Directed by Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Alan Tudyk, Mads Mikkelson, Forest Whitaker
It’s sometimes easy to forget there’s a pretty grisly war going on in the background when watching films in the “Star Wars” franchise.
Sure there are big spectacular space battles, giant walker fights on snowy tundras and of course lightsaber duels but the brutality is often masked by the light-heartedness of its characters during the action.
Han makes sarcastic jokes, C-3P0 is prissy with R2-D2, Leia will chew out Han for doing something stupid, Chewbacca barks at people and even Luke throws the occasional quip back at each of them.
(Yaaay! So many of our friends died today. Yaaaay!)
In “Rogue One” there’s still plenty of this to be had but unlike the previous films, the light-heartness takes the back seat and the grimness of war stands in front and the result is the most poignant and unique “Star Wars” film to date and arguably, in at least this writer’s opinion, its best.
“Rogue One” tells the story of Jyn Erso, daughter of an Imperial scientists who is forced into making The Empire a devastating new weapon to use against The Rebellion. After being rescued from an Imperial labor camp, Jyn is recruited into the Rebel Alliance to help them extract her father to find out what the Empire is making before it can be used against them.
(Gee, I wonder what they could be making…)
Through the first 20 minutes or so, “Rogue One” plays out almost like the pilot episode to a mini-series. The pacing is a bit muddled and there’s a fair level of exposition and it feels like director Gareth Edwards is feeling out the plot of the story at first.
But once “Rogue One” hits its next gear, boy does it take off.
(Shit was lit, bruh)
In Edwards’ “Star Wars,” war and its grisliness is out in the open for all to see. The ruthless of occupational war forces, the dirtiness of guerrilla warfare and the ever hovering doom of failure hangs over each character in the film. Its unapologetic about how desperate the struggle of this fight is and for the first time in this series the audience truly sees how much the odds were stacked against The Rebellion in the original trilogy before Luke came along.
“The Empire Strikes Back” was certainly a low point for The Rebel Alliance but by comparison “Rogue One” makes what the characters went through in that film look like a romantic gondola ride in Naboo by comparison.
(Yeah and I hate cringe inducing lines delivered by hack actors too, Hayden…)
War sucks, it’s not supposed to be fun, not that the action scenes aren’t entertaining in the film of course, but Edwards does a great job of evoking to the audience that “You don’t want to be here.”
One of “Rogue One’s” clearest strengths though is its cast and Edwards’ writers handling of them all.
No matter who you are, you’re going to find a favorite out of this unlikely band of rebels and the diversity of the personalities and characteristics of each one makes them all unique and enjoyable.
Each character in the film has their moment(s), so to speak, and it’s hard to pick just one that is the best of all of them. Felicity Jones is a believable heroine in Jyn Erso setting out to right her father’s wrongs. Diego Luna is a broken but empathetic leader among men in Cassian Andor. Alan Tudyk is hilarious as the very frank droid K-2SO. Riz Ahmed is solid as the Imperial office turned heroic pilot of the Rebellion in Bodhi Rook. And Jiang Wen and Donnie Yen round out the odd couple of the group in heavy gunner Baze Malbus and blind believer in The Force Chirrut Imwe.
(Also fuck you if the word “diversity” pisses you off in any way. “Star Wars” has been borrowing from Asian culture for decades, so its about time we had a couple of them finally have major parts in the series. *sips tea*)
Visually speaking “Rogue One” even out leaps the high bar set by last year’s “The Force Awakens” with some truly beautiful cinematography and perhaps the greatest space battle in the franchise’s history (something TFA was sorely lacking).
The landscapes and backgrounds are beautifully fleshed out in both real and CGI sets and the battles both on the ground and in space are intense and dirty.
(Seriously, the best space battle of the series. Easily.)
As someone who is seen by his friends as nitpicky and overly harsh toward many blockbusters (#itwillALWAYScomesback2Spiderman), “Rogue One” surprisingly has little to no faults for myself other than a slow moving introduction.
It’s a war film that can be taken seriously as one, that somehow tells a very dark story while also being immensely entertaining and it’s a joy to watch.
“Rogue One” is a great example of how to re-imagine an existing property in a way that is both familiar and unique in a good way and if this spin-off is any indication of the new films to come, The Force will be very strong with Lucasfilm and Disney going forward.
Specifically in our wallets.
5 out of 5
Anyways, looking forward to the sequel. Heard the working title is “A New Hope” or something…I’ll be here all night…