Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review: A Beach Retreat with a Darkside
While there is always a ton of hype surrounding the latest Star Wars release, I feel like Rogue One didn’t have the same amount of build up that The Force Awakens had. One of the main reasons for that is because Disney and Lucasfilm proved with The Force Awakens that the Star Wars Universe was in good hands. Rogue One is the first of many films planned in the Star Wars Anthology series. This new film lineup will be focusing on the backstories of the original beloved characters as well as the filling the gaps as to how the Star Wars Universe came to be. These films can also easily be viewed as an added bonus for fans while they anxiously await the release of the next Star Wars episode.
The biggest surprise when exiting the theater after watching Rogue One is realizing, almost instantly, that it is a surprisingly better film than The Force Awakens. The reason why I feel this way is because this film doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. There is nothing to fix, there isn’t this whole new generation to setup for future outings, and there is a particular period of time where this story takes place. Rogue One is set somewhere in-between episode three and four, so fans will love seeing how this story connects with the other films, while there is enough substance in the film to keep the casual viewer interested as well.
The story told in Rogue One is a simple one. It focuses on a little girl named Jyn (Felicity Jones), who gets taken away from her mother and father at an early age. The film quickly flashes forward to Jyn as an adult, where we begin to learn about the secrets that her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) has kept from her and everyone else. We begin to learn that Jyn is an essential element in helping to save the Galaxy. She may quite possibly be the only person capable of figuring out the secrets hidden in the reactor module of the Death Star.
Rogue One’s has a pretty solid cast with Donnie Yen and Ben Mendelsohn standing out among the rest. Yen’s character Chirrut was easily my favorite new character because he was unique to this world. His character is blind and believes very heavily in the spirit of the force. It was oddly fascinating to see the Force being portrayed as a religion in this story. Chirrut has several great moments including a scene where he walks through a deadly battle to help turn on a device to save the rebellion. Ben Mendelsohn continues to wow audiences with every new role he takes on, and that is no different here. He is magnificent as Director Krennic. He delivers each line of dialogue with such conviction and even gets to share a memorable moment with the dark one himself.
I feel that it is imperative to mention that almost every character in the film serves a purpose but most of them are extremely underdeveloped. Riz Ahmed, Wen Jiang, and Mads Mikkelsen bring interesting characters to life with their own moment in the sun. I think almost everyone knew that Ahmed would be going places after his role in Nightcrawler. Ahmed’s character, Bodhi Rook, is a rebel pilot that was inspired by Galen to help save the rebellion. He is vital to the film’s conclusion yet isn’t given any substance as a character.
Mads Mikkelsen, who plays Galen, is excellent in the role. His relationship with Jones works well and is one of the only emotional aspects of the entire film that works. Unfortunately, Galen doesn’t have as much character development either.I would have liked to have seen more of him in the film especially with how pivotal his backstory is to the plot of the film. There are moments where details about Galea’s past are revealed, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Maybe the idea was to leave audiences with a bit of mystery to these characters, but I feel like the lack of development can be found throughout with most of the characters in the film.
Wen Jiang plays Baze Malbus, the right-hand man of Chirrut. He is a good character who gets a moment to shine alongside Chirrut. His on-screen chemistry with Yen works well, and there is genuine bond created between the two supporting characters. I thought Forest Whitaker was splendid as Saw Gerrera. I like the mystery that the character had and that the audience didn’t know whether he was a good guy or a bad guy for most of his time in the film. He is the one character that didn’t have development, but I understood why. He was supposed to remain a mystery in Jyn’s life
Felicity Jones has already proved time and time again that she can take on any role and proves that here once again. Jones does the best she can with the material, but I don’t think this was her shining moment on the big screen. She handles the material with passion and disappears into the role relatively quickly. Sadly, I must admit that I didn’t find the character of Jyn to be all that memorable. Jyn feels like a rather generic female lead that lacks originality. If this weren’t a Star Wars film, the character of Jyn would probably never be mentioned again in future projects.
While most of the cast fit the part, Diego Luna certainly did not. Luna was a total miscast. I felt no bond or chemistry between Jyn and Cassian whatsoever. Luna’s performance lacked believability, and I found his character to be so dull and one-dimensional. It was pretty painful to watch near the end when the story tries to force this bond between Jyn and Cassian to occur. While watching Luna on-screen, it looked like he was bored or angry the entire time. He felt completely out of place, and I was hoping that he would disappear into his character at some point, but that moment never happened. It probably didn’t help that his character wasn’t developed Cassian is the leading man here, but we know nothing about him. While I think the same can be said about most of the characters in the film, at least the other actors owned their roles. Luna just felt lost and like he didn’t belong at all.
The new robot K-2SO voiced by Alan Tudyk was a welcomed addition. He was a great source of comedic relief and had terrific back and forth banter with Jyn. While I know that I shouldn’t think about things like merchandising when I am watching a film, I think K-2SO is going to sell a lot of merchandise. What is fascinating about this character is that he got just as much development as the main characters and still had an important role besides being a source of comedy. K-2SO is part of a critical scene where he must help Cassian and Jyn in the Death Star. Oddly enough, I felt more of an emotional connection to this robot than I felt towards any of the human characters except the father/daughter relationship between Galen and Jyn.
Just as you expected, there are plenty of fan-pleasing moments to be found throughout Rogue One. The mere fact that Darth Vader appears in several scenes will make fan boys and fan girls squeal with sheer delight. I will say that Darth Vader is one of the highlights of the film. I think showing him in this film confirms why he is such a classic and iconic movie villain. With Vader, it is all about the simplistic nature of the look, the breathing, and of course, the epic voice of James Earl Jones. He just comes off as menacing. There are several other classic characters that appear in Rogue One, but I don’t want to be “that guy” and spoil them for you. I think while the nostalgia and fan service is still a big part of this entry, I don’t feel like it was as “in your face” as it was in The Force Awakens. I don’t think any Star Wars film will ever stop relying on nostalgia, but at least with this one, I didn’t feel like it was being forced down my throat.
The film’s action sequences are stunning and some of the best that I have ever seen in a Star Wars film. The battle sequences feel authentic and are a total blast to watch unfold. I loved how director Gareth Edwards finally took us to a new location that didn’t look like a desert or swamp. It was awesome watching the final battle take place on an island with Palm trees and water surrounding the scene. It was so refreshing to see a new type of location that hasn’t used in any of the previous films in the franchise. In a lot of ways, it made this final battle stand out from all typical battle sequences because Edwards was able to capture them in a fresh and unique way.
While Rogue One isn’t flawless, it is a fun big budget sci-fi adventure that has surpassed The Force Awakens in the ranking of Star Wars films. While the script lacks emotional weight and character development, Edwards makes up for those shortcomings with plenty of well-crafted battle sequences, solid new characters, and several memorable moments that will make lifelong Star Wars cheer. Rogue One is a solid first entry in this new Star Wars series. While I think everyone is fully aware that none of these new films will ever surpass the original trilogy, I do believe that this new franchise is quickly becoming the next Marvel. Don’t be too surprised when you hear “that was the better than the last one” with every new entry that is released. Bravo Gareth Edwards for a job well down and making the entry in the Star Wars universe your own.
Scott “Movie Man” Menzel will be giving Rogue One: A Staw Wars Story two different ratings.
As a Star Wars fan, Rogue One is an 8.5 out of 10.
As a critic or general film fan, Rogue One is a 7.5 out of 10.