Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tells the story of rebels who steal the plans to the Death Star. This sets up the classic Star Wars which I saw as a young boy (nine years old) vacationing in New Jersey in 1977. My beloved sister took me and the whole way home from the theater my imagination was bursting with joy. It is the beginning of my own love affair of films. Now, we have the story behind those plans referred to in Star Wars.
As a film, Rogue One is every bit as exciting as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. There will be people who disagree, but it is possible to enjoy both films, even though they are different films with different objectives. Rogue One has all of the elements all of the best Star Wars films has; fun, excitement but with a compelling story that is well written and well acted. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna are the two leads. Ms. Jones is Jyn Erso, whose father (Mads Mikkelsen) is now working with the Death Star and is, in fact, the creator of the space station. Deep within he has implanted a flaw that can bring the Death Star to a screeching halt. Erso, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and their band of rebels launch a daring attempt to steal these plans before it is too late.
I will not reveal any more of the plot, suffice to say, this is one helluva fun film. Luna and Jones are terrific and although they are both quite attractive, I believed their abilities as soldiers fighting the Empire. Andor’s crew features a very funny robot, K-2SO (voiced with an almost perfect British accent by American actor Alan Tudyk), the fighting monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen), the grizzled veterans Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang) and Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and an Empire pilot who has turned against the dark ones, Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmen). Their main adversary is a cad named Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) with a few scenes of Darth Vader. Mostly, the main enemy is Krillic and he is a formidable foe. These performances are all excellent and will make you involved with the story. Mendelsohn is a very effective bad guy and his Krillic is a snake from Hell.
Gareth Edwards directs Rogue One with more of a war-type eye for the action; down in the trenches with a combat photographer, so to speak. This is a refreshing take, since a lot of the action in past Star Wars films takes place in space on ships, not to take anything away from those. But Rogue One has a very fresh feel to it, despite the fact that we all familiar with this material. The script, by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, touches on themes of family, forgiveness and selfless commitment to a just cause against all odds but does not overwhelm the familiar themes with excessive sentimentality. It has just the right mix of everything. As with The Force Awakens, both of these films have been carefully created with great respect for the original source material. They are both great films as part of the franchise and great films on their own.
I have heard some grimacing about Michael Giacchino’s score for Rogue One. Some have said it is emotionless and forgettable. I am sorry, but they can’t all be John Williams. The score is outstanding; distinctively different and equally stirring as John Williams’ scores for the other films. They purposely went another direction with the music and it works. It is part homage to the music we have come to enjoy with the other Star Wars films, but decidedly different and it only enhances the action on screen. There is a bit more CGI in Rogue One than in The Force Awakens but none of the visuals suffocate the story and every element of Rogue One flows smoothly.
If I had any complaint about Rogue One it would be with Forest Whitaker’s character. He is underdeveloped and does not have much to do. I don’t understand why they would have such a fantastic actor relegated to limping around, sounding like he has terminal laryngitis. He fulfills his requirements for the role, but sadly he is not given that much to do. Those looking for a lot of Darth Vader are going to be disappointed. His screen time is sparse but still important. You have one of the all time great villians in your arsenal but he is on screen for maybe seven minutes, total.
Fans and film lovers had high expectations for The Force Awakens and likewise with Rogue One. Both films are terrific entertainment and they accomplish different things within the world of Star Wars. Which one is better? Oh, I don’t know. On any given day I could go either way, but Gareth Edwards has crafted a spectacular and entertaining film with Rogue One. You cannot ask for much more than that.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – ****3/4 out of 5
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Rated PG-13 for violence, language, scenes of peril, slight gore.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Run Time is 133 minutes.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations.