- on Tuesday, 13 December 2016 07:48
- by Loron Hays
Holy Sith! Rogue One is a hit. Stop reading, folks. March yourself to the theater, plop down your money, and go enjoy the first theatrically-released Star Wars spinoff. You will cheer, applaud, and pay to see it again and again. And, yes, it bumps right up against the beginning of A New Hope…
The thing with one way missions is that they need to be successful in order to fulfill their job. Rogue One is exactly that. Let that sink in for a minute.
The movie is insanely entertaining and, as a Star Wars story, it successfully fills the gap in the final few days and hours before A New Hope takes place. It is a galaxy that is both familiar and, thanks to some new sun-soaked beachside locations, expansive in its canvas. Full of strong new characters worthy of the tale and established older ones (with more than enough surprises in that department, I’ll not spoil anything), Rogue One keeps the Imperial Death Star in its sights as it battles its way through the stars to get the Death Star plans we know will be used by the Rebel Alliance in George Lucas’s A New Hope.
You know all those reshoots you read about during the film’s production? Remember the fear you felt about Rogue One possibly sucking? Forget about it all. Rogue One is exactly the Star Wars tale you probably never thought you needed or, hell, wanted. But it works. All of it. We don’t get the infamous yellow title scrawl and we don’t get the wipes, the fades or the dissolves found in the trilogies and we only get snippets of the original theme in the new score and, you know what, we don’t NEED them for this film to work or feel like a part of its universe.
Know this, Rogue One is a little rough around the edges. That’s by design, mind you. We are back to the junked-up lived in look of the old franchise which, keeping its timeline in mind, makes perfect sense. The practical effects are very appreciated. The galaxy is reeling as the Empire extends its power. They are in complete control and smash and grab as they see fit. The Rebel Alliance is in its infancy; underdogs to the last.
Directed by Godzilla’s Gareth Edwards, the film begins with the familiar words in blue, “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away” and then takes us back to the very beginning of the narrative involving Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and her father, Galen (Mads Mikkelson), as he is reminded of what he’s left behind: the Empire. Turns out, there is no stretch of the galaxy safe from its growing influence. The Empire wants Erso back and they will kill his entire family if they have to; his skills are that important to them.
Fast forward. Jyn grows up, raised by Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), and becomes a (rather unexpected) additional part of the Rebel Alliance. She’s just trying to find her father – this being Star Wars and all, we have to have someone with Daddy issues – and winds up teaming up with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who is on a secret mission for the Alliance, his reprogrammed droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk), pilot Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn), the blind Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), and his protector Baze (Wen Jiang) in order to restore some sense of balance in the galaxy. This motley group of fighters – even if their wills are pointing in opposite directions – doesn’t yet know how important they are. They soon will, though.
All of the parts of the movie – including some ballsy Darth Vader moments – come together in an EPIC third act to deliver an uncompromising look at the sacrifices made in defeating the Empire. By space, by air, by land, and by sea, we get it all and it is a glorious space opera of aerial fights, massive explosions, and the return of a familiar enemy that darkens the skies with its presence. The hairs on the back of your neck will rise at the reminder of its power.
The magic of Rogue One is the simple fact that we already know its outcome and it is still suspenseful. We are informed of their tragedy and their success in A New Hope; we just don’t know how it all went down and, thankfully, screenwriters Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy bring their A-game to the events and introduce us to strong characters that develop against an engaging backdrop. This is a very solid cast of actors assembled and they deliver characters worthy of Star Wars canonization, so keep that in mind.
The Weitz and Gilroy-written screenplay actually spends time with some of the original characters that were presented in A New Hope, expanding on their motives and providing insight into some of their methods. Now, we can debate endlessly about the use of CGI in resurrecting some of the characters. Should they have? I don't know. Should Lucas have spent money and time on the Special Editions of the classic trilogy? Could the movie have been done without it? Probably. What I do know is that, as the effect went on, I minded it a little less than before. The rubber-faced CGI isn't perfect by any means, but it's there and joins the movie to the original with a bit more connective thread because of it. Distraction or not, Rogue One goes there.
Rogue One is a genuine crowd pleasure. No one will exit the theater shrugging or saying it was so-so. For my tastes, I actually enjoyed Rogue One a bit more than The Force Awakens, but I will be in the minority. I am used to it, but didn’t those repackaged similarities from the original film pull you out of The Force Awakens just a bit more than you would have liked? Because it did me. Thankfully, there’s little of that here. The fact is that Rogue One IS the movie you’ve been looking for this December and we are all the more spoiled by it.
If Rogue One is what George Lucas dismissively refers to as fan fiction, then I'd like some more. The Force is indeed strong with this one.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action.
Runtime: 133 mins
Director: Gareth Edwards
Writer: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk
Genre: Sci-fi | Adventure
Tagline: A rebellion built on hope.
Memorable Movie Quote: "The time to fight is now!"
Theatrical Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Official Site: http://www.starwars.com/rogue-one/
Release Date: December 16, 2016
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: A group of unlikely heroes band together on a mission to steal the plans to the Death Star, the Empire's ultimate weapon of destruction..
No details available.