Directed by Gareth Edwards
Starring Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk
Rogue One marks a departure for the Star Wars universe. It is the first one-off tale to be purposely made for theatrical release (Caravan of Courage, and Battle For Endor were made as TV movies despite receiving theatrical releases outside the US….as well as being just awful), and serves both as a prequel for the original Episode IV: A New Hope, and a harbinger for future one-off projects to come. It tells the tale of a desperate raid by the Rebel Alliance in a quest for the plans of a new super-weapon, and sets the stage for the beloved original trilogy to follow.
The story expands on the building of the original Death Star, and the rise of the Rebellion, as they receive intelligence of the new Imperial super-weapon. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) gets swept up in this intergalactic conflict, as a message from her father (one of the architects of the weapon) reveals a potential weakness. As the Imperial Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) seeks to plug the security leak, a small band of Rebels attempt to steal the plans to the Death Star.
In many ways this is a very different Star Wars. Whereas The Force Awakens cleaves very close to the original trilogy, repeating many of the same thematic notes and therefore creating a continuous line from Return Of The Jedi to it, Rogue One forges its own path. It’s aesthetics are clearly that of the Star Wars universe, its background fits comfortably in it, but tonally it is certainly darker. This is not a film, where a farm boy can strap himself into the cockpit of a fighter, and blow up a super-weapon through the power of the force.
Here, the struggle is real. As can be seen from the Dirty Dozen like feel to the trailer, Rogue One shifts away from the serial space pulp of the original trilogy. Rebellion comes at a price, both to body and soul. Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerra most clearly symbolizes this, as a cyborg half crazy fanatical freedom fighter – but all of the characters are forced to make judgement calls, and some of those are surprising.
Ultimately the theme of sacrifice is at the core of the film. What you are willing to give up, what you must hold to in the struggle for a cause. There is depth here. The script of Rogue One certainly has some meat to its bones, and is not afraid to gnaw at it like a starved Rancor.
As for the special effects, they are as always the hallmark of all the franchise. The end quarter of the film is taken up by one large battle spread over various locations on the planet Scarif (and above). This is really the third shot at this ring for the series, similar to the Endor battle in Jedi, and the Naboo conflict in Phantom. Rogue One stays on target, making that one in a million shot to produce easily the best of those sequences. It really is a tribute to the effects and to the character building that has gone before.
A few odd CG moments aside (as some older characters are digitally inserted into the film – with varying degrees of success) Rogue One is a triumph. It creates something unique, but capable of sitting comfortably with the Star Wars legacy. Where it will fit in that pantheon, will differ between individual fans, but the Force is definitely strong with this one.