With an action packed plot and sufficient tie-ins to the existing movies, Rogue One gives Star Wars fans enough to keep them hooked before Episode VIII is released, while the plot remains independent enough to ensure that newbies to the franchise aren’t left out in the cold, dark reaches of outer space
Visually stunning with strong performances from the lead actors Felicity Jones (The Theory of Everything) & Diego Luna (Y Tu Mamá También), this instalment in the Star Wars franchise will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout and wishing that this wasn’t a standalone movie.
A young child, Jyn Erso, finds herself running for her life from Empire soldiers who have tracked her father, a former imperial scientist, down to a remote planet. Jump forward a couple of decades, and Jyn Erso has grown up to become a highly capable warrior.
Without revealing too much of the plot, Rogue One is positioned as a direct prequel to Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, with much of the action taking place just as the Death Star is in its final stages of completion.
Jyn Erso gets rescued from imperial incarceration by Rebel forces, who need to get to her father, a scientist who played a critical role in the development of the Death Star (for those unfamiliar with Star Wars, the Death Star is a weapon of immeasurable destruction, capable of literally destroying planets).
Accepting a mission to rescue her father who has details of the Death Star’s critical weakness, Jyn teams up with mysterious and morally questionable Rebel, Cassion Andor, to capture the Death Star’s plans and the uncover the vulnerability that ultimately allows the Rebel forces to destroy it in A New Hope.
Tying up some loose ends from Episode IV, Rogue One‘s narrative is tight and engaging, with the 133 minute runtime zipping by.
Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso gives a consistently strong performance throughout, as can be expected of the Oscar nominated actress. Diego Luna’s character, Cassian Andor, is the perfect balance of dark and light, with the complexities of a battle-worn spy thoughtfully construed in the performance.
The Force Awakens played with the blind obedience that Storm Troopers seem to have to the Empire, and in Rogue One this concept is turned on its head with Cassian’s staunch support of the Rebel cause highlighting the issue of morality during war.
The excellent performances from the supporting cast, in particular from the spiritual, blind monk played by Donnie Yen and a reprogrammed imperial droid known as K-2SO, round out the film with comic relief that ticks all the right boxes.
Nearly every line from the K2, as he is more frequently called, is effortlessly funny, ensuring that although R2-D2 and C3PO make only a brief cameo appearance there is enough droid based humour to fill the void.
Visuals & Score
Visually, this film is spectacular. In the first two acts, the sparsely used shots of planets from space to situate viewers as the narrative jumps from world to world are stunning, with 3D making them even more beautiful to behold.
This is cranked up to maximum wow-factor in the third act as a space battle happens in tandem with a planetary fight.
As with The Force Awakens, this film’s technological cues are strangely retro, with the targeting systems on fighter ships hearkening back to the original trilogy’s design.
Usually the score from a movie jumps out at me if it’s good, so the fact that the score by Michael Giacchino didn’t leave a lasting impression in my memory (unlike The Force Awakens score by John Williams) is not a great sign.
That said, it did what it was supposed to and carried the film along at just the right pace but don’t expect to be wowed by other-worldly orchestration.
While there isn’t an overt queer reading of this film, the idea that hope is what rebellions are built on can be easily transferred to the LGBT activists who are campaigning for the right to love whom they chose in countries where homosexuality is still criminalised.
The film highlights the sacrifices that are made by those who are fighting for the Rebel cause, just as in reality, sacrifices are made by those who fight against anti-LGBT legislation in countries like Russia or Turkey.
If there is one thing to take away from Rogue One it is that hope is one of the greatest weapons in the arsenal of any political movement. Whether that be the Rebel cause, or in the fight for equality for LGBT people, hope for a better future is an essential driving force.
Rogue One is being heralded as potentially even better than The Force Awakens, although for this reviewer the self-contained nature of the plot made me long for more at the end of the film.
The strong performances, gorgeous special effects and well-timed humour that the film offers make it a must see this holiday season for any Star Wars fan, and the accessible plot make it inviting for anyone who is yet to get into the franchise.
And if you are going to see Rogue One, I’d definitely recommend seeing it in IMAX, the scope and size of planets on the bigger than big screen make it a visual treat to behold.
If you’re a Star Wars fan then Rogue One is definitely worth a watch, even if it is only seen as a stop-gap until Star Wars: Episode VIII is released in December 2017.
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