Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Release Date: December 16, 2016
Studio: Disney / Lucasfilm
Director: Gareth Edwards
Release Format: Theatrical
I remember when I actually had to wait for a new Star Wars film to hit the theaters. The Star Wars films contained in both The Original Trilogy and The Prequel Trilogy were released three years apart. Both trilogy’s themselves had a sixteen-year gap between them. And even after The Prequels ended, The Force Awakens wouldn’t be released for another decade. But now, we are apparently getting a new Star Wars film every year. We still have a two-year gap between the “episodes” but for the years in between, we will be getting spin-offs.
It’s disappointing in a way. Looking forward to a Star Wars film was part of the experience. I mean, yeah, the wait doesn’t always pay off. I know that many people were incredibly disappointed with The Phantom Menace after such a long wait. But my point still stands. Going to Star Wars was an event that even the tiniest fan could enjoy and now, sadly, that experience seems to be lost to us. In addition, if I’m being honest, I was skeptical about this whole thing. I just saw it as Disney not caring about the Star Wars tradition and, in addition, milking a cash cow for all it was worth. However, if we end up with more spinoffs with the same brilliant quality, uniqueness and heart as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Disney can milk this cash cow dry with my sincerest blessing.
The story, for the most part, was exactly what we assumed it would be based on the advertising. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story involves the rebels who retrieved the Death Star plans for the rebellion. And, of course, this leads into A New Hope. The entire film, however, isn’t just one big mission. Granted, the mission throughout the film is to retrieve the plans in one way or another. However, the film actually takes its time in the first half building up this new group of characters, making us care for them in different ways without having to rely on a ton of nostalgia (take notes, J.J. Abrams). So, when the second half kicks the story and the action into overdrive, we’re already invested in the characters and we can genuinely care what happens to them.
The characters are what lend so much emotional weight to this story. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) was our main heroine this time around and I felt myself falling absolutely in love with this character. She was separated from her father (Mads Mikkelson) at a young age and has since been trying to find him. When the rebellion finds her, they inform her that her father is the designer for The Death Star’s ultimate weapon. However, without giving too much away, things are not what they appear to be, at least not in the rebellion’s eyes. For the entire duration of the movie, it is impossible not to feel for and root for this character. There are so many scenes with her, regarding her father, that are genuinely touching and even heartbreaking.
The same can be said for the other characters in Rogue One. They weren’t developed on the same level of Luke, Han or even Darth Vader but there’s a reason for that. Those characters had several movies for them to develop whereas this film only has one. Again, this is the first spinoff film for the Star Wars series. For what they do with these characters, they are more than reasonably well done. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) was a genuinely great character whose backstory was revealed more as the film went on. His relationship with Jyn Erso becomes one out of mutual respect. Any other film, even The Empire Strikes Back would have just settled for something romantic. The fact that these two do not have a romantic relationship was something I found incredibly refreshing.
K-2SO (Alan Tudyk) is our droid for this movie and to say he’s hilarious would be an understatement. Let’s face it, C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) had jokes but, even all these years later, he gets a bit annoying at times. K-2SO is what you’d get if you sucked all the whining and complaining out of C-3PO. Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) is another character who lends comedy to the film, while also adding emotional weight. Just don’t try to pronounce his name, your brain will explode. He and his companion, Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang), lose their way of life after their planet is destroyed and they have banter together that is sometimes comedic and sometimes very meaningful. Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) is a pilot who has defected from the empire and wants the team to trust him.
That’s something else that the film has going for it; its themes. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story explores themes of loss, hope, and the willingness to have faith. All of these main characters have lost their way of life in some form or another. They were lost souls in search of a purpose. They have no home, they have no family. When the first act ends and they are all together, they only have each other. Yet, they all have different backgrounds and not all of them are perfect. Some of them have serious demons (even Baze Malbus has an absence of faith in The Force) that they need to overcome by the end. It’s this mission that they take it upon themselves to carry out that gives them that purpose again. It gave them hope and as the film so perfectly demonstrated “rebellions are built on hope”.
Another huge positive of this film is the action and the visuals. The cinematography of this film is breathtaking. Not even just on the planets but the shots of The Death Star in space are some of the best in any Star Wars film. The climax of this film is brilliant and did something no other Star Wars film has done. Let’s be honest, if you watched the other Star Wars films, you would classify them as Sci-Fi/Fantasy films. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first Star Wars movie that is through and through a War Movie. It, quite literally, puts the “Wars” in Star Wars. The climax on the beach of Scarif is brilliantly handled from beginning to end, as is the battle that takes place simultaneously in space.
There was not a single thing wrong with the climax. It was perfectly paced, perfectly acted, perfectly shot and perfectly brutal. You see so many characters go out in ways you would see in a war movie and, at times, it’s just heartbreaking. When a character died, I gasped. This film puts you right in the war-zone and it never shies away from being brutal and realistic. War is not a pleasant thing and Gareth Edwards perfectly demonstrates that. For a guy who showed us almost no Godzilla in a film called Godzilla, he sure knows how to show a lot of war in a Star Wars film. Well, nice to know he learned. Godzilla (2014) was terrible by the way. Just a side note.
Another aspect of the war that Edwards shows is that no side, no matter how good they may seem, is truly angelic. The rebellion is obviously the lesser of the two evils, fighting for freedom against the empire. However, that doesn’t stop them from giving kill orders, sending assassins or sending spies. The original Star Wars was as black and white about this as you could get. It was simple, yet effective, good vs evil. In Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the rebels are good but they do terrible things to get what they want. They aren’t as perfect as the other films have made them out to be which is not only realistic but something no one ever really thought about watching the original films. In my eyes, it was welcome and refreshing to see that even the good guys aren’t necessarily “all good”.
That brings us to the main villains and the one thing I’m sure everyone is waiting for me to complain about; The Governer Tarkin CGI Face. Yes, Governer Tarkin makes several appearances in the film. While he’s technically portrayed by Guy Henry, the filmmakers used CGI on his face to make him look like the late Peter Cushing. Everyone has complained about this saying that the CGI face was just awkward and honestly, I don’t see it. No, really, the CGI work on his face was absolutely flawless. This isn’t Tron: Legacy or the end of Furious Seven where you can clearly see a CGI’d face. No, this was great work. Guy Henry even did a spot on impersonation of Peter Cushing. The resemblance was just uncanny. Personally, this did not bother me. I really don’t see what the fuss is about.
Then there’s Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), who acts as the main villain and the one who took Jyn’s father away from her when she was a child. I found Krennic enjoyable, just not particularly interesting. He’s clearly a stooge for the empire and Darth Vader (James Earl Jones / Spencer Wilding) and he does the job as the film’s villain just fine. He’s not a great character on the level of say Vader or Tarkin, but he’s still an enjoyable addition to the Star Wars canon. Let me ask you something; outside of the way he looked, was Darth Vader an interesting villain in A New Hope? No, he was just a giant, intimidating force. He didn’t get a whole lot of backstory or even depth until Empire and Jedi came around. In A New Hope, he just looked and acted awesome and there wasn’t much character to him yet.
In a way, Krennic is kind of the same thing. He’s intimidating and evil, like a villain in Star Wars should be, just not very fleshed out. Granted, he’s not as memorable or cool looking as Darth Vader but, honestly, who is? If I can forgive A New Hope for this, there’s no reason I can’t let Rogue One slide. Speaking of Darth Vader, if you wanted to see him go absolutely crazy in this movie, you will not be disappointed. He has without a doubt his coolest scene in this movie. He’s not in a great deal of the film but when he does show up, Gareth Edwards certainly makes it count.
Do I have any negatives? Well, after seeing the movie twice now, I have only two problems with the entire film. The first being that there is no opening Crawl. Oh, they still say “A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…” at the very beginning, but we don’t get the words “Star Wars” flashing across the screen, nor do we get an opening crawl to accompany it. In fact, the way the displayed the Rogue One title on the screen made me wonder if the rest of the movie was going to be so cheap. Thank god it wasn’t. My other problem was giving the film the subtitle “A Star Wars Story.” What was wrong with just calling the film “Rogue One“? We’re gonna know it’s a Star Wars movie the second you show the trailer. So, why bother with a dumb subtitle? I don’t get it.
These problems, however, are not the fault of the film itself. This is a fault of the film’s producers. People who apparently thought no opening crawl and spelling out “A Star Wars Story” for us like we’re all eight year olds was a good idea. The opening crawl is something that has been a staple of the franchise since the beginning. I don’t care if this isn’t one of the official “episodes”, a Star Wars movie should have an opening crawl. And as far as the subtitle of “A Star Wars Story” is concerned, the subtitle doesn’t even show up in the title sequence. So, again, I ask, what was the point of that, Disney? With that said, let me clarify again that these are not issues with the film itself. The film is still absolutely outstanding regardless of these things.
Overall, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story isn’t just a great Star Wars film, it’s a great film in general. It represents one of the absolute best this series has to offer. It plays on moral ambiguity, themes of loss and hope and knows exactly how to portray the concept of war in a fantasy setting. The main villain isn’t anything special but it has other villains that greatly pick up the slack. It doesn’t have a crawl and it has a stupid subtitle. However, neither of these things are problems with the actual film. I can’t put into enough words how much this movie floored me. The characters are memorable, the story is simple and effective and the action is brilliant. Is it my favorite Star Wars movie? Well… eh… wow… uh… maybe? Please excuse me, I have to go re-watch The Empire Strikes Back, right now.
- The First Star Wars Movie That Is Actually A "War Movie"
- Memorable Characters With Plenty Of Depth To Spare
- Fantastic Humor
- One Of The Best Paced Of The Series
- Magnificently Acted
- Some Of The Best Action Of The Entire Series, Aiming For A More Realistic Touch.
- Beautiful Cinematography
- Emotionally Heartbreaking & Exhausting In The Best Possible Way
- The Best Darth Vader Moment EVER!
- No Opening Crawl
- "A Star Wars Story" Is A Dumb Subtitle
- Krennic Is A Fine Villain But Not That Interesting As A Character
A graduate of Full Sail University with a Bachelors Degree in Creative Writing, Adam is a Writer and Film Critic, looking to make his mark on the world. When he isn’t at the movies, writing for The Nerd Stash, playing Duck Hunt (respect the classics) or delivering pizzas to his neighbors, he is back at school earning his Masters Degree in Film Production.