“Many lives were lost to bring you this brilliant film…”
Full Spoilers Ahead
Back in 2012, Lucasfilm was purchased for over $4 billion by Disney and the world wondered what they would attempt to do with the franchise in a galaxy far, far away. They then released Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens in 2015, which was amazing, but used a mirror image formula to A New Hope which irked some hardcore fans. Fast forward to present day, and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story would be the first standalone film with ties to the main franchise. I will say that I was one of the skeptical fans at first…
…Let’s just say my skepticism was proven very wrong.
Rogue One follows the story of the rebels who managed to get the plans to the sinister battle station built by the Empire, the Death Star. This misfit band of rebels are led by Jyn Erso, played by Felicity Jones, the daughter of Galen Erso, played by Mads Mikkelson, a former-turned-current Imperial scientist behind the design of the Death Star. Jyn is apprehended from Imperial custody by rebel forces and one of the ragtag team members, a reprogrammed Empire droid with a knack for sarcasm, K-2SO voiced by Alan Tudyk. She is quickly returned to the rebel base on Yavin-4 and is informed by Mon Mothma and Captain Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna, of her father’s connection to Jyn’s former surrogate father and war radical Saw Gerrera, played by Forrest Whitaker. They then venture off to the planet Jedha, the former home of a Jedi Temple, to retrieve information from Bodhi Rook, played by Riz Ahmed, a defected Empire pilot who was sent by Galen to speak to Gerrera about the plans of the super weapon. Gerrera, being the eccentric radical he is, locks up Cassian in the same jail as two former Jedi Temple protectors Baze Malbus and Chirrut Imwe played by Wen Jiang and Donnie Yen.
The band is all together once they all reach Jedha, as Jyn, Cassian, K-2SO, Bodhi, Baze and Chirrut serve as the main group showcased in the film. Orsen Krennic, played by Ben Mendelsohn, serves as the film’s main antagonist and is pressured to demonstrate the first battle test for the Death Star on Jedha by a CGI-version of General Tarkin. Just before Jedha’s demise, Gerrera shows Jyn the secret message that Galen had passed along through the defected pilot Rook, which states that he did all this to save his daughter and that he secretly created the Death Star in order to sabotage it from within. He reveals he had implemented a huge flaw in the plans which later leads to battle station’s destruction in A New Hope. Predictably, this leads to the basic concept that was uttered in A New Hope which includes a small band of rebels bolting on a suicide mission to Scarif, a beach planet which serves as an Imperial military and database, in order to somehow obtain said plans.
Story and plot aside, this movie was shot beautifully. Everything from the isolationist planet of Lah’Mu to the beach planet of Scarif was depicted in grand clarity. It was shot like an epic war film but through the lens of the Star Wars universe. The best example I can give is what they did with Star Wars Battlefront; they took the Battlefield schematics and gave it a Star Wars skin. Apart from the scenery, the practical effects they used in costume design and makeup also gave the film an authentic feel, especially the state in which the rebellion is in at this point in the Star Wars timeline.
There are so many movies that come to audiences that attempt so badly to bring “fan service” to its plot that it fails miserably to balance that with plot holes and basic plot understanding. This is NOT one of those films. There is so much fan service in this film that it’s almost as if Gareth Edwards was commissioned directly by fans of the original trilogy and held at gunpoint. The numerous cameos from characters such as C-3PO and R2-D2, Bail Organa, and even Ponda Babba and Dr. Evazan from the original’s cantina scene made the final cut of the film. Even the final scene with a CGI-Leia in which she responds to what the plans are as their “hope” left a perfect transition to the beginning of A New Hope. However, the ultimate fan service has to be any time Darth Vader hits the screen with his ominous breathing. His total screen time has to be in the single digits in terms of minutes, but his dominative nature when he speaks to Krennic shows us once again who the biggest bad is. The ending in which he is shown from a complete horror perspective as he skewers the rebels guarding Leia’s ship has to be worth the ticket price alone. Like if you charged me $20 and only showed me the Darth Vader slaughter scene on a loop for an hour I would gladly pay $40 and ask for it to be replayed.
Overall, I believe the cast brings their own individual personalities to grasp onto when depicting their ragtag nature, but I feel like due to the length of the film, not every character got their time to shine. For example, Donnie Yen’s portrayal of blind, Force-loyal temple guard Chirrut Imwe was lovable, but I had to look up his character’s name when writing this review because there wasn’t a lot of time to get story backgrounds.
Don’t confuse my want for character development for disappointment though. The movie was shot beautifully and the fan service was firing on all cylinders. The biggest thing the film could have done other than the Vader scene was answering the biggest question since A New Hope was released- why the Death Star was so easily destroyed. So, while the film has its flaws, I believe it deserves many, many viewings, if not just for the Vader scene that left our jaws on the floor- just like the rebels who dared get in his way.