Rogue One: A Star Wars Story : is the first (of many more) spin-off standalone movies centered on the spiraled universe. The monumentally successful launch of A Force Awakens last year spiraled Disney into pumping out as many Star Wars related films as possible to cash in on the worldwide hype. As of currently, two more episodes are in production, casting is underway for the Han Solo Anthology, and there are talks for a possible reunion with Ewan McGregor for an Obi-Wan saga - a fan would think they woke up in Star Wars utopia. But can Rogue One live up to its predecessors or descend into a greedy cash-grab?
The Sequel’s Prequel’s Sequel: For those not in the know, Rogue One follows a band of misfits (by the same name) as they attempt to steal plans for the Empire’s new secret weapon – basically the first two paragraphs of A New Hope. Director Gareth Edwards wanted to further build upon the narrative of Revenge of the Sith to iron out the plot holes and fuzzy foundations between Episodes Three and Four so the overall story could flow more soundly. Surprisingly, this new story fits perfectly in the timeline and ends just before A New Hope begins which is highly appealing. And from the depth the scriptwriters went to so they could secure an impactful narrative is insane. There is so much passion and flair in the storytelling it is impossible not to fall back in love with Star Wars.
Band of Merry Misfits: The characters in Rogue One are all brand new, with some exceptions of cameos, which are seamlessly blended into the universe. With so many new introductions, only a couple stand out from the rest. For example, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) has an interesting backstory since she isn’t the typical ‘good guy’- she has inner demons - but still plays a fantastic female lead. There is no cause she is engaged with except the survival of herself and father (Mads Mikkelsen) which often involves her going (mind the pun) rogue. Also introduced is Director Krennic – the new villain obsessed with creating the Death Star. Ben Mendelsohn is a distinct villain and conveys a facially tense performance but is shadowed by the prime Darth Vader – even in the little scenes, he appears. Other notable characters are K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), who brings the comedic value of C3-PO but can also pack-a-punch, and Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), who brings martial arts into a scene-stealing role. The acting and dialogue isn’t exceptional but can still be thoroughly enjoyed by all.
“We shall fight them on the beaches!”: Although viciously tense, Rogue One stumbles through an uneven middle act with some unconvincing scenes but finishes with an hour long triumphant final act on the planet Scarif – a tropical beach planet reminiscent of World War II-esque espionage. It is an absolute spectacle to watch with tremendous action sequences proving how far digital artistry has advanced. There are some shocking twists present and I’m sure more subtle references will be recognized in later viewings. What I particularly enjoyed about these scenes was the idea of being amongst the foot soldiers rather than the higher Jedi. It gives additional depth to the expansive universe and you can finally realize the full extent of the ‘Star Wars’.
Cinematic Purposes: The Star Wars films always seem to surprise me with beautiful shots that you don’t expect from a mainstream blockbuster. Force Awakens supplied us with a healthy amount but Rogue One is flowing with lavish lighting cues complementing these pretty shots. It is amazing to take a break from the action and simply enjoy the view. Furthermore, the production crew has done an astonishing job of recreating the heart and style the original trilogy contained. The costumes and props felt like they were plucked from 1977 and plonked into the 21st Century – it’s completely mesmerizing. There was so much effort and passion put into the creation of this film it overflows quality. Of course, the ending is predictable but the void between Episodes Three and Four has officially (and successfully) been filled and you will feel like a child again. Roll on Episode Eight!