Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) Retrospective Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso
Diego Luna as Cassian Andor
Ben Mendelsohn as Orson Krennic
Donnie Yen as Chirrut Îmwe
Mads Mikkelsen as Galen Erso
Alan Tudyk as K-2SO
Riz Ahmed as Bodhi Rook
Jiang Wen as Baze Malbus
Forest Whitaker as Saw Gerrera
Director: Gareth Edwards

All looks lost for the Rebellion against the Empire as they learn of the existence of a new super weapon, the Death Star. Once a possible weakness in its construction is uncovered, the Rebel Alliance must set out on a desperate mission to steal the plans for the Death Star. The future of the entire galaxy now rests upon its success.

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I always liked Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ever since its release, it was the first spin off in the Star Wars series and it had me interested in what other spin off movies they could make in the future. I don’t love it as much as I did when I first saw it, and I don’t consider it to be among the best Star Wars movies by any means. I still think it’s quite good though, and has a lot of great parts to it.

Rogue One does very well to establish itself as being very different kind of Star Wars movie, with more of a war movie feel to it. However you still feel like you’re in the Star Wars universe. I’m aware that some people found the movie a little boring. I was interested in the movie all the way through, but I will say it’s not as riveting as it could’ve been for at least the first half or so. This war movie take on a Star Wars movie certainly provided some things that we aren’t used to seeing in the series, with grey areas and darker places that weren’t explored previously (like how the methods by the Rebels weren’t always ethical). There are some callbacks to the original Star Wars, and that makes sense given that it’s a direct prequel, and for the most part it’s actually done quite well. One of the best parts was how they used the plot point from the original Star Wars with the Death Star having a conveniently large enough hole for a single blast from a fighter to explode the entire station. Now there’s an official canon reason for that being the case, with Galen Erso specifically placing that deliberate flaw in the design.

What shines most of all in the movie is the third act. From what I can tell a lot of it was changed with some reshoots, I can’t say which version would’ve been better. However I did like the third act that we got. It’s large scale, entertaining and was really well handled. It was also fitting that all the main characters died on that suicide mission, we haven’t seen the protagonists actually get killed off for good in this series and it worked for the movie. Then there’s the stand out scene of the movie, with Darth Vader mastering a bunch of Rebels at the end as they desperately try to get the Death Star plans out. I’ve seen a lot of positive responses to it, and I’ve also seen some people who don’t really like it. I can see both sides, on one hand this is Vader at his most vicious and powerful, and this is one of his stand out scenes from the entire series. At the same time, I can see how this makes it feel like another main Star Wars movie instead of the ‘grounded’ war movie it was for the rest of the movie, even with the inclusion of a lightsabre alone. I liked it but I can see why people don’t.

The use of Darth Vader was fitting enough, and so was Tarkin. The Princess Leia cameo I guess was alright, and worked as it was directly leading into the events of the original Star Wars. However there are also some weird callback decisions that are just annoying more than anything else. If you remember back to a New Hope, there were two people who attack Luke, who was then saved by Obi Wan Kenobi. Well those two people happen to bump into Jyn Erso while she and Cassian and K-2SO happen to be on Jedha, it was such a bizarre cameo to have and I have no idea why they decided to include that. Also C-3PO and R2-D2 randomly appear at the Rebel base just before the climax, for no reason at all. I guess just to remind audiences that they’re around at the time.

There is a large cast of characters. While the actors generally do well, the characters are hit or miss, and they are generally underdeveloped unfortunately. Felicity Jones is quite good as Jyn Erso, the lead character in the story, and other actors with the likes of Diego Luna, Donnie Yen and Alan Tudyk also do well. Riz Ahmed and Jiang Wen don’t really get to do as much out of the main Rogue One cast. Mads Mikkelsen played a small but critical role as Jyn’s father, who created the Death Star. He did very well in his screentime. There’s also the addition of Grand Moff Tarkin, who was critical in the original Star Wars, so you can see why they wanted to place him in this movie. I liked his addition, you felt his presence yet he wasn’t overbearing or overused. The recreation of original actor’s Peter Cushing’s appearance however was rather mixed. Although the Cushing voice impression is great, the CGI goes from looking good to looking like a decent video game character, not terrible but in a live action movie with real actors definitely seeming off. Of the cast, the actor I liked the most was Ben Mendelsohn as the main antagonist of the film, Orson Krennic, the director of the Death Star. Although he was quite a different type of Star Wars villain, a big part of why he worked was Mendelsohn’s performance, he’s been playing a lot of antagonists recently but Krennic is definitely one of his best.

I thought that Gareth Edwards’ direction worked very well for the film. The war-movie feel worked so well and it all feels gritty and dirty throughout, as it should’ve. It’s also such a great looking movie, with some really great visuals and very well directed action sequences, the highlights of course being in the final act. I like the music by Michael Giaachino as well, it fit the movie very well, and even gets to shine at certain points. That new Imperial theme in particular is great, creating an alternate theme to one of the most iconic tracks of all time is intimidating for sure, but he managed to create a newer and separate theme which really worked for this film.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story still holds up pretty well a few years later. The direction by Gareth Edwards was great, the cast do quite well in their roles, and it was overall a unique and different entry that we hadn’t seen in the series before this point. It has its annoyances for sure, mostly some lack of characterisation, and parts of the plot could’ve been a little more interesting, but it’s still good on the whole.

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