Rogue One Review: A Cloak and Dagger Epic
As any Star Wars fan knows, there is a rich and varied mythos within the franchise that spans many thousands of years of “history” and genres of writing throughout the many novels, comics and video games. Now, finally, we’re getting to see that expand into the films! While we’re not getting to see anything about the Old Republic or the creation of the Sith as we know them today, we are getting to see the cloak and dagger war story of how the Rebellion got their hands on the Death Star plans, which is just as cool. And so, we have Rogue One: A Star Wars Story!
Rogue One focuses it’s story on the plight of a young woman named Jyn Erso as she is freed from captivity in an effort to help the Rebellion locate and extract her estranged father from Imperial hands so they can gain the information they need about the Empire’s new super weapon he designed. It’s a pretty straightforward narrative that becomes interestingly complicated with political machinations, betrayal and bloodshed.
Rogue One isn’t the fun space adventure of the other films; it’s the desperate struggle against a monolithic power where every step is made with sacrifice. It’s a welcome, and much needed, change in tone for the franchise; and I couldn’t be happier. There are some complaints I’ve heard, though, from some fans that dislike that there were no Jedi in the film. I personally enjoyed that. Just because it’s a Star Wars movie, doesn’t mean there has to be a lightsaber fight and Jedi. Otherwise, it simply becomes a trope and a gimmick; and Rogue One let go of that to focus on the telling of the story.
There are, however, plenty of fan service moments throughout the film. Some are subtle, some aren’t. Some are cool, a few are a little cringey. But the best parts of the fan service was bringing back to life Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin with CGI that was so good that he looked as on set as the flesh and blood actors around him! The same thing was done for another character in the film (It’s toward the end and is a cool surprise, so I won’t spoil it here). And just overall, the special effects were incredible. Even in the battle, film from A New Hope was spliced into it, creating a cool feeling of nostalgia. But you don’t even notice it – not fully. And that credit goes to both the editor and the set design, as they both did excellent work making sure that their film that was made almost 40 years after the original fit right in.
Gareth Edwards, of Godzilla (2014) fame, served as director and hit it out of the park. His having a strong background in visual effects shows, but to his credit, he doesn’t allow that to overtake the story and characters. He paces the film very well, making the film’s 133 minute run time feel like it should have been longer, simply by virtue of how much story he managed to tell. But it was never rushed, nor did it ever drag. He also worked well with cinematographer Greig Fraser to create a bright color palette and wide framing for the action. And Michael Giacchino’s score is masterful, pumping up the action and underscoring the the heart wrenching moments perfectly. He’s not John Williams, but he’s definitely proving himself worthy to take up the mantle.
For the most part, the cast does well. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna play well off each other, as their characters – Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor, repsectively – are constantly second guessing whether or not they can trust each other. K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial Droid belonging to Andor, is voiced by Alan Tudyk, and he provides nearly all the levity in the film. Snarky quips and petulant comebacks had me laughing nearly every time he was on screen. Donnie Yen was bad ass as Chirrut Imwe, the blind protector of the Kybur crystals who was partnered with his stern and stoic best friend Baze Malbus, played by Jiang Wen.
Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso wasn’t on screen much, but he gave enough gravitas to the role to make his part memorable. And Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic, the main baddie of this film, was great. Though he wasn’t a terribly deep character, he at least wasn’t one note, or cartoonish. But the best baddie of the film was Darth Vader himself, of course. He shows up briefly, but he wrecks house in a tense battle on screen that finally shows Vader in all his savage glory.
Unfortunately, the one low point of the cast was Forest Whitaker. I know he has a following, but I can’t for the life of me understand why. I know he’s been good in a few movies (his role as Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland comes to mind), but to me, he’s consistently been the low point of any cast he’s in. He seems like he’s trying too hard, and it just doesn’t sell with me. Thankfully, his time in the film is mercifully short.
Overall, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is nothing short of awesome. If they keep this kind of focus up for the rest of the anthology films, then I think we have little to worry about – though I’m still not sold on the young Han Solo movie. This is a film that definitely deserves a few watches on the big screen – and the bigger, the better! In 3D, too, if you can!
Rogue One isn’t the fun space adventure of the other films; it’s the desperate struggle against a monolithic power where every step is made with sacrifice.
Cinematography/Special Effects: 10
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