Let’s cut to the chase. I liked it. I liked it a lot. I liked The Force Awakens more, but I also feel this is a different film altogether. Let me explain.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first of several stand-alone films in the Star Wars anthology. Given that it’s “sequel” was already released nearly 40 years ago (A New Hope), the finish line for this story was pretty much fixed. And since I did not recognize the names of most of the characters, I figured ahead of time that I probably shouldn’t get attached to them because it is a stand-alone film – so it is obvious that I will not see them again.
The well publicized premise of the movie is that this would tell the story of how the Rebel Alliance received the plans to the ultimate weapon in the galaxy – the Death Star. And while this movie precedes the original film, I would hesitate to classify it as a true prequel.
While I do not intend to spoil the movie, there will be some minor spoilers, but no mid movie major plot points or twists) in the space below. Do not read if you want to go in completely unaware.
I will admit that the story starts off a bit slow, but the payoff is worth it. Warning – if you are looking for that traditional Star Wars score and screen crawl, you will be waiting a long time… At any rate, we are introduced to Jyn Erso (played well by Felicity Jones) and her family. As it turns out, Jyn’s dad worked for the Empire and then went into hiding. Our newest Imperial villain, Director Krennic (played by Ben Mendelsohn) hunts down Galen Erso (played by Mads Mikkelson) and coerces him to come back to the Dark Side and help to complete a project.
In the process of “convincing” Erso to return with him, Krennic loses Jyn – which sets the stage for the separation of father and daughter and ultimately leads to a Jyn Erso who grows up with conflicting ideas of who her father is and the intentions of his character.
As the film continues to develop, lines are blurred just like in the old movies. While there is a good side and a bad side, there are shades and degrees that we confront as we are introduced to more characters – including the conflicted Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna) who will remind you, to a degree, of a young scoundrel nerf herder – Captain Solo.
The action quickly picks up and offers some pretty intense scenes. There is hand to hand combat (including a blind Force user – I can’t say that I can call him a Jedi), some stellar galactic battles, and there is even a little light saber action.
There are several familiar characters (I won’t reveal which ones and spoil that surprise) that make appearances ranging from cameos to multiple scenes, and there are some direct links to A New Hope that really help to solidify the story in the larger Star Wars story.
The use of hope as a powerful Force is a recurring theme in the movie – which obviously plays into the title of Episode 4. The truth is you don’t have to hope for this movie to be good. It is. I think it is important to acknowledge that there are some inherent limitations to a stand alone film, but despite these limitations the film succeeds in meeting the lofty expectations that I had for it.
You will be entertained. Although the tone in this film is a bit more desperate than others (umm Death Star!), it is not without humor. The conflict is compelling, the struggle is familiar, and the characters offer depth despite most of them being new to the audience.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – it is worth the trip to the theater and the bag of popcorn too.
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ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY is now playing in theaters everywhere!