Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Dir: Gareth Edwards
Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk
Hearing earlier rumors on that Disney was meddling with the direction of this movie, I went into this one with lowered expectations. Gladly, I can report that my skepticism was profoundly un-needed and all shreds of it had left my mind at about the half-hour mark.
This film delivers.
Now, does it make some mis-steps? Yes, the tone throughout the beginning is uneven, some of the dialogue seems forced (the word “hope” seems overly used until the end), and many of the characters don’t get an introduction before they’re thrown into the action scenes.
But- with the cons out of the way – let me try to get at what’s so great about the film without heaping praise all over it.
The world of Rogue One feels like the world of Episode IV. It has a much bleaker setting than the following films and the atmosphere adds to the script well. The starships and planets look gritty and worn. The actual mechanics of the Rebel Alliance makes them not as squeaky clean as they seemed before. The aliens look more realistic than the prequels. (My favorite was one in a prison van that looked like a cross between a squid and a slug. I wanted to see more of that thing.) The Stormtroopers’ communication sounds like guttural utterings through an old radio. Add that to the aim correction training they must have had and they are much more imposing when they’re on screen. It all comes together to be a much more dangerous world than the Force Awakens. There is a certain gravitas to the situations – a feeling that the characters may not survive – that comes off of the screen nicely.
The cast is great. All of the main cast fulfill their characters’ intentions well. Felicity Jones plays an orphan who was taken in by a rebel faction just wanting to go her own way and Diego Luna shines as a soldier conflicted by what he is asked to do to support the Rebel cause. The supporting cast is where it’s at though. Donnie Yen plays a monk through whom the force flows through and has awesome fight scenes and humorous scenes without losing the noble stature of his character. Forest Whittaker plays a resistance leader who is both heroic and villainous (sometimes in the same scene). Mads Mikkelson is Galen Erso, the main character’s father, and even Peter Cushing returns to reprise Grand Moff Tarkin with the voice of Guy Henry. All of the actors seem to play their characters just right, and it helps that the script is, for the most part, very well written.
I gave The Force Awakens one of my all-time high scores because it brought back what I consider Star Wars to be while building on the story of the Skywalker family. This film, however, has the dubious honor of fitting in between the prequels and A New Hope. With such a small part of the Star Wars backstory as getting the Death Star plans from the Empire to the Rebellion, it sounds like a stretch to fill the story out and make a viewer invested in it since the audience will know what the end result will be. Yet this tem pulled it off, not only making me care about the characters, but in fleshing out the Star Wars world in new and interesting ways.