My most anticipated film of the year is here. But can this stand-alone entry quench the thirst of Star Wars fans until Episode 8?
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story follows a band of rebels who decide to steal the plans for the Empire’s superweapon, the Death Star. Set directly before Episode IV: A New Hope so no Luke Skywalker, Han or Jedi in sight. This is the story of how those data tapes got into the hands of Rebellion via Princess Leia. (Also, I hope you all know not to expect more adventures from Rey And Fin just yet.)
Opening with the iconic “a long time ago in a galaxy far far” but with no text crawl, Star War logo or epic theme, causes the beginning to feel a little jarring. In its place we get a very weak Rogue One logo that looks like it was designed in iMovie, but once this has passed we are introduced to various planets, rebels and our villain. The production design is outstanding and they have nailed the ‘used universe’ look of Lucas’s original beautifully. There’s loads of easter eggs for the sweaty nerds too so all will be happy.
The problem with the first half of the movie is the lack of character development as Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, is the only one who really gets a back story. How are we expected to care about our dirty half dozen without knowing who they are? That said the characters do grow on you. Diego Luna is military intelligence officer Cassian Andor, who is not afraid to kill, be it friend or foe, in order to complete a mission. A defecting Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook, played by Riz Ahmed, becomes an unlikely hero against the very Empire he once served. Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus and Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe are warriors and former protectors of the Jedi temple. However, it’s K-2SO, a reprogrammed Empire droid voiced by Alan Tudyk ,who provides the most entertainment and comedic fun amongst our band of heroes.
Turning to the villains, Ben Mendelsohn is venomously evil as Imperial director Orson Krennic and stomachs will turn with the appearance of favourite Darth Vader. However, old Vades is used very well but has limited screen time so don’t expect a Vader movie. The film soars towards the end once our heroes embark on their mission and we get what some people say was lacking from the Force Awakens - an epic Space battle! With the added land assault, they have defiantly done what they set out to do and that is to make a tremendous war movie. Gareth Edward’s direction comes into his own in the ground attack scenes as larger versions of the classic AT-AT, the AT-ACT walkers stomp through the attacking rebels.
The CGI is amazing and is even used to bring some old faces back to life but it is still maybe used a little too much which becomes distracting. Sadly, the battles, and the film as a whole, is let down somewhat by a weak score that lacks the flair and impact of John Williams.
With Tony Gilroy being brought in to oversee reshoots and script edits, I was a little nervous going in but the reshoots are not noticeable and the script does the job. There are many scenes shown in trailers and promos missing from the final edit which makes me think that these were done late in the game to tighten up the film up. And I do believe it has worked, even though the film still runs at 2 hours and 13 mins.
Rogue One is an action-packed entry into the Star Wars lore that will please hardcore Star Wars fans but may confuse casual viewers. Somehow Disney have managed to make a self-contained small story that feels epic AND ties in with episode 4 without stepping on any toes. This is a nice little snackette that will keep you going until the return of Kylo Ren and friends next December.
Rogue one is definitely worthy of the Star Wars name and your well-earned cash.
Reviewed by Ian Wright.