image credit: lmronline.com
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Forest Whitaker, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Rated PG-13 for pervasive sci-fi violence and action (no blood) that may be frightening for younger children
Release Date: December 16th, 2016
Hey, did you ever wonder exactly how those clever Rebels managed to get ahold of the plans that brought about the Death Star’s destruction in Star Wars: A New Hope? Not really? Well, Disney decided to make an entire movie out of this minor detail. Since taking the helm from George Lucas, they have made more than a few changes to Star Wars canon, and Rogue One is no exception.
We are introduced to our heroine, Jyn Erso (Jones), the daughter of a retired Imperial science officer, as a child living peacefully on an Icelandic-looking planet with her family. That is, until Imperial baddie Orson Krennic (Mendelsohn) comes to shanghai her father (Mikkelsen) into working on the Empire’s latest project: a planet-killing weapon known as the Death Star. Left in hiding, she is rescued by family friend and extremist Rebel militant Saw Gerrera (Whitaker). Fast forward 15 years later, Jyn is rescued from the clutches of the Empire by Cassian Andor (Luna) and his reprogrammed Imperial droid-turned-copilot K-2so (voiced by Tudyk). She’s very important to the Rebel Alliance, you see. They want to use her to get Saw Gerrera back on their side (since he’s been a lone-wolf crackpot for many years) and to find her father, who is now the chief engineer of the Death Star.
It’s a very complicated plotline and the viewer is given very little time to process it as we director Edwards whisks us from planet to planet. We meet some very interesting characters along the way; the most interesting of which is a blind, Force-using monk named Chirrut Îmwe (Yen). Towards the end of the film, there is so much going on that you get lost in the movie, but only because if you don’t pay attention you feel like you’re going to miss something. Epic battle scenes rage on with a lot more violence and firepower than previous installments, meaning this is a movie that might be a little too intense for younger viewers. It’s a fast-paced thrill ride that will leave you gripping your seat.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Star Wars film without exotic locales, stormtroopers who still can’t shoot worth a damn, and a character saying “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” (Minor spoiler: It’s K-2SO, who easily gets the best lines in the entire film. )However, Rogue One does lack some of the usual Star Wars formula. Gone is the florid language of the first six movies. There’s no John Williams-scored soundtrack. There are no Jedi, no lightsabers save for a scene at the very end. The real villain of the movie is Krennic, and while Mendelsohn brings a certain sneering malice to the part, he’s not as terrifying as Darth Vader. This movie is not so much Star Wars as it is a story set in its universe. As a lifelong fan, I found this somewhat of a letdown. A fellow Star Wars buff pointed out that much of the climactic Rebels vs Imperials battle scene is recycled footage from A New Hope. Since this film had an estimated budget of 200 million USD, this felt rather lazy on the director’s part.
Did I enjoy this film? Yes. There are enough cameos, including a very unexpected CGI one, that will keep longtime fans entertained. I also found it to be a fun watch despite the complicated plot. Will I watch it again? Also yes. However, I think this movie is for those who are already fans of the franchise; with the way it is set up, it definitely won’t win any new converts. Overall, a passable installment in the Star Wars saga, but is it the prequel the fans have been waiting for? I’m going to lean towards no.
VERDICT: See it and decide for yourself. If you’re new to the franchise, watch Episodes 4-6 first.