Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a bumpy, yet promising first entry in the Star Wars spin-off series. Gareth Edwards' direction is iconic and Michael Giacchino's score is next-level, while the cast is serviceable and the story uneven.
I wanted nothing more than to love Gareth Edwards‘ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Finally, a spin-off series that will allow exciting directors an opportunity to play in the Star Wars sandbox, without the ability to really tarnish the brand’s name. But Rogue One isn’t the slam-dunk success that I had hoped for, while it’s also not the worst entry in the now 8 installment series.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story takes place right before the events of the original Star Wars film, now titled Episode IV: A New Hope. It’s all about The Empire’s latest creation, known as the Death Star — which is a military weapon capable of destroying entire planets.
Darth Vader (voiced briefly by the legendary James Earl Jones) leads The Empire, with Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) heading the project, despite Moff Tarkin’s overseeing. Together, The Empire is looking to destroy The Rebellion once and for all, while The Rebellion discovers a new hope in Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of Galen (Mads Mikkelsen).
Galen helped design the Death Star against his will and was taken away from his family by Krennic and forced to construct the device, after having killed Galen’s wife and separating him from his daughter for the majority of her childhood.
Now, The Rebellion looks to use Jyn as a method of getting in contact with Galen, intercepting an important plan crucial to the destruction of the Death Star and bringing it back to The Rebellion.
This is done by assembling a rag-tag group of rebels, including Rebellion member Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), his Droid K-2SO (voiced with vigor by Alan Tudyk), a blind believer of The Force (played by Donnie Yen), a defecting pilot (Riz Ahmed) and Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang).
Together, this unlikely group must come together and steal the Death Star plans before it’s too late.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is an achievement in film, having successfully managed to blend together with both the original Star Wars trilogy and the new wave that has started with The Force Awakens.
It’s important to note that director Gareth Edwards has made an installment worthy of the Star Wars name, even if it’s not the best or most memorable.
It’s different; that’s for sure and it goes about its story in a way that’s much more satisfying than The Force Awakens, but it also suffers greatly from a first act that’s an absolute misfire.
Early dialogue is read rather roughly, while the constant jump around to different locations is almost overbearing, but it’s all in the service of the film’s grander story, which is clear and concise, but followed through in a somewhat dull fashion.
I say this because of the characters. I just didn’t care for most of them, despite some of them having their brief moments to shine in the sun.
Alan Tudyk‘s Droid performance is the film’s shining star, surpassing C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB8 with ease. Finally, a Droid that serves the story beyond that of solely being comedic relief. There’s no doubt that he is the comedic relief of the film, but he’s also very helpful and crucial to the film, especially during the last act.
Donnie Yen must not be over-looked as the bad ass blind man that wields a stick and carries the legacy of The Force within him. He doesn’t exactly say much, but his actions speak louder than words and he brings a sense of warmth and confidence to the team that’s greatly needed.
Riz Ahmed, Wen Jiang and Diego Luna don’t exactly steal the show, but they provide a healthy balance for the rest of the crew. Luna especially stood out as an annoyance early on, but redeems himself later in the film.
This moves us on to Jyn and Galen Erso, both played by more than capable actors — Mads Mikkelsen and Felicity Jones. I didn’t really care for either of their performances, despite their relationship being the backbone of the film and the progression of the story.
Mikkelsen doesn’t really get to do much and understandably so, but Jones’ Jyn is the most uninspiring Star Wars lead yet, which is made even worse after last year’s Rey managed to spark new life in the Star Wars saga.
Jyn mostly goes through the required emotional beats of the film, all without really earning any real sympathy. I understood her conflict and wanted to watch her rebel, but I never connected with the character on an emotional level whatsoever.
Ben Mendelsohn‘s Krennic is also a disappointing turn that never truly latches onto the film. He mostly serves as a connection between James Earl Jones‘ legendary Darth Vader and the horrid work of CGI that tried to bring Peter Cushing‘s Moff Tarkin back to life.
Speaking of which, I probably should remind people yet again that Darth Vader isn’t in the film much and this was stated early on, so don’t go expecting him to steal the show, despite having one specific late-in-the-game scene that is absolutely bad ass and possibly the best use of Darth Vader yet.
It’s a shame that James Earl Jones couldn’t give more to the film, but I hope they’ve recorded enough deleted stuff with him for later use.
The CGI used for Tarkin is distracting and occasionally embarrassing for LucasFilms and Disney. They’ve started to use this sort of CG for aging sequences before, but here it’s mostly a questionable decision. I’m sure they could have used more shadows and stand-ins to better capture this performance, but I get why they did it.
It’s also worth noting that Forest Whitaker‘s performance is downright awful and feels like its for an entirely different movie. Thankfully, he’s not in the film that much, but man what were they thinking with that one?
Director Gareth Edwards must be commended for his work on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The script is far from polished, but the direction is absolutely awesome. The scope is large and iconic in a way that highlights Edwards’ ability as a large-scaled director. Some of the space sequences are downright breath-taking and Edwards deserves all of the credit.
Rogue One might be the best-looking Star Wars film to date, both capturing a familiar look and style, while taking the series to all-new highs in terms of visuals and locations. The last act battle is some of the best action shot this year and I totally applaud Edwards for managing to make a Star Wars film look this great.
Also, musical composer Michael Giacchino must be mentioned as he’s managed to create a score that rivals, if not surpasses John Williams. I know that’s a big compliment, but I mean that with all of my heart. The music of Rogue One is one of the most memorable things about the film and I never thought someone could do Star Wars better than Williams until now.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story isn’t the worst Star Wars movie to date (the prequels still hold that crown), while it’s also far from the best. I know that it doesn’t have to be the best Star Wars film ever and I’m more than fine with that.
I’m still excited to see what else LucasFilms comes up with by bringing in more directors and writers to their universe and continuing to expand it.
Rogue One is mostly a byproduct of bad writing, mixed with great direction, awesome music and a cast capable of delivering excellent performances. Unfortunately, the characters and dialogue are written in a way that really cripples the talent, but Edwards’ visuals and Giacchino’s music helps make up for that.
I’d still put the original trilogy and maybe even The Force Awakens in front of this one. I know that sounds like awful praise, but Rogue One still is a good movie that’s worth checking out. It sticks the landing and provides an infinitely better third act than the previous two.