As I’m sure everyone knows, Rogue One is the true story of the previously unsung gang of rebels who swiped the plans to the original Death Star.
At last, Earthlings (and anyone else watching) will know of their bravery. How angry loner Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) was sprung from Imperial prison by the Rebel Alliance in order to exploit her connections to her scientist father Galen Erso and wheezing asthmatic extremist/freedom fighter Saw Gerrera.
The Force Awakens was a fresh, vibrant remake of A New Hope – a way of reassuring audiences still badly traumatized by the prequel saga – and now just one year later, Star Wars has delivered on its first standalone gamble.
Like everyone else, I read all about reshoots and clashes over the tone of the movie. Whatever went on, director Garth Edwards’ vision of a gritty war movie won out. Ironically, even the Rebel Alliance are less ‘Disney’ than before; their dashing captains (like Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor), bump off informants, while abandoned waifs like Jyn die for the cause.
Edwards wanted Jyn to be different to other Star Wars heroines, citing Ripley from the Alien franchise as inspiration. I didn’t think Felicity had the physical size and presence to be a convincing warrior, but she nails the physicality and the attitude.
I don’t think we really start to care about the new characters, not like we did with Rey, Finn and Poe. Sadly, Jyn, Cassian and the gang are foot soldiers who died in a land far, far away, too long ago. My favourites were probably Donnie Yen as a blind Jedi-lite, and Alan Tudyk’s sarcastic droid, and thanks to the weight of the franchise we do feel like we have a stake in their fight.
The best thing though, is the return of a certain Sith Lord. It’s carnage.
Speaking of Vader, you’ll recall he never much liked the Death Star. “There is no Death Star,” he tells Ben Mendelsohn’s ambitious Imperial after the weapon is unleashed. Vader says the Senate has been told Jedha City was destroyed in a mining accident.
Now, I’m not up on my galactic politics, but wouldn’t the Death Star require significant funds that would have thrown up a few red flags in some kind of purchasing or planning committee? How do you keep that thing secret?!
Rogue One is not so much a lead-in to A New Hope as a broadside that either shows up all the original’s flaws or enhances it, I’m not sure. The fight scene between Vader and Obi-Wan has aged badly and now looks even worse after seeing the way Vader moves in Rogue One.
It always jarred that Tarkin was ‘holding Vader’s leash’ in the first movie, when we get all-out cool bad guy Vader #2 in Empire. Tarkin (actor Peter Cushing’s face rendered in pretty flawless CGI onto another actor’s body) seems to acknowledge Lord Vader’s talents in Rogue One, so I’m reinterpreting their New Hope relationship as one of grudging respect.
My verdict? I zoned out a bit throughout Rogue One, but the final 40 minutes are some of the most entertaining I’ve had watching a blockbuster – it’s all quite low-key devastating and exhilarating. All future Star Wars standalones should feature Vader going berserk in the final five minutes.