It’s 1 AM. I’ve just got back from the Imax after watching Rogue One. I want to sleep; I should sleep, but I can’t sleep. I’ve just watched a new Star Wars film, and I have to get my thoughts down. First off, if you haven’t seen this film already, stop reading and go watch it. Seriously, you don’t need to read about what I think. This films is 100% worth your time and money, go watch it.
Now if you’re still reading it then I assume you’ve already seen this movie. That’s good! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Now I’m not saying it was a perfect movie, and I’m not saying it’s the best Star Wars movie since Empire, but I am saying that it was one hell of a ride, and I think it fills an important gap in the Star Wars timeline. This was a story I’m glad they decided to tell, and I’m glad they got people involved who told it with passion, style, and a whole lot of pew pew.
Rogue One is the first in the so called standalone, Star Wars anthology movies Disney are set to produce. It follows the story of a band of rebel fighters who team up in order to steal the plans for the Death Star. The same plans that kick off all the action in A New Hope.
While being pushed as a standalone story in the Star Wars universe, for me this film is anything but standalone. The events that unfold during the movie are tied directly to the events of episode IV. I came out of this film feeling like this movie was actually a great bridge between the two trilogies, and a perfect prequel to A New Hope. It shows us how powerful the Empire has become, and it introduces us to the Rebel Alliance as a true organised force of opposition to the Imperial regime. We also see the scale of the Imperial war machine and just how hopelessly outclassed the Rebels are in this escalating conflict.
Rogue One also changed my perspective of A New Hope. After watching it I really feel like this film is a great part one, with episode IV being almost like a second act or part two. Think of it like how the two Matrix sequels were meant to be one continuing story. This film adds a lot of depth and backstory to the events of episode IV, and I think watching them back to back would be a great experience. I would go as far to say that this film is so crucial to the context of A New Hope that I would add this film to the original trilogy, and divide them into two part series as opposed to a trilogy. Rogue One and A New Hope go together really well, as do Empire and Jedi. I guess the only reason to consider this a standalone movie is because the sequel to it has existed for almost 40 years. This film also looks and feels like the originals which helps blend it into the timeline correctly.
While Rogue One’s narrative directly leads into episode IV, it’s the universe, and the conflict at its heart that are truly on display here. The character development is pretty thin across the board. Even our protagonist, Jyn Erso, doesn’t get much in the way of an arc. She has a pretty decent motivation, but I felt like she was a little too quick to change her mind around a few key points in the film. She doesn’t have many good lines and I never felt like I had much of a connection to her. Don’t get me wrong, she is a kick ass heroine, and I liked her, but I never felt like I got enough time with her.
The supporting characters get even less time, or chance to develop. They each get one cool moment where they do something awesome, or heroic, but they all feel pretty thin. I struggled to remember any of their names, and the only one that gets to shine is the CGI robot, K-2SO, voiced by the always wonderful, Alan Tudyk. He has the best lines in the film, and he made me laugh out loud pretty much every time he was on screen. Of course there is a pretty good reason for this lack of character development; there’s a lot of them. Unlike other Star Wars films, Rogue One has a large cast. This is due in part to the style and nature of the film.
Make no mistake, Rogue One is a war film. This is not a traditional heroes journey like all the other Star Wars movies; this is a straight up war film. The focus is on the mission from the very beginning, and that is where it stays. We get to see the Rebels take the fight to the Empire in a very direct and incredibly awesome way. This film has some of the most intense, and awe-inspiring battle sequences ever seen in the Star Wars universe, and they just keep coming. The entire third act is essentially just one long battle with troops on the ground, and ships in orbit. Gareth Edwards has a great eye for the large scale conflicts and his talents as an action director are on full display here. The special effects in Rogue One are mind blowing. I’ve read a few reviews saying some of the CGI on the human characters specifically isn’t great, but I would disagree. I think they did an outstanding job with the CGI across the board.
Some reviews have said that this film puts the war in Star Wars, which is stupid because it’s always been there, but what Rogue One does is it really puts you in the conflict, and really demonstrates the sheer intensity of a galactic war. The mission the team embark upon is one with very little chance of survival, and they know they’re putting their lives on the line for a greater cause. You also get a real sense of what the Rebellion is, and what it’s willing to do in order to fight the Empire. This is no group of heroes fighting against the evil enemy. These are desperate people who have been forced into a conflict most of them didn’t want, and they’ll do anything to try and end it. I really liked how the Rebels are depicted not just as good guys, but as terrorists, and renegades fighting against government oppression.
Rogue One has issues if you try and compare it to other Star Wars movies, but the film does everything in its power to break from the mold set by the other seven, and it tries to do new things whilst still co-existing in the same space. It does an excellent job at feeling unique and showing us a darker, and more brutal side to this universe we love, but it also fits in nicely. They’ve taken their time I think shifting the slider between gritty war film and more traditional space fantasy action. Where they landed I think is good, and I’m already excited for my second viewing.
I don’t want to spoil anything here, but there are some moments in this movie that as a Star Wars fan I will never forget. Rogue One takes the elements of Star Wars we know and love, and repackages them into something more intense, and action-packed than anything that’s come before it. I feel like the narrative while bare, is solid, and the justification for why things happen was fine. The movie has decent pacing, but it really does deliver in the last 30 minutes big time. Honestly the price of admission is worth it even if you just catch the last act. This is a Star Wars movie pure and simple, it has just shifted the focus to look at the conflict, and the impact it has on those involved.
If you get chance, see this film in Imax. The visuals are breathtaking, and there is so much pew pew that you’ll be hearing lasers for hours after exiting the theater. Go see it; enjoy it; get lost in the spectacle. They’ll be plenty of time for epic story-telling next December, but until then, I’m happy to see a different take on my favorite universe.
Until next time, may the force be with you.