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Film Review – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One is the first Star Wars anthology film. These movies are intended to further flesh out the lore of Star Wars while not being a part of the main numbered films. Gareth Edwards, director of Monsters and Godzilla, takes the helm for this first installment. Rogue One tells the story of the Rebel Alliance’s mission to steal the plans of the Galactic Empire’s new superweapon, the Death Star.

Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) stars as Jyn Erso, a young woman whose recruited into the Rebel Alliance to locate her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), an Imperial engineer who is forced to work on the Death Star. Once it is discovered that the battle station has a flaw in its design, Jyn decides to lead a team to steal the Death Star’s plans from a based controlled by the Empire on the planet Scarif and give the plans to the rebellion.

Rogue One is a solid start to these anthology films in the Star Wars saga. I like that these films will be used to not only give us new stories in this series, but give us more perspectives in terms of the filmmaking aspects. Edwards does a good job with his direction. Although Rouge One presents a story we hadn’t seen, the events of this film tie in so closely with George Lucas’ 1977 original that aesthetically there had to be some similarities. Colors of ships, sound designs and even certain shots are made to connect the audience to the world of Episode IV. Especially since Rogue One see the return of an important Star Wars character and the technology used to do so is pretty impressive. It isn’t 100% yet, but once the kinks are ironed out it may do wonders down the line for future films. 

One of the aspects of Rogue One I was impressed with was it’s more traditional take on warfare. No it’s not Saving Private Ryan or any of the Great War films. However there are some scenes, particularly in the third act on Scarif that give us a real sense of what the rebellion goes through apart from the main saga. The script by Chris Wentz and Tony Gilroy is pretty focused and keeps this thematic element present throughout the 2 hour and 13 minute runtime. We do get our X-Wings and TIE fighters though, this is still Star Wars.

I also enjoyed the casting choices and the characters they portrayed. Jones gives Erso a steely determination. Once given the chance to turn the tide, she jumps at the opportunity. Diego Luna plays Cassian Andor, a rebel officer who has both seen and done a lot of things in the name of the Alliance. Ben Mendelsohn is Director Orson Krennic, responsible for overseeing the Death Star’s completion and also having to deal with leaks within the Empire and his power being undermined. There were two standouts of the cast for me were Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe, a blind warrior who believes in the Force. I am imigining younger audience members being as excited after seeing him, as I was in 1999 after seeing Darth Maul in The Phantom Menance. The other is Alan Tudyk as K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial droid who is the polar opposite of C-3PO. He speaks his mind and isn’t afraid to let you know it.

My criticisms of Rogue One have to deal with the pacing and structuring of the first 2 acts. There is a bit of jet setting going on similar to a James Bond film and while you know what is going on, it doesn’t feel like it’s totally advancing the plot. It does, but it really gets the movie off to not quite the briskest start. Once we get to Scarif however we are treated to some of the best Star Wars action yet. Another criticism may be leveled at the characters. I know I said that I enjoyed them and I believe most people will, however there isn’t a whole lot fleshed out with them for people to connect with them. It worked well enough for me in the context of the film, but it may not for others and I just wanted to point that out.

You can’t mention Star Wars without mentioning the music. Here we have Michael Giacchino taking over for John Williams. Since this film is “smaller” in terms of its presentation than the main films, the score doesn’t force itself to stand out. Yet over the course of the film, I felt it evolve to that classic Star Wars sound we all love. I do plan to listen to it separately and review it. If Williams were no longer able to score Episode VIII, I feel comfortable with Giacchino taking the torch.
In closing, Rogue One was a really decent start to this anthology series for Star Wars. It fills in the gaps for an important part of the mythos as well as excite and entertain. I look forward to future Star Wars stories that focus on elements away from the main storylines and also invite more varying filmmaking perspectives.

Final Rating (3.5/5) Pacing issues in the first 2 acts slow it down a bit. Also some potential issues with character development depending on how you take on the film. Other than that Rogue One is a promising start to the Star Wars anthology series.

4 responses to “Film Review – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

  1. Good stuff. I’m a really big fan of this one. To be honest it exceeded my expectations. I figured to like it but had some reservations. Instead I was completely engrossed in it. I get the criticism about the characters. I’ve read it elsewhere too. For me the characters were a real strength. I didn’t expect to care for them as much as I did. I fully expected them to be lightly treated in terms of backstory. I think that fits this particular plot well.

    • I really enjoyed it as well. I want it on blu-ray now so I can watch it back to back with Episode IV. And you’re right. The approach with the characters works considering the film plot. We do care about the characters, but we were supposed to care about the mission more I feel.

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