DISCLAIMER: This review will be completely SPOILER-FREE.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is directed by Gareth Edwards, and stars Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Alan Tudyk, Mads Mikkelsen, and Forest Whitaker.
Rogue One is the first Star Wars film of the franchise’s 40 year span to be considered a “spinoff film”, diverging away from the traditional Skywalker Saga fans have come to know and love. This film centers around the group of ragtag rebels who come together by chance to capture the blueprint for the Death Star, an important plot point in the original ‘Star Wars’ (1977).
At the center of this band of misfits is Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, and Luna’s Captain Cassian Andor. The two are joined by a defecting Imperial Pilot (Ahmed), an extremist freedom fighter (Whitaker), a warrior in tune with the force (Yen), his gunslinging best friend (Wen), and a wisecracking droid (robot, for those that don’t speak Star Wars), voiced by Alan Tudyk, who gives a lot of the film’s funniest lines and moments.
Did you notice that this film has a lot of characters in it?
This poses one of the film’s only problems. It is a difficult task in a film to establish as many characters as Rogue One has and still keep the plot moving in a flowing three act structure. For as likable as all these characters are, especially Yen’s Chirrut Imwe and Tudyk’s K2-SO, none of them really get any finite development, with the exception of Felicity’s Erso and her father Galen, played by Mads Mikkelsen. This doesn’t necessarily compromise their personalities and respective performances entirely, but in a world where the fans love the characters so much, this prevents the audience from really connecting with them like we would, say, Han Solo, or Darth Vader. In addition to characterization issues, Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera seems very out of place, giving a rather over the top performance that sticks out at times like a sore thumb. Nothing against Whitaker, a damn good actor, just a miscast issue is all. And despite the incredible CGI used to bring a few characters to life, there was one character (who may or may not be a fan favorite) whose CGI rendering was painfully obvious in its first appearance, despite getting better as the film went on.
And that’s about the extent of the damage.
There is a lot to like about Rogue One. As stated before, the characters are criminally likable, which makes for some wonderfully hilarious and touching interplay, and a reason for me to go buy some of their action figures. (No I’m not kidding. Highest of praises right there.) Mendelsohn’s Director Orson Krennic is actually one of my favorite, if not my favorite character in this entire film, and deserves praise for his deliciously villainous performance. As said before, the CGI is astounding. The CGI in this film just goes to show how far film development advancements have come, and also helps to bring a few surprises to this film that made me want to start cheering. In being a spinoff film, Rouge One will immediately feel like a different kind of Star Wars film, bearing no traditional theme music or opening crawl, et cetera et cetera. While this new format takes some getting used to within the first act, the eventual adjustment makes for an incredibly enjoyable filmgoing experience, giving us a sweetened balance of what we know and love, and some damn impressive and neat ideas that we’ve never seen before. This balance of old v.s. new also plays into the film’s callbacks and tie-ins to the expanded Star Wars universe, which did in fact give me genuine chills as a die hard Star Wars fan. Without letting my super-fan isms get in the way of this review, the last 20 minutes of this film had me shaking. The last 5 had me in tears. Easily one of the most well shot and tremendously made third acts I’ve seen all year. Or ever, for that matter. No I am not kidding.
I’ve seen a lot of people, some critics and some average movie-goers give this film a hard time because they feel that the first two acts are slow and drag up until the film’s third act. While from a distance, a fair criticism due to the film’s difference in pacing and tone from the other Star Wars films, this doesn’t necessarily detract from the experience. Change and originality in film is something very rare nowadays, or any medium of art for that matter, and when looked at from the right perspective, can add new and enticing flavors to a mix that we already know and love. It really is only more of a good thing, just presented in a certain way.
Rogue One, while in no way perfect, is still more than just a fun popcorn flick at the theater. Its likable characters, fresh ideas and storytelling, CGI, and balance of then versus now make for a film that is one of the best we’ve gotten all year, and one of my favorite Star Wars films. Also, and not to continually beat the same horse, this film’s third act is worth the price of admission.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a unique and well made space adventure, while also being a welcome addition into the Star Wars family, and gets a A-.