Film Review: “Rogue One” is an Impressively Gutsy, Yet Messy Stand-Alone Film

By Editor December 15, 2016 13:00

Film Review: “Rogue One” is an Impressively Gutsy, Yet Messy Stand-Alone Film

By Anthony Hernandez

No one thought it was going to be easy – and that can be said not only about the very idea of making a successful stand-alone film for one of the most popular film franchises in history, but also for the high-stakes plot. And despite production woes, re-shoots and sight unseen speculation – all in all, Rogue One is an impressive achievement.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first of a series of single films with story-arcs that are intended to “fill in the gaps” that were apparently a problem with cannon films. This is speaking only from the standpoint that spin-offs are usually only made for the money. While, in this case, it cannot be denied – it’s also only half-true. This Star Wars film earns the right to stand beside the greats of the franchise, including last year’s triumphant Force Awakens. Is it better? No. Is it still awesome? You bet!

There’s no iconic prologue-scroll, but it does take place in that galaxy “far, far away”, and once again, we find ourselves swept into the shockwave of this glorious space opera. It’s a real blast from the past. Taking place just before the events of A New Hope, this spin-off/prequel has the same gritty feel and “let’s have fun with this” spirit that made the original trilogy so iconic. This is the most war-like Star Wars movie – with scenes reminiscent of everything from Seven Samurai and The Dirty Dozen, to Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse Now. It’s also one of the messiest films in the anthology.

The movie itself is a spoiler of a 40-year-old story to which we already know the ending. Without giving too much away – Rogue One follows the story of the fledgling Rebellion as it makes an extremely risky move to steal the plans for the Empire’s new “planet-killer” – the Death Star. Jyn Erso (Oscar nominee Felicity Jones) goes on a crucial journey to find her father and obtain the plans that could turn the tide in the war against the Empire. Along the way, she joins forces with a group of unlikely heroes (most notably, a blind, scene stealing, Samurai wielding warrior played by Donnie Yen) who must band together to do the impossible.

As a movie, it’s a roller coaster of slow and somber mixed with rushed and exciting scenes pieced together from what made the original films so great, but with the caveat of being built from recycled parts – so, it’s a bit of a mess. The same could also be said about Force Awakens – but where Rogue One falters is how those pieces resonate with the audience. We don’t have as many familiar faces to ground us in the world. Granted, it’s Star Wars – and unless you’ve been under a rock (or are just not a fan – gasp!), you don’t need much to keep you firmly in your seat. And Rogue One does just that, with fervor.

Not once do we feel like we’re left circling territory that lives outside of the cannon universe. And this is a credit to director Gareth Edwards (who helmed the generally positively received Godzilla rehash). It didn’t seem possible to breathe new life into a franchise already so rich and vibrant – but in Edwards’ hands, Rogue One stands firmly, and refreshingly, on its own. This movie works because of its narrow storyline that’s devoid of cliffhangers setting us up for another one or more films. This story has a definitive ending. The script probably could’ve used some TLC – especially with some of the dialogue; but that’s never really been a Star Wars strong suit, and frankly that’s okay.

The action scenes and epic battles are top-notch. The Cinematography is gorgeous and immersive – especially with the use of hand-held cameras that get us down into the thick of the action. Overall, the acting is solid enough. As with the others, a successful Star Wars movie lives or dies depending on how much we care about the characters. This is where the other prequels faltered. Underneath all that political maneuvering, stomach churning “romance”, overblown visuals and an annoying sidekick – real, breathing character development was lost. Thankfully, that doesn’t happen here.

With a character driven story and yet another truly heroic female protagonist, we get the kind of Star Wars film that is not only relevant, but what the world deserves right now.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Run Time: 134 minutes

Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of sci-fi violence and action

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Donnie Yen, Ben Mendelsohn, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelson

Director: Gareth Edwards

Writers: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll & Gary Whitta

By Editor December 15, 2016 13:00

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