Let's begin this Rogue One review
Rogue One is the fourth Star Wars prequel so should Star Wars fans be wary of this Gareth Edwards directed film given in some quarters those prequels are considered terrible addition to Lucas's legacy?
I was certainly wary of it when the first trailer came out. It looked so filtered with some bad acting thrown in. It had an odd tone that I can't get down properly in words.
But that’s a part of Star Wars so who was I kidding?
No one. Not the least you.
Rogue One is a fiercely brilliant Star Wars movie.
Whereas The Force Awakens was a re-hash of many past film plot points and themes, Rogue One tells its own story, unafraid to be its own movie but at the same time delivering appropriate fan service.
It's also arguably a great war movie. Arguably.
That said Rogue One is an unmistakable cousin to A New Hope. The kind of cooler, more seasoned, more hip cousin that always had the best toys. There are many close connections, common themes, uniforms and sounds that make it feel at home in the Star Wars realm.
Gareth Edwards and the script writers can be proud of that and the Star Wars tale they have told.
So what did Edwards bring to the table?
Did you see the hot mess that was Godzilla? That was a beautifully crafted movie but a movie that had little soul.
So if Godzilla had no soul, what does Rogue One offer?
Where Godzilla had an almost pointless family scenario tacked into the movie, Rogue One’s very heart and soul is about a family where the very fact it was ripped apart but the evil Director Krennic gives ‘orphan’ Jyn Erso the reason to carry the movie on her shoulders.
You as the viewer can buy into that emotion so yes, this movie has soul.
There’s no doubt that Edwards has a true filmmaker’s eye.
His collaboration with cinematographer Greg Fraser has proved a happy union that has produced some amazing shots. The ominous Death Star eclipse moment over planet Jedha is a stunning spectacle and is likely to be remembered as much as the ANH scene where Luke stares at the two moons of Tatooine.
The blitzing blitzkrieg X-Wing attack on planet Scarif is a deliberate echo of the Rebels versus the Death Star in ANH but it’s an echo that will deafen you with its fantastic sound effects and all-round thrill of the kill. General Merrick’s handy moves in his X-Wing may prove to be one of Star Wars’ all time heroic fighter pilot moments.
Many pundits were hoping that because this film was sold as a ‘war film’ it would feature some classic war film moments in the vein of The Dirty Dozen or The Longest Day where everyone dies heroically.
So who dies in Rogue One?
Just about everyone in a bloody massacre. It's brutal, it's wonderful. It's Star Wars with DEATH!
So does Jyn Erso carry the movie?Coming very hard on the heels of Rey carrying The Force Awakens, Rogue One shoulders the movie firmly on new character Jyn Erso as played by Felicity Jones.
We'll be frank, the character is good, great even, the acting is just passable. While Lucas was happy and even wanted the dialogue to be delivered in a hokey sense as an homage to the old Flash Gordon movies, no one wants that in a modern day Star Wars movie. So we can all be very happy Jyn's cringey "I rebel" line from the trailer was cut.
But that's a minor quibble.
As the movie moves a long, the ante is raised so much that you don't get a chance to ponder the inanity of some of the dialogue that Jones is forced to choke on.
Her sparring with K-2S0 is memorable only for the humor delivered on the giant robot's side. The reposte intended between the two falls a little flat but K-2SO is very quotable.
But the character itself is a fine introduction to the Star Wars franchise. Jyn is a brave heroine, worthy of top billing against some other fantastic characters.
Jyn's band of Rogues generally can be given top marks.
Donnie Yen's Chirrit in particular offers a fine example of 'adding an asian stereotype' into the movie without making it seem contrived, racist or just tacky.
Bodhi and Baze are also very handy characters that serve to broaden out the notion of team work and display great heart. Chirrit and Baze have a fantastic bromance going on, making their final moments most endearing.
We mentioned K-2SO above. Somewhat like how BB-8 stole the hearts of many Star Wars fans in TFA, K-2S0 will prove to be a very popular Star Wars robot. Alan Tyduk captured his role very well and adds a strange sense of pathos to what is already a bleak mission. That said, he has the only true laugh out loud moments in the movie.
As we feared, Cassian Andors is no Han Solo in any measure. While he has his moments and as a questionable moral compass, the issue for this reviewer is that the actor Diego Luna doesn't bring the right charisma to the particular role he's trying to play. Millions will love him but I feel he was horribly miscast. He actually really started to annoy me as the gig wore on.
There are also plenty of cameos in the movie to keep fans happy, Bail Organa being a key nod to the fans moment but the CGI cameo of Tarkin was fun as well. There's a blink and you'll miss it moment shout out to Red Leader from ANH too. Magic.
We'll always have a soft spot for Warwick Davis too.
And what of The Dark Knight?
If anyone going into this movie thought Darth Vader was going to be in every second scene, they didn’t watch the clues in trailers properly.
Vader is used quite sparingly (as he actually was in ANH) but to great effect.
Indeed, one particular moment provides us with quite the horrific moment - more so than when Anakin massacred the younglings in Revenge of the Sith.
We finally get to see Vader, in his black costume, just pummeling Rebel soldiers with his lightsaber and the Force. It is worth the price of the admission just to see this scene.
It was nice to hear the voice of James Earl Jones again. Sure beats his turn on The Big Bang Theory eh?
So about that lack of John Williams score?
John Williams has scored every Star Wars movie to date but he didn't do Rogue One as he's been composing for The Last Jedi!
So Michael Giacchino was given the opportunity to take the reins. He has done a fine job in re interpreting the original Star Wars themes and melodies and crafted them into a most perfect Star Wars soundtrack.
Giacchino's work is quite rousing and really propels the movie along, especially during the balls to the wall ending that Jyn's crew faced. I noticed that many times he would riff on a classic signature motif and just as you would expect a high note, he would go in a very different direction.
The jury is in, Rogue One is a fantastic movie. Elements of it are as dark as anything Revenge of the Sith or Empire offered. The visuals are simply breathtaking, especially in the last third of the film.
Rogue One pays great tribute to A New Hope by tying both movies together so very very well. In many ways, a better film than The Force Awakens but one arguably one with less heart and 'magic'. As I said, it does have soul though.
Long time fans will simply adore this love letter to George Lucas's legacy, the more jaded and cynical movie viewer may simply see this as yes-another-action-movie-spectacle but they probably really never understood stood Star Wars in the first place.
Many people will say it's the best Star Wars movie only second to ANH. I suspect they are saying this based the the excitement of the last scene with Vader. Time will tell over the collective response but I can tell you now, it's no Jedi.
Here's a handy list of trivia about Rogue One we've put together about the making of the movie.
Some final points to ponder with serious spoilers:
- So, Bail Organa is now officially dead in Star Wars.
- How did R2D2 and C3PO get onto Leia's ship? (Maybe there was time to board the Yantive.
- So Captain Andor is a murderer? By my count he killed two people who didn't deserve to die
- How good was it to see Vader's fortress on Mustapha?
- Krennic - could have been even more of a bad guy?
- How bad was the Princess Leia CGI?
- That Tarkin, what a bad ass eh?
- Why did Saw let himself die? Surely he had life enough in him to help Jyn? If he was 'done' why was he still 'doing things' prior to the defection of Bohdi Rook?