Almost forty years ago, independent filmmaker George Lucas created the widely known franchise as Star Wars. Following its massive success, Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope (1977) spawned two sequels, Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Episode IV – Return of the Jedi (1983). All three were soon followed by a cult following, which later resulted in the creation of one of the most widely known film franchises of all time.
16 years after the release of Return of the Jedi (1983), George Lucas returned to his signature sci fi series with the release of Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), the first of a prequel trilogy telling the story of the creation of the Galactic Empire and the rise and fall of the Republic. It told a story of betrayal, greed, love, and fear, but overall the entire trilogy received mixed reviews with Episode III – Revenge of the Sith receiving the highest rating of the three, but it was the conclusion of the Clone War story. There was wide speculation on whether or not there would be a continuation of the story line after the Return of the Jedi (1983). Luckily, Star Trek (2009) director J.J Abrams took the risk of creating a new saga that took place after the fall of the Galactic Empire. Then we were given Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015). It took a major risk of continuing a sci fi epic that was beloved by many. It later became one of the largest grossing films of all time and was overwhelmingly received with positive reviews.
After planning his retirement for over seven years, George Lucas sold his production company Lucasfilm Limited which he founded in 1971 to the Walt Disney Company for over $4.5 billion. Disney took a serious gamble with this purchase, and it later paid off after the release of Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015). They decided to create a layout with the plan to release a brand new Star Wars film every year until Episode IX is released in 2020, and so we are given Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) for the year 2016.
If I am being honest here, I am not a huge fan of Star Wars, but I have a respect for the franchise. It is extremely difficult to create such a vast sci-fi world, and George Lucas accomplished that with flying colors. I may not be a huge fan, but I do enjoy watching a Star Wars movie every now and then. When Star Wars The Force Awakens was released in 2015, I understood that it was finally the continuation of the story after Return of the Jedi (1983), but I was not looking forward to it in such a huge way others were. It wasn’t until I watched the teaser trailer that I was hooked. Surprisingly the teaser was better than the other trailers, so after seeing it I was impressed but I wanted more. No more lightsabers, Jedi or Sith, I wanted a story that told a tale of the people who weren’t gifted with the Force, the rebels. When the teaser trailer was released for Rogue One was released, I had never been so hyped for a Star Wars film ever. I went in with high expectations and almost all of them were met.
The story follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), the daughter of the unwilling designer of the signature Death Star. She is tasked with stealing the Death Star plans for the Rebel Alliance and is joined by six other unlikely heroes while on her journey and they soon become the unit Rogue One.
The story is excellently paced in the second and third acts, and is enjoyable throughout, everything is much darker and more “realistic” for a Star Wars film. Director Gareth Edwards stated that he tried to create the most “realistic” Star Wars movie he could, and he accomplished this. There are moments of humor and those are some of the best moments within the movie besides the set pieces. In fact, Alan Tudyk (Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph) portrays former Imperial droid K-2SO. Tudyk does a great job of bringing humor to the film and humanity to the character. He is a standout character and one of the most memorable out of the group. There will be plenty of times where you’ll have a laugh at some of the things he says. Playing the antagonist Orson Krennic is Ben Mendelsohn, and he fits the role perfectly. He is as insidious as he is ambitious and every scene he is involved with is interesting to watch. This story takes place before Episode IV A New Hope (1977) and there are plenty of nods to past movies and old characters, and yes Darth Vader returns and is again voiced by James Earl Jones. Unfortunately, his screen time is very limited but on the occasions where he does appear, it is exhilarating.
This film is visually impressive. I was actually shocked to see so many action scenes and great set pieces, but putting that aside, this new addition to the Star Wars franchise is by far the most energetic and fast paced. There isn’t a lot I can actually review because it will spoil the set pieces and I refuse to spoil them. Each new environment introduced is intriguing and has the viewer constantly on edge to see what is next. Each character has their own personality and backstory, they each have their own different personalities and traits which makes their interaction with each other that much more interesting to see. The special effects have so much detail that they’re often breathtaking, everything looks amazing and seems like it is unique in its own right. All set pieces involve at least one of the main characters and all are energetic and well choreographed. This is an exhilarating ride and one that you will remember for a long time. Star Wars, in many ways, has gone to dark and serious places before, but Rogue One has a different coda, in fact it is much more emotional and shows some unsettling issues that involve a cruel regime. It shows the causes and effects of a rebellion while also showing the sacrifice of morals and lives that are involved in such a tragic setting. This is the story Star Wars never got to tell.
- Set pieces are exhilarating and fast paced.
- Action sequences are excellent with great environments and practical effects.
- CGI is cutting edge and makes everything seem “alive”.
- There are a plethora of nods to previous films in the franchise and there are many explanations as to how the events in the film affected the rebellion in Episode IV.
- Each character has his or hers own unique combat trait and personality which makes the interaction within the group interesting to watch.
- Story is well paced in the second and third acts, they truly show the tragedy and sacrifices a rebellion needs to thrive.
- The humor within the film often adds some comic relief in some of the situations the protagonists find themselves, and are some of the most memorable lines in the film.
- Adds more to the ever expanding Star Wars mythology.
- Narrative is excellent and very well written.
- Ben Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic is an excellent villain and the actor himself fits the role perfectly.
- Soundtrack is great as always for a Star Wars film.
- There is a lack of character development in the film, Jyn is really the only character that has some form of emotional development while the others remain the same.
- Riz Ahmed is again not given enough material to truly bring out his character, the former Imperial pilot is most likely the most forgettable character in the whole film.
- There are some pacing issues within the first act of the film, and some may considered the beginning slow, but fortunately the pacing picks back up again in the second and third acts.
Final Score: 8.8/10
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a great first addition to the anthology series, and has some of the most memorable set pieces in the Star Wars franchise. It’s humor and CGI effects are excellent, but unfortunately a slowly paced first act and under developed characters can make the story feel constricted.
Based on the Characters by:
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
December 16th, 2016
133 Minutes (2 hours and 13 minutes)