The newest addition to the Star Wars franchise Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is finally here. A straight forward self contained story set between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Rogue One tells the story of how the plans for the Deathstar came into the possession of the rebel alliance, and the heroic efforts of those who got them there.
Felicity Jones stars as Jyn Erso, the estranged daughter of the genius scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) who is being coerced into creating a monumental planet destroying super weapon for the Empire. After word gets out to the Rebel Alliance that defective Empire pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) is carrying a message regarding a flaw in the weapon, Jyn partners with the Rebellion to find the pilot and steal the schematics for the weapon from the Empire. Assisting Jyn in her efforts are a rag tag group of rebels, and enemies of the empire, who together must overcome overwhelming odds and try to restore peace to the galaxy.
British director Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters) helms this new entry into the Star Wars saga that feels both different yet familiar to it’s franchise counterparts. Refreshingly Rogue One refuses to mirror other Star Wars films like The Force Awakens did so heavily, bringing a refreshing insight to a galaxy that we’ve only seen so far full of lightsabers and the force. That being said, there are still many elements to be found that are straight out of narrative of other Star Wars films. The Empire defector, the secret detrimental hologram message, a family divided by the Empire, the ques are evident and as comforting as they are, if the franchise wants to grow it’ll need to eventually leave these behind.
However as refreshing as the story is to the force fuelled universe, it’s not dissimilar to the likes of The Dirty Dozen or The Magnificent Seven, or any other film from the back catalogue of narratives that pit a group of misfits together against sinister forces. Though this ground has already been tread, there is something endearing about watching a group of flawed characters unite under the banner of good that is always entertaining to watch. Providing the film is executed well of course, unlike something like say…Suicide Squad. Now one thing that begins to shine through in Rogue One, more so than in the rest of the series, are the character motivations and evolving murky waters of war. In the rest of the saga it often feels like the Empire are just villains because they like to be bad, and the Rebels are good because they want to be. Kind of like old cowboys and Indians films that don’t bother to dig a little deeper than the surface of why these characters are good or bad. This is not the case in Rogue One.
Ben Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic is an overly ambitious, ladder climbing Empire administrator who yearns for control, grinning even after being force choked by Vader. However in the background there is a sense that those in the Empire sincerely believe their purpose is to maintain order. Then you have Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera, a militant rebel who no longer associates with the Rebel Alliance, choosing to pursue more aggressive tactics against the Empire’s forces. Even Jyn Erso, our lead female heroine, is only in the fight due to her motivations to rescue her father, she even comments on the misery that being part of the rebellion has caused her. The Rebel Alliance even demonstrates it’s darker side, as Diego Luna’s loyal rebel soldier Cassian Andor is given orders to kill Galen Erso rather than rescue him. In the grand scheme of things, all of these are minor elements, but they contribute so much in differing this film from the rest of the series.
Though the colour palette of the film is a little murky at times, the sometimes dreary settings help paint a picture that all is not well in the universe. That being said it would be nice for a bit more colour, which is delivered in spades during a rousing finale that slickly encompasses all areas of the battlefield. In a final assault on an Empire base, we get aerial battles, ground assaults, vehicular warfare, and stealth attacks. Each fight weaves in an out from one another thanks to some seamless direction.
Overall Rogue One: A Star Wars Story impressively stands its ground in the series. It’s a streamlined, action packed excursion into the Star Wars universe that doesn’t need the help of the force to get by.