MOVIES & TV

Review: Rogue One: a Star Wars Story

By JERHOW

9 January 2017

PLOT:  A young rogue, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), is recruited by the Rebel Alliance and compelled to lead a group of mercenaries with a plot to steal the plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star.

REVIEW:  Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is undoubtedly a risk and an experiment for Disney. By deviating from the traditional “Episode” theatrical installments and playing in the Star Wars sandbox, the franchise hyper-jumps into uncharted territory.

What makes this prospect all the more intriguing, and to the credit of the filmmakers, they don’t play it safe.

Rogue One isn’t a light-hearted whimsical fantasy. There isn’t anything warm and fuzzy in what we’re seeing.

In fact, the tone, the subject matter, the visuals…this film is downright bleak. Which, quite frankly, is awesome.

The film is set on the timeline just before IV: A New Hope, when the galaxy is under the oppressive rule of Emperor Palpatine and evil Sith Lord, Darth Vader. It’s a time when the small band of Rebel freedom fighters are struggling and desperate.

This is more “war film” than fairy tale, yet stays comfortably PG-13. When the rebels are launching rockets at AT-AT Walkers, it literally feels like Star Wars Battlefront playing out before our very eyes.

The scale of the film is big, but not quite Episode-installment massive. The dogfighting between X-Wings and Tie Fighters is thrilling, but this isn’t war on a massive scale. We never get anywhere near the scope of the ground battles in II: Attack of the Clones and the space battles in III: Revenge of the Sith.

I’m okay with it. I don’t want Rogue One to try to top The Force Awakens.

Ultimately, Rogue One is thoroughly entertaining on its own, and shines brightest when it references A New Hope, reminding us of why we fell in love with Star Wars to begin with.

Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia as computer-generated iterations are treated respectfully and feel appropriate to the story, even if the technology that rendered them still isn’t quite 100% there yet.

Darth Vader is given a few key moments, one of which is so frigging cool, you won’t even believe what you’re seeing. It’s kinda what we hoped we would see in Revenge of the Sith.

The last 40 minutes move at a roller coaster pace, and the dogfighting between X-Wings and Tie-Fighters will have you cheering.

There’s really some great stuff in here.

As far as the story goes, no doubt we’re taken on a journey, we travel to multiple planets, but there’s a lot of faith, luck and random chance that helps our heroes accomplish their mission along the way. “Hope” is weaved in as a theme to help us along.

Both protagonists, Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor, are not nearly as dimensional and interesting as they should be. But maybe it isn’t their fault. Star Wars fans who understand the mythology and the history know their fate was sealed the moment we laid eyes on them.

So perhaps it isn’t surprising, then, that Felicity Jones and Diego Luna feel a tad unused. There simply isn’t much time to get to know them properly, and the spectacle surrounding them is just so much more exciting.

Donnie Yen as Chirrut Imwe delivers the breakhout performance of the film, and introduces an entirely new dimension to the concept of the Force. He isn’t a Jedi. He doesn’t carry a lightsaber. And yet, he is one with the Force and the Force is with him. It guides him through his own faith to do miraculous and great things.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is the perfect gift for this holiday season to hold us over for just one more year until Episode VIII arrives.

GRADE: B

by JERHOW

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