Rogue One is The Dirty Dozen of Star Wars films, it succeeds beyond all expectation, introducing new characters, fleshing out events we know had to happen, but had only imagined until now.
Gareth Edwards directs a fantastic cast including Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Forest Whitaker and Alan Tudyk using a script by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy.
Set immediately before the events of A New Hope, the film follows a new group of rebels as they take on a mission to retrieve the plans for the Empire’s new superweapon, the Death Star.
Jyn Erso (Jones) find herself broken out of an Imperial prison by Cassian Andor (Luna) and his droid K-2SO (mo-capped and voiced by Tudyk)because she may be able to connect the Rebel Alliance with the extremist Saw Gerrera (Whitaker), who may have information about Jyn’s father, Galen (Mikkelsen) who has been helping Imperial Commander Krennic (Mendelsohn) in creating the Death Star.
From there, the film is an all out war film as Jyn finds herself on a mission which may not be what she thinks it is.
From the beginning we realise that these rebels aren’t without scars, without dangerous pasts, and aren’t all nice. These are assassins, spies, doing all they can to further the Rebellion’s efforts, no matter the personal cost to their own souls.
It took me until the first action scene, set on the planet Jedha, which once housed a Jedi Temple (loved the ruined statues and remnants), and is a source of Kyber crystals which are being seized by the Empire for their energy potential and use in their massive weapon, to really get into the film, but once I was there, I wasn’t going to leave it.
There is so much to love about the film, and I don’t do spoilers, so not to worry. There are familiar faces that pop up here and there through the course of the film, and if you listen there are tie-ins with all that’s gone before it. I was delighted to hear a page for General Syndulla over the Yavin 4 sound system, a great nod to Rebels!!
The action beats are incredible. Donnie Yen, no surprise, is amazing to watch, his lightning fast movements as Chirrut Imwe laying out Stormtroopers roused the audience to applause. In fact there were a number of moments when my viewing audience simply lost their minds.
The story plays out as it has to. The action runs to the next to last frame, and is incredibly tense, despite the fact you know how events have to play out, seeing the sacrifices being made to bring about that ending, which leads right into A New Hope, tugs at all the emotions.
The film looks amazing, the pacing and style pop and sizzle, and the final act of the film is one nail-biting, emotional onslaught after another, and it’s amazing to see a massive space battle as Jyn and her team work.
The opening of the film has an even stronger impact on the viewer if they read the prologue to the story, James Luceno’s Catalyst. It introduces all the characters in the film’s opening, and lets us grow and learn with them, so when events really kick in to high gear, there’s an added emotional resonance.
Michael Giacchino scores the first solo Star Wars film, and is the heir apparent to John Williams. He uses some of the familiar themes we know, to evoke a memory or a moment, or just an emotion, but the rest is all new material, and that’s a tough act to follow. Did I come out of the theatre whistling some new theme? No, but I am learning the cues even now.
The special effects are exemplary, although there are two characters, one seen very briefly, the other with a fair amount of screen time that aren’t quite photo real, but your suspension of disbelief lets you enjoy the moment anyway.
This one is a hit. It’s strong with the Force. It has some fan moments (who doesn’t geek out over new ships, new troopers, new droids alongside more familiar ones) as well as brilliant story moments, and is definitely a crowd-pleaser. And, as much as I enjoyed The Force Awakens, this one is the stronger film, by far. It’s a must see on the big screen, and you’d better believe I’m going to see it again soon!