Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a very important Star Wars film. Directed by Gareth Edwards, most well known for his work on 2014’s Godzilla, this Star Wars spin-off marks the first step towards the new Star Wars universe. Disney has been very adamant about their intent to produce a plethora of Star Wars films, which begs a simple question. Are these films going to be just as great as the legacy that precedes them, or turn towards the quality of the prequel trilogy? Fortunately, Rogue One shows that loosening the grip on the Star Wars franchise allows for some great takes on George Lucas’ imaginative universe.
Taking place right before Star Wars: Episode IV (A New Hope), this spin off tells the tale of the group of Rebel soldiers who stole the plans to the Death Star. It’s an interesting tale to tell, as we already know the outcome before the film starts. If you’ve seen A New Hope, you know the film starts with the Rebels having already obtained the plans. Despite already knowing this, Rogue One is a definitely a tie-in story of those who stole the plans. It’s by no means a “feel good” film, there to pump up the good guy- Rebels. It feels like a missing link; a film that fills in the blanks perfectly in style of Star Wars.
One of the biggest differences between Rogue One and all other Star Wars films is almost immediately apparent. It’s a dark film, tonally. While the entire Star Wars series revolves around a massive war (it says so right in the title), Rogue One is the first film that feels like an actual war film. Despite the abundance of laser blasters and force powers, there’s a grit to the film that reminds me more of a World War 2 piece than a space opera. Rogue One benefits from that. As we are introduced to our characters, there’s a true tension that plays off our empathy. Star Wars films are violent at times, sure, but nothing quite pulls of the dread of war quite like Rogue One. It feels as though at any time our beloved cast of characters might not make it.
That’s important too, as Rogue One features an (almost) entirely new cast of characters. We get a decent amount of fan service through characters like Saw Gerrera (played by Forest Whittaker), a film newcomer that originates in the animated Clone Wars series. However, I felt that the truly new characters were the most powerful of them all. The strong female lead Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) is exceptional, as her performance is grounded and emotional. However, there’s a few true stand outs among the talented cast. Namely, the newest droid companion, K-2SO. Voiced by Alan Tudyk, K-2 outwits and gets more laughs than any other cast member. He’s a reprogrammed Imperial droid that aids our Rebellion crew throughout the film. He’s sarcastic, lacks sympathy, and is generally a bit of an ass. That being said, it pays off immensely.
Besides K-2, I greatly enjoyed the character Chirrut Imwe (played by Donnie Yen), a blind monk who kicks more Imperial butt than anyone else on screen. There’s no reason in specific, he’s just an excellent character played to perfection. Additionally, the defected Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook is an instant favorite of mine, purely due to the performance of Riz Ahmed. I was a huge fan of Riz Ahmed in 2014’s Nightcrawler, and after his performance in Rogue One, he’s shaping up to be one of the best new actors in Hollywood.
Visually speaking, Rogue One is fantastic. From the battles down to seamless CGI, the effects are so great that you’ll rarely notice they are even at work. For example, it took me until halfway through the movie to notice that the Imperial big shot Tarkin was not a Peter Cushing look-a-like, but rather a CGI recreation of Cushing himself. Couple this with the absolute insanity of the closing battle of the film, and the quality speaks for itself. The sound design is a bit weak though. It’s a shame that it falters, seeing as how audio plays a huge role in an emotional battle sequences. Due to the abnormally quiet sounds of battle, the overall weight of the fights was weakened. However, the audio mixing isn’t bad enough to ruin these sequences. Hopefully they will be able to clean this aspect up for the Blu-Ray and DVD releases.
Generally speaking, Rogue One is a fantastic film. There’s high points and lows, but most Star Wars films fail to be perfect. Thankfully, an incredibly good cast and competent and effective storytelling outweigh some of the technical issues. Whether you’re a huge fan of the series or simply interested in a galactic war, Rogue One has enough fan service and overall mayhem to keep any movie goer invested. It’s not much of a surprise, but Rogue One stands out as an excellent film. It doesn’t need to be backed by the Star Wars universe to be great; it already is.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story gets an 8.5/10.
I’m a life long gamer and an overall media junkie. In addition to writing great articles like this, I host a gaming/comedy podcast called “Super Gamecast 64” available on iTunes and Stitcher. I also watch an unhealthy amount of movies, and try to spread as much love into the world as I can. Hope you enjoyed the content!