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Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Review

Star Wars Rogue One Review

Is Rogue One a film we didn’t know we wanted all along?

Starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen
Director: Gareth Edwards

As a child, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) sees her father forcably taken to work on a mysterious superweapon for The Empire. Decades later he sneaks a message to the rebellion and she is recruited to track him down and find out more. Meanwhile imperial officer Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) is conducting the first city-sized Death Star weapon tests, with devastating results. As the rebellion’s doubts about her father’s statements grow, Jyn splits off with her own wayward band of fighters to try and steal the Death Star plans – before it can be used for planet-sized destruction…

Tracing the story of the first two paragraphs of the 1977 Opening Crawl, this standalone Star Wars spin-off leads right into the start of A New Hope.

Lower expectations than Force Awakens help what’s actually a tighter film, one that offers a different form of fan service that doesn’t feel as derivative.

Felicity Jones comes across much better than she did in the unconvincing ‘badass heroine’ marketing, and the varied ensemble around her all play it perfectly, from the matter-of-fact imperial droid (Alan Tudyk) to the blind bo-staff wielding temple guard (Donnie Yen, IP Man). The more war-like mood (complete with some ‘Nam helmets), plus the lack of lightsabers or Jedi, help give it a different tone, that’s most welcome.

Ben Mendolson isn’t handed the most memorable villain role but gives a solid, calculating performance as the imperial officer driving the Death Star’s construction.

The film’s at its shakiest when bringing back old characters – Darth Vader’s role is small and dominates the screen but the voice is old-sounding, movement stilted and the costume looks like something from a toy shop. Vader is also way too active and frantic toward the end for a character that’s pretty chill moments later in New Hope (letting his stormtroopers do the shooting in the boarding party, then lacklustre sword tapping with Obi Wan). Other key characters from New Hope are brought back digitally and, while striking, the cgi isn’t quite good enough for it not to be a disbelief-breaking distraction. Force Awakens brought back beloved characters in the flesh and was more emotional as a result. Elsewhere the fx are absolutely fantastic, from the ominous Death Star tests to the crisp, brightly-lit finale. There’s a definite buzz to be had from seeing the rebel ships sweeping back into action ala ‘Return of the Jedi’.

Not only does Rogue One avoid leaving gaping plot holes but it actually solves a big one from New Hope. This is an impressive Star Wars entry. Most impressive.

Grade: A-

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is out now in the US and UK.

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9 Comments »

  • Blake said

    I am right in toe with this being the best of the franchise and finally giving light to the “war” of Star Wars. Though, I completely disagree with the negativity toward Vader. It was perfect. Maybe understandable to a viewer not as knowledgable of the Star Wars Universe but this Vader met perfect standards. Vader was finally seen for what he was always talked about and always feared for. He was always looked at in terror but Never given light as to why. We finally saw it, and it was perfect. He was strong fisted, hard lumbered from his armor and cybernetics, and brutal. Garreth Edwards went out of his way to ensure his armor and cape met seamlessly with that of New Hope but gave the audience a clean look to it. And finally, Vader’s voice was James Earl Jones… that was Vader. period.

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    • Sheridan Passell said
      Sheridan Passell

      (SPOILERS) It’s what the fans wanted but doesn’t gel with the events of New Hope which happen seconds later, and days later. He went mental in Rogue One. In New Hope he’s barely swinging a lightsaber. That corridor scene would have fit if it was set 15 years earlier. James Earl Jones will always be the voice of Vader, but he’s also 85 years old now, so it’s more awkward sounding than in the original trilogy – not saying there’s a better option. Vader’s helmet looked a lot less pop-on plasticy in Episode III. Small points, but he wasn’t the Vader of ‘Empire Strikes Back’.

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  • G said

    And you were worried about reshoots.

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    • Sheridan Passell said
      Sheridan Passell

      I was mainly a bit worried because, Godzilla. I did also put Rogue One at the top of my year’s most anticipated, so mixed bag.

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      • G said

        I told you have to watch Monsters to get a proper idea of Gareth as a director.

        Godzilla is a film that gets worse and worse with each watching. It never seems to bottom out. It just keeps going down.

        But I think that has more to do with the script than anything.
        Giant monsters that eat radiation? What the?

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        • Sheridan Passell said
          Sheridan Passell

          He’s also working under the Disney umbrella which is proving to have a good quality control track record on the non-kiddie franchises they’ve been buying up. They were the ones ordering the reshoots.

          Have you seen Rogue One yet G?

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          • G said

            Not yet. I live in Berlin which for obvious reasons going to the cinema is a bit of a hassle at the moment. Plus I have to watch in english, because I refuse to watch movies that have been horribly dubbed over in German. And the English cinema is a pain to get to. So no. Not yet.

            Short version.
            No, I’ve been too lazy

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          • Sheridan Passell said
            Sheridan Passell

            You might hate it, which would really upend this debate! Don’t think so though.

            Didn’t realise you lived in Berlin. Right, best to avoid crowded areas until this guy is apprehended. Scary times.

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  • gd smith said

    My guess is the reshoots mostly produced the weaker bits, bringing back the older characters and that sort of thing. Directors are very rarely auteurs in big studio films these days yet film criticism is still fixated on the idea that they are most responsible for movies. Godzilla was what it was because of the production and script. This is what it is for the same reason.
    It’s pretty entertaining.

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