Before Rogue One: A Star Wars Story came out there was quite a bit of doom and gloom about rewrites and reshoots. The dust has settled, and as it turns out, Rogue One is an amazing Star Wars film – for better or for worse.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tells a familiar tale. Remember the opening crawl of Episode IV: A New Hope?
Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire. During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.
And (spoiler alert) that’s the entire premise. But the creators of Rogue One have used those few lines to springboard into a great Star Wars action movie. It starts off a little unevenly (there’s a lot of setup, strangely enough) but once we get going, it’s great.
The lead Rogue is Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), daughter of the unwilling engineer who designed the Death Star. Her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) has built a weakness into the Death Star (hereby ending all the jokes about bad exhaust port design).
She’s mostly accompanied by Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), but it’s really the rest of the ragtag group of rogues that shine. Standouts include Donnie Yen as the force-sensitive blind man Chirrut Imwe and the droid K-2SO, voiced by Alan Tudyk. K-2SO might just be the second coming of KOTOR’s HK-47. Right now, Tudyk is just showing off his voice acting skills, especially after his star turn as Hei Hei in Moana.
It’s good that we have the supporting cast – Rogue One continues Star Wars’ trend for vanilla lead characters. From Luke’s early days to Anakin from Episode I, Jyn is cut from the same cloth, despite trying to have more of an edge. Thankfully, she gets to give a rousing speech at the end to get the rebels going.
But let’s not forget the Empire – Ben Mendelsohn makes a great Orson Krennic, while the appearance of Darth Vader is one to remember. And the return of one of the Empire’s greatest is a thrilling moment, and despite the CGI, delivers a better performance than some of the Rogues.
And despite knowing exactly how it ends (unless you haven’t watched Episode IV or read the blue text above), Rogue One ramps the tension up throughout as the suicide squad heads towards what appears to be certain death. (I am also reminded of The Seven Samurai, which seems fitting, given how the original owes much to Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress). At the epic finale, the battle is fought on multiple fronts and the film just clicks – this is Star Wars in all its glory, even without the Jedi.
The devil is in the details, and here Rogue One delivers. There’s not so much in terms of easter eggs (but there are those), rather, the set and graphic designers have created a lived in Star Wars world that fits right into the A New Hope era. It’s enough to put a smile on any hardcore fan’s face.
The action work is backed up with Michael Giacchino’s score, which pays homage to John Williams’ epic original. But Giacchino isn’t afraid to subvert it either – at one point he teases two notes from Williams’ piece before swerving into his own composition.
For the triumphant final third alone, Rogue One is worth the price of the ticket. Like The Force Awakens, it offers the best of what Star Wars has to offer. But while The Force Awakens pressed the nostalgia button hard – to the point where it can feel almost calculated, Rogue One is effortless Star Wars adventure.
With The Force Awakens and Rogue One as introductions into the new vision of Star Wars, it looks like we can be confident moving forward that the epic journey is in good hands. No Jedi? No problem: The Force IS strong in this one.
(Also, there’s no after credits scene – unless you count the fact that you can just go home and continue the adventure with Episode IV.)