MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’

It may be a spin-off, but 'Rogue One' stands tall with the rest of the 'Star Wars' saga!

Review by J.T. Johnson

4-12-stars

DIRECTOR: Gareth Edwards
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Greig Fraser
WRITERS: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy
MUSIC: Michael Giacchino

I must be honest, I knew that there was a big chance that I would like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, but only as an impressive spin-off story from the main saga. I didn’t know that I would end up loving it just as much (if not more) as some of the films found in the main series. Director Gareth Edwards has given us a side story in the Star Wars universe that is definitely worth any Star Wars fan’s time.

The movie is pretty straightforward. Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is a character that faces tragedy when she is young after her father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) is recruited to help build the dreadful Death Star, a new super weapon for the Galactic Empire. Jyn grows up to become an outlaw living by many different names until the Rebel Alliance finds her and asks for her help.

The Alliance wants her to get a secret message from her father out of the hands of Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), a friend of Galen and the one who raised Jyn. Soon, they all discover the terrible truth of the Death Star and Jyn must lead a ragtag group of Rebel soldiers to steal the plans to the dreaded space station.

Joining Jyn is Rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), former Imperial pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed), blind warrior Chirrut (Donnie Yen), mercenary Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen), and reprogrammed enforcer droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk). The movie starts off on a pretty high note but truly picks up the pace when all of these characters finally get together. Thankfully, none of the characters feel wasted.

There is more development time for Jyn and Cassian, but the others are more than worthy supporting characters. K-2SO is a funny character with a dry sense of humor, Chirrut is a warrior who still believes in the Force, Baze is the muscle, and Bodhi is the character looking to redeem himself for ever having been a part of the Empire. The movie’s villain is also a worthy addition to the mythos.

Ben Mendelsohn plays Orson Krennic, the director currently in charge of the Death Star’s development. He knows that he must succeed with the station because he is competing for control of the project from Grand Moff Tarkin (Guy Henry with Peter Cushing recreated using CGI). Also, if Krennic fails he may have to face the wrath of a certain Sith Lord.

Mendelsohn makes Krennic a proud soldier of the Empire. He does not doubt his mission to make the Empire the most formidable force in the Galaxy. Mendelsohn makes us believe that this is a character who believes in the side he is fighting for and he proves to be a formidable antagonist for our heroes.

Then there is the action, which is absolutely amazing! There are several small battles throughout, but the climactic battle that ensues reveals this story to be a true war movie. Edwards was obviously inspired by several World War II flicks as the Rebels take to the ground, the skies, and of course space to give us one of the best battles that has ever appeared in a Star Wars film.

Edwards also shows us the pain that the Alliance went through to get these plans. This definitely means that not all of our heroes will survive, if any. However, their fight is ultimately for hope itself. It’s a desperate mission for the survival of the Alliance that will one day recruit a young farm boy that will help bring peace to the galaxy.

One last note includes the little touches that recreates the feel of the original trilogy. Darth Vader, the Death Star, and Grand Moff Tarkin all make their return. While trying not to spoil too much, I will say that these are not the only connections to the original trilogy and each one made me smile even more. There’s even some clever scenes that incorporates unused footage from “A New Hope” and it all works.

The only real complaint I have about the movie is the music. Composer Michael Giacchino is the first person to take over for composer John Williams on a live-action Star Wars film. I understand that the movie’s music would also help set the movie apart from the main saga, but it just doesn’t work for me as much as Williams’ epic scores, which is a little surprising considering that Giacchino is a very talented composer.

Beyond that, though, I have very few minor quibbles with the film such as dialogue that doesn’t always hit home, but hey, it’s nowhere near as bad as the dialogue in the prequel trilogy. Ultimately, “Rogue One” continues Disney’s successful resurrection of the franchise that began last year with “The Force Awakens”. The next film, “Star Wars: Episode VIII”, is scheduled for December 15, 2017.

In the meantime, this movie more than makes up for the long wait between the episodes. Fantastic performances and huge action sequences along with a solid plot prove that there are plenty of stories left to tell in expanded Star Wars universe.

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