Producing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was somewhat of a gamble. Here was a film that is a direct prequel to Star Wars and yet it does not focus on Han, Luke and Leia. The protagonist of the film, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is someone who is completely new to the cannon, and the same goes for her cohorts. On top of that, the studio's extensive reshoots were featured, and there is nothing more ominous to a cinephile than the word "reshoots." In other words, Rogue One had a lot working against it, and it needed to deliver in a big way.
I am happy to report that Disney's new film does indeed deliver in a big way.
The film takes place roughly 20 years after the events of Revenge of the Sith. The Jedi are barely remembered and the Empire has a vice grip on the galaxy. The fledgling Rebel Alliance is still somewhat divided, with one half of the Rebels resorting to what is essentially terrorism on Imperial-occupied words, and the other half organizing a legitimate military to engage the Empire in war.
The film does not shy away from shedding light on some of the uglier sides of the Rebellion. There are some in the Rebellion who definitely feel the end justifies the means and there are some real, tough moral dilemmas presented to the film's heroes, especially for Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). This makes for a much more vibrant view of the Galactic Civil War, and also adds a touch of reality as in the real world, atrocities are committed on either side of the conflict.
This grittier approach makes for a Star Wars film that feels completely different from the other films, while also evoking nigh on fatal levels of nostalgia in fans of the original trilogy. There are cameos and easter eggs galore. So much so that a rewatching A New Hope before seeing the film may be beneficial in helping to catch on to the easter eggs, as they are masterfully and subtly inserted into the film.
The film also manages to capture the aesthetic of Episode IV perfectly, right down to Darth Vader's suit which sports the more matte-black look from the original film. The practical effects blend so well with the CGI effects, to the point that the two are difficult to distinguish at times. And the visuals of this film. Good lord are the visuals stunning in this film, it easily has the best cinematography in the franchise.
Of course, it wouldn't be a Star Wars film without unforgettable characters and Rouge One has a grand total of two unforgettable characters, neither of which is the main protagonist or antagonist. Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) a blind martial artist who is devoted to the Church of the Force and K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) a reprogrammed Imperial enforcer droid both steal the show with their badassery and hilarity. Chirrut is part Jackie Chan, part Obi-Wan Kenobi and part Daredevil. If you can’t understand how awesome that is I feel pity for you. K-2SO is the closest we are likely to get to seeing HK-47 on the big screen.
Sadly, the other heroes are great, but underdeveloped and semi-forgettable. Jyn’s story is touching, but not enough time is allocated to it which results in a protagonist that just doesn’t pack the same punch as Luke or Rey.
Krennic, the film’s villain is equally disappointing. He just does not come across as threatening in the slightest. Part of this could be due to the fact that he shares virtually every scene he is in with Death Troopers, a certain Grand Moff anda certain asthmatic cybernetic Sith, all of whom come across as much more threatening than him.
Ordinarily a film filled with so many underdeveloped characters fails to impress me. So, I found myself rather confused as I left the theater feeling like I had just seen an incredible film. On my way home from the theater it hit me: The Rebellion is the main protagonist while the Empire acts as the main antagonist. In a very real sense the Rebellion travels the classic hero’s journey. Each of the individual characters represent the different characteristics of the organization to which they belong.
That’s what makes Rogue One so special: it is focused on the team effort as opposed to the films which primarily focuses on individual heroes. It contends the importance of the nameless soldiers who bear on their backs the failure or success of the cause for which they fight.
The Wrap Up
8.5 out of 10
While Director Krennic, Jyn Erso and her crew make a somewhat lackluster impression, the film does a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of the Rebellion and, by extension, Star Wars (as in the original film) though it is darker than Empire Strikes Back.