Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

In 1977, a young Luke Skywalker assisted in the destruction of the First Death Star using an exhaust port that led directly to a power source. For almost 4 decades the existence of this port was questioned, and it was dubbed on of the biggest movie plotholes of cinematic history. In 2013, following the acquisition of the Star Wars brand by Disney, a series of stand-alone films to be set in that universe was announced. They would not be directly tied to the Skywalkers of the main saga, but would instead focus on different characters at different points in time. The first of these was Rogue One: which shows how the Rebel Alliance originally came to have the Death Star plans. This is a tale that had already been spun several times in books and video games, but this variation was to act as the official story.

Jynn Erso, daughter of Imperial Scientist Galen Erso, has spent her life on the run from people who may want to use her as leverage against her father, and The Empire. When she is finally caught by The Rebels, she discovers that her father has placed a secret flaw in the Death Star and decides to join the cause in stealing the plans from the database on Skarrif. With Rogue One taking place in the week leading up to A New Hope, the biggest issue would be the inclusion of Grand Moff Wilhuff Tarkin and princess Leia Organa. Peter Cushing had passed away in 1994 and Carrie Fisher could not portray her younger self which led to the use of body doubles and CGI. The ability to resurrect these actors through CGI really is impressive, showing just how far this kind of technology has come and I simply cannot praise it enough. Unfortunately not quite a perfected art form just yet, leading to characters that would be at home in a high definition video game cutscene, but are a little jarring when used here. The rest of the characters are likeable enough, but the real stand-outs are Chirrut, Blaze and K2SO. Chirrut is a blind Force User who, along with his heavy blaster wielding partner Blaze, provides the heart and soul of this film. Chirrut is a man who has such belief in The Force that he would be willing to die for it, while Blaze has lost that faith but still believes wholeheartedly in his friend. K2SO is a reprogrammed Imperial droid, under the management of rebel pilot Caasian Andor and is voiced with superb hilarity by Alan Tudyk. Tudyk does not appear to have become a household name, which is a shame because I find him to be one of the funniest and most versatile actors in the business. Ben Mendelsohn is also a wonderful addition to the cast, playing a villain that I just love to hate.

Many people may find Rogue One to be an unnecessary explanation of a “plothole” that has already been explained, but I disagree, as I’m happy to spend more time in the New Hope era; which has been replicated with admirable precision. The costumes, sets and sound effects are all indistinguishable from the original trilogy, but perhaps the most impressive part is the inclusion of Darth Vader, who has as little screentime here as he does in A New Hope. What he lacks in screentime, he makes up for in action. With a set piece that is, in my opinion, the best in the entire franchise. The final 6 minutes of the film’s runtime is dedicated to Vader slaughtering Rebels in a hallway, the Death Star plans just out of reach. The scene is bathed in a gorgeous red lighting and reminds me of the ventilation shaft scenes in Aliens, while the final shot of Vader on the edge of the docking bay is like a cinematic poster. This scene leads directly into the start of A New Hope and as a consequence makes it all the more amusing. Princess Leia has literally been caught red-handed with the plans for the Death Star and still tries to bluff her way out of it, which just makes her character that bit more lovable.

The main issue with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is that it isn’t an essential part of the Star Wars mythos. It could have been a half hour short film or an episode of the television show Star Wars Rebels. It is a story where we all know the ending because The Rebel Alliance clearly gets the plans, but that’s not really the point here. The ending isn’t important, it’s how you get there and as journeys go, this one is pretty good. There’s some stand out moments and characters that I’d like to see more of and, as always, the score is fantastic. It isn’t vital viewing, but I do highly recommend it.

Until Next Time…

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