluted start, and Jyn Erso is a very passive protagonist initially; but once the introduction are over and done with, the movie goes forward smoothly and, in fact, the last part of the movie is fantastic and leaves you on the edge of the seat. And I can forgive much to a movie that doesn’t fall apart at the end, and Rogue One manages to have a fantastic ending.
Here’s to hoping for more good things for the Star Wars franchise.