Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review
Director: Gareth Edwards.
Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk, Donnie Yen, Wen Jiang, Riz Ahmed, Forest Whitaker, Ben Mendelsohn, Mads Mikkelsen, Jimmy Smits, Genevieve O'Reilly, Ian McElhinney, James Earl Jones, Anthony Daniels, Geraldine James, Geoff Bell, Michael Smiley, Warwick Davis, Babou Ceesay.
It was 23:20 and the cinema foyer was starting to fill up with Star Wars fans, majority of whom were wearing at least one piece of fandom attire, mostly T-shirts, including myself. One thing you can be sure of, going into the midnight screening on a school night, is that everyone there is a devoted fan, forming an alliance of movie-lovers, cinema-goers and die-hard Star Wars geeks spanning all creeds and generations, something I'm actually quite proud of.
Going back to the very original film of 1977, Star Wars has graced our screens ever since, traditionally being played at Christmas time and the release of the new films during this festive season pays homage to that. The film taught us adventure, unlikely friendships, daring heroics and courage against all odds. Rogue One continues, or should I say prequels those very same core values that us fans hold dear to our hearts.
The trailer made me assume something, that Star Wars has grown up, and I wasn't wrong. There's a strong sense of verity with Rogue One. It's different, doing away with certain techniques, yet still bearing a few Star Wars' trademarks and honouring other captures that instantly remind you of the rest of the saga. The small elements that nod to the previous movies should invoke plenty of grins among fans, it follows basic Star Wars formula but is dressed up so well it's refreshingly brilliant.
Everyone must want to be in a Star Wars movie and if you're ever asked there must be some version of a "Hell Yeah!" in response. Felicity Jones is so fitting as the estranged anti-heroine, Jyn. She's nothing short of amazing and the emotion she brings is some of the best seen in Star Wars. She's a stubborn survivor, a fighter with a good heart which makes her the ideal rebel.
Diego Luna plays Cassian Andor, the rebel's rebel. We quickly learn he's not as heroic as we might expect which actually raises a question with the alliance, making me think of our own current affairs. Lucas has previously drawn his story from many of our own atrocities and cultures, and the writers here seem to be making a point, one I'm not totally comfortable with; which is actually a big plus for me. He's a great choice, reminding me a little of Vincent Cassel.
It must be such a challenge to invent a droid fitting for a new yet old Star Wars film. Awakens did so well with introducing BB-8 to the droid family and Alan Tudyk reprises a robot, bearing a slight resemblance to his Sonny from I, Robot. K-2SO has a presence of a T-800 with a high level of abrasive sarcasm, basically a risk-calculating C-3PO with bolt-on aggression that disobeys all of the three universal laws of robotics.
I'm so glad they didn't repeat the same mistake that Blade II editors did with Hong Kong screen legend, Donnie Yen, which was nothing more than a disappointing tease. Yen has been around since the 80s but possibly reached wider audiences with the Ip Man trilogy and having him play the blind and spiritual Chirrut was an excellent choice, having some of the key parts and best lines, I just wanted to see more.
Ben Mendelsohn brings a strong sense of realism to his character, Imperial Director Krennic. Just like Jones, he brings good, strong emotion into his character. In fact, checking the rest of the cast, they all perform superbly well. Mads Mikkelsen, Riz Ahmed and Wen Jiang really make up the supporting cast and stand out with the film keeping a good balance. Forest Whitaker's extreme activist was probably the weakest character.
Just an observation with the recent movies, and please don't get me wrong, as I know Jones among others, is a massive star, like Whitaker. But it appears the filmmakers skirt around massive heavy A-Listers giving roles to other actors, who are known, but I'm pleased they're not of the same caliber as Pitt, Damon, Washington or Julia Roberts or Weaver, which I think would ruin it somewhat.
There's a destroyer load of action, more than what I expected and is in typical Star Wars fashion. It embellishes the classic Star Wars style without going so far to distance itself from its parental source. There's certain scenes that'll have you silently shout "YES!" You can tell Gareth Edwards is a loving fan and knows his Star Wars extremely well. See Mr. Lucas, this is what happens when you let the fans continue your legacy.
The film frequently jumps around at light speed for the first part, which starts to become off-putting but it soon passes and is necessary to make sense of the plot. What comes after is a non-stop, epicness on a galactic scale, the starships and the incredible, fluid star battles go above and beyond amazing. We know it's about the birth of the Deathstar, but it was so awesome to witness the destruction from ground level.
It's shows a different light of the rebellion, providing an intelligent, better understood foundation of the alliance, being exactly what they are, rebels but disjointed, possibly misguided and not entirely united, not everyone singing from the same hymn sheet. It's about those that hate the imperial rule yet sit just outside the governance of the alliance, I think where a lot of us can relate to with our current climate. This gives the rebellion cause and a firm footing, the key stone to the original trilogy, a prefect bridge in terms of story, making more sense to A New Hope and seeing what actually happens behind closed doors. *winks* This could be a direct result from having Tony Gilroy penning the screenplay, the same writer behind most of the Bourne movies.
It's predictable but not in a bad way, you know what's coming but instead of sighing at the inevitable you eagerly look forward to how it'll play out. Being given a taste of these characters with little background, similar to what the A New Hope did with characters like Han Solo and Chewbacca, they make them likeable yet only hinting at their history. I want to know more about these characters too now.
There's a successful mix of CGI with real costumes, locations and cosmetics, gladly not making the mistake Lucas did back in the 2000's. They do a fine job of replicating that '77 look especially when going TRON with a couple of familiar faces. It's like walking into a zoo of Star Wars characters saved from extinction, your eyes pointing at each one acknowledging who or what they are.
The score was slightly, only slightly disappointing, actually thinking it was someone else other than John Williams composing but no, it was Mr. Williams but the music is quite different from all the previous films. The key themes are still there but Rogue One didn't play on them like Force Awakens did, using the score to make the crowd rejoice. Maybe I missed it, I'll take extra special attention on my second outing and edit my findings. [EDIT: After reading Ryan's review I was right, but stand corrected, it's Disney regular Michael Giacchino who composes and it shows, being the first Star Wars film (apart from the Ewok movies) without Williams.
But where does it place among the rest of the saga? I find Rogue One far superior than Force Awakens for a number of reasons. While it has its humour and wisecracks, it's not silly or as clichéd as Force Awakens. It lacks the forgivable mistakes of Awakens, but don't get me wrong, I rated Awakens quite high giving it 85% (read the review here), but that was mostly because it was for the fans made by a fan, a proper Star Wars movie. Edwards has simply raised the bar above J.J. Abrams, but that's what we want right? Wouldn't be satisfying if it was worse and anticlimactic if it was just equally as good as.
Of course, I will be watching this again, possibly multiple times, I was even tempted to catch the 3:15am showing straight after if it wasn't for work and aching bum cheeks. It's the intergalactic western that mimics the sacrificial heroics, war and western movies did so well. This is the Star Wars film you have been looking for.
Running Time: 10
The Cast: 10
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for being exactly what was expected, if not more. A grown-up refreshing Star Wars story.
Would I buy the Blu-ray?: Does Yoda live in a hovel!?
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