Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story


The first of the standalone Star Wars movies hit the screens in December after a year of fevered speculation about re-shoots and whether or not this would impact the film negatively or not.

If there were re-shoots to change anything, they must have been changed for the better, because this film is exactly what it promised, and more. It’s an espionage movie set in the Star Wars universe.

Admittedly, it’s a bit messy, especially the first 10 minutes or so when the action moves to about five or six planets with little or no characterisation given to the people driving the plot forward on-screen. But, once it gets into the swing of things it really gets going in a big way.

The new characters are a bit two-dimensional, even Jyn Erso, the lead played by Felicity Jones, and there are plot holes aplenty, but the fun factor more than makes up for that. The film is like a rollercoaster, it never lets you stop long enough to actually think about what just happened before you’re onto the next action sequence or bit of Imperial back-stabbing.

In fact, the power struggle going on within the Imperial ranks is actually more interesting than the plot to steal the plans for the Death Star. Basically, Jyn’s father (Mads Mikkelsen) used to work with the Empire, but defected. However, he is brought back by Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) to finish construction of the Death Star. Realising they will finish it without him he decides to go along with it so he can build in a weakness into the super-weapon. His daughter, Jyn, survives and many years later is picked up by the Rebels to help find the plans and thus ensues more action, gun fights and… wars, than in any of the other main saga films.

But, as stated, the power struggle between Krennic and Moff Tarkin, played here by Guy Henry, but morphed via motion capture CG into Peter Cushing circa 1977. His character was in it far more than expected, but it made perfect sense for him to be as he’s a major played in Star Wars: A New Hope. This technology is getting better all the time, but it still doesn’t look quite right. However, it looks a hell of a lot better than the final shot of the film where you see an almost 2D rendering of the face of 19-year-old Carrie Fisher with what sounds like historic ADR thrown in, you can almost hear the scratches on the tape it was recorded on.

The other big Imperial presence in the film is one Darth Vader, a villain that never really lived up to the fearsome reputation he had in the original trilogy and was completely de-fanged in the prequel trilogy, portrayed as a damaged adolescent. Here, Vader gets screen time of around five minutes, but what a five minutes. Apart from a cringe-inducing line halfway through the film, his final scene cutting down rebels in a corridor is tense, exciting and makes you fully understand the unstoppable force (no pun intended) that he is regarded as in the original films.

The best new characters include K-2SO, a sarcastic droid voiced by Alan Tudyk – who is basically Marvin the Paranoid Android from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chirrut Îmwe and Baze Malbus played by Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang who are the Force-sensitive character and his muscle respectively.

Rogue One ties in to the original trilogy so well, it makes A New Hope better, for example it explains away how easily the Death Star was destroyed and why Vader is feared by all those rebels with the cycle helmets on in the opening scene.

If you think about it too much it starts to unravel but the sheer joy this film instills in you is intoxicating. Such a great end to 2016, roll on 2017!


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