Title – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Director – Gareth Edwards (Monsters)
Cast – Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen
Plot – Set before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope. A group of rebel fighters, inspired by the determined Jyn Erso (Jones) set about stealing the plans for the Empire’s planet-destroying Death Star, in hopes that in doing so it’ll give the rebel’s a fighting chance to once and for all take back their freedom.
“I’m one with the Force, and the Force is with me”
Review by Eddie on 16/12/2016
Disclaimer – this review is based upon the IMAX 3-D version of the film and is spoiler free
Elevated by an incredibly strong and in many ways brave final act, Star Wars’ first official spin off entry (let’s just forget about those Ewok adventures shall we) Rogue One may not reach the grand heights of the series’ staple classics or last year’s excellently conceived Force Awakens; that almost perfectly balanced out expectations along with introducing us to a whole new plethora of lore and characters, but Godzilla director Gareth Edwards and the team at Disney have certainly found themselves a winning adventure that’s likely to appease the many diehard fans of George Lucas’ cinematic universe.
With the production as sleek and flawless as we’ve come to expect from the series (with an added helping of grunge in this particularly dark narrative, so don’t go in expecting too many hearty Star Wars funnies), Rogue One does a fine job of disassociating itself from the usual Episode entries using simple methods such as no opening scrawls, subtle music changes and a different feel to the action that makes it seem more immediate and threatening, right down to the fact it seems as though those pesky Stormtroopers have finally hit the practice range to sharpen their aim.
Edwards and his team should be commended for taking these risky moves in style and with the film’s plot, that while steering towards the formula a majority of the time, does distance itself from other Star Wars experiences, and it’s quite clear Disney are doing their utmost to make sure that these stand alone “Star Wars Stories” don’t wear too thin on the actual Episode saga.
It also must be said that Rogue One looks stunning, whilst as per usual the effects, costumes and general design of the film is of the highest note, thanks to DOP Greig Fraser, Rogue One’s varied locations from the dusty windswept landscape of Jedha through to the film’s finale on the watery planet of Scariff, Rogue One provides a true visual feast that deserves to be caught on the biggest screen possible for your viewing pleasure.
With so much to say well done to, Rogue One’s major issues stem from something that’s never been a real issue in a Star Wars film, the connection to the stories characters.
Centred around Felicity Jones’ feisty and determined Jyn Erso (a fitting female heroine to stand alongside Rey), who is the films standout alongside Donnie Yen’s blind Force worshiping Chirrut Îmwe, Rogue One’s collection of ragtag rebels, pessimistic robots and bland villains (other than of course a one Mr. Vadar, whose appearance here is worth the price of admission for Star Wars buffs) unfortunately don’t stand alongside the entries other protagonists.
From Diego Luna’s forgettable rebel fighter Cassian Andor, Riz Ahmed’s underdeveloped pilot defector Bodhi Rook, Forrest Whitaker’s almost comical guerrilla warfare leader Saw Gerrera (hamming it up like Christmas has come early to the Star Wars universe), Mads Mikkelsen’s barely utilised scientist Galen Erso and perhaps worst of all Ben Mendelsohn’s unmemorable new villain Orson Krennic (who does a whole lot of angry looks but not a lot more), with Krennic delivering one of the Australian actors more disappointing roles through no fault of his own, especially when you consider the performer’s talents when it comes to playing the “bad guy”, there’s just not enough tying us to these characters we should care more for or feel more hatred towards.
Rogue One’s weaknesses in connecting the audience to a majority of the tales characters is rather unfortunate, especially with the films aforementioned final act likely to have benefited even more so had the film tied the audience up with these characters in a way less mild for the majority. There’s emotion to be found here, just not as much as perhaps there could’ve been.
Quibbles aside, Rogue One provides what’s arguably the year’s best blockbuster entertainment experience that neither outstays its welcome or fails to ignite those Star Wars feels we’ve become accustomed to over these near on 40 years of the series.
Whilst not as family friendly as past entries due to its leaning towards the darker side of the galaxy far far away, Rogue One deserves to find itself alongside the hits of the universe, even if it’s not likely to be remembered in the same vein as the majority of its predecessors in the years still to come.
4 data files out of 5