Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

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For those of you who remember my last review on a “Star Wars” film, I admitted that when it comes to “Star Wars,” I’m a fan, but not a die-hard.
I grew up watching the movies, collected the toys, etc. When “The Force Awakens” was released last year, I praised it for being the best “Star Wars” film released since “The Empire Strikes Back.” I still think “Empire” is the best film in the entire series and ‘The Force Awakens” is right behind. However, “Rogue One” is still one of the best entries in the “Star Wars” series and it delivers us the most thrilling 30 minutes we’ve ever seen in a “Star Wars” film as well the best closing shot to ring in the end credits for any film ever made, period.

Set before the events of 1977’s “A New Hope,” “Rogue One” begins in the middle of the war between the Galactic Republic and the Galactic Empire. When members of the Republic receive word that the Empire is building a secret weapon that could wipe them out entirely, a team of rebels head out to steal the plans from the Empire and bring them to the Republic in a last effort to turn the war around.

What made this film so risky, but also so great, was that aside from a few special cameos, “Rogue One” doesn’t rely on any of the old films to carry it and it makes an effort to stand on its own. There is no Luke Skywalker here to wield a lightsaber. We get no Han Solo making snarky comments to a beautiful princess. Instead, we are introduced to an entirely new set of characters who are given the difficult task of winning over fan-boys and girls of a series that has been around longer than I’ve been alive. This was probably the riskiest “Star Wars” movie to ever be produced but fortunately for us, it knocks it out of the park. Although we find ourselves walking in semi-blind, we still feel like we’re watching a “Star Wars” film. This movie reminds us why we love these films so much and why after almost 40 years, this series is just as relevant today as it was when it was first released.

There are a lot of reasons why this film worked so much, but in order to keep this review from going too long, I’ll focus on what I felt were the two strongest points in the film, the first being just how different it was trying to be and yet still connect to the other films.

I really like how big of a risk the movie decided to make. When the film begins, we don’t get the opening crawl we’ve become so used to. Minus one or two notes, the musical score is entirely original and rarely do we hear any of the familiar tunes. In addition to new characters, we are introduced to new planets that have never once been mentioned before. What the creators of this film did was take a universe that so many of us know so well and make it feel new and exciting again.

In a way, I think watching this film is the closest I’ll ever get to knowing what it felt like to be in the audience when “A New Hope” was released back in ’77. Despite being so different, it also manages to feel very much like a “Star Wars” movie and we see plenty of familiar spaceships, droids, weapons and like I said, we even get a few surprise appearances from characters of “Star Wars” past that is sure to crack a smile on even the hardest of people.

The strongest thing this movie had to offer though was its new cast of characters led by Jyn Erso who is played by the amazingly talented Felicity Jones. Jones has been gracing our screens for years now, however she can usually be found in a small independent film that is only ever talked about come Oscar season. She’s an incredible actress and I feel like this film will show the entire world just how talented she really is. Much like “The Force Awakens” character Rey, Jyn is a strong, opinionated woman who isn’t afraid to take charge and stand up for what she believes to be right, even if everyone else is telling her no. Jones brings such emotion to the character that I found myself thinking this was the first time we’re actually starting to see some quality acting come out of a “Star Wars” film (much love to Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher).

The rest of the rebels may not get as much screen time as Jyn, but they’re all just as compelling in their own way. I won’t say much else about them as to avoid spoiling it for you but I can say they are probably some of the most interesting characters to ever appear in this series. As a side note, K-2SO, the token droid voiced by Alan Tudyk who accompanies the rebellions, steals every scene he’s in and finally proves to the rest of the world what I’ve known all along… droids are total bad-a– who should not be messed with.

I lied. There is one last thing I’d like to point out before I end. One of the things I enjoyed most about this film was that it really gave us a chance just to see how threatening the Empire was and how much damage they were causing across the galaxy. In the original trilogy, we know there is a war going on and we know the Empire is causing harm however, we never really get to see much of that. We mainly see things through the eyes of Luke and the Empire seem to be more of a threat to him than anyone else. With this movie though, we get a chance to see how other residents of the galaxy are being affected and how they choose to fight back. We really get to see the harm of the Empire on a galactic scale rather than just one or two planets. This war caused a lot of chaos throughout the galaxy and many lives were lost throughout it’s duration and this movie really puts a focus on that.

If there is any flaw with this movie it’d probably have to be that it is perhaps 15-20 minutes too long which seems to be the flaw in every one of these films. They always go on longer than they need to. Also, the CGI used to bring back certain characters from the original trilogy was a little rough to look at and it almost looked like they walked right out of “The Polar Express” and into this movie, but because of the nostalgia they create it’s easy to over look it. I’m sure there are more things to pick at, and perhaps if I was a die-hard fan I’d have been able to notice them better, but I digress.

In the end, “Rogue One” is a film that will satisfy fans of the series both new and old. As I said in the beginning of this review, the final 30 minutes are extremely thrilling and in my opinion gives us the best climactic battle to any “Star Wars” film. We already know exactly how this movie is going to end and yet somehow we find ourselves panicking, wondering if they’re going to pull it off. To be honest, the entire end battle is alone worth the price of admission you’re going to pay to see this movie. It also gives us the most epic bad-a– Darth Vader scene we’ve ever been given in these films, which as someone who always thought Vader was kind of boring (that’s another discussion all together), I was really glad to see him in some real action and deliver one of his cheekiest lines of dialog he’s ever delivered.

Do yourself a favor and go see “Rogue One” in theaters. Even if you find yourself feeling skeptical about it, trust me when I say you won’t be disappointed. The bottom line: this is the “Star Wars” prequel that you’ve been waiting for ever since the credits rolled at the of “Return of the Jedi.”

— keithariaz1@gmail.com