Watching Rogue One was everything I wanted it to be and more. This movie was flat out amazing. From start to finish, the film is a fantastic edition to the Star Wars franchise.
When I first heard that Disney was making a Star Wars spinoff film, my mind immediately pictured executives with dollar signs for eyes and a complete lack of determination to make a great story. Boy was I wrong. This movie was a gamble for everyone involved in it. If it failed, it can take the Star Wars franchise back to the abyss that was the prequels era. However, if it succeeded on both a critical and financial level, it would be another classic in a long line of classics. Luckily, Rogue One managed to be the later of those two, and I could hardly be happier with the way things turned out.
For those of you who don’t know, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tells the tale of how the Rebellion used its wobbly legs to capture the Death Star plans so that they could destroy it (as we saw in the original 1977 Star Wars). The heroes led by Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) have to risk their lives in order to save the galaxy from an eternal reign of the Empire.
I have to talk about how great the characters are. Each character felt real and I became really attached to all of them as the story progressed. Since this movie boasts an ensemble cast of fantastic actors, I was engrossed in every detail that the characters had. Jyn Erso was a badass in this film – her character had a traumatic backstory and a whole lot of weapons training, which made her fight scenes really great. Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) also fell in that category – he was a morally grey soldier who would do anything to help the Rebellion.Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) was great for what he was supposed to be: a martial arts master. Donnie Yen is no stranger to fight choreography (as we’ve seen with Ip Man) so his scenes were visually striking. Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) was a gun-wielding-one-man-army dude so that’s neat. Bodhi Rook was a defective Imperial pilot who had a change of heart so that’s always nice for character development. However, the winner of the lot had to be Alan Tudyk’s K-2SO, a droid that added a large sense of humor to a dark film that needed it. Like The Force Awakens, Rogue One’s best character was a droid and I have nothing to complain about. K-2SO was actually a motion capture role so all of the realistic movements were actually done by Tudyk on stilts. The droid also looks visually amazing – it’s hard to tell that there was some CGI wizardry happening with the character because it just looked so real.
Though the protagonists were all fantastic, I believe that Star Wars villains are the best kinds of bad guys. This film had three antagonists, but the main one was Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). Mendelsohn brought a stern and relentless presence to the movie, and his character was worthy to exist among the great Star Wars villains. The way he walked with his Death Trooper squadron at his side was impressive. Krennic was also great in that he wasn’t all powerful. He still had to answer to the people mentioned below, and he was still afraid of the raw power of some of his superiors. I really liked that we got to see how the Empire was structured in this film, and I think that Krennic shows a hierarchy not seen in previous films.
Also in the movie was the much anticipated Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones). Though Vader is in the movie, I wouldn’t get too excited for him since he is only in it for a few minutes. With that said, those few minutes are impactful (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see the whole movie to the end). The final villain of the movie was Grand Moff Tarkin of the original 1977 film. Though actor Peter Cushing died in 1994, visual effects company ILM did an unbelievably great job at making a CGI version of the character. Though there were slight hints that Tarkin was CGI, it was not distracting at all.
In a Star Wars movie, the characters are only as good as the story. One of the things I knew about the film going into it was that it had big stakes. In this time of the Star Wars universe, no one had seen such a large weapon so it felt chilling to see the massiveness of the Death Star. Speaking of space things, the ship models used in the film were insanely detailed and made me remember the kinds that were used in the original Star Wars. Anyways, the stakes were extremely high and tangible in the film. The characters’ reaction to hearing about this planetary destroyer was just awesome to look at. The terror brought by the Death Star made it so that the characters had clear motivations. The movie took unexpected twists and turns until the last twenty minutes, which crescendoed into what I think is the best ending of any movie in 2016. One thing that Rogue One did that made me happy was that it actually took some serious risks. The film used powerful emotional punches and a completely unique script to craft a final product that felt refreshing and nostalgic at the same time.
I would argue that Rogue One was the most emotional Star Wars movie next to Empire Strikes Back. I honestly had a tear coming down my eye as the credits began rolling. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’m just warning you. Every scene just builds upon the previous one, and the layers upon layers of storytelling get fleshed out. Because of this natural progression, every scene feels important to the plot – there isn’t a waste of space in the movie. I actually feel like I’m along for the ride because of how seamlessly woven together the story is.
Luckily for everyone, the story features a heavy dose of gritty action. We knew from the moment this film was announced that this was not going to be about Jedi and lightsabers. This was supposed to be a movie about the troops on the ground, and Gareth Edwards wasn’t kidding. Since the film is taken from the point of view of expendable soldiers, the action feels more scary because of how easy it is for our protagonists to lose. Every action scene in this movie feels like a better version of an original trilogy action scene, and that’s mainly due to better technology. Still, much like JJ Abrams of The Force Awakens, Edwards decided to keep many of the action elements as practical effects. The practical effects added weight to each attack since they were real and not made of CGI. Even the CGI space battles were done extremely well. Though they were set in space, the battles felt claustrophobic and contained, which was awesome since the X-Wings had to play with their surroundings to reach a common goal.
I only had two issues with the film. The first issue was that composer Michael Giacchino’s score was lacking. This movie was the first Star Wars film to not be composed by John Williams so I was curious to see how it would go. I was hoping for different tones that hint at the themes we have grown to love. Instead, I heard an okay score that was easily forgettable. This kind of made me sad since Star Wars has my favorite movie music ever. Giacchino is pretty good at taking existing soundtracks and revamping them (he did this with 2009’s Star Trek and last year’s Jurassic World). However, at least Star Trek had a theme of its own – Rogue One’s theme sounded like that of a fan film on YouTube. I can’t blame the man, though, as he supposedly had only four weeks to compose the entire soundtrack after the previous composer, Alexandre Desplat, dropped out. Maybe it’s just me who feels this way and it honestly seems like I’m nitpicking. Feel free to let me know about what you think about the score in the comments.
The second issue was that the film’s pacing in the beginning was a bit off. I know the film tried to set up a ton of characters in a short timeframe, but some of the scenes in between character introductions were a bit slow. My main example is Forest Whitaker’s character, Saw Gerrera, who spoke like a snail and sounded like he was constantly snoring. The pacing is understandable so I’m giving this film a pass since it all pays off with the second and third acts.
Overall, Rogue One stands in the top half of Star Wars movies for me. It’s wonderful direction, compelling story, rich characters, intense stakes, beautiful visual and practical effects, and a breathtaking action makes up a final product that is amazing in almost every way. On a scale of one to ten, I’m going to have to give Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a nine.
Score – 9/10
So that’s my review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. If you liked this article, feel free to follow me on twitter or like our Facebook page. I’m really sorry about the long break that I took from writing, but I just needed to get some life things sorted out before I could get back to this. I know a lot of this website’s viewership has been lost so I’m hoping that I can get it back. That’s why I’m asking you to please share this with your friends if you liked it.
Categories: Movie/TV Reviews