Movie Review: Rogue One — A Star Wars Story
Rogue One caps off another year of Star Wars with an enjoyable, blockbuster mix of old and new.
Built On Hope
Following last year’s record-breaking release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there’s still a strange thrill to seeing the classic logo on the big screen again. As the first standalone film in the new anthology, Rogue One continues the momentum in an action-charged bridge between Episode III and IV.
Felicity Jones stars as fugitive and reluctant heroine Jyn Erso, daughter to the coerced designer (Mads Mikkelson) of the Empire’s new ‘Death Star’. When Alliance forces liberate her from Imperial captivity, Jyn’s indifference ultimately turns to duty as she joins a motley team bent on stealing vital plans to the superweapon, and keeping the Rebellion alive.
This familiar mission is offset by a unmistakable attempt to bring shades of grey to a famously ‘light’ and ‘dark’ galaxy. Rogue One presents a moral haze that even the Rebellion cannot escape, where collateral damage and assassination are necessities for success. This is a different kind of Star Wars film, and it’s a welcome change.
The Old And The New
In Rogue One, ‘the hope’ often appears more important in the grand scale than the characters who try to keep it alive. It’s in the characters themselves that it loses some of its shine. While Jyn’s search for her father and the questionable actions of Rebel spy Cassian (Diego Luna) are engaging, the audience is never given much reason to care about any of their ‘Rogue One’ companions.
Their presence remains superficial, and with a blaster cannon wielding mercenary (Wen Jiang), and a blind, Force-following warrior-monk (Donnie Yen) in tow, this really is a missed opportunity for plot depth.
Mikkelson as father of Jyn, Galen Erso, is one of the standouts, as is Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera, despite only briefly featuring as the grizzled Clone Wars veteran. It’s up to sassy robotic companion K-2SO to provide some genuine, humorous moments to steady the film’s often grim tone.
Thankfully the newcomers are joined by plenty of familiar faces, and a heady dose of nostalgia for longtime fans. Jimmy Smits returns as Alderaan senator Bail Organa, and director Gareth Edwards even restores the gaunt scowl of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin, in remarkably rendered CGI. It’s the iconic wheeze of Darth Vader that steals the spotlight though, and rightfully so. James Earl Jones’s rasp brings the ultimate villain back to Star Wars, whose levels of intimidation rise to new heights by the film’s end.
A Visual Feast
The visuals in Rogue One are simply stunning, and well worth the price of admission alone. With the introduction of brand new planets and alien species, a fresh Star Wars experience is clearly a priority. From the desert mesa metropolis of Jedha, to the shadowy crags of Eadu and the tropical shores of Scarif, planetscapes are gorgeously vibrant and varied.
The film’s combat set-pieces are also brilliantly directed, and practically every exchange of blaster fire is an action lover’s treat. Rogue One definitely feels more like a war movie, but in the best possible sense. In an epic final act, X-wings and mammoth AT-ACT Walkers combine for perhaps the saga’s most cinematic battle sequence on Scarif’s shimmering beaches, and high above the atmosphere.
We can only hope for the ‘epic’ to remain, with Disney set to release a new Star Wars film every year until 2020. If Rogue One is any indication of the future, they should be something to look forward to.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is now showing in cinemas from December 14.