It is my opinion that there has been no time since the release of the original trilogy that has been better to be a Star Wars fan (and with my age, it’s certainly the best time in my life). Three new Star Wars films, the first being released this time last year, and then three other standalone films, exploring different aspects of the galaxy. The first of these, Rogue One, was released last week, and has been an incredible success. It’s different in tone to the main series, although it maintains a storng style and sense of itself – it’s a film even non-Star Wars fans can enjoy and, I believe, the best Star Wars film yet.
A long time ago in a galaxy far away, the evil Empire seeks to retain its control on the citizens by building a new, all-powerful superweapon that will grant them incredible amounts of power. The Rebel Alliance learn of this and recruit Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) to help them stop the unleashing of the Death Star. She, along with a group of unlikely heroes, intend to steal the plans of the weapon and stop the Empire before it is too late. But they must face incredible odds as they go to one of the hearts of the Empire and come face to face with some of its most terrifying characters.
The movie employs a strong ensemble cast, headed by Jones – she plays a familiar kind of character, but imbues her with enough wily charisma that she feels fresh and new. Some of the other cast include Diego Luna as Cassian Andor, a Rebel spy with notably grey morality, and blind monk Chirrut (Donnie Yen), whose martial arts skills, loyalty to the Force and zen ways will please many an audience member. The highlight of the group is Alan Tudyk as K-2SO, a reprogrammed Imperial security droid with a considerable level of snark and the film’s best lines.
Rogue One differs from classic Star Wars movies in that we don’t have Jedi – these are ordinary people, if you will, up against even more unlikely odds. It is also definitely a war film in execution, and plays with a number of war film tropes. People die, and die frequently – this is definitely the darker film in the Star Wars series, in case you were afraid Disney would make it all jolly – and although the end outcome is predetermined, there is a definite sense of the stakes.
The war film set-up culminates in the final third of the picture – a massive battle which we see from all levels and viewpoints, and it is the best of its kind in the series. It’s visually spectacular, edge of your seat viewing that never loses its way – every scene is employed to maximum effect, and it is gripping. Truly, despite some issues, this finale is as close to flawless as it could be.
Yeah, it seems a shame to mention flaws, but there are some minor ones. The score maintains a typical Star Wars feel, but there’s nothing too distinguishable about it. This may be down to Michael Giacchino being brought in at the last minute (he had four weeks to do it, replacing Alexandre Desplat), but it’s a shame for a series so full of strong musical themes. It also takes a bit of a while to get going, although its runtime of more than two hours does breeze by.
It is very enjoyable in its own right, but there are many moments for Star Wars fans. We get a number of cameos from older characters, most of which I shan’t reveal, but Darth Vader is a highlight. He’s used sparingly, but effectively, with a sequence at the end proving why he was the stuff of nightmares. The fans will also appreciate the ending, which serves to tie this picture very nicely to the original film.
I’m a Star Wars fan, and I really loved this – this is a movie for grown-ups when, if we’re honest, the original films were more kid-ready. Rogue One earned a round of applause from the audience in my cinema, and one I happily joined in with – this is hearty action fare, but there’s nothing silly about it. This is the prequel Star Wars fans deserved, and a fantastic sci-fi war film for others.
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), Diego Luna (Cassian Andor), Alan Tudyk (K-2SO), Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe), Wen Jiang (Baze Malbus), Ben Mendelsohn (Orson Krennic)
Running Time: 134 Mins