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Review – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – The day Disney saved Star Wars

I’m calling it now. The best thing that ever happened to ‘Star Wars‘ is Disney.

Remember how you all bemoaned the decision? Remember the cries of derision that there would be soft toys of Vader? They’ve only gone and sanctioned a full on Vietnam movie that talks to how scared we all are in a post-Brexit Trump ruled world.

Taliban insurgents? Check. Blind folds – whether you’re blind or not? Check.

A couple of new films in, it’s been “OK” hasn’t it? They’ll pay that contract off in a couple of films at this rate. And fair play to them.

It’s a shaky start, mind. One that I’m sure will get easier with each watch – but it’s no Kylo Ren opening. And won’t my oldest boy let them know about it.

Rogue One‘ really struggled to get going in the first fifteen minutes for me. It wasn’t necessarily a pacing issue. Something was just “off”.

Maybe it was the lack of title crawl. Maybe it was the fact we planet hop four (five?) times in the opening ramble. Maybe it was just the fact the title cards for where we are (or more importantly, who owns where we are), sat all over the place. Left. Mid-left. Middle. Right. Maybe it was just IMAX, but it jarred.

Thankfully, you’ll forgive it all as it all feels undeniably Star Wars. You’ll even forgive how random the ‘Rogue One’ title card looks. (Even more vast in IMAX – which does a good job of real adding depth to the 3D). By the time you get to the last hour – and more crucially, the last five minutes – you’ll forgive it anything. Even the fact Jar Jar turns up and saves the day. (I’m kidding. Or am I……..)

And this isn’t flawless. Forest Whitaker camps it up to eleven in one scene – I almost thought he was going to burst into a song about ‘Blue Velvet’ (“Baby wants to….”), and Ido Amin. It’s like he’s in a different film. Clone Wars fans….. is he faithful!?

And I’m not sold on Felicity Jones either. There’s something there though, no doubt. She redeems it all with one glance in a lift that’s my favourite since ‘Drive’. (By the way, aren’t Gosling and Mendelson best mates? Get me Gosling in this universe and I’ll never do a bad thing ever again).

Thankfully the supporting cast more than make up for it. CGI or not. (That was a curious decision, wasn’t it?).

All in, Gareth Edwards deserves huge credit, here. He’s the real star. He doesn’t waste a single vista.

Each introduction to a new planet makes the most of the new found colour. The lush green, as his camera hovers by Ben Mendelsohn’s (fabulously slimey) feet as he’s introduced. The lashing rain that makes Mads Mikkelsen (so underrated) look like he’s a roaming samurai. Then, what looks like a single flock of white birds. No CGI. It just feels real.

Everything about it tries to ground itself in reality. Even the ships have lost that sheen Lucas tarred them with in the prequels. It’s not afraid to get down and dirty. The AT-ATs stomp through lush jungle, and their feet destroy the sand below them. It’s Ford Coppola inspired. Thankfully, Charlie don’t surf.

Disney can do what they want with this. This expanded universe can run and run. I’d argue in one film they’ve already shown more creativity than Marvel of late. A bit of ambition with VIII, and a solid Han Solo movie next, please. Just the right balance of nods to what went before, plus trusting that we’re ready for new characters to love, too.

I’m a huge fan of Riz Ahmed, so he just stole it from Yen, for me. Hopefully we get them back for another go.

And that last five minutes? Possibly the best five minutes I’ve had in a cinema this year. Just in the nick of time.

Any flaws as I sit waiting to do the school run so I can head straight back in with the old man, and my oldest son? (Who is going to lose his shit with that final shot).

Not really. Certainly nothing that will stop me seeing it twice in a total six hour period.

I used to do 2D/3D/IMAX on opening day of the “biggies”. I’d say I’ve grown up, but at one point in the last twenty I got a bit teary. And it wasn’t one of the many great scenes trying to tug at my poor little heart strings. No. it was a camera mounted to the back of an X-Wing as it entered, and left warp. Just brilliant. Give Edwards whatever he wants, next. He’s outdone JJ.

Perhaps the music cues were a tad too respectful. And in hind-site, they lack Williams’ zest. I certainly hoped for more considering the trailers nailed this element. And is anyone ever going to out-do Duel of the Fates? Almost certainly not.

Still, if you’d offered me a scene, (the shield), that would rival Edwards’ halo insertion in ‘Godzilla’, I would’ve taken that in a flash.

God I hope I get that chemistry set for Christmas. My urge to dick around with those Kyber crystals I found in the garden grows with every passing minute.

I think I’ll make a Stardust light sabre. In black.

You can read Tom’s review here.

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