Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Review19.12.16 # Review # 9 Comments
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.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is out now in the US and UK.