Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a space opera film directed by Gareth Edwards and stars Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker and Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso. Rogue One is the first stand-alone film in the Star Wars universe and takes place just before the events of Star Wars: A New Hope. The story centres on Jyn Erso and her journey to obtain the plans for the Death Star which was unwillingly designed by her father Galen Erso, played my Mads Mikkelsen.
My Knowledge and Expectation of Rogue One
It is fair to say that this has been my most anticipated film of the year. In fact, every year that a Star Wars film will be released will automatically make it my most anticipated film due to my love of the franchise. I grew up watching the Original Trilogy on VHS (yes, the version of the Original Trilogy before it was ruined by the Special Editions) and that was really the basis for my love of film in general.
I owe this franchise a lot of gratitude even though it went through a very rough patch with the Prequels and the constant and unnecessary tinkering to the Original Trilogy with the Special Editions. For a time, that did leave me in a state of uncertainty about how Lucasfilm could recapture the glory days.
However, my faith has been restored in recent years. Under the ownership of Disney and the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm delivered a great film with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. They have also been gradually giving hardcore fans such as myself with new canon material that is finally coherent and on an equal level of importance as the theatrical films. They have done a good job of paying homage to the Original Trilogy while setting up exciting new narratives.
Consequently, I was really eager to see if Rogue One would continue the great work that Lucasfilm has been doing so far. Going into this film, my experience would already be enhanced due to the fact that I read Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel, a book which came out a month before Rogue One was released.
The book is set before and ties into Rogue One by focusing on Galen Erso, his relationship with Orson Krennic and the Republic’s, and later the Galactic Empire’s, project to develop the Death Star. It was a really good book and I learnt a lot of back-story to Rogue One which I hoped would enhance my appreciation of what would be a great film.
My Thoughts on Rogue One
My hopes were realised. Rogue One is a great film that really expands the lore of Star Wars. Truly, this film ties in really well to A New Hope while giving us new information and a greater perspective of the wider universe. For instance, seeing the Empire and the Rebel Alliance be fleshed out was great to see. We get to see the extent of the Empire’ s control over the galaxy while also seeing that the Rebel Alliance are not the altruistic good guys we always thought they were. The way in which this film enhanced our understanding about the Empire and the Rebel Alliance was a really strong point about the film.
Another great thing about Rogue One was the ensemble cast who gave really good performances. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna are great as Jyn Erso and Cassian Endor respectively. But, the standout characters for me were the droid K-2SO, played by Alan Tudyk, and Chirrut Îmwe who was played by Donnie Yen. K-2SO provides some really humorous moments with the dry delivery of his lines while Chirrut was an absolute boss in some of the action scenes while having a spiritual connection to The Force.
I also liked Ben Mendelsohn’s portrayal of Orsen Krennic and his strained relationship with Tarkin which, if you read Catalyst, was established in that book and developed in this film. And yes, Tarkin is in this film and I thought the use of him was necessary given his connection to the Death Star and A New Hope. At the same, it was organic as it could possibly be given the fact that Peter Cushing, who played Tarkin in A New Hope, is no longer alive.
Tarkin is played by Guy Henry whose face is digitally manipulated to resemble Peter Cushing and, for me personally, the CGI used to accomplish this is the best I have seen in a film so far. True, it is not flawless but it never took me out of the film. In fact, it enhanced Rogue One for me and the same can be said when the technique used to bring Tarkin back to life was used on another character towards the end of the film. Again, it was another example of how successful Rogue One was in tying into A New Hope.
Still, while Tarkin is a great villain and was used well in this film, one villain will always stand head and shoulders above the rest. Of course, I am talking about Darth Vader whose role in this film, while small, was very impactful. Certainly, I was captivated whenever he was on screen with one scene in particular instantly becoming one of my Top 10 scenes in Star Wars history.
Additionally, James Earl Jones came back to voice Vader and he did a really good job too. Selfishly, I would have loved to have seen more of Vader in this film seeing as he is my favourite Star Wars character and the greatest villain of all time. Still, his role made sense within the film. Moreover, it was another great way in which Rogue One tied into A New Hope.
Additionally, the use of cameos of characters from A New Hope in Rogue One was also a nice nod to the fans without feeling forced. Still, there is plenty of stuff within this film that has never been seen in a Star Wars film. For one, the variety of locations we got to see in this film was great to see, the cinematography is the best we have ever had in a Star Wars film and the action in Rogue One is fantastic. Certainly, there is great action throughout but it reaches its peak in the final act, especially with the space battles which are stunning.
As well as being a great action film, Rogue One is also quite emotional when it matters, especially in relation to Galen Erso and Jyn Erso. It is even more emotional if you read Catalyst. Indeed, hardcore fans of Star Wars who are immersed in the new canon will appreciate this film to a much greater degree due to the references and links to the wider material that is available.
A Great Film…But Not Perfect
As you can see, I think Rogue One is pretty great but I do feel that, like every film, there are some minor flaws. For one, I thought the text used in the title for Rogue One at the beginning of the film could have been much better. I’m not sure why they could not have used the same text for Rogue One as they did for the other films in the franchise. Also, I thought the score, composed by Michael Giacchino, was just okay. Don’t get me wrong, it was not bad and at certain moments it is very effective but I struggle to think of a memorable piece of music from it.
I would have also cut out one scene involving a CGI creature which I thought was unnecessary but these are my only issues with Rogue One and they didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment of it. Moreover, I might not see these as issues upon multiple viewings of the film. One thing I will mention though is that I can completely understand if people are upset with the lack of an opening crawl. I respect the fact that some will have an issue with it but, for me personally, it never held the film back from being as great as it is.
Overall, Lucasfilm has once again given us another worthwhile entry in the Star Wars franchise with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. While there are minor issues, there are plenty of great things in Rogue One to help it achieve the tough task of expanding the lore of Star Wars while making sure it both ties into A New Hope and enhances it in the process. The great action, the cinematography, the strength of the ensemble cast, the characters, the use of Tarkin and the CGI used to bring characters like him to life as well as the added bonus of Darth Vader make this a great film which you need to see as soon as you can.