Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Director: Gareth Edwards
Writers: Chris Weitz (screenplay), Tony Gilroy (screenplay)
Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk

In a galaxy, far far away…..I was slightly disappointed to not hear the usual rousing Star Wars music at the beginning. Then I thought to myself, this is not strictly a Star Wars film, but a standalone spin-off. I accepted the loss of the music shortly afterwards, but upon reflection now, I think it was missed opportunity. Every time that music starts when you’re at the big screen, it makes the hairs on the back of your neck raise. Mistake not including it there I think. Staying with the music, the old familiar scores are there, but many are slightly different, changed. I personally would have kept with Williams’ perfect orchestral scores in their original format, but I guess over time things slowly adapt. None of this is to say the score is bad because it is not. The score is fantastic and those familiar sounds are heard in all the right places.

Anyway, Rogue One is the story of the rebels who steal the plans to the death star. This is what happens immediately before Episode IV: A New Hope. Where A New Hope starts off Rogue One ends. For once I’m not going to give any details anyway or review the start of the film as I often do. If you want to know the rebels story then go and watch it. The script is above average for this kind of film and Disney do seem to have made a good effort of getting this one right. If you were less than impressed with A Force Awakens then this title will surely keep you happy. I thought this was a more like a cross between A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. The story is interesting and reasonably well told. I managed to keep myself spoiler free for this so was pleasantly surprised with what I watched. Any fan of the franchise (and certainly fans of the original trilogy) kind of know the back-story to the rebels obtaining the plans, but it is enjoyable to actually see that story and their sacrifice.

The acting for the most part is pretty good, but let us be honest here, with the odd exception the Star Wars films in general have not been known or their Oscar worthy performances. Rogue One is no different really from any of the other films. Everyone plays their part reasonably, even the relative newcomers. The ‘returning’ characters (especially one in particular) are a joy to behold (in this reviewers opinion) and certainly heightened my enjoyment of the film. There has been some backlash from some of the CGI use but it never felt out of place to me though at times it’s not quite perfect. As for the rest of the effects they are top notch indeed. This is a fantasy science-fiction film. It is Star Wars. The CGI and effects are strong in this one. But it is all done for the most part brilliantly. It truly is a big screen spectacle as any film in this franchise should be.

The cast is also a high point for Rogue One. While there are many unfamiliar faces, there are also many many returning faces from not just the prequels but also the original trilogy. This certainly was nice to see and gave us old fans something to smile about. If you have been following our Facebook page then you should know I was excited to see Donnie Yen and he does not disappoint. His solo scene is well done (and was probably expected from his fans) and I enjoyed his screen time though I wish he had more of it, or perhaps a more important role. Wen Jiang (who I am also a fan of) is also great as Yen’s side-kick. As usual for Star Wars of late, the comedic relief comes in the form of the droids and Rogue One is no exception. K-2SO is a great character who is dry, witty and sentimental. Felicity Jones does a reasonable job as the lead and it’s also good to see Mads Mikkelsen on the screen. Pity his screen time is very short though.

There are some continuity issues and the ending leaves some unanswered questions regarding the start of A New Hope, but hopefully these will be cleared up with a longer version release. The directing is more than adequate and the cinematography, set design and locations are all fantastic. The film does suffer from some slightly dragged out scenes at times but these are usually quickly followed by frantic action sequences. And those sequences come think and fast. With Rogue One Disney have truly captured that Star Wars feeling with a grand entry in the space opera saga. Many people, myself included were wary of Disney acquiring the rights to Star Wars and perhaps feared which direction they may take the franchise. After A Force Awakens I was personally still on the fence, but I knew what to expect with that particular film. Rogue One has definitely dispelled any reservations I still had. I’m actually glad Lucas sold it as in my own humble opinion he was starting to ruin the franchise. Disney’s plans for the franchise are certainly ambitious (as you would expect given the price paid, they will want a substantial return on that investment).

Overall Rogue One is a very solid entry into the Star Wars universe and certainly the best film of the newer titles. The Empire Strikes Back will always be perhaps the best film, with A New Hope perhaps being the mostly fondly remembered, but Rogue One sits firmly alongside those two classic titles. Not as good as Empire for sure, but a very worthy addition to the saga and one that should surely please all but the purist of fans.

The Sage’s Rating: 9

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