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.
Following The Force Awakens – a fresh, vibrant remake of A New Hope that reassured audiences still badly traumatized by the prequel saga – 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.
Angry loner Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) is sprung from prison by the Rebel Alliance in order to exploit her connections to her Imperial scientist father Galen Erso. Ironically, the Rebel Alliance are less ‘Disney’ than before: their dashing captains bump off informants, while abandoned waifs like Jyn are sacrificed for the cause.
Edwards wanted Jyn to be different to other Star Wars heroines, citing Ripley from the Alien franchise as inspiration. I doubted Felicity would have the size and presence, but she nails the attitude and is a convincing leader to her ragtag gang of rebels.
My favourites were Donnie Yen as a blind Jedi-lite, Diego Luna as an aforementioned dashing captain, and Alan Tudyk’s sarcastic droid. Thanks to the weight of the franchise we feel like we have a stake in their fight.
The best thing though, is the return of a certain Sith Lord. It’s carnage.
You’ll recall Vader never much liked the “technological terror” Death Star. More trouble than it’s worth, according to Vader. After the weapon is unleashed for the first time he tells Ben Mendelsohn’s ambitious Imperial that they’ll blag to the Senate that the city they just wiped out got blown up 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. All future Star Wars standalones should feature Vader going berserk in the final five minutes.