Anthony's Film Review
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
This Star Wars story is a worthy addition to the saga...
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is essentially the first feature-length Star Wars movie to fit nicely in the main series even without having a specific episode number attached. I say this because one should not assume this movie to be a side Star Wars story to ignore. Yes, the movie begins with "A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away" but not scrolling intro text, announces its title after its prologue rather than at the very beginning, and features no lightsaber duels (Darth Vader is the only character here who uses a lightsaber). But given that the events of Rogue One lead up to the events of Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope (the new official title for the very first Star Wars movie in 1977), you might as well call this movie Star Wars - Episode 3.5: Rogue One, or even Episode 3.75 since this story is placed very close to A New Hope on the fictional universe's timeline.
As you may recall, A New Hope was about the Galactic Empire's use of the planet-destroying superweapon called the Death Star and efforts by a band of heroes to smuggle blueprints of the Death Star to the Rebel Alliance. Rogue One tells the story of how the Death Star's plans were stolen to begin with. The main character is Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones), the daughter of an Imperial science officer named Galen Erso (played by Mads Mikkelsen). Galen may be one of the key masterminds behind the design of the Death Star, but deep down, he is not 100% devoted to the Empire. Many years ago, he was captured by the Empire and forced to help build the Death Star, something he agreed to in order to keep his daughter Jyn alive. But because he has a hidden conscience, he purposely included a flaw in the Death Star's design that the Empire isn't aware of but that adversaries could exploit in order to destroy the Death Star.
This is the secret that Jyn eventually learns, one that propels her deep into the Rebel Alliance's fight against the Empire. While there is hope for victory against the dreaded Empire, the mission to steal the Death Star blueprints will be far from easy. You might say it's a suicidal mission, because it will involve infiltrating a massive Imperial data archive at a citadel that is heavily fortified inside and out. Still, it doesn't stop the determination of Jyn and various allies, including a Rebel named Cassian Andor (played by Diego Luna), an Imperial droid named K-2SO (played by Alan Tudyk) that has been reprogrammed by the Alliance, a blind man named Chirrut Imwe (played by Donnie Yen) who isn't a Jedi but is still a follower of the Force, the blind man's blaster-toting companion named Baze Malbus (played by Wen Jiang), and a defecting Imperial pilot named Bodhi Rook (played by Riz Ahmed).
Speaking of characters, there are several from the original Star Wars trilogy, mostly secondary characters, who appear in Rogue One. For instance, Darth Vader is a welcome presence here. Even though he is really a secondary character in Rogue One with only a few appearances, it is still awesome to see him, especially as James Earl Jones is back providing Vader's voice. The rest are pretty much portrayed by new actors and actresses, who, thanks to digital effects, look identical to the same characters in the original trilogy portrayed by different performers. The most striking example in my opinion is the authoritative Imperial officer named Governor Tarkin. He was played by Peter Cushing in the original Star Wars movie and is played by Guy Henry in Rogue One. Yet, because of the posthumous use of Cushing's likeness, the resemblance is striking. It's as if Cushing, who passed away in 1994, had come back from the dead to reprise his role in Rogue One.
As for the action, it's what you expect from Star Wars. There are exciting laser gunfights and equally intense dogfights between Rebel and Imperial fighter spacecraft, with lots of laser bolts flying here and there. Now, I did mention that there are no lightsaber duels here, but I think that's forgivable since Rogue One is not a main series entry marked with an episode number. Still, it's hard to ignore the action in this movie and brush aside Rogue One entirely, especially if you're spotting the connections between Rogue One and A New Hope, which is part of the joy of this movie. (In contrast, spotting things in Episode VII: The Force Awakens that harken back to the original trilogy was somewhat distracting because we expected a brand new story. Rogue One, on the other hand, must connect with A New Hope, so cross-film references are expected.)
Looking at Rogue One and A New Hope side by side, I noticed something interesting. The two movies may have been released 39 years apart, with heavier action in the more recent one, but they complement each other very well. In fact, forget about looking at Rogue One as Episode 3.75. Think of Rogue One and A New Hope as two halves of a four-hour movie. I won't be surprised if Star Wars fans get a real kick out of watching Rogue One and A New Hope back-to-back nonstop. The plot connections and the resemblance of recurrent characters played by different actors will make you forget that you're watching two movies.
So there you have it. Rogue One is an exciting Star Wars movie that captures the spirit of A New Hope and even a bit of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I also found it to be a bit better than The Force Awakens, so if you're worried that the newest Star Wars movies won't be as fun as before, don't. Just sit back and enjoy this ride in a galaxy far, far away. The Force is still strong with this one.
(And now, a heartfelt commentary...)
At first, I planned to end this movie review with the paragraph above. But I have something else I really need to write down, so I thought I'd attach a post-script to this review. If you want to see my 1-to-10 star rating for this movie right away, just scroll to the bottom.
I did not see Rogue One on December 16, 2016, when the film hit theaters in the United States. I saw it 12 days later on December 28, one day after Carrie Fisher died and the same day that Debbie Reynolds, Carrie's mother, passed away. I found myself seeing Rogue One in a whole new light. As the film ended, I couldn't help but notice that Carrie first appeared in Star Wars: A New Hope that launched the franchise and that Rogue One was the last Star Wars film to be released while Carrie was still with us. The timing of Carrie's death after the release of a new Star Wars film connecting back to the very first one she starred in is heartbreaking, yet also heartwarming. I now see Rogue One as an unexpected tribute to Carrie, because this movie marks the point where the fictional plot within the Star Wars film universe and the Star Wars-related cinematic career of Carrie Fisher simultaneously came full circle.
Carrie, if you can read this, think you so much for touching the hearts of countless fans around the world. In both Star Wars and in real life, you have been a true inspiration we can all look up to, especially the young girls out there who aspire to be heroic women someday, heroic like Princess Leia, Jyn Erso, and any other fictional and real-life women who make a difference. We will always love you and all the joy you have bought to us. While I'm at it, I would also like to pay tribute to your mother Debbie for all of her great contributions to entertainment and for having an extraordinary daughter to be proud of. The two of you will surely be missed, but will forever live on in spirit.
May the Force be with the both of you. Always.
For more information about Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my reviews of the following:
Main Star Wars Films
Other Star Wars Films