Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Disney)

Director Gareth Edwards (best known for the 2014 Godzilla reboot) makes his directorial debut within the Star Wars universe. Star Wars: Rogue One is the beginning of the many upcoming […]

Director Gareth Edwards (best known for the 2014 Godzilla reboot) makes his directorial debut within the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars: Rogue One is the beginning of the many upcoming anthology films that expand on the Star Wars universe/ franchise. I’ll admit, I didn’t expect much when this movie was announced. I’m one of those that read some of the old expanded universe content and wanted to see the sort of stuff that was shown in the Force Unleashed or Knights of the Old Republic video game trailers. I was more eager to see the far past or the far future rather than seeing stuff associated with the established movie content that audiences have come to know.  But that’s not the reason why you’re reading this. You want to know whether or not the movie is good and whether or not it is worth or not worth seeing this movie. So the question is, is this movie good? What sets it apart from its predecessors? Is it worth seeing? The answer is… It is actually a good film. As a one shot film, it manages to fit seamlessly into the timeline of the star wars films.

Obviously, Rogue One is set after Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith (the last entry of the prequel trilogy), while also set sometime before Episode 4: A New Hope (the beginning of the original trilogy).  That’s continuity for ya! Which Edwards manages to keep everything aligned carefully in this movie.  The whole plot of the film is about the Rebel Alliance’s attempt to retrieve the plans of the Death Star in order to turn the tide of their galactic war against the fearsome Empire.

The film does a good job at showcasing this mirid band of misfits as they each come together despite their own personal quests to battle the Empire. Edwards manages to display each individual character’s personalities and motivations pretty clearly. Although admittedly it’s a bit rough in the beginning trying to figure out who is who, and their stake in the overall conflict, although it becomes clear as the movie comes along. Another difficulty is based on whichever theater one may be attending, the beginning of the film had its inaudible moments since it was a bit difficult to hear what some things were said between characters , kind of like Christopher Nolan films where you may mishear a line due to the tone and volume that a character speaks. Although that could just be different based on the theater that the viewer attends. Each individual is very different to the very established characters that audiences have come to know from the prior installments.

The Characters:

Felicity Jones: plays the character Jyn Erso is the protagonist of this one shot film. She’s gravely a more  different protagonist than Rey (protagonist of Force Awakens) and a lot more battle hardened than Princess Leia. In a way, she has some similarity to Luke Skywalker in terms of the angst factor. Unlike Luke, she doesn’t grow up to be a whiny kid. Jyn is actually a strong minded individual that focuses on her own goals compared to the other protagonists in this respected franchise. Felicity Jones as an actress has never had a chance to shine in most franchises such as Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Inferno (Da Vinci Code trilogy). She has been in other films, but this film really shows what she can do as an actress and she manages to play the lead part convincingly well. I hope to see her in more films down the line.

Diego Luna: plays as Rebel officer Captain Cassian Andor. He is definitely reminiscent of Han Solo but is far from the joking space pirate that audiences all love and mourn. Cassian mirrors Jyn in terms of doing what is necessary for the rebel alliance’s success against the empire. He has a chemistry with the droid K-2SO that reminds audiences of Han and Chewbacca, but it stands on its own in a different way. Which is a good way.  Personally, it’s awesome to see a Hispanic actor play a character that people of Latino culture can now relate to more than before within the Star Wars universe. There is never anything wrong with representation without beating it over anyone’s head, and this was executed well.

Donnie Yen: plays the character Chirruit Imwe. Imwe is a character who seems to be closely associated with the force. He has strong intuition with it, yet despite his lack of ocular sight, he allows the force to guide his path. Obviously, with his IP-Man status , Donnie Yen does a great job at displaying not just (insert character name) martial arts skills but also shows depth in the characters personal belief in the force. There is a chant that he repeats that is very cleverly reminiscent to the “valley of the shadow of death”  prayer which really adds a sense of mystery reflecting  Imwe’s past. Audiences may be left wanting to know more about his connections to the Jedi beyond what is explained within the film.

Jiang Wen: Plays as Base Malbus, an assassin who happens to be the right-hand man to Donnie Yen’s Imwe. He is Imwe’s eyes on the battlefield. He is battle-hardened yet loyal to Imwe despite his views on the force. Jiang Wen plays this character very well, and he has his cool moments that show how effective his character is in combat. His chemistry with Imwe as brothers in arms is effective on screen. Much like Imwe, audiences will be interested in this character’s past.

Forest Whitaker: plays as Saw Guerra. A rogue leader who departed from the rebel alliance due to his extreme methods. He operates alone with his own crew and takes the fight to the empire by his own rules. Whitaker is a terrific actor in any role he plays in. In this film, he does what he can based on what he is scripted and directed to do. Which isn’t a bad thing, he has an intimidating demeanor and does a good job at displaying that. The good thing is, If you’re a fan of Star Wars the Clone Wars and the Rebels tv series, you may be content with or be angry with this character’s journey in this film. Regardless, it’s rewarding if you already know about the character and his history.

Riz Ahmed: plays former Imperial pilot Bohdi Rook. He plays a nervous wreck who shows that he can be more than what he is made out to be. In a way, like Jyn is to Rey, Bohdi is reminiscent to Finn from Force Awakens. Ahmed does a fine job at portraying Bohdi, the only thing I wished is that there were more scenes that displayed his actual piloting skills. As a former imperial pilot, you’d think he’d have more time to shine in that regard. Nevertheless, he does show development in the film.

Made Mikkelsen: plays Galen Erso who is the unwilling architect of the Death Star  and the father of lead protagonist Jyn Erso. Mikkelsen does a fine job in the film, fulfilling his role as a man who wants nothing to do with war, yet has no choice to defend his family at the cost of lives due to his creation of the death star. Erso’s conflict between doing the right thing and fulfilling duty is an interesting parallel to Captain Cassain Andor.

Alan Tudyk : Plays former empire droid now Rebel alliance ally K-2SO. I have to say, personally, K-2SO is so much more humorous and has, even more, personality and sarcasm than prior droid predecessor C-3PO. Easily a likable character who is very animated, yet very humorous with his subtle/ dry sense of humor. K-2SO is definitely a likable character that I’m sure the audience will come to love fondly down the road. He definitely is far from Jar Jar Bink’s comedy relief, and that is a good thing.

Ben Mendelsohn: plays as the main antagonist empire security Director Orson Krennic. Ben Mendelsohn is usually known to play as snarky business types, and he fits perfectly in his role as a snarky, prideful director who is trying to gain favor amongst the ranks, even if it means talking down General Tarkin.

Darth Vader is obviously in the film. That’s no surprise, he was in all of the trailers for this film. All I can tell is that his presence is felt and it actually is far more intimidating than it’s ever been. There are some other notable cameos too that you as a viewer will find out for yourself. I can say as a witness, other reviewers aside from myself were cheering at the characters aside from character moments.

Special Effects:

The CGI element in this film is beautiful. It’s not Force Awakens beautiful, but it definitely evokes the original trilogy tone of beautiful. The sets and places such as the planets Jeda, Eadu, and my notable favorite due to its tropical design, the planet Scariff. The firefights are great, but I think the air fights are where the CGI shines the best. Nothing looks out of frame or weird, it fits seamlessly with all of the live actors and sets involved. I have to point out as I spoke to a friend of mine a few weeks back about the inferiority of the storm trooper outfits since most of the time a trooper is shot with a laser blast, they tend to die right on the spot. Thankfully in this film, Edwards is able to display how useful the stormtrooper armor actually is. It takes more than just one shot to take a stormtrooper down, especially if it’s not aimed directly in a certain area. For that, I was very happy to see that since that was always a bit of a nitpick of mine when it came to the star wars franchise.

Lastly, the music by Michael Gacchino (who also scored Doctor Strange) managed to create music that would make you think that John Williams wasn’t even absent when scoring this film. Gacchino helps manage the transition with ease, that’ll make anyone think that Williams was scoring the film, even though he didn’t score the film at all.

Overall, I think audiences are gonna be in for a treat with this story. It’s not a film about Jedi’s, and the force itself has very minimal use in this film. It’s all about  a ragtag bunch of rebels who decide to take the fight to the empire no matter the cost, which makes this film very likable in terms of its display of the war within Star Wars. Now, I can’t say it’s anything like Saving Private Ryan because it’s far from being that movie and not a fair comparison. Butt for the Star Wars Universe, it may as well take the cake in being that for the Star Wars films since its focus is on the soldiers and individuals that don’t have any kind of force based super powers or any ties to anyone name Skywalker directly.

If there is any flaw in this film, which I’m sure there is, with its story, characters, and cameos, it makes up for those flaws and delivers a great one-shot story that I think most star wars fans can thoroughly enjoy, especially fans of the original trilogy. Admittedly, I came in with low expectations and came out pretty satisfied with the film.  If I could put this in my star wars list of films thus far, I’d say it’s in my top three between Empire Strikes Back and Force Awakens. Which is pretty good by my standards at least. If you’re waiting for a sequel, remember, we have the classic 1977 Episode 4 : A New Hope (the first Star Wars film) to fill that sequel void, at least for a while. Regardless, it’s worth seeing and having a nice time with friends and family.

Anthony Andujar Jr.

About Anthony Andujar Jr.