Having been turned off the whole sci fi series by the revamps done a while back starring Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor I have not seen the last couple of Star Wars films – those done since being acquired by Disney. When I found out this one was a stand alone pic then I decided that it was probably okay to return to the film series that awoken my imagination about film and space when I was quite young.
Though this Gareth Edwards (Godzilla, Monsters) helmed film has no direct link to the previous films including the most recent sequel there are some ties. Timewise Rogue One happens just before the original Star Wars film. The Empire led by Lord Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) is trying to defeat the bands of rebels while building a massive weapon called the Death Star. They, led by Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn – Exodus: Gods and Kings, The Dark Knight Rises), believe that the super weapon will be able to rip apart the Rebel Alliance once and for all.
The Rebel Alliance is divided with many factions who don’t all see eye to eye. One is led by the radical Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker – Arrival, The Crying Game), a man who when the Empire finally caught up with the brilliant scientist Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen – Casino Royale, Doctor Strange), who is forced to finish the work on the Death Star, was able to rescue his young daughter, Jyn Erso. Now, Jyn (Felicity Jones – The Theory of Everything, Inferno) is grown up, but estranged from Gerrera and not a part of any Rebel faction.
She is pulled back in when the Rebel Alliance sends Cassian Andor (Diego Luna – Milk, The Terminal) to capture Jyn in order to use her to get Gerrera to work with them. That does not work exactly, but Jyn, who has received a hologram message from her father, forges on trying to find the plans for the weakness he has said he has built into the super weapon. She has a ragtag group of fighters including Cassian, the blind wannabe jedi Chirrut (Donnie Yen – Ip Man, Blade II), Baze Malbus (Wen Jiang – Let the Bullets Fly, The Sun Also Rises), reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO (voiced by Alan Tudyk – Frozen, Moana), and former Empire pilot Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed – Nightcrawler, Jason Bourne) who follow her into the seemingly suicide mission.
Because there are so many new characters to get to know it becomes a little confusing at times especially since they don’t give much of a backstory to any of them. This is because the story moves ahead at lightening speed not really spending any time still. Star Wars at its best made you not only wonder about space and what is out there, but care about the characters. It gave the viewer the time, material and space to care about them whether major or minor character. That seems to have been forgotten by screenwriters Chris Weitz (The Golden Compass, About a Boy) and Tony Gilroy (The Bourne Legacy, Michael Clayton).
What the film does well are the action sequences. The action comes fast and furious while looking glorious. Cinematographer Greig Fraser (Lion, Zero Dark Thirty) should be commended. He is able to make things look both stunning and frightening at the same time. In that end he is aided greatly by the high quality of the special effects. All this combines to making Rogue One less about the characters and more about the war that is going on.
Don’t get me wrong there are some interesting themes within the bare bones story being told here. Regret and redemption are the two main ones. Engaging as they might seem they are oftentimes relegated to the background just hovering around. That frustrated me a little.
Bottom line is that this film does not fall into the better Star Wars films category, but it certainly isn’t one of the worst either. These days medium seems to be the size the fits the most of the cinema going audience.