Rebellions are built on hope and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (“Rogue One“) certainly brings about a new hope to the longevity and continuity of the Star Wars franchise.
Directed by Gareth Edwards, Rogue One is an epic space adventure film set within the Star Wars franchise years after Revenge of the Sith and acts as a lead up to the events in A New Hope, thereby being the link between the Star Wars prequel and original film trilogies.
Despite being a Star Wars film, Rogue One steps away from the traditional film tropes many of us Star Wars fans are familiar and accustomed with. The film opens without an opening crawl and delves right into the main plot. This, to me, signifies, quite clearly, the nature of Rogue One as being detached from the Skywalker Saga, which takes centre stage in previous iterations of Star Wars films.
As much as Rogue One sets itself apart as a stand alone film, the film’s plot was still very much within the continuity of the larger Star Wars story and centres on the Galactic Empire’s reveal of their all powerful and destructive weapon, the Death Star, which as many of us already know, was destroyed by Luke Skywalker in A New Hope.
The film does a brilliant job of fitting seamlessly into the extended Star Wars universe while introducing new characters and ideas. The protagonists of the film, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and her team of rogue rebels, consisting of Rebel Alliance Intelligence Officer, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Imperial Pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), Rebel owned Imperial Enforcer Droid K2SO (Alan Tudyk), warrior Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen) and freelance assassin, Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), play a crucial part and work to bring about the eventual defeat of the Empire through their actions in this film.
The end of George Lucas’ reign as director at the conclusion of Revenge of the Sith marked the end of Star Wars for me personally. While Star Wars: The Force Awakens (“The Force Awakens”) was a great film in its own right, it didn’t quite bring out the Star Wars nerd in me that the prequel and original trilogies did. Rogue One, however, did so in a way which not only appealed to me as a present fan of Star Wars but also instilled moments of nostalgia; of growing up watching the original trilogy with my father, over and over again.
First and foremost, the plot was sound and completely original. The Galactic Empire was fully formed with Darth Vader at the peak of his reign and the Rebel Alliance grasping at straws to defeat the Empire. Each character in the film was unique in their own right and especially likeable. Unlike previous films, I didn’t come across a single character in Rogue One which I disliked. Each character had a role to play and did so effectively, which made the film all the more enjoyable. Even the villain of the story, Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) was great as a corrupt man with tremendous aspirations for power. What was the most incredible feat was seeing Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin (also known as Governor Tarkin), depicted in the original trilogies by the late actor, Peter Cushing, be brought back to life on screen completely through CGI graphics. Apart from slight robotic movements, which were barely noticeable, the character looked marvelous and as realistic as the late actor himself. This kind of technology certainly blew me away, especially when utilised more than once in this film. The moment the second use of CGI became apparent, I found myself on the edge of my seat.
There were many moments throughout the film which referenced and paid tribute to the older Star Wars films and its characters, which acts to link this film with the subsequent film in the Star Wars continuity, A New Hope. While the resulting feelings of nostalgia were most welcome, it wasn’t the only aspect of the film that was fantastic. The action sequences were brilliant, with Chirrut Îmwe’s feel of the force and craftsmanship with martial arts being one of the highlights. Jyn Erso, the key to aiding the Rebel Alliance, was spectacular in her own right. As a character, she held her own against her strong male counterparts, such as Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), and came across as confident, strong and capable of completing her mission without having to play damsel in distress or fall prey to the charms of her male partner. I was especially pleased that the film didn’t includes aspects of romance in the film; rather, it utilised the bonds of friendship and camaraderie to drive the story forward.
Where most modern war films show off blood, gore and ruthlessness as a way to appeal to audiences, Rogue One focused more on plot development and humour. K2SO, the Rebel owned Imperial Droid, was captivating in terms of providing comedic relief and induced bursts of laughter from the audience throughout the film. In essence, K2SO was completely uninhibited and said what most were thinking. Imagine a sassier, more sarcastic version of C3PO.
One of the moments I truly enjoyed was watching Darth Vader return to being at full force in this film. Vader’s level of raw power is unlike any other villain in Star Wars history, in my opinion anyway. Over the course of the 8 films we’ve seen, none of the villains, including the likes of General Grievous, Count Dooku, Darth Maul or even Kylo Ren, comes close to being as smooth yet terrifying as Darth Vader. Being voiced by James Earl Jones once again only heightens the illusion of terror and the power that Vader commands.
The way in which Rogue One further attempts to set itself apart from the core Star Wars films through music and soundtrack is intriguing. Throughout the film, the soundtrack which accompanies it is reminiscent of the Star Wars tunes most of us are familiar with but takes on an alternate path to craft its own original tune. It was quite unsettling initially not to hear the familiar Star Wars theme tune; instead hearing what sounded like a remixed version and variation of the original tunes, but this was overcome very quickly and wasn’t at all a distraction to the film. In fact, the direction in which Rogue One took with changing things up to illustrate its originality was very much appreciated and certainly shows us fans the possibility for much more films of this kind.
So as to not spoil the film, the last thing I will mention is that Rogue One was certainly a film I did not ever think I would enjoy and am glad to have been proved wrong. A brilliant and original take on the massive blockbuster hit that is Star Wars, Rogue One is a film that I could watch over and over again, much like that of the original and prequel trilogies. I thoroughly enjoyed this film from the plot, the characters and the space battles right through to the humour and throwbacks to the previous films. Rogue One is certainly a must for any Star Wars fan.