Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review
Spoilers for Rogue One to follow….
As the first feature film to spin-off from the main saga, Rogue One tells the story of a ragtag bunch of rebels who must steal the plans to the Death Star in order to save the rebellion from certain destruction. Director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) alongside writers Gary Whitta and John Knoll have crafted a standalone story that not only adds to the Star Wars universe but enhances a film that many consider to be one of the best films ever made, Episode IV: A New Hope. In addition to a great cast, stunning cinematography and some neat new lore for the universe, Rogue One continues Disney and Lucasfilm’s successful and encouraging work after The Force Awakens.
The plot follows Jyn Erso played by Felicity Jones, the daughter of Galen Erso played by Mads Mikkelson who is a scientist and engineer responsible for building the Death Star. After her mother is murdered and her father taken captive by the Empire at a young age, Jyn’s connection to her father brings her into the arms of the rebellion many years later as the need to track down her father becomes urgent to the rebellion’s survival. Jyn most track down her father for the rebels and builds a ragtag group of rebels along the wat to follow her into battle against the Empire.
One of Rogue One‘s greatest achievements is its ability to make you not think about the fact that you know how this all ends and care for the characters who are introduced in such a short time frame. Rogue One at its core is a fan film and it’s clear to see in the film’s stunning cinematography from the Death Star floating ominously in the sky to the finale’s epic three-part battle that pays homage structurally to Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. The film ties really neatly and cleverly into Episode IV: A New Hope to the point where you could easily watch the films back-to-back without any time passing in between. This leads to an astonishing final 10 minutes in which we get to see Darth Vader obliterating rebels on a ship’s corridor in a way that was never possible in the original trilogy.
The cast of the film are fantastic, in particular Felicity Jones who has a great arc in the film as she takes the responsibility of the rebellion on her shoulders, Diego Luna as Cassian who gives a very layered performance and shows that there are shades of grey to the rebellion and Alan Tudyk as K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial droid who is excellent comic relief for what is tonally a quite serious film. There’s some slow build up in the opening scenes of the film as we are introduced to these characters, an unfortunate but necessary compromise to give them more screen time and as many have said, there won’t be any sequels on the way for these characters given their ultimate fate which is one of the reasons why the film is so successful; it isn’t reliant on the characters for the future of the series.
Another impressive aspect of Rogue One is the additions to the lore or world building at play. The rebel alliance is shown to be splintering and is held back by its need to be a democracy and it’s the Death Star and the exploits of Jyn and her crew that really galvanize the rebellion, adding an interesting element to A New Hope. Kyber crystals, the crystals that powers a Jedi’s lightsaber, has long been canon in the Star Wars universe and featured in other media but is introduced for the first time on the big screen and plays an important role in the film. There are plenty of other moments in the film like this such as a castle on the lava-filled planet of Mustafar where Darth Vader still resides, adding depth and a history to his character that was missing before. Fans of the animated series’ The Clone Wars and Rebels are also given nods with minor easter eggs and a key character in Rogue One being Saw Gerrera played by Forest Whitaker who was first introduced in The Clone Wars and will tie back into Rebels in Season 3.
However, the most integral and meaningful addition is that there is a reason behind that pipe that will destroy the Death Star when you shoot a torpedo down it. Galen Erso continued to work for the Empire so that he was able to construct a weakness that could ultimately destroy the Empire’s greatest weapon. It’s a very simple solution to a plot hole in A New Hope and it’s a cool twist on events. While Rogue One sometimes takes a slow path to moving its characters around, the story builds to a very satisfying peak in the final hour of the film which really celebrates the best of Star Wars whether it’s awesome dogfights in space, fighting AT-AT’s on the ground or dramatic character moments.
Overall, Rogue One not only stands on its own as one of the better Star Wars movies but enhances and improves A New Hope tying very directly and neatly to the start of that film. The film immediately makes you want to go watch A New Hope again with a new perspective on why the Death Star plans are so important and how many of the characters ended up where they are. With great performances from its cast, beautiful cinematography plus writers and a director who really understand why Star Wars is special to so many, Rogue One strikes the right balance of feeling fresh yet familiar.