‘Rogue One’ Review: It's Bold, Brave, Badass and Immensely Satisfying for Longtime ‘Star Wars’ Fans

‘Rogue One’ Review: It's Bold, Brave, Badass and Immensely Satisfying for Longtime ‘Star Wars’ Fans

Dec 13, 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the first standalone Star Wars movie, but it is very much connected to the very first Star Wars film, A New Hope. With a meticulous attention to detail, recreating the scrappy, ominous look of that 1977 film while also widening its scope to include new characters, ships and planets, Rogue One succeeds most in the terrific way it expands upon what we know and love. It deepens the mythology, and explores things the previous movies never have, providing an immsensely satisfying experience for longtime Star Wars fans.  

Rogue One is the best new Star Wars film since the original trilogy; one that takes risks with its tone by sidestepping humor in favor of some of the most intense battle sequences we’ve ever seen from the franchise. Where it lacks in belly laughs and character relationships, it makes up for in action. This is a film that doesn’t stop moving for a minute – you won’t get some sappy love story, long political-centric conversations, or deep, meaningful character bonds, but you will get fantastic space battles coupled with a whole ton of uniquely inventive ground-based warfare.

Rogue One centers on a girl named Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), whose father Galen (Mads Mikkelson) is a brilliant scientist the Empire is trying to exploit in order to finish this massive planet-killing weapon they’ve been working on. When the film picks up, Galen and his family (including a young Jyn) are on the run from the Empire, and specifically Director Orson Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn). But Krennic eventually catches up to the Ersos, and though Jyn escapes, Galen is taken back to reluctantly finish the job he started.

But Galen finds a way to fight back, entrusting an imperial pilot (Riz Ahmed) with knowledge of the weapon and sending him off to warn the rebels, or more specifically the more fanatical Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), who runs a separate group of rogue maniacs who have their own crazy way of fighting the Empire. Soon the rebels catch on to what’s at stake, recruiting Jyn and one of their own spies, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), to track down this pilot defector, learn the truth about this secret weapon and eventually attempt to find Jyn’s father before it’s too late. They’ll team up with others along the way – like Donnie Yen’s Force-obsessed Chirrut Îmwe and Wen Jiang’s Baze Malbus – and together they’ll all devise a plan to find a hidden weakness within this massive weapon the Empire calls the Death Star.

But to do so they’ll have to get through Krennic – and, more importantly, Darth Vader – if they have any chance at succeeding.

Where Star Wars: The Force Awakens felt more like it was remaking our favorite moments from A New Hope, Rogue One takes those moments and reimagines them in new ways so that the flavor is still there, but it comes in completely different packaging. Here’s an example: The Force Awakens essentially remade the famous cantina scene from A New Hope within Maz’s castle. Rogue One extracts the essence of the cantina sequence and reimagines it as a battle across the newly-introduced city of Jedha. While not perfect, Rogue One is a giant step forward in terms of telling new Star Wars stories that aren't just a rehash of what we've seen before. It's intense and deliberate and pretty friggin' awesome at times, especially its last 40 minutes.

All of this intensity leaves little room for jokes, and so much of the film’s comic relief rests on the shoulders of a new droid called K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), whose dry wit thankfully lightens the mood throughout. Where Rogue One takes its biggest risk is with its dark tone. This is nothing like The Force Awakens, and is even much darker than A New Hope, but Star Wars fans will absolutely love the way this sucker looks and feels. Director Gareth Edwards (with immense help from those wizards at ILM) manages to recreate the New Hope era with tremendous detail, offering new angles, familiar cameos and plenty of nerdy little tidbits that will leave fans breathless. Something as miniscule as Darth Vader's unexpected introduction, or a sweeping overhead shot of the iconic Yavin base, or a flyby that gets us closer than we’ve ever been to a Star Destroyer – these are the best parts of the film because they are giving us something new while at the same time expanding upon something we love.

If Star Wars is going to continue to thrive on the big screen, it’s going to do so on the heels of Rogue One, a movie that pushes boundaries and takes the kinds of risks this series needs to take in order to evolve to a point where it can tell completely new Star Wars stories featuring characters we’ve never seen before. Stories that aren't connected to other movies; characters that have nothing to do with the Skywalker family. There is an entire galaxy out there to explore, and the good news is that Rogue One is strong enough to pave the way for more of those stories. 

And when those stories do eventually come, we'll have this scrappy group of badass rebels to thank. 

Categories: Features, Reviews
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