REVIEW – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Hi again, just a friendly reminder that, like all my reviews, I have striven to keep my Rogue One review as free of spoilers as I can while discussing the movie. However, particularly for a franchise like Star Wars, people have different definitions of what is a spoiler, so if you are particularly touchy about spoilers, read on at your own risk, and may the Force be with you.

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Well folks, we’re here again. For the 2nd year in a row, and in what will most probably become a tradition for decades to come if Disney get their way, we’re celebrating Christmas by travelling to a galaxy far, far away to discover new stories in the Star Wars Universe. And I couldn’t be more stoked. You guys know me by now. I love Star Wars! Pew pew pew!

Previously, all of the Star Wars films have fallen within the saga, following the story of the Skywalkers as they continue their family drama and casually destroy countless lives in the process time-and-time again. But this year, Rogue One will follow some of the other people affected by the Skywalker mess, in the first ever live-action spin off Star Wars movie. But the question remains – is it any good? Well, the answer I’m going to give is – yes. It’s brilliant.

Rogue One is, essentially, a war film set in the Star Wars universe, directly before the events of A New Hope. The Empire is depicted as being at the height of their powers, and are nearing completion of their terrible planet-killing superweapon, known as the Death Star. In a desperate bid to gain intelligence and counter this threat, the Rebel Alliance recruits Jyn Erso, a rebellious young woman and the estranged daughter of the Death Star’s architect, to team up with a rag tag group of rebel spies to seek out as much knowledge as they can about the space station. That’s about as much plot as you need to know, and is as much as I’m going to tell you as a result.

As this movie started off, I felt a little unsure of where I sat with this film. It was dark, brooding in a lot of ways, and something didn’t feel right. But, upon reflection (or what counts for reflection at 4am after a midnight screening) I came to the conclusion that most of what I felt wasn’t right was just merely that it was such a tonal shift from what I’ve come to expect from a Star Wars movie. That is by design, as Disney and Lucasfilm are attempting to draw a distinction between the saga films and these spin-off “Anthology” features, so I can’t fault them for that. I still think some of the earliest sequences could have done with a little tweaking, but literally the more I think about them, the more I like all of them. It just takes a little adjustment for a hardened on Star Wars fan like me.

But what really needs to be discussed is the final act, which I don’t want to spoil or give away too much about, so I won’t. But, I’m fairly confident in saying that this is a special sequence, a final battle sequence that not only manages to be the best battle scene in the Star Wars movies (big call, but I will stick by that as a definite), but also comes close to challenging some of cinema’s best battle sequences – the Battle of Helm’s Deep may have some fierce competition in many people’s personal lists.

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I’d also argue that it’s better than the time that a bunch of apes attacked a colony on horseback carrying machine guns. Just let that sink in for a bit.

The cast was spot on, a trait that is shared by The Force Awakes and most of Disney’s other big budget films in recent years. Felicity Jones shines as Jyn Erso, and her crew of rebels is brilliantly played by Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen and, quite notably, Alan Tudyk, who played the least subtle droid in the Universe, K-2SO, who is set to become another fan favourite droid amongst Star Wars fans. Yen and Wen’s characters, the blind Force worshipper Chirrut Imwe and his assassin friend Baze Malbus are also set to become very popular characters in the series’ canon.

Also appearing were Ben Mendelsohn, who shone as the ambitious Imperial Director Orson Krennic, and Mads Mikkelsen, who portrayed Jyn’s father, Galen. Forest Whitaker appears and does his usual brilliant thing as eccentric isolationist and former Rebellion leader Saw Gerrera (a character who first appeared in the Cartoon Network series Star Wars: The Clone Wars). There’s a handful of actors who make appearances in bit roles reprising their roles from other Star Wars movies, and the most notable amongst them is James Earl Jones, who returns as the voice of Darth Vader. No one will ever be able to do that character justice in the way Jones does, and while the part is small, it was welcome all the same.

If I was really fishing for negatives with this movie (which I unfortunately find myself doing time to time) it’s that some of the dialogue was a bit clunky and hokey, and also that sometimes the film went too hard to throw in some jokes and it doesn’t quite work, or it doesn’t fit with the specific scene that the comedy has been inserted into. I’m guessing that this was the result of the much discussed and dissected reshoots that occurred earlier this year. But that is really fishing in deep waters, and I found it really failed to ruin my enjoyment of the movie at all.

download-1While fishing in those deep waters, I also came acroos a gooberfish! (Hooray! A forced reference to the prequels that no-one wanted!) (Hooray! An accidental pun by using the word “forced” in a Star Wars review)

Look, I was tossing up whether to give this movie the score that I ultimately will bestow upon it (knowing that as a Star Wars fanboy, this number is naturally inflated), but at the end of the day I can boil all my complaints down to “that wasn’t exactly what I expected” or “that is incredibly minor”, so I have run out of reasons not to bestow the honour on this film. So, it is decided, that this film will be the first big budget blockbuster of 2016 to score:

5/5 – For the first time since 1980, a 5/5 Star Wars movie has hit the screens. Now THIS is podracing! (Sorry, another prequel reference)

And now, as I do with all big franchise movies that I review, here’s my rankings of the movies in the Star Wars franchise to date

ANOTHER BLOODY CRITIC STAR WARS RANKING

  1. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  2. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  4. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
  5. Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  6. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  7. Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  8. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

 

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