Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) – Film Review
Director: Gareth Edwards
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Mads Mikkelson
by Roger Crow
I’ve been a fan of Star Wars since the first movie blew my mind one Friday night in 1978. The fact it launched at the end of another untold story was part of the joy. I wondered what happened just before Princess Leia was captured by Darth Vader, but never thought that tale would be told. To use a phrase from the evil one himself, the circle is now complete.
Rogue One, the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga, episode 3.5 if you like, is a remarkable achievement. Like last year’s The Force Awakens, it mixes classic touches from the best films – dogfights in space; rebels vs stormtrooper shootouts; attempts to bring down energy shields – and ups the ante.
The casting is splendid. Felicity Jones is spot on as Jyn Erso, the earnest, fearless daughter of morally conflicted scientist Galen (Mads Mikkelsen), who is forced to work on the infamous Death Star.
“Like slipping on your favourite comfy shoes”
Following a traumatic childhood, we understand why Jyn has such a grudge against the Empire. Together with a rag tag band of rebels, including a blind warrior with one foot in an Akira Kurosawa movie, they set off to steal the plans which expose a weakness in its design. That’s no spoiler, as the original Star Wars filled in those blanks 39-years ago.
After the success of indie hit Monsters and mainstream smash Godzilla, British director Gareth Edwards does a terrific job of orchestrating the emotional scenes, set pieces and effects. Fans may have been concerned with news of reshoots, but Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy’s script is splendid.
Okay, there’s too many alien names for my liking. I could have done with one of those on-screen guides telling me what their name is instead of what sounds like a mumbled anagram, but I probably felt the same the first time I heard the names Chewbacca and Boba Fett.
Ben Mendelsohn is splendid as Director Orson Krennic, the bad guy in white (there’s only one villain allowed a black cape in this movie). While the return of some familiar faces will leave old school fans beaming. How they recreate certain characters is one of those DVD extras I definitely want to see.
“There are bold moves here”
While the first hour has a lot of ground to cover, setting up several new worlds and characters, including the hulking comic relief droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), when things settle into more familiar territory, it’s like slipping on your favourite comfy shoes after walking barefoot over a rough surface.
I develop a huge grin half way through, and things continue to get better. Each minute is one step closer to the stunning finale I’d hoped for at the end of Episode III in 2005.
It’s snappily paced and acted, with great effects. The look is a good enough selling point, but this packs such an emotional wallop, you’d think Vader himself had force gripped your heart.
If you’re a fan of the saga, you’ll probably love it. There are bold moves here, and not what you might expect. The finale is one of the most unexpected in any franchise saga of recent years.
The audio is also a joy, from beloved sound effects to composer Michael Giacchino’s work. He does a fine job of channelling John Williams’ iconic score, but provides enough fresh input to make it stand alone.
The atmosphere at this midnight screening was a joy, with assorted troopers, Jawas and Sith lords patrolling the cinema foyer. And although longer than most entries in the saga, it doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Having seen the 3D version, I’m already looking forward to seeing it all again in IMAX.
Go on. Force yourself.