Rogue One marked the last movie I saw at the cinema in 2016. After a whole year of outstanding cinematic productions, it comes as no surprise that Rogue One was eagerly anticipated. However, while I’d say the majority of viewers had positive responses to this Star Wars midquel, there has been a wide range of just HOW much fans enjoyed it, varying from being praised as “the best Star Wars movie since Episode IV” to “meh… it was alright.” So, just what category did I fit into, you ask? (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)
Before I answer that question, I just want to praise all the physical efforts of the production, because truthfully, the amount of craft that has been poured into Rogue One is phenomenal. The score, the scenery, the costumes, the props and everything inbetween truly does pull you head first into a galaxy far, far away. The entire cast pull together to bring this darker, more politically charged Star Wars story to life. Felicity Jones provides a talented, resourceful and ultimately kickass female lead as Jyn Erso, the daughter of Galen Erso who had little choice in creating the inevitable Death Star, and will stop at nothing to retrieve the plans for the weapon of mass destruction and fight for the future of the rebellion. Diego Luna is perfect casting for rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor, and Alan Tudyk provides much-needed comic relief with his sassy one-liners as reprogrammed Imperial droid K-2SO. Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Riz Ahmed and Forest Whitaker make up the main supporting rebel cast as spiritual warrior Chirrut Imwe, mercenary Baze Malbus, pilot Bodhi Rook and extremist rebel/Jyn’s childhood rescuer Saw Gerrera, respectively. Ben Mendelsohn portrays the central villain of Rogue One as Orson Krennic, the Director Of Advanced Weapons Research for the Imperial Army. Grand Moff Tarkin (the late Peter Cushing) and a young Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) are revived by clever advanced CGI treatment which, in my opinion, blended seamlessly with the videography and brought an extra level of “wow” factor for sheer cinema magic. Also returning for a few well-paced appearances was Darth Vader himself, of whom’s presence, in all honesty, made some of the more exciting scenes.
And yet, after all the above… I still felt like there was a lot missing from Rogue One. I mean, there’s the things that are physically absent, such as the scrolling text intro which is synonymous with every Star Wars movie to date. There are no Jedis, no Lightsaber battles, no fun alien creatures as main supporting cast save from droid K-2SO who, despite slightly differing in personality, has clearly been heavily influenced from the original C-3PO (who does make a cameo alongside R2-D2). The overall tone of the movie is darker and the politics are brought to the centre of the table, and, to be honest, while Star Wars has always carried political and religious themes that mirror reality, I do feel that the magic of a thrilling adventure through space has been replaced with a more realistic struggle against a higher power. There was parts of the plot that I really had to focus on to get the gist of what was unfolding in front of me instead of just being able to sit back and enjoy as I did with the original trilogy and The Force Awakens, which I absolutely loved for its pulse-racing, quicker-paced story with a more variety of memorable scenes that pay homage to the original trilogy while still offering something new for an existing audience. Any hinted “love story” between Jyn and Cassian is cut short by the fact that they are literally blown to smithereens with the rest of their crew on Scarif without even as much as a farewell kiss.
Speaking of that final battle… Not one member of the Rogue One mission survives. Of course, this was expected of this movie by many speculating fans as Jyn, Cassian and pals don’t appear in any other movie, tv show or video game in the franchise. It’s a very bittersweet ending – I do feel that the crew were never really meant to survive, making them the ultimate martyr heroes. But after getting to know these characters and their backstories for 2 whole hours, you would think they should at least have a great legacy. But we all know that Rogue One flies off the radar after the events that lead up to Leia receiving the plans for the Death Star. So, the question is… Was this movie entirely necessary?
In conclusion, Rogue One will give you your fix of Star Wars to soothe your galactic cravings, but we’ll have to wait just a little longer for Episode VIII so we can fully get immersed back into the franchise we know and love.
Before I sign off, I just want to add that I started writing this review before the tragic double loss of Princess Leia herself, Carrie Fisher and her beloved mother, Hollywood sweetheart Debbie Reynolds. I was devastated to hear of the loss of two talented, beautiful, strong women who ultimately helped shape the pop culture we know today. Both were icons across the globe and an inspiration to fans everywhere, myself included. My thoughts are with Carrie’s daughter Billie and the rest of the family during this sad time in Hollywood history. May both legends rest in peace amongst the stars.