Movie Review: Rogue One (2016)

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Release: 16 December 2016

A word of warning, if you haven’t seen the film, I’d say don’t read this or any reviews so as to go into the film with a clean slate, but still I’m dying to talk about it. So for those ready for spoilers, continue.

The first Star Wars film outside of the series was something that initially filled me with worry. I was worried until I realized that it was a Star Wars movie, so even if it wasn’t any good, I’d still enjoy it. Still being the first Star Wars story it had a precedent to set, and set a precedent it did.

The story was established all the way back in 1977 when A New Hope was first released, not the details but at least the conclusion. But it is through its connection to A New Hope that Rogue One really shines. It raises the stakes in a way that A New Hope never could. When Alderaan was destroyed, I didn’t care. Call me heartless, but I had no investment in Alderaan or its inhabitants. Sure Leia cared, but for us it was too far removed. The size of the blast required to destroy a planet was lost on us, and thanks to Rogue One we can see the true terror of a weapon so large. But its not only that. It is the shear amount of effort and dire odds that make the Death Star‘s destruction such a victory. It was a victory in A New Hope, but not like this. Rogue One gives you a real feel for the early rebellion and how if the Death Star wasn’t destroyed, they were all doomed.

The character development was done incredibly well. Cassian was right away a favorite of mine, mostly because of his “no-nonsense” and morally gray attitude. He was for the rebellion and showed a darker side to the rebellion, and even now has entered my canon of Star Wars greats. It was Jyn that proved to be his moral compass. Jyn herself developed well from someone wanting to keep their head down to one ready to give everything for the cause. The best part was that this transition came naturally. While most of the characters, as well as the more terrorist-ish characters expanded well on the Star Wars universe’s scale and diversity. For too long the heroes have been Skywalkers, and finally we have reasoon to believe that they are just different people from different backgrounds. A new depth in the series has been achieved thanks to these rich and well developed characters.

The story started off interesting and entertaining. It jumped around a bit and moved a little slow at the start, but by the time the stakes were fully set, we, the audience were equally committed. The final battle showed the gritty reality of war and set up characters that we could really feel a sense of loss or fear for.

There were a few times I worried about the film, first with its re-writes for being too dark. I wanted a dark film. This was expected to be dark film based on the subject; having seen it, the idea of it being darker scares me a bit. Something more Empire Strikes Back-ish. Empire is best, because its a bit grim, because it is the most real. This follows in the same footsteps. This is the most real Star Wars film, with the greatest scale, and the greatest sense of loss. I worried about a potentially pointless love angle between Jyn and Cassian, thankfully they didn’t really expand on this; maybe hinted, but never developed. Realistically no one had time to worry about romance.

Some of the call-backs were the biggest flaws. The inclusion of certain droids was pointless and too explicit. They would have been better suited to the background and fan wonderings. Same goes for Ponda Baba, how did he get from here so quickly, but I suppose that’s possible if he was on his way to the Star Wars airport or something. The first Vader scene was strange. It was pointless to the plot, and seemingly out of character with Dad-jokes; I wish they skipped it as it would have made the second Vader scene so much more impressive. Most impressive. That being said, the finale is jaw dropping, and seeing Vader in his element is amazing and terrifying. The conclusion and grim story totally make the films flaws forgivable. Also the CGI, while a bit unnatural, was amazing and a resurrected Peter Cushing is dream that myself and Hammer Horror could really get behind.

Time will tell where it stands in the Pantheon of Star Wars films. This is the Star Wars Prequel I always wanted, but never realized. It is easily one of the best Star Wars films. I won’t say it is better than the Empire Strikes Back, but I could still see it growing in my esteem and coming a close second. Thank you Rogue One for giving me a new found appreciation for A New Hope. A firm 5 out of 5 stars.

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