Title: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
MPAA: PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi, violence, and action
Director: Gareth Edwards
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen
Synopsis: Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is about to experience her biggest challenge yet when Mon Mothma sets her out on a mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. With help from the Rebels, a master swordsman, and non-allied forces, Jyn will be in for something bigger than she thinks.
Rogue One is the latest film in the ever-so-popular Star Wars franchise and is currently showing in theaters nationwide. It is really impossible not to let a film like this go under the radar. The franchise has become such an epic empire of a series. It’s almost like a holiday/tradition now in America that everyone just has to go out and watch the new Star Wars film every year. This is certainly starting to become a trend now. Disney seems to be set on having at least one Star Wars film every year, whether it’s the latest chapter in the series, a prequel, or a stand alone story. Rogue One in particular is both a prequel to original trilogy and a stand alone story. The second part of that statement is what intrigued me most about this movie. The fact that this movie is just one story and ends is surprisingly very refreshing and remarkable to see nowadays in big blockbuster films. It seems like every big movie now (I’m looking at you Marvel and DC) is part of a never-ending series of movies that continue to build off one another. With Rogue One, the audience doesn’t quite know the fate of these main characters and haven’t already been signed on for sequels so we know they will survive. Someone who has never seen a Star Wars movie in their life can watch this and not be confused, because it is a separate story. With that being said, if you have seen the original trilogy, than you have a basic idea of what happens in this movie because it leads to the events of A New Hope. I actually think people can enjoy this movie more if they haven’t seen the original trilogy and that is something that is really cool to think about. Now, let me get into the directing and acting.
Rogue One was directed by Gareth Edwards (Monsters, Godzilla) who is not new to directing a big blockbuster movie like this with great special effects and action. Even though there were some problems with the story and characters in Godzilla, no one was complaining about the tone of the movie and action. The same thing can be said about his work with this film. The action and visual effects are amazing! Quite possibly some of the best we have seen in the entire franchise. I’m not gonna say what has now become a cliché, this movie put the “War” in Star Wars, but it certainly has the look and feel of a war film. Some films that came to mind for me were Glory and Saving Private Ryan. The film even has a big war sequence towards the end that is located on a beach-like setting, that is obviously a nod to the great Spielberg classic. I was overall really impressed with the different tone of the film. This is probably the most serious and dark Star Wars film yet in the series. I really wish the prequel trilogy looked more like this film. Another thing Rogue One had that the prequel trilogy didn’t was great performances from the ensemble.
The cast for this film is fantastic with loads of talent across the board from either Academy Award nominated actors or just really talented, under appreciated actors. Felicity Jones played the lead character, Jyn Erso, and really did a marvelous job portraying her. Jones is such a talented actress and really brought the raw emotion in her character. She has a couple of scenes in this movie that just blew me away with her acting chops. Her character is also very fascinating and different from the typical main protagonist in a Star Wars movie. A Rebellion soldier and criminal, Erso is someone who has a tragic past and certainly has made a lot of mistakes in her life, but she has been given an opportunity to not only do something good, but change her overall legacy. She is almost like an anti-hero in this movie which is something I really liked. There are some other great characters that join Erso on her mission like Cassian Andor, Bodhi Rook, Baze Malbus, Saw Gerrera, (all different races which is something I really respected), and my personal favorite K-2SO. The lovable/badass Imperial security droid. He provides most of the humor and charm in the movie, and will instantly become a fan-favorite character in the series. There was also a little-known character called, DARTH VADER, who was voiced once again by the great James Earl Jones. Much like Jared Leto’s Joker, he did not have a huge presence or impact in the film, but showed up when he needed to, and for the most part was awesome. A lot of fans might be upset that he did not have enough screen time, but it didn’t bother me too much, because he was not not as important to the story and characters as the other main villains were. There were other things that bothered me more about this film that I will dive into.
Rogue One, while certainly being a great addition to the series, wasn’t a perfect movie and did have its flaws. Without spoiling anything, what I can say is this movie was pretty predictable and very “by the numbers.” What I mean by that is the movie’s story is something we have seen countless times in the past from other action/sci-fi movies. “A group of people going on an adventure to stop a notorious villain from causing havoc, and those people bonding a long the way.” I wasn’t overly impressed with the story structure and dialogue in this film as I was with the action, set-design, and special effects. Another problem I had with the film was how little violence and gore were shown during the film. I understand that this is a family film, but I feel like since this was a darker film in tone than the previous Star Wars films, they could have shown more violence and gore during the action sequences. It just held back too much on the horror and grief of what probably would have been going on in that story. But I do understand that they have to please children as well as adults, so that wasn’t something that bothered me too much. As of now, this movie isn’t one of my favorite Star Wars movies. It lacks the heart, adventure, and imagination that made the original trilogy so great. With that being said, I was still glad to see a fresh new take on a Star Wars movie.
Overall, Rogue One is a wonderful new addition to the Star Wars franchise. It is very unique in tone and offers wonderful visual effects, cinematography, and some fantastic new characters in the series. The performances were also really good and certainly helped elevate the film to new heights that we have rarely seen in the franchise. The writing and average story plot does bring this down a peg or two. I do not consider this one of the best films in the series, and certainly not one of the top-250 movies of all time which IMDB currently has right now. That does tell you that the fans seem to really enjoy this and it certainly offers a lot of fan service and easter eggs for die-hard Star Wars fans to sink their teeth into. I recommend this movie to anyone that is a fan of the series or is interested in learning more about the franchise. What is ultimately great about this movie is that you don’t have to watch a movie or two first before watching it, so really anyone can come into this movie fresh not having to know much and enjoy it. That is something very cool to see in today’s Hollywood. My grade for this movie is: