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Review – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – “The prequel we have all been hoping for”

Rogue One is the prequel we have all been hoping for. Battle-hardened through circulating rumours of problems and re-shoots Disney’s first Star Wars anthology movie blasts onto the screen in the UK tomorrow. Patently a war movie, it is full of new worlds, populated with intriguing characters all richly captured through stunning visuals. Rogue One is a bold and exhilarating addition to the series.

Despite the film having a galaxy of details to pour over, don’t let spoiler reviews destroy the thrilling surprises. This will be brief and detail free.

Rogue One has been under magnified scrutiny with the media coverage of extensive reshoots. Despite this, it still has represented somewhat of a gamble for Disney. It is the first Star Wars film to step outside of the Skywalker story arc but British director Gareth Edwards (Monsters) has embraced this difference stating “you should expect the unexpected”. He wastes no time in differentiating it from the previous films, doing so from the very beginning.

The basic plot follows Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) whose father Galen (Mads Mikkelsen) is captured by Imperial forces led by Director Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) to finish his secret weapon, the Death Star. In order to protect Jyn, her father places her in the care of Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker).

Now a woman, Jyn is enlisted by rebel Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and his reprogrammed imperial droid K2-SO (Alan Tudyk) to capture the plans to the weapon and help stop the Empire, but it’s not a mission they can do alone as they are joined by blind and Force sensitive Chirrut (Donnie Yen), his counterpart Baze (Wen Jiang) and pilot Bodhi (Riz Ahmed). Written by Garry Whitta and Chris Weitz the script is one that is full of hope, with the timely message that with sheer determination you can fight the odds. This culminates in a mind-blowing and excellently paced final act which slots nicely before A New Hope.

The cast list speaks for itself in quality. Felicity Jones nails Jyn, able to deliver the emotional aspects as well as the rebellious nature of the character. However, K2-SO and Chirrut steal the show. K2-SO is the comic relief here, a droid that literally says what he thinks. Chirrut is incredible, but that’s all I am going to say on that for now. Ben Mendelsohn presents an effective villain, but the key is the added depth of the character, his jealousy of his seniors and his aspirations to climb the career ladder.

With the film being chock full of great characters it inevitably means we simply don’t get enough time to explore their real stories. This is reflective of the frantic plotting which one would expect from an action war film, but I could have quite happily sat through a film double the time because each and every character was so intriguing.

The beginning is expansive and requires multiple locations and planets to establish the story. One very small difference is the use of a title naming each new planet. It’s a tiny addition but in context of previous films it’s surprising striking. Whilst it’s a small plotting aid it’s indicative of Edwards’ freedom to identify Rogue One as a change from the overall saga.

The worlds the film inhabits are visceral, having a physicality and ruggedness more reminiscent of A New Hope than any of the synthesised feeling prequels. They all feel, for want of a better phrase, lived in and they are frequented by a menagerie of exotic aliens and droids brought to life by Creature Supervisor Neal Scanlan (Force Awakens). Edwards delivers his distinct visual style and working with Greig Fraser (Zero Dark Thirty), is able to blend cinematic wide shots to the kinetic action scenes with vigour.

The film tries to find a balance between embracing a contrasting style and tone and the more nostalgic moments. However, these scenes sometimes feel like more of a safety net than a useful addition. Rogue One is at its best when it has its foot on the throttle and is trying new things, showing strange new creatures and locations. Some of the older references (apart from some interesting uses of New Hope Footage in the final act) really work, but some distract as they feel more forced. There are also some potential spoiler decisions which people will either love or hate but to say anymore would give it away.

But credit where it is due, It cannot be under estimated how great it is to see Star Wars being allowed to take risks and try something different. Rogue One looks beautiful, boasts a fantastic cast given interesting characters to play in a worthy story. It isn’t perfect but it packs a punch in every sense and ends with a thrill ride of a third act. I can’t wait to see it again and devour it more.

You can read Adam’s review here.

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One Comment

  1. So glad this is being well received. Cannot wait to see it!

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